Driving back from the Kawartha’s a week before the Ottawa Marathon I made a mistake, I talked to my phone, “weather in Ottawa this Sunday” phone thinking “Sunday’s forecast in Ottawa is 29 with scattered thunderstorms”. What! I knew it could get hot in Ottawa the end of May and I truly love running in rain but the hazards of running in thunderstorms were never on my radar. Do races get cancelled for lightning? This is a first with PB potential.
Sometimes doing the wrong thing repeatedly can turn you into a ‘serial sinner’. I really thought the weather would change a dozen times before Sunday so I checked it day after day and my sinning was not rewarded with an apple, it was clearly getting worse every single day. It’s going to be a HOT one. I am a winter runner who avoids running in the summer unless I’m injured and have to push out my goal to the Fall. Unfortunately this has occurred too often in my short running ‘career’. Potential Mistake #1 – weather forecast sinning
Just 2 weeks before the Ottawa Marathon, I was running through 5 different weather systems; hail, snow, rain, sun, wind and wearing a hat, coat, gloves and winter leggings as pictured. One thing I can tell you it was not even slightly warm. I don’t bundle up like this for most of my winter runs. There would be no time to acclimate for the potential of running a marathon in what was moving over 32C. I was scared and feeling a bit defeated.
I’d trained for 7 months to hit a time goal, faced off many challenges and hiccups like a focused dragon, shushed my doctor when my bronchitis returned 4 weeks before race day, this weather thing was completely out of my control. I knew in my gut though, that running Ottawa was finally a ‘no-brainer’ for me. I would just need to adjust my 5 goals a bit. Potential Mistake #2 – assuming the worst has already happened
We arrived in Ottawa Friday and immediately head off to meet up with 6 of my awesome Fit For Life friends. They knew my challenges with this race so they had surprised me months ago by registering for Ottawa, training and travelling all the way from Florida and Virginia to join me. A quick lunch of hugs and we were off to the Expo. Leaving the restaurant a torrential thunderstorm had just begun. We all high 5’ed each other and decided to just gleefully run to the Expo. We got drenched. We were so thrilled, this could be the turning point for a break in the heat. Potential Mistake #3 – sprinting thru rain in flip flops
At the Expo, it did not take long for the happily drenched Team Ottawa’s enthusiasm to be dampened by the knowledge that race and government officials were seriously considering cancellation of the races due to the heat. But they should go outside we told them, it’s storming! They were serious, they had the best weather experts in the country monitoring the systems. They also had weather experts throughout the Expo explaining a flag system they would be using on the route if the race did proceed. Even if the race wasn’t cancelled prior, there was potential for the racers to be forced off the route mid run. There are bad outcomes; not being able to race. There are worse outcomes; starting and not being able to finish.
Bad news just stoked the need for retail therapy. There are always things you didn’t know you needed in this apparently cheap sport. Like a 6th pair of colourful ZiZu running glasses (whoops). I am never purchase-free at an Expo, I’ve been given a challenge by some to make this a future race PB – to not shop! I was able to do some race planning and ended up loading up on my favourite training supplements and 2 pair of the coolest peace sign shorts/leggings. I was already considering wearing them race day with the brand new @Karengeterdone shirt I had made a few days prior that I hadn’t washed or run in yet. Whoops – Potential Mistake #4 – don’t introduce anything you haven’t tested on race day.
The group headed out for some carb loading and hydration. Tonight’s sleep was critical since the night before race day it is really difficult to actually sleep. Potential Mistake #4 – alcohol – really could you turn down a frozen mojito in 32C? There are limits!
Saturday morning we decided to run John Stanton‘s 9am Friendship Run together. He’s the Founder of the Running Room. Coach Stan of Adaptive Running Academy wanted me to run the day prior to the marathon. This would be a 1st for me and the gang were great enough to join me. It also gave us an opportunity to hear any announcements regarding the race. Great news – the race wouldn’t be cancelled, they were altering a few start times. I had hoped they would start the marathon earlier then 7am but they decided to adjust the half closer to our start. So be it! I truly felt blessed that I would ‘get’ to run Ottawa!! My head was making the positive flip flops it needed.
