Tamarack Ottawa Half Marathon

01 Jun 2018

Race information

Goals

Goal Description Completed?
A 1:39:00 Yes
B 1:37:00 Yes
C 1:35:00 Yes

Training

The Ottawa Half is actually a run along the way to my broader goal for the summer: a 50km trail run in August. Last summer I had intended on doing the Rock ‘n Roll Montreal half as my first official race – I’ve done the distance before and even treated particular runs as personal races, but never done the real thing – but when the full was cancelled because of the heat wave, my trip partner was no longer going, so I dropped out as well. An ankle injury shortly thereafter kept me from doing the Toronto Waterfront run as a make-up, so after an entire summer of training, I still had not done my first ever race. What I should have done is trained through the winter and done the first available race of 2018, but instead I let 2017’s work go to waste and complained about it constantly like any proper adult. Then in March, I set my goals for the 2018 season, started doing early morning snow-rain-lousy Canadian weather runs and a proper routine, and the first of many events this season was would be a half marathon in my hometown.

In training I had my personal best half marathon finishes around 1:37:30~, but I was nervous about how viable that actually was for a few reasons: for starters, I only vaguely trusted my phone’s GPS; and then the fact that running by myself I was only ever competing against my own traitorous feet, but I was worried a race would bring out my competitive streak and I’d push harder, earlier and thus struggle to maintain my speed. So my A goal was me being, I thought, sensible about what first-race jitters would do; my B goal was a desire for a new personal best; and my C goal was, I thought, unicorns and rainbows rather than realistic.

Race Start

The start was a bit rocky, because I had moved myself to the frontmost corral, but got stuck behind the 1:45:00 and 1:40:00 pace runners, which, when things got going, proved to be a massive wall of bodies that I was trapped behind. Getting through it meant a fair amount of weaving, bobbing, and sprinting. In retrospect, that may have been a good push out of the gate, but it felt like a foolish way to start things off when I could have easily avoided it.

Kilometre 5

At the 5km mark I was in trouble. I had not really been checking my pace and I realized that I had pulled off a PB: almost a full minute faster (19:27~ according to Strava). That was not a good sign given that my best prior 5km had come at the end of last season’s training. There was no way that I was going to be able to sustain that pace for very long, so I needed to slow down dramatically if I wanted to avoid a very early crash to my very first race.

Kilometre 10 & 11

At the 10km mark I was in trouble. Again, I had hit a new PB (40:28). Between the water stations and the couple of nameless heads that I was keeping up with, I couldn’t get myself to slow down. I continued to be concerned about the point at which my idiocy was going to catch up to me. Shortly after this we hit the nutrition station. Throughout my training I had been having a nibble of my fruitbar at the 45 minute mark on long runs, but the nuun water every 3km was a blessing I was unprepared for. Some folks afterwards complained about the flavour, but I did not notice at the time: I was too busy running faster than I should have to notice.

I grabbed an orange slice as I ran by, but struggled to get it in my mouth effectively, let alone remove the rind and chew. I also grabbed some gel/sugar/cube things as I struggled to perform an exercise toddlers can pull off right after naptime: the Orange Peel Smile. I hope there is not a photo of that anywhere, because I have no idea why I did it or who I was performing for. Plus that whole needing to use my mouth to breathe thing.

At this point, I stated to check in with my heart rate and do some pace calculations. There were no designated pace runners ahead of me, because I had rushed by them at the start. So time to think it through myself. For starters, I was sitting around 167bpm. Not actually much higher than my non-expert knowledge felt was appropriate. I was starting to think that maybe I was going to run right by the Wall I had been dreading for the last six kilometres. My 4:03 average pace (!) was never going to hold, but my goal time was still possible even if the back end of the run had me slow down to five minute kilometres – and I didn’t see how I would fall back that much given how good I was feeling. Rather than coming up with a new goal time on the fly, I decided to keep a closer eye on my splits and heart rate, letting my body run the show for a little while instead of my brain.

Kilometre 16

It was here that, for whatever reason, proved to be the most demoralizing part of the run: I had four splits in a row all around 4:20~ range, and then slowed to 4:48 as I passed the 16km flag. According to my watch, this was the second steepest climb of the course, but I still felt pissed off at myself. Contrary to what 11km Steven had said to himself, 12-16km Steven had realized a sub-1:30:00 finish was on the table, but not if there was that much of a slowdown. So I ate the second of whatever candy things that I had gathered back at the nutrition station and started to wonder what they were, why it was okay to just grab candy from children at the side of the road, and if they had licked them first. Oh, I also picked up the pace and watched my steadily heart rate climb.

