I live to dream again
The two things that worried me the most going into the marathon were being able to handle the pace and my legs holding up for 42.2km. To be specific, I was worried that I wasn’t going to feel comfortable running 3:12/km (5:12/mile) right from the gun, imagining that it would take a few km to warm-up. And, I ultimately thought my calves would let out on me or completely seize up towards the end of the race. Throughout my cross training (pool running, biking, elliptical and XC skiing) I never extensively worked my calves like I did other leg muscle groups.
I was feeling pretty good on my short, 12 minute, shake-out jog done on the first section of the course and I got to the line feeling like I have done the best preparation I could have, given my timeline. The gun went off and I settled in behind the second group of pacers in what seemed like 20th place. I was running beside Steve Osaduik and behind Worku Beyi and Michael Musili (the two 2:15 pacers). I felt great and was convinced part of the reason for my fresh legs was that we were running a little slow, better a little slow than fast at that point. We hit 3:12 at the first km and it was then I knew I actually felt good and the confidence grew.
About 150 meters later we passed the 1km marker for the half marathoners and Worku checked his watch and thought he was too slow and I reassured him he was exactly on pace. The same thing happened at the second km mark (6 minutes and 12 seconds), we were right on pace and for some reason Worku doesn’t see the orange marathon KM marker but the blue 1/2 marathon KM marker 150m later. I reassured him, once again, we were perfect for pace. This time as the 3rd orange marathon km marker approached I pointed it out to him and he looked at his watch and understood. We passed 3km in a perfect 9:36.
About 150m later we passed the 1/2 marathon marker and Chris Moulton was standing underneath looking at his watch and I’m already laughing because I know he’s freakin’ that were running too slow. The look on his face was priceless when he was trying to figure what to say, I could tell he wanted to yell “you’re running wayyyy to slow!” and at the same time didn’t want me panicking. So I yelled over to him, “you’re at a 1/2 marathon split” and added the middle finger as a joke (which I had to make sure later he knew was a joke, he did). Oh, and Musili who was employed to take us to 21km was already behind us.
We passed 5km in 16:03, 3 seconds slow but a slight uphill so it was fine. As we were exiting Hull back into Ottawa I decided I needed to pee and I stopped on the bridge (about 9.5km into the race) for no more than 15 seconds to relieve myself. I had to do it. That created a size-able gap between myself and the pair of Osaduik and Worku. I thought I could make up the gap in 1.5km without having to go too hard. I then passed 10km in 32:02, 2 seconds too slow but good considering the pee break that was more than fine. It took me another 2km (in 6:08) to catch the guys and settle back into pace.
Around the 18km mark Osaduik started to drift off the pace and it was just Worku and I until I caught up with my training partner, Josephat, who went out pretty fast. The three of us were running together until the next bottle station where Josephat had complications picking up his bottle and was never able to bridge back the gap. I passed the 1/2 marathon in 67:15 and I was feeling like a million bucks. Cal and Dave told me it would still feel easy halfway through the race but this was much easier than imagined. I ran up to 25km still on 2:15 pace, still feeling like I was out for a typical Sunday run. It was at that point that Worku dropped out (he initially thought he could make 30km) and I found myself running beside another Kenyan competitor, Thomas Omwenga. We were running into the wind so I slowed my pace (not necessarily my effort) and yelled over at Dave that I was not going to fight the wind and that I was going to drill the $#&* out of the canal on the way back. This was probably around 27km and I was still feeling great and quite confident about running 2:15.xx. As we crossed the overpass to the other side of the canal the wind picked up even more and I was crawling up the hill and it was at that point that my quads were starting to get tired and sore. But I knew a tail-wind was around the corner…
When I turned the corner and hit another head wind I was dumbfounded and dejected. I wasn’t going to write about this wind phenomenon because it doesn’t seem possible however my competitors and the spectators encountered the same abnormality. From 30-35km I hit my slowest 5km split of 16:40.
When I hit 35km I knew that I wasn’t going to drill the $#%* out of the way back like I so over-confidently declared 8km earlier. I figured I would not take any chances and cruise in for a 2:16.xx. It was also around that point where Thomas pulled away from me. My main goal of 1st Canadian under 2:18 was still in check. As each kilometre crept up my quads were getting worse and worse. At 37km I was in considerable pain and by 39km I was in what I would call “survival mode.” I took my last bottle of PowerBar C2Max after 39km and slowed considerably to gobble every last drop and had a horrible time getting back up to speed.
