28 April 2016

Pound for pound

Have you ever obsessed about weight as a runner?

Feel like if you could only get to that 'wafer-thin' status you would fly down racecourses like an elite-level marathoner?

I sure have.

Even now as I prep for another race this weekend (my first running of the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon, albeit as a pacer for a friend) I'm wishing that I was just 3-4 lbs. lighter.  Perhaps I'll get there for my goal marathon in Ottawa at the end of May - and if I do then perhaps it'll be thanks to some of these tips and tricks for tweaking my bodyweight.  Enjoy, and please let me know what you think!


21 April 2016

Race report - 2016 Boston Marathon

26.2 miles is 26.2 miles no matter where you run it ... right?


Of course running the 120th Boston Marathon necessitated being in New England, so I'd planned to arrive on Friday of the marathon weekend and return Monday evening almost immediately after the conclusion of the race.  While I initially had intended on making the eight-or-so hour drive into the USA (because I do love a good road trip) I did figure out that it might well me more economical (and less mental stress) to fly down - and thanks to the generosity of my friend Stan I was able to capitalize on some tucked-away Aeroplan miles to get me to Logan Airport and back.  I was also the recipient of a gracious offer of a place to stay over the marathon weekend.  As anyone who's run this race before knows, accommodation can come at a real premium - room rates are jacked for this event that draws national/international attention, and hotel bookings are made literally almost a year in advance.  So it was quite fortuitous/serendipitous when my wife Ally and I had dinner with a friend and his family last summer - and one of those family members happened to be a nephew who was on conference in Toronto but whose home was in (where else?) the greater Boston area.  When this topic of conversation came up over the dinner table I casually slid my way over a few chairs to where he was seated and let slip that I had qualified for the Boston Marathon and had plans to run the 2016 edition.  Well - doesn't he say "we love the marathon - we usually join a midnight bike ride down the course route the day before the race, and if you do come why don't you stay with us?"

Music to my ears.

-- Friday --

With those pieces in place Ally (together with Robyn, our 12 year old) was kind enough to wake up at 4:30 am to drive me down to the airport to catch my morning flight.  The standard guidelines that they give you for flights into the US is to arrive two hours before scheduled departure - and this day I needed all of that.  Who knew that a Friday morning would be so crazy in the customs and security area?

The flight over to the east coast of Massachusetts was perfectly uneventful, and having landed at Logan it was an easy hop onto a no-fare shuttle bus to the South Station train/bus hub to catch a commuter rail line out to the town of Needham (just south of Wellesley and about equidistant from the start and finish lines of the race).  I was met at train station by my friend Mike and the family dog (Mocha), and after settling in at the house we took in an afternoon walk in the local forest.

The evening consisted of meeting the remainder of the Yeh family, enjoying a lavish spread of a meal together and then being schooled in a friendly (is there such a thing?) game of Exploding Kittens.

A photo posted by patrick voo (@pbfvoo) on

-- Saturday --

It was nice to be able to snag a true sleep-in after an early start the day before (I snuck in my 50 min. run at 3 a.m. before the pre-flight routine) - trying to bank hours of sleep is always an integral part of the prep for any marathon for me, and so waking up to a bright New England morning with no alarm necessary was just what the doctor ordered.

The morning was a lazy one spent reading and re-reading various posts about how to properly handle to the morning-of logistics for the Boston Marathon, as well as scouting out a few more race reports.  After lunch my new friend Sunu was gracious enough to drive me into downtown Boston to hit up the expo and check out a few sights.  I'd initially considered heading down solo earlier in the morning but decided not to be such a loner neglecting the company of my host family - and while I believe that that I indeed opted for the better choice I'm almost certain that waiting until the noon-ish hour to nab my race kit and check out the exhibitors put me/us into the most hairy window of time possible.  It was an absolute zoo of people - not for the claustrophobic or faint of heart.

Guess who's making a bee-line for the Skechers Performance booth!

