Tag: Hamilton

Fitness Swellness: Hamilton Road 2 Hope Marathon 2017 race report


“It’s in the trying.”

This good ol’ Coach Taylor nugget kept me going in the Hamilton Marathon on Sunday (“But you gotta try. That’s what character is. It’s in the trying.”), and it’s not the first time it’s come to mind during a race.

But first, the back story on how I came to race the Hamilton Marathon on Sunday one month after the Chicago Marathon:

I’d considered adding this race to my schedule before I went to run the Chicago Marathon. While I’m by no means disappointed with how Chicago went, I wasn’t thrilled with my time and would love a marathon PB.

But I only confirmed I’d be running Hamilton a week and a half before the race. So I didn’t train as much or as intensely as I would’ve had I planned on it all along. I took the entire week off after Chicago (which I’d likely have done anyhow); week two, I ran two short slow runs in anticipation of helping to pace at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, in which I paced 12k. Week 3 I was really busy with work so I did a 10k run and a 16k. And the week before the race, I ran a 5k tempo on the treadmill, and attended a Spin class on the Friday night. I knew the Spinning wasn’t ideal but I needed to burn off some stress and I took it easy in class.

I think the limited number of runs and then that Spin class is what made Hamilton Marathon pan out as it did for me. On the day before the race, I was doing errands and could tell my legs were sore from the Spin class.

And then you throw in the weather conditions on race day:

On Sunday, I was pretty nervous  about the forecast. It showed 90 percent light rain and through my race the temp was to feel like about 11C I think. I stepped outside and it felt warmer than I realized and it was basically very light drizzle and I felt very relieved about the rain. So I opted to wear shorts rather than capris and left my water-resistant rain jacket in the car.

The race starts at ArcelorMittal Dofasco Park and there’s an arena where you can stay warm and use the washrooms, so that’s always a nice bonus to a race. I arrived at 7 a.m. and sat inside, just trying to not get too anxious about the race, and then I quickly realized there was five minutes to go til the race started. I started looking at everyone’s bibs and saw it was mostly half-marathoners and it dawned on me that they didn’t start at the same time. Right then there was an announcement over the loudspeaker for all marathoners to head to the start and so I dashed outside.

It was pouring rain. I wanted to cry. I already felt miserable and the race hadn’t started yet. Then It was a bit of a scrum at the start since there wasn’t a fence for a very defined starting chute.

It rained pretty consistently for the first 12k or so, and so I kept on the garbage bag I’d put on but ditched it when it cleared briefly even though I knew it’d rain again. I just had to accept I’d be soaked.

Then there’s the race course:

So, here’s what I learned about the Hamilton Marathon: how the race is promoted (very flat and downhill) is not entirely true. I’d say there are four main sections of the race. The first section are country roads, where there are a number of rolling hills. Every time I approached one, I thought “what happened to FLAT?!?” The views here are pretty when you’re running along the escarpment, but otherwise not that stimulating when it’s just the country roads and the occasional house. This is the first 22k or so (I’d have to fact check this, I was pretty weary running to remember much!)

Then you reach the Red Hill Expressway. Which you hear all about being fantastic because it’s downhill. So I was expecting several kilometers of downhill. Nope. Just the ramp to get onto the Parkway is a noticeable downhill (although I know other runners who find the whole expressway downhill; to me it felt flat with the slightest decline in some areas).I did gain some speed here on the downhill ramp and my Google Play Music playlist seemed to know just the right song for the moment: move, get out the way, by Ludacris.

The third section is where you enter some hard packed trail that winds for a bit and cross over two bridges. It was windy and rain pelted me as I crossed the  pedestrian bridge over the QEW and all I could think was, “is this worth it??”

The last section is in Confederation Park. This is the best part of the route as the views of the lake and of some homes along Beach Blvd. are lovely heritage homes and there are some people here cheering.

Hamilton Marathon 2017 medal

How my mental game fell apart:

So, as I mentioned my legs already felt tired from Spin. And as I got going, I think by 6k my legs were already feeling sore and tight. So I knew it was going to be one long and ugly race.

I started debating at about 10k if I should quit and just DNF and call my friend to pick me up. I had this debate until about 30. At the 30k point, being closer to the finish, a DNF didn’t seem like a smart choice and with my legs begging to not be running my thoughts instead focused on whether walking the remainder of the race was a good idea. I figured I wouldn’t finish last even if I walked the last 10-12k. I took walk breaks and the main reason I would start running again is because I couldn’t bear the thought of how much longer I’d be in the rain and wind if I walked the rest of the race.

