First, a bit of recap. This was the third time that I was making the trip to Hamilton for the "Oldest Race in North America", in its 119th anniversary this year, and still "older than Boston". By the way, this ain't gonna change any time soon, so deal with it. The two previous times I run it I was part of a two-person relay and covered the full distance, but never at once. This year, I trained hard and went there hungry for a PR. Since I had never run in a 30K race before, my only reference times were my 30k splits at the marathons completed last year, so the time to beat was 3h13 from Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
After struggling with different paces in my head, I met with my new coach earlier in the week and we discussed strategy. He told me that he wasn't comfortable with me racing it all out because it's not my A race and I could get injured and jeopardize my training for Ironman Muskoka 70.3, but after agreeing on the fact that a 3h10 time would make me happy and that most likely it would not kill me, we decided that I was going to run it as following (all by feel, no peeking at the watch!) :
- First 5k easy
- Next 10k fast (race pace)
- Last 15k easy
So, on Saturday we went to the Expo to pick up our race kits, and oh, the miracle, we didn't buy anything! We got there early enough to win a flashy orange tech cap from Running Room, but other than that, there was nothing there that we really needed. I took a picture of the empty Copps Coliseum though because it was free.
The next day, alarm clock went off at 6am. After a quick shower and a breakfast, we managed to leave the house at 7am. We felt confident that we'd get to Hamilton early enough to find parking, unlike last year when we circled the downtown area for an hour before finding a spot. And just as expected, we quickly found free street parking, just half a mile from Copps Coliseum.
We went to Tim's for coffee and a pee break, then to the Coliseum where we had planned to meet with Nicole, Sam and the rest of the online gang. I did recognize a few faces, but was a bit too shy to talk to everyone. Shook a few hands and forgot most of the names (sorry, small brain), but felt right at home among them happy people in bright shirts and running tights.
By the way, I know that people say that it's bad juju to wear the race t-shirt, but I've never done otherwise, so I was glowing in the hot pink one that hey gave to the women racers this year. For bottoms I was wearing my long Sugoi tights, and those too were a no brainer given the near-zero temperatures advertised by my weather app. I also chose to go with my buff instead of a hat, and no gloves.
With 15 minutes to the start time, we made our move towards the grey corral, for those without qualifying times. That's when we saw Lou and Paul from the Barefoot and Minimalist Runners Facebook Group and I admired both the fashion statement and Lou's perfectly shaved legs.
We looked around us, a sea of people ahead, a sea of people behind.
And us two goofs in the middle, with sun in our eyes and a mean attitude...fail!
I decided to run my own race, not even mingle with the massive groups of people following the pacers. I had a plan to follow after all. Soon enough Nicole and her friends passed me and we both vowed to never listen to the weather reports again as she was peeling off her jacket and I was wishing I didn't wear a wool layer under my top. The first 5k went by really fast and then came my time to speed up and complete my tempo workout of the day. Just before reaching the train "situation" I passed Nicole again and zoomed my way ahead dodging people one by one. I knew they were all going to pass me back again, so I didn't have any hard feelings ahead of time, I was on a mission and that was the most important, not to die before the 15k mat.
The bridge could not come soon enough, because a fast 10k split is still a lot of energy to leave on the pavement. I took in Clif shot blocks at 4k and 10k, mixed in with some water and Endura by Metagenics (as a sports drink, I couldn't recommend it enough, there is only good stuff in it).
There it is, the 15k relay exchange point which also meant that I was done...with the fast feet, because the race was only starting.
Eventually I approached Heartbreak Hill, and I started hearing Queen's "We will rock you" blasting off someone's boom box. I can't remember if it was an official ATB tent or a kind Hamiltonian's setup, but it MADE MY DAY (thank you!!!). It was right at the top of the hill before Valley Inn road, yep, just before it goes down hard to only go back up again. I started singing and yelling at people, "this is it, guys", let's do this!" We will, we will, ROCK YOU!! I felt like a boulder rolling down the hill, then powering up and passing those who decided to walk it, telling them, it's only 400m, folks! Keep going!! (for my American friends, that's a quarter of a mile). I was a talking boulder, alriiight (cuckoo!).
Anyway, made it up and then... breathe... almost done! Last 3k. Longest 3k ever... I really wanted it to be over, I had enough fun for the day. I was hoping to see the grim reaper so I can laugh in his face and then sprint to the finish line. I finally saw him and took out my camera, then snapped the picture below. I realized there was an official ATB photog right there if you wanted a more professional "near death" experience, but I decided to skip.
My first 30k is in the books!! 3h05 chip time, a 8min PR over my fastest 30k marathon split. I am really, really happy with the result, and even happier that I managed to execute this race exactly as planned. Zin also beat his fastest of the fastest times and finished the race in 2h31, earning himself the name of SuperZin. I am impressed! If he continues like this he may end up in Boston before we finish an Ironman (the pressure's on!).
Last but not least, here's the techie view for those who like numbers and pretty graphs.