This past weekend was my trip to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada for the Scotiabank Ottawa 1/2 Marathon. Just as a note, I will NOT be writing this up as an ambassador race because due to technical issues (and a commitment after the attacks in the fall to wear red and white) I was unable to run in a SkirtSports skirt. So this was a “freelance” race for me.
If you’re a regular reader, you probably recall my post last week talking about my utter lack of motivation to run. With that in mind, I went with really NO expectations other than to enjoy the city and jut see what happened.
We had field day at school, so my initial plan to have my mammogram done around noon and head to the airport (we get up to 4 hours off per year to get that test done) got thwarted. I looked at my options, and went with the train to Newark – hoping we’d get done with bussing early enough I could make the 3:42 train. No such luck. I made the 4:04, which was ok. I’m glad I wasn’t later because in spite of it being a holiday weekend and around the time many people would be arriving for international flights, they had ONE scanner going, so getting through security took a while to say the least. But eventually I made it and got to the Porter area. Did my document check, then grabbed a sandwich before heading into the Porter lounge where I had free soda (or tea or coffee) and free cookies and free internet until it was time to board. First leg was Newark to Toronto. I happened to look out the window just in time to see this
Niagara Falls! Super cool. We landed in Toronto where I went to passport control and got stamped into Canada, then directed back through security and to a waiting lounge. Again, free sodas and cookies while I waited. And free wifi. Shortly we walked to the gate and onto the next plane to Ottawa. I have to say, Toronto is GORGEOUS at night! I wish I’d taken a picture as it was so pretty all lit up. I definitely want to go back and visit!!
I got to Ottawa and headed right out to a taxi. The driver was super friendly and didn’t even need the address once I gave him the name of the hotel. He pointed out some sights on our very direct way there and told me some things I should try to do if I had time (almost all of which I accomplished). I went into the hotel and got checked in. My room was on the 2nd floor, which was fine – it gave me an easy stair option if the elevators were busy. To say my room was big would be an understatement…
BUT that was the cheapest option when I booked, and it was super close to everything. So I wasn’t fussing at all!! Went to bed and after tossing and turning for a little while (always happens the first time in a new place/bed) got some sleep.
The next day I went to the Expo and got my bib and stuff, then headed out to explore a little bit. One thing my cab driver had told me about was Beavertails. Um, DELICIOUS!!!!
Wandered a bit more, went to get a ticket to tour Parliament (more on that later) and then back to a mall (who knew those even existed anymore???) and got some poutine
I had booked a ticket on the Lady Dive amphibus tour for 1:30, so I did that next. It was ok, but I kinda wish I’d done their hop-on hop-off bus instead. First we got no say in where we sat in spite of the bus not being full. And because I was seated up front, the motor made the guide hard to hear. The tour is done bilingually, so she would give commentary in English then French, and then reverse the order for the next commentary. The result was that there would be times we were long past whatever she was talking about by the time she got to the English. I think it would be better if they did it either only in English or only in French. And either let you elect your seat when you reserve your ticket or let you pick your seat. (Granted, they might tell you where to sit on the bus too…maybe it’s a Canadian thing?)
After the tour I walked up to Parliament to wait on my tour.
The tour was good, and the building is beautiful! (I’d hoped to be able to put some pictures in here, but there were severe technical issues with my Surface (which is now locked until I can pay “premium service” to unlock it – they went there before they told me how much it would be…you better bet they’ll be hearing from me at Microsoft because not telling someone BEFORE doing something that you’ll have to pay if they do, then getting in there and making it so you have no choice but to pay is so many shades of wrong…), and my MacBook is still not playing nice with Facebook for uploading pictures, so those will have to come later.) My ONLY complaint about that experience is I was not told when I selected the 4pm tour that the Peace Tower would be closed by the time we got done. Several of us on my tour were bummed about that and did leave comment cards that the tour and our guide were both great, but in the future it would be great to inform people when they are selecting their time that later times may not get to go up in the tower due to closing time.
Headed out to a pub for pre-race dinner and black velvet (yes, usually a post-race thing, but I love them, so…)
Then it was back to the hotel to lay out flat me
and get ready for bed. Shortly after turning out the lights, I remembered what happened to Mark and Elena when Elena was running Boston – specifically the fire alarm went off in their hotel and evacuation either happened or was highly possible (I forget which exactly) and I remember Elena talking about worrying what if they couldn’t get back in, etc. Definitely something that had never occurred to me on travel races before. So I immediately got up and set stuff out
and together just in case. No alarms, but I felt better knowing I was prepared!
When the alarm went off, I got up and ate a Luna bar and had some water and coffee (runner’s trick with the drinks…and it worked successfully), then got dressed and ready to go. Yes, I rocked the red and white!
