With a little more than a month until the Ottawa Marathon, there’s more you can do now to ruin your race than there is to make it better.
Yes, you’ll want to continue to build strength and confidence by running your training schedule. Do the long Sunday runs and get in the weekday runs whether it’s tempo pace, speed work or just some steady miles. But there are also some things you’ll want to avoid at this point.
Don’t be duh
The dad of a friend of mine growing up used to tell his kids all the time, “Don’t be duh.” The last thing you want to do at this point in the training is something stupid. Who could have known that sage advice would stick with me all these years later…mostly.
With that in mind, I’ve assembled a list of a few dumb things I’ve personally done in the weeks leading up to my races that have nearly cost me dearly.
Stupid fast speed workouts – with lots of miles run in training, it felt like I had tons of legs under me. With that came the temptation to do something dumb like try and beat my 5km PB for no reason at all. Running super fast puts a ton of extra impact through your legs and back and the outcome of a stunt like that can be a pulled calf, or worse. Resist the temptation to “see what you can do”.
Ridiculously long Sunday runs – every single year I have to talk myself out of a 37-40km last long Sunday run. Some years I was stubborn and still did 35km or more and regreted it completely. I know it seems like 32-34km isn’t long enough, especially when you haven’t done 42.2km before, but trust me, nothing good happens after 34km anyways.
Clumsy trips and falls or stubbed toes – Every. Single. Time. I nearly broke a toe a few years ago about two weeks before a marathon running up the stairs to get my running hat. Slow down, be careful and don’t compromise your race in a moment of impatience. It doesn’t take much to turn an ankle on a curb or smash a toe into a chair. You put in months of training…be careful!
Testing out a new machine – a couple of years ago I hopped on a new kind of elliptical machine at the race expo and gave it a go for a few minutes. About two minutes in, I felt my hip go zing and knew I had just pulled something. That cost me a PB two days later as I couldn’t drive forward up the hills the way I wanted to. Lesson learned. The expo is where you grab some gels and pick up your bib and chip. Try the hot new workout machine some other time.
How about you? Have you ever done anything dumb in the latter stages of training that almost cost you a race?
The Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon is now just six weeks away. That means just three more really long runs before the glorious taper begins. By now you’ve (hopefully) run over 29km a few times and probably over 32km once or twice.
Maybe you’re feeling pretty confident after these super long runs, but maybe you’re also wondering how you’re possibly going to run another nine or ten km more. If you are in the latter group, the answer to how you’ll get to 42.2km when you’ve only run 32km or so in training is that you’ll just keep running.
With one or two more runs in the 30km range left, pay attention to how you feel at the end of the run. Could you run another few kilometres if you had to? Chances are the answer is yes. Believe it or not, on race day, you’ll just keep running and you won’t even think about it. It’ll just happen.
What to do with the last few long runs
These last few long runs are a good opportunity to get your race day nutrition and pre-race routine figured out. On the nutrition side of things, make sure you know what works for a pre-race meal and also what works during the run in terms of gels and fluids. The Ottawa Marathon will be providing Nuun on course rather than Gatorade. That leaves you with a couple of choices. You can learn about and try Nuun on a run and see if it works for you or you can plan to carry your own sports drink during the race.
The last thing you’ll want to do is assume that you’ll be able to get the drink and gels you want on course. I always carry my own preferred Clif gels and I also pack about 700ml of Q Energy Drink which I’ve been running with for years. Water is water, so you can count on the race to provide you with that.
Be ready to run
The other thing you should be doing now is settling on some race wear. You’ll want to be working in a new pair of shoes soon if your current pair are nearing that 500km mark. And you’ll want to be sure you’ve got a pair of socks that works for you to prevent blisters and a shirt and shorts you’re comfortable in.
The more you can get locked in prior to Race Weekend, the better. That’ll leave you with just one thing to worry about on race day – running your marathon.
PB’ed by a couple of minutes, ran even splits throughout and finished with my two fastest kilometres of the day. I’d say that’s a pretty great race!
The day started with an early wake up due to gusty winds shaking the house. Not a good sign! I figured they would die down overnight and maybe we’d be fine once the sun came up?
I drove out to Hamilton with a stop at Starbucks for a bacon and egg sandwich and a latte. That’s a new pre-race meal for me, but since we are living in a kitchenless house, the usual english muffins with peanut butter was not an option. I drank about half the latte, thinking the milk probably wasn’t a great idea.
Parking was easy. As usual I scored a spot at City Hall (free) and walked the two blocks down to FirstOntario Centre to get ready. Miguel showed up with my bib and timing chip and I chatted with Mike and Linda about how many layers to wear.
I decided on a long sleeve, arm warmers and my running jacket with BMO gloves and a light running toque. I figured the middle section along the lake would be cold, and thought it would be better to be a bit warm elsewhere, than freezing for 10km.