This also happened to be the most beautiful part of the course: going back into Ottawa from Hull over the river with Parliament on the right. If there was a split to slow down and appreciate the view, this would have been it. This is also a spot I have mentally tagged as Deception Point, because the finish is so very close as the crow flies, but the course loops around to turn 2km into 5km. Apparently it is even worse for the full marathon folks, who it presumably sucks to be. I certainly felt bad for them as I raced by.

Kilometre 17 - End

The end of the race kind of blurs together. I remember that there was a freezie at one point, which mostly melted in my hand as I tried to push by folks with more tired legs than I. I had stopped checking my watch almost altogether for two reasons: one, the course got a bit narrow and I was worried about veering into someone; and two, I had decided to run as hard as I could until I couldn’t anymore. This photo should be a pretty good indicator of how that plan was suiting me in the last few hundred metres. Note, I am not the guy gleefully running off to the side for high fives nor am I the dude who was busy qualifying for Boston (sorry for creeping you Guy, but you crushed it at the end: 20 full minutes ahead of the time needed for you age group. Great job). No, I’m bib 13062 trying desperately to lead this pack to the finish with eyes wide shut (and, if I’m not mistake, Fall Out Boy in my ears). Special thanks to the dude sitting on his lawn with a hose in that last kilometre. Sponges and misting stations ain’t got nothing on the kindness of strangers.

The giant timer at the end read 1:28:00 from where I started to be able to see it. There is the smallest bit of regret that I did not push even harder at the end, although I am not sure there was available energy available at that point: the final 100 metres were run at a 4:02 pace, very close to my first kilometre’s 4:00. Sure, if I could have shaved five seconds somewhere I would have shaved five seconds off somewhere, but when you’ve beaten even your most optimistic goal, you should just take the win. So I did.

Post-race

Overall, I can’t say I have any complaints: it was a great run and a nice high point to start the season (and my race ‘career’). Clearly this was a good pit stop along the way to the 50km in August, and my training for that served my well here. I did veer off that plan a bit to have a taper week, which was a good move and I’ll repeat something like that for any other races I do before my ultra. There are a few minor tweaks to be made about starting position and perhaps starting a bit slower, but staying more consistent throughout (time to do some reading on pace training I guess). I also need a new running pouch for my phone, because the one I bought for this race won’t be usable again next time. Other than that, we’ll see. I’m doing a couple shorter distance races before August, so I’ll be able to test out whether I can really pull off PB 5 and 10km runs. But, as it stands, I’m feeling great.

Pictures


Doin' Whatever A Spider Can

01 Jan 2018

Devin Faraci for Birth. Movies. Death.:

This is Tony making a mistake. It’s one of the defining aspects of Tony Stark in the movies - he makes big decisions on the fly and they are quite often either wrong or incredibly destructive, and here he’s making another one.


Pinball Wizards

31 Dec 2017

Tycho Brahe from Penny Arcade:

He also does not understand pinball. I mean, he understands that there is a silver ball and that you can’t let it go down through the hole; he doesn’t understand why I find them beautiful. I tried to find a word to describe how I feel about them that wasn’t the word beautiful, but I couldn’t do that and be honest. They’re playable sculptures; I don’t know what you want from me.


"The internet births interesting societies."

30 Dec 2017

Alice Maz:

I’ve always loved knowable systems. People are messy and complicated, but systems don’t lie to you. Understand how all the parts work, understand how all the parts interact, and you can construct a perfect model of the whole thing in your head. Of course it’s more complicated than that.


Lord Stanley's Cup

29 Dec 2017

Philip Pritchard writing for The Player’s Tribune

There are 49 Super Bowl trophies out there. There is only one Stanley Cup. You don’t win it. You borrow it. But your name is etched on it for all of history.


"It looks bad now, but you should have seen me earlier"

06 Aug 2017

David Hill for McSweeney’s:

Zugzwang is a term used in chess to refer to a position where every move you have is a bad one. Once you’re in zugzwang, things like having more pieces than your opponent doesn’t matter anymore. If you can’t use them to attack you may as well not have them at all. Often players who find themselves in zugzwang simply resign.

