On May 25 I raced the Ottawa Half-Marathon. This was to be my fifth half-marathon. Five already? Jeez. Halves are probably my favorite race so far. I think it’s because I don’t race them as much as 10ks and they’re faster than marathons so I tend to get more competitive and excited for them. I also seem to be able to monitor my body better and really know when to start turning the pace up in the back half. Earlier this year I raced the Chilly Half in March but used it more as a gauge to see where I was at while coming back from injury. This race had been hyped up for months on Twitter. Lots of people, and elites in attendance as well as several events which I had friends running in. Having never been to Ottawa before, I was excited to see some sights and race a new course.
I traveled to Ottawa with my good friend and fellow runner/pilot, Shea. Shea works for Porter and hooked me up as her guest on a stand-by booking. Dirt cheap but free drinks and food. I like. We were planning on meeting up with friends Mike and Nicole. Mike had paced me earlier this year at Around The Bay but in Ottawa had his eyes set on a 10k PB. Shea was also running the 10k while Nicole and I ran the half. Shea and I checked out the race expo on Friday. It was huge! I always end up spending way too much money at expos. I saw my friend Krista (Duchene) at the iRun booth. It was nice to see her out despite her recent femur fracture. She always has good advice and I feel really lucky to be able to ask her questions about training. After spending some time looking around and saying hi to a few familiar faces we called it a night. All weekend we battled the desire to walk around Ottawa but wanting to rest our legs as well. On Saturday Shea and I met up with Mike, Nicole and their friend Ryan. We all went down to the 10k and as Mike, Shea and Ryan raced, Nicole and I watched and cheered. I always enjoy cheering. I yelled my face off at Lanni Marchant and Rachel Hannah. After locating everyone after the race I exchanged a few texts with Coach. “Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate” he said. It was going to be hotter than we were used to for race day. I’m pretty sure I’ve never drank so much water in my life. I wanted to be ready for this race.
Race morning came and I felt pretty good. A little tickle in my throat but not a big deal. I had breakfast (a bagel with peanut butter and a banana), more water, Honeymaxx and we headed down to the race. Warm-up went well. I thought it was nice to be coming to a race for once with no niggling injuries or pain anywhere. I was hydrated, rested, tapered and hungry for a fast race. Just before the start I was totally pumped to find Mike appear by my side. He had scored a bib online from another runner and had told me he may run with Nicole or I. I wasn’t expecting him to find me in such a dense mass of people. Having just PB’d the 10k 14 hours earlier I was elated to have him by my side again. “I’ll stay with you as long as I can, bro. No promises though” he said. What a champ! Mike was good at keeping me in check by not going out too fast too early.
The gun went off and we lit up the road. The pace was very steady through the first 5k. Slightly slowing by a couple of seconds every km we finally found a solid pace into the second 5k. We split the 10k at 41:01 (4:06/k). Pretty much right where we need to be. The original plan was to go out in 4:05s and then turn up to 4:00s later. At half way I told Mike that if he needed to back off it was cool. “No way, man. We’re crossing that line together.” Friggin right, bro! I find it amazing that I have a race partner I can lock into like this. He may have been tired but Mike looked strong for the whole race. As we pushed on, we crossed into Gatineau. There were a few climbing hills which slowed us down to a few 4:08-4:13 splits. Not the end of the world, I thought. It was hot and not ideal for the original game plan. If we could manage to maintain 4:05 through the back half and maybe push a bit in the last 3k, I’d be happy.
As we crossed the river back to Ottawa, Mike and I continued to feed off of the crowd around us. We were getting high fives and throwing our arms up for more cheering. We were also keeping track of how many compliments we got on Mike’s beard or his crazy coloured shorts. Small distractions or a good cheer can really help you in tough times during a race.
We pushed into downtown Ottawa, past the Convention Centre where Ryan and Shea were watching. Only 2.5k to go. Boy, was it hot. Stupid hot. Why is it so hot?! We kept the pace constant as we came through into the last km. As we got closer we started pushing a bit. We saw the finish and let the legs hammer. With a couple hundred meters to go I left Mike and hammered to the finish, crossing in a time of 1:26:48. Mike finished a few seconds behind.
So although we couldn’t execute the race exactly to plan, conditions considered, I’m happy with how things ended up. The original plan from Coach Rick was to aim for anywhere between 1:24mid to 1:26low so not too far off of where we planned. Final results were A 1:50 personal best of 1:26:48, 124th overall, 15th in 20-24 Age Group.
For the next little while I’ll be recovering on vacation in California :). I may be running an easy paced half-marathon while I’m there. I’m planning on running an easy trail race in Brantford June 8th. Other than that, I’ll be taking time to make sure I recover properly so that come the end of June, the marathon build for STWM can begin without issue. Until then friends, see you on the roads or in the airways!