Time to run
We wandered out to the B Corral about 9:20am and awaited the start with everyone else. We totally missed the horn and all of the pre-race festivities. All of a sudden the throng started moving and we realized we were off!
The first kilometre was very comfortable. We slotted in about 25m back from the 2:30 pace bunny and found our stride. We saw running friend Wing here and chatted with here for a bit through the first km split.
5:15 – 1km. Good pace, maybe a bit slow? Whatever. It was busy.
The next few kilometres were flat and maybe a bit downhill and things started to spread out a bit and we had more running room to work with. We made the turn from James onto Burlington and noted our splits were a bit faster now.
4:53 – 2km
4:46 – 3km
4:56 – 4km
Into a groove
Welcome to the worst of Hamilton. Nothing like running through an industrial area with nothing to look at and no spectators. We were up and down on and off an elevated highway. That meant three or four hills and my hip started saying hello on the last one. Not good!
My splits were good and consistent here, but probably a bit faster than I had planned to run. Whatever…we were with the 2:30 bunny still and things were feeling fine. It was warm with the sun blazing down and the wind at our backs. I had my hat off and jacket unzipped now and then.
The hip says hi
Next up was the exit from the highway, around the off ramp and over the 10km mat. This was also the last hill for the next little bit and that was a good thing because when I tried to drive forward up that hill, my hip and IT band were really making themselves known.
4:46 – 10km
4:52 – 11km
On to Beach Blvd we went. As expected, it got cold as soon as we hit the lake section. I was super glad to have the jacket here and I felt comfortable with my choice of attire. I told Miguel that I thought I was in a bit of trouble with the hip and that maybe things would get bad through the hills. He remarked that his foot was getting sore and that it might be a tough second half for him as well. Thankfully, we have a good rapport when we race together and there’s an understanding that it’s every runner for themselves and there’s no pressure to hold back if one of us is slower.
By the time I got to the lift bridge, I was feeling okay. At 13km I took two Tylenol to see if that would help with the hip and over the next little bit I could feel things calming down. The gel from 8km was also working well.
4:53 – 12km
4:52 – 13km
4:52 – 14km
4:47 – 15km
I crossed the halfway at 1:13:23. I didn’t look at my watch after 14km so I had no idea what my split was except that it was under 1:15. Not bad, but could I hold this pace to the end? Somewhere around here Miguel dropped back. I looked back a few times over the next few kilometres but I didn’t see him anymore…I figured his foot injury started bugging him and that he eased back a bit to make sure he could finish.
From the bridge, it’s a few kilometres along the highway until you make the left turn onto North Shore Blvd. Then the hills start.
4:47 – 16km
4:42 – 17km
4:52 – 18km
Through the hills
I found that if I drove forward with my left leg and eased up a bit on the right side, that I could hold my pace up the hills and not cause too much stress on my IT and hip. That was good! The hills here are rolling and relentless, but I felt really strong and ran them well. I didn’t look at my watch at all, so I had no idea whether I was still running the same pace. Whatever…it felt good.
The Lasalle Park hill and the one after that are both long and grinding. But 5:03kms for both of those is pretty solid! I was gaining confidence now.
Around 24km you make the turn onto Plains Rd. Since the big hill is still under construction this year, this turn marks the last of the big inclines. Great news! My hip was good, and I survived the hills again. I grabbed a banana from some family handing them out and ate it. Time to push the pace a bit and bring this home.
5:06 – 24km
4:56 – 25km
4:55 – 26km
4:55 – 27km
Pushing to the finish
The finish is in sight here and it’s a long, gradual downhill to the end. I passed the Grim Reaper and told him “Not this year” as usual. Shortly after, I saw a runner stretching out his calf and said, “Let’s go! Let’s finish this up.” We chatted for a bit and decided to run it in as strongly as we could.
I didn’t know I had that much left and when he pushed the pace, I said “Go! You’re stronger than me…see you in the chute.” He said I had promised to run it in with him, so I had no choice but to give it some more effort.
4:59 – 28km
4:43 – 29km (what?)
The last kilometre is awesome in Hamilton. You can see the FirstOntario Centre getting closer and the crowds here are thick, encouraging you to the finish. It’s also downhill! I was running fast tempo pace now and feeling great. Only the turn down the hill to the finish inside the arena remained.
4:37 – 30km
My fastest kilometre was the last one. Awesome. I pushed it hard to the finish and stopped my watch. 2:26:55. A personal best by over a minute. My best Around the Bay by far, and probably the best I’ve ever felt at the end of a long race. My Dutch buddy came over to congratulate me on a job well done and I thanked him for the push that got me in under 2:27.
My best 30km
All in all, a great day and a real confidence booster with the Ottawa Marathon coming up in eight weeks. It’s clear that despite an early setback with a foot injury and some hip/IT band issues of late, that I’m still stronger and faster than last year.
There’s still more training to do, but I’m hopeful I can put in another great performance over 42.2km in Ottawa in May.