Ottawa Marathon 2017 Report: a Different, But AWESOME, Experience!

Hello again!

The 2017 Ottawa Marathon is now in the history books.  My experience this year was a bit different, on a number of fronts:

  • I was one year older.  As you get to a certain point on life’s timeline, you start to think more carefully about potentially health-altering choices.  Like running 42.2km in the heat.  But I decided to do it.
  • For the first time, I entered a race with injuries to worry about.  My right Achilles tendon and calf had been pretty sore for the months leading up to the race.  And my left hamstring, which I strained in the fall of 2015, reminded me regularly that it was there.  I wasn’t sure what, if any, effect this would have on my ability to run 42.2km at a pace of MY choosing.  Turns out, it had no effect at all.  Race-day adrenaline heals many ills.
  • Also for the first time, I was a member of Team Awesome – a group of passionate, enthusiastic and social runners who work with Race Weekend organizers to promote awareness of the event and (hopefully) increase registration numbers.  It was an absolute blast to be part of this great team, and I now have many new running friends scattered throughout Canada and in the USA … and one from Kenya!


Team Awesome 2017 Fun Shot - May 2017

Team Awesome 2017 – so privileged to be part of this group!

  • I had missed some training in the months leading up to the marathon.  In March, I got a very bad flu and couldn’t run (literally) for a couple of weeks.  You can see from my running distance chart below, the effect this had on my training volume:

Not hard to tell where the flu bug sidelined me …

But some things this year were very similar to Ottawa Race Weekends past:

  • The weekend was INCREDIBLY well organized, details well communicated and courses expertly marshalled … thanks to the organizers and thousands upon thousands of volunteers.
  • The course was beautiful.  And the fervent crowd carried us all to the finish.  Again.  Always.  Ottawans are SO lucky to live in this incredible city.


TORW Course

Seriously – can it GET better than this?!?

  • My fundraising went well – I have raised $2117 for the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health … $100 (exactly) over my $2017 fundraising target.  Thanks again to all of my supporters for your kind generosity (see my last post for more on this).  And a shout-out to my fundraising teammates Cathy Christenson and Melissa Bindner, for their work for the Royal as well!
  • Related to the Royal:  I ran in honour of a family friend, Helen O’Brien, who worked at the Royal for her entire career and who passed away from cancer last November.  Sadly, this is not the first race I’ve run in honour of an absent friend.
  • It was HOT.  Again.  My running friends refer to this phenomenon as “the Shouldice Curse” now, as if it’s a given.  As in:  if Shouldice is running a half or full, it’s going to be crazy-hot out.  A week prior to the race, they were predicting 16C and cloudy with showers.  We ended up with 25C and full sun.  The curse strikes again!  But the heat makes for better war stories after the race.
  • My finish time (4:00:12) was jussssst over the psychological barrier that I’d like to stay under (and have stayed under, in my two prior marathons:  3:51 and 3:59).  But I walked for several minutes with a friend who was in a world of hurt at the 33k mark, and so I’m happy with the result.  Sometimes it’s not about the destination, but rather the journey.

When I ran the Ottawa (2014) and Chicago (2015) marathons, I documented some of my memories and feelings of gratitude afterwards.  I do so again here; for whatever it’s worth, here goes … in more-or-less chronological order:

  • Bonnie & Reid:  thank you, again, for putting up with my running “habit” (and Reid, so glad you too have caught the bug!).  I know I was away – a lot – in the winter and spring, between my business trips and my inflexible running schedule.  Thank you for understanding how important it is to me, and indulging me without judgment.  And Reid – congrats on your 5k (19:57) and half (1:43) performances!
  • Team Awesome:  you are da BOMB.  What a great group of people.  I found it amazing that when we first met as a group, in person, on Friday night, it was like we had all known each other for years.  Such is the power of social media and the fellowship of the running community.  Thank you all for your camaraderie, and I truly hope to be part of it again next year!
  • Saturday/Sunday Run Club (Sandy, Cathy, Jane, Mel, Dennis, Brent):  you made many a cold, dark, miserable weekend morning bearable.  Just the thought of the post-run coffee/gab was enough to get me out of bed and onto the cold, snowy/slushy/icy streets.


Sunday Morning Run Club - Apr 2017

Saturday/Sunday Run Club.

