Posts Tagged ‘Ottawa’

5 reasons to race the Canada Army Run

army run race bib and dog tagsThe Canada Army run is a popular fall half marathon in Ottawa. In this post I’ll share what to expect if you decide to run. The race weekend includes a the half marathon a 10 km, a 5 km, and some combination races.

FYI – I should warn you that the Army run is my favorite half marathon 🙂 so this race report will be a tad biased.

1. The spirit

100154_logoThe tag line sums it up nicely: “No Ordinary race”

As you might guess from the name, the Army Run celebrates those who serve or who have served. There is an ill, injured soldiers and athletes with disabilities category who start their races 5 minutes before the rest of the corrals. You may pass soldiers completing the race in full gear with backpacks. You might pass someone wearing a shirt that says “I am running in memory of Corporal Martin LeClair”. One year, I passed a soldier who was dragging a tire behind him the entire race. Another year, I caught up to Chris Koch, an ambassador for the war amps program just before the finish. Chris has no arms or legs (he uses a longboard to race). This year, at mile 11 there was a half mile of signs in remembrance of individuals who died in service to their country on either side of the route.

DisabledstartSo when you reach that point in the race where you would usually think to yourself, “wow, I am tired! my legs hurt! I don’t know if I can keep this up” you have reminders of how fortunate you are to be running a half marathon with nothing more than a cramp or a tight IT Band! This is a time to be thankful that you have the health and strength to run a half marathon and take strength from those who have sacrificed so much for all of us.  There are many personal stories and victories at the Army run.

ArmyRunDogTagsWhen you finish the race you are reminded once again this is no ordinary race as you are handed not medals, but dog tags by the volunteers, cadets, and soldiers. The Army run has raised 2.6 million dollars for Soldier on and Support Our Troops since 2008.

2. The half marathon is THE big race

Before I started running marathons, if I ran at a big event weekend such as Ottawa race weekend. When asked which race I was running I answered “just the half”.  Now let’s be clear. There is no reason to use the word “just” when describing a half marathon! It is no small achievement to run for 13.1 miles. But regardless I still felt like I needed to add it because others were running the full marathon distance.

On Army Run weekend they have a 5km, 10 km race and a half marathon. The half marathon is the longest race! so, when someone asks what distance you are running and you answer “the half” it feels like you get a small nod of respect because you are doing the ‘toughest’ distance.

Because the half is also the longest distance the crowd support is also strongest for the half. You won’t have crowds along the entire route, there are some quiet stretches, but there are enough people along the route with signs, costumes, cheer stations and bands to make it feel like a big race.

Quick sidenote: I don’t want to take anything away from those who are running the 5 km or the 10 km distances, I applaud everyone who gets off their couch to race, volunteer, or cheer at any race!

3. The sights along the route

Let’s be clear not every moment of the Army Run is stunning scenery, but it is a remarkably good tour of the region. (Thank you for the photo James Peltzer!)

OttawaCanal

  •  Parliament Hill –wave to the Prime minister unless he is racing again.
  • Along the Ottawa River out and back and past the Canadian war museum (the windows spell a message in morse code)
  • Cross the Ottawa river on a rather ugly (but flat!) bridge. Then a few stretches along side streets until you pass the Canadian history museum . The museum is designed by Native-american architect Douglas Cardinal and the architecture around the public entrance looks like a face.
  • Cross the Alexandra bridge which has an annoying hill at the start the start but a beautiful view of the Ottawa river and the back of parliament hill (also a beautiful view of the back of the Canadian History Museum if you look back, but I never think to look behind me to check out a view when I am in a race).
  • Right after the bridge is another short but nasty hill, but you will be re-energized by a good cheering section right after that hill. Then a stretch along the streets and then you run across the grounds of the Governor General’s residence, Rideau Hall complete with the guards at the gate cheering you as you go by.
  • Back into downtown and finish with a run along the (nice and flat) Unesco World Heritage Site Rideau canal to the finish line.

4. The race has two official languages

potatoYes, you get to hear people cheering you in English and French since when you cross the bridge at the War Museum you will find yourself in Gatineau, Quebec until you cross back over to Ontario on the Alexandra bridge.

So listen carefully as the cries chagne from “Great job” “You can do it” to  “Lâche pas!”

