It was a beautiful day Sunday as I made my way out for Hamilton Ont. with a few quick stops on the way. Tim’s of course is always my first stop in the morning and a race day is no exception. I always need coffee! Next up to Alton to pick up a friend I met in soccer who was the first leg of our 3 person 30k relay. A bit unprepared Aimee riffled through the kits to see what we needed to do. Finding an old style chip that you lace into your shoe for timing, we suddenly realized “hey we need to pass that along”. So then of course the question was how is lace in this chip and still be able to come to a stop and rip it off quickly to pass it onto the next person. We opted for just looping it in at the top with the tie and hoped luck would keep it there.
Navigating to the race went very well for us, as it seems, you should always trust your IPHONE and not the flock of runners in cars on the highway. As we past the exit which seemed backed up for at least 2km, I must say I was skeptical. I had never been to Hamilton’s downtown core before and I knew it was going to be crazy busy! We followed the IPHONE’s instructions and breezed down to city hall to a wonderfully close parking spot. We gathered our BIBs, pins, bottles, changed (as we decided on t-shirts for racing) and then off we went. Following the herd of people who were also excitedly making their way for one last bathroom break and to find their start line, we started our mission to find our 3 runner!
We had an unfortunate drop out late Friday evening and had debated back and forth now what?? 15 each? Forfeit the last leg? Where oh where do you find a runner at the last minute? As it turns out a friend of a friend who also runs with Running Free was going down to the around the Bay Race to watch her Dad complete the 30k and was thrilled to be our last leg of the race~ thanks Val!! So there we were at Copp Collesium looking for Val. She Texts ” wearing Blue jacket and black running pants” Hmm I thought OK this is not going to be easy! Under the big C I pointed out the Chilly Half jacket to my left, since I had one just like it after completing the Chilly Half just a few weeks ago. Turns out it was Val! She also had completed the Chilly half (which was her first) and was anxiously waiting for us. We met quickly as we both had buses to catch and Aimee and I still needed that last bathroom break before racing. We looked each other over, chatted briefly about our plans for chip exchange, buses and what we would do with extra clothes, then handed her the BIBS wished her well, thanked her again and headed inside for a real washroom.
Crazy busy was right! There were so many people rushing around and up and down, as we made our way up to the bathrooms, we hear “go to the next one there is no line and it’s clean.” Music to our ears! We rush in and out and pick a meeting spot. We were a little confused as to how the shuttles would work and where we would end up after each of us ran so had plan A and plan B. Meet at the 50 across from the washrooms. Now to the bus! Again we made our way through the crowds of racers to outside and there we parted ways. Aimee to find the start line and me to find a bus and with luck the right bus! We chanted our “good lucks” and “rock its'” before parting ways. Go time!
I will say that the buses were well labelled and there were many people directing runners to get them to where they needed to be. I found the right bus with no problem. It filled up quickly and we were on our way. I chatted with some lovely folks on the bus. And found out more about the route that us “Runner B” racers would be facing in just shy of an hour. As we arrived to our start line a volunteer came on the bus and gave us our instructions. Its was still cold so most of us hung out on the bus for a bit. As I started to see people passing through I exited the bus to find the Relay Check Point. There had been an option this year for walkers and slow runners to start early at 8:30 and these people were reaching our checkpoint. The “Runner B”`s became a cheering section for all those passing by. Time passed quickly as I continually kept checking and calculating how much longer till I see Aimee. It was great to see the elite runners go by and cheer on the first women as I started to get that nervous energizing feeling, prepare all my stuff and most of all prepare to race.
One, maybe two “runner A”`s started to come in when all of a sudden without warning Aimee was right there “OH MY GOD!” “Aimee” There I was totally shocked and not prepared. I jumped onto the street and helped her rip off the chip, to quickly tie it into my shoe, threw her my sweater and off I went. Holy Moley I cross the mat at 48 mins! My plan was 10k in under 60 mins starting off strong, I began my run. It was a bit up hill, for the first bit but, leveled off. I found it was a bit crowded on the road as I was mixed in with a bit faster runners and also difficult to navigate past the early walkers and slow runners. The entire 10 K I found I was trying to get around people or people were eagerly trying to get past me. The water stations were staggered nicely, although I avoid them myself and always have my own water. As I went by the 15k mark you could see the 15k relay “runner B”`s line up and cheering like mad anxiously awaiting their partners to come in as I had just done with Aimee. I spotted my friend and wished her luck as I ran by. I will say the bridge was my least favourite part of the run. It was like a large grate, open, with no give to it at all. As I approached I could sense the slow down and cautiousness of the runners ahead and followed suit. Of course on the other side it was just the opposite, a blast of speed as we all just to get back to pace and make up precious lost time. I was feeling sluggish around the 17 k mark, probably just my brain playing tricks on me so, I pick a runner (young miss with a purple shirt) and stuck to her! I only stopped for a few seconds after 19 to grab a quick drink. I felt as though I was always looking behind me to see who was passing me next. I had a few friends in the 30k and kept think I should see them any minute. All of a sudden it hit me “what did Val look like?” “what was she wearing?” surely she had removed the chilly half jacket that I pointed out before. How was I ever going to find her at the checkpoint?? Well the plan was simple – slow down and start yelling Val!! As it turns out she was front and centre and saw me coming. I stumbled down to rip off the chip and tied it in her shoe, took her bag of clothes, wished her a great run and told her “meet us under the 50 by the washrooms.” Which looking back now she probably had no clue what I was talking about and thats if she even heard me! I promptly walked off the course and check my nike+ 58mins WHOOOO! Yes I did it!
Suddenly from behind me I hear “did you find her ok?” As my friend ran by (he had finally caught up) and was only 10 km from the finish line. Id like to say I thanked him and all that jazz but, honestly it happened so fast I`m not sure what was actually exchange. As I followed the flow of runners I came to a very short handed water station. I just wanted to ask “where are the buses?” but, I couldn’t leave the desperate cries for water and the sole helper frantically pouring and dishing out cup. So I did what any of us would and grab some cups and started handing out water. So if you went by the 20km mark and a sweaty out of breath runner was handing you water – know you know why. I stayed until I was relieved by someone and felt so bad for all the runners who waited for water!and for those you probably waited after I left too. Finally I was on my way back up the hill to before the checkpoint to find my bus. Now I was worrying that I would not make it bad to Copps to see Val come in and I was right.
Aimee was under the 50 just as we agreed. she had watch those elites that had cheered on come into the finish chute on the big screen. She said it was really something. But, no Val. So we went to the exit where runners we piling out but, being forced upstairs. Suddenly I see Val`s father who had completed 30k so, she must be here somewhere. After about 15 mins we realized that there is more than one exit UGH! We climbed back up to the fifty – no Val. We texted – No Val So finally deflated we decided to head home.
Over all it was a great experience. a well organized race that could use more volunteers perhaps. I know the water and food for the relay “Runner B”‘s was far from the buses so many of us did not get the snacks. I would definitely do this race again. I was lucky enough to have a great team with me and we also had a great race. Val did excellent and over all we were 8 out of 82 women relay teams. Our time was 2:47! It was nice to have team mates as usually running is all about yourself and your personal best. This was different for me. Yes I had a time I wanted to beat and I wanted my pb to improve but, as I was sluggish it was my team that really kept me focused on pushing through and keeping up a strong paced the whole 10k. Congrats to all those single and team relay runners who raced on Sunday in Hamilton “Around the Bay”