Did Around the Bay Road two weekends ago which is a 30k race around the bay in Hamilton. I only decided to do this at the beginning of March when I realized that it fell on the same day as an 18 mile long run which was supposed to include 14 miles at marathon pace. As the race wasn't sold out, there were a bunch of people trying to unload their bibs on kijjiji and the race even allowed bib transfers for a $15 fee so I ended up paying only $65 (includin the transfer fee) for a bib that would have cost me over $100 if I had registered directly.
One problem with doing this was that the cut-off date to sign up for one of the faster corrals had already passed and since you had to actually submit proof of a qualifying time, I thought they were going to be pretty strict about the corrals and not allow people to transfer into them at the last second. Was intending to start off slow, so I hoped it wouldn't be too bad.
Hamilton is just far enough away that it's a bit of a pain to have to drive there the day before to pick up your race kit (no race day pickup) and then travel there again the next day for the race. Even if you have someone picking up your bib for you, there's the logistics of driving there race morning with a bunch of other out of towners trying to do the same thing so I decided to stay the night before. But of course, by the beginning of March, most hotels in Hamilton are sold out and though there are a few in the outskirts of Hamilton, it would mean you had to drive in on race morning anyways. Basically, I ended up checking every hotel several times a day in downtown Hamilton hoping that there would be some cancellations, so a couple of rooms popped up. Unfortunatley, with scarcity comes cost so ended up with a room for $200 a night in downtown friggin Hamilton. I gave some serious thought to AirBNB (Uber equivalent for overnight stays), but the closest place was still about a km away from the start line. Since there was no bag check and they weren't handing out nice warm ponchos or mylar blankets like they do in NY, it was going to be a chilly walk back, so I thought. So in the end, I ended with my $200 room about 200 m away from the start line.
The perks of a $200 suite room is that it comes with free breakfast which started at 7am which was just about enough time before the 9:30 start time to get stuff digested. One toasted bagel with peanut butter and jam and one bowl of instant oatmeal with some brown sugar.
Hung out in the hotel room with until about 15 minutes to go so didn't have to do the portapotty lineup and found the ability to just veg out to be relaxing. The night before I wasn't sure what to wear and so was weighing the options. I had brought running pants and two different pairs of shorts (knee length and Race Ready). For tops, I had brought conventional long sleeve, a slightly thicker thermal long sleeve and then a thick quarter zip and a thin quarter zip, both long sleeves. I had also brought a singlet, but wasn't sure what I was thinking with that. The weather forecaset was predicting a start around freezing, but they were predicting it would warm up to 5C by the end of the race. They were also predicting some potentially gusty winds in the later portion of the race.
Weighing the options, I decided on the thicker thermal long sleeve together with the thin quarter zip outer later. I also decided to wear the race ready shorts. Wasn't really a weather decision to go with the shorts, but more so because it had more pockets to carry stuff. I had to bring my gels and carry around my hotel key card and car keys (no baggage check available) and my running pants only have one pocket in the back.
So walk to the corrals and down a gel with some water. Was able to wiggle my way to the front of the open corral which was just behind the seeded corals. Only had to wait around for a few minutes before the race started and off we went. The plan was to start off a slow controlled pace for a few miles and then gradually ramp up to marathon pace. Was planning on running the marathon portion by feel and to judge by HR.
1 km: 5:13
First km was fairly well paced. Lots of room, not too many people in the way. Feeling pretty good. Trying to stay nice and relaxed and keep the HR in check.
2 km: 4:44
3 km: 4:34
The 2nd and 3rd kms are on a bit of a downhill (the first km is downhill also) as you run towards the lake. So these were a bit faster than I would liked. Effort level still felt sort of easy.
4 km: 4:49
At the start of the 4th km, there are these railway tracks that cross the street and there was the ominous sound of a train ringing its bell. It looked like there were a few rail cars that were slowly inching their way backwards towards the road. There was a cop there monitoring the situation. I'm not sure what happened and if runners had to stop. I would think they could have waited about 15 minutes and all the runners would have cleared through. I haven't read anything about runners getting held up, so i"m assuming that's what happened. Half way through the 4th km, I decide to start the marathon pace portion to get a good feel for it by the time I hit mile 4 (at about 6.4 km) which would allow me to get a good solid 14+ miles in at marathon pace and to also possibly stop and slow down if I ran into HR issues.
5 km: 4:35
5th km was on target and pace. Ideally 4:35 pace is the marathon pace I'd like to be able to run as that would put me in sub 3:14 marathon range and a possible BQ.
6 and 7th km: 9:40 (4:50 avg)
Up until this point, I hadn't had any HR issues and things were going well. Breathing was under control, HR was fairly low and controlled. Km 6 has the first little bit of a hill which is actually a bit of an overpass that crosses over a road. Try to maintain pace going up that. As it's an overpass, there's an immediate downhill on the other side, however when I ease off on the throttle going down the hill, I feel the HR skip a beat, look down at the watch and it's spiking. Damn. I continue to run on trying to figure out if I should stop to let it calm down or if I should keep going. I was so distracted at this point, that I missed the 6th km marker. I continue on for a little bit, then we move onto a ramp going up onto an elevated expressway/road. I decided to walk up the overpass hoping the HR will settle down. Nope, it doesn't. I continue on.
