Sunday, March 30, 2008
Race report: Around the Bay 30K
Sigh. I guess long races make for long race report. Sorry for the length but I like to document these for my own diary like purposes.
As I was saying yesterday, this race really crept up on my schedule, which is funny, because at some point, it was a major race in my schedule. But marathons have this tendency to make you forget about things like this. I signed up for Around the Bay last year, when a few friends of mine decided to sign up. It was their longest race distance, and I thought it'd be fun to go to Hamilton to do this historic road race.
The race goes around the lakeshores of Hamilton, Ont., and Burlington, Ont. (where R is from) and aside from being one of the rare 30Ks on the race schedule, it happens to bill itself as the oldest road race in North America. This is is the 114th running. It's such a strategic race itself. The first 19K is flat as a pancake with a few inclines. Also, because the race is done around the bay, there is a possibility of big wind. And also, because the race takes place in the last Sunday of March (because shipping season starts in April, and they need to gain access to a bridge we run across), there is a possibility of winter like weather.
Oh yeah, and there are massive hills from the 19K to the 26K mark, or just more than 4 miles of hills. The last hill is a doozy and is legendary.
So when I signed up last year, I knew i'd be in for such an interesting race. What pace do you pick for a 30K? It can be faster than marathon pace, but how close can it be to your half marathon pace? And what happens when there are major hills? What pace, then, do you choose?
I arrived in Hamilton yesterday afternoon, checked into the hotel, hit the expo, grabbed the race pack, subscribed to a new Canadian running magazine (exciting news, a post about that later). Then I met some friends and we went to their placed, cooked pasta, watched the movie St. Ralph (which is actually set in the Hamilton area and mentions Around the Bay) and observed Earth Hour. I was back in the hotel for 10 p.m. and I was in bed soon after.
I got up at 5:30 for my 'first breakfast' of a bagel and peanut butter. I went back to sleep and was up again at 7:15 when I hydrated again. From my window, I could see runners already arriving at around 8 a.m. (more than 1.5 hours before the start) so I was happy to spend another 40 minutes in my room.
The weather was looking great. Sunny, a light to medium wind and just above zero C. A lot of runners were seeking shelter but I decided to stay outside, just walking, warming up and to also stake out a good position near the front.
Surprisingly, just before the start, I saw that there were pacers. There was a 2:20 who happened to be lined up right in front of me, so I thought maybe I would use him since that was the pace I was going for (4:40Ks and 7:30 miles). He ended up moving back a few places so I couldn't see him when we started.
0 - 10K
We were off and I really tried to hold back, to take it slow and go by feel. My biggest worry about this race was going out too fast, hitting my LT pace right away and just losing it. So the strategy was to stick to 4:40s and see how things went. We were running right into the sun which was great cause it was keeping us warm.
The race was going well but there were a few complications. Quite a few people were going out very fast. From what I could tell, it was because a) they were part of the 3x10K relay b) they were part of a 2x15K relay or c) they were inexperienced at long distances and were just giving it. d) I guess the fourth reason was they were trying to bank in time in the first half before they hit the hills, cause that's what the 2:20 pacer said.
My first three kilometres were amazingly on perfect pace.
During the second kilometre, my pacer, being trailed by his pack of runners, came tearing through my group at, I kid you not, a 4:20 pace. I kept up for a little bit but then realized it was crazy to step up my pace in an effort to bank time. I would not go LT for the first 5 miles and kill myself by the end. I watched them disappear way into the distance in the next few kilometres. I kept on thinking "I'll catch ya guys if you really intend to pace 2:20". And then I hit my next split of 4:40 and I was happy.
Other than a 4:33, my first 10K was a clinic in keeping pace. By the time we reached the 9K mark, I had shed the small bottle of Gatorade I was holding, and that left my arms free and I felt at that point that I could really start running. We also hit the first exchange area for the 3x10K relay and I was just happy to be catching up to 10K runners who were clearly running out of gas. I felt strong and prepared myself for the next 20K
The first 10K was done in a gun time of 47:04 (so about 46:44) which was pretty much perfectly on pace.
The next few kilometres, I was shaking off some runners and started to target groups ahead. I had slightly increased the pace to (11K in 4:37, 12K in 4:35) then settled back into rhythm. At this point, I was just trying to keep fresh for the hills. I took my first gel at the 14K mark (13K in 4:38 and 14K in 4:38). As I was entering the half way point, I came to a moment of truth and it was this: I felt up to that point that I was never really racing. I mean, really forcing my breathing higher, thinking about jockeying for position, pushing my body up towards some limit. I also pictured in my minds eye that 2:20 pace group. Where the heck were they? I was running on pace or even faster and they were nowhere in sight. That kinda got me mad. And so I started out pour it on.
I hit the 20K split in a gun time of 1:33:08, just about 40 seconds faster than 2:20 pace.
The hills. They arrived just as I remembered them. Long and rolling. A long incline, followed by a long decline. This was going to be fun. At this point, I wanted to give it. So my strategies for hills was to use the declines to gain speed and rest (funnily enough) and to blast up the inclines with a smooth quick turnover but easier in effort. The hills are hard, but they also give you flat land to recover after an incline so that you actually have a chance to run at a fast pace. In English, that meant, on the downhill, I went really fast, on the uphills, I took it at a fastish pace and on the flats, I looked to regain speed.
Here are the splits on the hilly areas
24K: 4:36 I caught up to the 2:20 pace group. Funnily enough, he had only one person left with him. I passed him and stepped it up again.
26K: 4:09. This is the big downhill before the death hill. I really used the downhill to speed my way in.
27K: 4:28. I'm absolutely amazed with this time because it was the big hill.
The final stretch came and I saw that the hills had actually given me a time advantage. The last hill had really taken a lot of wind out of me, but I looked to quickly reestablish a fast pace. So I really started to pour it on again.
With three kilometes to go, I saw that I probably could not go fast enough to reach 2:15, which would qualify me for a silver medal (they give out awards by time and 2 hours to 2:15 for men gets you a silver, after which, you get bronze.). I figured I needed a sub 12 minute 3K to pull it off and there was no way I could also make up for the gun time (my chip time was 20 seconds behind). But you know what, I told myself to go for it anyways. So I said this mantra over the last bit: "Pain is temporary, glory is forever". I know it's a cheesy line but it worked. I sped up and just blasted through every group. In the last 10K I passed tonnes of runners, but in the last two kilometres, I passed a whole whack of strong runners. I did 29K in 4:06, picturing a track intervals. Not to be outdone, I saw Copps Coliseum and I actually maintained pace, doing the final kilometre in 4:07. To put this in perspective. 4:06 or 4:07 is the type of speed I'd run for a 10K race, not for the final bit of a 30K race.
I entered the Coliseum's steep downward ramp, nearly lost my balance, turned the corner, and saw the final track leading to the finish line. I saw the clock and was happy to hear my name as the number read 2:16:52.
Here are my 10K splits that show the negative split.
All in all, I'm pretty happy with this first 30K. I'm surprised I took the hills that well and now I know that next time I can aim at a sub-2:15 with proper pacing.
Chip time: 2:16:32
Place overall: 303/4488 (93.2 percentile)
Place gender: 273/2394 (88.5 percentile)
Place division: 49/242 (79.7 percentile)
Pace: 4:34 kilometres