Around the Bay - The Report
On Saturday morning I woke up with a lot of pain in my hip and completely dejected. What I can only describe as tightness at the top of the ITB was the culprit and my racing weekend was not exactly off to a roaring start. Nevertheless, I decided to take a “see what happens” attitude and hope for the best. In the afternoon we drove as a family to Hamilton to pick up my race kit and check out the race expo. There was really not much to report on at the expo, though we did get to try out one of those T-Zone Vibration machines, which was a bit weird but fun. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera were completely dead and there was nowhere to buy any more at the expo so I have no pictures to document this humorous event. The boys loved the machines, and I found it strange at best.
Anyway, after the expo we went to play a little baseball at a nearby park and I ended up pitching to Owen as he practiced his hitting. He took pity on me and chased every ball he hit. Luckily most of Malcolm’s hits came right back to me. At this point I was resigned to missing the race. By Saturday evening I made the decision to not make a decision until Sunday morning, but my heart was heavy with disappointment while my leg was full of pain.
On race day my alarm went off at 6am and I lay in bed for a few extra minutes dreading the prospect of what the hip would feel like once I stood up. When I finally did I was pleasantly surprised that the pain was much less than it had been the night before, so I woke up Monica and said, “Let’s get the show on the road!” After a hectic hour or so of preparation we piled in the car just as the skies opened up with the rain that was supposed to have started over night.
20 minutes into our trip, one that started 20 minutes later than the hoped for 7am, I realized that I had neglected to bring the timing chip! Damn! Stupid mistake, but that’s what you get for leaving the decision to come to the race until the morning of. Nothing was ready, and this was the result. In the driving rain we were already going slower than normal on the highway, and now had to double back home. Finally, at 8:05am we left the house for the second time, now a little stressed about making it to Copps Coliseum in time for the 9:30 start to the race.
Skip to the arrival at 9:00am and Monica dropped me off about a kilometre from Copps Coliseum since that was as close as we could get by car. I walked as fast as I could and made it into the building at 9:10 (20 minutes to gun start!). In the mass of humanity I had real trouble finding my way, and I had yet to tape my knee or use the washroom after the coffee I picked up on our first attempt at leaving the house. The line up for the toilets was insane, even this close to the start of the race, so I simply aborted that option and figured I’d have to use a porto-let on the course if necessary. Then I had to figure out where the bag check was (9:14 by this point) and a runner I stopped to ask for directions said, “You can head either way. It’s all the way around the arena so the distance is the same.”
Fantastic! (Not!) I hurried off and pushed my way around hundreds of runners now making their way outside. When I finally found the line up for bag check it was super long, and I figured I wouldn’t make it outside until well after 9:30. As I waited in line a woman in front of me realized that her timing chip had fallen off her shoe, which totally sucked. I told her that I was late because of my forgetfulness of the timing chip, and that I hadn’t seen one on the floor anywhere as I walked to the back of the line. She went off to find it (if possible) and actually came back with two! I decided to lace mine into my shoe even though the instructions said you could just slip it in like a paperclip. I also taped my knee as fast as I could while standing up, which was a really bad job but I figured it was better than nothing at all.
The line moved really fast and I have to commend the volunteers on how quickly they worked to accept people’s bags. They even had tape and Sharpies ready for those who forgot to mark their Bib numbers, as per the provided instructions in the race kit. Awesome, at 9:20 I was jogging through the arena towards the exit and onto the streets.
We had to walk a full kilometre to get around to the starting line, but by this point I was just happy to be outside. The rain had let up a bit and the atmosphere was positive. All around me I could hear people saying the same thing: “If it stays like this it’s just fine by me!” Oh, if only it had stayed “like this”…
This was my first race of this size and I was astounded by the crowd. Naturally, given my late arrival and racing strategy (which was just make it to the end, no matter how long it takes, and walk through all the water stops!) I was near the back. As the gun sounded I could barely see the starting line up ahead and was still moving at a snail’s pace wedged in like a sardine. A bit later and I could make out the bobbing heads of those who were passing the starting point and actually running and I started to get excited to be running myself. Five minutes later I was going over the chip timing mats and starting into my race.
