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2023 Around The Bay

Short Version.

Why did I decide to ‘race’ it? 
Good question.

I had, as always, 3 goals. 
3:30:00, 3:40:00, Finish without walking too much.
Managed the 2nd with walking.

Training was hard.
Recovery time is much longer.
Winter training, blizzards, flying on ice (actually falling),
running only 3 days a week.

The Trip to Hamilton.
Hazardous drive from Napanee to Toronto.

We got in, collected a bib and a shirt, and got out.

The race.
I really wanted 70 minutes for each 10km. 
Ha, nice dream

Long Version.

As always, length alert!

Why do it?

I raced in the 30k Around The Bay 7 times, the last time in 2013.
Obviously I did not have the desire to run it again… till I got a call from my dear friend Jennifer Morse, offering to run it again. Peer pressure for sure.
An added pressure was, when another dear friend, Michelle Power, offered the same. Needless to say I caved in and registered for my 8th round of Around The Bay Road Race.

My ‘A’ race in 2023 will be the 70.3 Mont-Tremblant. I knew that if I didn’t have a race in the spring, I wouldn’t train in the winter.

So, late last year, November 29th I registered.


I kept training with the fun group runk2j following Judy’s schedule.
Since my main 2023 race is a triathlon, the 70.3 Mont-Tremblant, I had to swim/bike/run during the week, and run only 3 times a week.
Most of my active years I ran 5 times a week, even when I was training for triathlons. Those days I did not need that much of a recovery time, and 2 workouts a day were no problems.

Tell it to my body now.

The weekly mileage never exceeded 44 km and I ran only once 26 km.
I sure hoped during the weeks leading to the race, that this will be enough.

My two longest runs were 23 km on February 26th and 26 km on March 5th. 
Both runs were in extreme winter condition. 
There was no way I would run those distances on the treadmill, so out I went. 

The 23 km run was at a pace of 8:28. The snow was deep and kept coming while I was running, conspiring with the wind to create impossible conditions to run. Obviously there was a lot of walking.

The 26 km run was better, but not much. On this run, the challenge was the ice. I did run with spikes, (first time ever) and I was not comfortable. The pace was 7:53. The ice really scared me. 

On Dec. 18th, 2022, I flew on the ice at the end of my run. I landed on my face, breaking the root of my top front tooth. This will be an expensive implant. 😦

During my training, every Tuesday was a hills run, and Thursdays was the speedwork with the runk2j group. Most of my Sundays run and all the Tuesdays runs were me and I runs.

Harold Piel decided late in the winter, well, his coach and his only boss starting April (he will be a retiree) decided for him, to participate in Around The Bay, so the Thursday speedwork we did together.
Most runners in the group are faster, including Harold, than I am, but he was nice to allow me to tag along with him.

The Trip to Hamilton.

My daughter Shawna performed in Ottawa the Sunday before the race and stayed with us for a week, so I knew I’ll drive to Hamilton with my car to drop her in Toronto on the way.

It would have been fun to drive with the Run Ottawa bus to Hamilton, but it was no option for me this year.
Well, at the end, the Run Ottawa’s bus/hotel did not happen for lack of interest. What is happening to Ottawa’s runners?

Michelle joined me for the trip, but Jennifer, sadly, had to cancel going to Hamilton due to an injury. 

The weather forecast for the drive was bad. Snow in Ottawa, freezing rain in Hamilton on Saturday.

We left Ottawa at 8:40, picked up Michelle 20 minutes later, and were on our way to Toronto.

Shawna drove all the way to Toronto, while I sat in the passenger seat, a situation I am not familiar with.

The first two hours, arriving in Napanee, the conditions were good. The rest of the trip was horrible. It started with heavy snow, snow squalls, changed to ice pellets, and a very strong rain. We were all anxious, but Shawna is a good driver and we arrived in Toronto without an incident.
We did stop in few of the On Route along the 401 highway.

From Toronto to Hamilton I drove and by that time the weather stopped acting up.

When I finally parked the car in the parking lot of the Sheraton Hotel it was 4:15 pm, so we headed to the Expo which was supposed to be open till 5 pm.

The Expo.

The Sheraton was the race hotel, very close to the expo and the race start/finish.
Short walk to the Expo and we were there. Very few people around, so we got our bib and shirt in no time.

The volunteer and I happily smiling at the Expo
Got our bibs and shirts.

We did not hang around in the Expo since we did not have interest in buying anything.

The same walk back to the hotel, checking in, and we were in the room with our suitcases just before 5 pm, tad over 8 hours after leaving Ottawa.

