5 weeks into My Eight Weeks to Fit, race day came! Around the Bay, 2017, a 30k road race around the bay of Hamilton, Ontario. 9,000 runners do this race! Luckily, we can relay it, so I’d signed up to do the 2nd lap of 15k. Full knowledge that this second lap goes from rolling hills to a few big hill ascents to get back up the escarpment, including The Epic Hill at 25k which is about 600m long.
Weather predictions for days before were grim, hovering around freezing and predicting a lot of rain and wind. Saturday was all that, miserable in Hamilton. On Sunday, Race Day, the rains were mostly done – just the feisty winds to contend with!
As I hung out in the school buses with the other 2nd relayers waiting for our partners, we saw the elite runners cross the 15k mark at about 40 minutes. That’s a 3:00 minute km, folks. Incredible. Got me excited, I wanted to race! (This is not normal for me, usually I’m resigned to ‘let’s see what happens’.)
Starting at 15k
My relay partner came in, we swapped the chip, and oh so lucky for me, another friend’s relay partner came at the same time, so I was able at least to start my 15k with Stacy. The wind was whipping us from the right, practically blowing us off our feet, Lake Ontario full of waves about 20′ high. Just after 17k, we took the turn to the west and entered residential Burlington, wind at our back and much more sheltered. And the hills began! We decided to run to km markers rather than 10:1s (I know, “don’t do anything different on race day”!)
First stop was beautiful, pink fairy Daniella at 18.5k, ditched a few unneeded items of clothing and were off again. Each 2k we took a break of one minute, took a little gel or gummy plus water, eeking out enough glucose to keep energy even. When we got to the top of a very long slow grade of a hill at 22k, Stacy and I both told each other to go ahead, thanks for the company thus far . . . and proceeded to stay together. When I wanted to slow down or take a break, I’d think ‘she’s going strong, just get to the next marker’. Later, she told me she was thinking the same thing! Another part of my mind was thinking ‘Can I sustain this pace? It feels okay now but will I hit the wall at 25k and not get up The Hill? Keep going . . . keep fuelling.’
At 25k, the guy playing ‘We will, we will rock you’ was there again this year . . . we high-fived. From here, you can see the long descent down, and then, yes, there’s the ascent and a river of runners going up The Hill. Deep breath in.
Running up the hill was exhilarating. I could still hear the music as I started, made me smile. It was hard, but, I kept it steady and passed just about everyone (most were walking by now, it was over 3 hours into the race so all the competitive runners were long gone.) Kept my breathing to 2 steps in, 2 steps out. Crested at the top, and Stacy was about 50 m behind me. We did it! Finished the last 4k flat and downhill, past the Grim Reaper (who wasn’t scary at all this year, he was more interested in taking selfies with runners). Ran into First Ontario Place (used to be Copps Coliseum), saw myself on the JumboTron crossing the finish! Hallelujah!
I had an excellent race, better than I’ve had in years. My time was okay (1:45.22 for 15k) given the hills. But more important: how strong I felt, and able to sustain a 6:30/k pace for the most part . . . I have to attribute that to ‘My Eight Weeks to Fit’: my skipping, my strength training, and eating better.
Now I’m even more motivated to keep going with this!