One of the most unbelievable moments at the expo happened while I was chatting with Anna from Skechers' corporate HQ and who should I see flowing by in and amongst the throngs of people but my buddy "Fast" Bill Steinburg!  I was absolutely astounded that we should cross paths in the sea of humanity at the Hynes Convention Centre especially since we had had any designs on meeting there whatsoever - but then again we did happen upon each other in the aftermath of the Around The Bay Road Race in the FirstOntario Centre, so perhaps we each have our homing signals fixed on one another.  Apart from that I really did use the visit to the expo only to retrieve my bib and race kit, exercising (what I believe to be) a high level of self-control in not purchasing anything from the multitude of vendors - not even the vaunted official 'celebration jacket' which was designed in some questionable colour combination to commemorate this year's Boston Marathon.

Sunu then led me down toward the finish line area on Boylston St., and after a few obligatory shots of the most famous painted section of road in the running world we extended our mini-tour down to Boston Common and back along the boutique-y Newbury Street.  After one last stop at the Boston Public Library it was time to return to the car and out to the suburbs again.

-- Sunday --
Just about everyone who's prepped for the Boston Marathon says that this is the 'put up your feet and rest' day, despite the temptation to tour even more sights in and around Beantown.  I did snag a crisp, early morning shakeout/Western Aussie carboload run and then decided to join Sunu and her son Christian for the morning service at their church.  They were having a special 'hymn sing' Sunday given that many families were away as this was the start of "Spring Week", a holiday period for the school system that mirrors (and in this case complements) March Break.  I just have to say that if my arrival in Boston could in any way be considered evidence of my so-called running prowess, attending a church hymn-sing painfully reveals my lack of any appreciable tone or voice modulation.

The rest of the day consisted of a giant plate of bucatini pasta for lunch, a couple of episodes of Daredevil on Netflix, watching Mike and Christian prep for their midnight bike ride along the marathon course route, and getting my gear laid out for the morning.

A photo posted by patrick voo (@pbfvoo) on

-- Monday --

Monday morning started in the same way that most marathon days start for me - a 15 min. kickstarter jog right out of bed followed by breakfast (this day it was a bagel with peanut butter + honey along with a blueberry muffin), then a shower and finally donning the race apparel.  Sunu was kind enough to offer to drive me to the runner drop-off point in Hopkinton on her way to work - this saved me taking the commuter rail down to Boston Common to catch the buses to shuttle us up to the Athletes' Village in Hopkinton.  Still, in order to avoid the traffic congestion in the small town roads of Hopkinton we needed to arrive there are 7 a.m. - a full three hours before the scheduled start of the first wave of open-class runners (to which I was assigned).

As you might anticipate there was a decent level of security as runners loaded up to board the shuttle buses (yes, even the drop-offs had to hop on a short bus ride) to the Athletes' Village, including a full wand inspection.  On the short trip I had the opportunity to chat it up with my seatmate named Joe, who'd travelled in from the Dallas, TX area.  He is an English professor at Texas Christian University, and a speedy 2:28 marathoner.  I hit him up for any tips and tricks he had set his PB here at Boston, and his advice was much the same as everything that I'd read - go easy over the first five miles, and put whatever you have left into the final five because it's a smooth downhill stretch.

The Athletes' Village is basically two large sports fields populated by some giant event tenting (for shade), extensive rows of portable toilets and otherwise littered with runners sprawled out on the grass trying to stay as rested as possible before engaging the test of endurance before them.  I tried not to wander around too much (as I usually like to keep moving) but before I plopped myself down on some trash bags that I toted along with me I had my first 'celebrity encounter' of the morning.  I recognized the face of one runner as he was coming my way and clicked in that I'd come across J-Mac, or Jason McElwain.  If you haven't seen his story on social media it's well worth checking out - and it was great to chat with him however briefly about his experience of running the Boston Marathon.

