My First Marathon & a BQ
Ottawa-Marathon-BQ

I missed logging the last two weeks of my training. I had just started a new job, and had just finished school, and the marathon was staring me down. I struggled with the taper, but I was prepared for the feelings. I had been having a lot of digestive issues, and feared that this would be a barrier to achieving my goal.

Speaking of goals, I was really unsure how to set one for this race. Through the training, I was constantly shocked at how slow I was running. I was meticulously tracking my food intake – though I managed to gain a few pounds during training. Pfitzinger’s 18/55 was a tough plan that left me feeling quite fatigued. So, I told myself, at 3:45 I would be happy. Under 4:00 was an absolute sure thing. If I qualified for Boston… well… that would be ideal!

So back to Friday night. I attended the President’s reception as a Team Awesome Ambassador, and met many members of the team. There was a lovely buffet, and my charming cousin was there as well. I went to bed early. On Saturday, I woke up and had a bagel for breakfast. I had brought with me from home a cooler full of tupperware containers, filled with white rice and chopped up chicken, and a little oil. I had a few of these for lunch. I was scared to eat much else. Poor Jon wasn’t happy that we didn’t enjoy a nice lunch!

We walked around the race expo and did our usual shopping. We signed up for Around the Bay, talked running. Before I knew it, a few hours had passed, and I was feeling the time on my feet. We headed back to the hotel for a bit of quiet time. Soon, it was time for dinner. We met Jess and Sylvie for an early dinner at a gorgeous spot in the Byward market. I ate a simple pasta with a squash sauce, nibbled on some appetizers, and drank water.

Back at the hotel, I readied my outfit. I chose to wear a new pair of Nike shorts and a New Balance technical shirt I had purchased at the Expo. Bold move. I made the last minute decision to wear an old pair of shoes (Nike Flex) that had seen better days, but I felt that they were the speedier pair. I packed three gels by safety-pinning them to the inside of my shorts. Zizu sunglasses, ciele hat, running socks, headphone, and my phone.

I slept poorly, we went to bed around 11. I woke up and popped straight out of bed. I ate a banana and some oatmeal, and drank a green tea. I went to the bathroom. My stomach was in knots. I took an immodium. I had another one packed away for the race, along with a caffeine pill. I took some potassium and magnesium supplements. I ate a half of a cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter. And I was ready to go!

Heading down to the start line I was cold. I arrived right on time, and there was only a few minutes before the gun. I had no time to settle in or catch my bearings. And we were running.

The Gun Goes Off

The first few KM were a blur. With my sunglasses in the early morning overcast, I felt like I was in a half-dreaming early morning state. I struggled to keep my pace down – knowing that this would pay dividends down the road. I glanced at my watch periodically. I slowly started to catch up to the 3:35 pace bunny. I hit the water stations, struggling as I usually do with trying to drink. (I always prefer to carry my own water) Around km 12, I decided to take a gel. I cracked it open and took tiny sips over the next km. I could feel my stomach immediately convulsing. I took an emergency port-a-potty break around km 14. I had to wait in a short LINE for it, and as it turned out a volunteer was using it! I was pretty annoyed as I helplessly watched the pace bunny and his little pack trot past me and out of sight.

I calmed my nerves and got in and out quickly. I rejoined the field and got back on pace. After a km or two, I could see the pace bunny. I had no idea where I started in relation to him, so I knew I had to be in front in order to ensure I reached my goal. I kept him in sight, and slowly, over the next 8km, reached his pack. Once I got there, I felt swallowed up by his thick entourage. For some reason, the pace suddenly felt so fast. I was thrown off course by the other runners. I picked out an outlier speeding up, and stuck on his heels. I focused on him, running about 10 feet behind, and suddenly the 3:35’ers were left in the dust. I caught a sight somewhere of Jess and Sylvie, and absutely teared up seeing their encouraging faces.

22-31km felt so long. I was full of doubt. I was waiting for it to all fall apart. I took another gel in there somewhere, slowly again. I had the caffeine pill around 28km. Another gel at about 33, but I only finished half.

The caffeine pill kicked in right when I needed the boost – I suddenly felt energized at 34km. I realized how close I was to the end. I remembered all my training. I thought, “8km? I can totally crush that!”. There were lots of people cheering on the course at this point, and it was so emotional. The rest of the race I was energized but pushing hard, as my body was of course, very fatigued.

The last 4km was so hard. Meshing with the finishing half-marathoners caused me to feel so drained and thrown off. I kept anticipating the finish line around every corner. When it finally came, I felt like I was really losing it. My feet hurt. My back hurt. My body felt worn. I managed to speed up a little bit for each of the last few kms. When I crossed the finish line, I felt a surreal and sudden sense of ennui. I walked it off for a few paces. When the medal was placed around my neck, tears filled my eyes. I looked around and my cousin, Nina, was there to congratulate me.

I did it! I finished in 3:32:54. A mother-f-ing Boston Qualifying time.

I stretched and drank water and ate a banana, and slowly made my way out of the finish area. Jon joined me later, after he finished the half, and we had our first celebratory beer.

Post-Race

I struggled to really feel the joy and excitement. My emotional state could actually be described as “somewhat stunned”. I kept having to remind myself that… I’d done it! I felt so drained mentally. Jon and I cleaned up, had a fabulous pub lunch in the sun, and I began to ease into a celebratory mood.

Overall, I think I raced really well. I took care of my body beforehand. I ate very strategically, calculating a great amount of carbs. I hydrated well. I took the right supplements. I had decent and focused training under my belt, despite the injury that hit in the middle of the cycle. I paced the race appropriately, didn’t go out too fast, picked the right gear, took gels at the right times. I managed my mental game. The marathon is a game of preparation. Calculation. Of managing risk, predicting outcomes. I think these meta qualities are areas I have an aptitude for. I think distance suits me.