My First International Race... The Rock n Roll 2016 Montreal Full - Oops - I Mean Half!

I may not be internationally known, but I would after this race. Okay that definitely wasn't going to happen so yes I am not internationally known.... but I can rock a mic! :P

Are you singing that song now too? :) Exactly my plan. 

In 2016, I had the honor of being a Rock n Roll Marathon Series ambassador for the third year. For the first time, ambassadors (or RockNBloggers) were given a global tour pass. HAWT DAMN! 

With a free race entry on the line, I knew it was time to tackle my first international race. But which one?

Montreal became a quick front runner as the wife and I could drive from Boston to Montreal in less than 6 hours.  Before tackling my first ultra marathon in August of 2016, I registered for the Montreal marathon. I love that Rock n Roll gives finishers of the full a jacket in addition to the medal. I have a jacket from 2 fulls in 2015 and I wanted one for 2016 so Montreal full it would be.

But as the time neared closer to the race, my knee was acting up. I felt a lot of pain in my right knee at the Philly half marathon the week prior. I would head to Montreal planning to run the full, but open to dropping to the half if my body did not feel up for completing 26.2 miles. I had a lot more races on the calendar for the Fall and did not want to ruin all of those because I pushed during this one race. Anyone else ever have conversations like that in your head? :) I don't think I'm the only one.

My girl and fellow RockNBlogger Briana was also traveling from Boston to Montreal so she joined us for a fun car ride across the border. Since Briana lives in LA, I rarely get to see her so this would be the second weekend in a row and we would also meet up during RnR Brooklyn 2 weeks later. Yes 3 weekends in a 4 week span. I was a lucky lucky lady!

We made our way up to Montreal on the Friday (Sept 23, 2016) and would have Friday and Saturday to explore the city before tackling the race on Sunday. 

I also had the honor of controlling the Rock N Roll Marathon Series snapchat channel for the weekend. WOO! I was up for the challenge and excited to share how I rock a race with the masses. :) 

We had a great time hanging with Briana and other friends. I was even able to see the famous Run Westin (aka Chris) for a shakeout run on Saturday morning. We may live in the same area, but I usually only catch up with him at away races. :P 

I could not for the life of me decide what to wear for the race so I just went with COLOR! Haha.

While my bib said marathon, my gut was saying I would be calling it a day at the half mark. But I still held out hope. Anything is possible when out on the course. I figured I would still go out and try to hold a steady marathon pace.

On Sunday morning (Sept 25), we woke up early as we had to take the train from the hotel area to where the race started. 

Let's just say taking the train was an interesting experience.

All those racers doing the half or marathon had to take the trains out of the city, while those tackling the 5k or 10k had to come into the city. So there were literally people coming at you from all directions. I did my best to follow anyone else with a red bib. 

We finally made it over to the island where the race started. Thankfully there were a ton of helpful police officers and we were pretty psyched that none of us had to find the bag check. We also came with just the things we needed for the race. Oh and our PRO Compression socks!

Briana was ready to take on her 10th RnR Stop of 2016 so I had to let her shout it out on the RnR Snap channel.

I have to warn you I was so focused on rocking the Rock N Roll Marathon snapchat that I didn't take as many pics as I usually do during a race. And the prices for the MarathonFoto pics were out of my price range. Unfortunately this will be a recap that is lacking my normal obnoxious number of photos so I apologize in advance.

I kept telling myself I was ready to fly as I was really ready to cry from the nerves. 

The race started on a bridge. It was windy, but overall picturesque. The MC kicked off each corral in french. I know zero french so I tried to piece together what I could. Hey I was running a freakin race in another country. How cool is that? 

The first 3+ miles would be taking place on the island before we crossed another bridge to reach another island and another bridge to old town Montreal. Can you follow that? I think the map above makes it a little clearer.

As we started the race, I could already feel a twinge of pain in the right knee. I had an internal conversation between me and my knee. Thankfully it was inside as I worried people around me would think I lost it if I was talking to my knee out loud. 

