Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ottawa Army Half Marathon

So, a couple of weeks ago I ran the Army Half marathon in Ottawa, which is a pretty awesome race - all the fundraising efforts go toward Soldier On, and the Military Families Fund. It was my goal race for the fall, and I put a lot into the training, so I was hoping for a good result (or, good for me anyway). The bonus for running in Ottawa is that my sister lives there, so I don't have to worry about where I'm going to stay, or food or anything. It was a family affair - my mom, dad, sister and I all ran the race. My sister said "she's just doing it for fun, not to race" but as per the norm the family competitive streak came out, and she totally raced it, I don't care what she says. She ended up starting ahead of me because I made a last minute port-a-potty stop  before the start.

First that start are all the injured soldiers doing the half marathon and I ended up passing a few of them on the route. It's pretty inspiring to see them out there doing their thing.

We picked up our race kits on Saturday, and I found out that my chip didn't work. This is the second year in a row where I've had problems with a fall half-marathon chip! The anklets and the small ones you tie in your shoes seem to be the most reliable. This was the kind that is embedded on the back of the bib. At least they were scanning them all beforehand, so I was able to get a replacement. I was told that on Saturday evening everything would be sync'd up and the new chip would have all my information on it. I found out on Sunday that this was not the case. and I was "Unknown". They were very prompt in fixing the issue - I e-mailed Sportstats on Sunday afternoon, and they had it fixed by Monday afternoon. I was very glad that they were checking the chips before the race! Still I can't believe that I had a chips fail twice!

We got to the start with plenty of time to spare - we took the bus down to the start, and found a place for us all to meet when we finished. We then went potty and then to the bag check, and to the start. They showed a couple of videos - I guess you could send in a video, and win a chance to enter the race for free. They showed the two winning ones, and one from the army which was kind of neat. I guess some of the soldiers overseas do a race too! I think it's usually shorter though. Anyway, John Stanton was there and talked a bit, mom and I went back to the port-a-pottys and came back and the area was packed! The corrals were pretty full, so I started a bit further back than I wanted to. Anyway, then they started the injured soldiers, and they have a videoscreen up so we could see them off. Very inspiring! They had a few other speakers, and the National anthem, and then we were off! The starter's pistol is a cannon, but they have moved it back a bit, so you can still hear it, and feel it, but it's not so close that you think you're under attack. I'm sure the residence downtown love hearing it go off in the morning! The weather was cool, which was great, but a bit windy which kind of sucked sometimes and made it hard to keep my pace up.

Unlike Vegas (the only other large race I've done) after the first couple of kilometres you were around people your pace. The 1:45 pace bunny seemed to be going for a positive split - I thought I'd be able to keep them in sight, but I lost them pretty quick. I think a lot of the bunnies got rid of their sticks with the times on them...since I saw them on the side of the road. There were some people that definitely placed themselves incorrectly in the corral, but it seemed to sort itself out fairly quickly. The pace bunnies for the run/walkers were actually really good - they would put of their arm for the walk break and get everyone over to one side of the road for their break. I said thank you when I passed them, and people seemed to look at me funny, but it's so nice when you aren't running into a wall of walkers!  Dad pointed out that for a 1:55 run/walk (I think that was the finish time) you kind of have to figure that they have to run around 5min/km, and then walk for a minute. That seems a bit crazy to me! I think it would be way easier to just run slower and not walk. Anyway the water stops were ok - I think if each stop had a couple more volunteers it would be perfect - there were a couple of times that it seemed a bit dicey if people were going to get water/gatorade or not. There were a bunch of people stopped at the second or third port-a-potty set...I think they had them every water stop or so, and one enterprising gentleman decided just stand behind the porty-a-potty and go. It looked like it provided enough cover...

The course had a lot of curves in it, and a lot of small hills. According to my Garmin I ran about 190m longer than the course! Yikes! It was hard at the beginning to hit the tangents though...too crowded! None of the hills too steep but there were enough that it made things hard for me. I don't remember much of the race course...I know that somewhere around the civilization museum there was a waterstop and about 5 or 6 army guys cheering there...they were quite loud! I high-fived them all and got my gatorade...and I high-fived the cadets...don't remember where they were on the course. When we got into Quebec it was very deserted...kind of thought zombies were going to pop out somewhere! I always find it kind of funny when races describe the sights on a course, or how scenic it is...I tend to not notice anything unless it's on the road or at a waterstop. There were a few areas where there weren't many people out cheering, but there were lots where there were many people along the course! I found that, like in many races, if people are there for one person, they tend not to be really loud, but if there is one person that's nuts and cheering for everyone, everyone joins in.

