First lesson learned while blogging: Hit the save button every once and a while. I deleted this post by accident today so this may end up being a shortened version. Go me!
The Army Run was the first race I ever completed (back in 2012). I had never done a race before, aside from a Terry Fox run that I was grossly unprepared for, and I signed up for the half marathon. That being said, this race holds a special place in my heart and I love doing it every year. It is also great because it raises money to help support the military and their families.
The course itself is great for tourist runners who want to come see the city. It starts downtown near city hall and heads towards the Parliament buildings. Following the parkway, it passes the Ottawa River and you get a great view of the war museum. Then it heads into Quebec and returns to Ontario via the Alexandria Bridge. This year, the course went through Rideau Hall before making its way along the Rideau Canal and to the finish line.
Pre Race Week
The week leading up to the race was where it all started to go wrong. I had contracted some sort of horrible cold that made me absolutely exhausted. Unfortunately because of where I was working, there was also no way for me to get my shifts covered and I worked sick and tired. This made recovering from sickness pretty tough, and I never really got a chance to rest. I tried to sleep as much as I could and drank about an ocean worth of water in hopes of getting better quickly.
I went to the expo on Friday which was the first day of bib pick up. The bib pickup itself is held in City Hall and then the Expo was set up outside in a tent. I was lucky and got to the pickup before the lunch time rush from people who work downtown. There were apparently lineups out the door after I went. I had no trouble picking up my own bib as well as my dad’s and the volunteers were very nice. Another favorite thing about the Army Run that I like is that they give nice reusable bags that are perfect to take lunches to work in.
After getting the bibs, I went to the Expo to go check out the free goodies. It must have been the coldest day in September that day. The volunteers and people working the stands were all bundled up and it was quite cold in the tent; I felt so bad for them! I picked up some energy chews to save myself a trip to Running Room and also got a Run Ottawa t-shirt from the Bushtukah stand… I am a sucker for sales.
Outside of the Expo tent, they set up army vehicles for kids to come look at and play in. I can’t speak from experience, but I think this would make the experience easier for those who have to drag their kids with them so that they have something to do. Plus, who doesn’t want to look at tanks.
On the Saturday before race day, they hold a friendship run to stretch out any last minute jitters. I have never attended one of these because I am more of a lone wolf, but this seems like a nice touch. They also hold a pasta dinner which is served military-style. This also seems like a nice event to attend because I think it would be inspiring to hear everyone’s stories. However, I am a sensitive stomach runner and the thought of eating something I did not prepare myself the night before the race is utterly terrifying.
The night before the race
I went through my usual race day preparations the night before. This usually involves checking the weather and then laying out all of my clothes for the next day. They were calling for thunderstorms for the morning of the race which raised some questions of whether we would even be running the next day. I made sure my Garmin and iPod were charged and I was as ready as I could be for the next day. I got to bed early and waited for the morning to come.
For once in my life I actually got a reasonable amount of sleep the night before a race. I normally toss and turn all night and then wake up too early because I am excited. I think because I had been sick, the exhaustion set in and knocked me out. Being a bit of a weather nerd, the first thing I did was check the radar for storms that would be rolling in. It seemed like we might get rained on but it would be a lot later in the race. If I could finish in my goal time, I would probably not get wet.
I got up and got dressed, and then went to have breakfast. This is where I did a very bad thing. I made some toast to eat as it normally did not bother me but it was a different kind of bread. As I said before, I am a sensitive stomach runner so eating something new was very stupid.
I finished getting ready, and was debating whether or not to wear my running hat. I decided to go for sunglasses instead because it was sunny when we were getting ready to go. Another mistake. Hats are great for keeping rain out of your eyes; sunglasses make it too dark to see when it is raining. I had never raced in the rain before so I really had no idea what I was doing.
My dad came to meet me at my apartment and we were ready to head out. My boyfriend also came along to act as our bag check and to wish us good luck at the start. We got there pretty early and were able to watch some of the 5k finishers. We took one last potty break and then figured it was probably time to get in our starting corrals.
I was hoping for a PR, as anyone would be, because it was my first fall race. That would mean beating my time of 2:14:58 from a race earlier in the year. I lined up near the right pace bunny and got my music ready. My dad was running his first half marathon so he was a couple corrals back because he wasn’t sure how long he would need. The big starting cannon went off and we patiently waited for our corral to move up to the start line. They staggered each corral after the elites went off so I started about 15 minutes after the gun went off.
