Great quads of fire.
Another year, another Around the Bay 30K. This was 6th year toeing the line and, naturally, I was hoping to capture my 5th win. More importantly though, it was an ideal opportunity to get in a big marathon workout equipped with the challenging hills and, more often than not, challenging elements. Full disclosure, it’s never an easy feat to get to the finish line of this race and this year that continued to ring true. Race morning we awoke to fresh snow . . . classic Ontario. Anyways, here’s how it played out:
^A noticeable wind at our backs as we're toeing the line. (pc: Edison Yao)
0-5K in 17:18
Off the line I did what I wanted to do: feel out the legs and get into a rhythm whilst aiming to lock into 17:30/ 5k pace (pacing on a course like this is more or less dictated by the wind and elevation changes along the way). The first 5K usually yields faster splits so I was pleased with 17:18 and was feeling relaxed. I also noticed the wind would be at our backs from about 3-10K so it was a welcome compared to past years where this section is often a strong headwind.
^ Early kilometres spent feeling out the legs. (pc: Edison Yao)
5-10K in 17:11
The tailwind continued in this section which also featured some large hills. A group of two men and two women pulled alongside at around 8K and I joined their group as we tackled the large hills. I took a gel on the next downhill — trying to draw some energy from that fuel. I sensed the pace had quickened and sure enough, as we rounded the corner over the 10K timing mat, I discovered that to be true.
10-15K in 18:26
And then the headwind hit. Although I was with a small group I had a difficult time finding any reprieve from the wind. Perhaps I should have dug deep at this point but I didn’t think I would be able to maintain this effort with the gusts. I fell back a bit and they quickly moved ahead. I made the decision to conserve my energy accordingly, knowing what was to come. Naturally, at this point Josh thought that I had died . . . nope, just not a good wind runner.
15-20K in 18:50
Another gel down at 16K — I was looking forward to that one. Crossing the slippery drawbridge is always met with some celebratory thoughts knowing that the race is more than half over. That said, the hills were about to begin. I won’t lie, I was already feeling a bit defeated being so effortlessly passed by the other two women, and knowing the rollers were about to begin only added to those thoughts. To combat this I attempted to channel my gratitude for just being there. Though I was feeling fatigued from the wind, I focussed on taking each segment at a time, getting a song in my head to help feed my rhythm, and using my arms.
20-25K in 19:17
More hills. I was doing well focussing on myself, keeping my eyes fixed ahead. It was important to remind myself to control the controllables. Sometimes a fear creeps up on me that I am going to be passed, caught, out kicked — yeah, that might happen but if you are doing the best you can do in the moment, then that’s all you can do. So as the hills continued I kept the songs in my head, drew energy from the crowds, and willed my quads up each and every precipice. My 5K split times were not giving me much of a motivating lift and I was continually being told that I was 3rd woman and about 1’30 behind 2nd place. But, the big hill was coming and that was encouraging because then we were back on the flats.
^ Working hard up the final uphill! (pc: Maxine Gravina)
25-30K in 18:02
Just approaching the big kahuna put a little pep in my step. I was so thrilled to be nearing the end of these quad-crushing mountains. That said, as the elevation ramped up I think I could have power walked faster than I was running. So. Much. Burning. Eventually I crested the top and to my surprise, soon discovered that the 2nd place woman was not too far ahead. In my mind I remember thinking “great, now I have to go after her” or else I would certainly regret not putting my best forward in this final stretch. It took about a kilometre or so to reel her in but I continued working hard to ensure I couldn’t be re-caught, my quads buckling slightly on the ramp down into the arena.
^ Making the pass into 2nd place in the final few kilometres. (pc: Paddy Birch)
Finished in 1:49:03 for 2nd woman and 14th overall.
I crossed the line feeling like my legs were destroyed but I was elated to be able to fight back late in the race and capture 2nd. I had been hoping to run faster in the latter sections of the race but in hindsight it’s not an easy thing to do on mileage-ridden legs. I thought a little backoff in mileage would have been very noticeable but I don’t think it was nearly significant enough. I also battled with my nerves a lot going in this one. Mentally I knew this race was insignificant, that it was far from a goal race and primarily just a big workout. Even so, I felt like I was vibrating at a higher frequency, unable to sleep, and becoming worried I was wearing myself out by the minute days before the race. Hopefully getting through these hiccups better prepares me to tackle these situations in the future, knowing that I survived, despite several rocky days.
^ The 30K podium.
Next up on the schedule is the Canada Running Series Race Roster Spring Run-Off 8K in High Park this Saturday morning. I’ve focussed all of my efforts this week into recovering between the necessary miles that I’ve continued to put in. When not running I was sleeping, eating, or soaking in an epsom salt bath. The soreness has dissipated and I am ready to work as hard as I can for a (thankfully) slightly shorter period of time. I’ll let you know how it goes!