This report if from 2019 I also ran this race in 2016. It’s not a big event but it’s well organized, it’s a relatively fast course and it’s easy to get to from Ottawa.
I travelled to Hamilton with my sister Susan who has become my go to race running buddy. She is easy to get along with, she does not snore and she is usually up for an adventure. I could not ask for a better running buddy.
We took the train from Ottawa to Toronto. Highly recommended as the train is much less stressful than driving on the 401 and it’s cheap if you book well in advance. We spent Friday night in Toronto thinking it would be easier to find something to do in Toronto than Hamilton. It was cold and windy so we ended up walking around downtown briefly and checking out the sights. We had dinner at Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ on Church Street. The food was good and Susan was able to get her required pre-race s’mores.
We rented a car on Saturday morning so we could drive to Hamilton. You can go by Go Bus but we figured we needed a car anyway and the drive down the QEW should not be too bad on a weekend. The car rental agency address was 330 Front Street, Union Station which we discovered upon walking there is actually about 1 km west of Union Station on Front Street. John, Mike and Stephanie met us at the rental agency. They too had discovered that it was actually 1 km from Union Station. John and Mike in particular had almost walked past it on the way from their hotel to Union Station. Good thing we are all runners.
Renting the car was easy. Finding it was a bit harder. All the rental cars were parked in a general section of an underground parking lot. We had a parking space number but the numbers were not really in any reasonable sequence. We ending up wandering around the floor pressing the remote for the car and looking for flashing lights. We found the car eventually and Susan used her extreme packing skills to get all of our stuff in the car. Travelling to races requires a lot of bags particularly when it’s cold because you need to be ready for anything. I had two bags and other than running stuff the only clothes I brought were socks, underwear, two shirts and a pair of pants.
It’s 66 km to Hamilton from downtown Toronto. A pretty easy drive on the weekend. It’s currently 5:00 pm on Tuesday and my phone suggests it will take almost an hour 20 minutes with traffic “heavy as usual”.
Our first stop in Hamilton was the race expo which is held in tents in Confederation Park. This is also where all the races finish. I am not sure why but they did not pre-assign the bib numbers. When we checked in we were each assigned a number. The race is small enough so they can do that but with no names on the bibs and no other record of the bib numbers I was a bit concerned that we would mix up the bibs and end up running as the wrong people.
The expo is small but it has the basics. Gels, race gear and other running and sponsors stuff. The race shirts were not exciting but they were long sleeved and the fabric looks OK.
We stayed at the 4-Points Sheraton other members of the group stayed at the Sandman and the Comfort Inn. All of the hotels are walking distance (although it’s a bit of a walk) to the finish line. The Sandman is probably the best choice because it has a full service restaurant (Denny’s) attached and it shares a parking lot with a mall. The Sheraton is close but the restaurant is only open part of the day.
We had no real plans for the rest of the day and I don’t do well sitting in hotel rooms stressing myself out the day before a marathon. So I proposed a trip to Niagara Falls less than an hour away. Susan and Stephanie were game so we took a brief trip to see some big waterfalls.
We had a group dinner for 17, which turned out to be 19 because I missed two, sorry Vincent and Dianne! We ate at The Express Italian Eatery which I would recommend highly for a big group. We had a separate area, they have lots of selection on the menu and they gave us separate bills!
They actually called me on Friday night and asked if we would be OK eating upstairs. I said I did not feel strongly about it as I had never been there. They said they were only asking because some people have trouble getting up and down stairs. I said ha! No problem if we can run a marathon we can get up and down stairs (the day before the race anyway). I forgot that Krissie had foot surgery and was still on crutches! She had to slide up and down the stairs! But she was a trooper and did not even call me any nasty names!
We got a bonus hour’s sleep race morning because the hour changed overnight. It was great but I am not sure I slept better because we had to trust that our phones would reset the hour overnight. They did.
I started the day with my usual hotel room pre-race breakfast: Coffee and two packs of Instant Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal. The room even had a microwave so I did not have to brew cups of water without coffee in the Kurps Coffee maker.
We put on our fancy pre-race warm clothes direct from value village and set off!
We drove to the Finish and parked the car. We could have walked and the hotel had a shuttle there but not back. There is lots of parking at the finish and we figured we would not want to walk back. The only down side to taking the car was the keys. As is normal with car rental agencies we had two fobs for the car and they were wired together. Much too big to run with. The race has a bag check so I checked the keys and hoped for the best.
The race provides buses to the start which is only a 15-20 minute ride. There is a big indoor area at the start so you only need the extra layers to go outside to use the porta-potties. There are bathrooms inside but the lines are very long. They also have a bag check. You provide your own bag and they transport your belongings back to the finish line.
The full starts at 8:00 am and the ½ starts at 7:45 am. It was cold and windy but at least it was dry. The temperature was below freezing with the windchill. I started the race in tights, long sleeves, a hat and gloves. The only thing I removed was the hat. The first 13 km of this course includes a number of rolling hills, it is not flat. I puttered along, losing ground on the up hills and gaining on the down hills. Not surprizing as I knew going into this that I had not done much hill work. The stretch from 14-21 is pretty flat but it’s also pretty exposed and most of it was into the wind which was significant. I wish I had a pack to run with and tried to find one to follow across this stretch but the best I could do was following one guy who passed me. I tailed him for a couple of km, he was not much bigger than me but every little bit helped. I expect I was driving him crazy. At about 21.5 you turn onto the Redhill Valley Parkway. It’s a real freeway and it’s completely closed in one direction for the runners. The whole 8km stretch on the parkway is downhill. You lose about 150m of evaluation. It is not hard aerobically but after a few km it’s hard on the legs particularly as there is a fairly steep camber on the road. When you turn off the parkway at 29 km you run along a trail until the 31 km mark. Then here is a flat out and back. You turn at 36.5 and come straight back to the finish line. 31-36.5 were back into the headwind and once again I was on my own. I had dreams of picking it up in the last couple of km but by then I was pretty well done.
They had hot soup at the finish, pizza, chips and bananas. It was still cold but the bag check was efficient and my car keys were still there. Lots of great finishes, PB’s and age group placings from the gang! But no big group picture at the finish as we were all too cold.
- It’s a well-organized race.
- Smaller field about 700 in the full and 1200 in the ½
- Water and Nuun every 3km
- I think there were gels at 29 km only but I did not see them
- Don’t do it for the shirt
- They claim you can be DQed for tossing garbage and or clothing unless it’s at an aid station or in the first 1 km. Reasonable rule but I have never come across it outside of triathlon before.
- If you want to do well do some downhill running