I did it! I may have been 30min slower than I had hoped, but given the journey of the day, I am so proud of myself. I never, ever gave up - against all the demons that were screaming at me to just quit. Today, I won.
The day started early at 4:30 for me. I didn't want to be rushed at all, so I took my time with breakfast and getting ready. One last check of the forecast before heading out showed that it had changed - the heat was going to stay away. The humidity was in full force though, right at 100% all day long. It kept things cool, but heavy.
I got a great parking spot downtown and headed just a couple of blocks to the starting corrals. I gently loosened up and got organized at the back of my corral to better ensure I didn't start too hard. The battery in my HRM died out just two days before this race, so I was "running blind" - Chuckie V would be so proud. :). And before I knew it we were off, heading along a new route that ended up being absolutely amazing! They managed to take the runners through so many of Ottawa's great scenic points that I truly believe this marathon has become a destination race. It was a fantastic route and I don't know how they could improve upon it.
Things started out rather well for me. My 10k and 21.1k splits were what I had planned (roughly 1h05 and 2h15) but the wheels started to come off around 26 or 27k. I had been so concerned with my heart and cardio that my strength suffered and this was the point where it showed up. My quads and hips were done, and I had to change my strategy to have walk breaks. This was the rest of my race, with quads burning more, hamstrings getting tight, knees getting sore, feet burning.
At about 29k I was fighting voices in my head. There were so many opportunities to quit, and even more times when I severely wanted to quit. But stuck somewhere in those voices was one tiny voice saying "don't give up you've got this". Somehow that little voice kept me going. I thought of my wife and daughter and how I wanted them to be proud of me, and how I knew they were worrying about me. I though of my buddy Scott and how he did this run in Kona in the lava fields. I though of the wheelchair marathoner I met up with after 10mi as he forced himself up the bridge from Gatineau back to Ottawa - in a regular, non-racing chair. I remembered the 18wks I put in for training. I remembered Blazeman and his he conquered Kona with ALS. I knew I would cross that line, even if I was crawling, even if it took all day.
Near the 30k mark there were a lot of us walking. We had been rained on for nearly 3hrs at this point and we were wearing thin. I ended up walking beside a younger guy who looked how I felt and something in me managed to say "Hey buddy, I bet we can run through that 30k marker - let's do it!" and with smiles on our faces we did it, chatting on the way. I had hoped to see him at the finish, but never did. But I am sure he made it too.
Past 30k we headed back into the Byward Market and downtown area again, and merged up with the half-marathoners at the Rideau Canal. There were so many people lining that route it was amazing. Such a great turnout on such a rainy day, and it helped me forget the discomfort I had at this point with 10.2km to go. 1k later, as the half marathoners split off to head back is where I took the biggest mental hit. I wanted to quit. I wanted to head back and hear the crowds cheer me across the line. In didn't want to do the next 9k at all.
It was very odd, that last 9k. I had run that stretch along the Rideau Canal countless times - my office is just a couple blocks away. I could run that blind. But with 33k in the bag, dead hips and quads, and a hamstring that just wouldn't loosen up, this was totally different. I could barely imagine running the next 9k like this. I wanted to stop. I wanted to give it all up. But that voice in my head persevered, as did one more. "They can't stop us - we just keep moving" said the older gentleman that came up beside me. "You're right," I said, "I will walk across that line if I need to".
5k later I'm headed back towards the finish, and now my back and shoulder were threatening cramps and spasms. I was properly fed and hydrated the whole time so I knew this was just fatigue acting here. I had figured out an "effective" shuffle that was keeping me going, and the walking breaks were getting shorter (which was good since it took a LOT to get moving when I stopped). Before I knew it the 40k banner was in sight and to make it memorable I ran through it.
Then that little voice in my head got louder. "I can make it to the finish - I can". I grit my teeth, focused on the road, and shuffled. I heard the people cheering, clapping and calling my name. I felt my legs rigidly move under me, and the incline of the road (which is slight) increase as if it were a cliff, but I shuffled along ignoring what I was feeling in my legs and hips. I ran around those walking and resting, and I just kept shuffling. Then the 1000m sign popped up, and I swore to myself I wouldn't look for anything but the finish line. More people cheering and calling my name, more gritting of teeth and more digging - deeper than I ever had, than I ever thought I could.
And finally, with a tear in the eye, I crossed the line.
I got my medal (which is AWESOME) and a bottle of water which I promptly dropped. I think it took me 3min to pick it back up. :)
Thus was tough, and I have a new-found respect for marathoners and those who have completed iron distance races. I've learned a lot about this distance, and about myself, and I look forward to learning more. But for now, I'm happy to recover, celebrate with my family, and revel in the fact I did something as big as a marathon without giving up.
And to figure out what comes next this season.