8 km: 6:40
So now approaching the 5mile mark, I had to make a decision to either get the HR under control so I could get the 14 miles in at marathon pace or to just try and ride through it. I try for the former coming to a complete standstill to try and do crouch and Vagal maneuver thing to get the HR under control. I try for about 30 seconds and nothing, I walk for a bit and then try again. Nope, HR is still racing. At this point, I feel silly being at a complete stop with people running by me, including one guy dressed as a hot dog. Once the hot dog guy passes me, I decide that I'll just continue on at marathon pace effort level and now worry too much what actual pace I was doing.
9 km: 4:46
So I quickly catch up to and pass the hot dog guy. These two kms are lumped together because I think I was late hitting the lap split on 9 and therefore a quick 10th km. Together, these were a 4:29 average. The 10km timing mat had me at 48:49 (4:53 pace) which I think was actually pretty good considering that included the walking and not moving bit. The 10 km includes the decent from the elevated expressway and then a climb onto an overpass.
11 km: 4:35
12 km: 4:31
13 km: 4:31
14 km: 4:41
15 km: 4:25 (1:11:36, 4:46 min/km pace (7:41 min/mile)
I don't actually remember much about these 5 km. Timing mat has these at 22:47 for a 4:33 pace which would be excellent if I could maintain that during an actual marathon. Remember this is being done with my HR pumping away in the mid 180's when it should normally be in the mid-160s.
16 km: 4:29
The start of km 16 has us going over a metal grate bridge. You have to be a bit more careful at this point. I think I was consciously trying to land flat footed at this point. I'm not sure the holes were big enough to actually cause people to trip and fall, but you never know. Ideally, if they put some mats on it like they do in Chicago, it would be better.
17 km: 4:36
18 km: 4:42
19 km: 4:35
20 km: 4:39 (5km split, 23:04, 4:36min/km)
18 km is when I think we started hitting the wind since this is where it appears the pace started to slow a bit. I also seem to remember a lot of rolling hills in this part. 4:36 pace would put me at a 3:14 marathon which is borderline BQ territory.
21 km: 4:50
22 km: 4:38
23 km: 4:42
24-27 km: 18:17 (4km average, 4:34)
The next few km are again into the wind and I continue on. I missed a whole bunch of markers from 24 to 27. I think the wind may have blown them over as a couple of times there were some signs face down on the ground, but I wasn't sure if they were construction signs or km markers so I just passed them by. We pass by the grim reaper at about the 25 km mark (I'm guessing) as we run by a cemetery. I suppose it's a tradition, but I think it's morbid to have a guy at the 25 km mark dressed as a grim reaper telling people they aren't going to make it. Enough people have died during races that it won't be particularly humorous if it happens one of the years at ATB.
28 km: 4:32
29 km: 4:41
30+ km: around 5:27
The runners had particularly thinned out quite a bit at this point. The race heads south which is still into a bit of a wind. The last km seemed excessively long. I didn't quite stop the watch at the finish line. But it was still probably around 5:20 for the last km which included about 200m of a tempo pace and downright sprinting at the end while trying to race some guy that was booking it to the finish line (He beat me, damn).
Chip time was 2:21:41 for average pace of 4:43 min/km (7:36 min/mile).
Staring from km 9, I ended up doing 22 continuous km (13.7 miles) at about 4:37 min/km (7:26 min/mile) pace. Including the couple of early marathon pace km, I did over the 14 miles I set out to do, most of which was at the spiking HR. Polar stats available here. HR spiking starts at about 24 minute mark.
The course was apparently long as is evident from this news article. I find the race directors attitude towards the inaccurate course to be a bit poor. He says:
"The only people that are affected are members of Athletics Canada, who have age records and Athletics Canada is more than welcome to get (the course) measured if they want but I'm not doing it," "I've had no complaints from average runners. I just don't think it's a problem."
I don't care that the course was longer than 30km. I've certainly run enough races where distances were short or long, but I find this attitude to be poor. If you're going to advertise it's a certified course, then the course should be certified. Yes, they made a change at the last minute because of construction, but they knew about this for weeks ahead of time. They should have made arrangements to have the new course re-certified, even if they weren't going to use it.
To be honest, I also dislike the fact that there was no bag check. The website states, "Due to recent events and security precautions, baggage check will no longer be available." To me this is a cop out for trying to be cheap. If races like Boston and New York can offer a bag check, so can this race.
On the way out of FirstOntario Centre (where the race finishes), I heard my name being yelled. I looked up and saw my running Prof from my masters degree. I had "run" into him at a 5km race before. I had introduced myself to him at the time, but I don't think he remembered me as it was two years since I had taken his class where over a period of 4 months, I saw him once a week for a couple of hours. Anyhow we traded war stories and actually there's a race picture of us together.
|Please pardon the watermarks.|
This is a few km from the finish. I had no idea I had passed him at this point or he could be in the process of passing me. He actually finished ahead of me by about 7 seconds going by gun time, but since I hadn't started up near the front, my chip time was quicker.
So my reward for finishing was some frozen yogurt. There was a grocery store that were selling serve yourself soft ice cream/yogurt and toppings for a flat price. Normally serve yourself ice cream ala Menchies is sold by weight so the more you put in your cup, the more you pay, but these guys were just selling it by cup. In hindsight, I should have put a lot more in there. Rookie mistake, I guess.