The Hotel:

I booked a room in the Sheraton. This hotel is right at the start. It costs tad more but I needed all the convenience I can get. No need to plan how to get to the start, you are right there.

The room was on the 3rd floor, specious and nice, but the view from the window was nothing to write home about. Roof and machines. Oh well, we did not plan time for looking at the view.

We settled in and rested a bit, before heading for dinner.

We were glad to hear that checking out time was 1 pm and not the usual 11 am.
Not that I had any chance to arrive on time, but Michelle did.
So we decided that she’d get in the room when she is done and let me in whenever I arrived.

It worked out well, and we were able to take a shower in our room before heading back to Ottawa.

The walk to the restaurant was a fight with gusting winds of 90-100 km/hr.
We’ve met some of the many Hamilton’s homeless on the way.
One of them, right in front of everybody, with an exposed behind, was screaming: “Mommy, mommy I have to go”. It was heart wrenching.
We made it and had dinner with, surprise surprise, many other runners.
Food was OK to good, but served its purpose as fuel for tomorrow race.

Before long we were back in the hotel getting ready for sleep.

I didn’t sleep that well, which is normal for me the night before a race. Friday’s night I had a good sleep, so I was not concerned.

Morning wake up, eyes still semi shut, we had breakfast.

The forecast for race day was a windy day with up to 40-50 km/hr gusts.

What to wear, as in most races, was the question. I decided to be prepared for a cold race, even though  the temperature at the start was forecasted to be 4 Celsius.

We got dress with our cloths fitted for a strong wind and were ready to go.

The Race:

Well, the real important part of this report. I guess I could have told you to jump right here, but I did not.

My best performance in this race was in 2004. At that time I planned to maintain a steady pace and break the race to 3 races of 10 km. I wanted, and succeeded, to run each of them in 48 minutes.

For this time, 19 years later, my 1st goal was the same. Three races of 10 km with a slightly slower pace, 7 minutes per kilometer. ☹️
My 2nd goal was 3 hours and 40 minutes, and the 3rd goal was to finish without too much walking.

We left the room at 9 and when we got to the lobby, many runners were there waiting to go to the start.

A short walk to the corals’ area and there we were waiting for the start.

All of a sudden I heard someone calling my name. I was happily surprised to see Max & Lynne.
Both are friends of mine for many years. Lynne and I trained many hours together for our 1st and 2nd Ironman

Catching up with them made the waiting for the gun pass faster and there it was, the start of, I have to admit, a scary 30 km race.

Here we go, we are almost there, 30 km to go.

Just before the start of the 2nd km, a Nun choir was singing for us.

When I saw the 1st km mark, I looked at my watch, 6:30.
Too fast from my planned 7 minutes pace. But I felt great and thought to myself; Maybe I should try to run a 3 hours and 15 minutes race. What was I thinking? You should stick to your plan, but here I was like a runner racing his/her 1st race, and not like I should have acted, after 202 races.
Yes, I counted, I have a spreadsheet with all my races. You should have it also.

Well, I kept running at that pace, and at the 5th km, one lady started to talk to me, saying she is behind me all this time, and she is trying to keep this pace with me. We ran together for a while but around 8 km she slowed down. 

I arrived at the 10km mark and I saw Ian Hunter taking photos. I stopped and he took mine also. Look at my happy smile. How long would it last?
Thanks Ian.

It took me 65 minutes to run it, bang on 6:30 pace.

I was still hoping for a 6:30 pace for the coming 20 kms. Obviously I was not in my right mind.

The wind became a factor and my pace got slower, in the 6:45-6:55 pace.

At km 15 a runner started to talk to me. She had a good line to start: “Are you famous?” she asked. I did not exactly understand where was she coming from and replied, “no, why do you think so?” She said, “You talked to so many runners”.

It was true, a few times, runners, for some reason, started to talk to me and we ran a bit together. It was never my initiative, even though some were pretty ladies.

Anyhow, I ran with this lady for a few kms. She is an Iron Woman from the USA and was fun to talk to. At one point she saw a Canadian flag on the road and picked it up. I told her, thinking about it later, like an idiot, “You are not a Canadian, You should give it to me”. Sure enough, she handed it to me and I ran with it the rest of the race.

At around 20 km, climbing on a hill, some neighbors were handing out Easter chocolate eggs. I was drinking so she took one for me. At that point I was already feeling that I was fading, took the chocolate egg from her and told her to keep going. This 20th km was at 6:48 pace, but the next one was 8:07.