If you are curious “Lâche pas!” means “Don’t give up!”

This year I heard “Lâche pas la patate!” which confused me, because the direct translation of that phrase is “Don’t let go of the potato!” Curious, I looked it up when  got home, and apparently that expression is just a more emphatic way to say “Hang on, you’ve got this, don’t give up!” and originates from roasting potatoes over a hot fire, when you grabbed the hot potato you had to ‘hold on to the potato’ even though it was hot and burning your hand and not drop it on the ground.

5. The race gear & photos

20180924_074950Let’s be clear, sometimes it’s all about the shirt and historically this race has done a nice job designing the shirts. My biggest complaint for years was the fact the half marathon shirts were always green and the 5 km race alwasy got red shirts. I wanted a red shirt, but I was too stubborn to run the 5 km instead of the half. When they added the commanders challenge (run the 5 km and the half marathon), I registered and ran it jsut so I could get both shirts :). This year I was pleasantly surprised because the half marathon shirt was red! This year was also the first year we got short sleeved shirts. Since I have run the race on multiple occasions, I was quite happy to get a t-shirt for a change since I have a drawerful of long sleeved Green half marathon shirts from past years. This year they also included a headband and a drawstring bag with similar designs to the t-shirt.

In 2018 Zoom Photo took the race pictures. Digital downloads of your photos are included free with registration! it’s so nice to be able to download pictures and even my finish video from the race without paying $70! It’s quite brilliant actually. The free download includes a watermark from the race at the bottom of the photo. So you are  basically advertising for the race when you share it online.  If you want a digital download without the watermark it’s $2.50 🙂 but personally I kind of like having the watermark so I can remember which photo goes with which race.SusanRacingArmy

 

A few additional facts and stats

A few facts about the race

Race Size

  • 4,500 runners in the half marathon
  • 5,000 runners in the 10 km
  • 10,000 runners in the 5 km

Weather

The Army run is in early fall. The average high this time of year is around 19 C. But of course on a given day it can vary quite a bit. In 2018 we had almost perfect running conditions, about 5 C at the start and sunny. In 2017 it reached 28 degrees, and felt more like 34 C with humidity. Another year it poured rain. You just can’t predict the weather in this area.

How the race started

The idea for Canada Army Run was sparked at the 2006 U.S. Army Ten-Miler in Washington D.C. when Lieutenant-General Beare (now retired, but then in the third highest ranked position in the Canadian Army) crossed the finish line. He turned to his Director of Army Training, Colonel Dean Milner (now a Major-General) and asked “Why aren’t we doing this in Canada?” The Colonel replied, “Sir, you’re the general. You tell me!”

Race options (as of 2018)

  • 5 km
  • 10 km
  • Half marathon
  • Ortona Challenge 5 km + 10 km
  • Commanders challenge 5km + 21 km

Course Map

ArmyRouteMap

Hills

I can’t find a good elevation profile of the race, and my Strava elevation profile of the race has a lot of odd spikes and drops so is misleading. Army run includes a number of rolling hills. It is not flat. The first out and back stretch has one pretty good hill, and you get to go up and down that hill in both directions. The stretch in Quebec includes a couple of steep but short hills. The out and back to the governor generals residence is light rolling hills. The final out and back along the canal is flat.  According to my Strava, the total elevation gain is 232 meters.  So it’s not a flat course, but if the weather co-operates it is quite possible to set a Personal Best on the course.

If you enjoyed this post, you can find more of my running related posts.

 

 

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Mud Hero (Ottawa) race report

100207-4e5a19-1002625903Mud races or Obstacle course races can be fun! In this post I’ll review the Mud Hero in Ottawa so you have an idea what to expect if you decide to try it.

I’ve run 4 different Mud race/obstacle course type races: Warrior Dash (San Diego), Prison Break (Ottawa), Tough Guy Gal (Rotorua, NZ), and now Mud Hero (Ottawa). Be forewarned, yes, I am one of those runners who thinks this sort of thing is a lot of fun.

I did the Mud Hero ultra 10km , which is the same as the 6 km race but with extra trails and obstacles. There is also a kids race for the smaller tykes. My race day was perfect weather: cool, dry and sunny!

