Race #2 of 2017 is in the books and this may have been my best race ever! I know I said that when I finished the Chilly Half Marathon exactly three weeks prior, but the Around the Bay 30K is a really technical course (at least the back half is!) and can be difficult to tame. Just a warning, there won’t be many photos in this race report of me running because after seeing my race photos on Marathon Photos, I could not justify spending the money to purchase them. They’re awful!
Similar to the Chilly Half, this race falls within my 18-week marathon training plan. This means I treated the race as a long run (albeit a speedy long run) and I did not taper; in fact, I ran five days straight leading up to this race. My plan for the race was to run at marathon pace (MP). As of now, my planned MP for my Spring goal race is 4:25-4:30/km, but that may be adjusted now that I am feeling stronger than I did last year where I followed the same pace strategy and was very successful. I finished the 2016 Around the Bay in a time of 2:14:21. Men who finish between 2:00 and 2:15 earn a silver medal, which I did! I went into the race hopeful to improve my time, but would be equally happy if I was within reach of last year’s finishing time as that would mean I would be in really good shape for my Spring goal race.
For the second race in a row, I didn’t visit the expo. My wife, son, and I had dentist appointments around Noon and I would not be able to make it out to Hamilton in time to pick-up my bib. Thankfully, Stu from High Park Rogue Runners offered to pick-up a number of bibs for the crew. This meant I only had to travel as far as Bloor and Keele to get my bib instead of Hamilton. Thanks Stu!!
The weather forecast leading up to race day was calling for rain with temps close to zero. I didn’t stress out too much about the weather and was pretty happy when I woke up and it wasn’t raining. It also wasn’t very cold so my long sleeve with singlet over top and shorts would be perfect.
I picked up my buddy Domenic at 7:30am and we headed out to Hamilton. The race was scheduled to start at 9:30am. About halfway into the drive, I started to have troubles with my car. I now know the issue was the water pump and I could have blown the engine! Thankfully, that didn’t happen! Luckily we left early, so we had plenty of time to push the car if we needed to. Kidding, I would have just left the car on the side of the road and run to Hamilton!
We arrived around 8:15am and spent the good part of 25 minutes or so trying to find a spot where we wouldn’t get ripped off (lots closer to the start were charging $20 to park, but we found a lot two blocks away charging $10). Once we parked, we headed into FirstOntario Centre to meet-up with the rest of the High Park Rogue Runners. The coolest part of the race is it ends inside the FirstOntario Centre and runners who arrive early not only avoid having to stand outside, they can get a glimpse of the finish line which ends inside the arena.
Again, my goal was to hold a 4:25-4:30/km pace. My buddy Daniel and I discussed running together prior to the race and we confirmed that would be the plan when Dom and I met up with him and the crew. We hung out a bit, then headed out to the start line. We didn’t even make it outside of the arena when I lost Daniel! I searched for him for a bit, headed over to my corral, searched a bit more, then decided I may as well settle in and get prepared to start. I did spot Meghan, Sam, and Stu from the crew so I moved up in my corral to run with them.
First 5km splits: 4:23, 4:19, 4:16, 4:19, 4:22
The first few kilometers of the race are pretty quick. You feel as if you’ve been shot out of a canon and it can be difficult to hold back if you’re in the red (first) or blue (second) corrals. After about 500 meters, the race makes a left turn from York Blvd onto James Street N. In the previous two years, runners head up James Street N then made a right turn onto Burlington Street E. From there it’s a straight, relatively flat run for the next 8 kilometers. This year, before making the right turn onto Burlington Street E, runners head North a few hundred meters, then turn right onto Guise Street W and wrap around Eastwood Park before making a left onto Burlington Street E. This was my third year in a row running this course and I immediately noticed the change. At one point, I turned to Sam and asked if he remembered making as many turns last year.
Someone I was running next to me pretty casually turned and said, “Hi, RunTheSix.” It turned out to be a runner I know from Instagram (hongsolooo)! I really enjoy bumping into (not literally!) people I know from the running community at races because it takes your mind off the task at hand for a bit.
The first three kilometers of the course are relatively scenic as you run through a residential area with a good number of people cheering, then you quickly hit the industrial area of Hamilton and it starts to get a little drab.
My splits at this point were a little quick, but I was barely paying attention.
