Category Archives: Races

Why the Marathon?

After running the Boston Marathon last month I had an opportunity to give some thought to why I enjoy training for and running marathons while I took time off from running to recover.

For me the answer to that question is twofold. The first reason is the challenge involved with training for and running a marathon. The process will push you to the limit both mentally and physically.

It takes a lot of discipline to properly train for a run a marathon. By this I am referring to the need to ensure you are eating the right foods to fuel and recover from your workouts, don’t cheat on your training and get a decent amount of sleep to help you recover from your workouts.

The second reason I enjoy running marathons applies more to out of town races. Believe it or not running a marathon is a great way to see a city. In my case I’ve run through neighbourhoods of large cities that I would never have visited if I had not been running a marathon.

When I think of this the first thing that comes to mind are  neighbourhoods in Boston and Philadelphia I ran through that were filled with families enjoying breakfast or a bbq as they encouraged the runners going by.

Runners who are not from Ottawa also likely have a similar appreciation for the opportuniy to run by the Parliament Buildings and the residences of the Governor General and Prime Minister during the Ottawa Marathon.

For me the biggest reward from training for and running a marathon comes when I cross the finish line . Following 3-4 months of dedicated training involving several hundred miles in multiple pairs of running shoes I get to celebrate. In my case this involves going out for beer and food I would not normally eat ( ie. cheesesteaks in Philadelphia) once I have showered and changed.

Unfortunately the high  from completing a marathon is often followed by a bit of an empty feeling when it is over. I went through this phase after I got home from Boston. Fortunately this time I already have a half-marathon coming up in 3 weeks to help get me over it.

I am not sure when or where my next marathon will be yet.  I just know that I will run another one for the reasons mentioned above.

Ottawa Race Weekend

Now that I have recovered from Boston it is time to get ready for my next race. In one month from today I am scheduled to run the Ottawa Race Weekend half-marathon.

Ottawa Race Weekend is, in my opinion, the best race weekend in Canada with races spread out over 2 days and a variety of distances to appeal to as many runners as possible. It offers the only IAAF Gold Label 10 km race in Canada to go along with a Gold Label marathon.

Runners can also expect great crowd support along the courses. In particular, the final stretch down Queen Elizabeth drive draws large crowds for all of the races.

In my case it has become an event for the whole family to enjoy. My oldest daughters will be running the 2 km with their grandparents on Saturday afternoon again this year and I will be running Sunday morning.

I have participated in it 11 times and will be participating again this year. This year will mark a bit of a change of pace for me as I will be running the half-marathon instead of the marathon as I have done for the past 8 years.

I initially planned to do the marathon but since I was not sure how my long it would take for my legs to recover after Boston I decided to downgrade the the half to be on the safe side. Currently I am slowly ramping my mileage up again to get ready for the half.

In terms of my goals for race weekend while I don’t think I can expect to be in pb (1:26:27) shape for a half 6 weeks after Boston I would still like to come in under 1:30. Barring any setbacks as I ramp up my training over the next few weeks I think that is a realistic goal.

If you are running the marathon this year and are not familiar with the course have a look at this overview and strategy guide I posted a few years ago. There have been a few minor changes to the course since I posted this guide but it could be of interest to you.

Alternatively, you can also follow the Ottawa Marathon social media accounts on Thursday May 4th as Jayme from The Pacing Life runs the course to give runners a full preview. You can watch for that starting at 8:00.

Ottawa St. Patrick’s Day 10 km

Saturday morning I ran my first race of the year. It is a race that I have run since 2011. It has become a bit of a tradition for my family due to the fact that the start and finish line is just down the street from my house. As a result, my family always comes to meet me at the finish and we go out for hot chocolate and coffee afterward.

The course involves an out and back along the Rideau Canal.  It is a mainly flat course with a couple of small inclines. It is a course I am very familiar with since it is close to my house and I run along parts of it regularly.

