On Halloween, I ran my last race of the year. I did this race last year and found it very challenging and wanted to try again. For those of you not familiar with the Ottawa/Gatineau region, Gatineau Parc is a very hilly area with lots of hiking trails on the Quebec side. It attracts cyclists, runners, and cross country skiers in the winter. Because of the nature of the roads up there, they do mostly get shut down in the winter because clearing them would be a nightmare. Once the pretty leaves season is done, the roads get shut down. MEC organizes a race that goes through here after the roads are closed.
As I mentioned, this race is an absolute beast. They also offer a full marathon through the park which would be absolutely devastating. The greatest part about this race is that because it’s organized by MEC, it is quite cheap. I think I paid $20 to race. I also splurged an extra $5 so I could get a poutine at the ski lodge which hosted the start and finish.
I stayed at my parents house the night before which meant getting up pretty early to leave on time. Since there aren’t many roads up there, we had to get there before the marathon started, otherwise we’d have to wait for everyone to pass by before we could park. Getting up early meant having a very early breakfast.
It was also fairly chilly that morning but the temperature was supposed to rise as the race went on; yet another hard race to dress for. I opted for a headband and gloves because I remembered thinking the wind was bad last year. I was right for the most part. At some points during the race, I took my gloves off but when directly in the wind, I put them back on.
Before I give you a recap of what I did during the race, I want you to understand what this course actually looks like.
BEAST. (About 2600 feet in elevation gained and lost)
The way the course is set up, the first 5km feels like a breeze. There are some rolling hills but nothing too serious. I ran this part with my dad but eventually had to stop and walk. I wasn’t tired; I was hungry. I guess eating so early really threw off my normal racing plan. I walked up one of the hills and ate some gels to make my stomach stop growling. I started running again and I could still see my dad a bit further ahead of me but I didn’t chase him down.
They had water stations along the course so I didn’t bother to bring my fuel belt with me. In the past, I have noticed I only really need a fuel belt when the temperature is above 10 degrees. Otherwise, I don’t need that much water or gatorade. Talk about the scare of a lifetime: at the first station I stopped at, they said they only had water. I thought this meant none of the stations did. Luckily, the rest did. I have no idea what was going on at that station.
I don’t think anything too memorable happened during the race. I had to walk quite a bit last year so I was prepared to do it again. This time I had a plan, however. If I felt like I needed a break, I promised myself I would only walk UP the hills, never DOWN. I figured I could make up more time running down a hill than I could running up one. I think this was a successful strategy.
The hills from 10km-16km just never seemed to end. The route is a winding road so what looks like an end to climbing is just a turn leading up to more climbing. This was the hardest part of the course.
As I mentioned, this area does attract cross country skiers. There were some out in the park on roller skies (hilarious looking by the way). For the most part, they were respectful and passed on the left and made sure to give lots of room to the runners. I did see one lady who had no business being out there and was very dangerous. She was barely leaving any space to pass around runners, and at some points she was going slower than the runners. Then when she’d get to a downhill, she’d fly past everyone because she was on wheels. This was dangerous enough in itself AND THEN I saw her to the left of a runner and a guy on a bike passing the same person on the right (in the grass on the shoulder). No respect at all for the runners.
The route last year saw the last major hill at the 16km mark and then it was pretty much downhill to the finish. I started gunning my way down thinking I was going to absolute crush my time from last year. Here I am flying past the race photographer.
This was about 2km to the finish. There was someone dressed up like the Grim Reaper around here since it was Halloween. It reminded me of Around the Bay and it made me happy.
Little did I know, they actually changed the route from last year. Last year the finish was at the bottom of the road leading up to the ski lodge. This year, the finish was at the ski lodge. Talk about a disappointing realization. This was actually quite a nasty hill if you go back and look at the elevation profile, especially since it was at the end of the race.
I like that they added the extra difficulty of putting a hill here. My only complaint was that I didn’t really feel safe on it. They had about two feet on the right side of the road sectioned off with pylons for the runners to run up. The road was still open and we were running with traffic. If you also factor in that people would probably walk up this hill since it’s at the end and hard, there was almost no room to pass if you were running passed someone walking. I felt uneasy pulling out onto the road and was constantly checking if there were cars coming. I think next year, they should at least have the runners facing traffic. Trusting that cars aren’t going to hit you isn’t really a good feeling.
Anyways, I made it to the finish (after being demoralized by that hill at the end- I walked up most of it) and I beat my time from last year still by about 7 minutes. Definitely a huge improvement since the course was harder this year. Another thing I like about this race is that they hand out these time cards with the elevation profile on it and you can fill in your time when you get home.
I also always seem to color in the wrong section at some point…
I would also like to point out that this profile doesn’t show that nasty hill at the end. LIARS!!
My dad beat me again but only by a couple minutes this time. I blame being hungry otherwise we probably would have stuck together more.
All in all, it was a fun race and they had a great set up in the lodge for bag pickup and poutine. We pre-ordered our poutine and just had to show our bibs to get them. Yum!
I had a pretty good racing year. Although there were some bad races, I never got injured and managed to scrape out a finish in all of them. I already am registered for 6 races next year… Yikes!! So far this is what it looks like:
January- MEC race zero: 10km
April- 30k around the bay, MEC race 1: 16km
May: Ottawa Race weekend: Marathon
June: MEC Race Two: 10km
October: MEC Race Five: half marathon
MEC has an awesome package deal for their races next year. I got the four races for $50. They are well spread out and fit well into what I would like to run next year so I figured I would just sign up. There was also a deal on their trail races and if you wanted to, all road and trail races. There are limited spaces in the deal so sign up now if you’re thinking about it!!
That’s all for now, I should have a post about what my plans are for December soon!
(PS it snowed here today and it stayed on the ground all morning- I’m terrified to go outside!!!)