We headed off to Hamilton on Saturday afternoon as we had to do our bib pickup before 5pm…no race day pick up was a bit of a disappointment. It isn't such a big deal when you have to pick the bib up in advance at a Disney race or a big race like Chicago as those are destinations that people actually go to…Hamilton Ontario, well, not so much. It pretty much meant that we were required to book a hotel to spend the night there. We ended up finding an East Side Mario's for our Saturday night pasta dinner and then it was back to the hotel where we just sat around watching TV before going to bed. We also got to meet our hotel neighbours as they must have got back from the bar around 2am making all kinds of noise through the paper-thin wall. Eventually I banged on the wall to get them to shut up and the a-holes had the nerve to bang back at us! They did get quieter after that but still, what's with people??
We got up in the morning and made our quick breakfasts then set off to the race. When we had left London on Saturday the forecast was calling for sun and temperatures up around 8°C (high-40's F) so I just packed shorts…by Saturday night the forecast had changed to freezing and snow, and I still only had shorts Thankfully the weather, while cool, cooperated and we had a nice sunny day. The sun made all the difference and the conditions were great.
This race had three corrals and then "the rest of the field". There were 3000 corral spots for 9000 runners…I was late registering so I didn't get into a corral, but my past times would have put me at the back of corral A/front of corral B. Needless to say I spent a LOT of time weaving through traffic…I was bobbing and weaving for the first 25K (15+ miles) of the 30K race.
The first 20K (roughly a half marathon) of the race are described as fast and scenic. Fast…maybe…scenic…hell no. Unless of course you are some kind of factory/smokestack aficionado. The first 20K was spent mostly running through industrial areas and on highways. We took in some amazing views of the Hamilton skyline…
Around the 15K point we crossed a drawbridge that served as the entry canal for ships coming into the harbour from Lake Ontario. The footing on the bridge was terrible metal grating and I'm surprised I didn't see anyone fall as it seemed like a tripping accident waiting to happen. When I ran Chicago there were plenty of these drawbridges to run over and they put carpets down over the grating likely for that very reason. I've heard that New York does the same thing. But not Around the Bay.
Finally around 19K we made the turn into some residential areas. This is where some nice scenery started as well as the hills. Lots of rolling hills through the community and some really pretty tree-lined streets. We were running beside the bay and every now and then there would be an opening and you would catch a glimpse of it. There were all kinds of people out from the neighbourhood and they were giving out water and other drinks, bananas, orange wedges and all kinds of other goodies. This was probably the best support on the course and with the hills we were running it was greatly appreciated. I think that the locals did a better job of handing out water and food than the race itself did. That was one of my bigger complaints of the race, nowhere near enough water stations and there didn't seem to be any rhyme of reason to how they were laid out. I think the water stations were all on one side of the course, never both sides like most big races I've been to. Also, it wasn't always the same side which made things confusing. There wasn't any warning that water stops were coming up either, they were just there. There were a total of 8 official water stations on the entire 30K (nearly 19 mile) course.
At 26K you hit the big hill…almost a half mile and a vertical incline of nearly 5%. That's steep. It's a killer hill for a lot of people and there were all kinds of walkers at this point. I powered through and pumped my arms and legs to get up the hill and it was literally downhill from there to the finish line. I think it would have been cool to have timing mats at the bottom and top of the hill so you could see your splits there…they do something similar for the sand ladder at the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon.
I ended up running the last stretch with a girl named Ally that I met on the course…it's nice to just have someone to chat with through those final tough miles. It was a great way to take my mind away from the fatigue that was setting in. I also had a nice surprise just before the finish line when I heard someone shouting my name and cheering me on…it was Emily from MEC in London! Thanks for cheering me on Emily
I made the turn into Copps Coliseum and crossed the line with a time of 2:26:09…well within my goal range. If you recall my last few posts, I have been dealing with some pretty bad foot pain due to what was probably peroneal tendonitis. This race was my first run in nearly 2 weeks and going into the race I only had a total of 63K (40 miles) in the entire month. The race alone would account for a third of my running for the month of March…certainly not ideal. I was hoping to run the race in anywhere from 2:15 to 2:30 and I fell right in that range, and most importantly I met my main goal of running pain-free. My foot felt fine and a couple days later I'm, still doing good (even had a nice 5 mile shakeout run on Tuesday). My legs are seriously fatigued and walking is a chore, but no injury concerns. Seriously though…it really sucks running a race when you are under-trained!
After I finished we were funneled through a water bottle station…I was given a water bottle and I was so thirsty I asked for a second one…I knew I needed it as the water stations on course were lacking. The lady said no, but that there was more water inside. We went in and were given a couple snack items, a juice box and our medals…but no water anywhere. I guess she must have meant that if I wanted a second bottle I could go to the concession stands in the arena and pay $2.50 for one. I'm sorry but I have a serious issue with that…if a runner just completing a 30K race asks for a second bottle of water…you damn well give them a second bottle of water.
As you saw in the other reviews we went for our post-race pizza and I had my post-race Guinness
After our meal it was back in the car for the 2 hour drive home. Major bonus points for Rhoda driving, as it meant that I got to spend the trip home stretched out in the back seat.
All in all, it was a decent race but not one I would be excited about doing again. The pro's of the race is that it is a unique distance that is perfectly suited for marathon training and the timing of the race at the end of March is perfect timing for Spring marathon season. There is a lot of history and they certainly play on that, this being the 120th running and you will be constantly reminded that it is "Older than Boston" (ATB is the oldest road race in North America, two years older than the Boston Marathon).
The Con's though…no nice way to say this, but the first two thirds of the race are ugly. Water stations were lacking, both in quantity and organization. Crowded, but that goes with the territory in a 9000 runner race. Would have probably been better if I was in a corral. No race day bib pickup, so you have to spend a night in Hamilton (at least you get to see the flaming smokestacks at night!). Skimpy with the post-race amenities. I get a better post-race spread at the local MEC Races that I pay $15 for.
Have any of you run Around the Bay before?
What is the oddest distance race you have run?