It’s no secret that this winter has been a challenging one for those of us ramping up for the spring racing season; for me, it’s training for Hamilton’s Around The Bay 30km. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy winter and winter sports, the family and I have been out snowboarding and skating, playing hockey and tobogganing multiple times this year; it’s simply a matter of heading out prepared for what’s going on outside your windows. However, after a while, the bitter cold wears you down and you’d simply like a day with temperatures up around freezing mark just for a break.
Anyway, a few weeks ago I took some pics on my run which show some of what we’ve been dealing with; Blizzard for the first half of the run, sunshine and cold in the middle, blizzard on the home stretch. (Murphy’s Law and all that)
(Sorry for all the bird pics)
Just for quick reference, in those few photos, the Skyway bridge is supposed to be visible from there (here’s a closer view), I doubt you could even see where this picture was taken from.
To say I didn’t have great hopes for this year’s version of the Around the Bay 30km road race would a HUGE understatement! For those of you just tuning in, my training cycle this spring has been less than stellar.
[feel free to skip this if you heard it before] After taking a LONG time to get any training momentum and being sick on and off, I was starting to make good progress; hill-work/speed-work/long runs in tough conditions, my paces were coming down and I was feeling great. That’s when disaster struck. I injured my left foot playing hockey. On the upside, it wasn’t broken, on the downside it was a bone bruise and hurt constantly. Fast forward 3-3 1/2 weeks of no training and one missed half marathon later I was finally able to get back out and attempt some redemption. I managed to get in some base miles and three 20km longer runs in preparation for this past Sunday’s race.
With all of that out of the way: On To The Race Recap!
The day didn’t start well, I work up at 4:50am, an hour before my alarm. I did eventually get back to sleep though…about 10 minutes before my alarm went off….typical. Oh well, onward and upward. After checking the weather (-17c windchill!) and a quick breakfast I was ready for a runner’s constitutional…which turned into two…then to three, and finally four….for now. I wasn’t sure if it was nerves or a virus, but it sucked and now I was really worried, dehydration and DNF were definitely on the radar.
Fast forward past meeting up with some fellow racers for a quick pre-race coffee, another couple trips to the washroom, and onto race time. The weather was coldish (around -7c), but the skies were clear and the sun was out in spades. Perfect race weather. Overall the race went pretty well, I managed to maintain my target marathon pace for the first half of the race, and my existing marathon pace for the second. I’d like to continue my progression towards a faster marathon time, and this was reassuring to say the least.
For the first 2/3rds of the race I rant with a good friend I hadn’t seen in a while; for me it made the miles fly by as we cracked joke after joke, and for him it helped keeping his pace in check. Much like like going out for drinks with Ned, he tends to go out fast and blow up before the finish line, so it was a good arrangement all around. His wife was got suckered into doing the second half of the 15km relay and quickly caught up to us at the 19km mark. We all ran together, chatted, laughed, encouraged each other until somewhere around the 22km mark when I slowed for some water and they powered through. Bastards! They both had their own hydration and didn’t need to stop, but up until this point Ned had slowed slightly and waited for me to catch up at each water station. I had an inkling the course was starting to take a toll on us both. I could plainly see him 20yards ahead, but knew if I pushed to catch him that I’d be risking a meltdown myself. Instead I held my pace, and stayed on target. Ned only finished a minute ahead of me in the end and that was more than likely the difference in slowing for the remaining water stations….not that I’m upset, he achieved a 25min improvement over last year’s time, so kudos to him…the turncoat…
Incidentally, around the 22km mark is where the hills start to kick in, and though I felt I had more climbing power available to me, both of my calves threatened to cramp so hard that my shoes would be attached to my knees if I pushed the pace anymore. “Message received loud and clear!” It might have bugged me more if I had had a major time goal this year, but with my setbacks and my eyes on the Ottawa Marathon in May, it was pretty easy to convince myself that this was a fun training run. Sure I ran as hard as I could, but there was no way I was going to let this race ruin me.
Within the last 3km I was fighting some rolling nausea, but managed to not puke my guts out….although that might have got me some serious race cred if I had chucked. Considering I felt terrible for the rest of the day, it might not have been a bad idea either.
In conclusion, I beat my time from last year while feeling like I was in worse shape, had a great time with great people, got to get out on a gorgeous day, and participated in a well run/fun event. As I’ve said many times, this is a great event with a fun atmosphere and a really nice course. It’s well worth the price of admission.