a.k.a. Third Time is the Charm
Recognized as being North America’s oldest road race (“Older Than Boston”, as printed on the back of the infamous tech shirts), Around the Bay is by far one of the most prestigious and celebrated races around. My friend Kenny recently wrote an excellent tribute to this esteemed event – read it here.
As I mentioned on Thursday, this was my third year in a row registering for this race, but my first time being able to run it.
three four goals:
Top Secret “A+” goal: 2:45:00
A: (I hope I can) 2:50:00 (4:00 marathon pace)
B: (I think I can) sub-3:00:00
C: (I know I can) PR sub-3:05:03
Clock time: 2:46:27.7
Chip time: 2:42:33.6
Pace: 5:25/KM (8:43/mi)
After a week of
assessing obsessing over the weather forecast, we awoke to a near-perfect day for racing. It was a cool (but not cold) overcast morning in Hamilton with little wind and rain expected later in the day. After several wardrobe changes, I eventually settled on capris and a short sleeve race shirt over a long sleeve. I added a cap (in case the rain came early), a Bondi Band (in case my ears were cold) and throwaway gloves (tossed before 5K) to complete the ensemble. I opted to carry my 10-oz Nathan Sprint handheld for water my Spibelt for gels, a combo that has worked perfectly for several races now.
I decided not to taper for this race (with the exception of skipping Thursday’s tempo run) since it was “supposed” to be a training run for my upcoming marathon. Having run 18 miles and 20 miles on the previous two weekends, I wasn’t expecting peak performance, but I still wanted to see what I could do.
I carpooled to Hamilton with my training group (we had quite the motorcade with 4 full vehicles headed down together) and we all snagged excellent parking close to the start and finish area at the Coliseum. After hanging around inside for a bit (and taking advantage of the washroom facilities), it was soon time to head outside to line up. We made it to the starting area later than I would have liked and ended up pretty far back, well behind the 3:00 pacers. With entry to the corrals from the back only, there really wasn’t an easy way to make our way up, so we just settled in and waited. Not ideal, but not the end of the world.
Pretty soon, it was time to GO!
Some of our group before the start:
(back row, second from left)
The Race: First 10K
Some of us had discussed possibly running together, but I didn’t commit to anything. I hadn’t even told anyone what my “real” goal was. My tentative plan was to start out around 5:40/KM and see what happened. For the first couple of kilometres there was a lot of weaving and jockeying for position, making it very difficult to find my pace. Surprisingly, they were clocking in right where I wanted, though I was all over the place trying to find my way around people in order to accomplish that. Some of us had managed to stick together, and one of the veterans promised me it would thin out in the later miles. It was extremely crowded for most of the first 10K.
We were running through residential and industrial areas and there wasn’t much to look at. It was also pretty much flat.
First Gu at 8K.
I was just plugging away, keeping an eye on my pace, chatting off and on and preparing myself for the miles ahead. I was constantly analyzing how I felt as compared to recent long runs and my half marathon a few weeks ago. My splits were ticking by faster and easier than I expected. I was cautious not to run too much faster than 5:30’s and it helped having someone by my side so we could keep each other in line. There was still a long way to go, but I had a feeling it was going to be a good day.
10K split: 55:20
5:39 – 5:32 – 5:43 – 5:31 – 5:30
5:31 – 5:22 – 5:30 – 5:21 – 5:23
The Race: Second 10K
It felt good to have a nice “chunk” out of the way. One third down, two thirds to go. There was some congestion at the first relay exchange point, and more weaving and dodging as runners of various paces were jumping in. Fortunately the bulk of runners had thinned out a little, so this wasn’t too much of an issue.
At this point it was just myself and my training buddy Jayne running along together. Neither of us are particularly chatty racers, but the company was still nice.
There’s nothing particularly memorable about this section. I must have been in the zone! There still wasn’t much to look at in our surroundings, though we did get some water views once we hit 12K or so. It got a little bit windy (we had been sheltered for the first part of the race), but nothing unmanageable.
