Sunday, March 25, 2007

Around the Bay 30 K Race Report

Here is my race report of my running of the 113th Around the Bay 30K in Hamilton, Ontario this last Sunday, March 25, 2007. I had seen the film Saint Ralph, a fictional story of a 14 year old boy who runs the Boston Marathon in hopes of performing a miracle to help bring his mother out of a coma. A truly funny and inspiring story that I recommend to anyone looking for inspiration in running Boston or any other marathon. In any event, the film takes place in Hamilton, Ontario and young Ralph runs wins the Around the Bay race in race in preparation for his Boston attempt. I was curious as to whether this was an actual event and Googled the race. Sure enough, this race exists and has a storied past, very much like Boston. I had decided to do the race as a hair-brained scheme to avoid doing my scheduled 20 milers before tapering the next 3 weeks. A running buddy also liked the idea, so we booked flights from sunny Ft. Lauderdale to Buffalo, NY and drove up to Hamilton.

It turns out the event pre-dates Boston by a couple of years. In the early years of the Boston Marathon, the Canadian runners would run this event as a lead up to Boston. Several of the winners of this race went on to win Boston. The course is a considered a miniature version of Boston in that it has a series of hills from 19K to 26K culminating in a steep hill named “Heartbreak Hill” after its Boston namesake. At the pasta dinner on Saturday night, John Stanton, the owner of the Running Room (a Canadian running store), advised to treat the course as a 20K training run, followed by a 10K race. In other words, don’t push it too hard until you get to the hills. Much like you and John advised for Boston in your pod-cast.

The main speaker at the pasta feed was Jacqueline Gareau, the real winner of the women’s 1980 Boston Marathon. You know, the one where Rosie Ruiz claimed victory, but was later exposed as a cheat. Jacqueline was a gracious speaker. It was nice to hear the story from her point of view.

Race morning was in the mid 30s. My running buddy, John and I kept our sweats on until just before the race. I ended up keeping my sweat pants until the hills. We started off with a couple of 7:50 miles, but soon cut back to about 8:05s not wanting to burn out. I have a history of going out too hard in races and paying for it in the later portions of races. Buddy John stayed a few strides in back of me, keeping me from picking up the pace. I started to call him “Governor,” but thanked him for keeping it smart. Of course, we did start to get passed by more eager runners that pushed the pace during the second 10K.

At about the 15K mark, John started to tell me that I was looking strong and to go ahead of him. “No,” I said, “this is a training run for Boston. We’ll do this together.” So we kept it at marathon tempo as opposed to race pace. He repeated his suggestion a couple of more times, so when we got to the hills, I figured I had permission to run how I felt. Having not pushed too hard getting to the hills, I felt good. I started to push my pace, passing many of those that had previously passed us. I kept feeling good and kept pushing up and down the rolling hills. Heartbreak Hill was tough, but I managed to keep a good pace. Having blown up in the Newton Hills in Boston the last two years, this felt great.

The last 4K was a general downward slope back into downtown Hamilton. The finish was in the Copps Center, a hockey arena. They had a track down the middle of the floor of the arena with a camera projecting the outside approach to the arena and the finish line. A nice set up. My finish time was 2:37, which I was very happy with.

I think what please me most was following the strategy of taking it easy before the hills, and giving it a go in the hills. It pretty much is exactly what is advised for Boston. It nice to have this mini-Boston under my belt leading up to April 16th. I’m now looking forward to Boston instead of fearing it. I’m going to be pacing another running buddy, Wayne Crayton, from Anchorage, Alaska, who is running it as a Dana Farber Fund Raiser.