02 June 2016

Race report - 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon

Well, it all finally caught up with me. 

Despite putting in a full winter season's worth of training, I cannot honestly say that I arrived at the start line of the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon healthy - and I paid for it.

The events surrounding the event were all great enough - being able to join Jim Willett as he wrapped up his #Marathon2Marathon escapade, sharing the race weekend with so many of my RunNinja compatriots, and participating in the largest and most prestigious race in our country (and at the nation's capital, no less).  But alas, the hopes and dreams of becoming a sub-3 hour marathoner were not to be for me.

 Our tribe of RunNinjas (aka "The Beautiful Freaks") - photo by Miranda Wade Cudmore

With the temperatures soaring well above 30°C (factoring in the humidex) the long walk from our cars to the expo in downtown Ottawa on Saturday afternoon (after having spent the entire previous day moving our home with the assistance of RunNinja friends) didn't help matters much.  While feeling mentally tough I tried to suppress the sensations of being physically depleted on Sunday morning.  I ran through the standard routine that I follow for any go at a serious race, including the pre-dawn shakeout run, solid breakfast, and arrival at the start/finish area with at least an hour to spare - and I must say that feeding off of the energy of the likes of RunNinjas Rob, Robert, Lewis, Rick, Mariana and Crystal made me feel like I might actually be able to pull off something decent.

Pre-race hopefulness ... photo by Crystal Oakley

There was an additional boost when I lined up in the Blue (anticipated sub-3:15 finish time) corral and not only met up with fellow Skechers Performance Ambassador Dave Liu (who was going for a 2:30ish gun time) but I was separated just by an arms length and a barrier tape from the elite athletes who were warming up in their cordoned-off front section.  Just being that close to so many great marathoners made me feel fast and ready ... I even tried to hype myself up by standing tall with my hands on my hips a la Amy Cuddy's TED talk.

But it was all for naught ...

With no 3:00 pacer I started out with the 3:05 pacer and immediately found that my legs were lumbering and heavy.  I managed to stick with this group for about the first 10k but then slowly found myself falling back, until the 16k mark (oh no - shades of the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon!) when my right knee immediately went into full-out rebellion mode.  Pain radiated across the bottom of my kneecap and would buckle every time that I tried to open up my stride, and my pace fell from 4:25/km to 5:00/km. 

I continued to hobble my way forward with no ability to pick up any steam without incurring the wrath of my knee - all the way up to about the 22k mark where I decided that I needed to stop at the roadside medical tent to get some attention.  After a solid wrap I rejoined the fray (as best as a lame duck can) and continued to semi-limp along until all of the compensating that my left knee was doing finally ground to a halt and it gave way, radiating the same sort of pain transverse-wise from the bottom ridge of the patella.  Through some force of will I carried on one foot in front of the other (now clicking off 6:00+/km) until around 33k when a subsequent medical tent stop was made to tensor-up the now-aggravated left-knee.

It was quite a sight.  I even heard at least one onlooker comment "Look - both knees taped up" as I attempted to finish up the race.

The agony of defeat de-knees

What was perhaps the most frustrating was that my cardio was all there, and my muscles were feeling otherwise fine.  Even psychologically I was still with it, as at around the 38k mark I decided to give my regular finishing kick a go, managing to drop from 6:00/km to 4:27/km while weaving through the sea of humanity as full and half marathon runners merged down the finishing stretch along the Rideau Canal.

I crossed the finish line in a disheartening time (to me) - but was still able to celebrate so many victories by my fellow RunNinjas, including a number of PBs (including Mike's sub-3 BQ), first-time marathon finishes and the conclusion of Jim's east-to-west journey.

So what did I discover?
  1. I'm pretty slow - I may have to rethink my potential to post a sub-3 marathon finish.
  2. I'm pretty stoopid - for all the talk that I've spouted to others about taking appropriate rest and avoiding overtraining, I managed to blow straight through that stop sign.
  3. I'm pretty tired - it's time to take a step back.  A mini off-season is long overdue, and will provide me with an opportunity to re-evaluate what I'm going to do with this running stuff in the future.  
For now, a hearty congratulations to all who toughed it out over the course of the Ottawa Race Weekend - you've earned a real 'pat' on the back (the inverse of what is depicted below, especially if my knee issues turn out to be chronic and not acute)!

Race gear for the 2016 Ottawa Marathon:



  1. Ugh sorry to hear about your race Patrick. I have to disagree with conclusions 1 and 2. You are not slow and not stoopid. I think you may have suffered a case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and this was why you ignored some obvious signs. I have to agree with number 3 though. You really need to back off and take it easy. Let your body heal, run easy, hit the gym, and then come back stronger.

    You have a sub 3 in you. 'Nuff said.

  2. Yes sorry to hear. But it looks like there were some good learnings from this race. Maybe it's a good thing? come back stronger and smarter!

  3. Distance running can be all about adjusted expectations. You've had a hell of a year already and there is so much more to go. Get healthy buddy.