Ottawa Half Marathon Race Recap: Underwear and Mirrors




well, I woke  up this AM and had trouble making it downstairs to the coffee pot but, i did it. (coffee is after all a key motivation in this equation.) cliff was actually a well behaved dog and let me sleep in a bit this morning – is it possible for a dog to know when you need some extra sleep?

the funniest part is, mike’s totally walking like he got off a horse too from the 10km race he did on saturday – i can’t help but laughing (and then wincing in pain) at both of us literally limping around the house (the stairs are the worst).



post 10 km race saturday night ^^

so the rational side of me knows that i’m in so much pain because i didn’t train enough. the post-race side of me justifies it by saying it’s because i pushed myself like i never have before. we’ll just settle on a combo of the two – a happy little compromise.

the race: that’s what i’m talking about here. yesterday morning i got up and it was chilly out (seriously what is with this late MAY freezing weather!? especially after we had such a beautiful start to the month!?). i really despise being cold when i run, usually i wear tights/long sleeves until i’m absolutely certain i’ll be sweating in shorts, so it was a toss up on what to wear. in the end i took mike’s advice who said after he got going on saturday evening, the temperature was perfect. i think it was about 11 or 12 degrees when we left the start line, and the fact that we were jammed in the corrals like sardines helped keep me warm.


see how everyone’s wearing like winter coats in the back ground? ^^^

photo credit: ottawa citizen

photo credit: ottawa citizen

so yea the corrals was a bit of a mess this year – usually i get there with plenty of time to weave myself to the front third of the group. this year it seemed there were way more people and way less space. my wave was scheduled to leave at 9 so i knew i had to at least get to the back of that group, but it was impossible to cut through the crowd (people were all like, “uh. no. you can’t move through here,” i’m like, “listen… move over.”)

in the end myself and some other ladies with the same problem left the starting boxes by hopping the fence, and then we found our way along the line towards the front and literally scooted back into the crowd by hopping a TV crane-thingy. Once we got in i felt so much better. i have severe pre-race anxiety – like my worst fear is missing the start of a race and i’ll have nightmares about missing it!

the race itself was awesome. ottawa is an amazing city to run in. seriously so many people line the streets- i think there was even more this year then last year. i passed my favourite spectator around the 15 km mark. she was holding a sign that said, “smile if you’re not wearing underwear.” i was so so tired at this point, but i couldn’t help expending some extra energy to give her the thumbs up. thank-you random lady with my sense of humour – you helped me through some tough times 🙂


trying to make the heart sign at km 18 ^^

i made it to mike around km 18 – i knew it was in the homestretch and so it was the perfect place for him to sit and watch. i was just so happy to see him. i remember the first half marathon i ran in the city – i didn’t know anyone and i didn’t have any family watching. it was a really good experience to just get through it “on my own” but having that someone there to tell you, “you can do it.” just elevates you beyond what your brain is telling you are capable of. sometimes it helps to have that person rooting for you.  (side note: i found out after the fact that as i was running, he was eating breakfast. he even had the audacity to send my phone a series of texts telling me so. luckily when you run you don’t need a phone, because if i knew he was eating while i was gruelling it out… it wouldn’t have been a pretty text back).

the absolute best part of the race was the home stretch (isn’t it always!)

before the race i had mike make me a playlist and the last song that came on was list one:

fast forward to 5:30 and you’ll see what i mean ^^

i always say to mike in passing how much i love JT for this song – because it’s like you know he’s singing to jessica beal – and don’t they just make the perfect celebrity couple? so when this song came on, i literally almost cried. a) from the pain/exertion and b) because it was the most perfect song to finish on.

at the 1 km to go mark, i hit the part of the song when Justin’s going “you are, you are the love of my life.”

and then. it’s all i heard for the last 3 minutes of the run.