Due to the time of year it occurs the weather is often a factor for this race. I am pretty sure I ran it in shorts one year but it often seems to happen around the time of what turns out to be our last bit of winter here as was the case this year with the temperature around -8C (17.6F) at the start.

My goal this year was just to give my excuse to run at a hard pace. I wasn’t looking for a 10 km PB but I was hoping to finish in around 40-41 minutes which would be similar to my times from the past few years.

Despite the fact that the GPS on my Garmin did not kick in before the start of the race and I do not have my splits to look at I think I ran a pretty consistent race. As with some of my previous 10 km results I think I lost time between 5-7 km but otherwise ran at a consistent pace with a strong finish. I do not run many 10 km races and still have not mastered my pacing for them.

I finished in 41:03, my second fastest time in this race since I started running it in 2011. The time was good enough for 23rd overall and 5th in my age category.

2016 in Review

With a new addition to our family due in late June 2016 was always going to be a quieter year for me in terms of races. That said I think I managed to have a decent year although it ended on a disappointing note with me being unable to run the last week of the year, more on that later.

You may recall that I finally qualified for Boston at the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon. However, since I only beat my cutoff time by 2:31 I would have to wait until this September to find out if I would actually get to go. As a result, I planned my usual preparation for May’s Ottawa Marathon with three 10 km races and a half-marathon as part of my marathon preparation. 

My shorter races went as expected with all of the 10 km times being under 42 minutes (41:06, 41:31 and 41:09). A 1:28 finish gave me my third straight sub 1:30 result in April’s Run for Reach half-marathon. Those times had me satisfied with my preparation for the marathon in May.

Since I was not guaranteed a spot in Boston with my Philadelphia time my plan for Ottawa was to try and improve my qualifying time (3:15). Unfortunately, a heat wave hit Ottawa in the week leading up to Race Weekend. While the conditions for the marathon were better than the conditions for the other races that weekend it was still hot and humid. I went out at a 3:15 pace but ended up backing off the pace during the second half and finished in 3:26. The best part of the race was getting to see my two oldest daughters cheering for me right before the finish line.

My final scheduled race of the year was the Army Run half-marathon. Once again I volunteered to be the 1:35 pace bunny for the event. It was a lot of fun helping other runners as they tried to meet their goals. I crossed the finish line in just over 1:36 this year…


The day after the Army Run was my opportunity to finally apply for entry to Boston. Just over a week later, on the day before my birthday,  finally received an email I had been waiting a long time t receive…


As for not being able to run this past week the short version of the story is that I was on pace for just over 3000 km in 2016 then came down with shingles and had to make an unexpected trip to get a prescription on Christmas Day. I am finally feeling better now and may go for a short run tomorrow to end the year. 

Despite the past week I have to be pleased with 2016 as far as running goes. I was healthy enough to run another marathon,  successfully paced a half-marathon and had my entry for Boston accepted.

I hope your 2016 was also a good one. All the best in 2017!

Back to Marathon Training

After a couple of months of running for the sake of running I am back to training for another marathon. This week was the start of my training program for the Boston Marathon in April. My training kicked off with a run home in the snow Monday evening.

It was nice to run without a structured plan for a while but I do enjoy having a goal to focus on as I plan my running. I find it easier to stay motivated and on track when I am working toward a goal. I’ve had a few weeks in the 50-60 km range for mileage recently so I should be able to get back to a weekly average of 70-80 km quickly. The key will be to get back to doing longer runs of over 15 km which is something I have not managed recently. 

One thing I am still debating is hill training during this marathon cycle. I have not decided how many hill specific workouts I want to add to my training to get me ready for the hills in Boston. If you have experience running Boston I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this question. 

In addition to ramping up my mileage I also plan to get back into my regular strength training routine. I think it was something that was beneficial in my preparation to the last few marathons I have completed and my plan is to continue a similar routine this time around. 

As I have done with my past marathons, now that I am back to training I will use my Sunday post to recap my week of training. 

