I spent my pre-race Friday and Saturday convincing myself that it would be a good decision to skip this race. I had been sick and still wasn’t feeling great, and my wife and both kids were also sick. With all of us under the weather, I wasn’t feeling committed and didn’t feel justified in leaving my family obligations to go and race for a few hours Sunday morning. Saturday evening my wife changed my mind when she told me not to use these obligations as an excuse! With that, I reconsidered and figured I’d give it a try and see how I held up.
With daylight savings time upon us, my kids (immune to what the clock says) were up even earlier than normal which was now 5AM. The good thing was that I definitely didn’t need an alarm clock. I headed out to the finish area, navigated through some traffic, located a parking spot, and made my way to the shuttle buses – smooth sailing so far.
The buses took us up to the start line at a Hamilton high school. The school provided a nice indoor venue to wait until start time (along with an abundance of water fountains and indoor bathrooms.) Given the unseasonably warm November day, a popular topic of discussion was what to wear? After I made my choice I wandered out to the start area in time to watch the full marathoners head off, and then lined up for the start of the half.
The course headed west across the top of the Niagara Escarpment through a residential neighbourhood, through a short buffer of undeveloped land, before we turned into a commercial area heading towards the Red Hill Valley Expressway. This was the section I was concerned about – I welcomed the downhill gravitational assitance, but was concerned that this 6K stretch would be too much pounding on my legs. This part of the course turned out to be great – the views at the top of the expressway were magnificent on this clear sunny day. I remarked to another runner that I wasn’t expecting to be seeking out the shady side of the road this time of year, but it was definitely warm at this point. After exiting the parkway at Barton St. the course again headed west and north toward the lake, running along roads that I remembered from the Around the Bay race in March. Once we made it close to the Lake, things started to fall apart for me. I was struggling to maintain the pace and HR I was aiming for (~4 min/km, ~165 bpm) and was lacking the energy I needed to keep pushing. I walked a few brief stretches to try and bring my HR down into the 160’s where I wanted it, but it wasn’t easy. The last 5K or so was along the beautiful waterfront pathway heading east towards Confederation Park. As scenic as this stretch was, the wind and my depleted energy level had me wishing for it to end ASAP. Soon enough it did – as I was coming up the finishing chute, I got disctracted from looking for my family when I noticed that the clock said 1:24:50 – I wanted to make sure I got under 1:25 so I gave as much as I had left. I finished at 1:24:56 which was a new PB for me. The only downside was that I didn’t see my family along the finishing stretch, and missed my two year old daughter waiting for me to give her a high-five – she wasn’t too impressed with that so I’ll be sure to never make the same mistake again!
All in all, this was definitely a great race, especially when you get lucky enough to have the weather we did on Sunday to race in. With better preparation I could have pushed for a bit faster time on this incredibly fast course, but on this day I was happy to leave with a PB. The organization, scenery, and uniqueness (running down the closed expressway) all make this a great race to do. It is also a perfect race to set a PB or a fast qualifying time.