The next couple of hours were spent intermittently closing my eyes for a quick snoozle, doing a few warmup exercises and otherwise people-watching.  As is usually the case I find it fascinating to see all the different ages, shapes and sizes that runners come in - especially ones that are faster than me (which were easily identifiable since for Boston the bib numbers are assigned based on qualification times and not order of registration - so the lower the bib number, the more blazing fast you are!).

My second celebrity run-in was as the PA announcer called all first wave/red-bibbed competitors to enter the walkway leading to the starting chute.  By this time the porta-potty lineups were enormous and as I weaseled my way through the thousand or so people waiting to answer nature's call I happened upon - who else? - but "Fast" Bill.  Seriously - what are the odds that two guys from the same hometown would bump into each other in unplanned fashion twice over the course of Boston Marathon weekend.  It certainly defies my calculations ... anyway, a quick check-in with and wish of good luck to Bill and I carried on toward the chute entry point.

** Parental guidance alert - the following content may not be suitable for all audiences **

[In the process of doing my pre-race research I came across a helpful little series of Boston Marathon race tips on the Runner's World community web forum that I found helpful - not the least of which was a suggestion (for the guys) that a Gatorade-type bottle and a decently-sized garbage bag can make for a personal porta-potty.  Believe me, that came in handy just before I made the trek toward the start line.]

** end of questionable content **

The third celebrity encounter occurred just as I joined the throngs who comprised the Wave 1 runners as I happened to spot a familiar-looking, deeply tanned and muscular man in a yellow North Face singlet.  I immediately recognized him to be Dean Karnazes and I approached him just to say "can I get a fist bump for good luck?"  He was incredibly gracious and said "I sure hope it helps - have we run together before?"  I then let him know that I'd met him during a fun run with Team Running Free back in 2014, and again as he was the official starter for last summer's The North Face Endurance Challenge Series 50 miler in Collingwood.  To my amazement he said "I remember that day - it was really hot" (having hit a humidex of nearly 35°C) and also commenting "Blue Mountain was a lot tougher course than I thought it would be"!  He wasn't in any rush to brush me off and in fact walked with me for a minute or two before being approached by other runners who similarly recognized him as a modern running icon.

The race
After loading up on some free sunscreen and bypassing the last field of a hundred some-odd porta-potties I joined the other sardines in Corral 6 of Wave 1.  The national anthem was played, starting field announced, and starter's pistol fired.  We were off.

Sort of.

Crammed in as we were it was about a three to four minute shuffle to just get across the true starting line.  The guy beside me in the corral (from Colorado) noted that we would likely be running in close proximity to one another for the first four to five miles due to congestion, and that that's why the corral system is so important - otherwise we'd be sandwiched in between slower runners or much faster runners, resulting in frustration and trip-ups either way.  However, the saving grace during that initial stretch was that it is an elevation drop of some 200+ feet so things kept moving.

One of the first sensations to hit me was how hot it was already.  The call was for a high of 66°F (about 19°C) but with no real canopy/cover and a near-cloudless sky the sun factor made it feel all of that and more by just after 10 a.m.  While this might (and did) up the challenge for the marathoners it also lent itself to gorgeous viewing conditions and therefore tons of spectators out cheering us on and soaking in the pleasant springtime conditions.

The second sensation/observation was just how hilly the entire course actually felt ... most of the fame is reserved for "Heartbreak Hill" in Newton (at just after the 20 mile mark) but from start to finish it was like one big roller coaster ride.  It wasn't enough to have the sun beating down on us (as my singlet-revealing sunburn can attest to) but the 'over hill and dale' terrain really did take a toll on the quads long before the famed rise near Boston College.

The third of my 3 Hs for this race was headwind, as this contributed not only to the fatigue level when it kicked in at around the halfway point but I'm sure that it also insidiously accelerated the dehydration process for almost all of us who were running into it.  And it wasn't the gusty kind either - which could have made it psychologically devastating for anyone trying to hit a particular time goal for the day - but it was steady enough that before long it faded into the background such that you didn't notice it in a discernible way except to observe your per-mile pace continually creeping higher and higher.