Mud meter 5/5

In some obstacle course races it is possible to do the race and come out with nothing more than muddy feet and legs. The Mud Hero race is well named, if you are not comfortable swimming through muddy water I would sugSusanInMudgest you find a different race (or plan on skipping a few obstacles). There was one obstacle where you walk through a pool of muddy and somewhat smelly water which was around 6 foot deep. I had to swim. In addition the final obstacle this year was a second mud pit that was so thick at the bottom, wading did not work. You basically had to swim in the 2 or so feet of water above the sludge.  If you do all the obstacles, there is zero risk of coming out with a clean shirt.

Level of difficulty – Footing 4/5

I ran this race in running shoes not trail shoes. If I wanted to be more competitive in the race I would definitely wear trail shoes next year for better traction in the muddier sections.  If you are just out for fun, you can absolutely complete the course in regular running shoes, just take your time on the more slippery bits

207635_10150150457676583_1064723_nThe trail sections are uneven with an assortment of logs and roots. The weather was sunny and dry but there were sections of the path that were extremely muddy and boggy. Some sections were extremely slippery mud, others were the  suck you in kind of mud that threatens to pull your shoe right off your foot. Pull those laces tight and use a double knot! Ask my friend Christopher about the dangers of elastic bungee laces and mud races, those are his feet in the photo to the right :)) Obviously it would have been muddier if it had been raining, and the mud gets worse with each wave. So for the best footing, enter an early wave, and stick to the sides of the trail.

Level of difficulty – Hills 1/5

Many obstacle course races are up and down ski hills. This course is basically flat. There were a couple of very short uphills that were basically meant as natural obstacles to clamber up.

Appeal for different levels of ability 5/5

This is the first obstacle course I have run where there were different levels of difficulty for certain obstacles. Mission Swing Impossible had a hard and easy lane (which I appreciated because monkey bar/rings is one of the few obstacles that I still struggle with). Avalanche (the ramp) had an easy lane with ropes to help get you to the top. Walls to clamber over were available in different heights. If all else fails, you can simply skip any obstacles you don’t want to do without any sort of time penalty or burpees.

Appeal to the competitive spirit 4/5

If you are a competitive racer, then the first thing you usually want to know is can Mud Hero be used to qualify for the World Obstacle Racing Championships. The answer is Yes. If you are curious to learn more, check out the OCR World Championships Qualification requirements for Mud Hero and other Obstacle course races. If you want to qualify for OCRWC you must complete all the obstacles. There are volunteers at the obstacles who track the bib numbers of those who do not complete obstacles.

The waves are timed, so age group and overall results are all posted and available, but since there is no time penalty or burpee penalty for skipping obstacles it would be very tricky to do any sort of prizes or awards fairly. This race is meant to be primarily for fun. So there are no award ceremonies or prizes. Just bragging rights!

Photos 5/5

I rate the photos 5/5 for a few reasons

  1. You can search by wave or bib number searching by wave is often necessary since your bib number is likely to be somewhat obscured by the end of the race!
  2. You can search for other photos that match your face That’s how I found that lovely photo of me swimming through the mud. (Nicely done Zoom Photo!)
  3. They are free! How awesome is it to NOT be asked to pay for your race photos!  I am sure my race registration fee was higher as a result, but personally I prefer paying a little more to register and having the option to download any pictures I want from the race.  Especially on something like a mud run, many people run these races with friends or family and the photos become a wonderful and sometimes treasured (Terri , thinking of you and your dad!) souvenir of a shared experience.

Don’t miss the Mud Hero meter photo opportunity right after you finish the race 🙂 I totally messed up by not stopping there for what clearly would have been my new Facebook profile pic!

Swag 4/5

Swag was pretty typical for one of these races, t-shirt, medal and a beer 🙂 They do sell t-shirts and sweatshirts and towels (that’s smart!) on site as well.

Energy level/Party atmosphere

They had DJs,  music, BBQ and beer. 5000 runners came through on Saturday.

I don’t feel I can evaluate the energy level/party atmosphere of the race out of 5, because I ran the 8:30 AM race on Sunday, which was probably the quietest time of the entire weekend and I left shortly after finishing.  All the serious runners do the first wave to avoid lines at the obstacles.

