Rock ‘n Roll Montreal Half Marathon Recap

By Janelle @ Run With No Regrets | race recap

Sep 27

Disclaimer:  I received a free entry to the Rock ‘n Roll Montreal Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

A few days have passed, but I’m finally ready to share my recap of Rock ‘n Roll Montreal!  This was my first time running a race in another country.  Being from Buffalo, New York, Canada doesn’t feel all that foreign to me, but it was my first time visiting Montreal and Bret and I had a great time!

This was a really challenging race, much harder than I expected.  And I have to admit I was initially disappointed in my results.  But now that I’ve had a few days to reflect, I’m really proud of what I was able to do!

I’m linking up with MarciaPatty, and Erika for Tuesdays on the RunSusieDebbieLora, and Rachel for the Running Coaches Corner and AnnmarieNicole, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday!  

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Check out my recap of the Rock 'n Roll Montreal Half Marathon! It was my first time running in Canada and I definitely had a memorable experience. Find more race recaps at runwithnoregrets.com!

Rock ‘n Roll Montreal Half Marathon Recap

Bret and I were really looking forward to having a racecation in Montreal.  Who knew that it would be our first trip together as an engaged couple?  In case you missed it, Bret proposed to me just a week before this trip during one of our weekend runs.  I’m still riding the high!  I had planned the trip months in advance and really wanted to make sure we had as smooth a trip as possible, especially since I almost bungled the RNR Seattle trip.  I bought direct flights and I even practiced French for a few weeks with the Duolingo app!

We were in Montreal from Thursday to Monday, so we were looking forward to seeing the sights, drinking all the booze, and eating all the food.  On our first day, after a delicious lunch at a vegetarian spot near McGill University, I took Bret on a run to Mt. Royal Park, which was right near our hotel (the Sofitel).  It was extremely hilly (obviously), but we were treated with an amazing view of the city skyline, for free!  We also appreciated the shade provided by the trees as we ran through the trails. We didn’t really know where we going but it was a lot of fun! Unfortunately, this would end up being the “coolest” day of the trip – hello, Montreal heatwave!

Race Expo

Before heading to the Expo on Friday, we wanted to do some touristy things, so we went for a walk through the city, had a great breakfast, and went to the Notre-Dame Basilica, which was absolutely GORGEOUS, and the Pointe-à-Callière, the archaeology and history museum.  It was cool learning about how Montreal was established.  Old Montreal is a pretty nice part of town, and definitely more our style than where we were staying downtown.

Finally, we made our way to the Expo, held at Place Bonaventure, their convention center.  Our walking directions were very confusing, but we finally made it and we were able to do some exploring at the Expo.  This time, I didn’t buy too much stuff – a couple of tank tops and the tiniest beer glass that I’ve ever seen, lol.  I was wearing my BibRave T-Shirt but I didn’t see anyone at the Expo that I recognized.  Since this race is also sponsored by Oasis, things were a little bit different from the typical Rock ‘n Roll Expo.  There was no huge section full of Heavy Medals on display or really anywhere that Rock ‘n Roll addicts could meet up from what I could tell.  What was really neat was that everyone received a free STM (Metro) card as part of admission, but since there was a separate line to pick it up, I completely forgot and Bret thought it wasn’t worth going back to the Expo on Saturday to pick it up.  We ended up buying a weekend pass and that worked out perfectly.

It was pretty packed at the Expo, which should have given me a clue that this was going to be a really big race!  The full marathon was canceled at the last minute because of the hot weather forecast for Sunday, but it appeared that most of the runners decided to drop to the half marathon instead of requesting a refund.  I still wasn’t convinced that canceling the marathon was justified, but it was definitely quite warm and humid for our entire weekend in Montreal.  And I just knew that Canada would have perfect fall weather for racing…go figure!