I do wish there was maybe one more waterstop, and that they had the kilometre marks on their race map, so you can figure out where the stops are kilometre wise. I had my first gel around 6 kilometres maybe because I wasn't sure when the next waterstop was coming up, and the second one I had later than I wanted to...maybe around 15 km? I'm pretty sure it was more than 5 km from the end, but not much. According to the website there were 6 waterstops, so I'm guessing they were about 3 km apart give or take. Still, this is only the 5th year of the race, and it is really, well run. I can't complain about much. The first gel at 6 km went down ok, but the second was a bit problematic. I think I couldn't digest it because it sort of just sat there, and I didn't feel well, and I was wondering if I was going to have to stop and be sick. It was a weird experience for me because I never had it happen before.

I think somewhere around 16 or 17km I finally caught, and passed my sister. I wasn't sure where she was in the race, but when I passed my mom going the other way, she said my sister was not far ahead of me. So that gave me a goal. When I got fairly close behind her I said "Go Rache" and she sped up so it took longer than I had thought it would, when I caught up to her (finally) I was thinking that maybe we would finish together, and said "Let's git'er done" and she swore at me (pretty sure she told me to fuck off), so I continued on without her. Of course, after I did that, I was her rabbit and thought she was going to catch me again at the end. The last 4km were really, really hard. I think the two things that kept me going were the facts that a) my sister was behind me and I thought she'd catch me (us, competitive? I  don't know what you are talking about), and b) I really didn't want to walk in the last 4km. I can do anything for 4km! I saw a surprising number of people having to stop in the last 4 kilometres...some with 1 km to go! Seems crazy. From the pictures it looks like I kind of feel apart in the last few kilometres. Basically all I was concentrating on was just getting my feet up and down and moving forward.

So I finished, gun time 1:48:44, and got my medal from an army guy and stumbled along a bit, then turned to wait for my sister. She finished about a minute behind me, and then got my box of food. It had an energy bar, hummus and Melba toast, and some chocolate. It was supposed to have granola/trail mix, but it was missing from my box. They didn't have the normal fare out for food, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I do wish that we got a bottle of water and a banana with our box, but I was pretty pleased with the box of food overall. My lungs hurt when I finished, but that went away after a few minutes.

The next day, I was pretty sore. I figured I was going to be, since on Sunday my body wasn't best pleased when I wanted to move around, but Monday was worse. I knew it was going to be bad when I stretched in bed, and everything hurt. Chip time I finished at 1:46:58, about a minute faster than my previous PB of 1:48:05 (chip time, Forest City half marathon 2012). A couple of seconds faster per kilometre doesn't sound like that much, but it makes a huge difference in how I feel at the end! I didn't have to go down the stairs backwards, but I was going down sideways. I thought about scooching down on my bum, but figured that may be worse since I'd need to use my legs to make sure I just didn't slide down all the stairs. After the race, I wasn't too happy that there were so many stairs in my sister's place!

I'm still pretty pleased with the race. I had a goal of, if it was a perfect day, and a fairly flat course (which is what I was told it would be before we found out it had been changed from previous years)  that I would be going for 1:45, which in retrospect was kind of crazy since that's about 3 minutes faster than I had run it before. Still, it looks to be within my grasp, and I wasn't off this time by that much all things considered. As long as I stay healthy, I think it will happen soon. Second was to be faster than my last half marathon, which I was, and third was to be under 1:50. I mean, I always have the goal to finish, and to finish upright and running, but I'm not sure if that counts. I think it would be pretty hard to get me off a course, unless I was injured. 
My sister and me after the race. We're smiling because we're done.

My race season is pretty much over. I have a 10km race at the end of the month, which I'm looking forward to. I'm not feeling burnt out this year (last year, I felt a bit burnt out at the end of last season so I don't think I had a great race), so I'm hoping to have a decent race. Apparently, I haven't broken 50 minutes for a 10 km race so I really want to do that, at least. There is no reason why I can't do it. If the weather is crap than it may be harder to do, but as far as I can tell it should be well within my ability.

Until next time,


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