I ran my 13th marathon on Sunday. That seems a tiny crazy to type. Each marathon has provided me with different experiences. There was no question that the Ottawa Marathon was for a PR. With a solid half marathon recently on the books, and multiple successful long runs, I knew that my goal of "3:45 or better" was doable. In fact, I had little doubt in my mind that I would finally see a 3:4x. I was at peace with the training I had put into this race and knew that I was truly ready.
Thursday was the start of a very exciting weekend. I left work early and went to Rogers TV to film an Ottawa Race Weekend segment with Mark Sutcliffe. Talking with Mark and the other runners about the race got me excited for what would unfold in the coming days. I knew that more than 45 thousand runners and their families were coming to the city to experience the best race weekend in Canada - how awesome to be a part of this, I thought.
From Rogers TV, I made a beeline to the Shaw Centre where the Expo was being held. As a Run Ottawa member, I was stationed in the Run Ottawa booth and spoke to many runners coming to pick up their race kit. While I had been watching the weather all week, this is where I started to hear whispers that Sunday could turn out to be hotter than planned. Keep your head, I thought. You can run in heat.
That evening I had the honour of picking up our Canadian Record Holders Lanni Marchant and Natasha Wodak at the airport. My two favourite Rio contenders in my car? Pinch me. They were coming in on a 1:00 am flight from Vancouver, after training there that day. We chatted on the car ride home and I dropped them off at their downtown hotel. They were ready to rock the 10k (which they eventually did).
Friday was low-key. My parents got into town in the afternoon. We moseyed over to the expo for a perusal, and then met G for dinner. I continued to drink lots of water and nuun. These pesky whispers of heat on race day continued. So much so, there started to be concern of runners safety in the heat. Wait a second, I'm ok to run in some heat, but where did this 33ºC come from? This was not part of my plan.
The day before the race I was really committed to hydrating and eating on regular intervals. I didn't leave the house much that day. The more I've run, the more I realize how important days before the race really are. Feet up. Water and nuun in hand. I glanced at the weather every so often, but I didn't obsess. I knew that the plans for the day had already been set in motion. My coach and I had planned that I would run a conservative race, listening to my body every step in the way. Whatever was in the cards, I was ready to run 42.2.
Race morning, I woke up around 4:15 am, before my alarm. The race started at 7:00 am, and as you can imagine, I had a few pre-race routines to tend to. Coffee, banana, nuun, picky bar, glide, and so on. My Mom, who was also running the marathon, and I were out the door by 6:10 am. As we were walking I was giddy looking at the sky. Could this really be? The sky was overcast and the scorching heat was far from our midst. My prayers have been answered. We met Ashley and walked to the start together. We said our goodbyes and just like that I was at the START of the Ottawa Marathon.
This is the moment I've pictured since January. The gun goes off.
Kilometres 1-5 flew by, as you would expect. I kept my headphones off and was focused on taking in the moment and keeping my pace. For the first 5K, the plan was to hover around 5:30 for the start then bring it down gradually to 5:25. I've become a much better pacer this past year and knew that this would be doable. There were a lot of people around me; I tried to keep weaving to a minimum.
1) 5:25 2) 5:33 3) 5:29 4) 5:26 5) 5:24
By 6K, I would work it down to 5:20 and 5:15 by 7K. I would plan to hold it at 5:15 until 30K. I truly did have the best laid plans! By 10K I had warmed right up. Due to the heat, I had decided to bring a frozen hand held along with me. The ice was long gone. I could tell it was getting hotter out, but I was comfortable and felt confident in my hydration and fuelling strategy. First gel at 8.5K.
6) 5:20 7) 5:14 8) 5:16 9) 5:22 10) 5:18
Running through Westboro and Island park was a blast. There were so many people out cheering, spraying water and handing out water. There were a few moments where I thought I was going to cry. This was everything I had been picturing for the past five months. I've done the work and I'm confident this is going to be my day. Keep it together, Jayme. You can't cry during a marathon.
