This weekend was the 118th running of Around The Bay in Hamilton and was my third time running this race in the last 4 years. I think that this might be my favourite road race even though it is held at a time of year that can be less then friendly when it comes to running and weather.
Just over a week ago I was running trails in shorts and actually thinking about what great weather there might be at ATB but man was I wrong. Mr. Weather showed back up on Wednesday for a last gasp (I hope) back alley beat down. We got your snow, wind and to top it off some nice super cold days. I am actually surprised we didn't see sleet, hail and frogs falling from the sky. I mean how much longer is this winter thing going to keep us in its death grip.
Saturday night came and a quick look at the weather the next morning claimed it would be a balmy -19 with the wind chill. Wonderful, Excellent, Outstanding, where some of the words that came out of my mouth. All other words that I uttered that evening are really not fit to print in this blog.
Got up at 5:30 AM, bright and early, downed a large amount of coffee, rechecked weather, cursed under my breath some more and then Kim and I headed over to High Park. Longboat had rented a bus to take everyone to the race and soon we where headed for Hamilton with about 30 other club members.
We arrived at Copps Coliseum with about 45 minutes until race time and got changed. What is usually an easy decision for me became like a guest appearance on Lets Make A Deal. Do I go with warmer clothes based on the current chilly conditions and my plan to run only semi hard or do I go for whats behind Door #2. That means less clothes so I will be colder but it might warm up or I might run harder then expected. I could also trade in either by pretending to pull a hamstring and sit in Tim Hortons with a coffee for the next 4 hours. Tempting but in the end it was error on the side of cold, no shell just a long sleeve shirt and singlet.
Then it was outside and over to the so called corrals. This is the one and only complaint I have about this race. There are no proper corrals. As fellow Longboater Rob Campbell had mentioned to me on our way home this race has just kept growing but still no corrals. I think allowing people to seed themselves when you have 8000 to 10,000 runners can make a lot of traffic problems for people early in the race. I lined up close to the 2:30 pace bunny figuring this would be where the 2:20 to 2:30 people where. I could have moved farther up but I would have had to have gotten really pushy. I don't want be pushy and I really don't want to be a runner too far up in the field slowing down faster people behind me. Nobody wants to be a pylon out there.
My race plan is simple, run close to marathon pace for 15km then slow down slightly. This is not my spring goal race and I really dont want to kill the legs and not be able to train hard next week. That said I will reevaluate how much race pace I do based on how I feel.
The horn goes and we are off, sort of. I have miscalculated. It takes 2 minutes to cross the start mat. I pick up the pace, sort of. I am in a log jam of people and most of them are moving at a much slower pace then I want to be at. It takes more then 1.5km of bobbing and weaving to get up to a suitable running speed although the pack is still a little slow. I just go with it. I dont want to waste energy to gain a few seconds a KM.
I check my splits. The slow start has cost me 45 second. I regret not being pushy. No big deal as I had not planned to race full out. I feel surprisingly good, find a nice groove and just go with it. The first 8k fly by as the course makes its way across the downtown hamilton area. I have been passing people non stop and running a very consistent pace right in my target heart range. I begin to think about running the entire race at marathon pace but will see how it goes. I am not cold at all. I am really glad I didn't wear that shell.
We pass the 10km relay exchange point and head out along the lake. I still feel really good, my legs seem fine. I decide to commit to running the whole thing at pace, so much for the training run idea. Shouldn't have given away that 45 seconds at the start. I vow to be pushy at future races from now on.
Soon I am passing the 15km relay exchange area. I see a number of Longboats there who are running the relay. Its always nice to see friendly faces on the course and this gives me a small boost of energy for the bridge crossing. I hate that bridge. Its not long but the surface is metal grating. Its hard to run on and I have heard that people have taken bad spills here in past races. I am a plodding spazz with giant clown feet so my chances of face planting are higher then average. I make it across without any major malfunctions and run the next couple of kms into the wind. Its not really windy but still noticeable so I catch up to the tall guy in front of me and tuck in behind him. This works great for about a km but then he begins to slow. Everyone else close by is short and will be no help. Oh well it was fun while it lasted so I push past him.
At 19km we are into the start of the "rolling" hills. For those of you who have not run ATB the way the course is laid out is what makes it tough and also makes it fun. First there is the quirky 30k distance which can be hard to figure out when it comes to pacing. The bigger challenge is the hills. The first 19k of the race is nearly completely flat and can easily lead you to run way to fast early. Then come the hills from 19k to 26k which are rolling but substantial with a nice big hill right at 26k. From there its flat and then slightly down hill to the finish inside Copps.
I actually really like this part of the race but I train and run ALOT of hills. I keep a solid pace through this section running the uphills moderately hard and hammering the downhills which is one of my strong suits. I was tiring but still felt okay as I crested the last big hill and headed back towards the downtown. All that hill work in training really paid off (a tip of the hat to Roger and the super hilly Boston Special Sunday long runs he makes us do).
Into the last 3k of the race and I was having to work really hard but was still holding pace .... sweet. The Grim Reaper in front of the cemetery doesn't even bother to try and taunt me.
Then it was into Copps and across the finish line although not as smoothly as I would have liked. As I came through the underground area and turned to go out onto the arena floor my foot caught something, not sure if it was a seam or what but I stumbled, somehow didn't fall, and then sprinted across the finish line.
Chip time 2:26:50 (12 second PB)
After the race I huge out with other club members and waited for everyone to come in. Kim also ran a PB even though she had to stop for a few minutes to deal with a pressing bathroom issue. Way to go Kim.