With all that being said there were many great moments along the route for me - like
  • seeing so many neighbourhoods and groups (even one motorcycle club, all in full biker colours) setting up their own unofficial aid stations
  • being offered the equivalent of at least two full bags' worth of strawberry Twizzlers along the way
  • high (or low) fiving kids and the kids-at-heart lining the streets

  • the Wellesley College scream tunnel - yes, hundreds upon hundreds of girls holding up homemade signs and yelling at the top of their lungs "kiss me!" ... this was an unbelievable boost of energy (and unplanned injection of pace), and while I didn't kiss any of them I was momentarily tempted when I saw the sign "Kiss me if you don't want Trump to be president!"
  • passing by and cheering on the uber-inspirational Rick Hoyt (being pushed by Bryan Lyons, stepping in for the now-retired Dick Hoyt)
  • hearing someone yell from out of the crowds behind me:  "do you run for Skechers Canada?  I saw your post on Instagram!"
  • making my way over to touch three Canadian flags being waved by roadside fans
  • powering through a nasty right hamstring spasm at the 25th mile marker and not having to stop or be reduced to a walk
  • turning down the four-block homestretch on Boylston Street and managing to shift into one more gear to pass four runners before finally crossing the finish line.
Immediately after crossing the finish line I kept on moving as I had designs on walking the 1.5 miles down to the South Station terminal in order to catch a commuter rail train back to Mike's place.  What was very cool was that in a way I finshed the race where I'd begun - having turned to look around me at the finish line and spying Jay, the guy from Colorado, who was standing beside me in the starting corral.  He'd finished just a few seconds ahead of me (talk about evenly grouped!) but confirmed that it was indeed a difficult day as he'd finished the 2015 Boston Marathon (in windy, cold and rainy conditions) a full 13 minutes faster than he had on this day - and this he attributed to the weather.
One of the things that you discover while running the Boston Marathon, and maybe especially after you've finished, is just how supportive and appreciative the local community is of the runners who come to participate in the race.  While walking the streets over to South Station wrapped in my race-branded thermal blanket (man, does the wind howl down Boylston and chill you to the bone!) I was greeted by innumerable smiles and random comments of "great job!" and "congratulations!".  I'd even read that if you wore your medal around for the remainder of the day you might benefit from some discounts or freebies - such as when I went to purchase my commuter rail ticket and the agent behind the glass booth said "it's okay, you've got your bib number and your medal showing so you get to ride for free".  Bonus!

I was able to snag a quick shower back at Mike's place before he graciously gave me a ride to Logan Airport to hop my homeward bound flight.  One of the things that I was looking forward to on the way home was being able to fly with Stan who was catching the same flight back after having come to town to support the Adaptive Runners that he coaches.  We deconstructed everything from race conditions to coaching conundrums to the state of the Toronto Raptors' post-season drive.

All told I had an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I've been asked whether or not I will return to run the Boston Marathon again (having actually clocked another qualifying time at the race), but I'm not sure that I will, at least for the foreseeable future.  It's not for lack of enjoyment or appreciation of the event - it's because (a) it's not cheap, even with a standing invitation to stay with my good friends the Yehs; (b) I have other destination races on my list - like hopefully Chicago in October 2017; and (c) I know first-hand what it's like to try so hard for so long to qualify only to have your hopes dashed because there were so many registrants that you didn't make the cut (since the B.A.A. takes the fastest times first).  If by my restraint an extra place opens up for someone else to cross off a bucket list item then I'm happy to help make a dream come true.

Because one of mine has - thanks to the support, interest, encouragement and sacrifices of my family and friends.  Boston 2016 is now a memory ... one that I'm privileged and honoured to have.

Race gear for the 2016 Boston Marathon:


16 April 2016

Next stop ... Boylston Street

It's taken about five years and eight marathons ... but it has finally come to fruition.

