It seems like I’ve been planning to run this race forever. I signed up to run RnR Montreal as my 32th Half Marathon for several reasons:
- I am a (first time) Rock n Blogger.
- I enjoyed my RnR race experience in Vegas.
- I love Montreal but haven’t been there in ages.
- I wanted to run an International race.
- I convinced some of my local runner friends to join me.
- I was hoping the hot weather would be over by this time of year.
I apologize in advance that this post will be long. You may want to skip ahead to see what I liked and disliked about the race itself.
Half Marathon Training:
If you follow my posts, you also know that I am not strict about following a training plan. I ran my last half marathon on May 18 in Brooklyn and since then I have completed easy weekday runs and longish runs on most weekends. I was so happy that only one of my long runs was done alone. That one was the worst one, of course.
Though I don’t usually care much about my short runs, I do like to get in a 10, 11 and 12 miler before each half marathon.
I skipped my 10 mile long run entirely the weekend that I was in NYC with my Russian friend Anna. I normally add extra miles to my weekend 5k races. But this summer, I skipped all my 5ks in favor of my long runs with friends.
I didn’t expect to run this half marathon at a PR pace. I was running it purely for the experience. But I hoped with the long runs done, the 13 miles would be easier and I would enjoy the race more.
However, we all know that anything can happen on race day and the weather and the course have so much impact on your results.
Pre-Race Activities and Preparations:
On Friday, I drove to Montreal with Jeri, Heidi & Sherry (Jeri graciously agreed to drive.) Our two other friends, Chris & her hubby Mike would be arriving the next day. After a rainy drive which took longer than expected due to some wrong turns and construction (like 5 hours instead of 3), we arrived at our hotel pleasantly surprised at how nice it was (our last race-cation hotel was not LOL). We even got adjoining rooms.
Though we were hungry, we instead headed straight to the expo. Even with a map and directions, we still went in the wrong direction but eventually found it. This was a prelude to the whole race experience. No signs, everything hard to find, no one seemed to know about anything related to the “big” race. We picked up our bibs and although the lines were not long, some runners were picking up so many bibs that it took forever. Eventually we realized that you could just go on any line even though they were marked according to bib number.
The swag bag was empty except for a note telling you to buy your subway tickets to get to the race before race day. Apparently this was the first year that they didn’t give you a free subway ticket.
We wandered around the expo for a while. It was very disappointing. Just a few vendors and expensive Brooks race-related items. The only thing we scored was a Larabar, some yogurt and a sample piece of a Kind bar.
Since it was too late to have lunch, we went back to hotel to drop off our stuff and change for dinner. We walked to the Old City and had a delicious dinner (at Jardin Nelson) before it started to pour and necessitated an Uber ride back to our hotel.
The next day was my 5K race and Jeri’s 10K. (I recapped it here.) After the race, we headed back to the Old City for lunch. (Runners think about food all the time, right?)
and then walked around the Port area and eventually back to our hotel. So much for resting the legs. But it was a beautiful day in a beautiful city.
We finally met up with Chris and her hubby for dinner. Pizza, of course, to carb load for our big race! And then we walked back to our hotel discussing where to meet before the race. (The hotel lobby was the chosen spot.)
As I was setting out my clothes for the next day, I realized my strips of mole skin (that I use to prevent blisters on my feet) were missing (Jeri & both saw them on the desk). I looked everywhere and we concluded that the maid must have stolen them (lol) so we searched out a drug store and I found what I needed (plus a scissor to cut them.) $20 CAD later, I was a Happy (yet poorer) Camper.
Alarm set for 5:30 am. After much debate, we decided to leave for the race at 6:30 am. (It started at 7:30 am.) I had originally picked our hotel because it was close to the subway. The race used to start on the Jacques Cartier bridge but this year, they changed the course. It now started 3 minutes from our hotel!! Score!
I brought my usual race breakfast of oatmeal and coffee with me and ate in the hotel room.
My original race outfit was going to be a tank and skirt. But with each weather forecast predicting colder and colder temps, I kept changing my mind.