We ran through a cute park before making our way to an amusement park. Mile 2 featured a little out and back and I was able to snap a quick pic.

Montreal hosted the Olympics in 1976 and we were able to run along some of the areas that were used for the Olympics. We also ran on part of their race track which is used for many FIA and NASCAR series. 

Oh hey Biosphere de Montreal. It was right around this time where I spotted some fellow Bostonians who I had met the previous day at the Westin shakeout run. It was nice chatting with them and hearing how their race was going before we parted ways.

Mile 1: 9:13
Mile 2: 9:45
Mile 3: 9:20

Before heading back to the mainland, we hit another small island. 

At this point the knee was angry. I was in need and search of some ibuprofen or aspirin, but I was having a hard time finding a med tent station. I knew they were out there, but I am not sure if I was looking the other way when I passed them or I was that blind. 

Mile 4: 9:26
Mile 5: 10:23
Mile 6: 9:21

This group in pink was extremely motivating to me. They were a group of adults pushing a young woman in a wheelchair. Now the front of the wheelchair was off the ground so 1 or 2 people would hold the handlebars in front and 1 person would steer the back (you can see the gentleman doing that). This group was full of energy as was the girl being pushed. She had noisemakers and was a bundle of positivity. They were running the full so it pushed me to stay in a positive mindset and distracted me from the growing pain in my knee. 

During Mile 6 we would be leaving the second island and heading back to downtown Montreal. You can see the first bridge we took leaving island 1 in this pic below.

Pretty sweet view from the bridge, huh? I can tell you the people around me were not into taking photos and gave me some pretty odd looks when I stopped to snap this one. 

Mile 7: 10:04

We made it to the mainland (if you will) during Mile 7. I was still on the hunt for a med tent and some advil or aspirin. My knee was over this run and I could feel my chances of finishing marathon #12 dwindling. 

I received a text from the wife who said she would be on the course around Mile 10 or so and I could not wait to see her face. I needed her reassuring and calm manner ASAP.

But first I was able to be distracted by this great group of high schoolers. They were running their first marathon with mentors/teachers/coaches from their school. Now I normally hate when groups run that far across the street in a race, but as soon as I snapped the pic the group got back into a smaller formation and made sure they didn't take up the entire street. Thank you coaches for teaching those young runners good race etiquette. :)

Since I had gone on the shakeout run with the Westin group the day prior, I already had a preview of this part of the course. It was gorgeous running along the water, which Chris told us was voted one of the best places to run in all of Canada. I could see why. On your right you had the water and on your left you had the buildings of Old Montreal, where you felt like you were transported back in time. I was happy that we were on the main street and not winding through the old streets, which were full of uneven cobblestone. Since I live and run in the Boston area, I know how treacherous that terrain can be. 

Mile 8: 9:04
Mile 9: 9:26

When I saw on the course map that there was going to be a banana stop during the race I couldn't wait to see what that meant. Well folks there was an actual stop for cut up bananas. It was a nice unexpected snack break and something I hadn't seen on a course before. Well I had from spectactors, but never at an official race-manned stop.

Mile 10: 9:22

Just after Mile 10, I was greeted by my wife. She was the exact face I needed to see and the perfect hug in that moment. Now my knee was hurting so much I knew it was time to make the decision to drop to the half. I had heard a story from a friend the night before where he was running in Span and they said he would disqualified if he dropped from the full to the half. I didn't want that to happen especially when I was overseeing the race's official snapchat channel. 

So I stopped and texted the VP of PR Dan to find out if I could drop to the half and not be DQed. He was on the lead vehicle for the marathon so I wasn't sure how long it would take him to respond. Thankfully it only took a few minutes. He said I could drop to the half without penalty. Well decision made.

You can also understand why I had a 14-minute mile during Mile 11. I should've tried to figure out how much of that was running and how much was standing with the wife. 

