Around The Bay Race Recap – The Year of “I Can”

It’s been a crazy weekend full of ups and downs and a big tossed salad of all different emotions. As I sit here right now looking back, it all seems like a big blur already, which is why it’s so important for me to get down all of the details that I can possibly remember now before it all just fades away into a big blur of sweat and tears!

 Few people actually know this (even Matt didn’t know until yesterday afternoon), but 2 years in a row now I have actually signed up to do the Around the Bay 30K road race in Hamilton. I paid my registration fee; got the confirmation email, got the “CONGRATULATIONS” email after the race was done….and I never actually did the race. I’m not sure where the fascination with this particular race came from, but it’s been a goal of mine for 3 years now. When I shared my race plans for 2013, I said that “this was the year”, and I was finally coming back to cross it off the list once and for all.


After finishing the Chilly Half Marathon 3 weeks ago, in which I totally struggled for the last 5km of the race, and was really stiff and sore for a couple of days afterwards, all I could think was, “There is no way in hell that I could have done another 9km”.

The next 3 weeks was a total roller coaster. On the first day that I was feeling totally recovered from the half marathon, I pulled a muscle in my right hamstring that set me back about a week and a half in recovery and training for Around the Bay. More than a couple of times I thought to myself that it just wasn’t going to happen (yet again) this year.

Somehow, someway, I made it to race weekend pretty much unscathed, and actually feeling really good! I tried to get a sub for my BodyAttack class on Saturday morning, but wasn’t able to, so I did end up teaching my class the day before the race. It actually turned out to be a really good thing for me to teach that morning, I was feeling really anxious and nervous on Saturday, and it really helped to spend some time with my amazing participants, who always seem to have this unwavering faith that I can do absolutely anything. I think it was also a good thing to get my legs moving a bit after a day off on Friday.

After class, my mom and I went out to Copps Coliseum in Hamilton to pick up my race kit and check out the New Balance Health & Fitness Expo. (In case you were wondering, Matt was out running his own 35km training run up the escarpment – so he was a little tied up!).

It’s pretty obvious that Around the Bay is a very mature race (it’s older than the Boston Marathon – this is the 119th Anniversary!). Everything was run so smoothly, there was lots of parking available, easy to get to the expo, lots of space inside, very well organized package pick up…it all just seemed to work like clockwork.

My mom and I spent some time walking around all of the booths that they had set up around the top of Copps Coliseum (they had purposely positioned the package pick up stations at the exact opposite end of where you came up the escalator so that you had to walk past all of the booths to get your race kit!!). It was a great expo, they had a little bit of everything, the typical Running Room booth, a big New Balance display, but they also had several different clothing booths, lots of running accessories, jewelry…you name it! I ended up buying a pair of “Yurbud” earphones that are “guaranteed to never fall out” because they use this “twist lock” technology that kind of locks the ear bud into your ear. I was really aggravated with my earbuds in the Chilly Half because they just would not stay in, so this sounded like a pretty lofty promise to me. The Yurbuds were expensive, but I had heard good reviews, and decided to take a chance on them. Stay tuned for the review of their performance during the race!

Pink Yurbuds

One other thing that totally caught my eye in the expo was this beautiful necklace stand that was selling running necklaces with runners, shoes, even necklaces with just “30K” or “42.2K” in sterling silver. I thought they were beautiful, and very reasonably priced at $30 each, but it just felt like it was tempting fate to buy something like that before I had actually completed the race. We ended up leaving with our wallets (mostly) intact. A big achievement for me, a self confessed shop-a-holic!!

Saturday night we had a big pasta dinner, and watched the Leafs beat Boston (moment to appreciate THAT please – if that isn’t a good omen, I don’t know what is!!). I wasn’t even feeling all that nervous by that point, it was very odd. I felt the same way before the Chilly Half; the upcoming race just seemed kind of foggy and far away. I picked out my race clothes, laid everything out and went to bed sometime before 11pm.