  • Rick Hellard:  as always, Coach, thanks for the advice, when needed, to get me past the obstacles (both physical and mental).
  • Ottawa Race Weekend organizers & volunteers:  THANK YOU for everything.  From the privilege of being on Team Awesome, to the President’s Reception, to the VIP tent at the finish line, to the races themselves and everything around them, you hit it out of the park, again.  Ottawa is a mid-sized city, but it puts on a world-leading event.  There’s nothing like Ottawa.


  • Mother Nature:  you came at us hard in both 2016 and 2017, but we were victorious!!!  Next year, some cloud, maybe a breeze and some cooler temps would be nice.  You were kind to the spectators, though – so maybe I need to be thankful of that.
  • Spectators:  again, well done.  The crowd can be a bit sparse in the early going (let’s be honest:  7:00am is a bit of a tough time to be out on the streets if you’re not actually in the race), but was in full, rowdy force by the time I hit Wellington West (CRAZY!) and peaked in the last 4k (Colonel By, Pretoria, and Queen E) — providing me with energy that I desperately needed to get to the finish line.  In particular, a big thanks to:  my brother Lee (who woke up at 4am to go downtown with me, and saw me off at the start line); Peter & Helen Smith (at the start line and also on Sussex drive); Peter & Chris McDougall (whom I saw THREE times on course, Pete proudly waving the New Brunswick and Acadia flags); Andrew Codrington, Shari Orders & Lia Codrington (whom I saw in the Glebe); Rob Ferguson (whom I caught mid-yawn on Queen E just west of the Bank Street bridge); and my brother and sister-in-law, Tyler & Kim (on Scott Street, just west of Tunney’s Pasture).  Also a big thanks to the anonymous spectators who spurred me on to start running again toward the end, when I was starting to falter a bit.


  • The kid who handed me a freezie on Stanley Avenue:  dude, you are a life saver.  That said, I got a massive freezie headache post-consumption, and wasn’t thankful in that particular moment.
  • My godson, Derek Smith, who found me in the recovery area:  Derek is a triathlete who competes for Queen’s University (cha geill!).  Derek ran his first marathon that day, in 3:15.  Oy.  Derek, sorry I had to keep moving so abruptly, but I felt like I was going to pass out and had to find a bench in the shade (see next point).
  • The runner who asked me if I was OK after the race:  I was experiencing pretty intense tingling in my arms & legs, so knew I needed to sit down, quickly.  So I did.  The chap beside me checked in on me to make sure I was OK.  We chatted a bit (he was French and graciously put up with my attempt to speak the language) – turns out he ran his first marathon that day, a 3:45 in that heat.  Respect.
  • Power-bell guy, punch-the-cardboard-sign-for-beer-guy, the musicians, dancers, bell ringers, clacker whackers, drumming crews, Captain Canada, and every kid who high-fived runners:  thanks to all of you, for the welcome distractions.

I think that’s it, for this report.  Thanks again to all of you for the support and encouragement (enablement?) you provide to me and runners like me.  I’m not sure I’ll do another marathon after this one – I’m beginning to realize that my sweet spot is the half.  But one thing I’ve learned in this sport is never to say never.

Over & out,



Pre-Marathon Thank-Yous

Hi friends & followers,

We are only six days from the gun as I write this.  Per my last post, I’m well into the maranoia stage of race prep now, and checking the weather for May 28 about 14 times a day.  I’m also trying really hard to avoid people in general, and germs in particular.  But that comes with the territory.

I wanted to use my last pre-marathon post to thank the wonderful friends and family I have, for their support and generosity as I trained for the race and at the same time raised funds for a very worth cause, the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health.

First, some personal thank-yous:

  • Thanks to my “Sunday Run Club” friends, who have trained with me throughout the cold, dark and unforgiving Ottawa winter.  Running in the cold, dark and barren Ottawa winter is not something that comes easily or naturally.  In particular, thanks to Cathy Christenson and Melissa Bindner (who are my fundraising teammates on Tracy’s Trotters), as well as to Jane Spiteri and Dennis Jackson (who were always available to keep our spirits up and keep us grounded).  And Jane – thanks for hosting those Sunday bitchfests, after our long runs!  Also thanks to Brent Smyth – who, while not joining us on our long runs (as he is prepping for his first Ironman!), lent his support from the virtual sidelines with encouraging texts, Facebook posts etc.
  • Tracy & Sandy - May 13 2017

    Sandy and I on our last long run before Race Weekend 2017

    A special shout-out to my running twin, Sandy MacLeod.  Sandy is a fellow ginger, and someone who happens to be perfectly matched to me in terms of distance and pace.  We also share the same fave author/novel (John Irving/a Prayer for Owen Meany), and recently discovered that we have a mutual friend who lives in Toronto (life’s funny that way).  We’ve logged a lot of kilometres this winter … and in the summer and fall of 2016, as well (we both ran in the Scotiabank event last October).  Sandy:  thanks for the company, the conversation (read:  listening to me go on and on), and the post-run COFFEE.  (And one of these days, your dog is going to decide that I’m OK!).