After the rest of our Fit For Life contingent arrived from Toronto on Saturday, we all loaded into buses to take the free marathon route tour. It took almost 2 hours to maneuver 42.2k through traffic, construction and race setup. Almost 50,000 runners registered in races for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, add their cheerlead contingents and that’s a lot of activity in Ottawa. As the 9 of us scanned the route from our bus seats in the steaming heat of 32C we became increasingly concerned about the distance and discomfort. If we are not happy driving this far in the heat, how on earth are we going to be running it? Sometimes it’s just best to keep the unknown, well, unknown. Potential Mistake #5 – route touring!
Race Day here we come! We enjoyed an early dinner served by my lovely daughter Kiera at Tuckers Marketplace then headed off for an early bedtime. Our start time remained 7am so this meant most of us would be getting up around 4:30 to do our pre-race regimen, poop (if we’re lucky) and get ourselves to the start line in advance so we had time for the porta potty lineups and to all find each other in the masses.
It was a lovely overcast morning although already warm at 6am. There were 5 of us running the full marathon and we hadn’t all shown up yet so we enjoyed watching the gazelle speed of the 1st corrals then tried to find our last 2 lost teammates. It wasn’t to be with the bedlam of a big race so we headed out as the very last runners through the start line. We’ll catch up – Potential Mistake #5 – starting too fast. PB #1 – Arrive at the start line injury free!
The race started joyously with happy banter, no sun and great crowd support given the early hour. As we began passing spots we recognized from the bus tour we couldn’t help but realize that we were indeed running faster than the bus moved yesterday. We hit Little Italy in no time, then caught up to our lost run mates before we ran through Gatineau. Running is truly THE best way to tour a city! We were like teenage girls. We knew we wouldn’t be together long so we had some fun, took the required selfie at a water station and wished each other a safe race. It felt like a PB land slide for this group at this point in the race. We were all thoroughly drenched from the wonder of citizens who listened to the news and came out in droves with their sprinklers and makeshift water stations. Can’t say enough about the awesome crowd support along with the organization of the Ottawa Marathon! You’ll notice in the pictures I actually had to run with my phone in my hand (for 30k) to allow for sprinkler dashes with my arm raised so not to end my potential for selfie (or runfie) opportunities.
Then the sun came out.
Lissett had a goal of running the whole race with me while we shared our life stories as entertainment for the 4.5 hours. I love her for this but I knew better and, even though I’d tried to prepare her for the reality that her training went better than mine, she was still insistent 15k into the race. I decided to let my happy pace bunny guide me as far as I could get with her. We weren’t running too fast, we were a bit under our target but it would still be super PB times for both of us. Once the sun came out, it immediately had an impact on how I felt. Then a yukky ‘out and back’ portion of the race course played with my head. Some runners like these sections in races as we get to pass friends running slower or faster on the route a few times. Emotionally I like that too but intellectually it doesn’t make any sense to run 10k when you can just cross the street. I begin slipping into the revised goals I’d invented over the last few days and had no choice but to bring my strong pace bunny along for the ride. I didn’t prepare her for this but she has a great attitude, fun spirit and we’ve both been accountable to a secret Facebook group daily for 3.5 yrs. Even though this was our 1st ever race together, in a crazy way she knows me really well. PB #2 – race photographer jump shots.
I could tell around the half way point that Lissett was way stronger then me. Her breathing, her ability to talk, her endless smile. She was joyful, me, I’d slipped into my motivational tactic ‘fake it til you make it’ with my jump shots and kiddie high 5’s. Lissett has worked hard to transformed herself, she’s even officially become a certified run coach. I had to break it to her. She absolutely had to go ahead and my few meager attempts to tell her this previously had resulted in “my goal is to run this race with you, my time push will be in October”. I knew all too well in my short race career that there are not many days when all pistons are firing. You cannot let them pass. We all train too hard for these major events and anything could take us down with the long training cycle to the next race. I just wouldn’t have any part of her not pushing to her best result. So alas, she listened and we agreed to part when we got to 26k. There were more and more runners down being tended to as we got towards the bridge and a runner on the bridge directly in front of us who projectile vomited. Of course we stopped to assist but she stubbornly refused and we could thankfully see an aid bicycle headed her direction. Definite recipe for dehydration, I sure hope she was okay!
And so began the short crowded journey of running on my own. The multitude of half marathoners combined with the full marathoners about to split off in a different direction. After the race Jeff commented he was quite certain many with full marathon bibs were deciding to break off and go get some half marathon bling. The fork I took looked very lonely.
