We enjoyed a mellow day at the cottage on Saturday in preparation for the Ottawa Marathon on Sunday. We got to bed pretty early, knowing that we had to hit the road by 4:30AM.
My alarm was set for 4, but I got up at 3:30 when I heard some hustle and bustle in the kitchen. My friends were all running the marathon (3 of them first-timers) and the nerves and excitement in the air were contagious. The half was not starting until 9 but the marathon started at 7, so I packed breakfast to eat after seeing everyone off. We were on the road right on schedule at 5:00 and arrived at the starting area by 6:30. We met up with one of our friends from the clinic who had picked up our race kits, got ourselves organized and pretty soon it was time for everyone to line up for the start. We also met up with our coach and some others from our clinic for a group photo (not on my camera).
It was already about 15C (59F) at 7 and the sun was feeling hotter and hotter as it rose, so I was a little nervous about how warm it might get later on in the morning.
I was able to meet up with my friend Sarah (who was there to see her hubby run his first marathon - congrats Colin!) and had my breakfast before using the washroom, checking my bag and getting ready to start.
I headed to the corrals 15 minutes before the start and everyone was already crammed between the barriers like sardines. It seemed like there was no opening so I, along with many others, ended up climbing over the barricades. Once I got in, I was literally smushed between people, getting shoved and stepped on for 15 minutes. I have never been more relieved to hear the gun go off.
I had decided to treat the race as a fun run, taking in the sights of city I had never seen and hoping to feel great at the finish. I started a little less conservatively than I had planned and felt the heat almost immediately. It was around 20C (58F) but felt much warmer in the sun (there was almost no shade throughout the entire course).
I had decided not to carry my own water, which was a mistake. The water stations were usually 3K apart, and I constantly felt thirsty. I took a full cup of gatorade and water at each stop, and dumped a cup or two on my head. Yes, I felt that hot.
The course was moderate in difficulty, with a few big hills and several smaller ones.
Within the first 5K we crossed a bridge over the Ottawa River into Gatineau, Quebec. This is the only part of the course that I didn't enjoy. It was bleak and industrial, with minimal crowd support. The sun was killing me and I remember feeling grateful not to be running a full marathon that day.
Just before 10K we crossed another bridge back into Ottawa. I was feeling really tired and felt myself slowing with each kilometre. The 2:00 pace group passed me around this point and I started feeling defeated, but knew that I just had to make it to the finish.
Despite being hot and tired, I enjoyed the second half much more than the first. The crowd support was amazing and the route was beautiful. We ran mostly along the Rideau Canal, which offered a refreshing breeze and great scenery.
There was a sponge station at some point, which was just about the BEST THING EVER. I took two sponges sopping with cold water and squeezed them all over myself.
I continued taking as much fluid as I could and also took two gels on my usual half marathon schedule of 7K and 14K.
During the last 5K, I really felt that I was in survival mode. I couldn't find any relief from the sun and it was sucking the life out of me. It was extremely tempting to stop and walk, but I continually reminded myself that it would only prolong the suffering.
I managed to pick up my pace a little for the last two kilometres. The crowds were thick and cheering like crazy, which offered a much-needed boost. One awesome spectator was spraying us with a hose from the side of the road, which was even better than the sponges.
Finally, I saw the signs. 750m to go. 500m. 400m. 300m... I could see the finish line and brought it home.
Official time: 2:06:28
Chip time: 2:04:09
Overall place: 3563/9107
Gender place: 1282/5192
F25-29 place: 259/842
My half marathon PR streak has come to an end. It was somewhat of a humbling experience, since I thought for sure I could run 2:00 no problem. This was actually my second slowest HM out of 6, but still a positive experience overall. Ottawa was beautiful and I'm planning to make it a tradition - we're already planning Ottawa Cottage Weekend 2010!
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