We walked to the start but we were so early and COLD that we returned to the hotel lobby to hang out for awhile. We tried to plan where to meet up after the race. Texting is problematic in a foreign country. The race advertised that there was a family meet-up spot by the first initial of the runner’s last name. We had decided on the letter S (for Sole Sisters, our group name.) But there was no sign of such an area during the 5k and 10k so we ditched that plan (Good thing!) and picked an intersection not too far from the finish line.
It seemed to be getting warmer so I ditched my foil blanket. Eventually we all headed to the start line. You were supposedly given corral assignments by estimated finish time. Sherry put 2:20 and was in Corral 8, Heidi put 3:30 and was in Corral 9 and I put 2:06 and was in Corral 10. Go figure. We can add that to my long list of complaints. There were pacers (with rabbit ears) but they seemed to be in the wrong corrals as well (2:30 was ahead of 2:15??) We wanted to start together but they were strict and I had to go back to Corral 10 (The last Corral, I believe).
It turned out fine. I befriended a fellow former French teacher who went to the same college as I did and graduated with a friend of mine. They were even in the same sorority.
As I waited, I shed my long sleeved cotton shirt but kept on my gloves and arm warmers.
Each corral started with fireworks and after about 30 minutes, my Corral finally crossed the start line.
What was my plan for the race, you ask?
I enjoyed running the 5k without any pressure that I hoped to do the same in the half. I wanted to run easy and take in the scenery. I had heard that the old course had hills but no one seemed to know what the new course was like.
I had HIGH expectations of a scenic course and lots of music to distract me from looking at my watch.
Anyway, here’s how the race went. My Garmin has the splits in miles. Being in Canada, the signs, however, were only in Kilometers.
Here is the course map:
And the elevation chart:
10:04, 9:33, 9:42
A very crowded start so there was a lot of weaving going on. We started near ChinaTown and made quite a few turns on the way to the Port area. I tried to take it slow and of course, cut all the tangents. The water stops were frequent enough…at least every 2 miles. I stopped at each one even though I gagged the first time I tried to drink the water (Ebola??)
We eventually ran over a short bridge and ran along the water.
9:49, 10:12, 9:52
This part of the course was an out and back so you got to see the faster runners heading back into the city. The route was lined with factories and very UGLY and BORING.
I continued drinking the disgusting water (what choice did I have?) and finally ate a GU around mile 5. The music was sporadic … just some speakers at a few turns. Maybe a band or so on the whole course!!
9:47, 10:05, 9:43
We headed back on this ugly route but the highlight was seeing my friends running in the opposite direction. When I saw Heidi & Mike (who had decided to walk the whole choice), I ran over and high fived them.
The legs were feeling fine. The course was flat for the most part. My feet hurt as usual (but that started at mile 1) and my lower back was achy too. Nothing to prevent me from running well.
10:03, 10:21, 10:18
I eventually took my second GU but I ran past the water and there was only Gatorade. I hate Gatorade so I saw a guy with two cups of water so I boldly begged for one of his cups. He graciously gave one to me.
Finally we headed back into the city. I was hoping that we would run through St Catherine Street which was so pretty (pink balls hung across the street) but we did not.
The full marathon did continue toward the park (as the half did last year) and the botanical gardens. It would have been nice to run by the prettier parts of Montreal.
Mile 13- 13.25
I was told (afterward) that the last water stop (1Km from the finish) has banana halfs. I just wanted to be done so this was the only water stop that I skipped. Why would you want a banana before crossing the finish line??
I walked for the first time other than a water stop. I needed energy to sprint across the finish line. As in the 5k, I could not find the time on the finish line arch (too high…too small.. don’t know where it was).
Anyway, I dragged myself through the finish chute and eventually was given my metal.
And finally found a half a cup of water. What seemed like after miles of walking, I entered the Finisher Only Area. It was huge. I tried to find something to eat but all I could find was a long line to get a cup of yogurt. There were lots of vendors but NO FOOD!
So I went in search of my Re-Mix medal for running two races. None of the volunteers were any help but I finally found it on the opposite side of the area.
