(Here are the Around the Bay 2013 race results if you're looking for them.)
To progress as runners, we often have to go out there and run a smart, purposeful but daring race. Even among recreational athletes, this is done all the time. Ask anyone who ever set a personal best. At some point, they threw all the strategy out the door and just went for it, hoping that past experience and miles logged can turn into something you can draw from on the course.
I sign up for Around the Bay every year to keep myself honest in the dead of winter. You can't just show up for a 30k undertrained. The past 11 weeks of winter didn't so much as test my ability to train through winter, but rather built back the base I'd lost much of 2012.
About a month ago, on the trails of the Martin Goodman, I used a group of runners as my carrot. About 13 miles later, I'd done a sub 1:45 half (5 minute kilometre pace), a good sign I could in theory start thinking about a 3:30 marathon. That also meant that a 2:30 30k should be a marker I should hit with no problems. Too bad, I didn't follow up my training with speed, tempo, faster paced runs or even striders. No, I was relying on a cardio base and just going for a running streak. What my body could give on race day would have to be supplemented by my head and muscle memory, even if my last race was in October.
|Around the Bay start line a few hours before the start.|
I stayed over in Hamilton and took a stroll to the start line at 7:30 am. Two days before, I made the decision to dress light: a singlet as a base, and covered it with a light breathable long T that could roll up at the sleeves. The thinnest of gloves and tights. And, unlike every other run in 2013, I traded my touque for my MCM race hat.
At the start line, I checked out other runners and I had clearly been among the more underdressed. Thing is, I wasn't even shivering. A few years ago, at ATB, I had a moment of panic a minute before the start gun when I was trying to unzip the sleeves off my windbreaker without taking it off. Another runner thankfully assisted me and it made the difference between comfort and overheating.
|This year's shirt.|
Yep, the splits for the first five kilometers show a bit of restraint. I remember my own advice about this race to be consistent and conservative in the first 10k. There was quite a bit of congestion and soon I realized it was because the 2:30 pacer was ahead of me. Yup, I wasn't going to be content with 2:30 so I passed the group and focused on getting my stride on.
The gloves came off quickly, then I rolled up my sleeves. Another runner took two glances at me and said "Sleeveless! Now that's a Canadian!" "It's almost warm out," I replied.
One slight advantage to my winter training is the fact that I don't fuel. (I do in the spring and summer as thirst requires it.) Today I planned to hit all the water stops with Gatorade and I carried three gels for the 8k, 16k and 23k marks so my usually depleted body would get an injection of carbs. I never leave bonking to chance on race day. You can see my next five kilometers how I'm starting to increase the pace -- when we turned north towards Burlington, I thought "it's time to race."
I'm a little floored by these splits because in my base winter training I was doing nothing near this in the past 10 weeks of daily runs, long or short. Yes, I've shown in my running career this is nothing out of the ordinary but it was one of those moments that race experience and stubbornness turns into results
My running turned into 'metronome' style where I was looking to parse out even and moderate effort. If that pace meant I was passing people, so be it. After the 10k mark, toward Burlington, we start to get some risers and drops.
Yep, the splits show how I know how to click off consistent splits when I'm on.
When you turn enter North Shore, you have a few kilometers of slow rises and flats that lead to the massive hills. When you turn the corner the race turns into a third dimension. I call it survival while trying not to bonk. Even before you hit the 20k mark you've hit quite a few hills. I took them okay, always using my breathing as the test on whether I've put on too much effort.
So I hit the half marathon mark at 1:40 or so. That was the first time I started to think whether I was testing my own fitness. I had another 5-6 kilometers of hills to take. So the next six kilometers, I took the tactic of gauging the hills, asking my body what it wanted to do, and just go with what felt right.
The first major hill up to LaSalle Park I ran it with good effort. It's followed by a drop that I took restrained, regaining my breath. The second hill after LaSalle I ran, but took a 15 second walk break at the top to settle my heart rate. I find whenever I take a break like that it can help me maintain a steady cardio state instead of red lining -- if I had done tempo or speed work I would have been able to handle that but alas, not this year. At a water station at 23K, I took a gel while walking (I usually do it on the run) to regain my breath. In almost every case, I soon caught up to runners who were with me.
Finally, Spring Garden and Valley Inn Road, I decided to take it easy so I ran up half the hill, then power walked the rest. My heart rate maintained steady. It was an odd, on the ground decision, but I think it helped me rescue the rest of the race. As you can see in the splits for Burlington's hills I didn't lose too much pace. I'd never done this much walking but I knew where my potential red line was. Again, most runners who passed me on the hills I overtook later.
On the way back to Copps and Hamilton, I was feeling pretty tired. I knew I had a sub 2:30 but was flirting with 2:25, not sure which end I'd land on. Funnily enough, I was thinking of the fact that my hotel wouldn't give me late checkout which meant I'd have to try to finish before noon (2:30 finish) and any minutes I could go sub that would buy me time. Stupid, I know.
Somewhere with about two kilometers to go, I said screw it, lets hammer. And it was good timing because as I passed a runner, she said to me "great, someone I can latch on to." And the two of us proceeded to hammer it home. I ran faster, and so did she. We powered down the stretch.
Which itself is a funny story, but only until after the race did I realize that it was my running buddy Sam on my heels! See the following Twitter exchange post-race.
.@ssykes1 what! Wait?! Was that you on my heels! Geez, if I'd known I'd totally have paced us in together!
— yumke (@yumke) March 24, 2013
Cause Sam on my heels caused me to kick it into an even higher gear. Thanks Sam! My last kilometer was the fastest. Small world this running scene, eh?
@ssykes1 seriously, I owe 30 seconds to your pacing cause you helped me to next gear. Thank you! And awesome in good luck charms!
— yumke (@yumke) March 24, 2013
The meeting also continues a funny streak as Sam and I see each other at random races we run: At the end of a marathon, in the middle of one (in Ottawa), before or after a race.
So there's my sixth Around the Bay, a good opener for the year and amazing what a solid base of running can get you on race day. Now the job is to take the gains and see how I can stretch this to my two marathons in May.
Final time: 2:24:29
Average pace 4:4
Other posts on Around the Bay:
- Around the Bay 30K race -- hills, strategy and is it hard? Yes
- The Shirt (an appreciation)
- Around the Bay strategy
- 2011 race report
- 2008 race report
- Around the Bay elevation gains and losses