Ottawa, I like that place. Always a fun time to be had in our nation’s capital. I ran another marathon there this past weekend. Ended up with another 2:16. I have now raced seven competitive marathons and that was my third 2:16. I can run a 2:16 like it’s my damn job! Oh, wait. It is my job. That’s probably why I’m a broke ass. A 2:16 marathoner is not a very well-paying job. Oh well, we’ll deal with that come the fall.
For now let’s talk Ottawa 2014.
This was my third time visiting Ottawa for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. This is a weekend that I always circle on the racing calendar. Be it the 5K, 10K, half-marathon or full 42.2K, this weekend has an event for everyone and a fun time is pretty much guaranteed.
Last year I ran the Marathon on a bit of a whim. This year I wanted to hit it proper. Build up, sharpen up and then get at it in on the mean streets of Ottawa. Well, that was the plan, at least.
Before a marathon build starts you usually sit down, pull out the highlighters and come up with a sexy little training plan. You have all your weeks laid out perfectly before you, there are charts and graphs, races are set, long runs planned and everything just looks so perfect.
When I sat down with coach Rich heading into 2014, I laid out a pretty ambitious plan. Looking back, maybe I wanted to do a bit too much. I was reaching a bit and had a few hiccups along the way. As a result my build for Ottawa was less than ideal.
Fortunately, I was able to put on a strong final four or five weeks and, with that work, combined with a big reservoir from years past, a conservative race plan and naïve optimism, I arrived in Ottawa ready to get at it.
When race morning arrived I was feeling pretty good. I can actually sleep before marathons now. In the past I wouldn’t sleep at all the night before races. I would be tossing and turning, thinking about this, that and everything in between. Now I just make sure to control what I can, and let everything else just flow. Why bother to worry about the weather? There’s nothing I can do about that.
Race morning vibes were positive and spirits were high. After a little warm up, a solid rendition of “O Canada” by a local songstress and a last second pee break, I was ready to go. When I am standing on the line before the gun I just try to calm myself. I do some positive self-talk, I tell bad jokes to my nearest competitor and I just try to relax, but inevitably my last thought before the gun is usually along the lines of “oh, crap. What have I gotten myself into?”
As we made our way out on the course I immediately sought out my rabbit, Kongin Bonface. One of the great things about Ottawa is that they do a great job of taking care of us Canadians. Elite coordinator Manny Rodrigues had set me up with a rabbit to take me all the way to 35K. You never know what to expect with these rabbits. Sometimes they are fit and useful. Other times they are out of shape and useless. Luckily for me, Kongin was ready to go. Actually, he was probably the best rabbit I have ever had. The dude nailed it! Thanks, Kongin! I hope to work with him again sometime.
For the first 10K I also tucked in with Eric Gillis and Reid Coolsaet. Reid was there to pace Gillis. He did a great job leading our group for that first 10K. We settled in and got the race going. We hit 10K at 31:42. The pace felt easy, but I decided to chill. I knew I wasn’t in shape to hold that pace the whole way. I wanted to run a conservative race, and I figured 3:12s would treat me more kindly than 3:10s.
Gilly boy and Reider sped away and I tried to focus on finding a nice relaxed rhythm at 3:12/K pace. I wanted to keep Gillis somewhat close, this being the national championship after all, and I wanted to at least give myself a chance. I knew Eric was fit and he is a great runner; beating him was gonna take a fantastic run on my part, but I tried to keep him in my sights just in case. These marathons, man, you never know what could happen.
I spent the next 20K just plodding along. It was a bit muggy, by West Coast standards, and I was just making sure to get my bottles and not overexert myself before I had to. The crowds were great. At one point I ran by a group of supporters blasting Bryan Adams. It was neat running a race in our nation’s capital while having Bryan Adams blasting in the background. It was Canadian as hell! Other than that, I really have nothing to report between 10K and 30K.
My biggest concern heading into this race was my strength. Like I said before, my build up had been a bit interrupted, and what I lacked the most was big volume weeks and long efforts, and at 32K shit started to get real.
I was lucky to still have Kongin with me when the reality of the marathon started to set in. I just stared at his back and focused on maintaining form. He took me to 35K and then called it a day. I gave him a high five and we parted ways. At this point I was running about 3:20/K. I was OK with that. If I could have held 3:20s to the finish I’d be just fine.
I didn’t hold 3:20s.
As soon as I was on my own I swear it got 20 degrees hotter out there. I swear, the course went up a giant hill and I was running through sand. Friggen marathons, they can get damn hard in a damn hurry! Needless to say, I struggled in those last 7K, but I managed to drag my butt across the line in 2:16:37.
2:16 is far from my best but, to be honest, I am quite proud of it. I am proud because I put up a good fight. My focus was strong, I nailed my fuelling and I stayed positive even when my world was crashing down at 38K. Coach Rich had predicted a 2:16 and that is what I hit. I ran to my fitness and I escaped unscathed and ready to tackle the next one.
Gilly rolled a 2:13 to take the national championship. Congrats to him. He is a great runner and a good friend. Certainly someone that I look up to in the sport.
Huge, huge, huge thanks to everyone involved with the Tamarck Ottawa Race Weekend — Manny, John Halvorsen, Susan and all the volunteers. What an amazing group of people. They make life so easy for us leading up to the race. It could not be done without them.
Massive congrats to all my “LeTeamDuRob” peeps. Leading up to the race I was helping mentor a group of five local marathoners. They were such a positive and energetic group to work with. It was actually quite humbling to follow these guys’ progression. Training for a marathon is hard enough on my flexible schedule. These guys have families, jobs and life to deal with, all while trying to train through the worst winter ever. I am so proud of them. My man Jason rolled a 3:05, a 20-minute PB, but missed his Bsoton standard by eight seconds! He’ll get it next time.
Sinead from London went 3:14. Well under Boston’s standard. Not bad for a mom of three.
First-timer Domenic hit a very impressive 3:32. I knew he would kill it after meeting him pre-race. The dude is a ball of positive energy.
Christa had a rough build with injuries and hardship but she fought all the way and crossed the line. She was a champ throughout.
Finally, the busiest man in Ottawa, Mathieu, finished in 4:45. Not bad for a guy who put in limited training, to say the least!
So that’s that. Ottawa 2014, good stuff. Thanks for the amazing support, guys. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to send a kind word my way. I love this community, I love this sport and I love lamp.