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Ottawa Race Weekend: My First Marathon!

It was May 1st when I finally accepted the fact that it was time for me to transfer from the 10k race I was originally registered for if I was going to attempt running the full marathon on Race Weekend.

May 28th was the big day, with our race starting at 7am. So I decided that I would take the car in favour of getting a bit more sleep. Normally I would have taken the bus, just to avoid the anxiety I get driving downtown, and with unpredictable road closures. So this was a big step for me! Turns out that this was the best decision, too! I hopped onto the empty highway, and straight into the City Hall underground parking lot! All of which couldn’t have taken me more than 15 minutes, and a mere $2 for parking. And then all I had to do is basically roll out of my car and onto the race course, because I was basically parked right at the starting line! Sweet.

With plenty of time to spare, I walked over to the Eagle statue at Confederation Park, where our Running Room group traditionally meets up for a photo together before the race.

This is where I found my 4:45 training group, and we decided to start the race off together. Many of us, myself included, intended to think of this race as another Sunday long run to enjoy, no pressure.

The first 10km started out brilliantly. We were jamming to the pop-up music spots they had on the sidelines, chatting, cheering, flirting with random men in uniform, and taking selfies. 😉

I also had the RTRT.ME app on me, which was so cool because it allowed me to track where all my running friends were located along the course as we were running the marathon!

It was once we hit the double digit kilometres that our group started to whittle down as some people fell back/were smart and pacing themselves for the first half. It was still early but already the day was starting to warm up quickly!

It was at the half-marathon point that it hit me. I started to get really lightheaded and nauseated and couldn’t even begin to imagine how I was going to complete that entire distance all over again. So I forced myself to take a walking break and eat some of the salty pretzels that I had thought to bring with me. (My stomach had angrily protested me consuming any more energy gels after the second one.) I also decided that I would stop at every water station and be sure to take multiple cups of water (in addition to the 2.5L of nuun on my back). The orange slices in particular were a welcome treat! I could’ve set up camp and eaten my own weight in those!!

I had a feeling it was the heat doing me in. After training in sub-zero weather for months, this was our first really hot day. And I had never done long runs in this type of weather before. So I was a bit out of my element. By 25km the migraine started kicking in, but I was determined that if I just ate enough pretzels and oranges and kept drinking all the liquids I would be fine! I was still keeping up a good pace. (Except for that moment when I stopped to look over the bridge, because I’m a sucker for anything to do with water, haha!)

Towards the end, around Rockliffe Park, a girl came up to me while I was taking a walk break and said that she needed some support. Turns out she was a 2x Boston Marathon runner who had a baby 9 months ago, might possibly be pregnant again, and was definitely feeling it. We tried running a few times, as my technique was to run and take walking breaks, but she didn’t have anything left in her. It was at this point that she said I could go ahead and continue my run, and that she would probably just leave the race. In the end I decided that we would finish the marathon together. And, let me tell you, walking for me turned out to be a lot more painful than running!! At some points I had to jog slowly beside her just to take the edge off. While I was really disappointed to see my sub 5-hour goal go by, I’m happy that I was able to make a new friend and help her through a difficult time. We chatted and got to know one another, we cursed the heat and our aching legs – making the people around us laugh.

And she was truly impressed by all the Orleans Running Room support that we continually encountered along the course – “I don’t know where Orleans is, but it sounds great!”

We made it across the finish line together in the end! And, really, it’s the experience that matters most on race day. I couldn’t have asked for a more memorable first marathon.

Here’s a quick video highlighting my first marathon; little clips recorded at certain mile markers. Upon looking back on the footage I was pretty amazed to discover that the two of us actually started out running the race together too and we didn’t even know it!! Amazing.

Possibly because of all the walking, and just taking the last half of my marathon so easy, I didn’t really have a recovery period afterwards. It really was just like a Sunday long run! I wasn’t stiff or sore the next day, and was ready to continue my training within a few days. So that was nice!

Still trying to figure out what my second marathon will be. I’m looking forward to hitting my sub-5 hour goal next time!!

Above is a photo taken right after the race when I got my medal, and below is me at the Running Room Marathon Clinic party afterwards, where we celebrated graduating from marathon training! I’m standing with my wonderfully amazing group leader, Leslie. I couldn’t have done it without her!!

Running Threshold VO2 Max Test Results

My original post where I describe the testing process is located here:
https://pumpthosecrazylegs.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/refining-my-training-as-a-runner/

The results are now in, and I’ve had a chance to sit and look through the paperwork to try and make sense of it all. Not too surprisingly, my lactate values indicate that I still have work to do on building up my aerobic base. While I’m amazed by how fast I have become capable of running, I do feel it when I am out there on my longer runs. Anything over 10km and you will see a steady decrease in speed as I struggle to keep going with the same intensity. Clearly I have to focus on longer runs and building up my endurance to be out there longer, so that I can achieve my goal of running marathons!

The next set of results show my “pace zones” as following:

Zone 1 (race pace for events lasting 3+ hours):
10min/km – 7:30min/km

Zone 2 (events lasting from 40mins – 3 hours):
7:30min/km – 5:52min/km

Zone 3 (events lasting from 20-40mins):
5:52min/km – 5:33min/km

Zone 4 (between anaerobic/lactate threshold & VO2 Max):
5:33min/km – 5:00min/km

Zone 5 (VO2 Max pace for events lasting 2-6mins):
5:00min/km +

For Sunday long runs we are supposed to be in our Zone 1 in order to build up our aerobic base/endurance. I had been running a little on the fast side, so it looks like I can bring down the pace even more to reap the benefits of my distance training. For my long runs I think I should be out there for a good 4 hours at least to get my legs used to working for that long.

So now I’m wondering how long it will take me to build up a good base from this point on, and whether I should delay my next marathon race from October until perhaps April/May of next year, when I’ll probably be a bit stronger and notice more of a difference.

The test results also showed that I am an efficient runner, which probably explains how I managed to get so fast despite my fitness level, lol!! My VO2 Max came out at 38.8ml/kg/min.

The last little bit was information on nutrition, and proper fueling during training. That is, how many grams of carbohydrates and even proteins I should be consuming during a run to help maintain and even enhance my performance. Because I have a pretty strong stomach, I’m actually thinking of bringing a little protein bar with me for my long runs now, to incorporate along with my gels and electrolyte drink! I’m definitely curious to see how that goes.