Bay Race Training – 20km in the snow

The title says it all…

Well just a short update on our Around the Bay race training.

This weekend was a 20km run. The forecast looked pretty good so when the snow started to fly on Friday, it caused some concern.

We both wanted to run on Saturday morning and there is something to be said for having someone counting on you to be there…you just don’t want to be the one to ‘call it’.

The temperature was decent, especially the last half of the run, as the sun peeked through the clouds to warm us up even more that we were.

The first half of our out and back run was met with slick, snow covered sidewalks.  The footing was a little treacherous and seemed to wear on the legs a bit.  The second half, when the sun showed itself, was a lot easier as the snow melted on the sidewalks allowing us to speed up a little on the way back, despite having fatigue.

The long run is all about the mileage.  It is easy to get a little disheartened if you look at your watch and realize how long you’ve been out there, but one thing to remember is that the long run is just for the purpose of building the endurance.  The shorter, tempo runs will be the runs that benefit your time on race day.

This week we have to do three runs before the weekend.  We have to run 7km, 12km and 7km this week and a 23 km on the weekend.  The forecast looks good so we hope it won’t be too cold!

I took a picture of Valley Inn Road, the bottom half of the 1 km hill that is placed at the 26km mark of the race.



Bay Race Training

One month down!!!

The month January moved along very quickly and the weather cooperated for the most part here in Ontario, Canada.  Training for the Around the Bay 30km Road Race again and I was quickly reminded of why I took a break for a few years.

You have to train through the winter!

The race is at the end of March and there is just no getting around the winter running.  There is no amount of treadmill running that can prepare you for this race.

Now…I have used the treadmill for the days I only have to run 5km.  The shear boredom of treadmill running is enough to limit me.  I have a theory as well that the treadmill, although I find good for speed work, is harder on my joints that the road.  I tend to pound my feet harder when I run on it and ‘feel’ it the next day.


So we have completed the first month of training using a great schedule I found online.  The training so far, is basically 3 runs through the week and a long one on the weekend.

For January, we ran two 5km runs and one 10km during the week, with one of the 5km runs a little faster.  The long run would come on the Saturday or Sunday, depending on our schedules.  We have built up to 18km, which we have done twice so far.

One of the best years I had running this race was when I trained on the hardest part of the course.  Living about 5 minute drive from the course is really at my advantage here, so for that I am thankful.  For the 18km runs and the next long runs that will be coming up, we decided to drive over to Dundurn Castle, which is right on the course, and park there to run the hardest part of the course.  This part comes at about 5 km from the end of the race.  This part is also home to Valley Inn Road.  Valley Inn Road aka The Hill, is probably about 1 km in length and all up hill.  The last two years, the road has been under construction and has not been included in the race but it is all done and ready for race day!

The pictures are from before construction but it basically looks the same.  They certainly didn’t shave any incline from it!

The hardest part of the Around the Bay is the last 10 km.  The route is hilly, rolly, and long.  This part of the race is mainly on North Shore Blvd and it culminates at Valley Inn Road. By training the long runs and running out and backs along North Shore, we end up running the worst part of the race twice.  I know this seems almost masochistic but it really does help on race day.  The crazy part is that we run down Valley Inn Road and it is just as steep going up the other way.  We then have to run back up to get to our car!  I question my sanity on many occasions.

During the race, once you’ve run 27km and come to the top of Valley Inn Road, you will be greated by The Grim Reaper.  Seriously. There has been a few times I wanted to join him at that point.

So far the training is going well. With the exception of 5 days of flu there have been  no injuries to speak of and the joints are feeling pretty good.  I am trying to include a lot of Yoga as well to keep the muscles stetched out.  We have been using some really good fuel gummies that seem to help with the energy levels.  They are called Skratch energy gels.  They are made from real fruit purees and contain no gelatin.  Great tasting and don’t leave a weird taste in your mouth.



This weekend we will add on and make it an even 20km for our long run.  The weather looks pretty decent and the roads are still pretty clear for footing.

I have to admit that I am actually looking forward to the long run this weekend.

If you’re looking for a challenging winter race, and are in the area, give the Bay Race a try!



Around the Bay 2017

Let the training begin!

Call it temporary insanity, but something possessed me to register for the Around the Bay race here in Hamilton.  I’ve done it in the past – 9 times in fact- but there is a reason why it has been a few years since running this 30km road race.  It sucks.