“you are, you are the love, of my life.”

i think for the first time in months, i was living only in that moment. i had no thoughts or worries about the future and i was just there, on that course, heading towards the finish line.

it’s the little things. ❤

and then to top it all off my friends from iRun we’re at the finish line (iRun is a huge sponsor of the race weekend – so it was official business but clearly it’s amazing to cross the finish line and immediately see a friendly face) and i gave her a hug. and then she took this picture:


and then i went home and slept it off and woke up and when i checked on-line, i found i blew my personal best out of the water by almost three minutes!! i finished in just under 1:35 minutes! i really couldn’t believe it – i had no expectations going into the race so i surprised myself.

some races are ok, some of them you just make it through. and some of them are good ones. this was a good one.

and now… recovery!


94 Days Until the Canada Army Run Half-Marathon

With 94 days left until race day, the Canada Army Run Half-Marathon is already 98% sold out. It now totes itself as the fastest growing run in Canada… which can’t be far from the truth given that in the four years since its inception, race participation has doubled from 7,000 in 2008 to more than 16,000 in 2011.

I managed to squeeze my registration in before it filled up (… for the price of 91$ (which doesn’t include a donation)… Is it just me or are these things going up drastically in price each year along with the participation numbers?!) buuut, I didn’t want to miss the window of opportunity like I did in the winter with the Ottawa Race Weekend ½ Marathon which took place in May.

In fact, it was the Army Run that got me convinced I could actually do a half-marathon for the first time:

While walking around downtown shortly after I arrived in Ottawa in September 2008, my interest was piqued by the 7,000 runners who were finishing up the last km of a race and filing into a finishers area in Confederation Park. I thought to myself… “I wish I had known there was a race happening… I would have taken part.” And that might have been the first time I had felt that tug of a “race” feeling since the track days of high school. I went home and took a look at when I could have another chance to do a 21.1 (plan now, panic later?) and so I set my sights at that time on Ottawa Race Weekend 2009.

Starting line of the 2010 Army Run (Source)

I likely had never run a distance longer than 8 km up until that point but I figured if I was able to play a 90 minute soccer game, with no subs, then I could surely run for two hours straight.

Two hours was what I set my sights on for the first race. I also convinced myself that if I got tired, I could stop and walk. “No big deal,” I thought to myself. (Sometimes I question how much I actually think through with myself ) This thought of course evaporated post race when I connected the purpose of the large popcicle sticks medics had been freely handing out along the course, to the insides of my legs which were of course, due to chafe, bleeding.  Also I was kicking this naive thought in the gut when 2 days after the race finished when I was still using a geriatric bar to lower myself onto the toilet at work, at which point I was like.. yea ok, … it’s a big deal.

So now here we are. It’s June 21, the first day of summer, and I’m signed up for another Army Run. Part of me is regretting having now chained myself to a ½ Marathon training program for the extent of the summer, but…. it’s a pretty cool race. You get to run alongside survivors of war. The race is starts with a cannon blast (seriously. It’s the most intense race start I’ve ever experienced). And for finishing? You get a dog tag. Oh, and you also get to show your support for your country which makes you feel part of the bigger picture. Not too bad indeed.

At My Personal Best

Yesterday was my *least* favorite race of life.

It was also my fastest…. so technically, a personal best. Which probably explains why it was my least favorite.

I actually remember thinking “I hate this.” There was no runner’s high… only runner’s low.

Love this screen shot view which makes it appear that I have come before Geoffrey MUTAI.

It was hot. It was dry. My mouth was pasty.

I didn’t even feel like high fiving the little kids along the sidelines. I don’t think I’ve ever been so grouchy when running before. Very uncharacteristic of me… usually running makes me feel so joyous.

But yesterday.. man.. if this was my personal best… I would hate to see my personal worst.

Before shot. When there was no angst.

I think at some point after the three kilometer mark, I realized my expectation for coming in below 44 minutes was ill-founded… and as a result I spent the next 7 kilometers being mad at myself for not having done more speed work.

I think in every other race I’ve done, I just go out and surprise myself, and as a result, I’m happy with the results. It seems like expectations are a bit of a kryptonite for me, and I would rather come from behind unexpectedly, then let myself down when I fall short of my goal.