 

The Night Before

On Saturday morning, after another tasty breakfast, we did some more sightseeing.  It didn’t take long for the temperature to shoot to the mid-80’s!  We went to the Biodome and Botanical Garden over in the Olympic Park area.  The Biodome was cute, but I wish we spent more time in the Botanical Garden – it was so expansive and absolutely beautiful!  After that, we took a bus to Shwartz’s, a famous (and highly overrated) sandwich shop with a line out the door.  What a disappointment!   When we finally got back to the hotel, we ate our meal and took a nap.  Since we covered so many miles walking, I figured it wasn’t the best idea to go for a recovery run the day before the half.

For my last couple of half marathons, a burger, fries, and a beer have been my go-to pre-race meal, and I think they have worked perfectly.  Well, this time we did something a little different, and I can’t help but wonder if it made an impact.  We went to Dieu Du Ciel, a popular microbrewery and brewpub.  While the reviews were good, there were no burgers on the menu, and we got a large serving of nachos to share, a pizza with bacon and hot peppers, and a couple of their beers.  The meal was okay, not the best, and the service left much to be desired.  Why did we keep striking out in the food department?

Before heading to bed, I laid my clothes out for the morning as usual.  I was really nervous about the heat and humidity, but I had to keep reminding myself that this was a training run!  Fortunately, I got a great night’s sleep and was out like a light!

Race Morning

I think I woke up around 5 am to start getting ready for the race.  The start time was originally at 8:30 but was bumped up to 7:30 because of the heat.  I purchased a Larabar-like bar from one of the convenience stores the night before, so I was hoping that it would agree with me as my pre-race meal.  Because of the chaos of getting to the race start in Seattle, I was very adamant about giving ourselves enough time to get to the race start, so we left the hotel a little bit before 6 am.  The sun wasn’t up yet so it was still deceptively comfortable and cool.  From our hotel, we had a short walk to the Metro and a less than 30-minute ride to Longueuil-Universite-de-Sherbrooke Station.  Somehow we had the perfect timing for both trains (we had one transfer), and it was a very smooth commute with plenty of breathing room on the train!

Once we got off the train, however, it was a little bit confusing since we had to walk to the Jacques-Cartier Bridge to the race start.  We followed a group of people who ended up going the wrong way, but we eventually made it to the right direction.  While we were walking, a couple of guys from Philly said hello to us – apparently, they recognized us from the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut!  We were able to drop off our bag at one of many school buses, then we made what seemed to be a long, awkward trek towards to the top of the bridge where the race would eventually start.

The Starting Line

Once we got to the top, there was a live band performing Despacito which was pretty awesome, lol.  It actually made me realize that out of all my RNR races I’ve done, I’d never seen any Latin performers!  We went to the potties (and there were LOTS of them available) then warmed up and jogged a few hundred meters.  It was already getting close to 7 am.  The view of the city from the bridge was amazing, and as the sun started to rise, so did the temperature.

So I haven’t mentioned this yet, but Kim from Kookyrunner was also in Montreal for race weekend – she ran the 5K on Saturday and was also doing the half marathon on Sunday.  We made plans to meet up before the race.  She was in Corral 10 and I was in Corral 11, but I decided to “cheat” and line up with her.  It was so great to finally meet!  Bret hung with us a little bit before heading to Corral 2 (the Overachiever, LOL), and Kim and I had a great time chatting about Montreal, the race in general, and who knows what else, lol.  I can be really chatty when I’m with my running friends.  I asked her her plans for the race, and considering my race strategy, I thought it would be fun if we ran the first 3 miles together, and she agreed.  After about a half hour from the first corral leaving, we finally crossed the start to begin the race!  I thought Broad Street was big with 40,000 runners, but this seemed even bigger!  It was amazing to see all the runners ahead and behind us!

Miles 1-5

I thought that we would spend a decent time running over the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, but we actually ended up starting at the bottom of the bridge.  We were deceived!  We headed downhill into a park-like area with a good amount of shade, thank goodness!  We were planning to keep about an 11ish pace, so that worked perfectly for me.  The heat and humidity weren’t getting to me yet, and my breathing was steady.  I did have a strange pain in my right Achilles (a first), and as usual, my knees made themselves known.  We are already serenaded by a few bands – definitely a big highlight of the Rock ‘n Roll races, and it was amusing to see the signs in kilometers.  I was worried that there wouldn’t be mile markers, but there were!