Army Run 2016

As mentioned in a previous post, yesterday I participated in the Army Run  as a pace bunny for the 7th time, 6th in the half-marathon. Once again this year my task was to run a 1:35 half-marathon, a task I completed on two previous occasions.

Since this race is in September the weather is often decent for running. However, it can still get hot at this time of year and yesterday was an example of that, with a high of 26C on the day (79F). It was cool when I first stepped out of the house around 8:00 but at the start line just over an hour later at the start line it was already noticeably hotter.

My plan for the morning was to run a steady 4:30/km pace the whole way. Despite the fact the start can get congested at the start with a slight uphill followed by a left turn after crossing the start line I managed to find some holes and did not have much difficulty getting up to my intended pace. Just before I passed the 1km mark I passed The Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjin, who was also running the half.

Just before the half Kevin and Marc, a couple other members of Team Nuun, pulled up behind me. They noticed I was wearing a Nuun wristband, introduced themselves and we had a good discussion for a couple of km before they took off ahead of me.

Unfortunately construction prevented the race from going through the grounds of Rideau Hall, the residence of Canada’s Governor General, this year. However, the Governor General and his wife were still out along the course as we passed by their residence and I made sure to get a high five from Governor General as I went by. 

With about 5-6 km to go I realized I was about 1-2 minutes behind where I wanted to be. I picked up the pace a bit but made sure to to drop too much under my goal pace of 4:30/km because there were still many runners around me. With about 1 km to go as we ran down the final stretch of the race I encouraged the runners around me to take off ahead of me to go for a 1:35 finish. A few did just that and met their goal if they were aiming for 1:35.


As for myself, I crossed the finish line in 1:36:39. My initial reaction was to be disappointed with my time. Last year I finished in 1:35:20 and I was hoping to be even closer to my target this year. With other runners counting on my pace I take pacing as seriously as I do my own running goals. 

However, as I was walking through the finish chute one of the runners who took off ahead of me along the last stretch made a point of thanking me for encouraging them to take off ahead. Knowing that I was close enough to my target for people to go ahead and meet their goal time made me feel better about my run. That is why I enjoy pacing this race every year. 

 

Pacing the Army Run

On Sunday I will be running the Army Run half-marathon. Instead of racing it I will be running as a pace bunny. It has become an annual gig for, I’ve been a pace bunny 6 out of the last 7 years. I missed out in 2012 when I sprained my ankle playing soccer one week before the race. 

Even if I was not pacing I would make a point of running in the race. It is the second biggest race of the year here in Ottawa and the biggest option here in the fall. The fact that the race supports the Canadian Army also means something to me since my father was an a medic in the army for 41 years.

Since I generally find myself racing with a goal in mind at Ottawa Race Weekend in May I have taken a different approach to the Army Run over the last 7 years. Being a pace bunny allows me to have some fun with this race although I still face the challenge of meeting a set time goal. 

Once again this year I will be one of the 1:35 pacers. Last year the reason for the time assignment was because I was in the process of training for a November marathon with 3:10 as my goal. This year I am not running a fall marathon but I wanted to stay at the 1:35 pace because it gave me a goal to keep training for after Race Weekend this year. 

Finally, the last reason I enjoy pacing this event is that my girls always get a kick out of seeing me wearing a hat with pink ears..

Race Report: Ottawa Marathon 2016

Yesterday was my 8th consecutive Ottawa Marathon and 14th marathon overall. Initially my plan for it was to try and beat my time from November and in the process improve my Boston qualifying time. Once it became apparent that we were in for a hot and humid weekend I changed that plan and decided just to run based on how I felt.

After watching my daughters run the 2 km with their grandparents Saturday afternoon I went home and made my usual pasta meal for dinner. I managed to get to sleep early and was ready for my 3:30 wake up call for a breakfast consisting of orange juice, oatmeal, a banana and a bagel. Finally, I ate a handful of raisins before I headed out the door to top off my glycogen stores.

