On 29th March 2015, I ran the Around the Bay 30K Road Race (ATB)! It is, as they state, the oldest race in North America, and this was the 121st year! It is even older than Boston! It is also, now, the longest run I have ever completed – in either a training run or a race. I am very proud I got through it! It’s an immense achievement for me! I decided to do this race, as it seemed the perfect stepping stone between the half marathon and full marathon distances – being 9 km (5.6 miles) longer than a half marathon and 12.2 km (7.6 miles) shorter than the full marathon! I first was made aware of this race when I took part in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon last year. There were some first time marathoners at that expo, and they all talked about completing this race.
The location of the race was in Hamilton, Ontario which is around 70km west of Toronto. I made a weekend of it! It was still a considerable distance away from Toronto, so I went against taking the train this time. I decided to fly with Porter, and they had 50% discount sales at the time, so it almost cost the same as the train anyway! Good news! Friday after work, I left straight for the airport for a 6:30pm flight! The plane took off without delay, and the flight was fine, even touted to land approximately 5 minutes early! And this time of year, when we landed, it was still relatively daylight! That landing though!! The announcement to commence landing was heard, then you could feel the descent happening, and the famous Toronto skyline get closer. Then all of a sudden the plane rose again and started to circle for attempt two. The captain said something I couldn’t make out, but I don’t think it was the reason for why the first attempt didn’t pan out. The second attempt was successful though, phew! Taking a plane so close after the terrible tragedy of what happened to the Germanwings flight, made us a little anxious, unnecessarily maybe! Anyway, we landed all OK, and then I took the ferry across to the mainland.
Porter have a free shuttle service to Union Station, which I hadn’t known before, so I was able to get that bus too! That simplified my transport situation – as I would have either had to walk or take a taxi!. So already I have taken a Bus, a plane, a ferry and another bus, and that just got me two thirds of the way! Yay for Public Transit!! Now to get the next and final bus of the day to Hamilton – I suppose it was more a Coach than a bus though!
I reached my hotel, at around 9:40pm! A little tired and hungry! I got to my room, which was nice enough, and I wanted to order room service. It had just past 9:45pm at this point, when I called they said the kitchen had closed! Even though the in-room dining menu stated that room service was available until 10pm. I wasn’t too happy, as this meant I would have to go find something, and walking there from the bus station, I hadn’t seen anything open, accept for Tims! As I walked passed reception, the nice guy (possibly the manager – but I didn’t have my glasses on to read the badge) who checked me in, asked how my room was. I said all fine however the restaurant denied my room service order! He was not happy about it either, and called them up for me! They told him the same and he said no that should not be the case and that he would be taking this up with them later. He then offered me a pre-packed lunch, that was for a pilot who had not arrived yet (sorry if I stole your meal!) and a free can drink! That was so kind of him, he could have just been apologetic and let me go find food! So that restored my faith, and meant I didn’t have to go and roam Hamilton at night! The lunch consisted of 2 sandwiches, 2 yogurts, and an orange! This was great, as I also had breakfast for the next day too 🙂
Saturday morning I should have got up for a 5 k run (part of my training plan) but I love my sleep too much and had a packed day ahead! So I got up made a coffee, showered and changed and made my way to the FirstOntario Centre to go pick up my race kit, and view the expo. The centre was a 10 min walk away from my hotel, and is where the local Hockey team plays. Due to the shape of the stadium, the expo stalls were lined in a circular, or oval, shape around the first level. As I walked around I was able to take a sneak peak of the finish line.
They had the usual vendors. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, and didn’t really have time to shop. As I made my way to the bib pick up – which was right at the other end of the expo – I did stop at the ATB stall as they were selling last years technical tops and caps for $5. I really only stopped because I glimpsed someone holding up a purple long-sleeve tee, I couldn’t resist – and at $5 why not! So I bagged a top and a cap! The bib pick up was well organized, and especially if you knew your bib number already! You collect your bib and race tee, get the chip checked and then you are on your way! The return is back the way you came, back along the exhibits. I noticed the Goodlife stand for the Toronto Marathon as they had this years medals on show. I will be running the Half in May – but what took me by surprise was the size of the full marathon medal! It was as big as my head! If not bigger! Now that is a medal worth running for! Having nothing left to see, I scooted off back to my hotel to drop my stuff off. I then spent the rest of the day back in Toronto as I am pleased to be part of the Toronto Pan Am games as a volunteer. That afternoon would be my first instructor-led training course for my role in the games. I’ll be working within the Technology Team and got to see some background information on the games. It was mainly a get to meet the team training, and get an insight of how it all works behind the scenes. Many of them had worked on London 2012 (Olympics) and the Commonwealth games in Glasgow! There are some cool jobs out there! I was on my feet a lot, and wearing the wrong shoes too! At the time, I didn’t think anything of it! Little did I know.
I did a final check on the weather (due to be -4ºC feels like -9ºC), and then laid out my kit ready for the morning.
I was really nervous. The first time I’ve felt nervous, or uneasy, about a race for a very long time. It was a daunting task, 30KM! The longest distance I will have ever covered! The race start was not until 9:30am. So I did not have to get up too early! Although there were corrals, they all would start at the same time. I got up at a respectable time for race day, 7:30am. Put on the coffee and still had some yoghurt and the orange left over, so that’s what I had for breakfast! Still with butterflies in my stomach I went down to leave. There were a few other runners in the lobby. The hotel had also layed out bananas, apples and water – that was a nice touch! So I added a banana to my morning meal. I chatted to a nice couple, Mar and Jeff, whilst we ate our bananas, and then walked with them to the start of the race. They had both done the ATB last year! They were giving me words of encouragement and they helped to ease my nerves a little! Thanks guys!
