What a race!!!
This was my second year in a row running the MEC Carp Half Marathon. This race in 2014 was the first half I had ever run. I found it simply by browsing a list of races in Ottawa, and the time of year (end of June) worked perfectly with how I timed my training. I also love this race because it is small (only 87 runners in the half category this year), low key and humble, cheap (only 15$ – which was perfect for my first ever half) and well organized. I enjoyed it so much last year that I had to come back this year – especially with the attitude of coming back stronger and faster than the previous year!
As my training came to a close with a final long run of 20km (with a time of 1:57) I felt ready to conquer my goal of a sub 2:10 21.1km. Again, I know this goal is more than attainable for many runners, but I never considered myself the fastest runner and wanted to keep my goal realistic.
The week before the race I tapered – which (stupidly) I did not do for my past races. I remember reading about the restlessness, anxiety and doubt that creeps up on some runners during their tapering. I laughed at this at first – a long run of 12km followed by only 3-4 30min runs?! It seemed like a vacation and a reason to watch a ton more Netflix documentaries while carb loading with whatever bread I could get my hands on.
But when my knee and hamstring started acting up during my 12km run the week before (I only managed 8.2km and had to stop due to the severe discomfort), the anxiety set in. I told myself that this week of super low mileage and intensity would surely cure my knee and fatigued muscles, but not being able to complete a 12km run so close to my race scared me a lot. I tried my best to stay positive throughout my short, easy runs and yin yoga classes during the week leading up to the race.
Fast forward to Sunday.
I woke up at 6:45am feeling rested and positive. I cleaned up, got dressed and ate a bagel with peanut butter and banana. I sipped on water and Gatorade. I had made sure to stay super hydrated the entire day before and also cut my fibre and upped my carbs. I honestly felt awesome come Sunday morning!
The race was only a 20 minute drive from my house so my mom and I arrived around 7:35am. I went into the recreation complex to pee and was disappointed at the massive line for the women’s bathroom (but of course no line for the men’s – haha!). While in line, a man approached me and told me there was a washroom in a nearby change room if I had a friend to hold the door closed. Myself and two other girls gratefully accepted and helped each other out. I happily talked to one of the girls – it was her first half and I wished her good luck! I didn’t see her again but I’m sure she had a great race!!
After the bathroom, I warmed up with a light jog and some stretches. I hugged my mom and set off for the start line. The crowd counted down together and we were off!!!
It was warm, about 25oC but not a ton of humidity (my enemy). It was completely clouded over which was GREAT because this course has absolutely no shade. I was a bit worried, because the previous year has been HOT. But this year it actually rained a bit; just enough to be refreshing without hindering speed!
The race started with a loop around the fairgrounds and as I looped back I got to wave again to my mom. On the way out, the crowds’ cheers brought tears to my eyes and I remembered thinking: THIS is why I run.
The rest of the route was along a paved road, down two hills, more paved road, and then a turn onto a dirt road for about 2km out. You would then loop around, run back up one of the hills, loop back around and down the dirt road and then another loop to head back home. I didn’t mind the loops because I like noting certain landmarks – this keeps me both entertained and comforted.
The one bad thing about this course was that you had to go up the hill twice, only because I am super Type A and I had not prepared myself for two hills. I surprised myself the first time up the hill by not slowing my pace at all. I just kept,pumping my arms and told myself to dig deep!
It was the downhill that killed my knee. I tried to go slow, but the sudden decline felt like I was absorbing all the shock in the world into my one knee. I was so thankful to be on flat ground after that. This was around 10km and for those 30 seconds I was very afraid of not finishing the race.
I took a Gu packet after that and soon felt much better. I fstill had some knee pain, but it was minor and I tried my best to ignore it. A girl with a really nice black Lulu top was in front of me with a great pace, so I stayed with her until the hill again, which was at about 19km. I still felt great and was so happy that the end was near. I passed the Lulu girl on the hill, despite that that km was my only km over 6mins!
(Check out that long stride!!!)
I continued strong until the end. The last km was around the fairgrounds again. I pushed with every last bit of me. I saw my mom cheering like crazy and holding up a beautiful cupcake she had purchased for me (see? Best mom ever). I knew I was so close, so I sped up to the man in front of me, and then sped past him. I sprinted with all my might and crossed the finish line at 2:02:26.
I have no words for the feeling of accomplishing your goals. In fact, far exceeding the goals and limitations you have created for yourself. Never in my life did I think I could run that fast. I realized at that moment that despite my generally slow pace, I trained HARD and worked for this time. And even though I came 62/87 half marathon runners, I honestly felt like I had won the gold medal. And again, this is why I run.
I met up with my mom, marvelled at the cupcake she had purchased, took pictures and devoured the free bananas and Nuun.
(My beautiful mom and my best friend and number 1 fan 🙂
And of course, I rode that runners’ high for the rest of the day. 🙂