The short version: Good event, great destination, not an easy course but I needed a BQ and I got it.
The long version:
The finish line for the Quebec City Marathon is less than a kilometer from the train station in old Quebec so we decided to leave the car behind and take the train. We booked early so the tickets were pretty reasonable just over $200 return for two. We booked a B&B on Expedia which was also less than a kilometre from the finish line. The train ride was much more relaxing than driving through Montreal and with WiFi on board it’s pretty easy to pretend you are just working from home!
The B & B L’Intendant turned out to be even closer to the finish and the train station than we expected and the owner was quite a character. The room was basic (but we booked the cheapest one) no TV but we did have good WiFi. The breakfast was excellent: Fresh crapes, fresh fruit, a croissant, with homemade preserves and real maple syrup. Breakfast is served from 8:30am to 10:30 am so I only got to have it once. The race starts at 7:30am so you have to run sub 3:00 to get breakfast! The B&B owner suggested a walking tour and a trip to see Crepuscule a free Cirque de Soleil type show held at 7:00pm each night over the summer.
We did both and enjoyed both. The Crepuscule show is definitely worth checking out. It starts at 7:45, it’s open air and the gates open at 7:00 you need to be there by 7:00 at the latest to get in.
Race kit pick-up is at the Quebec Convention Centre which is an easy walk from the finish area (mostly up-hill but this was pre-race). It was a reasonable sized expo and race kit pick up is straight forward. You do need your bib number which they send via email when you register. I did not have mine but I went to the “losers who did not print the email line” they were very helpful and found my number for me.
There is a Star Run on Friday night where all the participants get sports caps to wear with lights and a 5K on Saturday. Both of these events use a different finish than the Sunday events. On Sunday there is a 10K, a ½ marathon and a marathon. They all use the same course. The marathon starts 42.2 k from the finish the ½ starts at the 21.1 K point and the 10K starts at the 10K mark. There are buses provided to all three start lines from the finish area so there is no need for a car if you are staying in Old Quebec. The ½ starts at 7:00am, the full at 7:30 and the 10K at 9:00 so the races don’t really intersect. We did run past the very end of the ½ marathon in the last few km.
The buses leave the finish area between 5:00 and 5:45 am and the start is a parking lot behind some commercial buildings. There were a reasonable number of port-o-poties, water and Gatorade available but NO COFFEE. There was a coffee shop close by but when we arrived it was not open and by the time it was open it was past my personal pre-race coffee cut off. Luckily for me my extremely supportive husband got up with me at 4:30am and bought me a coffee from Tim Hortons (which is just up the street and open 24-hours). The race also has a baggage check so you can bring extra clothes to the start and send them home but you have to provide your own bag to check. Something to sit on and a warm layer are highly recommended. It was windy.
There were no corals but with less than 2000 runners it was not really an issue. There were pace bunnies and the fastest was 3:15. I was told before the event that the course was hilly but it flattens out in the last 10K.
The route mileage markers were actually based on how far you had to go not on how far you had gone, which I have never seen before. The 0.2 km at the end was included so when you saw 37k you knew you really had 37k to go. The aid stations had water and all of them except the very first one had Gatorade. A couple even had gels, bananas and orange slices, sponges and water sprayers you could run through.
It rained very lightly while we were waiting in the parking lot but not enough to clear the air. As a result although the temperature was not overly high it was very humid from start to finish. I found Paul Corriveau before the run and fellow K2J Fitness runner Jeff Smart by the start line. Like me Jeff was there looking for a BQ.
The first 11 km of the course is rolling but definitely net downhill after the first kilometre making it easy to start too fast. The course starts on the road and then moves to a combination of road and bike path. From the start in Levis you make your way down toward the St. Lawrence. You then follow the St. Lawrence (although you are not as close to it as I expected) to the bridge. The route along the water is rolling and has a few significant hills, not long but steep. At 16k to go you hit the on ramp for the bridge which is a long slow climb. Running down the ramp off the bridge at about 13k to go is a significant quad busting downhill. I was told the last 10k was flat. It is not but it’s much less hilly than the Levis side. The course continues along the St. Lawrence on the Quebec City side. You are closer to the water but still not beside it. You don’t really get into the city until the last 2km of the race. Which is actually flat. Not a lot of spectators until you get to the last kilometre but the ones that were out there were very enthusiastic. Although, I am not sure it’s a good thing when people are yelling “ne mache pas” at you in the first 5k!
My A goal for this race was 3:30 and my B goal was a BQ. (4:00). Big delta I know but this has not been an ideal training summer for me. I went into the race well rested but with less training than I would have liked. I started out a little too fast (which unfortunately I tend to do) but not way too fast. Once we got through the first 7-8k I slowed it down to a 3:30 pace and kept it there until I hit the halfway mark. I felt good so I pushed a little and played catch the runners in front of you. I was catching lots of them and feeling pretty good. I passed eight women and many more men. Then I ran down the long hill at 13k and the lack of hill training came into play. The pounding of the downhill took its toll, I started to tighten up and I probably should have waited longer before I picked it up as well. As a result I got passed by a few runners in the last 10K (although it was way less than I passed between 21 and 10) End result 3:26:32, 1st W50-59 12th woman overall and a medal that has flashing lights in it (why?).
Congratulations to Jeff Smart 3.11.35 and a BQ and to Paul Corriveau who came to Quebec City to see AC/DC and run the 10k, changed his mind and switched to the marathon at the expo and ran a respectable 4:15:46!