I did it! Last Sunday I finished my very first Half Marathon!
The 18 weeks of training four days a week was completed on a high! I really only missed 2 runs throughout!
The whole experience started off on the Friday when we went to pick up our race kit, at the Army Run Expo. We were doing different races but at the time we got there it made little difference, as the queues were virtually non existent. I had the opportunity to collect mine earlier in the day, but an Instagram video showed a line up out the door, so I would not have had time to collect it then. We collected our bibs first, and the timing chip is attached to the back of the bib. This is checked to ensure it is functioning before you leave. We then went through to the back of the expo military tent to collect the race tech tees. These were long sleeved with army camouflage on the shoulders – red for 5k and black for 21.1k. We took a look around the expo but nothing took our interest. We then headed to a local Italian Restaurant to Carb load 🙂 I enjoyed a lovely pasta dish Pappadelle Con Carne and a nice glass of Riesling…just the one of course! After a lovely evening I headed back home and did my last 5K of my training plan. Saturday I rested all day, I left my apartment only to get some bagels and bananas for my pre-race eats for the next day. But I rested and hydrated that whole day! I also made sure I had everything I needed ready so that I wouldn’t be rushing around in the morning. I set out what I would be wearing, including my watch, trainers and cap! I also mixed my Gatorade, as I now buy the Thirst Quencher Powder Orange flavour, and put the Gatorade filled water belt bottles in the fridge!
I also packed a couple of Salted Caramel GUs and a packet of Clif Shot bloks.
I slept fairly well. I made sure I was in bed earlier than usual. My race wasn’t to start until 9:30am so I did not need to get up too early, but in order to get downtown and park I needed to leave by 8am at the latest. I set my alarm, and got up, for 7 am. Showered and changed into my race wear and made my breakfast of Coffee, with milk and honey, and a bagel with cream cheese. I am allergic to peanuts so the obligatory peanut butter was not a possibility for me. I also took a couple of bananas with me, of which I had one in the car on the way down. I thought it wise to park my car at my friends place as she was just a “short” walk from the start line. The 5K race was to start well before the half marathon, so I did not expect to find anywhere to park closer, considering there were 13 000 running the earlier race. I parked up and walked along to the start line – following along with other HM runners. I was in the purple corral so I made my way down to it. It was quite a ways down from the official start line – 4 corrals down in fact. I was there way too early and not many people were there at the time. So I walked up and down to catch the entertainment at the start line. Well not entertainment as such, however there were speakers, and a couple of large screens displaying clips from army veterans, the causes we are donating to for the race Soldier On and Military Families Fund, also the national anthem was to be sung. Unfortunately way back in the Purple and Red Corrals you couldn’t really see or hear any of what was going on up in the front. They needed one more screen to reach us. So I went for a quick peek and then returned back to my corral.
As we were waiting for the opening ceremony to start, overly friendly wasps started to appear. It must be all the people opening up their GU’s and or sweet sugar filled energy drinks that were attracting them. I am not too keen on these stinging beasts, and I am one of those people who can’t stay still when they are hovering near. Annoying that I may be, I don’t want to give them an opportunity to sting me by being a sitting target. So I either run away or swat away profusely until they move on. On this occasion I didn’t have anywhere to run so I was moving side to side and swatting. Unfortunately I swatted it in the direction of a young lady who then swatted the wasp against herself, and it stung her! I felt to blame and I apologized, but truly it wasn’t my fault! But that’s not what you need at the beginning of what could be a 3 hour run!
At 8:50am the Opening ceremony began, which should have included Oh Canada. As I said earlier, we could not hear a thing so did not hear him sing. Then at 9:30am we heard the bang of the cannon go off.
So that marked that the 1st Corral is off and started. I was not nervous at this point. But I had been all the proceeding week, and especially when collecting our bibs. There was a huge map showing the 5K and Half Marathon courses. And side by side, the HM course looked like a huge undertaking. It made the whole thing really real, and I was nearly scared off! Lol! Anyway I took my 1st Gu at this point! The wasp came back then, but didn’t stick around for too long. Every few minutes we would be moved forward. We did not reach the start line until at least 20 minutes after the original start of the race. As we walked towards the start I was looking out at the crowd to see if anyone I knew was there! And there wasn’t 🙁 I didn’t think there would be, but it would have been nice to see a familiar face. At 9:50am we were off! It was a slow start, but there were not that many people in front of me to have to walk. A slow jog maybe. I got my podcast started and plugged one earphone in one ear only as it was nice to take in the surrounding crowds along the side. I got into a nice rhythm and after the first 2K I heard someone shouting my name. I didn’t think it was for me so I carried on. It came again and I looked way over across the street and saw a couple of my friends and there baby son jumping and waving! It was so lovely to see them. Unfortunately they were way across the street which I wasn’t able to get to them. But, if I could have I would have gone over and given them huge hugs. It was wonderful to see them, it was really a huge boost for me and I was smiling the rest of the way!