Photo credit: Cathie Coward of the Hamilton Specatator
It was fun to just be taking part in this race and I felt a great sense of relief that my whole winter of training was not going down the drain without a fight. I was going to give it my best shot at making it to the finish and now had the opportunity to do just that. As I ran with the thousands of people around me I couldn’t help but smile. I even laughed a bit as one of my boys' favorite songs started blaring: "I like to move it, move it. I like to move it, move it. I like to move it, move it. I like to... MOVE IT!"
The hip felt OK at the beginning as I jogged slowly to warm up. I had a t-shirt and a long-sleeve tech on under a crappy old MEC jacket that I intended to discard along the way. It wasn’t raining at this point and I thought of taking the jacket off right away since I was pretty warm, but then the rain came back with a vengeance at about the 1k mark. At the same time my hip started to hurt. Oh great, that’s all I need. Pain with 29k still left to go and likely drenched in the process!
By the 2k mark the rain was still coming down pretty good, but not enough to get me completely soaked. I stopped at the porto-lets at the 4k mark and waited 6 minutes in line to relieve myself. Others were running behind a dumpster, but I wasn’t about to do that since I wasn’t racing for time. Once I finally had my turn I was off again.
Just before the 5k water stop I had my first surprise: Monica and the boys cheering at the side of the road! By now the rain was literally coming down in sheets and the poor little guys were frozen and soaked. I ran over and gave them both hugs and kisses, though Monica said she couldn't do the same for me since she had to keep cheering the runners. I found out later that they arrived at that spot to see every single runner in the race, from the first to the last, go by and they cheered them all. Amazing!
The picture below gives you the idea of the conditions during the first half of the race. Many runners still had their plastic rain gear on at the end.
Photo credit: Cathie Coward of the Hamilton Specatator
I walked through the 5k water stop and had a cup of water and a cup of Gatorade. This was not an extended walk, but long enough to get me thinking that it was too long. I started running again and told myself not to stop until the next water station at the 10k mark. The rain kept coming down and I got a bit cold while walking. More than anything I had to start running to keep warm and I was glad that my crappy jacket was still on me. The hip hurt quite a bit at this point and I was consciously adjusting my form to minimize the impact on the left leg.
I made it to the 10k mark and the timing clock said 1hr18m and change. I figured that I left five minutes after the gun and waited in line at the first porto-let for another five, so 1hr10m was not too bad in my state of pain. I took a good long walk through the water station and told myself to just walk the entire kilometre to the 11k mark. Unfortunately, after about a half kilometre I was frozen and totally soaked through so I had to start running again. Starting up after walking was a painful ordeal and it took a while for the hip to loosen up each time I did this. Again I told myself to not stop running until the next water station at around 15k.
At the 13k mark I had to stop, and not because of my leg: a freight train was about to go past! The barriers started coming down when I was about a hundred metres away from the track, and then we had to wait what seemed like forever for the train to arrive. Then, when it finally did, it was just our luck that it was a super long freight train! A lady beside me said that the same thing happened last year. Everybody stretched and the crowd grew bigger and bigger. When the thing finally finished rolling by I was totally frozen. The whole ordeal took almost 10 minutes from start to finish.
Just before the 15k mark I once more waited in line at the porto-lets for well over 5 minutes. I chatted to the others in line and found out they were all newbies to the race, just like me. It was nice to talk to someone while stretching and it gave me a little positive boost. Once my turn was over I walked to the water stop located just past the porto-lets and again drank water and a couple cups of Gatorade. I wanted to walk to the 16k mark, but again was too cold. The water was pooling in my shoes and my hands were so cold I couldn’t feel my fingers, but my hip was at least sort of numb at this point. I had a lot of pain in my right foot at this point that perhaps distracted my brain from the ITB issue.
At 17k I was almost across the strip of land that surrounds Hamilton Harbour and I could look all the way across the Bay and see Copps Coliseum, our start and end point. I must admit that it was impossible for me to believe that I could actually make it. I decided to not think about it and kept on plugging along. I even ran across the drawbridge that was made of this corrugated steal material that you could see through to the water below, which was also super slippery. Most runners walked here to avoid falling, but given the fact that I just realized how much longer I had to run I didn’t want to stop for fear of giving in and ending my day.
Towards the 20k mark the uphill portion of the race course started. I was warned that this would be the mentally difficult part, but I didn’t find the hills that daunting at all. The look across the Bay was much much worse. I made it to the 20k mark in 2hr28m and had a brief walk through the water stop. The rain had finally stopped, but the wind picked up and was very cold given that I was soaked through to the skin. I started up running again and made it through 21k all the while looking for and hoping to see Monica and the boys. We'd looked at a map briefly the day before and agreed that this looked like a place they could see me run past. I really needed that boost at this point since the pain below the waist was massive, especially in my right foot, but more like a general soreness all over the place.
