As someone who grew up in Hamilton, I have raced the Around the Bay Road race more than any other race in my running career. It was actually my first (ran the 5KM Bay and Back with YWCA friends Annette and Kim T. Kim had been training Annette and I was luckily enough to run in ear distance and hear her continuous coaching). I love knowing every bending street, rolling hill, and the throngs of spectators cheering on route, many who are family and friends and to whom I am very thankful for their continued energy and enthusiasm.
The Home Section
I also really enjoy my connection to the city and the route. The race starts downtown, where I worked in various capacities but specifically with the Hamilton Bulldogs who call home to Copps Coliseum (the races big finish). We train, meet, and park at the McNab st YWCA a place where I never literally lived, but grew up in and worked at and I feel I can call it home.
The route continues along Wilson Street and we run by our old condo. The place where Mark and I first moved in to together and had many great memories with our neighbours (who were also our very very good friends, the Markwicks). From Wilson we do a little shuffle over to Canon and run by the first school I ever taught at, Prince of Wales, it’s been renovated since but still holds lots of memories. Next we head to Ottawa street, this is the area of town I grew up in, so can always anticipate the appearance of the Thomas family and the Leonard’s. Lots of cheers at the 5km help to keep the race start adrenaline pumping.
Next the race heads along Britannia. I like to think of this stretch connected very much to my sister and her connection to the community. In her role as staff at the YWCA she was involved in leading a community group, Crown Point, and this is their hood. I can also anticipate the YWCA cheer station here at Sheri’s house. And as washrooms were very hard to come by at the start of this year’s race, I was happy Sheri’s door was open so I could make a quick stop to use her facilities.
The next highlight for me is the turn onto Woodward. It’s nearly the 10km mark and concludes the ‘Hamilton” portion before we move onto the Burlington side of the race. Sure the beach is still on route, but that’s not the city.
Leaving on a Jet TRAIN?
This year as many of you already know, Woodward brought on an interesting delay as many people were caught by a CN freight train. It totaled between 5ish min and while provided an interesting story and the opportunity to seed a few tweets, it wasn’t great for those looking to crush goals. Upon reflection, at this point of the race, I should’ve just turned it into a training run, found my sister, and enjoyed her company and ran together. The delay in time and an injury played a lot in my mind, and a fun family run would’ve done my body and mind just fine. But I didn’t.
Which Way to The Beach?
Next is the beach. Still nice and flat I’m reminded of our many training runs along this route but particularly one a year back when Coyotes were everywhere in this part of town. We were doing a long effort and before turning the corner were stopped by a person in a truck who told us he had just seen a “pack” on the other side of the bridge. We continued to run, but were paranoid, silent, cautious, and on alert the whole 5km.
Concrete Jungle (aka Let The Head Games Begin!)
The next section here is Eastport drive and often mentally the most challenging for me, this ATB was no different. You’re running alongside the highway, that is kinda interesting but it’s not as nice of a view. It’s just passed the 15km mark and for me is where the mind games happen. My hamstring was really acting up and this was the point where I could see that I was holding my running mates back and told them to go on. It was hard to know that I wouldn’t be finishing alongside them, but I knew physically that being only half way through I couldn’t keep their pace. After this happened I began to think of numerous reasons why I couldn’t finish. I had been two weeks off with an ankle injury prior to the race, so that was a good excuse to bail, or the headache that I had been running with since Friday, another good excuse, and there was the train! Letting myself down wouldn’t have been the problem, it was letting down my friend and coach Kim, as well as my family and friends along the route. This was certainly the turning point to 10km of brutal mind games. Not only was I feeling bad for not running my best, but I was now feeling bad for feeling bad and not feeling gratitude for the support I was receiving. “Stop cheering for me, don’t you know how bad I’m doing!” ran through me mind. This mind game continued for the rolling hills of Northshore Blvd and up to the top of La Salle.
Lookin’ Good La Salle!
La Salle is always a funny spot because you finish off about 5 rollers with a run up this crazy hill. You feel like ass (and look like it), and immediately at the top are a ton of spectators telling you how great you look and cheering you on, so while you want to stop and die you can only keep on truckin’. The lululemon cheer station was here and so were our family friends (we had now seen them 3 times on route). My husband was also amongst the cheerers here and I actually stopped to say a few words (likely the biggest indicator that things were not going well) his presence and support helped to shake me from my funk, bring me back to the moment, and encouraged me to run on.
Only a few more rollers from this point (and the orange slice stand) then you’re beyond the RBG and Graveyard row and ready to take on dum dum dummmmm, Valley Inn!
A Little Hell… I mean Hill! Then Home!
Now I didn’t mention earlier but for the months leading up to ATB, almost every long run and as many hill runs as I can get in I do back here. I know Northshore like the back of my hand. I run imagining what it would be like to live in those wonderful houses and actually feel a calm that “I got this” and “I know this” and “this is my backyard!” so Valley Inn never has anything on me or my training crew. And this year was no different. In fact my dad is so used to Valley Inn talk – he texts “Flatten those hills” before our runs. So get to the top, flatten that hill, and just keep on running!
From this point its 4km of a slight downhill. Usually we train from Dundurn Castle so the kick of keep running passed it is often an “ugh” but luckily in only a couple km the many MANY spectators start to line the road and you are carried by their cheers for the last 1km. At this point coach Kim did her usual chat of giving thanks. Think about those people from our team who are still finishing, send them energy and love and be thankful for the race. My head wasn’t there, I thought of my sister, and pushed to the finish.
Let There Be Light
The trick around Copps is to not push it home to early, and to be careful when heading into the coliseum. Eventually your eyes adjust from the dark to light and bam! You’re crossing the finish line. Many people talk about the awesomeness of finishing in the coliseum, it’s definitely a fun and grandious experience.
My biggest take away from this year’s ATB is how thankful I am for my family and friends who support me in my running. This year the acted as a reality check – even when I don’t feel great, find something to be grateful for. Even when I was disappointed in myself, they stilled lined the streets (and in multiple spots!) came out and cheered and so I give thanks. I will take this with me in my next run and race and rather than getting down if something doesn’t go as planned, I will immediately give thanks. I will not waste time or energy beating myself up, but will open my heart and enjoy the ride…I mean run.