The spectator support was really good. Everyone was cheering, had banners, were high five-ing us along the way! They had charity cheering squads along the way – which included all sorts from marching bands, to cheerleaders doing somersaults and all, African drummers, the list goes on. There were a group of soldiers in their squadron marching with full army gear and loaded backpacks. They were walking when I passed them, not sure if they went the whole way. But we all said hello to them as we passed. The first water station was around the 4K mark. It had Water and Gatorade. I was not going to have anything, as when I looked at the course map there looked to be loads of them, and I didn’t want to risk having to use a porta potty! I have managed to get away with not using one so far – at a race anyway. But I did have water at the first station, after all. I then had a Gatorade at the next station, and I alternated between the two throughout. Note: I have still not needed to use a porta potty!
All up until this point it was dry and warm. After the first 5K the heavens opened. The forecast did say rain, but it had held off for so long that I thought it would wait until it was over! I didn’t take many pictures along the route in the end, as the weather made everything look dull. But I made sure to take some at some of the markers. The 7Km marked a third of the way through so I snapped that one first! I took my second GU at around the 8km mark, this was just over an hour after the start of the race, but actually an 1hour 21 minutes after I had taken my first GU. This in the end worked out pretty well, as the rest of the race I didn’t need anything fuel wise. I didn’t need to drink my Gatorade as the water stations were well equipped – although at some points the water was probably rain water – with the amount of rain falling! I believe at around the 10km mark they had an aid station that carried Power bars and Gels. I didn’t have any of them. The bars normally contain nuts, and I had had the Gels I needed.
The 14km marked two thirds of the way through. Although it does look drier, the rain was getting heavier at this point. This was taken just behind the gates of Rideau Hall, where the Governor General lives, and where the Queen stays when shes in Ottawa, I believe!
I was still smiling at 18 km. This was where I thought I would hit “the wall” as I had never reached this distance in one go in training! I was so happy, as at this point I was still running – I only stopped to walk when taking in water/Gatorade at the water stations and to take the marker photos. I managed to reach 18km at approximately 2hrs 20 mins, a whole 30 minutes quicker than in training! I was ecstatic when I saw the time on my watch. I had to take a picture here! Looking back, although I didn’t bonk I did loose my momentum after passing 18km. The rain became “torrential” by the end of the race. I am not sure if that was the reason, I have said in the past that I like running in the rain. But I have never done it after already running for nearly 2 and a bit hours. I could have hit a mental wall – and not physical one. As if I had pushed myself I think I could have continued on to a better finish time. My last 3 km were the slowest of all of them – each km before then were run at an average of 7’47″/km, but my last 3 were 8’46″/km, 8’33″/km and 9’00″/km.
The following are a few better shots of me in action! I bought my race photos for this one 🙂 Anyway, you can have a better idea of how bad the rain was!
It doesn’t matter what happened. I finished the race with a smile on my face and a sense of achievement and accomplishment. I was 592 out of 922 in my age group, 3954 of 6011 females running and overall 8526 out of 12144.
Coming through the finish line we were handed are dog tag finishers medal by some of the soldiers on duty. It was then down the finishers shoot to a tented area, where we were handed water, and then could go get bagels, yogurt and protein bars. We were also given lightweight mac-like capes with hoods. It was time to stretch, big time, so I did this in the rain. The rain was still pouring down. My bright idea of parking at my friends place, did not seem so bright at this point. It was only another 1 km to walk back, but felt like so much longer. My legs ached and I could not walk normally at all. It was a very slow walk back. It should have taken me just over 10 mins but I am sure it was closer to 30 mins. During the race I had no problem with my right knee that I sometimes have, and the niggle I occasionally have in the back of my left leg (hamstring) did not irritate me at all! After the race, my legs ached for the next three days, and I could not walk down stairs easily. The last couple of days I have been perfectly fine. No aches or pains, and itching to get back out to run!
Watch my recap video on my YouTube channel here!
After the Race and beyond!
So what’s next. After this week off from running, in recovery, I’ll be back in training mode. I have another Half Marathon scheduled for 19th October in Toronto, and the third of my trio the Disney Avengers Half on 16th November. I am much more confident now I have one under my belt. Toronto is supposed to be a fairly flat course, so I am hoping to be able to improve on my time there. The Disney one will be a fun run for me, so will not be looking at the time at all for that one.
I have enjoyed this experience so much. Even doing this alone, has not hindered the enjoyment whatsoever. Before I embarked on this journey I didn’t think I had it in me. But I now see that as long as you train and put in the hard work, you can achieve anything. This has boosted my confidence in other areas of my life too! But this very same confidence has encouraged me to push for the next running goal. What else than to complete a full marathon. So I have only gone and registered for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. It will be on May 24, 2015. I will complete the two halfs and take the last two weeks in November easy! Then I shall start training proper from the 1st December!! 6 Months should give me enough time to train! Watch this space!