  • Thanks to my running coach, Rick Hellard – I’ve known Rick for 6 years now, and he has coached me through numerous half- and full-marathon efforts.  I love Rick’s energy and no-BS approach to training (basically:  show up, do the work, no shortcuts, no excuses).  Rick kept me on plan (well, as best as can be when I travel every second week!) and was there whenever the injuries and doubts started to surface.
  • Finally, and most important:  a huge thank-you and I-love-you to my wife and son, Bonnie Peebles and Reid Shouldice.  Every week, I disappear for several hours to get my runs in.  And after my Sunday long run, I disappear again in the afternoon, for a nap.  You’ve not said much about all of this, but I know that sometimes it’s not ideal to have me absent (although often, it’s perhaps a godsend!).  You never heap on the guilt for my absences, or shut me up when I go on and on about long runs, intervals, splits, ignorant drivers/cyclists, weather, or my aches & pains (which have been on the increase this time around).  And I know you will be there for me next Sunday, both during and after the race (an aside:  Reid is running the half on Sunday – good luck, Reid!  At least this year you won’t be running it on a broken leg – true story).

Second, some thank-yous to my fundraising sponsors.  I set out with a lofty goal for this race.  Seeing it is Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, I decided to try to raise $2017 for the Royal.  But I didn’t have time to do any sort of event-based fundraising, so I needed this time to rely solely on friends, colleagues and family.  And did they ever come through:  as of the time of this post, I’ve raised $2104, exceeding my goal.

So thank you to the following amazing people … when I see this list, it’s an amazing testimonial to how fortunate I am:

  • Pete & Jill
  • Stephen & Tara
  • Bill & Kristy
  • Lee & Carol
  • Brent
  • Susan
  • Cathy
  • Gary
  • Lara
  • Chris
  • Rob
  • Sue
  • The gang from Forrester
  • Brooke
  • Tina
  • Joanne
  • Nat
  • Wendy
  • Carol
  • Marilyn
  • Stephanie
  • Jeanne
  • John

Each and every one of you will be on my mind on Sunday as I progress through the 42.2km course.  You will ESPECIALLY be on my mind as I hit the wall somewhere in the 35-37k zone, and undoubtedly ask myself, “why the f*** am I doing this?”  You – and the Royal – make it all worthwhile.  (BTW – it’s not too late if you are interesting in supporting the Royal – just click here to make a difference!).

Finally, a profound, life-long and heartfelt thank-you to Helen O’Brien (nee Murphy).  As some of you know, Helen was a very close family friend, like a second mother to me and my two brothers when we were young, and like a younger sister to my Mom and Dad (both of whom were only children).  Helen was always a presence in our lives (even when thousands of kilometres separated our families), and she devoted her entire career to the Royal.  Sadly, we lost Helen last fall to cancer.  I last visited with her early last summer, and while at the time she knew that her prognosis was not good, she was at peace with her fate and somehow still retained the genuine and positive energy that she always had when we saw her.  She had a couple of good visits with Reid, as well, which I am thankful for – spreading her energy to another generation of Shouldices.

Murfff – this one’s for you.



Taper Madness … and Survival Tips

OK – so as I write this I am 12 days from the 2017 Ottawa Marathon.  12 days!!!  It’s around this time that runners begin the taper (the process of reducing the volume and intensity of running before the race, so your body has a chance to heal and rest up).  During the taper, a strange existential condition that I call “maranoia” takes hold:


With the race on the distant horizon of my mind’s eye, my brain turns to clear, logical, and entirely rational thoughts such as:

  • Will I lose all my training/conditioning during the taper?
  • What if I get sick?  OMG, my son/wife/dog is sniffling – I’m next!
  • What if I get injured?  I could stub my toe on something, or fall down the stairs!  What if someone drops an anvil on me?
  • What’s the weather going to be like?  If it’s like last year, it’s going to be stupid-hot!  What if it rains?
  • What should I eat/drink?  Can I have a beer in the next two weeks?  Should I start loading up on the carbs now?
  • What if I can’t sleep the night before the race?  I can’t run a marathon when I’m already exhausted …
  • What should I wear on race day?
  • What about that nagging knee/back/hip/calf/quad/glute/IT band problem I’ve been having – how am I possibly going to finish the race with that?!?
  • Are my nipples going to withstand 42.2km of chafing?