As I was leaving, I saw a booth with tea samples. They told me that it was contribution only (Who carries money to a race!?) But I did score a Kind bar and another flower!!
Getting out of that area was very complicated. But I needed to find my friends and I wanted to watch my walker friends cross the finish line.
I finally found Sherry (who had finished a little after me) and Jeri (who had run the 10k the day before) was not in our meeting spot but on the other side of the street. Of course, they would not let Sherry & I cross the street (during the race) so we were told to go through the shopping mall. That was a mistake. That was where thousands of angry runners were on line to get their bags. (I read on FB that it some runners hours to get their bags.)
Well, I didn’t have to get my bag because Jeri was holding our sweatshirts. I was very cold so we needed to get to her. Then we got a text from Chris who was hurting and sitting behind the stage outside the finisher area. Off we went in search of her.
To make a very long story shorter, we found Chris and wandered through the finisher area. I did see on the big screen on the far side of where we were, that an older runner was getting an award. I joked about whether or not I won one but I was too tired to go see.
Eventually we got to a spot to wait for Heidi and Mike and not a second too soon. There they were! They made the cut off walking. We were all so happy.
We texted them to meet us at the hotel. The first thing they said to me was that they heard my name and that they thought I won an award. I laughed and said I hope it wasn’t money cuz I am NOT walking back there to get it.
It looks like it was a glass model of a guitar. It would be nice if they mailed it to me. I’m not holding my breath.
Additional Race Reflections:
I don’t regret running this race. I would only regret a race if I ran it injured and made my injury worse. I love racing and especially racing with friends. I believe that for every race, you should always focus on the positives.
- Perfect weather.
- Hotel located near the start and finish line
- Montreal is a beautiful city to visit before & after the race. (Wish I had more time to see more of it.)
- Great food – again before and after the race in the local restaurants.
- The course was pretty flat.
- Many water stops (if you could drink it).
- Some freebies at the end – flower, yogurt, kind bar and socks (if you waited in a LONG line)
- Bag check (if you have hours to wait on line)
- Nice awards (if you got one.)
- There was only one sign advertising the race that we saw throughout the city.
- No one seemed to support the race or know it was happening. Not even the hotel or the restaurants.
- Disappointing expo. They only had paper maps of the 5k and 10k and very few vendors.
- Don’t advertise a family meet-up location if there isn’t one.
- Corrals were supposed to be set up by estimated finish time and were NOT. Pacers were not reliable for this reason as well.
- Not enough music on the course – maybe 3 bands and some recorded music at stops. No rock n roll!!
- Most of the course was boring…the longest part of the race was along a dilapidated factory area.
- The water was almost undrinkable – metal tasting, it made you gag.
- The only fruit was a half a banana 1 km before the finish line (and I missed it).
- The bag check was utter chaos. A long line in a shopping mall with runners eventually just grabbing their bags. I heard it took 1-2 hours to retrieve your bag.
- Finish line timer very small and hard to see. I missed it in both of my races.
- No timers at all on the course.
- A water spray to cool you off on the course – it was 50 degrees!!
- No bottled water for finishers. You walked forever to find a half cup of water.
- The volunteers were not helpful. They did not seem to know much. It took me forever to find my guitar medal.
- Post race food. What food? A kind bar, some juice samples and a long line to get a cup of yogurt.
- The course measured 13.3 and I cut all the tangents.
- No foil blankets. It was quite chilly.
- Mediocre medal. Montreal has some beautiful sites! The other RnR medals are awesome.
FB has hundreds of comments about this RnR race and almost all were negative.
Would I recommend this race?
No!! Not unless, the organizers read all the reviews (which were horrendous) and make some changes.
On Facebook, the race director apologized and promised big improvements for next year….
It’s Tuesday so don’t forget to link up with these wonderful ladies:
Happy Running! Have you ever run a big race and been disappointed? Have you run this race in the past? Do you plan to run it in the future?
Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Rock ‘N Roll Montreal Half Marathon as part of being a Rock n Blogger.