Because that wind and rain was no joke. On the country roads there was a strong headwind; I’ve read the wind was 48km/hr. Gah! Running in wet gear and soaked shoes is not pleasant.

I did a whole lot of rationalizing during this race, especially toward the end. “There’s 12k left, so that’s basically like two 5k runs, oh and a little extra! 5k is nothing!” “Six k to go. 3k you can do in your sleep, so just two of those, easy peasy for you!” When I saw an exit with my friend’s street name on it, I thought, “I’ll just follow it and that’ll take me ‘home’!” But then I realized that was probably just as far or further than actually finishing the race. And so, I kept going. I was on pace to BQ about half of the race. But I knew I wasn’t going to be able to maintain that pace, my legs were heavy. So I switched to aiming to PB since that was within reach, but it wasn’t in reach for long. My legs just couldn’t go any faster and I watched my time grow longer and longer, and. soon doing better than my Chicago time from four weeks ago wasn’t even within reach anymore as I basically threw in the towel and took walk breaks to relieve some of the misery I felt.

There is little cheer support along the route, although a few small groups of friendly faces with encouragement in Confederation Park. It gave me a boost to have some of my sister’s running group recognize me and cheer. And then to hear my name on the speaker when I ran by the Mizuno tent. And although I was too weary to form a proper thought or even properly recognize people, it was great to see a few other runners I know cheering. Thank you for braving this awful weather to cheer, everyone!

There’s little entertainment along the route, too. I recall two drum bands, which were great, but that was it. Another interesting thing about this race? There are several intersections where there is no police officer directing traffic and the drivers regulate themselves to make their turn or drive through. People in Hamilton seem much more patient and tolerant of this than Toronto folks; in races in Toronto, I know I’ve run by many irate drivers enraged about the delay on their drive to their destination.

Hamilton Marathon 2017

Drained and feeling defeated, I finally crossed the finish line with a chip time of 4:10:20. Which makes it my second slowest marathon of the eleven I’ve run. I believe my slowest was my second marathon, the Scotiabank Waterfront Toronto Marathon in 2012 when the weather was very warm.

It was a very tough go. But it’s in trying, right, and I am proud to have run eleven marathons. It truly still boggles my mind that I’ve become a runner at all so despite feeling disappointed, I am ultimately proud of this achievement. The last time I ran two marathons a month apart, I managed to PB in the latter one, but I’d trained consistently in the four week span. I won’t do two marathons a month apart again if I haven’t maintained training. Please stop me if I forget this fact!

Oh, and I have very few photos from the race to include in this post  because I just felt so consumed by misery to take photos, and also because of the rain. Raindrops on the iPhone screen make it hard to use the touchscreen; plus I was afraid to fiddle with my phone in case i accidentally paused or messed up my NRC app that was tracking my run.


Thank you to Ben at iRun for his race bib, all of the volunteers at the race, the spectators (your signs and cheers and cowbells lifted my mood on a cruddy day), and to my friend Yuki, who was my race support team (she picked up my bib, let me stay at her house, cooked me this yummy dinner of carbs, and sherpa-ed me to and from the race!).

As for what’s next? That’s it for marathons for 2017 for me. I won’t rule out a half or a shorter distance race. I’m thinking another full in the spring is likely, but for now I’m going to enjoy some downtime and put the hours and energy that marathon training called for and pour it into other interests, like dance class and cooking.



Leave a Comment November 10, 2017

Fitness Swellness: Race Report: 2014 Around the Bay 30k

Around the Bay 2014 medal

On Sunday, I ran my third Around the Bay 30k race in Hamilton. This year was the race’s 120th anniversary — a race known to be tough due to being quite hilly.

The route was changed this year for the start — last year, many runners (myself included) were delayed by a train crossing, so the new route was made to avoid this happening this year. Good in that no potential delay to due a train, bad because, as we discovered, there are a couple of hills in the new route.

I registered for the race back in December. And it’s been a difficult winter for training, thanks to the polar vortex. I managed to mostly stick to my usual training regimen, although I cut some runs shorter as the -30C weather forced me to run indoors on a treadmill, and outdoor runs meant dealing with lots of wind and ice, making for slow runs.

Because of this, I didn’t feel particularly strong going into this race (but I had a great evil eye manicure). Add to this that for the past week, my ankle’s been sore — just generally ache-y; when I put pressure on it, it feels wobbly and weak. So I took it easy the past week and ran much less and at a slow pace to give it a bit of a break.

