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Milton, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ottawa Marathon Race Report!

Regular readers of this blog will know that image and quote. I usually post it before each marathon strategy guide. This year, things have been busy and I haven't been posting as much, but I pulled out this image and Ted Corbitt quote on Instagram and Facebook and reminded myself that no matter what, there would be no quit on Sunday.

Turns out, it was a good thing to remind myself.


Head over to Sam's brutally honest race report and you can see how we spent the pre-race. While she suffered from the heart burn on Friday night, I suffered from a horrible stomach ache which I attributed to the mass quantities of food I'd been stuffing in my face the past few days in the attempt to carb-load pre-race. Anyway, the alarm went at 5:15 Saturday morning and before I knew it, we were on the road to Pearson with Derek, Sam's husband dropping me at the door at T1 (and depriving me of a monorail trip!). Texting with Sam, we discovered that our flights would now leave Toronto and arrive at the same time in Ottawa and in fact I met her at her gate as there were no delays on my end (Air Canada FTW; pretty sure this is the first time anyone has every said THAT). We made our way to our hotel and over to the expo which was really overwhelming. It was just PACKED. We looked around a bit for deals, but to be honest, after scoring our free bags of chips and samples of peanut butter, we just wanted out of there.

 Over to Rideau Centre for a food court lunch (pizza would be smart! Carbs!), and a dollar store adventure for warm stuff as it was minus a bazillion and Kenny found us sitting on a bench, sipping power-aid waiting for a very enjoyable bus tour of the Marathon route. There was nervous excitement from everyone and assurances of at least one PB! (Sam's is 4:10 after all. Pffftt). The bus tour was excellent and really made me ever more confident in my ability for the next day. The route, simply put, is amazing.

Next, it was back to the hotel where we settled in for a bit before walking next store to pick up our pre-ordered Italian dinner. I had what I always have before a marathon: Pasta with a cream sauce and veggies, chicken and chocolate cake. Yes. Cake. It worked really well in 2013!

Off to bed, up at 330 to pee and up at 5am to throw on my shoes and coat and go across the street to Tim Horton's, which had a huge line up of runners and one very pleasant person working as fast as she could. Back to the room, quick breakfast, no poop.

This wasn't good.

Its time to go though and off we went to the start line.

The Race: KM 1-21.1. There goes every goal.

Coach Phaedra had emailed me on Wednesday or Thursday and asked me about my goals. I laid them out: A) BQ with a chance (3:38); B) 3:45, Sam BQ's but we both get a guaranteed entry to Chicago; C) Sub 3:51:31 which would me a PB for me (I was sure this one was in the bag). The bus tour had made me even more positive about the chances of hitting that BQ or at the very least the 3:45. As luck would have it, we entered the corrals right with the 3:40 pacer.

I've never been with so many people. I looked around and had a real fear that Sam and I would actually lose each other in this race because of the sheer amount of people. It was insane! We finally got on the move and over the line and I hit my watch right at the mat. Time to go.

I'm not sure who followed who, but at one point, I remember seeing Sam get through some holes and just following along. Things felt great despite starting on an incline and it was time to settle in. And settle in we did. I realized quickly that we were perfectly situated for our task ahead. We could see the 3:35 pace group ahead and had some good distance on the 3:40 group. I was planning on gels every 6k which would have been every other water station and my mental goal was to take the race those 6k at a time. Around 5k, I started looking for some friends in the masses of spectators (I have a load of fellow Wishes for Olivia fundraiser friends in Ottawa), but by 8k, I knew I had either missed them or they hadn't been able to make it out. By 9k things were NOT feeling good. I had taken my gel on schedule and it went down fine, but the fact that I hadn't been able to go to the washroom that morning came up in full force.

"Sam. I have to stop at the portopotty." And just like that, the A goal was gone.

I got in and out without losing any gels, phone, iPod shuffle or getting paper stuck to my shoe or anything and hit the course again. I began running and couldn't see Sam at all. I did see the 3:45 pace group which was excellent and I decided I'd hang with them. But my mind went like this:

- Did she leave me?
-She left me?!!!
-I guess I'll put on my music
-She wouldn't have left me!!!!
-Even if she didn't leave me, how will I ever find he...

And then I saw her standing on the side of the road. Okay. Let's go. Robin had sent us a message pre-race and told us to conserve every last bit of energy. No talking. No high-fiving. Just running. Okay! No problem. We continued along just ahead of the 3:45 pace group and I was secure in making that goal. Things were good! Sam and I didn't talk about it but I knew that she felt it too. This day was going to end with some taste of victory, followed in quick succession by the taste of beer. The water stations were amazing (even though the cups were plastic) and the weather was absolutely perfect. Let me say that again. The weather was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. PERFECT.

