Tuesday, 1 April 2014

#123 "Looking a little chubby"

This past Sunday I ran Around the Bay for the fourth consecutive year.

This unique and historical 30K event in Hamilton, O.N. has become my unofficial favourite race and I was looking forward to another successful result to boost my confidence with only three weeks to go until Boston.

Despite warnings and cautionary tales from several trusted and experienced peers about the risks of racing ATB "all-out" and potentially putting the body in a deficit to which it wouldn't sufficiently recover in time for the marathon, I was again determined to put my best foot forward and give it my all (as I aim to do at every race).

My training and past results suggested to me that a goal of running around 1:45 flat (or at least as fast as last year, 1:45:45) would be doable. This would mean running three consecutive 10K's in 35 minutes (or six straight 5K's in 17:30) with an average pace of 3:30/K. I was ready for it (or at least I wanted to think that I was).

Ever the stubborn self that I am, I decided to go for it when everything seemed ideal at the start (it was a sensational sunny morning). My initial plan was to run as much as I could with Krista Duchene, 2:28 marathoner-extraordinaire and all-round amazing and inspirational women. I knew she was attempting to run for the course record, 1:44:40, set the previous year by another incredible Canadian marathoner Lanni Marchant. Sure enough when the gun went off, we went out fast! Funny story. Premier Kathleen Wynne was on hand to do the official countdown which went something like this: "Five - four- two - I mean three - two - one, Go!" Although I didn't feel like I was forcing it, when we hit the 5K mark in approximately 17:10, I knew it was too much for me and so I backed off and settled into a more comfortable pace.

The newly amended (and much more challenging) 30K course for 2014.
The next 5K seemed a struggle what with endless rolling highway, blowing dust and wind and some not so pleasant industrial odours (these the result of a course change that ended up much more challenging than previous versions). I ran mostly alone and went through 10K in 35:20, already off my target pace and about to head northeast into a direct headwind. Over the next 5K I tried to maintain my composure and focus on getting to the halfway point, 15K, which I did in 53:20. I then set my goal at getting into Burlington and onto North Shore Blvd. where I knew the rolling hills would begin. I was actually looking forward to this section as I tend to run really well on hills whereas others often falter.

At about 18K the course changed direction and headed southwest which for the first time all day meant NOT having to run into the wind. This was an instant relief. But at the same time that the winds died down, the rolling hills began. Soon after, I passed the 20K mark in 1:11:15 (about a full minute slower than 2013).

Although I felt fatigued running up and down the many hills, I also seemed to notice that I was starting to see a few other runners coming back to me. One of them was Krista, who had been running alone since around the 12K mark. It took several more (consistent) K's, but as we made the long descent starting around 25K and then crossed the small bridge that signals the start of the longest and most brutal ("Heartbreak") hill, I knew I was going to catch her. As we ascended the climb, I tried to utter a few words of encouragement as I passed (something to the effect that once we were at the top, it was all downhill to the finish). I then fought my way to the top somehow running a 3:27 for my 26th K and then took the next K to catch my breath and regain some momentum.

Coming up to 27K having crested the final hill and heading to the finish. Photo credit: John McMillan
From the top of that final hill it really is all downhill to the finish and so I was able to build some speed and finish strong. I also thoroughly enjoyed the taunting I received from the infamous Grim Reaper who at 27K told me I was "looking a little chubby this year." Haha I ran hard right to the finish at FirstOntario Centre (formerly Copps Coliseum) and cruised into the arena for a finish of 1:46:54.

Race splits (approximate):

5K: 17:10
10K: 35:20; 5-10K: 18:10
15K: 53:20; 10-15K: 18:00
20K: 1:11:15; 10-20K: 35:55; 15-20K: 17:55
25K: 1:29:05; 20-25K: 17:50
30K: 1:46:55; 15-30K: 53:35; 20-30K: 35:40; 25-30K: 17:50

Just after 27K, having received some hurtful words from the infamous Grim Reaper. Photo credit: Timo Uuksulainen
Having missed my goal of 1:45 (by quite a bit), I was initially rather disappointed but would later discover that almost all runners time's were substantially slowed by the new course and breezy conditions. I was however very pleased with my overall placing of 15th and 4th in my age category (M25-29) as well as with my strong effort in the final K's. While not every race can or will be a PB, the goal to improve in some small way is ever present and I feel I continue to be successful in this regard.

Congrats go out to all the ATB finishers but especially to my Black Lungs teammates, many of whom used this race as an all-important tune-up training run for Boston and who paced, rather than raced, the 30K. As always, I simply couldn't do what I do without all of them to push and pull me through the tough training and who act as a source of constant motivation and inspiration. Big shout out to Hidds, who set another impressive PB of 1:49 and was 3rd master overall. Not bad for a 48 year old! Also to Tessier, 9th female finisher and to the whole team running today: JC, RB, AD, CC, JA, RM, PS, RC, BB, CL and RI. Well done everyone! Finally to Krista Duchene for a gutsy attempt at the record and a super impressive and decisive victory!

Flash forward two days later and I gotta admit, I am not doing so well. Despite being able to complete a 10-mile aerobic run yesterday on a sunny and spring-like (finally) afternoon, I was not feeling great and my body was in a considerable amount of achy pain (to which I haven't felt since after Chicago). I then skipped this morning's run due to considerable shin pain. I'm desperately hoping it's only temporary but clearly the new course and hard effort (damn undulating ATB hills) on Sunday has taken a considerable toll on my body.

This week was supposed to see a jump in mileage back to around 140K, but I'll have to take it day by day to assess how I feel and what is in my best interest. I'm thrilled with the training I've done to date and believe the hard work has already been done. At this point, all that really matters is staying healthy and injury-free. Let's hope that the next weeks can deliver on that and I arrive in Boston ready and rearing to roll.

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