Second 5km splits: 4:21, 4:23, 4:33, 4:32, 4:19
Somewhere around the 7km mark, Burlington St E turns into Nikola Tesla Blvd, but I assure you, there is nothing electrifying about this part of the race. See what I did there? The race does open up a bit as people spread out across the boulevard. At this point, Sam and I started to ease into our desired paces and we were on the heels of the 2:15 pace bunny. At one point Sam said if I tried to pass the bunny, I’d be on my own! I was in no rush and we were only 1/3 of the way into the race.
At the 8km mark, there is a 10 meter climb, something I don’t recall from previous races. I checked the elevation map on Strava and it definitely was not there in previous races. Nothing to get too worried about, but I did notice it!
The winds were also picking up a bit at this point and I distinctly remember hearing the bibs pinned to runners flapping around in the wind.
I passed the 10km mark at 45:23. A few seconds over my goal time, but in a really good spot!
Third 5km splits: 4:22, 4:14, 4:18, 4:16, 4:17
Just past the 10km mark of the race, runners exit Nikola Tesla Blvd and make a jug handle turn onto Woodward Avenue. At this point of the race, you pass the first relay runners waiting on the side of the road. There are 2-person (15km each) and 3-person relays (10km each) and they are great supporters of runners who run past while they wait for their relay partners.
After 400 meters or so, runners turn right, go under the QEW and make a quick left onto Beach Blvd. The next 6 kilometers is one of the longest stretches of the race, but one of the quietest. There are a few residents hanging out in front of their homes, but the weather usually doesn’t get a lot of people outside on this stretch!
I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I started to pull away from Sam and started to push the pace. I honestly didn’t even think about it at the time; it just sort of happened. By the halfway point, I was at 1:06:01; almost 3 minutes ahead of my goal time. I had another 5 kilometers to go before the rolling hills of N Shore Blvd started to chew up runners who went out way too fast. Plenty of time to settle back into race pace!
Around this point in the race, perhaps sooner, I spotted my friend Jarek Zlamal, someone I ran with often in the past. For the remainder of the race, we ran side by side. We paced each other and kept each other honest!
It was also around this point in the race when someone pulled up next and said he recognized me from this blog. I’ve had people recognize me from Instagram, but to have someone tell me they read my blog was really awesome! We briefly spoke about the blog and our goals for this race (Marwan really wanted to run a sub-2:15 to earn a silver medal), then kept on pushing along. We ran pretty much side by side for the remainder of the race!
Fourth 5km splits: 4:14, 4:20, 4:29, 4:17, 4:13
So much for settling into marathon race pace! Just past the 17km mark, runners make a left turn onto N Shore Blvd. This is the infamous part of the race where runners get a taste of the real features of the course; the rolling hills! The elevation changes are very subtle at first, then they come on fairly strong around the 19-20km mark. The first time I ran this race, I ended up walking up the hills a few times. Last year, I ran through the hills but had a good walk or two once I exited this part of the course because I was gassed. This year, I didn’t speed through the hills; instead, I ran with the same effort up and let gravity take me down.
Around the 18-19km mark, I started spotting friendly faces on the side of the course, including Coach Colin and some of the High Park Rogue Runners. I tried my best to smile, but all I wanted to do was get past these hills and on to the biggest feature of the course, “The Hill” at Valley Inn Rd.
I hit the 20km mark at 1:28:02; 4 minutes ahead of my goal time.
Fifth 5km splits: 4:27, 4:32, 4:20, 4:24, 4:24
At this point of the race, you feel like you’ve been climbing forever. The elevation changes from 70+ meters to 107 meters over the course of the next five kilometers. Play it smart, and you’ll have enough energy for the final hill and very subtle downhill home, but don’t play it smart and you’ll be questioning your life choices for the remainder of the race.
At the 24km mark, North Shore Blvd W makes a right turn then a quick left onto Plains Road W. The second to the last climb happens when runners make a subtle left onto Spring Gardens Rd.
Final 5km splits: 4:19, 4:33, 4:25, 4:30, 4:16
At the 26km mark of the race, runners plunge 26 meters down Spring Gardens Rd and at the 27km mark of the race, runners face their final challenge before heading back to FirstOntario Centre. “The Hill” as runners affectionately refer to it, is a steady 28-meter climb that feels like it will never end. It’s not a massive hill by any means, but after running 26 kilometers, 4-5 of which were just through rolling hills, this climb feels like you’re ascending Mount Everest!
