ING Ottawa Marathon 2006 Rick's version

A couple weeks ago, I had a bad, bad training day. I mentioned it to Sheri McCready, and, it seems, like a gambler, people only remember or hear about the good stuff. She suggested I write down some of my less than stellar performances.

Instead, I thought I'd write down some thoughts about how this weekend's ING Ottawa Marathon came to be. Lord knows, it's been a tough grind with lots of ups and downs.

I'm actually writing the first part of this on Thursday evening to see if my sentiments will be the same on Sunday night.

It’s been a long haul getting to the ING Ottawa Marathon. I started training for it seriously in February and have hammered myself, and been hammered by, my training mates: the undroppable Jamie Stephenson and Sarah Dillabaugh. I’ve had my butt kicked over and over again by the unstoppables: Andre Okenge, Matt Stacey, Stephane Gamache, Stephen Drew, the Ottawa U guys, and, of course, the coach himself, Ray Elrick of the Ottawa Lions (yes, this coach needs a coach, too). It’s been amazing training with this group and seeing all of the improvements we’ve made. As inspiration, I’ve used Jason Dunkerley and Stuart MacGregor, two training mates that were hit by a car last fall and are still on the road to recovery.

I’ve also drawn inspiration from my clients. I think I have, without a doubt, the best job in the world: I deal with motivated, healthy people who are every bit my friends as they are my clients. Without them, I don’t know if I would have as much fun training as I do.

No matter what happens on race day, it’s been a great journey and representing Turnbull School and Ottawa in the ING Run For Something Better is an honor to which I hope to do justice.

After Philly last year where I ran 2:34, I felt there was lots left in this old body. I had a great race, but I knew there was more in the tank, just not on that day. So I put my head down and drew up a plan for a fall ’07 marathon, and started at it in December.

In January, I was approached by the Ottawa Lions to represent Ottawa in the ING Run For Something Better competition at the ING Marathon, and I accepted the challenge. I re-worked my plan and compressed the build-up and started at it.

Through the big weeks of training in February, March and April, I was doubting I could go faster than Philly. Even though all the short interval training said I was improving, the long stuff was not so inspiring.

In the middle of April, I was devastated after failing to do one of my marathon pace runs. I could not maintain my goal pace for more than 10k.

Marathon pace felt like an all out sprint, all the time. It was not very encouraging.

Then May came around, the taper kicked in and my running really started to show the fruits of the months of hard work.

My confidence grew and the distance I could carry my pace grew with it.

My race plan two weeks out was to aim for 2:32. Then I had a great workout, so I modified that goal to 2:29:59 with a negative split.

On the last Tuesday of my taper, I had a very good run with my Zone3sports group, so I changed my goal to try to go out a bit fast and hold on for something better than 2:29:59.

On Wednesday, I had an awesome workout, so I changed my goal again to go out a bit quicker still and see what happened.

Earlier on Wednesday, I looked at the other entries that might be around my time goal. There’s a guy from Laval, Louis-Philippe Garnier, who ran 2:26:49 earlier this year. He’s much faster than me. He’s an ING R4SB athlete as well. He is also 41, and therefore a masters runner.

…and this is the Canadian Masters Championships. He is the defending Male Champion.

Just before Wednesday’s workout, while chatting with one of the younger runners who could not comprehend running that far, I said that I did not think about the distance I had to run. I thought only that it was a race, and if the others could race that far, so could I. All my best times came when I was in a battle for position. None of them were paced out efforts. Because of that conversation, I changed my goal again. So as of Thursday night, I plan to turn this into a race, and forget about the time. If I race well and do everything properly, I will be satisfied. If I do that, the time will take care of itself.

Here’s hoping…

Okay, so now it’s Saturday morning and I just got back from the Elite Technical meeting where they introduced the pacers for the marathon.

One of the pacers for the lead women is training mate Stephane Gamache. The goal for the first half marathon is 1:14:30, right where I wanted to be, months ago when I decided to do this race.