I'll be running the Boston Marathon as a runner who met the qualification standard.

Like me, many people have this on their so-called 'bucket list' of races - and so I'm humbled and honoured to have finally made it onto the list of 2016 entrants.  On Monday April 18 I'll be lining up with 29999 other athletes in Hopkinton, MA to tackle the 120th edition of the world's oldest annual marathon.

One does not get here without a plan - and nor does one step up to it without one.  The numerous seasons of training schedules are now in the books, so it's time to define my goals for this event.  As I'm often inclined to do I've set three 'levels' of goals:

  • 'A' goal - relish the people/atmosphere/experience
  • 'B' goal - relish the people/atmosphere/experience
  • 'C' goal - relish the people/atmosphere/experience.

Thank you to all of you who have cheered, challenged, encouraged and enabled me to get to this point.  I hope that after all of your investments and mine I can hit one of my goals for this historic marathon weekend.

#GOlikeneverbefore #haveafastday #RunNinjaRun

14 April 2016

(Brief) Race report - 2016 MEC Barrie Race ONE (5K)

It's MEC Race Series time again!

If you've read any of my other race reports you'll know that I hold these events in high regard because of how inexpensive yet excellently well-run they are as well as how they create an easy access point for runners and racers of all experience and ability levels.  If at all possible I try to make it to each of the local MEC Barrie races even if it means that I incorporate the race as part of the day's scheduled workout.

For the 2016 edition I resolved to try to tackle some of the shorter distances offered in each of the series events - one of the things that I've wanted to do is to try to increase my overall speed and so at the behest (okay, that might be a bit of a strong term ...) of our RunNinja sensei Jim I signed up to tackle the 5k option for Race One.  A number of the speediest RunNinjas also selected the 5k as their race of choice - including Mike, Rad, Mark, Robert, Trevor, Rick and James - which meant that we had a pretty decent chance of showing up on the podium but that I would be eating a lot of their dust.

The ambient temperature for race day was around -12°C with 25-30 kph winds making it feel more like a balmy -18°C.  I arrived about 90 min. before start time and managed to sneak in some warm-up miles with our resident RunNinja photojournalist Rob (who was running the 10k event) and Mark.  We scouted out the various points along the Barrie Waterfront trail where the wind would really factor into the equation as well as sneaking in the requisite pre-race potty stops.

We should have figured that the fact that the Speed River Timing crew had vehicle troubles and showed up later than expected might be a portent for things to come.  More on that later ...

All in all there was a great turnout for the event, and MASSIVE representation by the RunNinjas!  If we all had matching race kits (and it was about 20 degrees warmer!) everyone would be wondering where this running club came from.

The 5k race included unofficial 'corrals', as Chris (the race MC and general manager of MEC Barrie) called forward everyone who anticipated finishing the race in under 22 minutes toward the front of the starting chute.  Optimistically I wandered toward the start line timing mat thinking that (like the videos of Mo Farah that I'd watched the day before) I would try to tuck in to the rear of the lead group and follow them home, hopefully putting in a decent final kick to overtake a few competitors.

We're allowed to dream, aren't we?

While things started out reasonably well (with me holding to a 3:50/km pace) for the first bit, it came unraveled by about the 2km mark.  I was hoping to cruise comfortably for the first third of the race and push a bit in the second third, but that section of the course turned slightly uphill and my legs starting feeding back that I was still asking more of them than they were ready to deliver.  Even at the halfway-point turnaround there was little relief as the now-downhill section was counteracted by a discernible (and cold) headwind.  It took almost everything that I had to not lose complete sight of the lead pack and to stay on the heels of a female runner who had been plugging along for the first 3k with one shoelace untied and flapping dangerously around (I did let her know about it!).

