A birthday duathlon

Running a marathon and cycling 70km for my 40th birthday – with friends, and to fundraise donations for two local causes in Ottawa. This is a ‘race report’ on a long duathlon training day in Ontario.

Jump to:
Warming up
Loop #1: Exploring the running course
Loop #2: Cycling around town
Loop #3: Two more runners in the gang
Loop #4: Earning my lunch break
Loop #5: Triathletes for speed
Loop #6: Still going strong
Loop #7: Finishing a marathon!
Loop #8: Final round – mission accomplished
Cool down
Stats and donations

Warming up


I got up at 7 in the morning, most likely the earliest I’ve ever gotten up on a weekend birthday (by the way, this is even earlier than I was actually born 40 years ago; and that was also on a weekend!). Most of my things I already prepared the day before, but having some coffee and breakfast is never a bad idea when there’s a multi-hour workout ahead of you.

Running loop: Start at Lansdowne Park, following Rideau Canal to Dow’s Lake all the way to the locks, crossing over to Rideau River and turning back North-West through Old Ottawa South, crossing the canal over the pedestrian bridge and returning to Lansdowne.
[link to running map]
Cycling loop: Start at Lansdowne Park, following Rideau Canal do Dow’s Lake, taking the Trillium Pathway all the way up to Ottawa River. Then turning East, following the River Pathway all the way to the locks, and taking the Canal path back to Lansdowne.
[link to cycling map]

I headed out at 8:15 towards the starting point at Lansdowne Park, about ten kilometers from where we live, located next to Rideau Canal – a long national waterway that connects Ottawa River with the Great Lakes.

Every kilometer that was going to be run or cycled today, by myself as well as by any fellow local athlete, would account for one dollar of donations I’d personally commit to. (See this post for more details). So I was certainly hoping for at least some attendance and I did get surprised throughout the day! [back to top]

Warm up (cycling)

Cyclists1Money raised$10.14


Athletes1Money raised$10.14

Loop #1: Exploring the running course

Ludwig, Aggie, Shawn

Shortly before 9am I felt more than ready to start this project. I spotted Shawn, a fellow runner who regularly joins our Saturday group runs. He planned to do the first and last run with me and even brought a goodie bag! Bananas, energy bars, energy gel – all you need for a long day out! Unexpectedly, Aggie (a fellow triathlete that I know from our club) was already waiting at the starting point; what a nice surprise to have another athlete support me on that initial part of the adventure.

The three of us started the first loop at 9am sharp, heading out south-west along the Rideau Canal. It wasn’t too busy yet on the path, and the temperature just perfect for an easy morning jog. We kept it easy, knowing that there was more than enough distance to cover today. The last thing you want is burning out early, which would make the last third a rather unpleasant experience. A pace around 5:40 minutes per kilometer seemed to be working well for everyone. It kept my heart rate at a comfortable 140 beats per minute and a conversation was possible, too. After all, my main objective was finishing the day and at least roughly sticking to the schedule.

Finishing the first 10km running with Aggie and Shawn

For most of its part, the generally flat course I chose for the running loops is a quite popular spot for runners, cyclists, pedestrians, and roller skaters. It follows a paved shared pathway along Rideau Canal, around Dow’s Lake with nice views onto the new high risers on Preston Street, then through the Arboretum with all its green meadows and wide variety of trees. We then had to cross the canal over one of those 100+ years old wooden locks (that are still in use today, manually operated). After 500 more meters along the Canal, we’d reach halfway of the loop, when we crossed Colonel By Drive and turned back north-east onto University Drive, right through Carlton University grounds; parallel to Rideau River. After some time along the river and through Brewer Park, we’d zig-zag our way through Old Ottawa South, back to the Canal, all the way to and over the new pedestrian crossing, Flora Footbridge, before heading back to Lansdowne Park, where the finishing point was.

At 20ºC and no wind, and with two runners to talk to, time passed very quickly. After 58 minutes we had finished 10.22km of running together. My body was still feeling quite fresh, nothing hurt, no chafing anywhere, no stomach issues. I said thank you and good-bye to Aggie and Shawn, and went to unlock my bike, ready for the next leg.
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Loop #1 (running)

Runners3Money raised$30.66


Athletes3Money raised$40.80

Loop #2: Cycling around town


As a triathlete, I of course own a relatively fancy road bike, upgraded with carbon wheels, aerobars, slim tires. For the purpose of this event, though, I decided to rather use my mountain bike. Not only wouldn’t I feel comfortable leaving the road bike on it’s own during the runs, it also just didn’t make sense to use it on the busy shared pathways around downtown, where you can’t really take advantage of all those speed-optimizing features. Plus, I intentionally wanted to use the bike sections of this event to be my active recovery times, rather than pushing hard. All of which speaks for using the mountain bike.