Before I knew it, we were crossing the half-way timing mats at 15K. First half split: 1:22:53. This was another relay exchange point, so we dealt with some more congestion as we headed into the second half.
Just after 15K we crossed over a steel lift bridge where it was quite windy and the footing was sketchy. Thankfully we made it safely across without issue, though it did put a little wobble in my legs.
Second Gu at 16K.
As we approached the 20K mark, I knew the real fun was about to begin. I was cruising along, making great time and feeling fantastic. Bring on the hills. In fact, some rollers had already started.
20K split: 1:49:57 (second 10K in 54:37)
5:20 – 5:25 – 5:27 – 5:28 – 5:26
5:24 – 5:25 – 5:26 – 5:22 – 5:16
The Race: Final 10K
I glanced at my Garmin as we passed over the timing mat. A one-hour 10K and I’ve got my “A” goal. This is in the bag. Jayne and I agreed to take a short walk break so she could choke down a gel (she has trouble with them). We walked maybe 30 seconds before picking it back up, and this would be the only time I walked throughout the entire race.
For quite a stretch, we faced hill after hill (after hill). I felt strong on all the “ups” and found myself passing people all over the place, then allowed myself to fly down the other side. The scenery was improving and I was actually enjoying the ascents and descents, which kept things interesting. I was pleased to see that I was holding on to my pace without struggling.
Third Gu at 24K.
I lost Jayne on the hills and managed to catch up to Brian and Doug, two of the “vets” from our group. There was no hiding their shock at seeing me. Both were very supportive and encouraging me, saying all the right things to make me feel even better. They started talking to me about the upcoming hill (“the big one”) and promised that it would be all downhill to the finish after that. The
worst best part was seeing runners running uphill in the distance. It seemed to go on and on, around a bend and farther up. The guys advised me that when we reach the bend, we’re 3/4 of the way up. I knew I could handle it.
At the bottom of the hill I had the pleasure of spotting the famous dancing little person. He shows up every year, blasts music and cheers runners up that hill. Awesome.
Then up, up and up we went. I stayed on Brian’s tail and kept the pace steady all the way up this beast. At the top, he turned to find me behind his shoulder and asked, ‘How was it?’ to which I replied, ‘Not nearly as bad as I thought.’ He started laughing and we continued on our merry way, soon discovering that we had lost Doug on the climb. Shortly after the hill we ran past a cemetery (how appropriate!) where two people dressed as the Grim Reaper were out cheering and offering high-fives. Apparently they’re out every year as well.
All that was left to do now was cruise to the finish. I was pretty confident that 2:45 was within reach, but I picked it up a bit just to make sure. We chatted about the finish line and Brian warned me to watch my step on the ramp going into the stadium. It started drizzling rain with about 2K to go. I could see the Coliseum straight ahead and it was time to really turn it on.
I was flying. I glanced down at my Garmin a few times and saw 5K pace! Adrenaline was surging through my veins as I got closer and closer to the finish. I even blew past two guys from my team who are in a faster pace group (!!!).
Around the corner, down the (steep!) ramp, into the stadium, crowds cheering like crazy, arms in the air! One of my most memorable finishes to date.
I was truly in shock when I finally hit pause and saw 2:42.
Final chip time: 2:42:34 (final 10K in 52:37)
5:48* – 5:31 – 5:16 – 5:28 – 5:20
5:18 – 5:21 – 5:23 – 4:54 – 5:05
Group shot post-race:
(front row, second from right)
Unfortunately I got stuck with a mens’ shirt. The womens’ were sold out by the time I registered (two months before the race). The ladies’ are a pretty purple and fit way better. It’s too bad because I really like the style, but this is just way too big and boxy.
Post-race thoughts to follow!
Not to forget Tall Mom’s Virtual Race for the Cure!
Unfortunately with my multiple wardrobe changes, I didn’t end up wearing any pink – oops! – but 21.1 kilometres of my race are dedicated to the cause.
Virtual Half Marathon Result: 1:54:17*
*Calculated based on average overall pace.