An amazing Around the Bay

Around the Bay medalLast weekend was my fourth time running Around the Bay. This 30K race is notoriously hilly and the weather is unpredictable. The finishing stretch passes a cemetery, where a grim reaper (this year there were two!) awaits to mock tired runners.

My first year, I just wanted to complete the 30K, with a dream of coming in sub-3 hours (I did). My second and third years I just wanted to come in a little bit faster, shaving off a few minutes on both tries. This year, I had a bigger goal – I had my eye on that silver medal.

Around the Bay has a graduated medal system, where women coming in under 2:30 get a silver medal and under 2:15 get a gold. (Unfortunately for my husband, who normally runs this race with me, the men’s silver standard is 2:15). Hitting a 2:30 finish would put me on pace for my marathon goal in May (I’m gunning for Boston) and be a perfect race simulation for fuelling, hydration and pacing. But it also meant taking five minutes off my previous best time, which even if I wasn’t coming off an injury, felt really ambitious.

And, of course, because this was a race in Ontario in April, the forecast brought us a snowfall warning, brutal headwinds and a shiver-inducing chill. Perfect spring weather.

I wrestled with what to wear, laying out four different options, plus bringing alternate layers in the car. I adjusted my expectations to try to enjoy the race and not get blown into the Bay.

The first 10K were relatively sheltered, so, running with my husband, I focused on banking a little bit of time for us before we hit the rolling hills and wind. It’s always easy to start a little bit fast on race day, as you’re swept up in all the energy from the other runners, so I figured we’d go with it.

The second 10K were right into the wind, but we managed to hold pace. My face was windburned, my lips chapped and my hands raw from the wind as I kept removing my gloves and then putting them back on. I overheated in the sunshine and froze in the shady, windy parts of the course.

The final 10K was, as always, relentlessly hilly and windy, but by the time we were at the cemetery I was shocked to see we had three minutes in the bank. We ran into the First Ontario Centre, crossing the finish line comfortably at 2:26 and change. That’s a nine-minute PB and a time I never even thought was possible in perfect conditions.

I’m thrilled, ready for the Mississauga Marathon, and already signed up for Around the Bay in 2017.