On Sunday, I ran around the bay. The 118th annual Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilton, Ontario, to be exact.
It was my first time running this race, or any race longer than 21.1k. This freaked me out. I was convinced I was going to be so slow that I needed to start with the walkers. (Rational thought and laziness prevailed when I realized that this would mean waking up an hour earlier). I was also nervous because Matt and I went away the week before and I didn’t run once. (I’ll write about this in a future post, coming up soon!) My last run before this impromptu week off was terrible. My legs were sore, my back was sore and I was hating running.
It turned out that taking an entire week off was exactly what I needed to conquer Around the Bay. I’m not entirely sure how to recap this. (I felt great! I ran a race! It was over in 3:29:36!), but since it was my strongest and most positive race yet, I want to share with you why I think this was so.
1) I listened to my body
Okay, so going on a cruise to the Caribbean, where running on a boat seemed like a stupid thing to do isn’t exactly “listening to my body.” But before the vacation, I was breaking down, physically and mentally. A relaxing week off where I did nothing but yoga was exactly what I needed. From now on, I need to recognize the difference between needing a break and being lazy. This week? I needed a break.
2) I used a pace bunny
I have never used a pace bunny before. Now that I have, I have no idea why. It was great not only to run with a group for a few hours, it was good to have a marker. I ran solo for the first 10k, but when the 3:30 bunny caught up to me, I decided to go with it. If I got ahead of him, I knew I could ease off for a few minutes. If I got too far behind, I needed to pick him up. It also kept my goal of sub-3:30 front and centre — if I beat this guy, I will achieve my goal. While I don’t think I’m a pace bunny convert just yet, I definitely see the advantages of using one when running a new race or trying to hit a particular time goal. So, thank you, Mr. Pace Bunny.
3) I love crowds
I didn’t think I’d be the type of love crowds. But they make running this far for this long so much easier. And they always show up at the perfect time. Around the 22k mark, I was fading. Hard. The hills were wearing my out, and the sun got really hot. (Not Caribbean hot, but hot for a supposedly winter day in Canada). Then there was a huge group of people with signs, cheering loudly. It makes all the difference. So, anyone who has ever cheered for a random stranger at a race — thank you. We may look seriously pissed off and in a ton of pain (and we usually are), but it’s good to have you there.
4) I was familiar with the course
About two weeks prior to Around the Bay, Kate and I headed to Hamilton to run the last 10k, the section with the hills. This helped immensely, as when I got to the final monster of a hill at the 26k mark, I knew exactly what I was in for. And I managed to run up the entire damn thing. (I’m almost more proud of this than I am of my time.) Sure, I walked a for a minute after I got to the top, but that doesn’t matter. I ran up the effing hill, and I probably wouldn’t have if I was unfamiliar with it.
5) The weather was perfect
The day started off around 5 degrees, and became 12 and sunny by the end of the race. There was no wind. Considering this is a race in March and previous years have seen rain and sleet and snow and wind up the wahzoo, we were really lucky.
6) I trained. A lot.
What can I say? Those series of 60k weeks really paid off.
Now that ATB is over, I feel confident that a sub-4:45 marathon is in my reach. I just need to convince myself that I want to do this.