If you are running a long race on May 28, like me, some of these questions may have already crossed your mind.  If you are a first-timer:  I may have infected you with my condition if you’ve read this far … in which case, apologies … and welcome to the club.

But there is good news.  I’ve run two marathons – both under less-than-ideal conditions – and more half-marathons than I can count.  And I’ve lived to tell the tale.  You will, too.

So for fellow sufferers of maranoia, and especially for the first-timers, here are some words of encouragement from someone who has been there & done that:

  • If you have trained faithfully and diligently, you will be OK with taking things easy during the taper.  It took you 16-18 weeks of training to get here – you won’t lose all of that overnight.  Your body will be there for you, when you need it.
  • You can do the run, even if sick.  For my first marathon in 2014, I was sick as a dog.  But I finished, on a hot day, 2 minutes faster than my goal time.
  • You can also do the run if you haven’t slept much or at all.  It’s not ideal, of course … but the adrenaline and energy of the crowd will make you forget the sleep thing.  In that same 2014 marathon, I slept less than 3 hours the night prior to the race, due to my cold.
  • Related to the above:  the adrenaline of race day – from the pre-race vibe, the runners in the corral with you, and the spectators – will give you free energy and speed!  I generally run 10-15s per km faster during a race, than I think I can sustain.  I don’t know why it works – it just does.

Hopefully the above points address any “what-if?” concerns you may have.  Here are some other taper and pre-race tips that you may find useful:

  • Weather:  as much as you’d like to, you cannot control this.  But you can prepare.  I recommend that between now and May 28 you force yourself to do a run in the heat – even if just a short run.  For Ottawa residents, that opportunity is coming this Wednesday and Thursday.  Get out there, sweat it up, and ensure you know what running at race pace in the heat and humidity feels like.  You’ll thank yourself on race day (Ottawa is rarely cool at the end of May!).  Ditto for rain – pick a rainy day and get out there for 30 minutes or more.
  • Diet:  you CAN control what you eat.  In the taper period, don’t eat anything radically new or different.  This is NOT the time to try that five-star-hot curry.  Or to up your intake of fatty foods or red meats.  Or indulge yourself with that really wicked, 100-proof bourbon.  Or to do that root-veggie juice cleanse you’ve heard about.  Nothing new or radical, people.
  • Hydration:  yes, of course … but in moderation.  Don’t start drinking 8L of water a day leading up to race day, if you’ve not been doing that all along.  Do whatever has worked during your training.  Perhaps up the intake a bit in the 2-3 days prior to the race, but don’t chug like a crazy person the day prior.
  • Salt:  this is actually quite important, if it’s hot on race day.  There is this little thing called hyponatremia, that can kill you.  This is when you are depleted in sodium (e.g., due to excessive sweating).  So if it’s unusually hot, be sure that either your sport drink has sodium in it, or that you are popping some salt pills along the way.
  • Fuel:  again, don’t do anything new here.  If you’ve been using gels, keep using them (and at about the same intervals as during your long runs); if you use chews/chomps, keep using them.  If you did not use fuel when training, race day is NOT the time to start.
  • Chafing:  wear BodyGlide or similar protection, in any area of your body where your clothing might create some chafing issues.  Men:  be kind to your nipples!  For both genders – think about the seams of your shorts or undergarments, where your socks may have rubbed in the past, etc.  If you have done your training, you already know all of these sensitive areas, so ’nuff said.
  • Lube, part II:  if volunteers on the course are holding out sticks with globs of transparent goop at the end – those are NOT popsicles!  That is Vaseline, meant to replace any BodyGlide (see above) that may have worn off if you are perspiring a lot, or if it’s raining.  My advice:  take it and use it – they are handing it out for good reason.
  • Clothing:  DON’T. WEAR. ANYTHING. NEW.  I saw a woman at a race once wearing a brand new pair of shoes – for a marathon – that she had purchased the day prior, because she liked the colour.  When I last saw her, she was hobbling and crying in those beautiful shoes.  Don’t be that person.
  • The night before:  Lay out all your stuff.  Everything.  Shirt, shorts, socks, shoes, bib & pins, Garmin/GPS watch, fuel belt, gels, water bottles, salt pills, hat, BodyGlide, sunscreen, sunglasses, shoes, phone & buds (if you run with those), pace band.  EVERYTHING.  Leave nothing to chance.  The morning of the race, you may not be able to think clearly.
  • Race-day breakfast:  the morning of the race, go with whatever you have consumed before your long runs … if you drank coffee all along, be sure to have one (and if you didn’t, don’t!); if you normally eat oatmeal before your long run, eat oatmeal.  Do not have fried eggs & bacon (“for the protein”) if you’ve not done this before.
  • Pre-race warm-up:  be sure to loosen up before the run.  Do dynamic stretches and an easy warm-up run.  Get your body ready, loosen those muscles & joints, and build up a light sweat.
  • Corral jitters:  hey, we all get them.  My thing to do is to chat up the people around you.  Find a friendly face and engage – learn their story and how they got there.  Or just look around and soak up the pre-race vibe!
  • The start:  if your finishing time matters, check your GPS constantly.  As in, every 15-30 seconds.  If you start too quickly out of the gate (and we’ve all done it), you will never get that energy back at the end of the race.  I cannot stress this enough.  “Plan the run, and run the plan.”
  • The journey:  try, if you can, not to obsess too much with your pace.  Look around you!  Soak up the energy of the crowd.  Enjoy the course and surroundings.  Look for friendly faces among the spectators.  High-five a kid.  Thank the on-course entertainers and volunteers handing out fuel, water and Vaseline.  Pump your arms to get the crowd going.
  • The slog:  no matter how much you’ve trained, the last 2-3km (of a half) or 5-10km (of a full) will be hard.  Your brain will try to convince your legs to stop.  Have a mantra that will keep you going when this happens.  My trick is to think about people who are not as fortunate as me and cannot run the distance – in my case, the people for whom I run to raise awareness/funds for charity.  It’ll keep you going.
  • The finish:  when you approach the finish line, be sure to stand up straight (shoulders square, chest expanded) and smile for the crowd and cameras.  This is YOUR moment – you earned it, so enjoy it!
  • Recovery:  be sure to rest & elevate those tired legs & feet post-race.  Ice anything that needs it.  Maybe enjoy an epsom-salt bath … and a nap afterwards.  And the food:  GO CRAZY, you’ve earned this!