I ran the 2nd 10 kms at 1:09:55 which was 7 min/km pace, my initial planned pace.

At this stage I thought that all I could hope for will be my 3rd goal, getting to the finish line without too much walking.

From the 20th km to the 25th km, the course is rolling hills. Well, the running up was like mountains and not hills. I was trying to run/jog up, but every so often I had to walk.

What was half comforting to me was seeing many others in the same distress as me.

At the 25 km, at the end of the rolling hills, there is a steep downhill, but whoever knows ATB course is aware of the steepest climb after.

Right at that spot, another Nuns’ choir was singing. Remember the one on the 1st km? I wish I stopped to take their photo.

At the end of the downhill, as always, was the cheering small man in his wheelchair. 
Of course I stopped for a photo.

Here you can see the climb ahead. Most runners had turned to walkers.

I was in a mind set of: what the hell, I’ll get to the finish line somehow, who cares about time.

Pretending I was running, I started to climb. It is about a 650-700 meter climb.

In the middle of the climb, The Captain was cheering. I stopped to take his photo.
His sign said: Studies have proven… running is faster than walking. dah!
After that I performed a fast walk to the top. No, I was unable to run.

The last few km to that spot were at 8:15-9:30 pace. From there to the end I had to run about 3 km.

My calves and hamstrings in both legs were screaming. I had hard time running, even though that’s the part of the race you should pick up and finish strong.

I had to stop and massage my sore spots and kept moving.

Finally I arrived at the famous Grim Reaper. I knew that I would stop there, no matter how fast my race was. What I did not know was that I will be in such bad shape. I asked him to take me away and put me in one of the burial plots in the cemetery behind him.

He said it’s not my time as yet, but agreed to my request that this will be my last ATB race.

OK, I made this conversation up.

One of the many racers who were walking/crawling at that stage agreed to take our photo.

Obviously during my walks, photos’ taking and feeling sorry for myself, I lost a few minutes.

Jogging carefully after saying goodbye to the Grim Reaper, I took a look at my watch.

It was 3 hours and 26 minutes of running/jogging/walking/crawling. 

Surprisingly enough, my brain was still functioning. I did a fast calculation and realized that if I try, I might be able to finish the race in 3 hours and 40 minutes, my 2nd goal.

I thought I might be able to, somehow, run the last 2 km in 7:00 min/km.

That was the moment the Mind took over. Slowly I picked up the pace and ignored my pain.

I started to pass runners and felt elated. My pace was below 6:30 min/km, the best two km in the whole race.

I entered the arena and saw the finished line, and it was 3:41 something, but that was clock time and not chip time, which on my watch showed 3:49:10. My official time at the end was 5 seconds faster.

The 3rd 10 km took me 1:23:15, average pace of 8:18 min/km. I stopped a few times to take photos and had some, ok, a lot, walking. It was far from my planned 7 min/km pace.

Thinking later about my race execution I was kind of disappointed I did not stick to the plan, but happy with the way I ran the last 2 km.

We all know that the brain slows you down way before your body really has to, and the real trick is not to let it.

Obviously it requires mental strength, and somehow I was able to reach it.

I have to admit that I have forgotten how hard this race is, and the truth of the matter is that I was not completely ready.

It was nice to see Judy at the finish line, who finished the race way earlier. A hug and a photo was taken and I was on my way to get some food and my medal.
Too bad she decided to hide my face. 🙂

Got my medal. I think I deserve it.

Short walk from there to the Sheraton, where Michelle was waiting for me.

The shower felt good, beside major stings at all the areas of my skin where the unfortunate chafing had occurred.

I was 14 out of 22 runners in my age group, but if the race was at the end of August, my age group would have had only 6 runners. Yes, I am changing age groups this year.

I was more or less in the group of 20 runners who have more years on earth than the rest of the participants. OK, I could have written older.

I was 3,014 out of 3,417 runners who finished the race. 48 runners did not finish.

Thanks to the race volunteers and organizers. To stand for hours in Sunday’s weather was not an easy task.

The drive home.

I will not bother you with the details. This report turned to be long enough.

It is good to know that getting out of Hamilton right after a race is horrendous. I drove 80 kms in 92 minutes. OK, it took about 15 minutes to get from the hotel’s garage to the street.

Lesson learnt:

Always, always stick to your race plan.

Do your strength exercises more diligently, to prevent calf/hamstring/hip issues.

Accept the race result after it was done without any regret.

Be happy that you are still in the game.

Thanks for reading. I mean it.


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