Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Race report: Around the Bay 2014

What the hell, I said at the end of a work day, startling my colleague, as I opened the email from the coach. In it contained the Around the Bay game plan that Mike and I would negotiate over the next few days.

In short:

More specifically, he wanted us to go out at 4:25s, and think about going 4:20s, targetting a 2:10 30K. His aggressive plan was considered when I bumped into a neighbour of mine who's also on the Black Toe team. We traded war stories. Yes, coach was asking him to attack the course.

What the hell.

At least I could breathe, I told my coach as we finished our last quality session a day later, hammering 1500 metre intervals. We were given more aggressive paces, a 4:00 for 10K, 4:05 for tempo and 4:25 for marathon pace. I was hit by the cold delivered by the neverending winter more than two weeks ago, and while the cold didn't last long, the congestion lingered. Luckily, by last week, it was fading away. I ran through the cold, even did 35K long runs and speedwork. When I emerged, I felt like I was strong.

(Around the Bay 2014 results)

In truth, I'm at the strongest point I've ever been in. I'm lean, nailing faster paces and coming off the 1:29:17 half, I was poised for a strong 30K. But was I set for a PB performance?

The finish inside the Centre

By Saturday, I was consigned to worry about the weather, not the pace. The weather that looked so perfect (7C, light wind, sunny) had turned a little less conducive to fast times, (2C, 50-60 km gusts). I resorted to focusing on my gear and silently picked out my 3:10 marathon pace band, one that had a 30K of 2:15.

The team, other friends and the Daily Mile group converged on FirstOntario Centre. It was, like I had predicted, a huge family reunion, seeing a lot of friends as we waited for the race to start.

Gear: singlet, base layer, singlet
Meanwhile, the weather was turning in our favour. The sun was out, the winds not as strong as we'd thought. Earlier that morning, I had tested the air and went with a light singlet, a base layer with sleeves that could be rolled up, and the team singlet. I went with tights, a touque (figuring wind would not be great for a hat) and a windproof mitt. Out on the starting corral, it seemed I'd made a good call. The garbage bag I took out wasn't needed. I rolled up the sleeves, stood at the front of the Corral B with Mike with our Black Toe singlets.

The goal that Mike and I concocted was to go somewhere between the coach's plan (2:10) and our real goal of going under 2:15 gun time. We both had done six Around the Bays but had never gotten the silver medal. We knew we were going to pass the start line about 20 seconds in so our ultimate slowest time was 2:14. We agreed that we'd take the first 18K smartly, then see what happened. 4:25s seemed like a good call.

First 10K
There is not much to say about the first 10K other than it was nothing like the course I've run the past six times. If I were to give a course description last year, I'd tell you it was 18k flat, then the rest hilly. This first part featured turns, tight streets as we ran toward the park, then a series of rolling hills as we were running up highway overpasses. The hills were real and I believe we had three.

We started by running close to the 2:15 pace group, which should have been going at 4:30s, but the pacer was, for some reason, going much faster. He was the same 1:30 bunny we had for Chilly half. After tailing him for a good two kilometres, we were hitting splits of 4:17/4:20, so we backed down. I later tried to get distance on him around the 3K to 4K mark, to clear the big group that was massing around him, but he again caught up to us. So we had a faster than planned first 5K.

Splits: 4:17.5, 4:20.7, 4:16.2, 4:23.7, 4:21.7

The weather was better than expected. The sun was out, the ceiling was high and the wind wasn't a major factor. You can see we're going a little faster than the 4:25s. We decided to calm the pace a little as we were hitting the overpasses and rolling hills in the first 10K. I've read a lot of accounts of people being overheated but I felt pretty much perfectly dressed through the race, never too hot, never too cold.

Once we cleared the 2:15 pacer, we settled in. I knew the first 10K would just test the pace to see how it felt. From a nutrition perspective, I brought in three gels to take in at the 8K, 16K and 24K points. There were certain points that I regretting tucking my gels into my gloves, which meant I had to keep them on.

Next 5K were pretty straightforward -- I was barely paying attention to the sights (as there was nothign to really look at). I peered at the smoke coming out of the stacks and saw the wind direction was indeed coming from the north. As we were about to hit the 10K mark, another teammate was upon us. We were also running with a few runners, including Dave, from the Beaches Runners Club.

So for future years, I'd say the first 10K represent a tactic change for anyone who wants to go out blazing. The rolling hills call for decent pacing, but also offers opportunities to coast on the downhill portions. I think runners should hit the first 10K at or slightly faster than goal pace -- as long as you have buffer or trained properly. Going out at half marathon pace is probably not a good idea.

Splits:  4:19.9, 4:29.7, 4:25.7, 4:27.4, 4:20.3
10K in 44:20

I've always found the "race" to start after the 10K point, when you pass the first relay. It's when the course turns north and when you pass 'tin pan alley.' I love this area because in my pace groups, the runners start to thin out. Anyone who was going out too fast in the first 10K mark start to fall out. I've used this 8-9K stretch to increase the pace.