I was hurting. Altough it was such a foreign sensation because I had plenty of energy and I wasn’t breathing too hard. It was just that my quads didn’t want to function anymore. I remember looking down at my quads expecting that they were going to look different than usual. My legs looked the same as always, surprise surprise.
As I hit 40km (about 2:09:30) I knew I had about eight and a half minutes to get in my last 2.2km to make the World Championship team. The next km took me 3:40 (I think) and I was trying to do the math but that 0.2 on the end was complicating my calculations so I just kept chugging along as the crowd was getting thicker and louder. In the last 100 metres of the grand stands I knew I was good for time and decided to relish the moment and celebrate the hard work. I started to pump my fist and lift my arms, each time I lifted my outstretched, palms up, arms the crowd responded with more noise. Ya, it’s cheesy but it was fun and when you’re hurting that much you might as well have some fun.
I finished eighth overall in 2:17:08.5, first Canadian and qualified for the World Championships team (as long as four guys commit). I wasn’t too pleased with the time at first however, the top three were all 2:13.xx (they are 2:10 guys who were shooting for 2:09 and had a pack of seven through 30km) and I realised it was not a particularly fast day. It was a nice day but at 17 degrees and sunny it was a little hot for ideal, although the heat wasn’t my main problem.
I’m very excited about my next marathon as I know where I can make huge improvements. One obvious one is that I’ll have many more months of running under my belt. Maybe a couple escarpment stair sessions for the quads? haha.
Thanks to my family and friends for the support. Big ups to New Balance and PowerBar. Thanks to everyone cheering me on, especially those making the trek to Ottawa from the Hammer, TO, Guelph and elsewhere. Thanks to the road crew, Dave, Cal, Moulton and Desy. Thanks to my training partners at Speed River and ‘satellite river’, especially Josephat (who finished 10th overall). Thanks to Osaduik, Worku and Thomas for the company during the race. Thanks to Trent for advising me on my race fueling, it worked awesome! Thanks to Marcell, Aras and Brenda for the massage, chiro and physio. And last but not least thanks to Dave Scott-Thomas for all the planning, coaching, support and getting me to the starting line prepared and ready to rock.
15:59 (32:02 10km)
15:40 (47:42 15km)
16:02 (1:03:45 20km)
16:02 (1:19:47 25km)
16:37 (1:36:25 30km)
16:40 (1:53:55 35km)
16:33 (2:09:29 40km)
Nov 3rd – paced Hamilton marathon, 16km at 3:07/km pace
Nov 6th – ran 1km, broke my foot, last run for three months
Jan 1st 2009 – Able to start real cross training, elliptical, pool and bike
Jan 13th – bought XC skis
Feb 4th – ran 1km
Feb 28th – 20km XC ski race
Mar 4th – First 10km run
Mar 22nd – First long run (over 90 minutes)
Mar 29th – First running workout, tempo
April 8th – Marathon idea is born, 6.5 weeks out
April 12th – first marathon type workout, 35km run with 16km at marathon pace
April 18th – Commit to running Ottawa marathon, 5 weeks out
April 26th – Billy Taylor 15km road race
May 10th – nagging injuries are gone
May 24th – run a marathon, 2:17:08.5
THE NUMBERS (since November 6):
Highest weekly running volume for marathon – 145km (90 miles)
Cost of pee stop – $500 (under 2:17 is an extra $500)
Hours of sleep the night before the race – 2 (too excited and then just stressed that I wasn’t sleeping)
Swear words in race – 2 (one out of cockiness describing how good I was feeling at 27km, one out of pain at 39+km)
Number of double running days during build-up – 2
Highest single day (single run) – 39km (24miles)
Running days in the past 168 days- 96
Runs over 10km – 73
Highest X-training week (cardio only) – 17.1 hours
Fuel bottles on course- 15 (got ’em all)
Calories consumed on race day – 5000 (roughly)
Number of deaths heard while training – 2 (gunshots)
Number of kms at or below race pace on April 3rd (10 X km workout) – 1 (the last)
Number of running workouts – 17 (2.2 per week on average)
Times I heard “Hey, the first white guy!” – 7 (or so)