The first round I did by myself. Honestly, I didn’t really expect anyone to join me on the bike ride, other than Alan who already let me know he’d provide company later in the afternoon. So I started at 10:15am, right on schedule, heading out to Dow’s lake again.

The first part of the loop was similar to the run. Instead of going south after the lake, though, I decided to take the Trillium Pathway north, that would take me all the way to Ottawa river; cutting right through the city, but away from any traffic! At the river I’d then turn east, using the Ottawa River Pathway all the way to the bottom of Parliament Hill. Followed by a steep climbing sections, parallel to the historical locks in downtown, and then 4km along Rideau Canal back to Lansdowne Park. I chose to use a different path for the bike than for the run because first of all, I really like this loop, but it is 12km long, and I didn’t want to do 12km loops on the run. And the running loop, 10km, was just not suitable for biking, giving the fact that we had to cross the wooden locks which is unnecessarily complicated with a bike. After all, having two different alternating loops also allowed for more variety!

On my first bike loop: short selfie stop at Ottawa River

My legs were feeling fresh, and, in this state, it is just so hard to pace yourself. I am a pretty strong cyclist and going slow is something I don’t enjoy much. So I ended up pushing a bit harder than planned, finishing the whole loop in 28 minutes and an average speed of 27km/h. Pretty quick, considering riding a heavy mountain bike on a shared pathway and one steep climb. After each loop, I wanted to post an update to Instagram, to document the day and encourage others to donate. For that purpose, I had created the copy already yesterday, so that I’d only have to add a picture, tag the names of fellow runners and cyclists, and provide some current information. That alone, though, ended up more time than expected and ate up the bigger parts of those 15 minutes breaks I had planned for between each loop.
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Loop #2 (cycling)

Cyclists1Money raised$12.58


Athletes3Money raised$53.38

Loop #3: Two more runners in the gang

Ludwig, Benoît, Ahmad

About two hours of endurance sports my body was still feeling fine; at this point I was still in known territory. I was carrying a camel pack on my back, filled with two liters of water mixed with Tailwind nutrition powder (basically sugar and electrolytes). During the short breaks I also refueled regularly with even more water (there was a water fountain conveniently located right at the start/finish point) as well as a banana occasionally.

For the second running loop I was welcomed by Benoît, a former colleague from work, and by Ahmad, a friend I met a while ago at our weekly running group. There couldn’t be a bigger difference in both of their levels of fitness – Ben participated in multiple Ironman competitions and qualified for Boston Marathon, while Ahmad only picked up longer distances not too long ago and never ran farther than 10km. But isn’t that exactly what endurance sports is all about? Everyone still remembers their first attempts in running, everyone can relate and is supportive of fellow runners.

On round #3 I was joined by Benoît and Ahmad. Picture break on top of the old locks close to Dow’s Lake

On the second running loop the weather got warmer, and more humid, and we were going a bit slower than earlier that morning. We stopped for a photo break at the locks after Dow’s Lake and found a pace that would suit all of us. Everything was still very much enjoyable and we finished the 10k still under one hour. With this loop I completed the first 20k running today, and I certainly felt better than I would have on a ‘normal’ 20k training run. At the finish line Christina was waiting, together with Dan, who would be joining me on the next round of cycling.
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Loop #3 (running)

Runners3Money raised$30.54


Athletes5Money raised$83.92

Loop #4: Earning my lunch break

Ludwig, Dan, Benoît (partially)

Already looking forward to a bit of a break, we started to our second bike loop. Benoît cycled along for the first 3km before heading home (he’d come back later again!), but Dan, another fellow triathlete and runner I know from my running group, joined for the full round. He was using his high-end tri-bike and it must have been an interesting sight to see the two of us riding next to each other on bikes that couldn’t be more different. Dan was riding behind me, and while I kept pedaling at all times, I could hear his machine just coast most of the time, that’s how much more efficient these things are on flat asphalt. While dedicated triathlon bikes are not necessarily light weight, they are built for speed – aerodynamic wheel sets and frames, an efficient rider’s position, and thin tires; my mountain bike, in comparison, is not only not light either, it also is anything but aerodynamic and comes with fat tires that are not efficient on asphalt at all. This loop ended up being slower than the first one on the bike – mainly due to some chatting (Dan has great knowledge all around triathlon, local events, and bike mechanics), more other people on the paths, as well as a mixture of tired legs and intentionally not burning them any more than necessary. We finished after about 30 minutes – just in time for a longer lunch break!
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Arriving at the lunch break after loop number 4, together with Dan and Benoît

Loop #4 (cycling)

Cyclists3Money raised$28.08


Athletes6Money raised$112.00

Loop #5: Triathletes for speed

Ludwig, Darcia, Benoît

We spend the lunch break in a nice little group, and I refueled with a delicious Samosa that Christina bought on the Sunday Farmers’ Market close-by, plus even more delicious cheesecake muffins she prepared the day before – everybody loved them!

