The Around the Bay road race takes place in Hamilton, Ontario. It starts and finishes at Copps Coliseum, after runners do a complete loop of Hamilton harbour.
Once again, the weather for the day was going to be sunny, but very cold (for the end of March). It was around -10 overnight, and highs for the day were projected to only be about -2.
I was up at 6am for the 9:30am start time. I was getting picked up by Darryl Huras at 7am for the 1hr trek to Hamilton. This gave me lots of time to eat some breakfast, which was a banana wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter. I also had a small amount of oatmeal and coffee to get started for the day. After eating breakfast, I went downstairs and rode my bike on the trainer for 10 minutes. This helps get the legs loosened up and ready to roll. It would likely be better to do this about half an hour before the race start, but what can you do.
At 7am, Darryl showed up and we were off to Hamilton. We had to make a small detour over to Dundas to pick up our race kits that had been picked up the day before by another friend in New Hamburg running the race, who was staying at her sister's place. This didn't take long, and by 8am or so, we were parked and making our way into Copps to hit the washrooms and to walk around and stretch.
After killing time for 45 minutes inside Copps, we headed back to the van to get organized for the race and get to the start line. At about 9:15am, we were off doing a light jog to the starting line and join the other 6,000 people ready to run this race. We were planning on running together, so we seeded ourselves approximately 10 or 12 rows from the front. At 9:30am, the horn sounded, and we were off. It took about 10 seconds to actually reach the start line after the gun went off.
As expected, it was a bit busy for the first few minutes of the race, but after the first K, things opened up nicely and we were able to find a nice rhythm. We went through the first K in 4:04 and feeling good. The race is pretty much a triangle shape. The first 9K are more or less a straight, flat run going due east. This part felt really nice, as we likely did not have any wind, and it was right into the sun. At times, I felt like I was actually getting a bit warm, but all in all, it was comfortable. There were times during this part that it was totally silent, and I thought that was a bit strange. There were a few spots were there wasn't any fan support and all you could hear were the sounds of running feet. This seemed like the exact opposite of 20 minutes ago at the start.
At 9K, we turned north on Woodward Ave. and into a bit of a headwind. It felt cooler for sure and the pace slowed down a little bit. At about 11K, the course went under the QEW and onto Beach Blvd. At this point, the fan support was much higher. The people living along this street did a great job of coming out and cheering runners on. This helps a lot as we went through the middle part of course.
My nutrition and hydration plan for this race was fairly simple. I took my fuel belt with two bottles filled of half water and half gatorade. In each bottle I dissolved about 1 and a half salt stick capsules in each one. Trying to use my salt stick dispenser with gloves on wasn't going to happen, so to make sure I didn't get any cramps, I just pre-dissolved them. In addition, I ended up taking in one powergel at about 12 or 13K and I would try to get a drink from every aid station, alternating between gatorade and water. This all worked well, and I didn't have any nutrition or cramping issues during the race at all.
Back to the run, at 18K, we made the left turn south onto Northshore Blvd. where the race really begins. The good news is that the next 8K or so are all through mostly residential areas, so the fan support is good to push you along, but the bad news is that this is where the hills are. Doing this race for the 4th time now, I really know what to expect, and other than two or three challenging hills on the course, the rest aren't bad. I actually enjoyed the rollers as we got into this section, as it seemed to give the legs a chance to use different muscles which helped. Just past the 20K mark, we go up what I consider to be the first challenging hill at LaSalle park. It's not too steep really, but it goes up for a while, so you have to grind it out. Once at the top, there is a pretty good downhill, and this is where I first started to have some concerns with my knee. Going into this race, I've had some problems with my left knee. Going up stairs, etc. it had been a bit "clicky", and the downhills on the run seemed to make it worse. I just tried to keep a steady pace and not "brake" too much, which made it worse.
After reaching the bottom of the hill at LaSalle park, there is another decent climb back into a busy residential areat. Once at the top here, it's a nice gradual decent for a few K until you make the quick right and small climb back up to Plains Rd. West. At this point, I was feeling pretty good again, and started to pick it up as the next 2K are pretty much downhill as we turn left on Spring Gardens road and go down past Woodland cemetery and the Royal Botanical gardens. During this point, Darryl and I passed a few runners and headed down to meet the "midget" or "little person" to be more politically correct.
Just before making the decent to the bottom of "The Hill", there is a "little guy" who is always in the same place every year blasting out "We will rock you" by Queen. It has become a ritual of doing ATB to "slap the midget". He gives out high 5's to all those who want them. It's a great place to get some motivation before tackling the Valley Inn Road hill. This is the hill every talks about (or fears) when doing this race. It's a pretty steep and decently long hill that challenges runners between the 26-27K point of the race. Once at the top though, you end up back on York boulevard with a 3K downhill finish to the end INSIDE of Copps Coliseum.
At this point, my GPS was showing a 4:09 average pace, which is under a 2:05 finish time. The problem with this though is that my kilometer markers were consistently coming up before the official race K markers. The last few were coming up about 100-200 meters early, so for some reason the course seemed a little "long" this year.
We ran hard for the last few K (with the last one a 3:53/pace) and as we were just about to turn down into Copps to finish, my 30K lap marker went off on my GPS. I only had about 15 seconds to get to the finish line, so it didn't look like I was going to go sub 2:05 today.
As Darryl and I got inside Copps, we were side by side and we then shook hands as we crossed the finish line. You can see this in the cool finish line video below or some of the pictures at the end of this blog.
We both finished in 2:05:15 officially. I was 141st out of 5,882 total runners and 23rd out of 414 in my AG.
Below are the splits in Garmin details for the run.
2011 Around the Bay 30K road race - Garmin Details
After the race, and as soon as I stopped running, I could tell my knee was going to be a problem. We went through the food line and then found a place to do a bit of stretching, but I could tell my knee was starting to tighten up. Any more running was definitely not an option at this point. My fitness seemed good and it wasn't from a lack of energy or muscle soreness that I could not run any more. Simply the fact that my knee had had enough.
The day after the race, my knee was very swollen and the only thing I could do is swim. So I did that for some recovery. By Tuesday, I could bike, and since then, swimming and biking are the only things I have done. It is now 6 days after the ATB and although I don't seem to have any more swelling in my knee, it is still "structurally" sore and bothersome. I have a physio appt. for Monday morning and actually an MRI on my knee planned for next Saturday. I have had what I would describe as general "weakness" in my left knee for a few years at least, but it never really caused me any issues when I run. Once warmed up, it was always fine. That does not seem to be the case now, and with the Boston marathon in a little more than two weeks, I must say, I am concerned. I hope things can fix themselves quickly, or running Boston might not be in the cards. Especially with IM Austria in July. Time will tell I guess, but I'm definitely crossing my fingers.
Below are a few other shots from the race.