THIRD TIME IS A CHARM!!!
Excuse me for "yelling" but I am super stoked to finally break my curse at the Montreal Half Marathon! After 2 less than ideal years running 1:21:xx when training suggested much faster times, I am happy to finally run well, but I will get to those details shortly!
I left Flagstaff very early Friday morning (7am) which allowed me in a way to sneak out of town. I had gone out to dinner the night before, but never actually said goodbye to people. I always hate goodbyes, even if they are technically see you later's. I flew from Flagstaff to Phoenix, from Phoenix to Fort Worth Dallas to Montreal. It was pretty uneventful, except for the fiasco of trying to get some food at the Fort Worth airport. I ordered a pretty easy chicken burger from T.G.I. Friday's.
I waited a good 15 minutes probably, finally got my order and then headed towards my gate (the furthest away as usual). I sat down to eat as I was starving, opened it up and found soggy fries, some vegetables and 2 pieces of chicken. Not exactly what I ordered, but I was thinking oh well, it's technically healthier this way and figured I would eat it anyways.
Unfortunately I had no cutlery to eat it though. For a quick second I debated just using my fingers but then decided to take it back. The staff was pretty good about it, initially stating it would take another 12 minutes or so I opted for a refund. The manager then came over and stated that she would have it made right away so I said that I was okay with waiting if it was right away.
Another 15-20 minutes later, and yet another wrong order that they caught before giving to me, I had my correct order in my hands and was advised I would not see a charge for it. They even threw in a free brownie. I haven't checked yet, but I assume they removed my credit card charge. After all that wait, the food wasn't that good anymore but at least it was food and well, it was free.
Onwards to Montreal where I got to my hotel room around 9pm and had a quick catch up with my roommate for the weekend, none other than Krista DuChene. After a long day of travel, the catch up was somewhat short before we both went to sleep.
The next morning we woke up at a decent hour, had something small to eat and then waited to hear from Rachel Hannah before heading out on a group run. Thankfully these ladies knew where they were running as we found a great path to run along. Much better than the stop and start at street lights that I did last year running along some busy roads. We got chatting and the run actually extended slightly further than Krista and Rachel wanted, but only slightly longer than the 45 minutes that I needed. We stopped on the way back at a grassy section and did some strides.
Once we got back, Krista and I showered and then headed out for some lunch. The afternoon was spent relaxing, then the technical meeting at 4pm which was nice and brief. Great to see that the race committee included a photo slide show of the main sections of the course. Having already run the course twice, I was familiar with the course, but I am sure it helped other first timers.
After the meeting a group of us ladies, Krista, Rachel and her bf Dave, Rhiannon Johns and Laura Batterink all went out to dinner at a Vegan restaurant that Rachel was a fan of. It turned out to be really good. Lots of selections at the buffet and then you pay for your meal by weight. I loaded up my plate which came to $16 and I could have probably added even more.
That night was fairly early and I had a decent sleep, other than my usual wake up habits before races. The next morning we were up after 6am and to the lobby for 7:30 to take the bus to the race start. I love how this race has a nice warm area with cots for us to relax on. Parking is crazy at Parc Jean-Drapeau, so we go early so the bus can get in. Makes things a little less hectic for sure. We get there with time to relax before warming up.
Warm up felt alright for me as the ladies seemed to warm up together. I didn't feel wonderful and was actually slightly worried briefly. I was going into the race officially ranked 3rd, but I knew Rhiannon has run sub 75 and Laura I had no idea about her. No bathroom issues before this race as each time I used the elite/media bathroom no "crazy argumentative shouldn't have been in the line" type people were in line.
Strides before the race felt pretty good and soon we found ourselves on the line. It was a chilly morning where I actually debated if I was dressed warm enough in my sports bra, shorts and arm warmers while standing on the line. We were off and the first km I again debated if I was dressed warm enough, but soon enough I forgot those worries and was plenty warm enough.
I looked at my watch during and after the first km and saw 3:30 and it felt okay. After that I simply ran and did not pay attention to my watch which was set to auto lap the KM's. For the first 5km (I think) I found myself running side by side with Rhiannon with Rachel not far in front and Krista in front of her. I had no idea what goal pace she was going for and honestly for myself, I also didn't know what I was capable of running. I knew what my training suggested, so I just kept going with a pace that I felt was comfortable, yet not too comfortable.
In races I tend to zone out and not remember a lot of details. Here is what I can tell you about the race. It started off with a headwind for almost the first km. We did a loop of about 6km (passing the start at 4km) around Saint Helen's Island before heading over for 6-17km on Ile Notre Dame. So if we hit headwind for the first km, we also hit it from about 3-5km. We headed over to Ile Notre Dame and hit the wind again from 7-7.5km.