The half didn’t start until 9, but I wanted to see the Kids’ Marathon. THAT is a super great thing – the kids who looked to be pre-school through elementary school walk and/or run 41K during the year, and then on marathon day, they get to participate in the CHEO Kids’ Marathon (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario – so it’s a fundraiser, but super cool) where they run the final 1.2K to complete a marathon in a year – and they get to cross the real race’s finish line and get actual medals. WAY cooler than NYRR Mighty Milers if you ask me! It was so cute. Obviously the first kids took off, but then there were little guys in the back.
This was the last and littlest guy – he’s being accompanied and encouraged by guys from the Carleton University Ravens football team. Sooooo cute!!! (And that is CHEO bear in the background.)
Then it was time to go and line up in my red corral. Once we got going, it didn’t take long to start falling in love with the race. We were quickly along the Rideau Canal, and the banks were lined with lilac bushes that were in bloom and smelled sooooooo good!! (I didn’t stop along the way and take pictures unfortunately.) We went through neighborhoods and people were out all over the place cheering us on. The volunteers at the stations were all amazing as well – encouraging all the way, even if you didn’t stop and get something from them. There was a slight glitch in that they had run out of PowerBar Gels before those of us in the rear got there, but they had bananas and oranges out for us. There were two sponge stations as well – I’ve never had sponge stations in a half, but it got just warm enough I was very glad to have them! The only section where there really wasn’t anyone was in Gatineau, Quebec which is right across the river from Ottawa. I don’t know if they were all in church or if it’s just that we were largely in the downtown area, but there was NO ONE out there (or maybe they were earlier and just didn’t stay for the back of the packers). Still, the town is pretty, so that was ok. Once we were back in Ottawa, we merged in with the marathon route to the finish. I saw a few people on the ground being attended to by medical – one guy was out and wrapped in mylar blankets and getting fluids, one lady was on her side but conscious, and one guy was getting stretched out. I’d gone from 2/1 through the 10K mark to 1/2 until about 14 or 15K and then to straight walk, and I honestly felt good all the way through. I did run the last part, but not like sprinting or anything. Crossed the line and got my medal…
I wasn’t sure if I’d need the blanket or not, but I took it just in case – ended up putting it in the blanket recycling bin before I left the park, but better safe than sorry. I walked back to the hotel and stopped at Starbucks for a peppermint green tea cream frap (with skim milk…but with whipped cream) where Alice let me know what she thought of my accomplishment…
Went and took a cold-water soak, then a warm shower and got dressed. Headed to a different pub for post-race celebration…
I went back to the hotel after that to chill for a bit. I wasn’t sure if I wanted anything else to eat, but a twitter chat with my friend L convinced me to go and get something. I found a nice Italian place and got possibly the best bruschetta I’ve had along with some merlot…
Then I walked up by Parliament for one more medal pic…
Went back and packed and chilled in the hotel until I was ready to sleep. Got up and did my last minute packing along with a Luna bar breakfast as I wasn’t really hungry. Checked out and got a cab to the airport. Figured out quickly that I was hungry, so I went to a restaurant and got some French Toast, which was yummy!
Flew from Ottawa to Toronto – I took a picture this time, but it’s not as cool as it was at night. It’s still super pretty though!!
Then flew from Toronto back to Newark – we managed to get in between all the escorted planes and such from the threats. Probably good I didn’t know about them when flying that day.
So… Overall? I absolutely loved everything about this trip. I am completely in love with Canada – or, I guess specifically Ottawa…and am fascinated by Toronto. I definitely want to go back and do this race as well as some of the other ones. I think if I had the chance, I’d move there in a heartbeat.
The race…I finished in 3:13:54, which may be my slowest time clock-wise, but I can honestly say that there was never a point in this one where I wanted to quit – THAT is huge considering how I was feeling going in. If I wasn’t already all paid (train, hotel, etc.) for Hartford, I’d look into doing the Toronto Waterfront in October – but I’ve marked it for 2016!! There’s a spring one – the GoodLife – but in 2016 it’s at the tail end of Spring Break, so that will be 2017 assuming no break conflicts. And I’m seriously considering Ottawa for 2016 as well. It was that good of an experience!!
Did my “training plan” work? Well, I finished and generally felt good. I do need to increase my mileage and will do that gradually over the summer building up for Hartford. And I’m looking into other things to compliment the yoga and running – like taekwondo possibly. I’m doing a trial class on Saturday, and if I like that can do a 4-week unlimited period to really give it a try. Work on fitness and diet, and I’m getting there!
So overall, it was a super experience and I definitely recommend this race!!