Yesterday was marathon number 10 for me and my sixth consecutive Ottawa Marathon. Going in the plan was to beat my time from last year, 3:12:25 and aim for my elusive qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. With the preparation I had I certainly felt ready to do that.
Race weekend has become one of my favourite weekends of the year here in Ottawa. The organizers have done a great job building a popular series of races over two days. In terms of the marathon alone we have one of the biggest and best in Canada and the crowds have come out in bigger numbers in recent years to support the runners.
I’ve enjoyed running marathons in other locations but there is something different about being able to run a marathon with family and friends there to cheer you on. Yesterday I had a couple of personal photographers, friends in a few different locations and family waiting for me just before the finish line.
In terms of my preparation, I would say without a doubt this time was the best I have been prepared in terms of nutrition and a plan for race day. The week leading up to race day was the most disciplined one I have had in terms of ensuring I was taking in the right amount of carbs to fuel my run.
As per usual, I was up early for breakfast yesterday, at 3:15 since the race started at 7:00. I had my usual breakfast consisting of a bowl of oatmeal, bagel with peanut butter, a banana and a sports drink. I had breakfast as quickly as I could then laid down again for a couple more hours although I don’t think I managed to get back to sleep.
The weather was ideal at the start with overcast skies, a cool breeze and foggy patches. As planned I lined up with the 3:10 pace bunny. My plan was to stick with him for about 30 km before I would take off ahead and try and get the buffer needed to register for Boston.
I felt great right from the start although the pace bunny was running faster than his goal pace after the first km. Not wanting to take any chances I dropped back on my own to a 4:30/km pace at the 6 km mark. I crossed the 10, 15, and 21.1 mats on pace to beat my goal.
In addition to having gels and Honey Stinger chews which I was alternating every 40 minutes, I had four zone caps with me to replace lost electrolytes. I ended up taking the first two around 18 km. About 7-8 km later I took the remaining two because my right calf was starting to feel tight.
The first sign of trouble for me came at 27 km on the Alexandra Bridge, headed back across the Ottawa River for those who have done the Ottawa Marathon before. It was here that I had to deal with the first in a series of painful calf cramps. I stopped to stretch my calves quickly hoping that would do the trick.
I took off again and felt fine, having no trouble maintaining a steady pace. Unfortunately I had to stop and stretch again around the 30 km mat. From this point on I was able to run for about 2 km before my calf started throbbing again. After stretching around the 38 km mark I was able to carry on to the finish line without stopping but the damage was already done.
I passed my family just before the finish line and crossed in 3:15:16. Knowing where they were going to be gave me incentive to keep pushing over the last km.
Unfortunately my BQ will have to wait for another day. On a positive note I am more convinced than ever that I am on the verge of attaining. I was still on pace for it at 30 km yesterday. I feel like I am knocking at the door and once I figure out the solution to the calf cramps that have plagued me the last two times out I will be in.
As for what comes next, I’ll take a shot at it again in the fall. I am registered to run the Rock n Roll Marathon in Montreal in September but since it can still be hot and humid in Montreal at that time of year and I have not heard the best reviews about the organization of that race I am not sure yet that I want to make that my goal race for the fall. I am going to take some time to figure out the best plan.