By now, Rhiannon had fallen off my side and it was during this section I felt a male drafting off me, which drove me nuts. I don't mind people drafting, but people need to share the work as well. I tend to find people who draft off me the entire way and then run by at the finish. I was giving this guy a chance though, but as we hit what I thought would have been a tailwind from 7.5 to 9.5 this guy stayed RIGHT behind me. I did zigzag a little trying to lose him. I wanted to see if there was a tailwind and if there was, I didn't want this guy stealing that wind! Turns out, the tailwind wasn't enough to even notice.
From 9.5 to 12 we hit the headwind again. I remember this section and I remember it well. We crossed the 10km timing mat in 35:24, which was the only time other than the first km where I saw my time. I thought to myself that it was a good sign, I still felt pretty good. I was working, but still comfortable. Then the wind, where I finally dropped Mr.Drafting and I focused ahead where there was another guy a little ways away.
Malcolm Balk was out on course (I did a Pose Course with him years ago) and he was in multiple spots cheering me on. It was great to hear someone in English and to have him reiterate to catch the guy in front to receive some help. I did catch the guy, but not until pretty much 12 when we turned around the end of the Olympic Rowing Basin and headed back the other way from 12 to 14. Again, here I was hoping for a tailwind, but again nothing noticeable. Disappointing after fighting the headwind for a few km before that.
I kept pushing along and then began the trek back. 15km (again headwind for about 1.5km) was a spot where I had some mental issues with my stomach the last 2 years. I won't lie, as I went through this area I had to talk myself out of those issues. I did fairly well, but had a brief moment around 16.5km where I slowed briefly to fight those issues. I dropped off the guy in front for a bit, then caught him back.
We headed back onto Saint Helen's Island where we would run the last 4km. We hit a bit more headwind, but I still felt strong. At about 19km I overheard a spectator say 67 min, though I had no idea if that was 67 low or 67 high. I started to pick it up as I still felt good and knew I had more in me. I think I dropped another guy during this section (not Mr.Drafting) but the one I had caught around 16km, dropped off and then caught again around 17.
In the final km I could see Krista limping on the side of the course. I knew she had gone into the race with a hip problem, so I figured her hip must have cramped or given out etc. I told myself to keep pushing and that she might start to run again and beat me to the line, but I had to try to catch her. I kept pushing and quickly noticed she wasn't going anywhere too fast. As I ran up to her, I apologized and said "Sorry Krista" to which she told me to go (I think). I kept pushing still and rounded the corner to see the clock ticking 1:14:5X and well I simply could not get there in time.
I crossed the line in 1:15:01 chip time (1:15:02 gun time) for a 2:02 personal best, finishing 2nd overall behind Rachel who ran 1:13:36. I hugged Rachel, then I think I advised her and possibly Alan Brookes that Krista was limping and explained that she had been fighting an injury before the race started. We saw her come into view and once she crossed the line, she fell into Alan's arms with Rachel and I right there waiting to help. Alan was able to handle her though and carried her off to the medics.
I did half my cool down with Laura who ran a huge personal best as well in 1:16:47 to finish 4th and then the second half on my own. We met back up with Krista in the elite room and she wasn't doing well. It was actually hard to watch. My heart was breaking to be honest. We hit the awards without Krista then grabbed our stuff and headed back to the bus for the hotel. I got back and messaged Alan as I wasn't sure what to do with Krista's stuff. They were taking her to the hospital, so our room was extended.
It worked out for me as our late check out was at 3pm and my flight wasn't until 6. I hung around until 4 and then left Krista a note (thinking she would be back that night) and then headed to the airport. Needless to say when I landed in Vancouver at 8:15pm (pacific time) I was shocked to hear that she had broken her femur! So crazy!
Overall it was a great race. My last 2km, were some of the fastest of my entire race, especially my last km 20-21 which was the fastest at 3:24. Not to mention the final sprint. I am happy with how the legs felt and that everything fell into place and felt so good. I ran completely or well nearly completely blind without paying any attention to my watch and other than a few splits where there was wind, most of the splits were pretty close (3:24 fastest, 3:41 slowest). I am not saying this to sound "cocky" but I still feel there is more there. With each race I am learning more and more of my capabilities.
Thanks to Alan Brookes, Ian Cater and all of the CRS and race crew for bringing me out and for taking care of us athletes. I am thrilled to finally break my Montreal curse! With the Canadian Championships heading to Calgary starting next year, I have no idea if I will be back in Montreal again, but it will definitely be on my radar!
Results can be found here. Congrats to Eric and Rachel on their wins! Hoping for the fastest recovery possible Krista!
Canadian Born (USA Living) Laura and Rhiannon with myself