Over the final 2k I tried to make a bit more of a push and passed the female runner ahead of me (only because she finally - and strangely - decided at around the 4k mark to stop and tie her shoe) but was passed by my pal Rad in the final 800m as he put on a burst that I couldn't match.  I wound up crossing the finish line in and around 20:25 - and if it sounds indecisive it's because the original results posting had me finishing somewhere in 30+ min.  It turns out that the timing chips were messed up for some of us, and even in the process of trying to rectify things the corrected results show me finishing ahead of Rad, which I know didn't happen.


On the plus side Mike and Robert both finished in the overall top three for the 5k distance (check the gun time) and five out of the top 10 spots were held by RunNinjas (seven of the top 15 if you factor in Trevor and Ricky's great results as well).  There were a lot of terrific performances out on the course, and I was privileged (as part of my cool-down run) to accompany RunNinja supreme Helen as she cleared 60 min. in her 10k race!

Robert and Mike, two speedy cats!

Helen crushing it!

It was another fine community running event hosted by MEC Barrie - I think that they cleared 350 registrants for this first race of the year, which is phenomenal!  This series is definitely growing in popularity and participation ... and hopefully we RunNinjas can continue to grow along with it!

Next up ... Race Two on the trails!


07 April 2016

Race report - 2016 Around The Bay Road Race 30k

Annnnnnddd I did not do.

After having a great time with my friends Mike and Dave at the Chilly Half-Marathon I found myself being encouraged/challenged/goaded to join them at this year's running of the oldest road race in North America, the Around The Bay Road Race in Hamilton, Ontario.  By adding this to my spring race schedule this season has turned into one for the ages, knocking off three of the biggest events (Chilly Half, ATB and The Boston Marathon) in the front half of the year that I could possibly have tackled.

But this time it was the race that did the tackling.

Once again I was the benefactor of a (legitimately) transferred bib - but that also meant that this wasn't a race that I originally had factored into the training schedule.  As such I incorporated it into a normal-ish 110k week with a minor bit of prep (including a Western Aussie carb-load and abbreviated doses of beet juice) to try to be able to lay out a half-decent effort.  What had proven to be the real difference-maker in the lead-up week was the fact that our family was working hard to renovate and stage our home to put up on the real estate market ... and this turned into a lot of added stress, manual labour through the evenings and weekend as well as shortened hours of sleep each night.  Anyone who knows me well knows that these days I'm a solid eight-hour-per-night sleeper, usually crashing at around 9:30pm to be up for 5:30am workouts.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

With all of the extra-curricular craziness going on in my household I couldn't even park the time to make it out to the expo - which I would have very much like to have done.  Mike, Dave and their friend Carol (from whom I received the 30k entry) went to check it out and picked up my race kit for me, and I carpooled with them to Hamilton on race morning.

Aside from the non-training induced fatigue being a concern for race day there was also the looming threat of nasty-ish windchill conditions.  The forecast all week had been for a semi-cloudy Sunday with a raw temperature of -5°C coupled with 25-30 kph winds that would drop the mercury to feeling closer to -12°C.  Of course that affects everyone (and everyone's performance goals) to the same degree but in my head it just didn't bode well when it came to hoping for a strong result.

Our expedition to the storied ATB Road Race began at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning here in Barrie.  Initially when Mike had told me that that was our planned departure time I wondered to myself "why so early?", but as it turned out the road conditions north of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) warranted it.  The highways were trackbare and on the slick side - we even had a car who passed us at a decent rate of speed wind up on the wrong end of a tussle with the guardrail a scant few minutes down the road.  Could it be that on this day slow and steady would win the race ...?

We still posted an early arrival in downtown Hamilton by 8:00 a.m. - a full 90 min. before the start of the 30k (with the start of the 5k - which Dave and Carol were running - 15 min. after that).  The plus side of being the early bird meant prime parking in one of the exorbitantly priced downtown lots (even though the signs indicated "$4 all day" the premium pricing was in effect and we forked out $20) and we had plenty of time to incorporate a walkround and multiple trips to the washroom.