I really wanted to experience this hill because it was removed the previous two years due to construction and I was tired of people saying, “yeah, but you didn’t run Around the Bay with The Hill!”
I approached the hill like any runner should. Head up, body straight, and a steady effrot. I didn’t panic and when I finally ascended the hill, I expected the worse, so the 4:33/km pace I clocked at the 27km mark was a huge victory! No question I was gassed, so when I made the final turn, a left onto York Blvd, I did everything in my power to just run. Last year when the rolling hills of North Shore Blvd W ate me up, I walked along the medium of York Blvd for a bit before regaining some energy. This year would be entirely different.
I was starting to get really gassed at the 28km mark, but this is a very popular part of the course for spectators and race crews. Everyone from Tribe Fitness, Parkdale Road Runners, RunToBeer, and others can be seen cheering on their crewmates and other runners who need all the support they can get for that final 2-kilometer push to the finish line! At this point in the race, I wasn’t able to completely fill my lungs with air and was forced to take shorter breaths which bothered me at first, but I got used to it fairly quickly. Any thought of stopping was pushed to the back of my mind.
FirstOntario Centre is clearly visible at this point of the race. Once I saw it, I knew I was almost home.
With just over 1 kilometer to go, I spotted the RunTOBeer crew and a few hundred meters later spotted the Tribe Fitness crew. I got my power-up high-five from my friend Allison (I’m losing count of the number of times Allison gave me a high-five towards the end of a race!) and the final turn taking runners inside FirstOntario Centre was now visible less than a kilometer away.
As I was huffing and puffing in the final kilometer, someone I was running next to said something to the effect of, “Hey, you’re Greenwald, right?” I don’t think my brain was able to process anything other than “RUN!” at that point, but he did mention he was following me on Strava. Thankfully he reminded me later in the comments of my Strava run. It was great to meet you on the course, David!
Somehow I dropped a 4:16 pace in that final kilometer, made a right turn into the service entrance of the arena and heard the most amazing sounds you ever want to hear towards the end of a race; especially this one. People were cheering inside the arena and someone on a PA system was calling out the names of runners entering closing in on the finish line.
A few meters later and I could finally see the finish line and the clock above. I crossed the line at 2:12:30 (2:12:16 chip). I beat last years time by about 2 minutes and earned back to back silver medals!
Marwan and Jarek came in right behind me, easily earning their own silver medals. Congrats guys!
I lost track of the number of races I’ve done since I started racing in 2014, but I believe it’s just North of 20. In just about ever race with the exception of two I can clearly remember (Chilly Half Marathon 2016 and 2017) and possibly one 10K, I typically end up walking towards the end. In some cases it’s only for a few seconds, other times I simply stop moving and need to recover at an aid station. It’s partly my inexperience with racing and perhaps partly my respiratory or cardiovascular systems trying to keep up with my fast legs.
I didn’t stop at any point in this race and for that I am incredibly proud!
In the two previous years I completed the Around the Bay 30K race, I questioned how the hell I was going to have enough energy to run another 12 kilometers to finish a marathon. After this race, I got really excited about what I can accomplish with less than 6 weeks to go before the big race!
I love this race and will want to do it every year! If I do make it to Boston 2018, I may not want to do the 30K next year, but would be interested in doing the relay! The volunteers, course marshals, and everyone else who bring this great race to life are amazing. The Around the Bay Road Race started in 1894 and is the oldest long distance road race in North America. It’s no wonder why it’s also one of the most popular!
Last year was full of PRs, a BQ, and a ton of confidence building. This year looks to be a lot of the same with even more success. This race has me very hopeful for what I can accomplish!
After the race, I went down to towards the finish line to cheer on the runners. I saw a lot of people I knew and it was great to see them finish!
Dom and I met up with our friends from Kleinburg after the race. Unfortunately it took forever for our food to come and we were all getting pretty groggy, but it was great to spend the time with friends we haven’t hung out with in a while!
On the way home, my car started acting up again, but thankfully we made it home!
In less than six weeks, I’ll be racing in the Mississauga Marathon. Everything I’m working for now will be put to the test. My goal is simple: BQ with enough time to earn a spot in the 2018 Boston Marathon. I can not wait to toe the line!
Thanks for reading!
QOTD: Did you participate in this race? If so, how did you like it?