Saturday, June 22, 2013

ATB30K conquered!

For months now,  I have heard constant buzz about the Around the Bay Road Race, oldest race on the continent, even older than Boston.  A scenic 30 kilometre run around the beautiful (okay, that's a stretch) bay in Hamilton, Ontario.  Held annually in March, it was perfect timing since I hate running in the cold and hate running in the heat.

After speaking with the race organizer last year at an expo I was easily swayed into making this my goal race for early 2013.  Nice course, close to home, cool medal and a decent tech shirt that actually fits well and looks good.  Okay, sign me up!!!  Did I mention the 30K part yet???

A little ambitious, I admit.  Here is a girl, that less than a year ago saw a sign at Sporting Life advertising a 10K run and decided to give it a whirl ... now I am going to tackle three times the distance!!!  Yikes!!!

Training began shortly after my last half marathon in November 2012.  I took about a three week break and started back early December giving myself a good, solid 3.5 months.  December started out great but as soon as the New Year's ball dropped launching us into 2013 things changed. I struggled.

For those that know me well, 2013 has not been the easiest year.  I had a bizarre heart issue that put a real damper on my entire month of January training.  Coming into month two of my training and then being told to "take it easy" was definitely not what I wanted to hear.  Multiple tests later and visits to the cardiologist, I was given the "go ahead" to run my heart out again but nothing was going to make up for the lost time. It was surely a set back.

Going into February, I felt better.  I trained for ATB and also did my first race of the year, the Myrtle Beach half marathon.  Five short days after that race, more bad news.  1.  I had to have a toenail removed  2.  I had shingles  SERIOUSLY!!!  I had never had so many things go wrong in such a short time.  I considered backing out but just couldn't.  I had managed to keep my training up and I certainly wasn't going to give up without a fight.

I still had four solid weeks and believe me, I made it count!  Even with all the set backs I managed to quickly get through my planned training schedule.  I missed out on some speed work and a couple of long runs but I made the most of my time.

Days leading up to the race were good.  My mindset had changed and my goal now was to run and finish.  There was no way I was going to race this distance.  I just didn't feel ready for that.

My stragedy for 30K ... I was breaking this run into thirds.  I wanted to keep it even paced in the first 10K, give it my all for the 2nd 10K and then whatever energy I had left in me would hopefully get me through the last 10K and the dreaded hills.

I won't lie,  the anticipation of the ATB 30K race had me stressed to the max.  Just thinking about the race made me feel sick.  "Why did I sign up for this again"?  and "someone shoot me now" were just two of the thoughts that played over and over in my mind the days before.

One week before the longest run of my life I get a huge blister on my foot.  Really!  Just what I needed!!!  Like everything else up until now, I would deal with it and push on...

Attitude adjustment came when I went to pick up my race kit.  Nice shirt, got my bib, chip and the map, I was going to do this and that was all there was to it.  Soon it would all be over and even if I ended up walking the last half, I was determined to finish.

Race day morning came, I was rested, ready and feeling good.  I had created a new playlist just days earlier that I was pumped to listen to.  Surprisingly, I was calm and collected and ready to run.

The starting line was crowded.  Even though I knew several people running this race I could not spot a familiar face.  I did see a couple of runners from my run club but no one I knew personally.  I set myself into position into the corral and started up my Garmin.  Before I could even get comfortable the gun went off and it was go time!!!

Temperatures were cold, favourable for me.  Off to a good start I cruised through the first 8K of the ATB race with not a care in the world.  Until ... what was that up ahead??!! .... you've gotta be kidding me ... yep, it was indeed, a freight train.  The railway bars had lowered and off in the distance I could see the train coming.  I had two choices, make it or not.  I decided to give it everything I had an run like I was being chased by scary monsters I did.  Seconds after I made it to the other side the police were screaming to the runners to "STOP"!!!  I remember thinking how fortunate I was that I had made it across.  Those poor delayed runners after me ended up being held back for a good five minutes... such a bummer :(

Settling in to a nice moderate pace I continued on.  Stopping only at water stations briefly, I was feeling good and on target for a great race!

I was in "the zone" and the day was beautiful.  Sunny, my happy place!  Excitement built as I knew my family was waiting somewhere in the 16-17K point.  I looked for them and couldn't wait to see a familiar face.  As soon as I hit the 17K mark I could see my boys off in the distance.  I hurried, whipped off my jacket and unloaded my head warmer and gloves.  We hugged, high fives and took a couple of pics and off I went again.

Now, to the finish!

I was more than halfway done.  I hadn't stopped, except for the brief hydration and family hello.
A sudden boost of energy came over me and I breezed through the next several kilometre's.  Around the 18K mark the hills started coming and I knew what I was in for.  I gathered my mental self and pushed and pushed ... and pushed!!!  Starting feel my blister and every muscle in my leg aching the run was getting tough!!  Up, down, up, down, those hills were relentless.  Up ahead I could see it.  The big one.  The hill everyone talks about ... I was approaching it quickly, oh no!!!

Up I went, about halfway I could not push anymore.  I had to stop, I had to walk!  All I could think about now was the finish line.  I knew my Dad was waiting there for me and I had to do this.  A minute of walking and I was on my way again.  Oh, was I happy when I hit the top!  Downhill from here baby!!!  26K done and I had four left to go.  I passed the "Grim Reaper" whom everyone talks about... not sure why, at that point I could have seen Brad Pitt and not cared in the least.  If my legs stopped one more time I would never finish this race.

I ran and ran... 27, 28, 29..... okay, one more .... give it all you got!!!   I powered in, probably my fasted split in the entire race.  My Dad was there waiting, taking pictures and screaming at me to "GO"... !!!
Down the ramp and in Copp's Coliseum , I crossed that finish line strong and in one piece!  I did it!!! I finished ATB and in a so much better time than I could have hoped for.

My plan as I said earlier was not to race this distance but just finish.  In my mind I was hoping for a finish time of 3:15, okay, maybe secretly around 3:10.  I ended up finishing in 2:55, a sub 3!!  AMAZING!!!

ATB was definitely going in my "good books".  It was a great day, a great race and I was happier than ever that I finished despite all my training set backs.

What a great feeling!  ATB, I am hooked!  Sign me up for next year :)


  1. Great blog, thanks for the warning about potential trains and the "Grim Reaper"! The coming March will be my first time to run ATB, and it was interesting to read your report in advance.

  2. Thanks Anna! Hope your race went well. Unfortunately, I was injured this winter and had to sit this one out. I heard they solved the train problems this year :)))))