Two Medal Sunday, Part 1 – Ottawa Race Weekend

So it was a pretty crazy weekend. You’ve been following my training for the last few months and are probably dying to know how race day went.




bib attached to my water belt, pre-crumpled to avoid flapping, ready to go in the morning.

My morning routine on race day is pretty much the same as my Sunday morning run. I think the only difference is I’ll have my morning cup of coffee much earlier with breakfast instead of on the way to the race site and will have sorted out my gear the night before.

Yes, the night before ritual. It’s recommended if you’re going to “carb up” for Sunday morning, you do it Friday night. It gave Kalin and I an excuse to go to Fat Tuesdays to take advantage of their special carbing menu. I was originally going to cook our carbing dinner myself, but the meal I had planned was about as expensive as dining out and I wouldn’t have a mess to clean. For my laziness, we also got caught in a thunderstorm on the walk home. Dinner the night before the race was steak with sweet potatoes and veggies. The bag was packed with everything except the cold liquids. I filled my a water bottle with a mixture of honey, sea salt, grated ginger, a slice of lemon and let it sit overnight. I packed my energy gels in the front pouch and even opened the packages so I wouldn’t be frigging with them on the run. The gadgets get plugged into their chargers. The morning clothes get set in a pile. The ever-important race chip gets threaded into the shoe laces.

All this is to mitigate the possibility of running around like a chicken with its head cut off in the morning when I should be getting ready. Knowing everything is ready also helps me gets a good night sleep the night before too.

Kalin and I got to the race grounds around 8:30ish. Plenty of time for a quick trip to the bathroom in City Hall (you didn’t think I was going to get in line for the port-a-potties that was a couple hundred people long when the bathrooms in City Hall were available?) and get in my corral.

Ready to run.

When I registered for this race back in December, I registered as a 2:30 finisher. I hadn’t run a half-marathon before and had no idea what was in store for me compared to my 5K races. I wasn’t even a sub-25 minute 5K when I registered. Thankfully, you could change corrals when you picked up the race kits, hence the yellow sticker over the green corral marker. What the volunteers didn’t tell me when I did this was that I also moved up to Wave 1 and was starting half an hour earlier than I had anticipated. Another reason to make sure you get to the race site super early.

Running in the first wave helped on a couple of levels. My own thinking is that it’s better to be the ass end of the first wave than the front end of second. There would be 5000+ people ahead of me instead of 5000+ behind me. It gave you a thirty minute head start on the other half of the race. Starting half an hour also means finishing half an hour earlier. As you may guess from the title, the race wasn’t my only commitment on Sunday.

I hopped a fence to get into my corral. In the middle of those thousands of people, I immediately found a friend/distant relative, Ruth York.  Both she and her sister were running. As the gun went off and we idled up to the start line, I ran into my clinic instructor, Colin. I gave him a quick thanks for getting me this far. He thanked me for helping out with pace leading. Now it was up to our own efforts to get to the finish line.

Where’s Waldo … or Michael?

For those that want the quick version, here’s what the Garmin recorded.

I ran listening to my new half marathon playlist. Maybe I hit the wrong part of the screen or there’s a new default setting with the latest version of iOS, but my list shuffled when it should have played sequentially. In the end, it wasn’t a big distraction even if it made for unpredictable, yet fitting musical selections at some points. As designed, I would only hear the opening trumpets of the White Stripes cover of “Conquest” if I reached my goal. As it happened, the song came up third in the shuffle. It wasn’t something I was going to bother to fix while in the race.

It was a beautiful day for a run. It began slightly overcast in the low 20s. The clouds burned off about 30 minutes in and the temperature went up a few degrees. Between that and the increase in body temperature, it felt like the mid-30s.

I made good time in my early intervals, eventually catching up and passing the 2:10 and later the 2:05 pace bunnies. Since I crossed the start line a full five minutes after the gun went off, I knew so long as the 2:05 pace bunny was behind me I could finish around the 2 hour mark.