On top of that, superwoman Loudmilla Kortchagiuna is racing. You see, ever since Around the Bay in 2004, though she does not know it, I have consider her my nemesis. We were running together in a very tight pack when she moved to the front and wound up the pace. We were already going pretty quick, so I got spit out the back end and lost the group. I’ve never forgiven her for that. :)) At the finish line, she was one place and 55 seconds ahead of me. We have not been in the same race since, so I have not had a chance to redeem myself.

Not to be lost here is the fact that my goal for months now has been sub-2:29, not 2:26 of which Louis-Philippe is capable. Since a week ago I doubted that goal was even remotely possible, it would seem more reasonable to go after someone with a similar goal to mine, rather than someone who has run considerably quicker.

Hmmm. What to do…

Okay, it’s Saturday night and I just got back from the MDS Nordion 10k and now, I am nervous. Very nervous. I guess that’s good, right?

Race morning, my warm-up felt great. I was relaxed and set on running with Stephane.

Then the gun went off. All the careful thinking and advice I’d given and taken went out the window and I quickly found myself trying not to lose much time to the front runners in the first kilometer. At 2km, Joseph Nderitu, the 2:20 pacer, went loping by. “Jump on and follow me,” he says rather casually. “Not on your life!!,” say I. I wasn’t that crazy.

I was waiting for Stephane and crew to catch up and realized I was having an “on” day, so I just ran steady. I was only about 15sec ahead of schedule and figured that was close enough. I split 35min flat at 10k, 1:10:15 at 20k, 1:14:15 at 21k. I was right on schedule. The next few kilos were still good and strong, then, right around 23k, Loudmilla passed me and I hooked on. That lasted 2k or so, then I became unhooked. At Carleton, three guys went by me, all normally sub 2:28 marathoners, one of them Louis-Philippe. I hooked on to them until 30k, then became unhooked from them. in the meantime, we passed Tim Shannon, the ING Run For Something Better runner from Toronto. L-P was the R$SB from Montreal. As far as I knew, I was in second spot for the competition.

Every time I became unhooked, my pace slowed a bit more. I was no longer quite so aggressive and switched to “do the best you can” mode. I was not in a very positive frame of mind (I suck! I suck! I suck!)

In through Vincent Massey Park, I had my two worst kilometers with the overpass of the Canal. I hung on as best I could, slowed down a lot and tried to recover while still moving forward (I suck! I suck! I suck!)

Just before the traffic circle, I saw Nancy and her friend Tessa and said “this could get ugly”.

At the Dows Lake aid station, I grabbed a cup of water and felt a twinge in my right hamstring/glute insertion and stopped on the spot, went back and got some Gatorade, and walked for a few seconds. Tim passed me back. When I started running again, I was in a slightly better frame of mind and caught him with 5.5k to go. I though to myself, “I can hold this pace and it will take forever to get home, or I can suck it up, put my head down, push hard and I can be there 4min faster”. I made the decision to go for it, and right away, my posture changed, my rhythm came back and off I went, feeling much better.

All along the course, people were commenting on my Red Mizuno Revolver racing shoes. Don MacDonald was along Queen Elizabeth and I mentioned this fact to him and, in Donny Mac fashion, he added, “they match your right nipple!” I looked down and sure enough, there was a bit of chaffing going on. I think I won that category.

I managed to pull things together and run fairly strong to the end, putting some good time on Tim. The third place woman had passed me in the Arboretum but with my new-found enthusiasm, and the fact she was just far enough ahead of me to use as motivation, I was able to pass her back at 39km.

The last 3km went by very well with lots of encouragement from the spectators and a wonderful finish line audience.

Though I did not run what I wanted to, I gave myself every opportunity to do it. I was on pace at half way. I may have been a wee bit fast along the way, but not enough to cause such an implosion.

What happened? Some days are just tougher than others and I did not give this one enough credit when I started off. Loudmilla ran a perfect race. L-P ran a very good race. I was ahead of them for much of the day. I think they were smarter than I was in how they paced their races. Rather, I was not as smart as they were in pacing mine.

Next time