I read somewhere that unhappiness is when you are too attached to the way you think things should be going.

… and I don’t think it’s unrealistic to set my sights on a 42 minute 10km… I just have to put a more tangible amount of work into training for it. I think I was too attached to taking the path of least resistance. If I’m going to think that I need to obtain a certain goal, then I’m going to have to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

And that my friends, is about as profound as I can be today because I’m still feeling slightly dehydrated.

Mike told me to chin up because in his words “even if I had a 17 minute head start, you still would have beat me.” Thanks MK. That does help a bit.

After the pain.

Thankfully, right now I’m thinking I should be eating some Thai food for dinner, which is making me immensely happy at the thought. And if there ever was a time when I was at my personal best, it’s when I’m eating some curry out of a pineapple.

get in my belly.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go drink my weight in electrolytes.

Race Day Rituals

It’s Ottawa Race Weekend!!  This is the third year I’ve participated in Ottawa Race Weekend, and now I associate it with the start of summer. (Could have fooled me though because lately with this heat, it feels like we’re dead in the middle of summer.)

We did a minor road trip last night and so I ended up “carbo” loading in the car. For the record, it’s a bit tough to eat a plate of spaghetti on your lap in a Honda….. I managed it though, complete with sprinkled Parmesan cheese and garlic toast. I’m a bit groggy from the late night, but I’m counting on the adrenaline to kick in once we hit the starting area.

Races are neat because no matter what you are aiming for, you get to be part of this big collective movement (and one that doesn’t exist to “occupy” something at that)… where everyone is part of the same goal: finish.

If that sounds cheesy just remember the “race” is our new modern day way of clinging on to the innate human social need to prove our capabilities. If you ask me, it’s weird in concept that we insist on organizing events like this, where thousands of people run around in circles, just to prove ourselves. It was a lot more straightforward when social worth was linked to hunter-gathering. Lucky for me things have changed because I would have made an awful cave woman.

Tonight’s the 10km run.. my race of choice this year. Last year I just watched and berated Mike while he sweated it out with thousands of other racers through Ottawa’s little Italy.

Nooo, silly. I didn’t actually berate him. I just embarrassed him.

This year, we start together…and quickly separate… we’re too competitive to run side by side. (… correction, technically I’m too competitive, he’s too slow.. (at least over long distances xoxo) to run side by side.)

Race day rituals? Pace around the house 1 hour before we have to leave and then worry we won’t get to the starting area in time. Yes I do that.

I’m also drinking like a camel in hopes that I’ll stand up to this wicked heat a bit better.

I’m using the sign I made for runners in the 10km last year as my self-self motivation this year:

Yep. Do that.

Good luck to everyone running a race this weekend. If all else fails, and you are hurting like the day music died, just remember:

– Left, foot, right foot, repeat;

– You chose to do this. You showed up so you have no one to blame but yourself;

– Lower your arms, lengthen your stride;

– All races end at some point. Make it end on your terms!

Happy running!!!

Ottawa Race Weekend Playlist

I have this thing about playlists – I approach them strategically. This is serious business people – especially in the event that we’re talking about Race Day Playlists.

the race. The Glory.

Race Day Playlists are important because, after 21 km of grueling pavement, songs become forever etched in your mind in that moment. It could either be for that moment you think you will stop and can’t go on… or that moment that runner’s endorphins kick in and you end up on cloud nine.

Today when I was out for a simple, innocent run, I realized it was one week until Ottawa Race Weekend!  Sigh. It seems like only yesterday I was running in the freezing sleet and snow with 4 different layers for protection. Lately every time I run I can smell the lilacs in the air. (And that my friends, is the beauty of living and running in a country where you have four hard core seasons.)

