What's Been Happening...
Spring is finally here and it's also pretty much transitioning into spring running season! Looks like I already broke my resolution of posting more often and then doing the exact opposite couple weeks thereafter ?- I guess I'll make it easier on myself by doing monthly editions, perhaps that will keep things more interesting
I have been keeping average weekly mileage ranging from 75 to 85 km for the past few weeks. This also includes visits to the gym and the dreadmill in which I make sure I don't take any shortcuts by maxing out the incline on the treadmill and steady pace. Majority of the runs stuck to my marathon training regime for May, while other runs are squeezed in strictly as a post-daytime work diversion and clearing my mind (and it helps!) And shoes! Out goes the old ones that accumulated over thousands of kilometres and in comes two pairs of Saucony as my primary workhorses. TBH, the more mileage racked up, the better the excuse it is to buy more pairs of runners as a reward to myself ?
Throughout the past weeks of missing in action, I ran the Chilly Half-Marathon in Burlington and also the signature Around The Bay 30K in Hamilton as training benchmarks towards the main goal of the full marathon in Pittsburgh this upcoming May. For weekly long runs, I managed to set a minimum of at least 25km and keep pushing the mileage boundaries without provoking any preventable injuries. The biggest highlight of them all is my recent 50km run with my brother from my house all the downtown Toronto! I am extremely proud in the sense that I checked off one of my bucket list items and actually turned that mythical points of destination into reality.
First race of the year! This race is the first since the last one in Hamilton for the full marathon. It was a great opportunity to shake off the rust and the race day jitters altogether. Call me superstitious but I am a big believer of starting things (or in this case, the running season) on the right foot (and pun intended!). By getting my pre-race routines and game day rituals right, it helps me significantly to replicate the same best practices for the year ahead. In this case, this Chilly Half helped set the tone for the Around the Bay couple weeks later.
This was my first time competing in this race. Race day pickup was at Mercedes-Benz Burlington. As a car guy and related to my daytime work, I had an enjoyable time being fascinated by nice cars all around not to mention the very long sleeve race shirt for this year. It was a nice touch to have it in black with silver caption accents, so nice that Canadian Running had an article for that very subject.
The course itself was flat and very reminiscent of the Barrie Half Marathon route that I did last June. The start line was somewhere within the middle and you first run towards Hamilton before looping up the lakeshore area northeastward towards Oakville. The only obstacle for this race was mainly the weather as it can significantly vary from year to year. This year was sunny but quite windy so my pace was adjusted to tailor to the conditions. To my delight, I managed to obtain a new half-marathon PB by 2 minutes over the past record in Barrie.
Would I do this race again? Certainly will and I did! The 2019 edition of Chilly Half will be Sunday, March 4, 2018. And it just can't get any better with free beer and chilli after race to complement that PB.
Around The Bay
...I enjoyed the Valley Inn Road so much I came back this year to conquer it again ?- NOT! I am so glad my winter running training plan effectively bailed me out amidst my busy work schedule week. My mind was not ready but my physical training offset the indifferences and it all turned out great. I rode the confidence booster from Chilly Half into this race as well as the lessons learned from last year and the year before in 2016. This year, I decided to tackle the first (fast) corral but tucked myself way at the back of the line. Why? Ample of space within my surroundings. Also, this gives me enough time to slot myself in a comfortable but fast enough of a pace to set the tone for the entire duration of the race. By the 2nd kilometre, I felt that pace I had was sustainable enough to keep me going and so my next priority was finding somebody with the same pace to run behind so I don't feel the full brunt of the headwind crashing towards you. The Burlington skyway segment brought me back memories from my Hamilton marathon so that was a nice distraction during the run. Another thing I did differently was sticking with my gel pack intake during my run and being discipline about it. Just that alone gave me sufficient time absorbing the calories and converse it into my run when I need the energy most. Compared to last year, I had not feel especially tired or suffer tremendously compared to last year and especially during the infamous hill, I felt that I still had lots left in the tank to tackle the hill. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself being featured on Canadian Running's coverage of this year's ATB, check out the YouTube clip below!
When everything's all said and done, I managed to carve out an 11 minute PB over last year's result which further sentiments incremental improvements towards the grand prize: full marathon PB and eventually be competitive enough to chase for the unicorn.
Pittsburgh Marathon is only a few weeks away and I have one more short distance race (Race Roster Spring Run Off) and a few more long runs before tapering. I have been seeking areas with major hills to combat such obstacles if it very well indeed shows up. I'm feeling mentally confident but it doesn't mean jack if I don't continue trusting and following the process set in place for myself with my training. You know what they say: "actions speak louder than words" To be continued next month with updates to my progress then! Cheers - M.W.