At around 2pm it was time to get ready for the second half of this day. And another surprise runner showed up: Darcia from the triathlon club! Also, Ben was here again so this time around we were three triathletes doing the run together. Expectedly, this would turn out to be our fastest lap for today.

Darcia and Benoît joined me on loop number five

The weather was getting quite hot and humid after lunch. The sun was out, temperatures somewhere close to 30ºC, and especially for the first 3-4 kilometers my legs were feeling a bit stiff and heavy. Was it also my old running shoes? I haven’t bought a new pair of shoes in years, and although I constantly alternate between them, I really need to treat my feet with fresh footwear. For this day I decided to once again use my beloved New Balance 880 V8 – I bought them in 2018 and have run more than 2000km in them; way more than recommended, but they felt so comfortable for a long time that I just got so used to them. I wore them for literally any type of running: for very long 20km sessions on a treadmill, training runs on the beach in New Zealand, a 36km training run in Miami, I trained in them in Los Angeles, Denver, Toronto, Germany, and of course hundreds of kilometers all through Ottawa. They were also my first choice for long distance races, such as Ottawa Marathon or Ironman Mont-Tremblant. Seems like today’s event was a great retirement run for this pair of shoes! Loop 5 was coming to an end faster than expected (5:29min/km average pace). With more than 30km of running in my legs I was certainly feeling much better compared to long-run training days. Having breaks in between and doing loops on the bikes seems like a great way of active recovery!
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Loop #5 (running)

Runners3Money raised$30.24


Athletes7Money raised$142.24

Loop #6: Still going strong

Ludwig, Alan, Dan

Despite the quick running loop, we were running a bit behind schedule. During the breaks there was always friends around to talk to – some of which either stayed after the last loop or were waiting to join the next. So was Alan – my former triathlon coach (who helped me to finish that full Ironman event two years ago!) who just finished a 140km bike ride himself. Dan was still here, too, and ready to do his second loop – which would again make for a three triathletes group, and again three different bike types: my heavy hard-tail mountain bike, Dan’s high-end tri machine, and Alan’s road bike.

Knowing that I had another run coming up (which most likely would be the hardest one today), I tried to take this one especially easy. It was early afternoon, still great summer weather, and the paths were getting more and more crowded with recreational cyclists, runners, and pedestrians.

Another group of triathletes: the second to last bike loop Dan and Alan joined me

The more I cycled this round, the more I realize how nice of bike route this was. Very easy to ride, only two or three street crossings with traffic lights, well paved paths, flat, great scenery, most of it along waterways. In the past, I’ve also run this section a couple times, which gives you even more time to enjoy the views and the greenery in the middle of Ottawa. Definitely recommended to anyone living here or visiting! The three of us finished loop number six after 29 minutes; and after a quick social media update, refueling with fluids and calories, and some chats, I was ready for today’s last running section.
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Loop #6 (cycling)

Cyclists3Money raised$37.29


Athletes8Money raised$179.53

Loop #7: Finishing a marathon!

Ludwig, Ahmad, Benoît, Shawn

I was so happy to have three runners with me on the final run – all of whom already had joined earlier during the day! Shawn was here at 9am in the morning, Ben already did two laps with me, and for Ahmad this was going to be his longest running day so far.

About half way of the last running loop and everyone still feeling great

The first couple of kilometers felt hard on my feet, and knees, and hips. I did not feel any lack in physical or mental energy, and my heart rate was at a normal level. Given the fact that I haven’t run more than 25km on one day for over a year, I felt great – and only about ten more kilometers to go; and longer we ran, the better it felt!

Ottawa’s humidity was at a high now, but with such good company, lots of chatting, and the scenic route time passed by quickly. I started thinking about whether to add the two kilometers that I’d be short of a full marathon distance, and whether to do this before the final bike section or after. That decision was made after Shawn jokingly mentioned to just add it right away, and the rest of us taking it seriously. So there we were, turning around at KM9, crossing the pedestrian bridge a second time, hitting 10k and going for an additional 2. Ben, the most experienced athlete of the group, picked up the pace and we ended up doing the last stretch at around 4:15min/km and finishing the marathon! Knowing that only one more bike ride was left it was a great feeling having the biggest part of this challenge accomplished. And even better, to have friends around! Huge congrats to Ahmad, who ran more than 20km today, which doubled his personal record of running in a day. Also to Ben, who did 32km with me, and to Shawn, who joined me during the first and last round of running.
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Finished the marathon! Benoît joined me on three full loops, and Shawn and Ahmad for 20km each!