This made me a bit confused as to how to plan a goal time (and overall pace) for Around the Bay. In general, I  can admit that I’ll always want to run a personal best. Last year’s official time was just under 2:59; but that’s with the train delay.  So I consider my true time to be about 2:54. So I created a  pace band for a modest personal best of 2:53 (which meant I had to run a consistent pace of 5:46/km). I also looked into a 2:59 finish time, but I felt that I could probably run faster than the pace it called for even though my ankle felt off.

The weather was quite ideal. It felt about -5C and was sunny. And I’m a fan of the rather late start time of this race: 9:30AM. No need to get up at 4AM like most races.

Me at the start line for Around the Bay 2014

I started the race, and I felt pretty good for the first few k. My Nike+ app told me I was running a 5:10 pace, and I knew that was too fast, but since I felt strong, I just decided to keep going. Yes, this is essentially what you should not do in a race. Start too fast, and then you risk a high crashing and burning. But since I was sorta looking at this race as a gamble given my wonky ankle, I just decided to roll the dice. I was also planning to not do 10s and 1s, since I sometimes ran my longer distances this winter without walk breaks (when it was just too cold to want to take a walk break!).

And I felt good for about the first 20k. I didn’t mind too much the new hills in the first part of the race, for some reason. I think it’s moderate inclines that I’m ok with (I’m not strong on them at all, but I can manage), it’s steep hills that I really have a tough time with. Running continously and pushing hard, though, made itself pretty apparent in my legs, which felt quite sore even early on.

So for the first 20k, I was ahead of my overall goal time by about 6.5 minutes. After 20k is when I started slowing down a lot. This is the portion of the race where there are many rolling hills. I started taking a 30 second walk break every kilometre. At about 26k is the very long, and extremely steep hill at Valley Inn Road. I forced myself to run the first third of out until I got under the bridge.  Then I thought “I could dig deep and force myself to run the entire hill this year…but my legs are burning…and I still have to run 4 more kilometres after it, so if I force myself to run this hill, I will be DONE and unable to make it to the finish.” So I walked the rest of the hill to the peak.

And I’m OK with that decision, as I truly think the last 4K would have been extremely slow and totally miserable had my legs been completely spent on that hill. (I’m now currently obssessed with being able to conquer that Valley Inn Road hill. I wish it were one I could train on regularly, but Hamilton is just too far from home.)

In the end, I finished just under 2:51, so I’m ecstatic at finishing at 2:50 wobbly ankle and all.

Post-race, we refueled on fat, carbs and protein in Chinatown. And now, to get my ankle strong and back to training for the next race…in four weeks!

lunch at Goldstone

5 Comments April 1, 2014

Fitness Swellness: Race Report: Around the Bay 30k


On Sunday, I faced my (race) demons and ran Around the Bay 30k race in Hamilton, Ontario. Have I mentioned how excruciating it was the first time I ran it in 2009? It was cold and rainy (possibly hailing at one point — I’ve done my best to block out as much of it from my memory as possible). I also believe I then had an undiagnosed thyroid condition (I was diagnosed later that year) that I think was at the root of making my muscles extremely tired quickly.

I remember wanting to cry, and not knowing what to do if I happened to come across a medic along the route. The temptation to just stop was great, but at the same time I’d suffered the race thus far, so why not finish it.

So I was extremely anxious about running this hilly race again, but decided it was something I had to do.

And I’m thankful I did, because this year’s race was the complete opposite. I felt strong from start to finish (I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way in a race longer than 10k ever!), the weather was perfect (generally sunny, and about 0 Celsius — just cold enough).

I was in Barbados all of the week prior to the race. And you shouldn’t really change much in your diet or schedule before a race, but I think being away may have helped in one respect: I normally spend the week religiously checking the weather forecast, changing my mind a million times about what to wear for the race, basically stewing and growing more anxious about the race. Being away, it wasn’t on my mind that much at all.

The rolling hills that start around 18k? Nothing insurmountable. The biggie at around 25k, that one’s a doozy, and I happened to be at a walk break halfway up. Some runners will complete the hill and then take the walk break, but I had no interest in being a superhero and took my 60-second walk break.

The major disappointment? Just before the 9k mark, I was delayed by a darn freight train that took close to five minutes to pass. I thought I had to kiss my goal time of sub-3 hours bye-bye (on my chip time anyhow), but I paused my Nike Running app, and just became more determined to make my chip time still less than 3 hours…and I did it! Which in actuality means I crushed my goal time, and finished just under 2:55. Go me!

Around the Bay next year (fingers crossed no train crossing)? Maybe, just maybe!

Next goal? Vancouver Marathon, May 5th!

(Oh, like my nails? Here’s how the look came together!)

P.S. Where is the bacon station that I’d heard about?! I sure didn’t see it!

5 Comments March 27, 2013

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