Since I live close to the start line (2km) I opted for an easy run down there to serve as a warm up. It was already 18C (64F) before the start although there was a cool breeze to help. I decided to start out at a 3:15 marathon pace (4:35/km) and adjust accordingly if needed.

Figuring it wouldn’t be long before I started to feel the heat and humidity I settled into a routine of dumping a cup of water over my head at every water station and made sure to run under every misting station set up along the course. I figured it was best to get started on making sure I took efforts to stay cool before it was too late.

In response to requests from the organizers many residents living along the course also set up sprinklers and hoses to provided more relief for runners. The crowds supporting marathoners are usually strong  along most of the course but this year the support seemed even stronger than usual. As mentioned people had sprinklers set up all along the course, there were several locations where people were handing out freezies and there were even a couple of locations in between water stations where people were handing out bottled water.

My 4:35 pace felt fine through the first half but as I passed that point I knew I was going to start losing time due to a combination of a stomach cramp and the heat. By the time I hit 25 km I was now on pace for a 3:23 finish. From that point on my goal was to maintain a steady pace to get myself back to the finish line. My right calf also felt tight at times throughout the second half. I expected to have to deal with a cramp at some point but was fortunate to avoid that.

Around 37 km the 3:25 pace bunny caught up to me so I knew if I held on at that pace I finish in around 3:25. That task became a little more difficult when we made it back downtown to the point where the marathon and half-marathon courses merge. Normally the half-marathon starts at 9:00 and by the time I reach this point only the fastest half-marathoners are coming through (last year the lead male runner passed me at this point). This year, due to the heat, the half-marathon started at 8:15 and there was a large crowd of half-marathoners merging with the marathon course.

I probably lost some time over the last 3 km as I tried to make my way through the crowd but by this point but it did not matter. My goal for the day was just to have the best run possible given the conditions and I had already accomplished that. In addition, this change was necessary in order to make the day as safe for as many runners as possible.

I had the advantage of knowing exactly where my family would be watching for me to come in. As I rounded the corner to take on the final 1 km stretch I worked my way over to the west side of the road to be in position to see them. I slowed right down to give my girls high fives and my friend Greg who has been at the finish line for at least 6 of my 8 Ottawa Marathons was there to capture the moment with this photo….


I crossed the line in 3:26:37, not quite the time I was hoping for when I started my training but I am pleased with it for reasons mentioned above. Marathons are not easy and many things have to  come together on race day to reach your goal. If my current Boston qualifying time is not sufficient when registration closes in September I’ll just have to go after that again next year.

I went home and celebrated with a beer…


And lunch from Five Guys…

In a way I am sad to see Race Weekend come to an end. It really is a great weekend to be in Ottawa and an event I think is the best race weekend in Canada. Hopefully I can continue my marathon streak here going next year…

Week 8 of Training for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon

As mentioned in Friday’s post I ran my second race of the year this week. Other than that this week was more of a recovery week. I ended up with a 53 km week. Other than the race my week consisted of a series of easy paced runs.

In terms of the race, as mentioned Friday, my goal was to finish the 10km in 40-41 minutes. The reason for that is that it would give me a time close to the 10 km race I did in January (41:06) and my time in the St Patrick’s Day race last year (40:56).

Yesterday turned out to be one of the colder days for the St Patrick’s Day race since I started doing the race in 2011. I really appreciated the fact that the start/finish line for this race is only a few blocks away from my house and I could leave at the last minute.

When I did leave the house I took my time getting there to give myself a very easy 2 km warm up. Following that my Garmin died and I ran without a watch. I felt good when the race started and felt like I was pushing hard. I ended up finishing in 41:31. The fact that I did not have my Garmin means that I am not sure where I lost time during the race. That said, the time still falls within the range of what I was aiming for so I can’t be too disappointed with it.

this morning I ended the week with a 16 km run, my shortest long run in several weeks. With more long runs over 30 km and 80-100 km weeks on the way this week was probably a good time for a recovery week.

How was your week?