The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Never say Never, the 2013 Ottawa Marathon Race Report

In 2010, I ran the Ottawa Marathon. My training was perfect, my day was perfect, my finish time was perfect. I didn't even "hit-the-wall". It was so perfect, I didn't want to chance spoiling the memory: "Never Again". In 2013, my wife talked me into doing it all over again. 18 weeks ago, my goal was just to "enjoy" a marathon, at a leisurely pace. 17 weeks ago, my goal was to attempt to match my previous time. 3 weeks ago, my new goal was to obliterate my previous time. 3:40 or bust was my mantra. The more people I told, the more incentive I had to deliver.

We were watching the weather with high anxiety from about T-minus 14 days. The general trend was cool, and partly overcast. What we got was a last-minute decision to wear long-sleeves (9-ish degrees, full overcast, risk of wind). It turned out to be good running weather - never felt hot and never felt cold.

We had set the alarm for 4:15 in the morning, and arrived at our secret (no-charge, congestion free, 500m from the start line) parking spot with plenty of time to de-stress. We then visited our newly found TOP-SECRET (no-line up, multi-stall, clean, luxury, 400m from the start line) bathroom. 15 minutes before the gun went off, we parted ways and merged into our respective corals.

My plan:
1) Stick with the 3:40 pace bunny.
2) Do NOT get ahead of the Bunny.
3) A gel every 45 minutes - I had 4 with me.
4) Gatorade and Water often - I wore one flask on a Fuel Belt, and re-filled it on the fly, so I could drink (with ease) whenever I wanted to.
5) Stay close to positive energy people.
6) Be confident, and don't give up.

How it went:
In a nutshell - great. There was a good group of us with the 3:40 team. No negative energy in the group. We stayed pretty much together most of the way. The pacing was really good. A tad fast up to the half, and then even faster from 21 to 35K. A 3:40 marathon is about 5:13/km pace, there was a large stretch where we were sub 5 (or close to it) for several kilometers. Around 34K (on Beachwood near the cemetery), the group seemed to surge, and I couldn't keep up with them and I faded back; and then it started to get tough. I stayed confident, and kept going as fast as I could. At the left-hand turn back on to Sussex, a band was playing "Foot Loose" and I pretty much sang-along out loud for the next kilometer (possibly freaking anyone out within ear-shot). I noticed the 36K marker, and I was feeling like, "oh - so this is the Wall". And it pretty much hurt from that point on (in retrospect, the first 36K were really pain-free, and not uncomfortable at all). From that point on, I felt like I was the slowest runner on the street. It felt like I was running in molasses. I missed 3K worth of splits, and got confused when my interval lap time was running at 16:xx- I was thinking I had run only 2 k and that my pace had dropped into 8:00 /km (which it felt like).

Just after Rideau Street, at about the 38.5 mark, I heard my name, and it was my mom on the sidelines. I bee-lined over and gave her a kiss. It re-energized me. I double-checked my watch, and I knew that I was right-on time. It was all going to be good. And then, the last 3 kilometers are the LONGEST kilometers you've ever run, and the fast 1:35 to 1:40 half-marathoners are merging with you, and it's all you can do to not give up and start walking. Finally, we turn off Pretoria Bridge and onto the home stretch. My legs were going all wobbly and I really thought they were going to stall on me. Finally, the 41K marker... 3:33:00 and I'm doing the math -- 7 minutes... oh-crap, can I do it?? and then 750m to go, and 500m to go, and it's going to be close...

And then that's when I opened up the suitcase of courage. 40 to 41K had been my slowest kilometer (at over 6 minutes). 41 to 41.7 had probably been at 7 minute pace; but I was DAMNED if I wasn't going to come this far only to miss 3:40 by a few seconds... so somehow, I picked it up, and actually started passing people.

I finished at 3:39:46 !!! 1386/4922 OA (top 28%), 1191/3141 Men (top 38%), 224/563 M40-44 (top 40%)

Post Race
I immediately felt like crap. I really didn't think I could continue past the finish chute. I was looking for a wheelchair - there were none (thankfully). I was freezing, and shivering uncontrollably. My teeth were chattering. "Keep walking" I told myself. "Keep moving". And I did - I kept walking - got some gatorade, got my medal, got my space blanket, got my fruit bar, cheese string and half-banana, got to the corner of Elgin and Slater, got to the Van. I had a combination celebration/pity party in the van with myself for about 10 seconds - then got changed, and felt 1000 % better. Visited my top-secret, empty, luxury bathroom to freshen up, and was able to walk back to meet Guylaine at our pre-arranged designated spot. (and yes, she totally Rocked her first marathon).

What I noticed / Random Flashbacks
  • The route was nicer, and seemed easier this year compared to 2010. (and 2005 when I did the half.)
  • There seemed to be way more fans/cheering along the way compared to previous years.
  • There were tons of funny signs along the way (signs always seem 1000 times more funny during a race)
  • Gatorade and Water stations were plentiful, well-organized, and well-stocked.
  • I picked up a freezie along the way again this year
  • There were lots of bands and music stations along the way - and they really add to the moment - songs I remember: Gagnham Style, Livin on a Prayer, Foot Loose, Wonderwall, Save a Horse / Ride a Cowboy
  • The 3:40 bunny actually ran 3:35 - but I give him full credit for getting me in under 3:40 - I *always* fade on long runs, the fast-pace from 15 to 35K gave me the time in the bank I needed.

The Splits - via my Timex and the Runner's Handy Cumulative Time and Pace calculator.

It was our 18th wedding anniversary too.


And in conclusion. This will be my final marathon. Ever.