Ryan O'Shea: The Last 1.2 km

August 16, 2016

I am not exactly sure where I was caught during the marathon, but I am pretty sure it was at the 41km mark, and the lead biker seems to concur.  Leading up to that point, I was in pure survival mode. I was counting down each half kilometre just working on getting to the finish. I do remember looking back coming out of Rockwood Park and then every half kilometre just in case someone was coming, but I couldn't see anyone so I really thought I was clear. As a distraction, I began to think about how I would cross the finish line, thinking about coming across with a nice smile faking a smooth stride, hugging my wife and kids, and picking up my daughter as I spoke to the media about my race. Thinking about this lifted my spirits a bit but all that cam crashing down when I heard cheers close behind me and suddenly realized that I was not alone. I could see him coming, and he closed on me fast. My first thought was one of despair. I felt defeated, and almost resigned myself to a second place. He was coming fast, and I felt like I was going 5:00/km.For a moment I tried to spin it in a positive way thinking "well, my streak is over, but now I won't feel like I need to defend my title again." As he got on my shoulder, that resignation quickly went away. I thought about my family at the finish line, about my son not giving up in his 1km kids race (really, I did), and then I got pissed. I knew that he had had to work hard to close the gap, so I tried to surprise him by picking up the pace. Of course, me picking up the pace was only enough to actually match his pace, so I had to take it up a notch. I tried a surge to break him but he kept with me. I know that in the last 1km we went up a hill and down a hill, but I was just trying to stay ahead of him. As we neared the finish line, I was still surging trying to create a gap. Finally, I just started sprinting and he started sprinting with me. The exact details are foggy (the expression on my face  probably gives that away) but in my head there was no way that he was passing me.

I had a couple training runs this summer with Nathaniel Couture and Jeff Amos where we engaged in a similar sprint at the end of a hard workout, so something must have clicked. I knew that I just needed to get to the corner near the finish and I would have it. Somehow, I was still cognizant to not try and cut him off, but I sprinted to that finish line as hard as I could, and then collapsed. That race was 17km of bliss, followed by 13km of increasing discomfort, followed by 11km of immense discomfort, followed by the craziest 1km that I have ever experienced.  It is amazing what the body and mind can do when adrenaline and emotion kicks in.