Monday, May 31, 2010

Ottawa Marathon: A Learning Experience

For the Ottawa Marathon I had set very high expectations for myself. My goal was to run sub 2:35. I was very excited for the race and had worked extremely hard to achieve this goal. On the start line I was very nervous but also ready to race hard and compete with the top runners. I knew before the race that the three Ethiopian runners were looking to run under 2:30. My strategy for the race was to start out with the lead pack and stay on 3:30 pace for the first 10km and then see from there where I was placed and how my body was feeling. The weather was perfect for running and I could not wait for the gun to go off. As we crossed the start line I got right in with the three Ethiopians and the pace maker for the group Rejean. I felt very comfortable for the first 3km until the first hill. I had no power and could not push over the hill. At the top of the hill I decided to back off the pace but keep the leaders in sight. However I had no energy and my hamstring was starting to hurt but I still kept trying to push the pace. I crossed the half way point in 1:16:57. Much slower than what I had anticipated. I had hoped to go through the half in 1:15. I was really trying to take in water and my electrolyte chews but my stomach could not handle it. I had cramps and I was scared of the consequences if I tried to take on more. In my head however I was determined to keep going and keep trying to push the pace. I kept in my mind that if I could just keep the pace I could still run 2:35. My body had other ideas: My legs were heavy and sore and my breathing was very labored unlike the other two marathons I have run. My pace from the half got slower and slower every kilometer. It was very discouraging and hard to stay positive at this point. I crossed the 30km mark in 1:51 where I was supposed to be running 1:45. The last 12km were very painful and I could not wait for the finish line to come closer - a horrible feeling knowing I had put so much work in and was so excited for this day.

I crossed the line in 2:39:29 well off my goal time and very frustrated at myself! After the race I was full of negativity and just wanted to go home. In hindsight I should have stayed positive and stayed with the other athletes longer and taken in the wonderful atmosphere around. I was thinking of myself too much and feeling sorry for myself and did not see everything else going on. The crowds were great and the people crossing the finish line were very inspiring - the race itself was great with all the money raised for different charities. The course even though not my strength as it was very hilly and challenging was very beautiful. I spent the whole afternoon and evening talking with husband trying to work out what went wrong. Here are my ideas.

First I think I may have peaked too early. I was feeling so amazing 2 weeks ago in the half marathon and ever since then I have had a feeling that my body was hanging on and an injury was starting . I was starting to have pains in my hamstring and glutes. I was trying to stay positive and block it out last week as I really wanted to perform well but looking back I should have paid more attention to these signs.

Second, I was not able to take in adequate nutrition during the race. My stomach was pretty bad with cramps and I did not want to risk even worse cramps by taking anything. At the half I was under 1:17 and still should have been able to manage 2:35 but I had no energy. I was 4th at half way and by the end was 7th. When a anyone ran past I had nothing in me to pick up the pace - it was an awful feeling as I am normally very competitive.

Third the course was hilly - I underestimated the course when we drove it. I found it very challenging. I think these three things in combination were the reason for the very slow time. I definitely learned a lot about my body in this race and that I really need to listen to my body more. Well, I have to look forward to the next race and correct the mistakes I made in this race.


  1. ah bummer... i was so hoping it would be the race you wanted. as someone who struggles with stomach issues (especially when its warmer), i feel your pain. i THINK i have found what is going to work for me ... heres to hoping!

    go get 'em the next time!

  2. Kia Ora Mary,

    Congratulations on a good race in the Ottawa Marathon. Although not as fast as you hoped still very good in my mind. I'm not a runner though.
    I am a nurse who was at Medical Aid station #8 at the 34 Km mark. My husband is a Kiwi and we had a big NZ flag and sign out for you. We are not sure if you saw it or heard us cheering you on. We hope to see you back next year and wish you all the best in your next race.
    Doreen and Anthony O'Sullivan

  3. Hi Doreen and Anthony
    Thank you so much for the flag and sign and the kiwi cheering. Anthony, I heard a NZ accent in the cheer I am sure :-) I saw the NZ flag and was very happy and proud to see it but by the 34th km I was very annoyed with myself and pretty tired. Sorry that I did not manage a smile but I really appreciate it. I really wanted to find who it was the put the flag and sign as it gave me lots of motivation to get to the finish :-) I am so glad you found the blog and messaged me. Doreen have you visited New Zealand? I hope you see this message. My next marathon will be in Toronto on September 26th. Thanks again and have a happy day.

  4. Hi again Anthony and Doreen
    I especially liked the KIA KAHA :-) Thanks again for the support :-)

  5. Hi Mary,

    Firstly, congratulations for the marathon! I appreciated your description of the race and I hope that you solve your three problems for the next marathon. Despite your auto-critics and looking to the time of the other runners, I think you did a good race.

    Have a great day!


  6. Congratulations on the Ottawa marathon. You did a great job! I hope to witness your nest run. My sister is a great fan. i'd recommend this site to her. She'd surely love this. Thank you and more power to you om your nest run.