I hope this is helpful for new or inexperienced distance runners.  You’ve got this!

I’ll write another post after the marathon, to capture my journey.  Let me know how yours goes, too.  GOOD LUCK!




Some REAL Facts …

Hi all,

It’s May 1 as I write this.  And that means that the Ottawa Marathon is less than four weeks away!  This is when the marathoner looks forward to the “taper” process, wherein we rest up before the big day (although why we look forward to tapering, I don’t know – marathoners get a bit antsy when we can’t run – and it drives those around us crazy).

Taper Time

Tapering – you’ve been warned.  And the bit about chocolate is especially true.

For me, it’s also time to put in a final appeal to drum up support for the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, the cause for which I’ll run the Ottawa Marathon on May 28.

Why support the Royal?  We live, sadly, in an age of “alternative facts.”  So to buck the trend, here are some REAL facts, provided to me by the Royal:

  • 1 in 3 Canadians will experience a mental health problem during their lifetime.
  • The physical, emotional and economic burden of mental illness and addictions amounts to more than 1.5 times that of all cancers, and more than 7 times that of all infectious diseases.
  • 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence. The earlier an issue is treated, the higher the chance of recovery.
  • In any given week, at least 500,000 Canadians are unable to work because of mental health problems.
  • The cost to the Ontario economy of mental illness and addictions is $51 billion, each year.  That’s BILLION, people.


Supporting the Royal addresses three important facets of addressing mental illness and addiction:

  1. The Royal funds critical research that transforms the understanding and treatment of mental health issues.
  2. It applies this research and understanding to clinical service, thereby helping those suffering from these issues (anxiety, depression, addiction, sleep issues, schizophrenia, etc.) to get better, more quickly.
  3. It performs a critical advocacy role, educating and informing the public about mental illness issues, toward the goal of ultimately banishing the related stigma.


Could you help the Royal out?  Every dollar matters, and your support is greatly appreciated.  To sponsor my marathon and support the Royal, click here.

Thank you for your time and support, as always!