I was particularly glad for one of those washroom trips (uh oh ... where is this going?) as there was a lineup in the men's facilities for the stalls and during the waiting process I had the guy behind me interject into a conversation I was having with Dave by saying "are you Patrick?".  Now my wife knows I'm notorious for meeting people I know in the oddest places (e.g.  I ran into a college friend while visiting the British Museum on my honeymoon in London, England) and this ranked right up there - but I was most glad for it, because it was my social media pal and athlete extraordinaire Mike Cooke.  While tracking with and rooting for each other in the blogosphere and on Strava we'd never actually met in person although did have the intention to somewhere at the Boston Marathon in a couple of weeks' time.  It may have seemed like a strange place to finally make live introductions but it was great all the same to finally talk to him in person.

The race
Mike and I lined up in our 'red' corral (for those planning to finish in 2:15 or less) - it was definitely convenient that the entry point into the corral was situated just behind the caution tape strung across the chute to separate the elites from everyone else as Mike was looking to lay down a sub-2hr race in order to get the specially-designated 'gold medal', and the 2:00 measurement was based on gun (not chip) time.

With Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne serving as one of the official starters for the 30k (she would later run the 5k im 28:40) the horn blew and we were off - rather I should say that Mike was off and I began my little jaunt around the Hamilton water's edge.

I'd read Kenny Yum's blog-guide on race strategy for ATB and found it extremely helpful - so taking his advice I approached the race in thirds.  The first 10k was all about settling in - trying to find a comfortable pace and (at least for this year's conditions) a small pack into which I might tuck.  So it was serendipitous that at around the 3k mark I spotted a bunch of Longboat Runners including Roger Moss (the guy who towed me in at the Chilly Half)!  I identified myself to him and he said something along the lines of "great, you can pull in with us", which is exactly what I did.  There were about five other Longboaters in his group so I was the outsider - but that was fine given that I was just trying to dial in a decent rhythm so that I could save my strength for the next chunk.

First 10k split:  41:39

One of the things that my buddy "Fast" Bill had given me the heads-up about was the undulating nature of the front half of the race as you do traverse a few overpasses ... I tried to conserve energy as I climbed up onto the bridge sections and then use gravity to glide downhill (knowing that the time lost/energy expended in climbing is not neutralized or overcome by time gained/energy saved in descending).  So I constantly found the 'elastic' between the Longboaters and I stretching and contracting as we negotiated our way across these minor elevation changes, but managed to keep the imaginary elastic from breaking.

At least until the 18k mark.

Have you ever had the concrete legs feeling?


I'd written earlier about how I felt that I'd been dancing close to the overtraining line these past few weeks and I think that at 18k is where it caught up to me.  I looked on with dismay as my pace-per-kilometre ballooned up from 4:18/km to 4:47/km over the next few miles ... and I seriously contemplated just putting myself out of my misery and jogging it in the rest of the way.  The reasons that I didn't succumb to that temptation were (1) it would be one long and demoralizing jog; and (2) I felt too much pride (wearing my Skechers racing kit) to give up.  It would have been different if I felt like I was injuring myself, but the only damage being done was to my ego - so on I plodded.

Kms 11-20:  42:56

Things didn't seem to get much better during the final third of the race - besides losing sight of the Longboat Runners altogether, I had my friend and fellow Skechers Performance athlete Erin sneak up at around the 23k mark, grab me by my shirttail and yell "gotcha!".  Don't get me wrong - it was great to see her, and I even thought that maybe her catching me would provide a bit of a boost that would help pull my act together.  Alas, it didn't and I watched her power on ahead and eventually out of sight.  My morale probably hit it's lowest point at the 25k point when I could hear the encouraging chatter of the 2:10 pacer and he shared some home-stretch strategy with his group ... and they scooted beyond my best efforts to latch on to them as well.

