Not bad for a return to in-person racing after a nearly three year hiatus. As usual, the Around the Bay Road Race was a tale of three races in one.

I met up with Miguel and Baker at the City Hall parking lot and we got our bibs sorted and walked over to the start area. It was cold and windy and I had no throwaway or bag so we sought refuge in Jackson Square for a bit, wandering around the underground mall along with many other runners.

Eventually we got over to FirstOntario Centre to find a bathroom before the race and also to checkout the finish line from the upper concourse. We snapped a few pics and at 9:20 A.M. we wandered over to the start.

The Start

The train horn sounded right on time (CN Rail sponsorship) and we were off. The plan was to run together and at about a 4:50-4:55 pace. I had a mask on still from the indoors and the start area which I pulled off about 300m into the race when things spread out a bit.

We ran well through the first few kilometres, sticking to the plan. Some were a bit fast, but that was to be expected. 4:47, 4:50, 4:43 to get to Burlington St. Then Miguel started to pull away because that’s what he always does. We let him go and Baker and I continued to watch the pace as we did the ups and downs of Nicola Tesla with a decent tailwind.

4:49, 4:43, 4:46, 4:49, 4:49 took us through 8km a bit ahead of pace, but we knew the headwinds to come on the next third would be tough, and so we banked a bit using the downhills and tailwinds.

4:44 and 4:40 got us to the 10km mat and the off ramp to go up and over and onto Beach Blvd. The winds here were strong and cold. That wasn’t a surprise…we knew it was coming.

Headwinds and the Lift Bridge

4:45, 4:52, 4:54, 4:58, 4:54 through 15km and to the Lift Bridge. We got ourselves tucked into a group here to try to escape the winds, but it was impossible. These splits were more effort than the faster splits earlier. I was looking forward to making the left turn onto Northshore even though that meant the start of the hills.

4:51, 4:54, 4:53 and we were on Northshore now, mostly out of the wind. I told Baker to run his own race now and dropped back just a few metres so I could hit the hills on my own terms and not be worried about having company.

4:54, 4:50 through 20km and a 4:57 to get to the half marathon distance and up and over LaSalle Park hill. I saw my sister and brother-in-law here and kept running. My stomach hadn’t been happy for a good hour now, but it was not getting any worse so from here it was just about keeping the pace up and finishing strong.

I could still see Baker about 10m ahead and through all the hills here I was just in the zone, making sure I was taking advantage of the downhills while running smart on the uphills.

5:03, 4:55, 5:01, 4:54 through 25km and you can tell which were the uphills and which were downhill. I was somewhat bummed that I had a couple of splits over 5:00 but the downhill finish wasn’t far off.

Heartbreak Hill and the Finish

At this point, the race is all about Heartbreak Hill. I could still see Baker ahead and for the downhill run to the bridge, I ran easy but fast. 4:39 was the result and I made up about half the gap to Baker here. I figured I would catch him on the uphill and we could run the last few kilometres together to the finish.

5:16 was my split on the big hill and I caught Baker right at the top as we made the left turn onto York. Good times! Now I had company to keep me pushing to the end. The last 3km at Around the Bay are pretty easy with a downhill finish for the last two and today there was a strong tailwind to add to the fun.

We blew past the Reaper, and onto the downhill section with the arena in sight. 4:58, 4:54 and then 4:38 on the last kilometre to get to the outside of the building. The tight turn and downhill to the basement was done and we ran hard across the line.

Done and Done

Official time was 2:27:22 (4:55/km) which was a mere 27 seconds off my personal best for Around the Bay in 2016. Since that was on the course without the big hill, I’ll take this as a course PB, thank you very much! Quite honestly, I’ve never felt better at the end of an Around the Bay. My legs had more to give but I ran to the plan with my eyes focused squarely on the BMO Vancouver Marathon in five weeks.

Big thanks to the boys at the SDRC for all those training runs; to Miguel for being Miguel but also providing that encouragement needed to even sign up for this one (and for packet pickup services); and to Baker who kicked ass in his first AtB and helped me push myself to a great time and strong finish.

Here’s the Strava entry.