Around The Bay 2017 Recap
"Everyone was glad to see our own version of heartbreak hill back in the game after a two-year absence." - Hamilton Spectator
I won't be surprised if you found me through Google search by typing "Around the Bay review". In a nutshell, here are the essential info to this event:
WHAT: Around The Bay Road Race (aka THE North American road race older than Boston since 1894)
WHEN: Last weekend of March or very early April - the 2017 edition of the race happened Sunday, March 26, 2017 with gunpoint at 9:30 am
WHERE: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (Route --> Hamilton > Burlington Skyway / Eastport Road > Burlington lakeshore > back to downtown Hamilton
WHO: you, the weekend warrior runner!
WHY: Highly recommended race to kickoff the running season, a nice progress measuring stick between a half-marathon to a full-marathon
This will be my second time running this signature race but the first time with the infamous Valley Inn Rd hill
This race is perfect for those that have conquered the half-marathon race and unsure of whether he or she is capable of tackling the full marathon with full-confidence. You get to tackle the weather elements such as temperature drops and winds but you will never be 100% sure of the complete conditions until the day of the race. Case and point, weather forecast anticipated freezing rain, rain, and windy conditions couple of days leading up to the day of the event. Luckily, the actual conditions was nothing more than selective wind changes during the rolling hills section and by the Burlington skyway bridge area. And that's right, I mentioned hills because there will be plentiful of them so don't expect yourself to bolt straight out of the starting line and sustain that speed the rest of the day... unless you're an elite athlete!
0 - 10KM
Caution: Watch your step! No, it's not wet slippery roads but rather cracked up, rocky asphalt roads for the first few kilometres! The roads are located in the industrial area constantly run over by huge trucks and tractors; as a result, you get the bad roads until you gradually move up onto the overpass area.
Not the most scenic part of the race but most definitely quite manageable in terms of pacing and elevation.
11 - 20km
Flat and now's the time to speed things up!
The second portion is mostly flat as you run northward in parallel to the QEW highway on Beach Boulevard and Eastport Drive. Depending on your level of athleticism, this stretch of the run is ideal for taking your first gel pack at your discretion based on mental vitality and distance run so far. I recall doing my very first Bay race last year in 2016 and took it in 11km. This year, I extended that duration to somewhere between 15km to 16km, where a water station was available for me to ingest it easily, so I can utilize that extra caffeine kick when I actually need it when tackling the hills.
Pace-wise, now is the time to speed up a bit if you can sustain it as the roads are relatively flat and don't require as much effort.
Note: as you are passing by the bridge... relax! Even though the bottom are see-through, the bridge steel beams are more than strong enough to hold your weight and lots of heavy duty trucks so no need to freak out... or look down for that matter ?
20 - 25KM: Rolling Hills
This would be one of the sections where training on the stair-masters at the gym can really pay off! It's easy to let gravity pull you down and speed down the hill when it's there, but have you planned on how to defeat the uphills? My strategy: just don't stop- period. You are better off being at crawling speeds and not stopping than doing so. Get in the rhythm with your footsteps!
You are now running at the residential areas, so along with the hills, you get a strong community support cheering you on and beautiful scenery of the lakeshore area on your left hand side of things.
That is until the infamous monster or Hamilton's "heartbreak hill" awaits you at the end of 25km and onto the beginning stages of 26...
The Hill - Valley Inn Road
Sounds scary, mentally scary, but trust me. It's not. Think of it as short-term pain or lots more of gain!
This is because at the end of this hurdle, there's one more hurdle left... and the infamous Grim Reaper will be awaiting you there. More on that in a bit.
...and that's when the beat from the playlist above (but I was then live streaming via the SiriusXM app on my phone) dropped coincidentally right at the moment as I embraced the uphill suck. It was a mix of adrenaline and following through the beats per minute (bpm) of those dance tracks that carried me through the dreadful 400 metres. Like I say, it seems like forever but its not. However, you do need to brace yourself for one more gradual uphill as you push through the overpass bridge of York St so don't just simply bank all your energy strictly for the Valley Inn Rd hill.
27 - 30KM
After the uphill, you must now plough through the final uphill within the 27 to 28 km mark. This is where the infamous Grim Reaper will be awaiting you right next to the cemetery to the right. Don't want to hang around with him? Keep pushing on and the road will lead you directly back to the starting line area in which you will make a right turn into the FirstOntario Centre (formerly Copps Coliseum) and into the finish line!