We got to Hamilton just before 8am on race day morning, with the race scheduled to start at 9:30. It was a bit crazy, there were about 7,000 runners doing the 30K, and hundreds of relay teams that had split up the 30K into chunks, so needless to say there was a small tsunami worth of spandex clad people!! Copps Coliseum was a great holding facility for all of us, there were lots of washrooms and places to sit down and wait for the start. Some of Matt’s running buddies from his running group were there to do the race as well, so we met up with them for a few minutes beforehand. They had some pretty crazy goals (sub 2 hour for the 30K?!). One of the guys asked me what I was shooting for in the race, and I think I replied something like *nervous laugh* “Oh I’m just hoping to make it out alive”.

Now there’s the confidence that we’re looking for right????? 😉

I realized before the race started that I had already drank almost half of my water bottle that I was planning on carrying with me during the race before I even got outside!! The water stations were set out about 5km apart on the course, and I just had this bad feeling that I was going to need water more often than every 5km. The decision to carry water with me turned out to be the absolute most important decision that I made all weekend. Matt set out on a quest to find somewhere to fill up the water bottle for me, but by that point they had called out on the announcing system that they wanted us to start making our way down to the start line, and poor Matt was battling the wrong way against a sea of about 10,000 people trying to head out of the stadium!! We had to abandon the water quest because we were just running out of time, so we turned around and started going with the sea of people heading outside and down towards the starting line.

It turned out that the starting line was actually a couple of blocks away from where we were inside, so it took us a couple of minutes to get over to the corrals. I was glad that there wasn’t much time to wait around, my head was still in a bit of a fog and hadn’t quite processed what I was about to do. Thankfully, I wasn’t in the corral for more than about 2 minutes before we started moving. Here goes nothing.


Pre Race

It took me about 4 minutes to cross the line, there were lots of people. When I first started to run, it kind of hit me that this wasn’t another half marathon; that this was something more than that. I told myself no matter what that I wasn’t to focus ahead on the finish line, that I would take each kilometer as it came, take it in small chunks and that no matter what happened out there, I wasn’t going to give up.

The first kilometer there were lots of spectators cheering and it whizzed by in a huge blur. I remember looking at my watch and realizing that it had already been 1 kilometer. I thought to myself at that point “The race is 1/30th of the way done!”

I realized within the first 8km that I was dressed far too warmly for the cool 0 degree temperature. I had worn a tank top, a long sleeve top and my mom’s really warm Lululemon jacket, and I had also worn gloves and a headband around my ears. I froze my tail off doing a 15km training run out in Brussels the previous weekend, and I guess I had the fear of God in me for the race because I was way over-dressed!! I could feel that my face was soaked in sweat by the 5km mark, and when I was tugging down my long sleeve top underneath my jacket, I could feel it was soaked already as well. I wasn’t quite sure what to do at that point because my bib was on the front of my jacket, and my iPod was in the jacket pocket.

At about the 8km mark, I got an unexpected surprise; Matt! We actually almost missed each other; it wasn’t until I was just past him that I turned my head and caught sight of him. I don’t even think I said a word to him; I just instinctively whipped off the headband around my ears and tossed it to him. Seeing him made me smile, and gave me the encouragement that I needed to keep going. Believe it or not, I was feeling a bit sluggish at 8km already. It was everything I could do to avoid thinking of how far I had yet to go.

For the entire first half of the race, I set a goal for myself to forget the finish line, and just make it to the 15km mark. It made the race seem less daunting to focus on just getting to that 15km mark. I felt really great between 10km and 15km, and when I saw Matt again at the 15km mark, I felt fantastic (as you can see in this picture – what the heck is wrong with my face?!).

Sara - 15K

I was feeling so fantastic that I actually picked up my pace between 15 and 20; it was my fastest 5km of the entire race! I later learned that Matt’s mom Dianne was at home on the computer tracking my progress and texting Matt the updates of where I was on the course.

After the 15km mark, I started to think in 5km chunks. The next goal was 20. But by the time I made it to 20, the energy burst that I had gotten from achieving the 15km goal was sucked right out of me. I was tired. My legs hurt. A nagging pain in my right foot was really starting to bug me, and I was just ready for the race to be over. It was at that point that I really realized the magnitude of the 30km race, and that I still had a long, long way to go.

Stay tuned for the last 10km of the race coming up tomorrow. I learned more about myself in that last 10km then I have in any race I’ve completed to date.

Have a great evening!!

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