Wowza. In what seems like the blink of an eye, my “A” goal race for the winter has come and gone. In lieu of a summary of last week’s training, I offer you my race recap. This one is going to be long, and I don’t have any fancy photos to break things up, just a whole lot of words and thoughts about yesterday’s race.
I began training for Around the Bay way back in November when I started working with my coach. When asked to identify my race goals, I divided up the year and knew that I wanted 2017 to be mostly triathlon-focused. However, living in Canada, that meant I had a long winter to make it through before I would be racing outside. What would I do in the meantime?
I thought about viable running goals to keep me motivated, and ultimately (perhaps arbitrarily, in retrospect) set my sights on cracking the 3 hour mark at Around the Bay in March. More than once over the winter, I asked myself why. It was far enough away to feel doable, I had come close to 3:00 the first and only time I ran it (3:02 and change back in 2015), I was finally feeling mentally and physically ready to start building my distance again (yet not quite ready to return to the marathon), so I thought, why not?
Other than a missed workout here and there (it happens to all of us!), my build for Around the Bay was without incident. I struggled on my peak long run *big time*, but I usually have at least one disastrous long run per cycle, so it wasn’t a big deal. In the last couple of weeks before the race, I was feeling relaxed and totally in the zone, especially after a confidence-boosting practice race at the Chilly Half.
Race week was something else. I was tired all. the. damn. time. My legs felt like lead and running was a challenge. Initially, I was worried, but as the week progressed, I remembered that this was normal for the taper. It had been so long since I had properly trained for a race long enough to feel the effects of the taper. I took my fatigue as a good sign. My last run before the race incorporated some strides that didn’t feel like death, so I felt more at ease heading into the weekend.
On Saturday, after sleeping for 8 glorious hours and then napping for two more, I hopped on the GO bus to Hamilton to pick up my kit. I didn’t dawdle at the expo, as I wanted to get home and grab some groceries before settling in for the evening. For those interested, I reverted to the pre-race/long run dinner I ate every week in my 2014 marathon training cycle: cheese tortellini. I did my foam rolling and stretching, crawled into bed by 10:15, and was asleep within minutes.
The alarm sounded bright and early Sunday. I slept very well, and woke up ready to race. I toasted an English muffin, spread some peanut butter on it, and packed it to go with a banana. We got to Hamilton with an hour and a half to spare before the start. There were plenty of washrooms inside the stadium where the race ended (the start line was just outside), and I didn’t have to wait. Our crew took a photo and then I headed outside to make sure I got a warm-up in this time.
I jogged around the block on the way to the corral and managed to run just over a kilometre. I did some walking lunges and leg swings, and seeded myself in the corral just ahead of the 3:00 pacer. I always find the first kilometre or so of a race the most challenging, weaving in and out of people as I try to hit my stride. I felt like I was plodding along and my first kilometre beeped at 5:44. Oops. A solid 12 seconds faster than my goal pace.
After several kilometres more of trying to reel myself in, I didn’t want to waste any more mental energy on slowing down. I was making a conscious effort to slow down, but it wasn’t translating. I suspect I was trying to compensate for the hills, and pushing too hard for fear of falling behind. I was still feeling pretty good, so I tried to stay positive and hang in there. I figured that if I couldn’t dial it back, I would have some time in the bank in case I had to slow down on the hills in the final 10 kilometres. And I believed it. LOL. Note to self (and everyone else): This. Does. Not. Work. Ever.
I started to feel the effects of running too fast at around 12k, and things went downhill (har!) pretty quickly from there. Almost immediately after, I blew up internally and rode the struggle bus all the way to the finish. By some miracle, I survived most of the North Shore rollers, but I was running on fumes by the time I got to Lasalle Park, with 9k still to go.
At this point, I was so grateful to have run parts of the course a couple of times in training, and broke things up mentally so I could take it a little bit at a time. Once we climbed out of North Shore and onto Plains, I knew it was all flat and downhill until Valley Inn, and I tried to coast until then. I kept myself distracted and tried not have too many thoughts, as I’m prone to slip into a dark place pretty quickly when the going gets tough.
Valley Inn Road was bittersweet for me. I had conquered it in training, but I had to walk most of it yesterday. Once I crested the top, I did some quick mental math and knew that my 3:00 time goal would be a stretch (I had lost the 3:00 pacer just after North Shore, but I could still see them way ahead.), but a PB was still within reach if I really pushed hard. I picked it up as best I could, but my legs were completely spent. For the first time that I can recall while racing, both my quads and hamstrings were screaming at me with every stride.
I passed the Grim Reaper and started to focus on the finish. As my PB slipped away, I refused to give up. I thought about walking to the finish, and I thought even harder about quitting altogether. I ultimately decided that the faster I ran, the faster it would be over. I went on auto-pilot and tried not to think about the pain in my legs. I saw a runner friend from social media, and we commiserated about the wind. She urged me to go, so I started to book it. I use the term ‘book it’ loosely at this point. I passed the Tribe cheer station in the last kilometre, and gave it everything I had left. I didn’t think it was much, but I pushed a 5:02/km crossing the finish line.
My official time was 3:05:31, over 5 minutes slower than I had hoped to run. As I stated on my social media post, I am proud of how I carried myself yesterday. Would I change anything? Well, sure, I would not have gone out so fast, but that’s how things shook out. I wanted to truly race Around the Bay, and I did. There will be many more opportunities to break the 3:00 mark in the 30k distance, and yesterday just wasn’t my day to do it.
I have other goals to turn my attention towards, and once my body rebounds, I’ll be tackling my spring and summer triathlon goals with full force. As always, it takes a village to get an athlete’s best self to the start line. I’m so very fortunate to have a supportive boyfriend, the best coach, an amazing run crew, and an army of friends and family who truly believe in me.
Thank you to everyone who encouraged me from the moment I committed to this goal. Your support means the world to me.