Slaying the Beast for a 6th Time

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Two Runners, One Love

42.2km. 28,133 strides. 2,400+ calories burned, 12 small cups of gatorade consumed. 2 gel packs consumed. Several pounds of sweat. 3hrs 16mins and 30seconds. 1 giant smile, and a cool medal. That, in a nutshell, summarizes my efforts on Sunday, May 29th at the Ottawa Race Weekend where I ran the marathon. It was my 6th time running a standalone marathon, and I can still honestly say the running a marathon is one of the toughest events I do. The effort required to run nearly flat-out for 42,200m can not be understated. We all know people who glibly say “I could run a marathon”. I just smile and agree with them. But those words generally haunt anyone who has taken it upon themselves to prove it. Particularly in those who attempt to prove it with any sort of respectable finishing time. Now don’t jump on me, every single person who crosses the line has accomplished something few have, but there is ‘participating’, and then there is ‘running’ or ‘competing’. Me, I run, I don’t compete. I am my only competition in this event. If you are so inclined, I invite you to read the rest of my thoughts on this race following the link. Also, you can check out just a few snaps I have post-race of the event. As you’ll see, I wasn’t the only one to toe the line at the ORW!

I might as well get the results out of the way now, since I’ve already spilled the beans in my opening salvo. My training regimen and plan was focused on completing the marathon in 3hrs 20mins. However, I knew that 3:15 would be a Boston Qualifier. So come race day, that’s what I pushed for. As a wise person once said “Plan your race, and race your plan”. I firmly believe that and always tell people you will finish exactly where you should finish in a marathon. Just ask Kev and Greg, who got the times they trained for right on the head. With my 3:16:30, I secured 283rd place overall. 64th in my category (of 436) and 259th in my gender (of 2733). My pace was very consistent, as the splits show in the results, so I was tickled pink with that result. Sadly, my efforts did not net me a Boston Qualifier. However, since I’d ran it last year, and likely wouldn’t get in next year anyway, it was sort of secondary. I still beat my target goal, and this ended up being my 2nd fastest time ever, so apparently I’ve still ‘got it’.

So why did I not get the BQ? Glad you asked. I had paced myself with the knowledge that a 4:37/km pace would give me a 3:15 finish time. My watch consistently read 4:35/km (Garmin 305). Awesome! Nope! Lesson learned here: NEVER run to a GPS average pace statistic, ALWAYS run with a time reference for km splits. Had I done that, I would have known my time had run out. Reason? Well, my GPS read that I’d covered 42.467 km by the finish line. That is 267m over the official distance. A 1/4 km works out to almost 70 seconds of extra time. The distance on the GPS is always a little off. Silly mistake on my part, but I only realized it on the last couple kilometers where I actually looked at my time! Oh well such is life.

However, as a slight boost to my ego, I’ve decided to play a little bit with statistics here. Yes, it is a bit egocentric of me, but I’ve earned my right to brag a little. First, let’s use the generally held view that between 0.1% and 2% of the population will ever run a marathon (Google it). Next, let’s take a look at the distribution of finishing times for a marathon. In 2009, the numbers for the US show that 9.1% of finishers fall in the 3h to 3h30 bucket of finishing times (BTW, average time is 4:35). That’s where I live. With some fancy-pants multiplication, that tells me that only 0.091% – 0.182% of the world runs that fast. Assuming a global population of 6,775,235,700 for 2009 (World Bank), that makes me faster than 99.82% to 99.91% of the WORLD! Pretty sweet! Just call me rocket man people 🙂

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, what else can I tell you about the marathon this year? Well, this was the first year for a brand new course for the National Capital Marathon. The new route wound us through many of the neighbourhoods of Ottawa now, including the core, Chinatown, Little Italy, Hintonburg, Hull, Manor Park, RockCliffe, New Edinburgh, Ottawa South. My verdict? Loved this new course. Overall, it was pleasantly flat (as opposed to where I did most of my training, in the Gatineau hills!). In spite of the grey skies and early 7am start, the majority of the communities had pulled together to have cheering sections, and each and every one of them was welcomed by the runners. Add the live music along the route to that, and you have all the makings of a truly worthwhile ‘destination’ marathon. The numbers have proved it out as well. The events for the weekend sold out in record time this year. In spite of the numbers though, everything went very smoothly as far as I can tell.

I was lucky enough to be cheered on by different people at all different parts of the course, but every time I saw someone I knew, it was the same amazing feeling, which fuelled my drive to the finish. Speaking of which, the last 2kms were definitely the hardest for me this year. I had to retreat to my pain cave and push hard, as I still hoped I’d magically get the 3:15 on chip time. Happily though, on crossing the finish line, my legs didn’t completely give out. I managed to limp along on my own steam and even chat with other finishers I knew that ended at about the same time. It was also great catching up with old friends that I saw on both the course, as well as after the race in the athlete’s village, including the amazing Ryan Grant, who managed to finish 4th overall in the 1/2 marathon. Apparently he’s gone ‘pro’! Big congrats to him. I also managed to beat a mentor of mine, Dave McMahon, ski and trail-running guru. Mind you, it was his first ever pure ‘road’ marathon, AND he’d raced hard at the 5k the night before. Also great to see my friends Kevin and Greg again.

Of course, the marathon is not the only event, and Deanna also decided to take place in the weekend fun by lacing up for the 1/2 Marathon. She’ll be the first to tell you that she really didn’t train for this race, but still managed to finish with a better time than her first foray last year. Her race started a full 2 hours after mine, so after completing my own race, I put on extra layers and went to watch the runners coming in. That entailed standing around in the pouring rain for about an hour. I was worried about her mood running in such rain, but when I finally saw her, she was fairly beaming with happiness. That was at the 400m to go spot, so I jumped in and ran with her for about 50m and tried to snap her picture while telling her that I was proud of her.

With medals around necks, smiles on faces, and slightly wobbly legs, it was time to head home to host my annual post-race BBQ where I invite friends that raced, their families, and any cheering friends to come over and celebrate our accomplishments. Also doesn’t hurt that my b-day was only a couple days later, so this was like a birthday bbq as well. Unfortunately, we were quite delayed, as we’d parked at the World Exchange Plaza, and there was really no way to get out in a hurry. We literally waited well over an hour before we made any progress. It was extremely annoying. Turns out they only had one exit actually open, and the confusion over that made for a loooonnnnnngggg wait. Once home though, having good friends over made all the pain and annoyance disappear, if only for a while. The sun actually came out, so we all stayed outside, with kids (and Rob) playing in the yard while we all sipped drinks and I played Grillmaster cooking fresh burgers and sausages for all. By 8pm, things were winding down, leaving only a small mess for us to clean up!

4 days later, looking back, I am completely happy with how the race turned out. We both came out with the results we’d hoped for, and are no worse for wear. In fact, we’ve still managed to bike to/from work every day since then. Stiff legs be damned. I also managed to hit the Parc Wednesday night for a good 50k time trial on my Tri bike that felt awesome. After all, it’s time to start prepping for all my other races and events. Next up is the 370km round trip bike tour that is Rideau Lakes in a mere week and a bit! The other thing to be happy about? Well, I’m now 60% of the way towards my Rudy Award for the year. With the 52km Ski Loppett, Winterlude Triathlon, and Marathon done, all that remains is the Rideau Lakes Bike Tour (in a week), and to do an iron-distance triathlon (which I’ll do Labour Day weekend). Good times. Till the next event, may your stiff muscles never stop you from enjoying the world around you! Summer IS here!

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