Of all the GTA spring races, I definitely like Around the Bay the best! It’s been a REALLY long winter, and I’ve been anticipating running the 2014 Around the Bay 30k for months. For me, this race is a sure sign that winter is finally over. It’s also the perfect bridge between a half and full marathon and fits perfectly into my training schedule. This was my third consecutive year running ATB so I knew what to expect, even though there were some changes to the first part of the route. My goal this time was to beat last year’s record time of 2:32 and finish sub 2:30.
Conditions for race day were looking really good until the day before. It was now hovering right just above freezing and supposed to warm up a few degrees later in the morning. I kept going back and forth on what to wear but ultimately decided to wear shorts since it was now officially spring. I wore a technical t-shirt with a warmer long sleeve and a thin wind shell. Since they worked so well on the Chilly Half, I wore my Merrell Barefoot Trail shoes. I never thought I’d be wearing these shoes so much after all of the problems I had with them at the start, but I guess they’re broken in now. After choosing my race attire, I did some light dynamic stretching and rolled out on the foam roller.
For morning fuel I made my go-to pre-race meal: 2 eggs scrambled in butter, 1/2 an avocado drizzled with EVOO and an espresso. This meal gave me enough power to PB the Chilly Half without needing to fuel up at all, but I knew that wouldn’t be enough on this longer, hillier race. I packed 6 dried figs and a few Larabars in my jacket and would probably grab a banana on the course somewhere. I packed a small bag with a change of clothes and made my way to the Hammer.
Parking wasn’t an issue this year so I was able to make the Dailymile meet up ahead of schedule. It was so great to finally meet all of my new DM friends and chat with everyone else before the race. Once I made my way over to the blue starting corral I lined up with the 2:25 pacer. I’m really fortunate that I was able to move up this year as the general corral looked about a million miles away. At 9:30am the race was underway and I was hopefully on my way to another PB.
The 2014 Around the Bay 30k Road Race
Start to 10km
My plan for the first third of the race was to stay steady at my goal pace of 4:50/km. Knowing that the final 10k is very hilly, I wanted to bank as much time as possible in the flat portion. Oh wait, that was the old course. Due to the great freight train incident of 2013, the first part of the course was changed. Instead of running through more of downtown Hamilton, we were now running in the collector lanes and off ramps of a highway, and it was not very flat at all. Perhaps I should have eaten breakfast a little bit earlier as I ran with a side stitch for the first 8km. I was able to maintain my pace by focusing on breathing but wondered if it would affect my performance later in the race.
11km to 20km
Going with shorts was a good call. Even with the wind I was feeling pretty warm by this point in the race. I wasn’t really feeling hungry yet so I held off on refuelling but I did stop for water at 13km. Around this point I also ran into my brother in-law on the course. He decided to run the race and not tell anyone but I was able to run with him for a few km before I had to push on at my own pace. My splits were still fairly even and I wanted to keep it that way until the rolling hills of North Shore Blvd.
Before turning onto North Shore I had to cross the lift bridge. It’s not very kind to minimalist runners (ie. painful metal spikes) and really slowed me down last year while wearing my Vibram FiveFingers. This was my sole (ha!) reasoning for going with the Merrell’s this time around. I was looking for a little added protection but it ended up being only slightly less painful. At least this time I didn’t need to resort to walking, but my pace did slow down a little.
21km to finish
Once I reached North Shore I knew that my pace would slow down a bit. I had done really well for the first 2/3 of the race at 4:50/km so I thought maintaining a 5:00/km pace for the hilly final 10k was very doable and I’d still beat my goal time.
My wife and son were waiting for me in this stretch so I was scanning both sides of the street in anticipation. My son Luke was heavily engaged in some kind of treat and didn’t notice me at all, but I gave my wife a high five and pressed on. At about 23km I decided that I should take in some fuel so I ate three of my figs. A few minutes down the road I took a half banana an orange wedge from one of the local residents. That was all I consumed during the actual race.
The rolling hills in this part of the race seem to go on and on but I found the distance markers came really fast. Before I knew it I was at the foot of the dreaded Valley Inn hill. Learning from last year’s mistake, I decided to seriously cut my pace so I would still have some gas in the tank for the final 3km. It must have worked because once I got to the top I was able to resume my 5:00/km pace no problem. Another runner even mentioned in passing how strong I looked after the big hill.
A few minutes later I could see the grim reaper taunting runners off in the distance. That meant only a few km to go and the finish line (and another PB) was within reach. I was feeling really good and increased the pace even more for this final stretch. Running through the big crowds on York Blvd to the finish is amazing and really motivates in the last few minutes. I ran down the ramp into the stadium and crossed the finish line under my goal time of 2hrs 30min.
Below are my splits for the 2014 Around the Bay
|Split (km)||Time||Avg Pace|
My official time is 2:28:27 – a 30k PB! That’s six consecutive races where I’ve achieved a PB. Even more impressive is that I felt fantastic after racing 30k. After the race I ate another banana and the 2 Larabars that I had packed away while walking a lap inside the arena. I also drank about 3 bottles of water. I wasn’t able to stay too long after the race but did manage to see and congratulate some of my friends after the race.
The 2014 Around the Bay 30k was a tough race. The new route was very challenging and probably made the 2nd half of the route (which is already pretty challenging) even harder. I’m very happy with my time as I was able to PB by 4 minutes on a tougher course. If you’re planning to run Around the Bay in the future, I advise you to incorporate hill repeats into your training program. It will really make a difference, especially in the later stages of the race. As for me, my next race is the Mississauga Marathon in May where I’ll be pacing a friend, followed by my ultimate goal: the Niagara Ultra 50k in June.