I crossed the 10K split clock as it turned 1:00:00. I knew this would be approximately a 55 min split (it was actually 55:55) and keeping with the pace I wanted.

I could feel my legs stiffening around the 12K mark. I pushed through anyway. It was there one of the race photographers caught me on a walk interval.

I’m not going to screw up my race timing for the sake of a photo. Hills are another matter. A hill caught me as I would have started a walk break, but I charged up it and took my break when I crested the hill. It messed up the intervals on my Garmin … actually I goofed them up. Had I pressed “reset” at the top of the hill it would have started with my walk break. Instead I did it after a minute had passed thinking it would start with a run interval (which actually makes sense).

Lesson learned: RTFM: read the fucking manual.

Now I was doing the 10 and 1 timing in my head. As I crossed the Booth St. Bridge into Gatineau the 2 hr pace bunnies came into view. With that, my secondary goal of a sub 2-hour finish was also in sight. I laid up on my pace a bit and crept up to the bunnies. As I crept up, I could see members of my clinic’s pace group. I would wave and shout some words of encouragement as I passed them, but most of them were listening to their music or otherwise in their zone. Hopefully, they caught a glimpse of their pace leader passing them and used it as encouragement to power on.

On thing I had not anticipated was using the water stations. I had trained to use my own water sparingly so I could take the middle of the road and zip through the water stations and not lose time. The problem with this strategy was that since so many people slow down for the station, your pace is going to slow anyway. I even had one runner ahead of me in the middle of the road dart to the left, grab a water cup, return to the centre and proceed to start walking. Since they were going to serve as a choke point anyway, I might as well grab a cup of water … or two.

As a an interval runner, I try to run to the sides of the road so I can take the edge while on the walk break and only move towards the centre when I want to run through things like water stations. You wouldn’t come to a dead stop on a major highway in traffic to change lanes and make it to an off-ramp, would you?

Okay, maybe if you lived in Montreal. Those of us that don’t live in no-fault insurance provinces and face financial consequences for reckless driving would not. The same logic applies when you’re on a race course with 10,000 other people.

As I passed the last km marker, I ramped the pace up. In the last 100m, I passed the 2hr continuous bunny and caught up to the  2 hr run/walk bunny. As the finish line came into sight, I raised my arms in triumph.


I collected my bling and as many snacks as I could carry and worked my through the recovery area to get out of Confederation Park to find Kalin. As soon as I made it through the maze of humanity to get to Laurier St., I immediately spotted Kalin across the street.

Unlike a certain Quebecois cab driver, I can spot a 5’9″ ginger in broad daylight.


Kalin greated me with hugs, kisses, and most importantly … a protein shake from Booster Juice.





The shake was super useful. With medal #1 collected,  we had to scoot back to the apartment lickety split to get cleaned up to collect medal #2 of the day. I had no time for a proper post-race meal. We walked back to my apartment. I hit the shower and got changed for the next medal.

More on that in the next post.


7 responses

  1. Way to break that 2-hour barrier. I have yet to run a race in Canada but there are so many, it’s difficult to choose. There’s Niagara, two in Toronto, this one, Quebec … glad to see that this one is scenic, so it gets an advantage there.

    1. Thanks. There’s also the Army Run here in Ottawa in September. It usually follows the Ottawa Race Weekend route, so it’s nice and scenic. They have a great technical jersey for a race shirt and dog tags as finishers medals. If you’re interested you can sign up I think the half is close to selling out.

  2. […] How does one follow-up a sub-2 hour finish in their first half-marathon? […]

  3. […] all the craziness of telling the story of my two medals (Part 1, Part 2), I didn’t have much time to write anything in the way of my usual post-race […]

  4. […] sure by now, you’re tired of me writing about Ottawa Race Weekend (here and here) and that other […]

  5. […] experience. Among the thousands running with us are the friends we’ve trained with. During race weekend, I probably spotted and managed to say a quick hello to most of my pace group from that clinic. […]

  6. […] run started off with some technical difficulties. Like the last race, I decided to run with music. Unfortunately, my damn earphones wouldn’t stay in my ears. The […]

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