Sitting slackjawed in the bathtub, hot water cascading over my head and shoulders. Wondering what’s worth reporting about today’s 30k Around the Bay running race. Knowing I’m not going to give it to you step-by-step. Going full thematic today.
Numbers Tell Part of the Story
|Target||Actual (Chip time)|
This is 20 seconds ahead of the pace I’ll need to hold at the Toronto Marathon in May to qualify for Boston. But what does it all mean? Read on.
What the Shirt Says (and what it doesn’t)
Around the Bay has been around since 1894, three years earlier than the Boston Marathon. That makes ATB the oldest existing running race in North America. Boston has been held yearly, however, whereas ATB has missed 15 years due variously to the First World War, economic depression, and (once) road construction.
No matter how many thousands of runners you’re around in a starting corral (at ATB it was about 10,000), the vibe is always the same; energized, expectant, nervous-humorous. Faces are alert, shoes increasingly multi-coloured. Lycra-clad bodies packed close together make it feel about 5 degrees warmer. The horn sounds – a cheer goes up, no one moves, then you walk, then a series of chirps as our timing chips pass over the start line.
The People I Avoid
The stiff, hunched-over, splay-legged, or just “looks like you’ve got a pant load” runners. With my heart rate above 160, it offends my aesthetic sense to see that kind of form ahead of me, and I pick up the pace to get it out of my line of sight.
The porn audio-track: guys who sound like rutting elk, or in one appalling case like a happy ending was happening right at the 24k aid station. Dudes, not cool. Suffer in silence please.
Hamilton and Burlington Route
The first third of the race goes through Hamilton’s blue-collar neighbourhoods, potholed roads, rows of scruffy houses. The “Hammer” does have some nice leafy districts, but these aren’t them – and reinforce the city’s worn-out, industrial, slag-heap image.
The middle third cuts back along a strip of land that separates Burlington Bay from Lake Ontario – though sadly you really see neither, except when the passing the great green-and-orange lift bridge at 15k.
The route is flat until then, but the final third of the race is the real kicker, winding and rolling along North Shore Boulevard in Burlington, culminating in a steep down-and-up on Spring Garden road for the better part of a kilometre. The area abuts the Royal Botanical Gardens and, appropriately a very large cemetery. For consequences of this course profile, I refer you to the time chart above.
The race ends back in Hamilton inside Copps Coliseum, down a ramp into darkness and emerging Gladiator-style for the last 50m to the finish.
What do you want to be when you blow up?
I know what you’re thinking. I didn’t stick to my plan so serves me right. Stopping running within sight of Copps, 1km to go, and walking off a stitch in my side (for a few seconds) isn’t my proudest moment in sport. I’d been battling stitches through the final third and totally lost the flow I’d had from the start. I underestimated how much the hills would slow me down, and might have avoided that by easing up a little in the first half. But man, it was real good while it lasted.
I do have to say that knowing I was going to be blogging about this race whatever the result did spur me on to a respectable performance when I might have just dropped anchor.
Toes that look like a perp lineup. Twitching calf muscles, mini earthquakes under translucent skin. A kneecap that better have another 6 weeks in it. A dull ache in the glute, now familiar since January. A stinging chafe on the inside of one arm. Pretty standard.
I’ve now shown I can finish at my target pace for 30k, but need to do it for 42k. Frankly today that would not have happened. But the course profile was much tougher than it will be in Toronto (a net downhill). So, back to training and now with additional respect for the need to conserve, conserve, conserve in the first half.