I've run this 30K 'oldest road race in North America' five times, and it's, for me, an annual ritual. The race starts in Hamilton and runs around the Hamilton harbour, through Burlington, then back to Hamilton. Thus, around the bay. I love the race for the T-shirts (read my post about it here), for the tour of downtown and industrial Hamilton, then across to the city of Burlington, where you see the high-priced homes by the water and the infamous painful parts of the course.
2015 UPDATE: The Around the Bay 2015 course (see map) will not have the infamous hill. Here is the diversion around the hill (around a 2K route) which turns hills to essentially flat. Note the first 10K is similar to the 2014 version, which included rollers so now there are hills.
2014 UPDATE: The Around the Bay 2014 course is altered in the first 10K. Here's a post on that and here's the map. I
|2014 Around the Bay course|
Original post continues
Here's a snapshot of the course from one my past races there. Click to see the course
When I think about how to run it strategically -- and many people do to try to score one of the medals for faster times -- I think about breaking up the race into three (okay, four) portions. This is in part based on the makeup of the course but also because this is a distance race that necessitates proper pacing so you don't run out of steam.
I like to think the course in pretty much four stages. I'll outline them here
Hamilton to the bridge: I think of the first 10K is pretty much a no-panic, get your pace in and get used to the crowds type of run. If you placed yourself accordingly in the corral, you should find yourself running at your pace within a few kilometres. Note that there are relay runners who will blow their energy. I like this because it's basically a straight route with a few small turns. The roads are pretty well maintained with the occasional pothole. I love this area also for the locals who always come out to cheer - like a church that always has its priest waving at the runners. If you have a goal pace in mind, you may want to ramp up to the pace, but stick at it. Remember this is a 30K and there is no sense to try to bank time. I've always taking the first 10K in a conservative way.
Bridge to Burlington: I like to look at the 10K mark, when you pass the first relay point, is a great time to hammer it. The crowds of the start will probably start to thin, if it's a sunny day, then you'll get the perfect temperature and you'll have some energy to use up after a smart start. One danger is the wind speed as many places on this course are exposed. There are also slight inclines and that are worth putting stress on other muscle groups. I've often stepped up the pace in this stretch, especially if there is a good group of other runners to pace with.
The hills: Oh yes, this is where the fun begins. Before I talk about them, here's an elevation profile.
The hills have different profiles. Below is one of the early risers (after Glenwood, a street where R's parents live) that stretches for nearly 500 metres. It's one of those long slow climbs. My strategy for this hill is to run it with the same effort that you'd run flat. Don't stop, even when others do. You can regroup on the flats and downhills.
|One of the big hills on North Shore. This one continues for about 500 metres. Google Street View|
With the hills, of course you'll get downhills like this (which you'll encounter about 150 metres after you climb the hill above. Coast down these hills, let gravity do its job, and recover your breath. Of course, right after this downhill, you have to climb up again. I kinda hate this hill.
|Yay downhill. Google Street View|
So the hills are spread out. I find some of the smaller climbs to be tough, when you are trying to maintain that same pace you started the race with some 25 kilometres earlier. And that's what gets you about these hills. They come late. Go out too fast, and you could be done. Forget to take a few gels, and you could be out of gas. If you didn't train for endurance or for hills, then they can eat you up.
But Around the Bay is probably most famous for two massive hills at the end, appropriately at the end of a big cemetery.
|You'd rejoice on this big downhill at Spring Garden... Google Street View|
Here's the huge drop at Spring Garden Road. The elevation chart above shows it as the beginning of the big V. You can really motor down this run, and you better, because you've got to climb up it.
|But then you have to climb this... Google Street View|
Downhill home: After conquering the bridge, you still got some more to go until the end. I've exited the final uphill with pace and cruised home with my fastest splits. Nothing really more to say that if you parcelled out energy through the first 26ish kilometres, the last bit -- which features the Grim Reaper -- can be a nice little victory run after the hard hills. In past runs, i've had to deal with cramping or just hitting a mini wall. Other times, perfect ending.
Whatever the end, nothing beats running towards Copps Coliseum, where you will run into the arena to the finish. Watch the little ramp downhill when you're making your big entrance.
If you skipped the text, here is the best way to run ATB:
KM 1 - 10: Run it smart, but you can run it at your goal pace
KM 11 - 20: If you feel good, continue on that fast pace, or even put some time in your bank with faster splits
KM 21 - 27: Take the hills with confidence, but take advantage of those downhills, as they'll give you your time back
To the end: This is downhill mostly, so if you got energy, burn it up!
You run it? What are your tips?
Other posts on Around the Bay:
- NEW: Around the Bay elevation and hills
- NEW: Around the Bay frequent questions
- The Shirt (an appreciation of Around the Bay)
- 2011 race report
- 2008 race report (and my fastest ATB)
Also, a clickable version of the course. Click through to see the course and play the course (and see the elevations).