Cleaning up post-race

There are showers to clean up, and change tents for the ladies and gentlemen, but one thing I did not expect, was the $5 fee to check a bag.  It’s for charity, but I would have preferred they just include a  couple of $ in my race fee for the charity and not charge me to check my bag. You are not allowed to use the pond to clean off your mud (and there are snapping turtles in there, not the best place to go wading around!)

I am deliberately not rating the clean up post-race out of 5 because I ran the first wave Sunday, and I was in the first 50 or so finishers. So I had no trouble getting to the showers and there were only 3 of us in the ladies change tent by the time I got there. There may have been line ups for the showers later in the day and the change tents may have been quite crowded, I do not know.

How did my race go?

20180603_094027Well if you are curious. I entered the 10 km ultra 8:30 AM wave Sunday, since my friend Randy was already registered for that wave. Serious OCR (Obstacle Course Race) racers enter the first wave to avoid lines at the obstacles, and yes there is such a thing as a serious OCR racer! There are even classes you can take to get better at OCR. Randy competed at world OCR championships last year. There were clearly a number of runners in that first wave who were taking the race pretty seriously, but still lots of people just doing it for fun as well!

I lined up just in the corral just behind the serious racers. I haven’t run an OCR in 5 years or so, but I’m a reasonably fast runner and I don’t completely suck on obstacles. When we started I found myself passing a fair number of runners because the first few km has a lot of running and not many obstacles. I passed a guy in a red shirt in the woods and said “you’ll probably pass me on the obstacles” sure enough, next obstacle he passed me and called out “I am sure you will pass me again shortly kiddo”. Woo hoo I look young enough to be called kiddo! FYI I never caught him 🙂

In general, I passed and caught up to people when running. I gained a little ground on the obstacles where you had to pull or carry a weight.  I generally lost a little ground on the climbing obstacles. I also lost time on a couple of obstacles where I arrived and there was no-one else around and I wasn’t sure what to do. I guess the advantage of the early wave is no lines at the obstacles, but the disadvantage is you don’t always have someone to watch in front of you to show you what to do. Not every obstacle had a volunteer.

There was a girl right behind me for the first few kms, I could hear her breathing. When we hit the slippery slope (a wall climb in the water). Neither of us could get over it, so we worked together, I gave her a shove to get her over the top and she reached over to try and pull me up.  Unfortunately that was not enough, GettingHelpso I had to call over some guys to give me an extra boost to get me up and over. That is one of the good things about these races, if you are stuck and ask for help, chances are another runner will give you a hand, even in the more competitive waves. Memories of the Tough Guy Gal race in New Zealand where I reached this wall of clay at the end of a pond, there was nothing to grab onto,  I thought to myself how on earth do I climb this? At that moment some strangers pushed my butt and up and over I went! I guess that answered my question… Thank you strangers! If you are a little sensitive about someone sticking their hands on your butt, you can always turn around and request they push you from your feet or sometimes someone can pull you up from the top, but it is much easier to push someone up than pull someone up.

The lack of trail shoes wasn’t a problem until the muddy stretch of trail after the deepest mud pit. A dozen runners must have passed me on that stretch as I focused entirely on staying upright.

There was one tunnel crawl that was hard on the knees, should have worn running tights apparently. But in the end only 2 small scrapes on the knees. Nothing that needed more than anti-biotic cream and a band aid.

The giant slide was a little steeper and faster than I expected, but still great fun. I was more than a little surprised when the event photographer said “Hey Susan is that you?” to the mud covered racer100207-865059-1002625889 wading through the waist deep water after the slide. I wasn’t even wearing a K2J shirt (K2J is my running club and we usually wear club shirts for races, but I wasn’t going to sacrifice my K2J shirt to the mud) Always great to see Joe from Zoom Photo! That made me smile!

It’s a shame the final obstacle is that swim over the sludge because it wasn’t a very fun way to finish.  I think it would have been better to finish with the giant slide splashing into the water! But, I won my age group and was quite happy with my race. Randy won his age group and finished 3rd overall securing him a pro spot at this year’s world OCR championship. My last race was a disappointing marathon, this was just what I needed to remind myself to get out there and have fun running again! Thank you Randy, for that 34417980_10156499856433054_5908170743388045312_olittle nudge to get me out there!

Here the rest of my running related posts and race reports.