Strategic Play List Tips

  • Around kilometer four I know I’m going to need a burst of energy.  And I always like to start off from the finish line with something epic (Teenage Wasteland was my standard go-to for a while.)
  • Biebster (As in J.Bieber) goes at the beginning when I’m still happy and up beat. (In the event that I make the gaff of placing a Bieber song too late in the list? Lord help the person who’s beside me when it comes on at KM 17.)
  • I like to know how many songs are left so I can tell myself to KICK IT.
  • This year, I’m doing the 10 km, so keep it short and keep it PUNCHY.
  • And oh yea, I only allow myself to have a list play for the duration of the time I’m aiming for.

See? this is military business. I told you. I’m not messing around here.

see? hard core.

THE 10 km Ottawa Race Weekend LIST

Midnight Rider – Allman Brothers – 3:00

Death to My Home Town – Bruce Springsteen – 3:29

Dr. Jones  – Aqua –  3:21

Baby – The Biebster 3:45

Mean – Taylor Swift – 4:04

Dog Days are Over – Florence and the Machine – 3:44

Stronger – Kelly Clarkson – 3:41

Innocent – Our Lady Peace 3:42

Sing – My Chemical Romance – 4:56

Forever – Chris Brown – 4:38

Glamorous – Fergie – 4:07

Total: 40:27

And then these two last songs will come in handy… you know.. just in case I don’t manage to finish the 10 km in 40 minutes and 7 seconds… 🙂

Something to Be Proud Of – Montgomery Gentry – 4:15

Dweller on the Threshold (LIVE VERSION- this is important because it’s a quicker tempo) – Van the Man – 3:40

Why I Run

Running is part of who I am.

It usually weaves in and out of my daily life, throughout the course of a year. If I stop for a few weeks or months (I used to vehemently oppose running below 5 degrees), I always return to it again.

When I was younger, running was second nature. I remember clearly learning how to run. After the first loop around the track, I realized I could just let go.. maybe because  I had a lot of steam to burn.
(By the way the girl in the left of this picture (above) ended up being one of my best friends when we both got to secondary school)

In highschool, running was stressful. All of a sudden there was a value placed on a race. Holding yourself to a standard can be a vicious thing to do to a developing ego. I hated the dreaded feeling of race season. It was a relief when a race day was over, but as soon as the next week hit, and the next race was in sight, I would start worrying about it all over again.

(I’m the one in the gorgeous blue spandex)

In 2009 I arrived in Ottawa.
I was completely new to the city and alone. Living in a stuffy, little, ridiculously hot apartment, I used running as a way to spend the evenings outside where it was cooler. Until this point, I had never contemplated running anything over a middle distance, but after spending 4-5 nights a week running for an hour and a half or sometimes more, I decided to give the half-marathon a shot.

It was an intimidating thought to me, the concept of running such a long distance, but just like the first time I realized I could run, it didn’t seem so foreign once I convinced myself it was the same thing as any other sort of race:

Right Foot, Left Foot. Repeat.
Do this until they tell you to stop.

Around km 17 of my first 1/2 marathon, I became really proud of myself. I had come to ottawa, moving across the country on my own and I had left behind a tough year of living with someone who did everything to make me feel like I wasn’t worth it. During this race I realized that I felt good again.

Longer distance running picked me up out of a tough point in my life. I learned to appreciate my guts and my ability to pick myself up and carry on.

Now running is for me, a release.  If I didn’t run, I would be pent up and wired with a million things bouncing around my head. When I run, I do my best thinking and mulling and contemplating and dreaming and planning.

I have a few running goals. I would like to run a 40 minute 10km and I would like to qualify for the NYC Marathon.

We’ll see where this year takes me!

To those of you just starting running, still running or looking for a little motivation I find you can give it all the training in the world, but in the end, if you don’t put your mind over matter, you won’t get to where you want to be. And this goes for life as well as a race.

Race Times:

Ottawa Half Marathon, May 24 2009 – 1:39:39

Ottawa Army Half Marathon, September 20, 2009 – 1:40:33

Ottawa Race Weekend, 2012 10 km- 44:32

PB:Ottawa Half Marathon, May 29, 2011 – 1:37:52