Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Race report: 30k Around the Bay 2014

North America's oldest road race, always one of my favourite races of the year. So how did my third attempt at this race go?

Saturday before the race was spent obsessing about the weather, as this ridiculously long Daily Mile thread attests. The forecast changed to include strong wind gusts, and we all sort of freaked out a bit. Cold, warm, windy? Am I actually crazy to insist on wearing a skirt? Long sleeve shirt? Short sleeve with arm warmers? Who the hell knows?

I settled on the skirt and long sleeve and got my gear organized. Committed to the skirt.

The compression socks are bondi band, and they are awesome. They have a ton of fun patterns and I want them all.
Had a decent night's sleep, although Saturday night I was feeling a little off - headache, nausea, lightheaded. Possibly race nerves, but that's not how nerves typically manifest for me, so I was a bit worried I'd wake up seriously ill Sunday morning. But I felt ok in the morning, so I went through my pre-race nutrition and hydration routine, and then my brother picked me up and we drove to Hamilton.

Photo via Paul. We wouldn't let Nicole in the pic because she wasn't wearing a skirt. Sam's lucky she stayed in, what with the tights and all. Props to Amy for coordinating her KT tape with her outfit. These things matter, OK?

Met up with a ton of great Daily Mile friends, and I was getting a bit worried about the whole bare legs thing. There were only a handful of other runners in shorts/skirts; it was mostly black tights as far as the eye could see. But it didn't really feel that cold out, so I crossed my fingers I would be fine.

One of the best race finish lines. You don't often get to cross the finish line inside an arena.
After lots of nervous chatting and bathroom visits, Patty and I headed out to the start and wormed our way to the front of the open corral. No dodging walkers for us! I quickly become much more confident in my wardrobe choice - it was positively pleasant out. Faith in skirt rewarded.

Pre race start line selfie
And off we went. The first 5k went well. We were behind the 2:45 pacer, who somehow was getting further away from us even though we were definitely running below 2:45 pace, so she must have been banking time. But it felt good. Up until we hit the first overpass on Burlington St at 5k, and the uphill incline made my calves start screaming at me. I had to drop behind Patty and catch up to her after the hill, because I could not maintain pace on the uphill. I had a bad feeling at that point, and sure enough when we reached the second overpass the same thing happened again. My calves were fine on the downhills and flats, but any serious incline made them extremely unhappy. By 8k Patty was well ahead of me and I knew I would be running the rest of the race solo.

I settled into what felt like a good pace (not looking at my watch), put on my music, and decided to just hope for the best. I hit the 10k mark at 54:31, a 5:27/km pace. So still moving along pretty well.

(I'm not going to bother posting the splits from my watch - by the end of the race it was 400m off, so I'm not sure about the accuracy of any of the paces. At one point it was a half km ahead of the course markers!)

The beach strip, where you run most of the middle 10k, is nice and flat, which gave my calves a break. The wind stayed minimal, which helped, and I felt really great during this section. Especially when I crossed the 15k timing mat in 1:22:25 (5:30/km) and realized I was running 2:45 finish pace - I knew the last half would be slower, but it set me up nicely for a sub 2:50. My nutrition plan was going well (gel at 9k and again at 16k) with no stomach problems.

Off the beach and onto Northshore, which initially was also going great. Over the 20k timing mat in 1:50:59 (5:33/km), so all I had to do was get through the last 10k in less than 59 minutes and I'd have that sub 2:50.

Spoiler alert: that didn't happen.

The last 8k of my race.
I don't recall exactly which hill it was on Northshore (I think the small one right after crossing the 20k mat), but my calves were still hurting on the uphills and suddenly I got really, really lightheaded. Sort of felt like I was floating, and I started seriously wondering if I was about to pass out. Once I started downhill again the feeling went away, but then returned on the next uphill. The only way to make it go away was to run the uphills very, very slowly.

So that's what I did. I made up time well on the downhills, but overall things started to suck mightily at this point. I was tired, my legs were not cooperating, and the lightheaded feeling kept returning. I tried taking a 3rd gel, which I really didn't want and it didn't help. I told myself to just keep running until the water station at  Spring Gardens Road, at 24 k, and when I got there I grabbed some Gatorade and and orange slice and walked for probably 20-30 seconds. It was a major low point. Every time I've run ATB, I've had a crisis moment at that spot, where I'm just not sure I can go on. I reminded myself that this was not the goal race for this spring. The goal is Mississauga. I gave myself permission to go as slowly as I needed to go, and just get the thing done in a reasonable amount of time without injuring myself.

