16 November 2016

Race report - 2016 Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope

You know how some foods just don't agree with you, no matter how they're prepared or how excited you are to eat them?

I'm convinced that some races are that way.

And this fool is now quadruple-bitten, quintuple-times shy.  No more Hamilton Marathon for me.

After a disappointing outcome at this year's Ottawa Marathon I was hoping that I could come back and still produce a sub-3 hour result at a fall race ... so given the Road2Hope's billing as "Ranked #1 Boston Qualifier in Canada" I thought that this would be my next best shot at it this year.

Never mind that in my three previous completions of the same race I'd not had a positive experience or satisfying result.  But you know what they say about the definition of insanity ...

Even with this being my sixth marathon of 2016 (I remember back to 2011 thinking that completing one marathon ever would be an accomplishment!) and battling through a taper week surrounded by a wife and child who had flu symptoms (e.g. vomiting/fever/chills/headaches) I felt very confident that my training season had readied me for a solid sub-3 marathon.

And then I was called upon to spend the day before accompanying our oldest daughter on her university open-house tour.

Originally my wife was going to go but having spent the 36 hours prior kneeling before the porcelain throne the chaperone duties were passed to me.  I didn't begrudge it one bit - in fact I was excited to see where my daughter might have the next four+ years of her life shaped - it's just that I didn't plan on being out of the house and on my feet for the bulk of the day.  So while we were on our feet seeing all of the sights at the University of Waterloo my friend 'Fast' Bill Steinburg was gracious enough to pick up my race kit for me, and we planned to connect on race morning to ensure that I had my bib and chip ready to go.

The one other curveball that came my way (and not just for me) was that race day coincided with the end of daylight savings time - and while this meant that we would all gain an extra hour (potentially of sleep) it also just meant making sure that all of the appropriate clocks were changed to reflect the new 'fall back' time.  Of course, this was something that I kept telling myself to do ... and didn't, resulting in me waking up at 2:00 a.m. instead of 3:00 a.m. as I'd intended.

If you've read any other marathon race reports from me you know that my standard race morning routine consists of wake-up, immediate 15 min. shuffle, breakfast, shower, travel and finally arrival at start line 60 min. before the gun goes off.  I managed to stick to this plan and felt good by the time that I arrived at the ArcelorMittal Dofasco Park ... really good.  I managed to spot and connect with several friends prior to the 7:30am start (including David Waters going for his BQ, Peter Leventis who signed up last minute just to see what would happen, Fast Bill who handed off my race bib to me and was aiming for his sub-2:50 PB and fellow Skechers Performance athlete Adam Hortian who was tackling his first marathon ever) and got all of my 'business' out of the way before lining up at the front of the pack in the starting chute.

The race
I'd planned on going out with even kilometre splits the whole way, even on the downhill stretch on the expressway.  In my mind I felt that if I approached this race the way that I treat the marathons that I've paced that I would keep things under control and play a smart game.

As always the first ten kilometres or so feel easy-peasy, but that's just the way that I wanted them to feel.  Starting at the front of the race pack I was passed by numerous runners but I thought that that was ok since I anticipated passing many of them in the later stages of the race.  While there was no official 3:00 marathon pacer I did manage to find a group of about six guys who were hugging the 4:15/km pace and so I tried to stay in that pack to feed off of their collective energy.

Things clicked along fine until the expressway.

I'm not sure if I had psyched myself out long before arriving at the on-ramp but by the time that we crossed the half-way mark (Strava tells me I went through 21k in 1:29:23 - bang on goal pace) and started the long stretch downhill I feared for the worst.  Immediately the wind seemed to pick up and blow straight into our faces ... and as I wanted to keep a steady pace I started to lose touch with the group that had chosen to try to work with gravity's pull.  That of course left me fending for myself without the benefit of any bodies to draft off of, and try as I might I couldn't reel myself back into the 3-hour pack.

When the course finally leveled out again and we approached the waterfront I felt like my chances were shot ... my right hip started providing negative feedback (and I've never had any hip pain in my 6+ years of running) and while the Endurance Tap gels were still fueling the main engine my stride length was getting shorter and shorter.  Even during the flattest part of the race I saw my pace per kilometre creep up and I began to be passed by various other marathoners.  With about 3km to go my right hamstring also decided to completely spasm forcing me to come to a screeching halt and work out the cramped muscle through a combination of hammering the back of my leg and doing a hybrid Frankenstein-like shuffle.

It was a painful (in more of a psychological than physical way) ending to my day when I crossed the finish line, even though I clocked my second best marathon time ever.  I knew that I was in 3 hour shape, and a new PB was there for the taking - but this particular race course just doesn't seem to agree with me.  Now I know that I also need to factor in that this was my sixth marathon of 2016 - three more than I completed in 2015 - but that doesn't mitigate the sense of disappointment much.

Even in the agonizing last moments I give my props to the RunNinjas

The one consolation was that after crossing the finish line I found out that my friend Adam had actually won the marathon, debuting with a 2:29.  I chatted briefly with him and as strong a runner as he is even he found himself reduced to walking at points during the home stretch along the Burlington waterfront.  I suppose that this race takes its pound of flesh out of everyone.

And there was no rest for the wicked - I immediately proceeded to hop into my car and drove home to pick up my daughter and head out to a nine hour theatre rehearsal (with only a super-quick change of clothes as a break).  In the most remarkable way I felt fresher doing dance routines during the rehearsal than I did for the second half of the marathon.

So it's back to the drawing board for 2017.  I'm not sure if I'm going to chase a sub-3 marathon again next year - after some much needed downtime I may look at trying to hunt down a sub-1:25 half-marathon first, or the elusive sub-40min. 10k.  For now 'tis the season for ice cream and snooze buttons.

Thanks for all of your encouragement and support - perhaps we'll see you out on the roads and trails again soon!

Race gear for the 2016 Hamilton Marathon:


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