11) 5:15 12) 5:10 13) 5:15 14) 5:16 15) 5:15
Legs were still feeling very strong in the lead up the half. As I approached 15K, I flashed back to the 2013 Ottawa Marathon where I fell a part early on in the race. Normally I would quash that thought quickly, but I spent a bit of time thinking about how far I've come since 2013. I put my music on for a bit. At 19k I saw one of my sweetest friends at the War Museum. We both live nearby; she's come out to most, if not all, of my races to cheer. Second gel at 19K. I repeated to myself: Lock it in at 5:15. I would visually picture myself buckling a seat belt around this pace. The things I think when I am running.
16) 5:11 17) 5:13 18) 5:11 19) 5:18 20) 5:10
I crossed the half mark in 1:52:49. A tiny bit slower than planned, but I wasn't worried. I reminded myself this was my day. My legs were still feeling strong. As I ran through Gatineau I reflected a lot on my runs with Ashley in these parts. I knew Ashley was up ahead and spent a moment thinking about her. I knew she had done the work and was going to have a strong race. Selfishly, I wished I spotted her in the crowd so I could run with her!
The crowds in Gatineau were phenomenal. So many residents had come out with hoses to cool down the runners. Throughout the race there were heat notification flags (as pictured above) along the route. They were green up until this point, indicating LOW RISK. I agreed with their assessment (obviously when you are running a marathon you are exercising the best judgement). I continued to hang onto 5:15. Legs still in the game.
21) 5:14 22) 5:13 23) 5:16 24) 5:09 25) 5:15
I crossed the Alexandria Bridge and made my way back into Ottawa. Is it just me, or is it getting hot out here? Let's not dwell on the heat. Let's just run. For the next 5k I am giving you permission to mentally box up the watch and put it aside. Legs are still very much in the game. I used a sponge at 25K and was hydrating like a champ. Third gel at 26K. Just get it down.
26) 5:15 27) 5:18 28) 5:21 29) 5:33 30) 5:28
I could feel the heat and the sun by this point. It felt warmer than the start (captain obvious statement of the day), but I really wasn't ready to accept the heat. By 30K the plan was to start working my paces down. Instead, I could feel my paces slowing down. Ugh. I hit a few tough moments between 31-37K. Understanding we are running a marathon here, I expected that, but I was fighting hard to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. STAY IN THIS. I was hearing crickets from the bottom half of my body.
31) 5:30 32) 5:28 33) 5:42 34) 5:53 35) 5:38
At 36K I passed a young gal handing out freezies. This was quite seriously one of the best moments in the race. The cold felt so good in my mouth and on my hands. I held onto the freezie until 37K. By this point I noticed the heat notification flags had turned red and indicated HIGH RISK. As I approached the stretch along the canal (a portion of the race that I have used repeatedly for mental training), I remembered that we would be merging with the half-marathoners. The course was thick with people, with lots of crowds lining the sides. Even though I was feeling burnt out, I was filled with so much joy in this moment. This is why I run marathons.
36) 5:51 37) 7:27 38) 5:57 39) 6:04 40) 5:57
I stopped to fill up my water bottle at 39-40K. The sun was beaming down on my face and my commitment to my watch had all but disappeared. Thankfully, mind over matter prevailed and I picked it up at tiny by 42K. I am PR'ing today, I told myself. I was doing the math in my head and knew I would shave a few minutes off from my 3:57 from Hamilton.
41) 6:45 42) 6:03
As I ran the last 200 metres, I wish I could say I had more emotion in me. I was empty by that point and just focused on the finishing line. Once I crossed the mat, I smiled. Despite that race getting hard, I ran a marathon today. 3:55:08.
Congratulations to everyone who ran this weekend!! A huge thank you to the Ottawa Marathon race organizers, volunteers, and to the communities of Ottawa and Gatineau!
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