There is something so special about international races. Perhaps it’s because I’m out of my element, or because some of the street signs are in a foreign language. It’s just far enough away from home to make it feel special again.
This race took me to…Canada!
The journey to Canada took about six hours from Denver. I flew into Ottawa because it was significantly cheaper (by about $150 USD!). From there, I ventured on a little road trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls, and then headed back towards Montreal. I somehow managed to dodge two tornadoes in Ottawa on my trip.
While driving towards Niagara Falls, we stopped off at a running store called The Running Room (a popular chain) in Mississauga. There, I learned that there was a race at Niagara Falls. The summer race includes a 5K, 10K, half, full, 50K, and 100K. They are all non-trail races! The fall race includes a 5K, 10K, half, and full. The full marathon go over the international border, which is really neat. It looks like I have another bucket list race to add to my list.
After enjoying an afternoon on a boat riding through the mist of the falls, my shoes got completely soaked! I usually don’t vacation in my running shoes, but they were just sooooo comfortable. I also usually pack two pairs of running shoes, but I had to jet to Seattle afterwards, so I had very little space. My shoes situation was dire. I spent the evening munching on some Pizza Pizza (…I think) and using a blow dryer to dry some things up. Usually I would use newspaper but I did not have any. My Airbnb host did have a hair dryer laying around so I used that instead. Plus, I needed my shoes in the morning to keep my run streak going.
After a significant amount of driving — I’m talking about 6 hours or so — I finally made it to Montreal. Traffic is suddenly snarled and people are suddenly very rude, compared to all of the other places in Canada I’ve traveled to. Quite bizarre, how things change so quickly! I made it to the expo with just a few hours to spare.
Some signs are in French and I had no clue what they said. My friend translated some of them but I don’t remember what they said anymore!
My Airbnb was only a block away from the start line, which was fantastic for race morning! My friend was doing his very first half marathon, so we needed all the sleep we could get.
As usual, I prepped all of my clothes the night before. I always want to make sure that I anticipate all of my needs ahead of time. Since this is also an international race, I made sure to pack all of my nutrition (Honey Stinger) and hydration (nuun) needs since things can be fairly unpredictable while traveling.
I don’t run with my Camelbak unless it’s a full marathon (or the half marathon on the Great Wall I guess!). I wore my compression socks since running with my friend was going to be unpredictable. (I wasn’t sure what his pacing strategy was going to be.) I also decided to bring a little bit of home with me, so I opted for the Rock n Roll Denver shirt from a few years ago. I hadn’t used the green sparkle skirt in awhile so I chose that one, and there we go! I grabbed some Honey Stinger gels and chews to squeeze into my Nathan running water bottle. And voila…running outfit complete!
I had an early wake-up, even though I was close by the start line. My body had to account for the time zone change, so getting up allowed my body to settle in to the weather and light differences. I had a Honey Stinger waffle for breakfast. It’s light enough so that it doesn’t upset my stomach when I run, and filling enough so that I don’t rumble for more food an hour later. It is also insanely tasty! If they were cheap, they would be so dangerous!
So I headed over to the start line. The corrals stretched on, as they usually do. The Airbnb was right outside of Chinatown. Here, you can see the gates! You can also see how my mist-poncho fits right in to the brilliant color scheme. This fashionable poncho also kept me very warm. The season seemed to switch very abruptly for me. I came from Colorado, which was having a pretty extreme heat wave — 90s weather for about three weeks straight — to autumn, which was cool and crisp.
There was a lot of excitement and music at the start line. It was nice to see that they even had fireworks! They don’t always bring out fireworks for the domestic races…I’ve really only seen them at Rock n Roll Las Vegas, so this was a really nice touch. The music was fun and upbeat, which was nice since the start was downtown. Once the race was underway, it took about a half hour to get the corrals through.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous for the race. The air was crisp and cool. As you can see by my pictures, the air was partly cloudy. Since I was with my friend, we were walk/running the race. Right towards the end it began to get warm, since we were on the course for awhile. However, if people were zooming through the course, there was no reason why the weather couldn’t be absolutely perfect for them. This should have been a completely different picture than last year’s race, where black flag conditions pretty much shut down the course. The weather wasn’t particularly humid either. The weather really was perfect for a half marathon!
As for on-course nutrition and hydration, I would say that for back-of-packers, there were plenty of water, Gatorade, and gel left for everyone. I did see a few water tables being packed up early, which was disheartening since there were still people well behind me. I brought my own nutrition and hydration and would fill up water, but for the most part, people who are used to the setups in the US-based races should have no problem with the Montreal race. Rock n Roll did make some changes to the race map on their website and in the app, and it made it very difficult to figure out when the next aid, nutrition, water, or Gatorade station would be. It would be nice to at least have that information available again on the course maps, rather than just the lined maps of the route. Those are significantly less helpful!
Towards the end of the race, I ended up walking with another person who was struggling for a bit. My friend was well on his way to finishing his first half marathon. This other person seemed to be wobbling in the middle of the street, so I jogged over his way and stuck with him for a few miles until the end of the race. I’ve done enough of these races where it’s not always about making it under a certain time. It’s usually about meeting and helping people along the way. Races are hard enough! They are easier with good company.
Along the way, I missed the name of this coffee shop. I hope to one day return and buy a cup of coffee…and maybe ride my bike around the river. It looked really pretty out there.
Another highlight of my day was meeting Captaine Quebec! Apparently we have a hero of the same variety, just on the other coast who speaks two languages instead of one. How worldly!
I also found a ginormous chair, which was great for my tired feet. However, all I did was stand in front of it, rather than sitting in it. Maybe these chairs and I will cross paths again…
Overall, I was really happy with this race and course. It wasn’t overly crowded, and was fairly well supported all the way in the back. If I had the means, I would definitely come back and do this race! I would love to do the full marathon one day, but only if I could get my time down under the 6 hour mark. Maybe with some solid training and nutrition that would be possible!