Loop #7 (running)

Runners4Money raised$48.40


Athletes8Money raised$227.93

Loop #8: Final round – mission accomplished

Ludwig, Dan, Benoît (partially)

One more lap to wrap up this day! Dan was still there, his third round with me, and Ben stayed with us for the first three kilometers. I was energized, didn’t feel tired, and decided to use this final stretch to burn whatever energy would be left in my body. I wasn’t too worried about the two triathletes behind me not keeping up, so I increased the power to an extend I believed I’d be able to hold for about 30 minutes. The paths weren’t too busy anymore and it was just fun going 35km/h+ on a clunky MTB, being chased by a (probably still relaxing). Super exhausting, giving it all my legs were able to provide! We ended this loop after 25 minutes strong with an average just short of 30km/h. What a finish, and good to know that there was quite some energy and power left after such a long and busy day. Done after running a full marathon and cycling 60 kilometers in between!
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And done with the challenge! Four rounds of running, 4 rounds of cycling. Dan joined me on three loops on the bike!

Loop #8 (cycling)

Cyclists3Money raised$27.90


Athletes8Money raised$255.83

Cool down

Ludwig, Christina, Dan (partially)

All that was left now was proper refueling and ending that eventful birthday fundraising day with some good burgers and whoever was willing to join. We cycled the last piece back home and met later that evening with Ahmad and Dan at a burger place in our neighborhood, letting the day come to an end.
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Cool down (cycling)

Cyclists3Money raised$30.96


Athletes9Money raised$286.79


Out of all those possible ways to celebrate a 40th birthday I think I picked a pretty good one. The idea of combining a full day of sports with fundraising and meeting with friends struck me only about a week prior to the day of, but I’m happy that it did at all!

There are two things I learned:

First: Fundraising is a great way to encourage oneself and others to donate for good causes. And it’s so much better than receiving presents from others – convincing your family and friends to donate instead of spending the money for you can be very rewarding in itself. And it’ll be even easier if you show that you’re willing to put in some serious effort yourself.

Second: It’s always so fascinating so experience yourself what your body can accomplish, and that the limits are still way out there somewhere. In my mid 20s I couldn’t run 5km without feeling totally wasted. By then, the goal of finishing a half marathon seemed pretty much out of reach. I smoked a pack of cigarettes per day and enjoyed getting drunk at parties more than getting up early to some workout in nature. When I finished my first marathon and got into triathlon, I couldn’t believe that human beings would be able to swim for one and then cycle for six hours only to add a full marathon run. Now, in my 40s, there’s still things I have a hard time believing that they’d be possible (ultra runs stretching over 100km and more, or multi-day events), but I also know that there’s so much potential. It’s all about staying motivated, which is also the hardest thing of it all, after one goal is reached. So I better find the next one 🙂
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This was a birthday event on short notice and turned out to be such a great day! I want to thank all my friends who ran or cycled with me and kept me company on a long training session. It was so much fun!

Also, a big thank-you to all of you who couldn’t be part of it in person but still contributed with a donation via GoFundMe, PayPal, or wire transfer – together we raised $1305.31 (see table below for the breakdown)!

Here’s all the names that contributed in one form or another: Aggie, Ahmad, Alan, Albrecht, Anja, Anna, Benoît, Caro, Chelsea, Christina, Dan, Darcia, Gabi, Julika, Kilian, Lukas, Nina, Reinhard, Ron, Shawn, Susan, Tamsin, and Uwe!
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Stats and donations

Kilometers, time, calories, and KM-money raised

WU (c)10.1424:0125.3km/h32m320$10.14
#1 (r)10.2258:125:42m/km51m690$30.66
#2 (c)12.5828:1226.8km/h61m420$12.58
#3 (r)10.1859:055:48m/km50m710$30.54
#4 (c)12.5430:2224.8km/h56m400$28.08
#5 (r)10.0855:215:29m/km55m710$30.24
#6 (c)12.4328:5225.9km/h60m420$37.29
#7 (r)12.1066:315:30m/km73m820$48.40
#8 (c)12.4525:0329.8km/h56m470$27.90
CD (c)11.4837:3318.3km/h54m300$30.96
Tot (c)71.622:56:0424.4km/h319m2330$146.95
Tot (r)42.583:57:095:34m/km229m2930$139.84
All the numbers for each loop. Legend: KM = kilometers; ELEV. = elevation; CAL = calories; WU = warm up; (c) = cycling; (r) = running; CD = cool down; Tot = total

Donation summary

Donation typeDonation value
By KM covered together$286.79
By KM covered remotely$48.26
GoFundMe campaign$613.00
PayPal transfers$63.73
Wire transfers$293.53

According to the total sum, I will transfer $652.66 to the OBC Youth Program and the same amount to Shepherds of Good Hope. I’m sure they can make great use of the funds!

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