Ottawa is the epicenter for my endurance running. The May weekend marathon has become a little bit of a tradition for me. This year the weekend started on the Friday with a busy afternoon drive up the 401. As we drove to my mums in Ottawa I remember thinking (arrogantly I might add) that the race was going to be easy. After all, unlike the first three events I ran earlier this year, elevation wasn’t going to be a challenge, nor was mud. Suffice it to say I wasn’t really anxious about the race and that I was extremely confident that I would be able to achieve my goal, 3:30:00.
I never appreciated the beauty of the city. Having lived there for 26 years of my life I always lamented that Ottawa wasn’t a fun city. I always compared Ottawa to Toronto, or Montreal, or even Halifax. Now that I have lived in Halifax and now live in Waterloo I miss all of those things I had taken for granted. The bike pathways, the greenspace, the smallness and bigness of the city. All reasons why the marathon is a so nice. It starts on Elgin street by City Hall and it is a tour of only some of the beauty that is Ottawa. You get the Rideau Canal, the renewal of the West end the parkways along the Ottawa river, New Edinburgh, Sussex.
My cavalier attitude towards the race got the best of me. Instead of my regular routine of packing my bag making sure that I stuffed everything I would need into the bag, then unpacking it and double checking. I took a much more “la de da” approach. It wasn’t until I was half sleeping on my mums couch that it dawned on my that I forgot my heart rate monitor – boo.
The morning of the race I decided to do something I never had done before. I trotted around for about 15 minutes hoping that bringing my heart rate up a little and activating my legs would help prevent any muscle tightness challenges. About 5 minutes before the race started I got into the crowded corral along with the 7000 or so other runners. Then we were off.
Everything felt great. I was running 20 seconds per minutes faster than I needed to hit my goal, but it felt great. I couldn’t help but think that I was going to smash my goal, perhaps even qualify for Boston. Almost a dozen kilometres in I realized another error, a result of being indifferent about the race. I forgot to spice things up for the girls. Ha, no – taping of nipples doesn’t really do anything for getting *that* kind of attention from the girls. I was concerned though, chaffing of the nipples is a very bad thing. Nice thing about the Ottawa race is that they have aid stations with Vasoline on a stick. Slap that shtuff on and crisis averted.
At KM 23, I started to realize that I may have been holding on to a pace that was a tad too fast. I wasn’t really my legs, nor a weakness in my cardio prep that led me to consider slowing the pace. It was my feet. They were not happy with me. Made me consider why I was running this race. Made me want to stop. Although stop I could not. I started to do the math. I rationalized how much I could slow down and still meet my target. After some simple calculations I settled on 5:00 minutes per K. It was a pace I felt I could hold and it would still get me to the finish line under my goal.
So there I was, running, trying to keep my focus on at least a 5:00 minute pace and absorbing the experience. The fog that covered the city had cleared and the temperature was rising quickly. The heat was getting intense. I though about the trails, the solitude, the peace, and self reflection. In moments when you feel at your worst, you can be your worst enemy or your most ardent supporter. Contrast that with streets lined with people cheering you on with hilarious signs. The crowds are supportive. When you are running through sprinklers that people put out for you too cool off, that is just awesome. The spirit of the people of Ottawa is great. Having said that, I still was dreaming of the trails: happier feet, a more spiritual run.
As I ran the final stretch of the marathon which takes you down Colonel By Drive towards and across the Pretoria bridge, then back up Queen Elizabeth Drive towards Confederation Park. With only 4 km I was slowing down, it didn’t matter, soon it would be over. I kept on trying to hold on to my pace, though it was challenging. My feet were pounding the pavement and I felt each step. The finish line couldn’t have come sooner. I took some time to stretch and relax. Trying to rest my body on the “lush” grass was slow and very painful since my body felt like it needed a spray of WD-40. After a good long stretch I got up to walk around and realized I made another critical mistake, I forgot the lube. So the lessons continue… be humble.