We entered the FirstOnatrio Centre and I lost them in the crowd! I waited a little but then decided to continue on to the corral.
There were some 7000 participants in the 30K – A 5k race was also being held – I believe they had a different start time. Those with predicted times of less than 2.5 hours get to be in the front 3 corrals – A, B and C. And the rest are at the back. But this just gave you a position advantage as we all start at 9:30 am but if you are closer to the front, you have a more accurate gun time. And this is what is used to determine the finishers medal you’ll receive. Outside of the elites, the main finishers medal that all who complete the race will get, are different – a gold medal if complete in less than 2 hrs for men (2:15 hrs for women), a silver one if you are less than 2.15 hrs for men (2:30 hrs for women), and all greater than 2.30 hrs get the bronze medal!
The start came and went! Although it didn’t feel that long, it was about 6 minutes or so until I reached the official start line! But we were off! I started off slowly, by this time my nerves had dissipated and I was ready to do this. However, looking at my splits my first 3 k were run at an average 7 min/km. That pleases me 🙂 I felt good, but not warmed up yet and then the first water station came at 4 k – I had a Gatorade and walked while I drank. And this would be the pattern of my run experience. However at all the other stations I had both water and Gatorade! The first slight incline came at around 5 k. It looks, and felt, like a fairly steep slope to me, but turns out was only a 1.2% grade!
As you can tell from the pictures, this race is not the most scenic. Hamilton is an industrial town, and much of the route was along highways through the industrial parts of the town. The most scenic views were after crossing the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge.
That bridge was kind of scary to me. It’s a metal grid construction and you can see right through it. If you’re scared, or weary, of heights it can be a problem. I am not usually scared of heights but I didn’t like running over this bridge at all, so I think I sped up a bit and kept my head up all the way across it. This was around the 17 km mark. I was still feeling really good at this point.
Stopping to take pictures, I noticed how cold it really was, I had taken off my gloves as I had warmed up from running! But I started to get chilly again, having only stopped for not even a minute. My iPhone felt the cold too and decided to power itself off! Tsk! So no more pictures from me! After the 20 km mark was where the real problems began. The ATB is renowned for being a hilly course. So if I thought the early “slight incline” was steep – I had not seen anything yet! My Strava represents this the best:
I was doing really well! I still felt good! Tiredness was keeping its distance and nutrition-wise I only had to have a couple Clif Shot bloks, along with water and Gatorade at the Aid stations. But right around the 20.5 km mark I suffered an injury. I do not know what actually happened, but I started feeling excruciating pain in my right foot. It is hard to explain (as I have been drawing the issue on my hand) but all long the bottom of my foot was a streak or line of pain as I attempted to run. It caused me to walk straightaway. It hurt when I walked too! I then tried to plant my foot down in differing positions to see which way would be the best to by pass the pain, for the remaining 9km. This pain in conjunction with the steep hills, was a huge problem to me. When I do attempt to run hills, I normally land on the front of my foot. But due to the pain, landing on my toes hurt much more, so heel strike would be better – but that is more difficult to do going up hill! So I was forced to walk! It was gutting to me as I was doing so well!
I tried to push through as much as I could! But I had to walk the majority of the next 6 or 7 km. I tried to speed up on the flatter portions or declines, to pick up some time. But they were few and far between! I even asked one of the first aiders, as they rode by on their bikes, whether they had pain killers. They said no, and said not long to go now, just 5km! Whatever! 🙂
After reaching the top of the last hill, and getting into the home straight – last 2 km! I was able to run through the pain again! Here’s me turning the last corner before running into the stadium! I was so happy!
It’s amazing where that last oomph of power comes from, when you know the finish line is near. I powered through, being careful not to fall, whilst running down the ramp that takes you into the stadium. You then see the finish signs and the clock and any pain or fatigue I felt was forgotten, as I tried to get those last seconds off the time! After coming through the finish feeling proud of what I have just achieved, all I could think of is where is my medal! Someone hands you carrier bag and then you are given a bottle of water, a rice crispies bar, a protein bar all before you get your medal! I wanted my medal first! lol! I laughed at myself when it was the next item to be given! I got my photo in front of the 2015 Finisher banner with another lady – I don’t even know her name – but the picture turned out great 🙂
Here are my official results. For once the official results were better than those recorded by my Garmin, but as I say, I always go with the official results. As you can see I was going really well for the first 20 K. My first 10 K would have been a PR for my 10 K by 47 seconds, and with a 20 K at 2:33:11 could have been a 2:41:35 half marathon time, which would also have been a PR by 1 minutes 28 seconds!!
Who knows what really would have happened. If I didn’t feel so much pain in my foot – would I have been able to run those hills? Maybe, maybe not! Also did the pain distract me from feeling tired or not? Would I have felt as good as I did? Again who knows! My goal for this race was to complete it in 4hrs 4 minutes – at 20 K I was possibly going to complete in 3hrs 49 minutes! However my final time was 4hrs 11 minutes – not far off from target! And I am chuffed! Here’s what I ran for! 🙂
Having survived this 30 KM fairly unscathed – it gives me greater confidence that I can indeed run a marathon! All things being equal of course! Things I will benefit from, the Ottawa course is a much flatter and more scenic route. However it’s at the end of May and so will be much hotter! Let’s hope things start warming up here, so I can get acclimatised to warmer running again!
Thank you so much if you read right to the end of this very long post! I write as much as I can as these will help re-jog my memory in the future!
Did you run the ATB 30K this year? How did you find it? Comment below!