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Somehow, my music stopped playing early into the run.  I knew at some point I’d need to pump up the jams because once I set out on my own, this race would be mentally tough.  Kim and I are both used to running races solo, so we weren’t chatting it up along the way, which was actually nice.  It was just great that she was there beside me.  We had some nice views of the St. Lawrence River but we ended up running through a parking lot and past some rollercoasters in a theme park for much of this portion…it was weird, like running through Disney, except without the cuddly characters along the way.

Sadly the 5K mark came and it was time to go our separate ways.  Kim was looking good and I told her I’d see her at the finish.  Now it was time for me to start my first speed interval – 2 miles at 9:30-9:40 pace.  Fortunately, it wasn’t too hard to pick up the pace and I was feeling good going into it.  It still wasn’t very scenic (though I am IN LOVE with wooden rollercoasters), so I just tried to stay strong and avoid how sweaty and gross I was already feeling.  One of the bands played “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” from the Backstreet Boys, so that definitely gave me a boost!

Splits:  10:53, 10:53, 10:58, 9:53, 9:53.

Miles 6-10

After I reached that first interval, I had 3 minutes of an easy pace.  Apparently, we ran right past Grand Prix Formula 1 track!   I used this time to walk a little and finally adjust my phone to get my music back on.   Honestly, I never recovered after that first break.  There was little to no shade for protection, and not a cloud in the sky, so the sun was really zapping my energy.  I didn’t really look at my pace after the first few miles, but I knew that I was significantly slower.  We had a breeze every now and then, but the humidity was brutal! I looked around, hoping to find some scenery to pique my interest or a person that I could follow, but I had very little success.  The miserable weather was impossible to escape and the hard pavement was really getting to me.  Running over bridges and under overpasses got old quickly!

I kept looking for the portion of the course where we actually ran through the City of Montreal.  I was very disappointed with the course thus far…it wasn’t until we ran over the Pont de la Concorde (which was crowded and really tough) and passed the 7-mile mark that we actually got to run through civilization.  We ran past Habitat 67, which was pretty cool, and enjoyed a view of one of the basins.  Then I was fooled again as we ended up running under more overpasses and through an industrial area between some grain(?) solos.  Another mile and another bridge, and we FINALLY made it to Old Montreal where there were some people out cheering while enjoying Sunday brunch.

Splits:  10:47, 10:37, 11:19, 11:04, 11:47.

Miles 11-13.1

The last few miles were absolutely brutal.  It was so hot and sunny out, even though it wasn’t even 10:00 am.  The last 5K is usually when I like to pick things up a notch, and I was supposed to go moderately fast…but it wasn’t happening.  Still, it was great to finally be running in the city.  There were so many more spectators out, which helped immensely.  Every few blocks they had a fire hydrant open, and I ran through just about all of them.  For some cruel reason, there were also a few steep hills towards the end of the race, but I “ran” all of them except the one right after the 12-mile point.

I didn’t want to try to be a hero during the race.  I stopped for water more than once, and that’s something that I never do…so I did a fair amount of walking.  The last 2 miles were the longest, and for some reason I thought I was almost done when I had just barely reached the 12-mile mark…ugh.  I felt like I was going in circles, wondering where the heck is this park where we’re supposed to finish?  Seeing the finish line ahead is another mental trick I use to finish strong…but it was nowhere in sight!  I did my best to pick up the pace near the end and cross the finish line…what a relief to be done!

Splits:  11:29, 11:03, 11:52, ~10:00.

Race Results

My official race time was 2:25:10.  My Garmin clocked 13.3 miles in 2:25:14.  This was definitely my slowest half marathon of 2017 and one of the slowest races that I’ve had in a while.  Humidity is my Kryptonite!  It is always a struggle for me to run strong in the heat and humidity, no matter how hard I try.  But when I look at my results of this race compared to the hot and hilly 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut completed in 2:35:48 in June 2015, I can see that I’ve come a long way.  I was hoping that with the weather I’d finish in 2:20, but it just wasn’t my day!   Bret finished his race in 1:43:44.  I don’t know how he does it!