Around 14k or so, I feel that familiar gurgle. NO. NONONO. My face crumples. Like a petulant child, I whine to Sam, "I have to go to the bathroom. AGAIN!!!" I have never, not ONCE been to the bathroom during a full or half marathon. NOT ONCE. Now? Now I'm going twice!!! In and out this time and there goes all the goals. They are simply gone. We can't catch even a 3:51:30 now. Not with this shitty stomach of mine.

Sam however sees the bright side. "I don't care! I'm going Sub-4. Let's have a great day and a good run." YES! Let's do that! I RIP the pace band from my arm and Sam laughs like a loon. Around 18k or so, we are in the thick of an industrial wasteland of government buildings and the air is as thick as butter. I am taking shallow breaths and just can't breathe so I ask Sam for a quick walk and we do. Then we hit a sponge station and relish in the delight of wet sponges. Man, that feels awesome. We are coming up on the half mark and pass a young man chatting on his cell phone (!). There is a bit of a hill to get the the half mats (where the sign says, Halfway Home), and we run up it, hit the mat and I immediately walk. HAHA (I know this because it's on video!). We hit the mat at 1:57:43. The four hours is ours.

4:58-5:03-5:02-5:08-5:03-5:14-4:58-5:20-5:03-6:21-5:19-5:19-5:10-5:45-7:11-5:14-5:14-5:50-6:13-5:15 -5:27

The Survival: KM 22-43.2. I'm not leaving you. WILSON.

Halfway home and the switch turns for me. I start feeling AMAZING! WOOHOO! J'aime Quebec!!! Seriously, I start trying to cheer in bastardized French. At one point, I notice volunteers sweeping up cups with hockey sticks and note, "C'est trop Canadien. L'hockey!!!" I even start thinking that we may negative split this sucker.

Turns out, right around the time I'm not making my OAC French teacher proud and dreaming of negative split glory, Sam begins to suffer. "My stomach feels horrible." Okay, okay. I tell her. Shit. What do we do? "Okay, maybe pop into the next portopotty. Take your time! Take some deep breaths and pretend you're in labour." While she does hit the next portopotty, I'm not sure that she took my advice too heart. I stopped right there though and updated the faithful on Facebook (as you do).

From then on it was about holding on. We walked through every water station. We enjoyed the views. Everyone was dressed really well, so I couldn't distract Sam with any horrific outfits either. Still, while I felt like a million bucks, Sam did not. At 32k, she asked for a walk break. It was her time for tears.

"You should just leave me. I'm ruining your race."
"HAHA. Oh ya. After you stuck out Chilly and Around the Bay with me, I'm just ready to say, Well, Fuck you! See ya at the hotel." I think she smiled a bit at that.

"I feel so horrible. I have terrible stomach pains and feel like I'm going to throw up."
With the wisdom of a seasoned pro, I insisted that was the way, "Just throw up then! Easy!" Sam takes a glace at her half eaten gel and decides to choke it back in the hopes that it will cause her to throw up. Nope.

"Look," I say, "Its a beautiful day and I don't mind a lovely 10k walk..." Sam looks at me horrified.

"We are NOT walking this in! That will take even longer!!!"

I decide, "Okay. Let's do 10 and 1s. Yes?" She nods. "Let's go." I look at my watch and we're off. I know what my job is now. Its to run slightly ahead. Its to watch the watch and raise  my hand every 10 minutes and to make sure that Sam doesn't stop drinking sips of water at each station. I notice that a very handsome man has caught us during our little walk break. He's wearing an IronMan visor. I note to Sam how lucky we are to run with him now as he's so hot. He kinda smiles. I stage whisper, "And I think he's an IronMan!"

"'Ave," hot 70.3-dude says in his hot Franco accent, "I only like de 'ave."

"Yeah," Sam deadpans, "Me too."

