Around The Bay with Harold

Synopsis: A 30K Classic Race, Older Than Boston with 6000 friends – and finish in the FirstOntario Centre. Great place for Race Kit Pickup, Race Day start to stay warm, and glorious finish!

Event Name, Date, Location: Around The Bay 30K / March 26, 2023 / Hamilton, Ontario

Briefly describe the overall venue & course:
Start and finish in the FirstOntario Centre, so no waiting around in the cold at the beginning, and a super stadium entry on the finish! The course is a Classic ‘Older Than Boston’, since 1894. At 30K, not your standard distance, and plenty of characters on the route that make this a must-do at least once. Final 10K has rolling hills, and it’s a 2K downhill slope to the finish!

My Race Experience:
Well, first timed doing a run of this distance, so not sure how to approach. Was also not exactly on my radar at the start of the run season, though circumstances and timing had me doing something long a bit sooner than a traditional buildup would permit, so took this on with calculated approach, building up milage in a steady manner for race day. Luckily, lots of other folks have run this race at some point, so there was no lack of wisdom shared from RunK2Jers! With Dan & Ben also signing up, had some training buddies, and Judy also picked up a last minute transfer so she could finish her LSD for the day while there!

Our journey started Saturday at 8:00am as we dumped our stuff in the car for the 500km trip to Hamilton. Highway driving simple, but there was snow forecast in the early afternoon, and we had that materialize as we were driving down. Rain/drizzle turned to snowfall to a snow-squall along the 417 as we approached Pickering around noon. A few cars had spun off the highway, police cars with lights, and tow trucks enroute reminded drivers to stay calm, and we cautiously made our way to The Big Apple, where we took a break from driving, and picked up some Apple Bread & Apple Fritters for a snack! Once we were in Toronto proper, snow turned to heavy rain, all the way to Hamilton. Arriving in Hamilton in the downpour, I was happy that I brought our large umbrella to get into to Stadium without getting drenched. First stop was to pickup race bibs, and checkout the venue. Being inside the FirstOntario Centre there was plenty of dry space for vendors, and we enjoyed strolling round, meeting folks we knew, and picking up our race bibs.

Next step was to zip off to our accommodations which turned out to be 4km from the start, and we hung out there for a bit. Uneventful evening, as I rested up for tomorrows adventure, and we had dinner at a nearby wood fire pizza restaurant “Dough Box”, which was clearly setup to be a hangout spot for the nearby McMasters University crowd, as we were near the campus there. Super windy on Saturday evening as well, with wind gusts reaching 90-100km/hr on the radio – we witnessed some broken traffic signs in the area dangling from cables from the wind storm. We were hopeful things would calm down for Sunday’s run!

Race morning started simply: we drove down early, and arrived at 8:00 and easily found free parking in city parking lot 2 blocks from the Starting area. With the race not starting for another 1 1/2 hours, we had extra layers – tough turns out we did not need it as we could all go into the stadium, grab a seat indoors at the finish area, and stay informed about race logistics from the announcer till 9:00. Super convenient, as it was chilly outside.

At around 9:15, we finally started to make our way to the start corrals, and was easy to get in place for the 9:30 start. With a few announcements completed, off we went! Judy and I quickly parted, as her LSD was still going to be faster than my anticipated pace, and I got into my groove. The first 10K were simple, and we had a tailwind to boot! Lots of folks adjusting where they need to be in the procession, and I found a few folks to chat with along the way. Was not taking this as much of a ‘race’, than an extended run myself. I was made very aware the last 10K would be hilly and difficult, as I wanted to save something for that. Dan initially passed me here as well, as he was aiming to finish a bit quicker than my anticipated finish of between 3:15-3:30ish. Unfortunately, some stomach problems caught up with him shortly after that, and I rolled past him as the 2nd 10K segment started.

Though the race map shows we’re running a long segment along the Bay, it’s on a closed highway (kinda fun!), and along houses, so there is some shelter from the cross wind all the way. Met others running my pace, so chatted with various strangers to help click off the KMs. Water station note: does get congested and at the first station, I did have to pull empty cups apart, and line up for water – though there was water down the line.

One awesome thing at this point was that I had two different people ask me about the RunK2J Jacket I was wearing, as folks liked the bright colors and Canadian themes. Out club kit does stand out! (Note: Judy was also questioned by runners on the RunK2J jacket, and a self-identified ‘running fashion police’ declared his the best gear of the day!).

Turning the bend from along the waterfront, the North Shore section started, and the hills began. Started right away with what felt like a 1km gradual uphill segment that set the tone for the final 10K of this run! Rolling hills were the theme for this final section, and I was grateful I did not run out too hard on the first 20K. My pace did suffer, though I continued to move along at a somewhat steady pace. This section as well had various iconic characters along the course I have heard about. The first steep hill had “Captain Obvious’ holding up a sign indicating ‘Almost there, This hill is steep’. Thanks! Dropping down after that, we passed ‘Rick (?)’ playing tunes before we got to the 2nd of the two big hills. It was a slow grind up this one too – many folks here were walking, though I was able to shuffle along, watching for the Grim Reaper. Seems I mis-understood the location, as he did show up 2km later. Grabbed my camera with a smile, and he said to me “stop smiling, this is hard”. To the guy beside me, he indicated “You’re not looking so good, rest with me here”. Was great to have that landmark behind me!

The final 2-3km were fairly simple: could see the downtown core from Hamilton, and the stadium from 2km away. At this point, it was a gradual downhill slope, and I just cruised down this section, chatting and encouraging other runners along the way too! Definitely feeling a bit bagged at this point, and was watching the roadway full of impressive pot holes: don’t want to twist an ankle this close to the end. Heeding all the warnings, pulled off my sunglasses as I entered the ramp into the finishing stadium, picked a lane, and cruised over the finish line at 3:25:09. Delighted to finish, and Judy was there to greet me from the sidelines as she finished a while back. Was not feeling overly chatty, and I did have this need to keep moving along and walking as I felt my weary legs getting a bit tight already. Lots of fluids picked up, grabbed my finisher stuff and medal, and made my way back to stadium seating. Was fantastic to be able to wait indoors, in a padded seat to boot!

Judy ran up the stairs to greet me, though we saw Dan coming in, so she zipped down to cheer him on. . . For me, my mind was willing, though my legs told me not to shuffle down those stairs, as I would have to come back up. I took photo, and waved from the bleachers! Judy returned to see me, and we heard Ben coming in as well: same story for my legs.

All in all, great day, and had nice run. Never did 30K before, so it’s a PB! Also my longest race since I’ve known Judy, so happy with that. The day was nice, at +8C and sunny, though somewhat cool with the wind. We changed, and took our time on the drive home stopping for leg stretches along the way.

I can put a checkmark in my ATB 30K box, yey!

Would you do this event again?
Sure, ATB is a big and fun event with stadium finish in 2023, reasonably close to Ottawa. Warning that this part of the venue will be changing next year as the stadium undergoes renovations, and unclear when it will move back to the indoor finish. It’s 30K, and promotes itself as ‘Older Than Boston’.

Would you recommend this event?
If you ever want to bump up your longest run from 21.1, this is a nice step along the way as a 30K, before you consider something stupid like running 42.2.

Closing thoughts. Any hints for others planning to do this race? Where to stay? Things to bring? What to wear? :
Weather can be variable, so bring something for all conditions this time of year. Folks have told me that it could be warm (singlet & shorts), or super cold (rainy and zero’ish). It’s almost always windy! We stayed at a cheaper place 4km from start, and it was fine to get there early and find close free parking, though a bit congested as we left! Wear your RunK2J jacket for the wind if it’s even moderately cool. Fun event.

——————- Other Stuff ——————————————

Overall Venue Rating (1-5): 5 – Monumentally Awesome

Please rate the course (1-5): 4 – Great

Please rate the aid stations: 4 – Great

What was provided at the aid stations?
Water at aid stations, and some electrolyte as well. Some stations had Exact bars. Oddly spaced out: 7K, 11K, 14K, 21K, 24K. Overall, good enough for me, though you do need to be hydrated to start, and get fluids on the gap between the 14K-21K.

How was the weather?
Sunny, Clear and cool on race day, starting around -2C, in the morning, and then warming up to +8C by 2pm. Course was windy, and always is, so having wind layer would be key. Day prior we had snow squall and rain, so super grateful for the weather we had on that day!

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