After the Race

Once I was done with the race I picked up my medal and had to go through massive crowds since the 10K also finished at the same location.  I was soaked from the fire hydrants but I still took one of the professional photos (that will probably look ridiculous) on my way to meet Bret.  This Finish Line area dwarfed Broad Street’s – at least it felt a lot more claustrophobic and more difficult to get around!  I was able to easily pick up my World Rocker medal for running in 2 different countries, and then after changing my disgusting clothes, I was finally able to relax.   They were giving away a can of free beer, free yogurt, free coffee, and according to Bret, they even had free sweet corn on the cob!  We also got the usual post-race refreshments, though no stale pretzel like you would get in Philly, lol!  I drank my beer but didn’t have much of an appetite.  Moist was the featured concert headliner, and they sounded pretty good but we didn’t really stay to watch.  As soon as we could find a place to sit down, I did.  I texted Kim to let her know where we were so we could meet up once again.  Fortunately, she found us and we got to hang out a little more.  It was a tough race for her too but she got it done and she echoed a lot of my feelings for the race.  Be sure to check Kim’s blog for her detailed recap!  She’s just a few days away from the Chicago Marathon!

Now you know that normally I’m all about a massive feast post-race…but again, we did things differently in Montreal.  We went to a low-key spot for brunch and I had the most depressing veggie omelet of all time.  We didn’t want to eat too heavily because we wanted to go all-out for dinner since it was our last night in town, but even dinner ended up being a disappointment since our original choice closed early since it was Sunday night!  But at least I got a glorious nap!

Takeaways

2017 has been the year of racecations, and once again I enjoyed expanding my horizons and running in a new locale in Montreal.  If only the weather was about 20 degrees cooler, I really think that I would have enjoyed this race much more.  I hear that Montreal in the fall is beautiful, so it’s a shame that Mother Nature wouldn’t allow us to experience it this time around.  Considering the last-minute changes, the race was very well organized and I appreciate all of the support on the course, but this is definitely going to be a one-and-done for me!  We spent a nice amount of time in the city, but I wish we could have done more while we were here.  Who knows, maybe we’ll come back one day!

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Pros:

  • Great course entertainment.  All of the bands were great and there seemed to be so many more  on the course – maybe they made some adjustments because there was only the half marathon route?  In any event, I loved it!
  • Plenty of race swag.  You can always count on great gear from Rock ‘n Roll!
  • Generally well-organized.  There were plenty of porta-potties, signage was clear on the course, and the volunteers did a great job.  The Finisher Area was a little hectic, but not too crazy.
  • Great spectator support at the end of the course.  The 12-mile marker had the most energy by far, but there were a few points where there were lots of people cheering and considering the hot weather, I appreciate it!

Cons:

  • Not enough interesting scenery.  The last few miles are the best part of the course, but to get there you have to endure some really boring, mentally tough areas.  Or maybe I’m speaking for myself!
  • Crowded course.  If I was racing, it would have been really tough in my corral to get any good momentum since it was packed from beginning to end.
  • Not enough water stops.  I think that there should have been more places set up considering the circumstances.  I heard from one of our servers that there were 900 people who suffered from the heat during the race.

Shoutouts

Thank you to BibRave for giving me the opportunity to run this race!  While I didn’t get to meet the other BibRave Pro’s that made it to Montreal, I know they did an awesome job.  Hopefully, we’ll cross paths at another race!

And of course, thanks to Coach Laura for training me!  Can we make sure that the weather won’t be this warm in Brooklyn?  LOL!

Even though it doesn’t feel like it yet, the fall is here, and now I’m just a few short weeks away from the big enchilada…Rock ‘n Roll Brooklyn!  If you’ve got big races coming your way, I wish you the best, as we’re getting so close!  Bonne chance!

How do you handle hot and humid races?  Do you like racing with a friend or going solo?

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