I keep up the chatter. I remind Sam of that time we rode 100k with Emma and how they groaned when I asked if they were ready to run a half marathon after 90k. When Sam tried to engage with me, I wouldn't let her. I have no problem talking non-stop for 10k. I watched the watch and counted down the 10 minutes, raised my hand and then counted down the 1 minute and we're off. After a few of these, Sam needs a longer break. No problem, but I'm keeping you to some semblance of order. We won't be walking all helter-skelter. After a two minute walk break, I propose 5/1s to Sam and she agrees that this strategy makes more sense. I try to get a sense of how hard I should be with her, "Do you want soft love or hard love?" HAHAHA. Sam doesn't answer. I take that as a vote to treat her gently. With water (and more sponges!) coming every 3k now, we end up hitting a walk through a station every second break, but I always make her run at least 3 minutes after so it all works out. I really have to watch myself and ensure I don't get too far ahead. Just as I'm thinking that, I look back and can't find Sam.

I start to slow and still can't see her. I turn full around and am about to stop when I see her. I'm not sure if I ran back or waited for her to catch me, but I was angry. "You don't do that! You TELL me when you need a break. I'm with you to the end. We are finishing this together and then we're going to drink a million beers and pass out in our hotel room." From then on, I was right by her side.

The last 10k is a blur of watch watching. My watch was ahead by 1km exactly and I tried to make some jokes about that as well (as both Robin and Patty were running at Sulphur that weekend). At some point, someone gives me two sponges so I hold one in my strap for later as I know that is the last sponge station (IronMan styles, I tell Sam). She used it too! We are close to downtown now and it is absolutely INSANE. Someone jumps in and its, Barb someone I've only heard about and whom I watched PB during the 10k the night before. HA. She offers us some food and then runs us in. She's speaking with Sam and then with me and I'm telling her it was shitty for me... then shitty for Sam and that's just the way it goes. Then, with about 3.5k left, I see my friends! YAYA! They are on both sides of the road but getting to the right is easier so I jump over and get a high five. How amazing is that!

We get past the 39k marker (or 40k on my watch!) and there is less than 3k to go. I note the time. Holy shit. We may just get Sam her PB after all. "There are less than 3k to go. We have 17 minutes to get you home. LET'S. FUCKING. GO!" And we take off again. Its mayhem. Barb is with us, Sam is with us. I look back when the five minutes are up and Sam needs the break. I take it. Screw the PB. Again, time to run. Five minutes are coming, "Sam, do you want it or not? About 1200m to go?" Sam wants to run through (Dammit, I'm not having the best day either!), so we run through. Before I know it, Barb is gone and the finish is in sight. I look down and grab Sam's arm. I drag her to the right to get a good photo (you can see us on the video taking a diagonal line, haha) and we finish this, the Ottawa Marathon.

5:53-5:36-5:11-5:41-5:35-7:10-5:59-6:05-6:06-6:50-5:39-6:56-6:11-6:27-6:07-6:43-6:18-6:58-6:06-6:06- 6:56-5:41-5:36 (last 200m)

 This race ended up as it was supposed to. As everyone knows, you can plan for everything but race day will dawn the way it will dawn. Sam and I came to Ottawa to run a marathon and we did just that. The way our bodies both reacted couldn't have been helped. We can only learn from it and grow stronger. While Sam has always been a friend and great training partner, there is something special about sharing a weekend and a race like this with someone. One day, when we are 70 (well, she'll be 75), we'll laugh when remembering this race.

Remember that dude on the phone for like, 10k?
Remember hot-'ave-IronMan?
Remember the dude who said, "Shit Happens?"
Remember how we walked 3k out of the way after the race to meet Maggie and Sarah for beers (yes, that freaking happened, we took a bus to the Rideau Centre)
Remember how every Starbucks closed at like 430pm?
Remember how impressed that tour guide was? That guy who took our photo the next day?

I still have that medal hanging up, its one of my favorites.


  1. Loved your race recap and the spirit that comes from it. You can never know what race day will bring that's for sure! That nausea thing is a beast. Suffered with that myself and there's not much you can do with it (or the shits which I also had). you plod along and hope to make it till the end. Congrats on finishing. Relentless.Forward.Progress....I see ultras in your future :) Congrats on another marathon finish and making the most of a tough one. You guys rock!

  2. Note to self: don't make poop jokes before races!

    Love the recap, love how even when things suuuuuck your enthusiasm still shines through. Congats on your finish - the memories and stories of that race will definitely be brought out many times in the future!

  3. I was really surprised to see you posting to facebook during a BQ marathon attempt. I understand now.

    And it was really interesting to read Samantha and your race reports. It’s incredible to read two similar narratives of the same event from different points of view.

    It’s really good of you how you were so supportive of Sam over her tough last stretch. It’s nice that you switched between motherly love and tough love when necessary

    You should both be really proud of yourselves!


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