About six months ago I had this crazy idea… well, crazy for me anyway.
I’d just finished my first ever half marathon (something I never thought I would do in my life) and I thought it would be a great idea to trying running 30K at the end of March. I felt good after the half, so why not take on the extra challenge of about 9 more KMs? Well, I didn’t know what I was getting in to.
First of all… winter running, not sure I’m going to do that again. When you have an early spring race it’s inevitable that you have to train during the winter and most likely outdoors. I’d never ran outdoors through the winter before and I had no idea how challenging it would be. Sure, I knew it would be cold and snowy at times, but I didn’t plan for the mental game that would accompany my already existing seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I get the winter blues at the best of times, but when extremely cold or snowy weather got in the way of my training, I felt even more depressed and defeated. I did have some very difficult moments, but through it all I only skipped 2 runs and spent only 2 weeks late-February training in the gym. For my first season of winter running, I consider that a freakin’ win. I’m actually surprised how well I stood up to the challenge even with the couple of lows that I experienced. All in all, for Around the Bay (ATB) it ended up being worth it.
The hard months of winter training all came down to the March 28 – 29 weekend for North America’s oldest race – ATB 30K in Hamilton, Ontario. The day before the race I commuted to Hamilton by transit and visited the expo shortly before closing. Somehow the expo was still packed and at points even felt a little crammed. I guess that’s just the nature of the design of First Ontario Centre (formerly Copps Coliseum, which I still call it) with all the booths and stands lined up on the sides for vendors. Packet pick up was relatively easy and I had a chance to browse some of the stands. I’ll say that I love the tech shirt that came with the race package, great colour and long sleeve. The line on the back that says “Older than Boston” is great, but I feel like I have to tell people that it means the race and not ME! :) After the expo I grabbed my carb filled supper and spent the evening relaxing and watching movies with a friend. I am very fortunate to have a friend who lives in Hamilton and is pretty close to Copps, so I am very grateful for saving on hotel fees, etc.
Then it was the big day – Sunday, March 29, 2015. ATB doesn’t start super early (9:30 am), so it was nice to not have to get up before the crack of dawn. My last race was Star Wars Half and I had to get up at 3:30 am, big change for this race! Somehow I actually managed to sleep for about 7 hours, which is amazing. I’m not sure why I was so relaxed the night before, but hey I will take it. I got ready, had my morning smoothie, and then headed to Copps to try and meet some fellow runners before the race. Well, if I thought it was busy at the expo, I was wrong! Copps was packed with all the runners coming and going and waiting in bathroom line ups. This is one great thing about this race – indoor toilets before and after! Actual flushing toilets and sinks to wash your hands in, worth the price of admission, friends. Somehow I managed to find two runner friends in the crowds, which was nice because by this point I was nervous and they helped to calm my crazy mind. After that, it was time to head to the start line. Now the excitement really began!
I’m not too speedy, so I was not set up to start in a corral. So I made my way to the “general” corral and tried to get in the zone. I’d done some warming up before, so by this point I was ready to go. It was exciting to be out there with all the people and for some reason I found them to be generally more calm than at other races I’ve ran. Maybe I was surrounded by all Relay (10 or 15K) people, because no one seemed to be freaking out except me! We started moving pretty quickly as the corrals set off first and then the rest of us. There was some hooting and hollering as we all crossed the start and then everyone started to take off. I was so focused on getting going that I forgot to turn on my GPS watch for the first 1.5K. I was a little upset about this, but I had to shake it off and focus on the run.
Overall, I found the course to be quite enjoyable (the historical big hill near the end was taken out this year though due to construction). We ran on the city streets, through the well-known industrial plant area of Hamilton (yes there was a smell), and then through the rolling hills of a section of suburbia. I actually started off really well and maintained a good pace. I got confident and joined a 2:55 pace bunny group (my original goal was 3:15) thinking it would be a good time to really challenge myself and step up my running game. Well, I was able to maintain this great flow for the first 20K… but then I started to slow down. The rolling hills caused me to lose the pace bunny group and then I started to get some terrible pain on the bottom of my left foot. I had to walk a little more than I wanted to and I even tried to stop to stretch it a little bit. The last 8K were difficult and I had negative thoughts rolling through my mind constantly. But, I had to smarten up. I was there on my own accord and I should be having fun on the nice sunny morning with all the other crazy runners. So, my mantra became “this pain is temporary”. Whether that was a good idea, I’m not sure, but it helped me to finish the race. It helped me fight the rolling hills and then the winds that really picked up for the last 5K. I remember at one point I was feeling so down and then I saw the famous Grim Reaper walking down the middle of the road (27Kish point?)… I high-fived that dude and then somehow I had a surge of energy that pushed me to the finish. Who would have thought that the Grim Reaper would do that? ;)
I zoomed those last 500m (definitely lost running form) down the road and into Copps Coliseum, crossing the finish line with my hands in the air. I was done! I gave everything I had and I was almost in tears reaching that finish line in an arena semi-packed with people hanging out in the stands and cheering people on as they came in. I was ecstatic to see 3:00 on the clock above the finish because I knew then that my chip time would be under 3 hours, which it was. My official chip time was 2:56:36 and I couldn’t be happier. (So I didn’t lose that 2:55 pace bunny group by much ;) ) I definitely earned my medal that day – mentally and physically. Around the Bay was a big challenge that I took on and I feel that I met it head on… and possibly crushed it. And even though my left foot is still hurting almost a week later, I’m still happy that I ran that race and I’m still feeling accomplished as a runner. Who the heck knew I would run this far ever?! Certainly not me. So, I am damn proud of myself.
Will I train through the winter next year for another big goal? That remains to be seen. Winter is a beast on it’s own, so I will definitely have to think about it. For now, it’s time to enjoy spring & summer racing and holding on to the great feelings I had during Around the Bay 2015. Happy running!
PS. Sharing the love time…
Thank you 2:55 pace bunny group leader, you helped me challenge myself and see that I could go a little faster. I can see that I have some potential I can work on.
Thank you Grim Reaper, I’m not sure how you motivated me, but you did.
Thank you random guy who yelled out “You’ll come in under 3 if you don’t slow down from here” at around 800m to go. I picked my ass up and finished in great time!
Thank you kind older dude who hung my medal around my neck. I was carb deprived and almost in tears and I appreciate your kind patience.
And of course, thank you to all of the race workers, volunteers, and police service workers. The race wouldn’t be as awesome as it is without you!