Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ottawa Half Marathon

We flew up to Ottawa on Saturday morning and met up with my brother, dad, and stepmom at our hotel, which was conveniently located in the heart of the city and only a half mile from the start/finish area.  I had never been to Ottawa, even though I'd grown up only about two and a half hours away, so I was excited to see a new city and spend some time with my family.

Ottawa is a beautiful city and it was a lovely day, so we walked around a bit before heading over to the convention center for packet pickup.

Doing some sightseeing

Packet pickup was pretty quick and easy, and I got my packet and Adam picked up his very first marathon race bib.  I am not sure who was more excited about him running a marathon - me or him!

Saturday evening was the 10K, which featured a fantastic race field.  Normally I'm in races, which means I never get to see the elites, so it was cool to spectate!  The elite women got a 4 minute head start, and Mary Keitany ran 31:22 to easily hold of Wilson Kiprop, who won the men's race in 28 flat.  It amazes me that people can run that fast!

After the 10k, we went to the Mill St Brewery for dinner, and despite a strong desire to try the beer, I stuck to water.  The things I do in the name of racing... ;)  Then we walked back to the hotel and I got a relatively good night's sleep (by my standards anyway) before getting up at 6 to go down to the start of the marathon with Adam.

The marathon started at 7 and the half marathon at 9, but I got up early to go down to the start with my dad and brother, and shortly after 7, Adam was off.  I went back to the hotel, had some coffee, got put on my race gear, and jogged down to the start around 8:30.  I ran up and down the closed street a few times, and called it good after about a mile and a half, then went over to my corral (the first behind the elites) and found a spot toward the back.  Though I was in the back of the blue corral, I wasn't very far from the start line, and couldn't see the end of the waves of people behind me (based on results, there were about 500 ahead of me and 12,500 behind me).

Me and Dad before the race
I felt pretty good at the start, so I decided to aim for the low end of the 7:20-7:30 range that my coach had suggested.  I spent the first mile dodging other runners a little, but for such a large race, I felt like I had quite a bit of space.

Had a surprising amount of space when I saw my family at mile 0.7
Miles 2 and 3 were quiet and scenic as we headed out of the city along a paved path by canal and Dows Lake.  After that there were several miles through residential areas, which offered some nice views of the city and had great crowd support all along the way. Somewhere around mile 8, we crossed the bridge into Quebec.  By then the sun had come out and the temperature seemed to be rising pretty quickly, so I made sure to drink a bit of water at each aid station and started to also dump a cup on my head.  Around that time, I started to come up on marathoners and it got a lot more congested.  With the skyline in the distance and growing crowds through which I had to maneuver, it almost seemed like a completely different race from the one I'd been running for the first hour.  I hit the 10 mile mark right around 1:13 and was pretty pleased with how consistently I'd run to that point (7:20-7:16-7:15-7:17-7:15-7:13-7:19-7:19-7:18) while sticking very close to my 7:20 goal pace.

The full and half marathons shared the first bit of the course, separated, joined again in Quebec, and then redivided after crossing back into Ontario on the Alexandra Bridge, around mile 1.5 of the marathon and mile 10.5 of the half.  I'd wanted to find a location where they could see both of us go by and the bridge was less than a mile from our hotel, so I figured that would be a good spot for my family to be.  Plus, by my estimate, Adam would only be 10-20 minutes in front of me at that point, so they wouldn't have to be out there for hours.  Shortly after the 10 mile marker, I started onto the bridge.  I was passing more and more full marathoners, and just up ahead, there was my brother!  I sped up a bit to catch him, and then slowed down to his marathon pace.  I couldn't believe that I'd caught up to him, and done so less than a half mile from where everyone was waiting to see us!  He said the heat was getting to him and that it would be slower than he'd planned, but that he felt confident that he'd finish.  I gave him a bit of encouragement and advice, and was just thrilled to be able to share part of the race with him.  I knew that meant the 1:35 I'd been shooting for was off the table, but at that point I really could not have cared less.  As we came off of the bridge I saw Dad, Monte, and Mary there cheering, and it was so awesome that Adam and I were running together.  We were running 11+/minute mile pace, but it was undoubtedly a top 10 race moment for me.

I couldn't help but smile seeing my little brother running his first marathon
Shortly after passing our cheering squad, the marathon turned left and the half headed straight, running back along east side of canal, past the finish line (on the other side of the canal), over a bridge, back up the west side of the canal to the finish.  As I left Adam, I hit the lap button on my watch and tried to pick up the pace for a strong finish. Getting it going again was not as easy as I would have liked and by that point I was lacking motivation.  Though I wasn't able to run faster than I had been, I was able to get back to about goal pace, and averaged 7:19 for the last 2.7 to finish in 1:37:18.  Despite the little break to run with Adam and having raced the duathlon a week before, I was only 1:20 slower than my fastest half of the year, and I felt great, so I'm encouraged that things are headed in the right direction.

Spinner medals
10/1023 Age Group
64/7417 Gender
561/13180 Overall

After crossing the line, I quickly made my way through the finisher's area and headed over to our family meeting spot.  I drank some chocolate milk, changed into a dry shirt, and then we went over to to mile 26.1 to watch Adam finish his race.  Less than two hours later, we were happy and proud to see him coming and cheered him on as he picked up the pace and finished his first marathon in impressive fashion!

This race weekend was fantastic.  Mainly because I got to spend time with my family and see my brother run his first marathon, but I really enjoyed both the city and the race.  Ottawa is beautiful, clean, friendly, and they have excellent poutine and beer, so it's worth the trip for sure.  As for the race, the course was mostly scenic and had great crowd support; the entire event was really well organized, had really nice medals and shirts, and got rave reviews from my family as being very spectator friendly.  

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