A growing number of people in America know what it feels like to be in zugzwang. For some of them their whole life has been one long zugzwang, they can’t remember ever having any good options.


Donald Trump Doesn't Hate Babies

07 Aug 2016

Trump doesn’t hate babies.1 Yet this week was dominated by stories about his open disdain for infants. This is a perfect example of the way that stories stick despite only being vaguely factual with the added difficulty for Trump being that his past unpredictability makes it easier to believe outrageous things about him.2

The Trump campaign doesn’t seem to understand why he keeps getting tagged by nonsense. Perhaps it is time that they brought in and had conversations with some actual political operatives.

Granted, it sure is a lot of fun to shout “I’m against the system!”, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have an easy time operating against it. Sanders’ campaign is the obvious recent example, but any anti-establishment candidate will inevitably run into difficulties that hamper success.

To run for president in the United States you need to be aware of the significance of the structures involved in the process. You don’t have to like it, but that’s the reality of contemporary politics. In Trump’s case, he needs the media to present him as a serious candidate with serious ideas.3 This is not an option. This isn’t the media’s “fault” though. There are no grand conspiracies here. Politics in a democracy is (and always has been) a popularity contest.

In a popularity contest, you need a method of engaging with those who are voting and few candidates have a microphone of their own sufficient to reach 315 million Americans. Trump certainly doesn’t. This mean that the media are the gatekeepers to voters. You don’t need them “on your side”, but you do need to know how to use them. For all Trump’s prior successes, he doesn’t appear to know how to use the media writ large. At least, not in a political environment. Even if his rhetoric is against the biased Media Party Elites, he still needs to work within that system. His team is failing him in that regard.

This, I would guess, is why Clinton isn’t doing press conferences. In a normal campaign, she’d be creating a dangerous vacuum, but Trump gives the media more than enough to keep them occupied – and voters (or readers, anyway) would much rather those stories. So speaking up, for Clinton, is all risk with little upside: stories about Trump’s missteps are easier wins than anything she could do.

In some ways, Clinton is running contrary to conventional wisdom: her campaign isn’t in control of the day to day messaging. That might be a problem in a normal election cycle, but when the message is this favorable to you, why would you try to change it? Clinton could very well win by Trump losing.

My guess: the first full week where Trump stays on message and avoids scandal and embarrassment is when Clinton does a full press conference. And I say this knowing full well that she took questions a couple days ago. That was a perfect example of an unforced error on the part of the Clinton campaign. Whether her answers (and the “kind of” press conference itself) is more interesting than whatever Trump says over the next few days, who knows. But it gave Trump an opportunity to let the message of the day be a negative one about Clinton. He should take it. He likely won’t.

And “he should, but won’t” is Trump’s campaign in a nutshell. There are times in the primaries where that attitude served him well, but a one on one campaign against Clinton is radically different than the free for all of the Republican primary process.

  1. At least not publicly. 

  2. If only someone had been able to identify and articulate that problem earlier on… 

  3. Or, I suppose, merely as he wants to be presented on the off chance that he has some strategy other than “seem like he would make for a good president”. 


The Power and The People

15 Jun 2016

George Kateb for The Utopian:

Morally speaking, democracy is an insufficient foundational value for a political system; democracy is not the sole value in political life. “The more democracy, the better” is not true – whether in political, social, or cultural life.


"A selfish vantage point"

14 Jun 2016

Chris Arnade for The Guardian:

In these last three years, out from behind my computers, I have been reminded that life is not rational and that everyone makes mistakes. Or, in Biblical terms, we are all sinners.

We are all sinners. On the streets the addicts, with their daily battles and proximity to death, have come to understand this viscerally. Many successful people don’t. Their sense of entitlement and emotional distance has numbed their understanding of our fallibility.


The Style Guide: On Canons [Episode 40]

13 Jun 2016

Some of my PhD work is on the nature of the political philosophy discipline and the canon that has been constructed around it. Having run into a bit of a wall, I was able to trick Dave into dedicating an entire episode that was aimed towards helping me climb that wall. Thanks Dave! PS: “I Will Never Speak To You Again. I Hate You.”