I completed the bridge crossing back into Ontario and was quite happy knowing that Jeff would be at the top of the hill. My greatest cheerleader and supporter through the whole process of training, sacrificing, pushing me out the door, nourishing, early bedtimes, listening to the endless banter, missing me and encouraging me. I have pondered taking a break from this running thing so Jeff and I can go back to our outdoorsy goals together. He continues to insist I need to see this through, we’re not getting any younger and we never know when life might come kick us in the ass. He is my rock, I know it’s not easy. My super awesome cheerleader! 27k, 15.2 to go
Then I put on music for the first time and got very emotional. You know how I work for tears. It was a very prideful moment, it finally hit me that I was going to complete this race. I decided to mentally relive my almost 3 year journey attempting to complete this race. While I’d succeeded in completing 2 full marathons, 9 half marathons, 2 Tough Mudders, a Spartan, 2 x 30k races and numerous mountain climbs around the World (all in my 50’s over the last 3 yrs), Ottawa was suppose to be my 1st full marathon. I knew I would not stop trying to complete this race. Here on the lonely road of a barren loop that could be prevented by simply crossing the road, I enjoyed my success. PB #3 – My 1st Spring marathon.
I was not happy with what I was seeing on my Garmin. My time was getting worse and worse and it was get hotter and more barren. Just as I was trying to talk myself out of another lil walk, I heard my name, looked to my left and was so relieved to see Mei Ling, one of my favourite running partners and a great blogger. I’d never actually seen her looking the way she was, I was a little worried. We ran together for about 5k then I lost her to a porta potty and GI issues as 2 other runners I know from social media found me and kept me moving. I knew Mei was safe with the aid at a water station and hoped she would catch up if she was able to continue running, there were a lot of walking breaks going on at this point. I look forward to her writing about her experience!
I kept running, jumping, smiling, walking and pride crying as I finished that horrid loop and worked on the final 5k of the race. A couple of kilometers from the finish my son Connor found me and did his best to run in his Sperry’s. His encouragement was appreciated and I could see the pride on his face. I swear he got a little caught up in the cheers at this point in the race. I, of course, tease him that this will be his ‘thing’ after he gets over his running boycott. I’d hoped for a jump shot with him but we couldn’t find a photographer before he stopped running and I sure wasn’t going to stop.
The jumping continued shockingly! My knees felt great. I was able to jump right to the end and I mustered the strength for jumping from the 5 gels and 4 maple sugar ‘melt in your mouth’ delectable treats that kept me going. They actually made me feel better. PB #4 – Most race fuel ever
Typically when runners talk about Personal Best’s (PB’s) they are referring to their race time. I mean absolutely no disrespect to those who trained hard, raced hard and pushed themselves to their limits to hit their race time goal in Ottawa. I know many who did PB last Sunday and I’m super proud of their successes. I also saw many runners along the road surrounded by paramedics and there were no shortage of sirens throughout the race. 75 runners found their way to a medical station, 14 were tended to along the route and 2 runners were taken to the hospital. We sure hope all fully recovered. In the end 9000 runners who were registered did not cross the finish line last Sunday. So I trained, pushed myself to my limits with a 33.2C sun beating down on me, hit 3 of my original goals crossing the finish line with a Garmin recorded 43.3 km. I’m proud of how I rejigged to live, not only the ‘stay alive’ version of live but enjoyed the ‘live in the moment’ kind as well. PB #4 – cross the finish line of the Ottawa Marathon
PB #5 – introduce my sport Doc to the 1st person he knows who’s actually run a marathon in a titanium brace (Thanks Doc! I promise I’ll back off soon …. not!)
Not bad for the hottest May day EVER in Ottawa.
They say it’s always the unexpected surprises in life that bring us the most happiness. While I was naturally thrilled to cross the finish line after training for the Ottawa Marathon 3 winters in a row, making the best of a really hot situation with a new jump shot PB makes me smile big. So does another PB, PB #6 – running with the most diverse group of running friends ever. They deserve a whole blog post all their own. Watch out for ‘Marathon of Friends’ 🙂 Happy Running!
Ask me my time and I might just punch you! 😉
Next up! My biggest running challenge EVER. Challenges are where badasses are made.