It’s race report time! This was my second time running the Around the Bay Road Race and my second race of 2013. My last race, the Chilly Half Marathon, was a great success and this one was no different. I knew from my training that I was going to do well, but I had no idea that I’d do this well on a 30km run. Let’s get started.
A later start time (9:30am) means that I get to sleep in until 6am (ha!), then fuel up for the race. I decide to go with my go-to pre-race meal: toasted sesame seed bagel with peanut butter, banana, greek yogurt, water and an espresso. I find this is the perfect amount food that doesn’t make me feel too full during the race. I do most of my packing the night before to save some time in the morning so all I need to do is get dressed and pin on my race bib. For race fuel I pack the same food I’ve been eating on my training runs: figs, dark chocolate pretzels and graham crackers. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I bought a power gel. I don’t really notice a difference in performance and it’s kinda fun scouring the aisles of the Bulk Barn looking for tasty, new race snacks. After a few minutes stretching out on the trusty foam roller, I get dressed, get my gear together and began the 45 minute drive west to the “Hammer.”
I thought I left myself plenty of time to get there, find parking and a bathroom, but it was not meant to be. A friendly piece of advice: if you’re travelling eastbound on Main St., don’t stop at the first parking lot you see. You can usually tell which one it is based on the long line of people waiting purchase a ticket at the meter. I must have spent at least 30 minutes in line waiting to buy a ticket. I was told by some friends who saw me waiting in line that there’s another lot one block farther down Main St. that was totally empty, but it costs $4 more.
I already missed the bag check cut off time but I made my way over to Copps Coliseum anyway only to get in another line, this time for the bathroom. I can’t really complain since the ladies line was three times as long. By this time it was 9:15am and it was next to impossible to break through the crowd. There was no time to make the DailyMile pre-race meetup so I turned around and I starting making my way over to Corral C. I don’t know why, but people really like to bunch up near the corral entrance. If you make your way in towards the middle there’s a lot more breathing room and you can get a little closer to the front. I was probably standing there for only 5 minutes before the gun went off, then another 2 minutes before I passed the start line and heard the wonderful beep of the timing chip.
The 2013 Around the Bay Road Race
Since I did so well just a few weeks ago at the Chilly, I used the same race and fueling strategy. I ran the first mile around 20sec/km slower to warm up, then sped up to my proper marathon pace. I always find it difficult to get up to race pace at the beginning with all of the runners so close together. It didn’t really break up that much until we got through downtown Hamilton so I weaving in and out a lot. I didn’t feel thirsty but I stopped at the 10km water station anyway and had a few sips. By 15km I was definitely in the groove. My mile splits (aside from the warm up mile) were pretty even and my form felt locked in and tight. The only thing that I wasn’t looking forward to was the lift bridge and its sharp, metal teeth. I was dreading this part because I remembered what it felt like last year in my Kinvara’s. This year I was wearing Vibram FiveFingers. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I had to slow my pace down considerably just to make it across.
Welcome to hill country
With the lift bridge behind me, I was able to resume running at my normal speed and stayed at marathon pace through the rolling hills of North Shore Blvd. A lot of people complain about the big hill near the end of the course, but I find these rolling hills more challenging. Sure, they aren’t as steep, but it seems like they go on forever! The long, steep hill at the 26km mark is challenging but very doable. I made it to the top no problem, my arms swinging the whole way to help pull me up, but found it hard to recover once I got to the top. I ran up hard, but doing that really elevated my heart rate and it took me a few minutes to get it back under control. If I had have taken the big hill a little slower I might have had more energy for the last mile. By 28km, my pace had dropped to where it was during my warm up and I started to feel a little gassed. Just then someone pointed out Copps Coliseum was just up ahead. The finish line was now in sight! I high fived the grim reaper (awesome!) and pushed ahead. I looked at my Garmin and knew that I was going to finish pretty close to my goal time of 2:30. The people were now lined on both sides of the street and I ran down the ramp into Copps and crossed the finish line with the clock reading 2:34. Considering last year that same clock said 3:18 when I crossed it, I was ecstatic! A PR by almost 45 minutes!
The Around the Bay Road Race is a fantastic, challenging course that you can use as part of your training for a spring marathon. I definitely plan to race Around the Bay again next year, trying to break 2:30. Personally, I find that running both the Chilly Half Marathon and Around the Bay in March makes me feel much better about running a full marathon in May. With a finish time just over 2.5 hours for a 30k, I feel confident that I’ll come close to my goal time of 3:30, plus I have six weeks of training left. Don’t be too concerned about finish time if it’s your first time running Around the Bay. Trust me, you’ll be even better prepared the second time. Just remember to start slow, fuel often and save some energy for those hills.