Now anyone who has caught wind of any ATB lore has heard about the climb near the end of the race - and even though for a second year in a row the vaunted ascent of Valley Inn Drive has been removed thanks to construction, runners had been forewarned of hills at 21k and 27k.  From my vantage point there was a bit of extra effort required around the half-marathon point, but at 3k from the finish I could not tell that there was any real elevation challenge.  What there was was the presence of Stan Wakeman, the little person with the big boom box who blasted Queen's "We Will Rock You".  I was told (by my RunNinja partner Jason) that Stan is a fixture at the race, being a huge running fan and making his presence and encouragement known for the past 18 years or so - and as it's said that a high-five to Stan is good luck I made sure to slap some skin as I weebled-and-wobbled my way past him.

As I had for the Chilly Half I made a plan to try to pick it up for the last few kilometres ... and since everything after the 27k point looked like a steady descent toward FirstOntario Centre I mustered what little resolve I had left to increase my leg turnover.  Slowly but surely I began closing in on and passing the runners who had passed me and now figured to be targets on my horizon.  I managed to bring my pace down from 4:36/km to run a final 3:54 kilometre, catching runner after runner and not being passed in the process.  The crowds lining the course began to thicken, and within the last 800m I spotted Mike Cooke waltzing along with his gold medal (awarded to males who complete the race in under 2:00) and goodie bag - and I thought "not too shabby for a guy who just hoped to finish somewhere under 2:10".

As I turned the penultimate corner down the zamboni entrance into the stadium I spotted the 2:10 pacer and resolved to clear him as my final obstacle.  The last right turn opened my view up to the finish line clock which cued up the last-ditch-effort kick - and I managed skim past the pacer to a finish of 2:09:55.

This is the one pic where I have half-decent running form ...

Eat my dust 2:10 pacer ...!
Kms 21-30:  45:19


It really was quite a unique atmosphere in the FirstOntario Centre with runners beginning to fill in the stadium seating, creating a bit of an audible buzz as they watch for their family and friends to cross the last timing mats.  I progressed through the finishing chute to claim my silver medal (as designated for males finishing between 2:00-2:15) and then wondered how in the world I would find Mike, Dave and Carol since we didn't have a pre-determined meeting point.  So I wandered my way up to the concourse level where in and amongst the milling crowds whom do I see but my pal "Fast" Bill!  He was there spectating and cheering on numerous friends, and it was while I was connecting with him that Mike, Dave and Carol found me - and to my absolute delight I saw Mike sporting his own gold medal!  He had just cleared the 2:00 mark by less than 30 seconds - but gold is gold!  Dave also set a new PR in the 5k and Carol put in a strong showing coming off of a winter layoff.

 Moi, Carol, Dave and "Gold Medal" Mike

After the requisite set of post-race group photos I had one last memorable moment at ATB, and that was as we exited the FirstOntario Centre.  I happened to hold the door open for the person coming through behind me and a quick glance and moment of recognition became my opportunity to echo what was said to me earlier in the day in the men's washroom.  "Patrick?" I said, knowing full well that the person I'd held the door for was Patrick Brown, the former MP for Barrie and current leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative party.  I'd had an opportunity back in 2013 to interview Patrick as part of a local conversation series with community leaders, and I knew that among other things he was a fairly competitive runner.  To my surprise he recognized me responding "sure, and you're Patrick from Barrie".  Beyond pleasantries we shared a quick exchange about the day's event and Patrick let me know that he was battling a chest cold which made the race hard on him but otherwise a great day to be out.

After all was said and done I did enjoy the vibe surrounding the ATB race - it was well organized, delivered on its promised attractions and offered me a solid tempo workout if not strong race result.  I was pretty pumped to find out afterwards that Josh Bolton (another star Skechers Performance athlete) won the ATB 5k earlier that morning - it helped sweeten the day to know that a number of my running colleagues had made good on their opportunities to shine.

Bucket list race - check!

Race gear for the 2016 Around The Bay Road Race: