At 37 I managed to coax my body to run for 10k, on hearing this a friend suggest I sign up for Around The Bay, like a fool I did, not realizing the difference that an additional 20k would make, hey I was new to running, it's my only excuse. 2 years later I found myself yet again at the start line waiting for the start of the 2012 ATB. Weather for the third year running was cool, something I welcome, anything above 10 degrees and i'm in a whole world of pain, ask anyone who saw me at Gravenhurst or Muskoka last year. So I'm squashed in the 1st 1/4 of people trying to focus on the game plan, it was easy, start off comfortable and at each relay station push a bit harder, take breaks early and hydrate often, take gels before I need them and run the hills. Simple and effective, only problem was the gun went off. Something happens to every runner at that point, the experienced runners enjoy the moment, the rest of us use the adrenaline and go. I went! Now I should say at this point I had 2 plans, plan A, 5min/k and aim to beat 2:30, plan B, push hard and cruise the hills and leave the big guns for the last 2 hills and see if I can still come in under 2:30.
So straight to plan B it was, actually I did a bit of both, I ran what felt a far too comfortable 46 minutes for the first 10k, things were starting to warm up but I was in complete control of my breathing, my legs felt loose and I had just had my first gel, I decided to keep just above my target pace to the 2nd relay point at 15k, so I was trotting along at a nice 4:50 and once past the second group of relay hand offs I started to realize I was slipping back to plan B, time to make a decision, I did 13 events last year and only a few less the year before, I have called every event within 3 minutes of my finish time so I'm pretty confident at what this 39 year old body can do. So I slowed it down to 5min/k knowing the 24-26k stretch would be slow going, and I was to take a few 30 pace walk breaks along the way. Also the day was heating up rapidly, I was loosing fluid fast and I was starting to worry about hydration. The smart me won out and I switched back to plan A while I still could, 15-20k was a bit of an anticlimax, the whole race is so well supported by the aid station crew and the public I only wish I was less focused on what I was doing because the next time I consciously thought about my surroundings i was passing the 21k mark, a quick look at my garmin told me I had just ran close to my best 1/2 marathon time, not good for someone saving energy. Time to do a quick body check, head up and looking ahead, check, shoulders relaxed, check, elbows tucked in, check, core supporting my weight check, legs still able to produce more power if needed, check, hip to ankle free of pain but feeling fatigued, check, midfoot strike still happening, check, blisters forming on my toes, check, ahh! not a good sign, but I can put the blister pain in a box and seal that away for quite some time.
Okay, so with eveything still operating as it should time to take a walk, 30 quick paces on the flat, time for a gel, some fluid and then start back at a slow jog, it always amazes me when I start at a slow jog the first 100meters are always close to a 5min/k I rely now on those walk brakes to regulate my speed and stop me from running way outside my capacity. Before I know it I'm on the second to last long draining hill, I drop the length of my stride and keep the effort the same, breathing starts to get a bit labored but I'm feeling strong all the way to the top, then I keep my stride the same untill my breathing is under control, take some more fluid and get ready for the descent to the last hill, predictably people are running past me on the way down, I watch them go forcing myself to maintain good form, keep my leg speed under control and focus on my goal. I remember what I trained for, and for everyone who trained with me, my moto is WE RUN THE HILLS, meaning we make it to the top before we need to recover, so my mantra was set and I started the last climb, over the bridge bear left into the steep straight, shortening my stride and keeping the cadence, i chanced a glance at the garmin as I turned right 4.50min/k feeling encouraged I kept going knowing I had a chance to recover but only at the top, the last left and I'm up and over, it's all down hill from here.
My legs are protesting now, my lungs are screaming for my inhaler, I ignore it for a while and realize the foolishness of this action, no point in running without being able to breath so time to slow down first, get my heart rate down and then walk, another body check told my there was no sprinting to the finish, my hips were stiff, my blister pain started to seep outside of the box and my lungs were still not happy, 30 paces turned to 60 and then another of my taunts to my running buddies came back to haunt me, a slow jog is faster than a fast walk, so I started jogging, I can see the finish, but memories of the first year just coming up to the graveyard and seeing Copps Coliseum I sped up on the homeward leg, only to be walking at 28k and then again at 29k feeling a bit silly walking when I should have been running, so this time I kept my goal in mind and did some quick calculations, 3k to go 2h10 gone, 20 minutes to run 3k, don't blow it! I settled down to a comfortable pace somewhere between 5:00-5:20min/k past the grave yard willing each marker to arrive quicker, all the people that sprinted down the hill firmly behind me, the last one I remember walking 1/2 way along the graveyard stretch I picked up the pace a little, that is to say I needed a lot more effort to keep at the same pace, now I was pushing close to 100 effort and just keeping up with the traffic, as you run past Copps the support is probably the greatest and most welcome, it's like your own homecoming, I know I knew no-one there but at that moment it was like they all knew I was reaching my goal and were cheering me on, once again to the ramp, I just let my legs carry me, I knew they would take me at my fastest possible pace to the finish and I just let them, all I had to do was enjoy the moment and look up at the clock.....2:26 that will do for me, Around the Bay 2012, you have been put to bed, Good Night!.
24 hrs later I'm sitting at my computer, afraid to try and get up, my legs are quite stiff and my dog so far has been walked once around the block, I have work tonight and I'm wearing support socks to help minimize the recovery time, I poured my heart out at the race and will probably be doing the same at every race I attend this year, next one will be Welland, my first 70.5 and once again I will be on the wrong end of a huge learning curve, but that's what makes this so much fun doesn't it?
3rd time survivor of Around the Bay bib 6889
1st time member of Toronto Triathlon Club