Wednesday, May 30

Ottawa Marathon

Race morning was nearly ideal, overcast, cool but with an unwelcome steady wind. What was it Meatloaf said, “two out of three ain’t bad”. Standing on the starting line, I felt confident and relaxed, quite the contrast to London. More important, although I was uncertain of my fitness, a) I wanted to race/perform and b) I was psychologically set, I was prepared to hurt.

Km 1-5 (3:38, 3:40, 3:44, 3:48, 4:16) the start was uneventful, perfect, and within seconds of the gun sounding I’d found a pack of seven pack and slipped in unnoticed, staying at the back and running my race, my pace (I gave myself a range to work with, 3:45 – 3:48). For comic relief, I got a good laugh as we split the 5th km in 4:16; three runners at the front of our group were instantly panicky; they started talking, comparing splits and then surged. I told myself to relax and to be confident in my pace and then smiled as we split the next km in 3:13, the three other runners 20” ahead (silly people).

Km 5-10 (3:13, 3:46, 3:50, 3:46, 3:57) these next 5-k were pretty nasty with several hills from 5-7 & 8-9, yet we split 10-k in 37:45 (3:47 pace). I decided to carry a handheld water bottle again and it proved valuable, allowing me to run without difficulty through the aid stations avoiding the chaos and the super concentrated Gatorade that they served. Has anyone ever received a race drink mixed it too weak, it would make for a pleasant surprise?

Km 11-15 (3:45, 3:55, 3:54, 3:45, 3:46) I had my first Gu on a down hill shortly after 10k and then took the lead in our group as we wiggled our way up toward Sandridge Road, covering km’s 11-13 on a surface that would make Paris-Roubaix look smooth. I was feeling slightly off at the bottom of the hill, running at the back of the pack, but as the others eased up and I was forced out front, I found my ego and then energy level responded leaving me feeling good. It was an observation that I confirmed throughout the day, I seemed to run better when I was out front.

Km 16-20 (3:55, 3:46, 3:43, 3:45, 3:48) these 5-k were relatively flat and our group worked relatively well alternating leads, although at one point I had to cross over the road and run right along the barrier, feigning to drinking from my water bottle before one of the others would pull through (reminded me of my cycling days).

Km 21-25 (3:51, 3:52, 3:53, 3:54, 3:52) I had my second Gu shortly after 20k and ditched my bottle (never to be seen again) at around 25-k. I split the half in 1:19:43 (3:47 pace) and was still feeling relaxed and comfortable. Part of me would’ve loved to have split 2’ quicker but that wasn’t the plan and I was worried that I’d be digging myself a hole that I wouldn’t be able to climb out from. I knew that my margin for error was slim if I wanted to achieve my goal of finishing sub 2h40 but given my lead up, I knew playing it conservative in the marathon was the smart option.

Km 26-30 (4:00, 3:52, 3:50, 3:53, 3:54) it was during km 25 that I made a poor tactical move. After sliding off the front, having led for a couple km’s I made the mistake of tucking in behind the weaker individual in our group and then proceeded to watch the leader gap us by about 10”… having worked so hard, I found this mentally frustrating and discouraging. That said, rather then throw down a surge and attempt to make up the distance, I slipped around the slower person and then gradually pulled myself back over the next 5k, passing the leader of our pack going up Hog’s Back the first of two high points in the race. It was during this portion of the run that I was aware of my rapidly depleting reserves. I kept telling myself to hold steady and conserve energy for the last 8-10k. Mentally I was fooling myself and this may have worked, but physically I was draining the tank sooner then I would’ve liked. I split 30k in 1:54:46 (3:50 pace, the first time I realized achieve my goal might not happen).

Km 31-35 (3:55, 3:56, 4:13, 4:01, 4:03) despite telling myself I was going to relax and run controlled and within myself until the 32k (hoping then to pick it up… the effort at least) it seems, the 32k mark was the beginning of the end of me, where all but one of the subsequent ten km’s was over 4:00 pace. The fact that the second the two high points (Prince of Whales) was strategically placed at the 35k didn’t help the matter.

Km 36-40 (4:03, 3:58, 4:11, 4:16, 4:17) despite my pace slipping like the Titanic into the icy waters, I don’t ever remember having to come to terms with that dark nemesis; the moment where, in a hopeless state of mental obscurity, you’re forced to decided your fate (which in the past has, at worst, has meant walking). Don’t get me wrong, I knew I wasn’t gong to reach my goal time, and the race wasn’t easy, but, and I attribute it to experience, both good (Sacramento) and bad (London), I believe my mental preparation was pretty bang on with this race and I have Hicham to thank. At the very least, this is something I can take away with me for future races, something I am happy with.

The Finish (4:23, 5:04) the finish, what can I say, the photo I’ve included my trick you into think I was running fast. Seriously, I was very happy to cross that line have run a race.

Thanks for all the kind words and congratulations, they don’t go unnoticed.

Training: 2h45’09”, 40th OA, 5th AG (but what’s David Cheruiyot doing in my age group)


Cliff Tam said...


Thanks for giving us a detail report of your race.

I am planning to do Toronto Marathon this summer. Once I finish IMUSA, I will definitely be talking to you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike

Congratulation on another Marathon!

Enjoying your reports.

Hope you are taking time to relax a while.

Still hope to come over next year!


Marc said...

Very nice report. There are not many that complete the marathon distance haveing ran a race - well done.

Eric said...

Excellent report, Michael! Thanks for sharing.

Looks like you may still have the Ferrari engine--your fuel economy seems to be lacking a bit. It will be interesting to see your plan for the next marathon. Ever since I found out you're a former sprinter, I've been keenly interested in your transformation.

You've got crazy's like a freak show! In a good way! Take care and recover well.

Michael said...

Thanks Eric, Ferrari engine, I like it, and yes, the fuel economy was lacking a bit.

I’m not too sure how I’m going to approach my next marathon. Unfortunately, Bruce (my current coach) has recently left Victoria, and I doubt I’ll be working with him again. I have learnt a lot but will have to give it some serious thought as to whether I'll coach myself or try working with someone else.

Either way, I'm planning on working on speed this fall, with my next marathon in the spring (probably Boston). I hope your recovery is going well. Today, I managed my first run since the marathon, 20’ easy, which brought out all the aches and pains. Luckily, I still have my road bike and have been out on that twice for a little toddle (sans spandex).

Love2Run said...

Great report, and thanks for all the detail including the tactical error. Maybe the little break was good for you at that point in the race. Good luck with your summer season.

Anonymous said...