Mike and I were working together to regulate the pace. His auto split happened slightly before mine and we barely traded many words other than saying the split time ("that was a twenty five," referring to a 4:25). His split would go, mine would go 30 seconds later as I reset a lap early on. The sun was blazing and the north wind really didn't become a factor. I took out one glove and held it. We ran alongside the Beaches guys and just kept on hammering strong paces. I felt within myself and the pace never felt laboured, judging from my breathing.

Splits: 4:13.9, 4:26.8, 4:21.7, 4:23.8, 4:24.2

As we hit the 15K mark, I saw a teammate and could have dropped the gloves, but I didn't, fearing the winds would pick up. It did slightly, but the curving road and the slight rises up to the Burlington Lift Bridge had some slight wind.

As we neared the end of the northerly route, I was thinking how lucky we were to get this weather. Miles earlier, I said to Mike it was a "fucking beautiful day" which was so true.

Splits: 4:24.6, 4:21.2, 4:28.0

19K - 27K
The Burlington section of Around the Bay makes it a historic -- and hard -- race. It's all about the rolling profile of North Shore Blvd. When we turned the corner on to the road, we were immediately faced with a small elevation change. But I knew it wasn't until after we hit the 20/21K mark that we would get the hills. So we focused on getting our splits and taking the hills smartly -- not too fast up, and coasting down.

Splits:  4:21.2, 4:19.5
10K split in 44:04

As you can see, we're hitting 4:20s to 4:24s in this section, which is on the fast end. The first big hill, LaSalle Park came at 21K and we took it easy, doing the split in 4:29. That ended up being one of the slower splits of the entire race for me. After that hill, there are two sustained rises. Mike and I made sure to not hammer too hard up the longer ones and our pace never really suffered.

We made it past the final slow rise and past the cemeteries. Making it to that point, knowing there was about 6K left and only one massive hill left, gave me a confidence boost. By this point, I had taken all my gels, and had taken off the gloves and tucked them into my waistband. I knew it was time to race.

Splits: 4:24.9, 4:29.8, 4:24.4, 4:24.3, 4:21.9

The big hill at the end is preceded by a long hill down, followed by a plunge to the bottom of the valley. I took the downhill in 4:08, then hit the bottom with pace. Mike and I agreed that whatever pace we gained on the downhill we could give up in the uphill.

Going up the hill felt like it was slow -- and it was. I kept my eye at level, and just hammered away. We passed a few runners but never felt like we were going too hard. Near the top, when we think it's over, there was one more rise, and I knew we could clear it without redlining. The split was 4:33. It was time to hammer.

Splits: 4:08.5, 4:33.7

The last 3K was where I knew we could make up some time. By then, I knew we had at least a 1:30 buffer on the 2:15 gun time. We used the first kilometre to slowly ramp back up to pace and we hit that in 4:19.

But I knew I wanted more -- my intention was to race Around the Bay smart, and if I had juice, then I could go tempo on the way home. I had run a smart race where I had hit a lot of 4:25s to 4:28s and I knew I had gas. Don't get me wrong, going faster wasn't easy. I used a few runners ahead of me -- including Dave -- as targets. I knew Mike was going to get his time so I started to up the pace. At some point, I knew that Mike was behind me and he later told me that he used me to drag himself to pace.

Final stretch - you can see Mike behind me.

Taken at 29K by Alison
Down the road, I could see the FirstOntario Centre. I could picture 3K, 2K, and our 1500m intervals. So I hammered on the pace and did 29K in 4:02. I knew I could sustain it, even though I knew I was pushing it. Making my way around the centre, I was now fighting to kill my PB. I had actually forgotten what my PB was (it's 2:13:24) and figured if there was a time to make a run at it, it was now.

I ran down final stretch, the fans were getting louder and I make the two turns, to the Centre, and down the ramp. I saw the clock had hit 2:12 and I knew I had killed it. I hit the final kilometre in 4:04 pace.

Splits: 4:19.6, 4:01.9, 4:04.4

For six Around the Bays, I had used the race as a test of a winter. Most winters, I had barely pushed myself, doing distance instead of distance plus quality work. I've often surprised myself at ATB but never ran it at my peak.

This year, I knew I had the fitness. And it paid off. A 2:12:01, and my very first Silver, a 1:23 PB and a 4:25 pace average.

I got my silver, turned to wait for Mike to collect his, then thanked the Beaches runners who had finished a few seconds ahead of me. I had negative split the race. I had run the last 10K the fastest.

And I looked up at the stands and saw my coach and I pumped my fist. My second PB of the season, another seven year record to fall.

So coach, what the hell?

10K: 44:20
10K: 44:04
10K: 43:37

15K: 1:06:23
15K: 1:05:38


Team Black Toe


Emma said...

Absolutely amazing, Kenny! Congrats!

Robin said...

Congratulations, that's fantastic. Silver medal!! Great job out there.

macnic said...

Such a great race, Kenny. A true testament to all of the hard training you've stuck to this year! Records are falling everywhere! Can't wait to see what happens in the marathon!

Patrick Voo said...

way to go kenny! amazing job - i wish that i could be as fast!

pyrad said...

That's an awesome race, and an awesome collection of medals. You're a champion Kenny!!

Patrick said...

Congrats on the pb. Awesome result!

Mike Post said...

Just read this. Awesome work on the PB and race strategy! Great way to neg split :)