Mile 11: 14:21

Well it is as if the city of Montreal knew I needed a pick-me-up after that moment because we headed into the Gayborhood (Gay Neighborhood). Ohhh friends I needed those rainbows. :) 

Haha. The rainbow was a Snapchat filter if you couldn't tell. ;) 

How is that for a nice little hill on the right. Well as you made your way up the incline you were greeted at the top with a shower. I had no idea what to expect when I got to the "shower" stop they mentioned on the course map. But here it is...

Is that what you expected? ;) 

As I digested that the race would be coming to an end in a couple of miles, I focused on living in the moment and enjoying each step until I crossed that Finish Line. I didn't want to have a pitty party for myself. These are the times were you dig deep and celebrate what you WERE able to accomplish over focusing on what you COULDN'T. 

Plus everyone's sign games were on point so I was totally distracted from my own thoughts! But I think my favorite sign belonged to:

Am I right?

Mile 12: 11:00

Not that the whole race wasn't an emotional roller coaster, but the last mile was especially weepy. But not for the reason you expect. I was full of joy over doing something I never thought I would: run an international race. When I was 235 pounds and depressed, I would've never thought I would do something like this. So enter the flood gates. 

And as this sign neared, I knew I had to run to the right even though volunteers saw my red bib and wanted me to go left. I shouted "dropping to the half." 

Outside of the knee, I felt great. Mentally I was ready for a full. I had the fueling game down. But some days one part of your body has to ruin all the fun. Haha.

Mile 13: 9:42

FINAL TIME: 2:13:37 (10:12 min/mile pace)

Luckily I wasn't the only one with a red marathon bib, but a half marathon medal around their neck. I saw others you had rougher days than I, but were still smiling. So I smiled. I high-fived everyone I saw. 

And I was off to find the extra bling I was really there to collect. Oh hello World Rocker!! So I earned that bling for running RnR Philly and RnR Montreal in the same calendar year. 

OOhhhh that helped a lot. Bling can help my wounded heart any day. ;)

Since I have an amazing friend in Chris from Run Westin, I was granted access to the VIP tent post-race. Since I have amazing friends at RnR, i was able to get the wife in to the tent as well.

My first stop? Wine.

My second stop? Massage.

Ohhh both hit the freakin' spot. I told the masseuse about my knee pain and I think he felt bad because my massage was definitely longer than anyone around me. Ohhh it hit the spot. 

As we enjoyed some food and adult beverages (the Montreal VIP tent might've been the nicest one I have experienced for an RnR race), we watched a guy doing fire tricks on the main stage.

Thank you Chris and Dan for hooking us up with that perfect post-race spot. I even got to see my Westin friends from Boston post-race to hear how it all went.

After leaving the VIp tent, we took a lap around the post-race festivities. They had a few bouncy houses set up for kids, food trucks with stuff racers/spectators could purchase. It was one of the best post-race atmospheres of any of the RnR races I have been at. They really know how to celebrate a race in Montreal!

Now there was a twinge of jealousy as I watched racers walking around in their Finisher's jacket for the full, but I told myself there will be another time for me to tackle 26.2 and get a jacket. I have 2 at home (RnR SD and RnR Savannah). There is always next year.

As we got ready to head back to the hotel to grab lunch before we hit the road for home, I spotted this beauty in the trash and thought... maybe some day! Anything is possible, right? ;)

Overall the race experience in Montreal didn't turn out the exact way I thought. That had nothing to do with the race or how it was run, but totally on my body. You never know what you will show up on race day and this was a perfect example. But the views and spectators on the course were top notch. Running through Montreal was a mix of old and new. I would really recommend this race to any of my friends.

Additional thanks to RnR for letting me take over their Snapchat channel for the weekend. It was a blast being able to share how I view and experience a race weekend, especially a collapse mid-race, with others. 

Plus you too could walk away with some beautiful bling!

Have you run RnR Montreal? Which neighborhood was your favorite part?


Disclaimer: I did receive complimentary entry into this race as a RockNBlog ambassador, but all opinions are my own. Ain't nobody got time for lyin'!