The Around the Bay race, which by the way is OLDER than the Boston marathon, making it the oldest road race in North America, is run in my home town of Hamilton, Ontario.  We are very proud of this race here in Hamilton.  The race attracts world class elite athletes and has grown in numbers every year.  In fact, if you haven’t registered by the end of January, you probably aren’t getting a spot.  A few years ago they started a relay option so that those who don’t necessarily want to run all 30 km, do run it  as a team of 2 or 3 and still feel that they have been part of the excitement.  The Bay and Back 5km is also available for those who enjoy the fast paced blast of a 5km run, or those who are just starting their running or walking routine and want to get involved in a road race.

The Bay race (if you want to sound like a local), isn’t pretty.  Not that my city isn’t pretty, but the race itself isn’t.  The race starts not far from the finish at our minor hockey arena, The First Ontario Centre (formerly Copps Coliseum).  From the start, the route has changed over the years and over the 9 times I have run it, I have done a few variations of the first 10 km.  This year, the route takes us down James Street North, which is the art centre of our city, so that should be a nice bit.  Then we make our way to Burlington Street. Not much can be said about this part.  The first year or two I ran this race, this stretch went down Burlington Street, which houses the industry that our city got its nick name of ‘Steeltown’ from.  So, luckily, it is in the first 10km of the race and hopefully we are feeling good enough to blast through this part fairly quickly.  We make our way over to Beach Boulevard, which by name gives you the location of where we are running, right along the shores of Lake Ontario.  This street that runs along the beach is lined with beautiful older homes that were once summer houses and cottages.  The resurgence of this area has been a wonderful addition to our city.  Crossing the lower bridge, we make our way into the City of Burlington and over to North Shore Boulevard, which is technically a section of the town of Aldershot, although the border line is melted with Burlington.  This is where things get a little crazy.  The first 15 km of this race is fairly flat.  The second half, not so much.  North Shore Boulevard is nothing but rolling hills, through which is thankfully a really nice neighbourhood, so your mind may be distracted by the beautiful homes and park land of this area.  The rolling hills, especially in this section which ranges from 18km mark to the 26km mark is brutal; at least it is for me.  Placed in the section of the race where your body is beginning to tire, you have to dig deep to find your way up the hills, only to get you to Valley Inn Road.


My history running the Bay race has always included the Hill at Valley Inn Road. The last couple of years, it has been under construction so the lucky people running it the last few times have been diverted around it.   According to the 2017 route map, it is included again. So should I be happy about that?  I sort of am.  It may not feel like the Bay race without it to me.  The Hill at Valley Inn Road is likened to Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon. Placed at the 26km mark, it is placed strategically to bring you to the Hamilton Cemetery not far from the top.  There at the cemetery entrance is the Grim Reaper, waving you in as you contemplate your fate and whether you can do the last 4 km.  The last 4km are weirdly enough, the most fun.  As you make your way down York Boulevard towards First Ontario Centre, the crown support is huge.  You can see the entrance to the arena where you cross the finish line inside, and it feels like forever that it takes to get there, but once you get inside and hear your name called over the loud speaker, you realize you have completed one of the hardest 30km anywhere.  map-30k-1

What Makes it Hard?

I’ve put together a short list of why this race is tough.  I know it isn’t a full marathon, and I have never ran a full marathon before, but if I had a dime for all the times I have heard from those who have ran The Bay and a marathon who have said it is just as hard, if not harder than a full marathon, I would be rich.

  1. Training in the winter.  The race is at the end of March, so do the math.
  2. Race is at the end of March.  In Ontario. In Canada.  You could potentially run through a blizzard.  No joke.  I have ran in conditions ranging from 25C and sunny to -20C and wind chills.  I have ran in driving rain for 3 hours. I have ran in very temperate and sunny conditions.  So you just never know.
  3. The wind could be your demise.  Seeing as you run a really good portion of this race along the shores of Lake Ontario, you just never know how the wind will play a factor.  You just hope for stillness.
  4. Hills.  I have gone over this point but it is so true.  Rolling ups and downs the last third of the race is one that you have to train for.
  5. The Hill.  No explanation necessary. It is big. It is steep.  It is at 26km mark.

So what did I just do that for?

I am seriously questioning my sanity after registering.  BUT…there is just something about the Bay race.  Yes, the training sucks.  Yes, the race day can be brutal.  But there is no feeling quite like crossing the line (in hopefully sub 3 hours) and getting your medal.  There really isn’t. I know I am preaching to the converted for some of you.  Heck, there are some who have done ultras that will be reading this and saying ’30km? I just did that last weekend.’ I totally admire you and maybe one day I will join in the fun of an ultra, but for now I have 12 weeks of training ahead of me.

Day 1 of Around the Bay Training begins with an 8km along the Waterfront Trail.