I got my legs moving again and heard the strains of 'We Will Rock You'. I love that race tradition. I gave Stan a high five and ran down Spring Gardens like I was flying.

And then I walked up Valley Inn. My legs were Not Having It on that hill. Just before the top the 2:50 pacer passed me, which was another low point. Zero interest in trying to keep up with him.

I got my legs moving before the gate at the top of Valley Inn, and told myself this is it, 4k, that's nothing, get your ass over that finish. And I kept moving. Past the Reaper. Past Dundurn castle, where unexpectedly Janice was there with her kids cheering, which gave me a big motivational boost, and I managed to pick the pace back up a bit.

There I am! Thanks for the cheers and photo, Janice! (another advantage of being one of the only people in a skirt, probably made me easier to spot)
Towards CoppsFirst Ontario PlaceCentre (I cannot get used to the name change). So far in the distance. Why is it so far? Ugh. Past the cheering crowds lining York (awesome). Down the ramp (painful). Across the finish.

Awkwardly happy to be done.
Chip time: 2:52:23.3
Gun time: 2:54:51.5
Place: 2657/6762
Gender place: 888/3305
Category place: 146/492

So yeah, it took me over an hour to cover that last 10k. That's LSD pace! Ouch. After the race I blamed the calf soreness, which was part of it, but usually I can work through that sort of thing. In retrospect the dizziness/lightheadedness was, I think, a bigger factor, and Sunday night it came back pretty strongly. I suspect I may have picked up the stomach flu type illness my kids and coworkers have been passing around lately, only in a very mild form, and that had me feeling off Saturday and Sunday. If so, that may have played a role in my come apart on the last 8k (20 and 21 were still pretty decent in terms of pace, it's really 22 that started the suffering - which coincidentally is the km with my most hated hill on the ATB course, the one right after Lasalle park. You expect Valley Inn to suck. The post Lasalle hill sneaks up on you and then seems to go on forever).

After I collected my food and medal, I met back up with various Daily Mile folks and my brother to share victories and commiseration, depending on how their races went. The race itself was as usual very well organized - really can't complain about a thing from a logistics perspective. I'm not a huge fan of the change to the course this year, which added 3 reasonably significant climbs to the first 10k and featured some fairly uninspiring and smelly scenery (industrial Hamilton, fun). But if I have to choose between that and a possible train delay, I'll take the hills (yeah, still slightly bitter at that train delay from 2013).

Post race with my little brother.
So, lots to learn from this race I think, and there are some definite positives. A new 30k PB by 13 minutes is not too shabby at all! I did hold pace well through 22k, and even after that my paces did largely stay below 6 min/km with the exception of where I stopped to walk during km 24, and walking up Valley Inn. If you'd told me 2 years ago I'd be able to run ATB at an averge pace of 5:45/km I'd have laughed in your face, since at that time I would have been lucky to run a 10k that fast. I've come a long way from my first ATB, which I finished in 3:28:56. Yeah, I'd say I've gotten a bit faster.

I'm also happy I followed my nutrition plan, which was good practice for the marathon. And boy do I love this race; I can't wait to tackle it again next year. One of these years I will get this thing figured out. 4th time is the charm?



  1. Nice work Emma! Sorry you were feeling ill! I had that lightheadedness for days when I was sick. I can't imagine running like that felt nice at all. Congrats on a nice PB! You're looking awesome for Mississauga!! BTW those pics are way too expensive for my blood. Yikes.

  2. Hmmm thought I left a comment hopefully this is not a duplicate. Anyway, congrats on a great race and a HUGE PB. This is a tough course but great training for spring marathon. Nice to see you again as well.

  3. Great work Emma! And great fight too given the calves and the light-headedness. But even with these challenges you positively SHATTERED your previous PB! That is amazing and must be such a great boost heading into Mississauga!

  4. Excellent work out there, Emma! The last 10k is not easy, so I wouldn't worry about the pace slowing what with all of the other things you had going on. The good thing is that after the climb to 32 at Mississauga, its all flat. You're well positioned for that marathon for sure.

  5. Congratulations on your PB, awesome job! Poor old me was chained to the desk working with children complaining in the background that they were bored and couldn't make it:(