I was so happy to see them at just past the 21k mark! I slowed to a walk and the boys came out onto the road and walked with me as I held their hands. I took a couple cups of Gatorade and donated one to Owen when he asked if he could have some. Monica asked how I was doing and I told her that I was in a lot of pain, but that I wanted to try and finish. She gave me her famous raised eyebrow and asked, "Is that smart?" I've been accused of a lot of things, but never being overly smart when it comes to self inflicted pain, so I responded by saying, "I'm going to try!" as positively as I could. After walking for a short bit I gave the boys kisses and started jogging again, saying "see you at the Finish!" – less than 10k to go!
The next 4k was rolling hills and I saw more and more people walking rather than running. Every time I ran throughout the race I would pass a lot of runners, who would then pass me as I took my walk breaks. It was neat to see the same people over and over again. I crested the last of the hills at just past 24k, where you had a great view of downtown Hamilton and Copps Coliseum, and I tried not to get too discouraged as the finish still looked to be a lifetime away. At the 25k mark there was no water station (or at least I can’t remember one, though by now I was deliriuous and may have this wrong) so I kept going. At this point I started taking short walk breaks on account of the pain in my right foot and the fact that my quads were completely spent.
At 27k there was another water stop and two porto-lets in behind. I took advantage of both and didn’t care at all how long it took me to do this. I walked for a while again, dreading the pain that came with starting running again. I slowly got myself up to a jog and told myself to just run to the next marker at 28k. When I got there I could see the 29k marker in the distance and I forced myself to keep going. This kilometre was excruciating, and I really had trouble keeping moving. I told myself that I could at least walk to the end at this point, but somehow that was not comforting at all. Then, out of the blue, the idea that I would actually get that medal for completing the Around the Bay, North America’s oldest long distance road race, picked up my spirits. I actually can’t believe that the idea of getting that little piece of metal made me feel better and kept me going. Getting the medal had not crossed my mind at any point in the days leading up to the race or at any time up until this point.
I fully intended to run the rest of the way, but at the 29k mark I simply had to walk again. I did this for a hundred metres or so and then told myself that I didn’t want to complete this long race by walking across the finish line so I started up running, as painful as it was.
Then, before I knew it, I was running on the street beside Copps Coliseum and down the ramp into the arena. I actually walked down this ramp since it was slippery and very steep, but then I started running again and found myself in the homestretch with the finish line right in front of me. I heard my name get called out and kept going across the timing pads. One volunteer told me to stop running (no extra insentive required, but thanks!) and another gave me a high five and a bottle of water. I spotted Monica and the boys in what is normally one of the penalty boxes and went over to say hello. I couldn’t hear them through the glass and was too spent to try and yell out directions so I headed off to collect some food and my medal. I forgot to stop the Garmin and everything until I had all that stuff and found a spot next to a concrete column to do some stretching in the basement of the arena.
The rest is all a blur. I got my bag from the bag check folks (thank God they had escalators leading up the the concourse level!), went to look for and found the family, and then changed into dry clothes. Thank goodness that I never discarded that crappy old jacket for if I had I would have ended up frozen stiff for sure. And thank goodness for a great family (and volunteers and spectators) who spent a dreary day watching the race, cheering me on, and then helping me to get home afterwards. I will stop here, except to say that I am very pleased to have finished. I am one of those who hates to leave something unfinished, and since I signed up for this race back in November I’d been focused on completing the task.
In short, mission accomplished. Perhaps next year I will find myself at the starting line better prepared and not injured! I apologize for no pictures also. I wanted to run with a camera, but given the weather thought the better of it. Perhaps another time. I hope to get at least one race photo sometime in the near future to post.
And lastly, thank you for reading and for your continued support! Much appreciated indeed. On several occasions during the race I did think of the bloggers whose blogs I read and who visit my corner of the web while I was running. It provided me with good motivation, and I'm sure you can relate. Again, thanks!
The totals were 30km in 3:38:26.5 for an average pace of 7:28/km and average heart rate of 141bpm.
Garmin don't lie.
Labels: Around the Bay Race Report