Thank you to everyone who commented not too long ago on my post “Hitting the Winter Running Wall.” Your comments all made me feel supported and actually kind of badass.
Betty and Jessica both said I was tough. Steph said she was in awe. Caitlin said she was impressed. And a whole bunch of people offered suggestions (like existentialangst’s suggestion that maybe runners in Saskatchewan, on the prairies, could help me dress for the cold) and tons of encouragement (“it’s almost over” and “stick with it”) and commiseration (“I’m right there with you” and “winter running is so hard”).
The result: I stuck with my plan last week and got out there on Wednesday night and Thursday night — both with windchills in the high minus 20-range — and again for my long run on Sunday. And it all felt great. If it hadn’t been for the support and for my public declaration that I would stick to my plans and attend all clinic runs last week, I would not have stepped out the door on Wednesday night or Thursday night.
I also have some incentive: I signed up for the Around the Bay 30K and it’s less than one month from now, on March 29th.
The Around the Bay Road Race is steeped in history. It is the oldest race in North America. Yes, it’s older than Boston by a few years:
Hamilton’s Around the Bay Road Race is the oldest on the continent, first run in 1894, three years before the Boston Marathon. Rich in tradition, it has been won by the best from around the world, including Boston Marathon winners and Olympic gold medallists. Become part of the continuing tradition by running this challenging course around Hamilton’s natural harbour!
The race director came to talk to the clinic last week (another reason I went out at all — and I was still reserving judgment about going for the run, but once you’re there, and everyone else is going, and it’s only 6K anyway, and you dressed for it, and the blog post…).
He told us some of the race’s venerable history. Canadians just love a thing that distinguishes us among Americans. It’s like that when you’re north of the most powerful country in the world, ten times your population. So of course he told us this:
In the early 1900’s, Jack Caffery and William Sherring battled it out and won two “Bay” races each. Caffery went on to stun the Americans at the Boston Marathon in 1900, by being the first Canadian to win Boston.
To add insult to injury, Hamilton’s William Sherring and Fred Hughson placed second and third, behind Caffery, making it a Canadian sweep. Caffery rubbed it in even further by coming back the next year 1901, to win Boston again.
Not to be outdone by Caffery, William Sherring went on to win the 1906 Olympic Marathon in Athens, Greece, making him a Canadian hero.
That same year, Tommy Longboat, an Onondaga from Six Nations near Caledonia, won the “Bay” race and the next year in 1907, surprised everyone by winning the Boston Marathon. Hamilton’s James Duffy also went on to win the 1914 Boston Marathon, after two Consecutive Bay wins.
So that’s the race history. It’s also supposed to be a tough race. They say if you can do ATB, you are ready for any marathon. I’m afraid to ask why exactly, but it has to do with hills. The race has some rolling hills, but it also traditionally has a super tough steep hill in the last 5K.
But not this year. Road work has forced a detour. So the hill that breaks more hearts than Heartbreak Hill will not be on this year’s course. That fact has divided the pack: 50% are relieved as all hell (those are my people) and 50% feel ripped off that they’re not getting the full challenge (who are you people?).
It’s just a few weeks until the race. I started training specifically for this event with a Running Room group back in November. It’s a long commitment, but doing a clinic that culminates in a particular event is the best way for me to make it through the winter without bailing.
My training schedule got interrupted by that blasted knee injury (if you care, you can read about it in my post “Re-Connecting with Chi Running: Chi Marathon Training”), which coincided with snow, frigid temperatures, and the dreaded “wind chill factor, and then a vacation where it was a lot easier to kayak than to run.
So far I’ve maxed out at 26K. I scaled it back a bit about a month ago, but I’m ready to test things again on Sunday. Last week I stayed cautious. I chose fartlek over hill repeats on Wednesday because my physiotherapist recommended against hills (confession: he also recommended against speed work but what’s wrong with a few fartleks? It’s Swedish for speed play, not speed work).
Come Sunday, I opted for 15K with Anita and our friend Julie instead of the 28K everyone else was doing. Anita signed up for the ABT two-person relay (15K each). Julie and I were lamenting that we had not. And now it’s too late because the relay is all filled up. So we’re doing 30K whatever else happens!
With those training runs last week I experienced no difficulties with the knee (I am touching wood right now). So this week I went back out for the speed play last night. I need to try squeezing in a 6K today but I’m not sure that will happen. And on Sunday I may just take a very, very slow 28K with the group. My actual plan was for 20K, but if I feel okay and am not having any knee pain, I’m going to do 8 more.
The end of winter is kind of in sight. Not that it’s really warmer. We had some reprieve yesterday where it actually went above zero, but as I sit here all cozy in my bed with my laptop right now, it’s -17C outside and Environment Canada says the mercury is only creeping up to -11C today, but there’s a windchill of -25C for this morning. Yes, it’s as cold as it sounds.
But it’s March. And usually by the end of March the snow has all melted. Sometimes on St. Patrick’s Day the students have massive parties outside where people who have painted themselves green stagger around in “kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirts and drinking green beer and getting arrested. That’s always a good sign of the end of winter too.
And I’ve gone and done something so brazen that I can hardly believe it myself: on May 3rd I’m doing my first full marathon. So it’s not as if I can just let up on my training once the Around the Bay race is over. I need to keep it up, even add mileage, so I don’t crash and burn when I do the Mississauga Marathon.
I am Canadian and I will tough it out for the rest of this brutal winter! Winter training does have its perks. I’ve met new people and really bonded with them, the way people do in times of adversity. I’m a stronger runner than I’ve ever been, despite the difficulties I’ve had with the IT band and the knee. Taking this time for myself each week has also been good for my mental health because when I am out there running, I don’t worry about any of the day to day bullshit — the crushing workload, the unpacked boxes, the extra furniture piled up in our condo that I haven’t had a chance to get rid of yet, the bins of motorcycle gear that I’m supposed to put on kijiji to sell for the spring riding season…).
If you have a race coming up early this spring that you’ve been training for all winter, yay for you! Enjoy! And if you’re doing Around the Bay, see you there!