Once I crossed the start line, we were off! I started running at goal pace and kept an eye on the pace bunny to make sure I wasn’t going to fast. Everything was great until 11 minutes in. 11. 11. That’s when I knew I would be readjusting my time goals. My stomach cramped up like it never has before. It hurt so much that I could barely walk. I have had stomach cramps before so I tried to breathe it out and walked for a little bit. I tried to starting running again and it still hurt but I tried to fight through.
Then the next symptom hit- we had run maybe 5 km and I felt absolutely spent. That’s when I realized I must still be feeling the leftovers of my cold that I had. And I knew that this race was slowly becoming a huge problem. I remember walking around the 10 km point to eat some chews and someone patting me on my back and saying I was doing great. I wanted to swear at him and flip him off; I was at least five minutes off of when I should have passed there. I hoped that eating my chews would give me some energy but it didn’t help much.
We crossed into Quebec and I saw something I had never seen in a race before. One guy ran off to the side to stop and smoke a cigarette. I thought it was the strangest thing I had ever seen in a race until another 5 or 10 guys pulled over to do the same. I heard one lady say “I’ve been racing for twenty years and that’s the first time I’ve seen that happen”. I am hoping it was to commemorate something and was not just for the sake of smoking.
It started to rain while we were still in Quebec and I remember putting my iPod into a ziplock bag in hopes of saving it from total destruction. This left me alone with my thoughts, and I realized that based on how I was feeling that I should just be happy to finish. I had to prop my sunglasses on my head because it got too dark and I couldn’t see where I was going. I was a mess.
We crossed back into Ontario on the Alexandria Bridge. This bridge made me feel like I was dying, and I had to walk up the incline. The rain mixed with the wind from being completely exposed to the elements was very unpleasant. I was starting to lose motivation and felt like maybe I should just call someone to get me instead of finishing. But I kept going.
We made the turn towards Rideau Hall and it was actually quite nice. Very pretty landscaping and looking at the guards was a welcomed distraction. I’m pretty sure I also high-fived the Governor General. There were also some Korean businessmen who came outside to cheer for us which was cool. I was feeling pretty defeated at this point and was walking every couple of minutes.
We pulled out of Rideau Hall and I remember thinking that this was about the 2 hour mark. I could still finish at around 2:30 if I could run at a slow jog from there. I was mentally prepared to do it and I started trying. The stomach pain came back. It was every worse the second time and I could not get it to go away. People from the corrals behind me were starting to fly by and I just felt like I had failed. I knew that if I kept that pace up, my dad would pass me at some point before the end of the race. I took my iPod back out because I figured it would keep me company for my dreaded walk to the finish line.
I ran/walked and made it to the Mackenzie King bridge and I knew I was close. I saw the 2:30 pace bunny coming up and I tried to stay with it, but my stomach still hurt and I had to walk. This is when my dad caught up. He ran with me for a bit and I told him to go on without me. It started absolutely pouring at this point and I got absolutely soaked. I crossed the Pretoria bridge and was almost at the finish. This is where I am at a disadvantage. I run that route pretty regularly and I know exactly how far away the finish line is. As close as I wish it was, I knew I still have a battle ahead of me.
Maybe this makes me a bad person, but when I am near the line I like to look for someone to try and stick with or maybe even pass before I get there. I found my “partner” and managed to cross with her. The race picture shows me looking like I’m dead and her having the time of her life. FML.
I finished in 2:40. My WORST time ever. Looking back on it now, I am glad that I still finished. And I’m glad that I have a “terrible race story” because I think eventually everyone has one as a runner. I stumbled my way home and was so wet, I felt like I had jumped in a swimming pool. Luckily my roommate and boyfriend came to retrieve us from the finish line and brought our rain coats. They were so nice to come out and watch in the rain, they got just as soaked as we did.
1. I shouldn’t have run sick
2. That bread is a murderer
3. The Army Run is still one of my favorite races and I would recommend it to anyone. The negative things I experienced were my own doing and it would have been a great race if I was in better health.
Also, way to go dad for beating your goal time!