Tuesday, March 26, 2013

High Fives All Around the Bay

There was a whole lot of high-fiving going on along the route of the 2013 Around the Bay Road Race. Kids were all over that action, of course, nothing new there. And the guy with the Mickey Mouse hands and bare feet at the top of the second major hill (before THE Hill) was high fiving with the professionalism and skill that we've come to expect from him.

I really didn't expect to be doing a terribly celebratory race that day. Hell, I hadn't planned to run this one this year at all. But a friend had to unload his bib due to an unexpected (startling, scary) health issue that happened less than two weeks before the race, so I went for it.

As always, I started out faster than I should have done. The corrals that were in place for the first time in the 119 year history of the race were fortuitous, bunching everyone with - roughly - their appropriate speed group. I almost forgot to take my Gu gel at mile two, but I remembered in time and narrowly averted the certainty of smashing headlong into The Wall. Gu number two was still in the belt for kilometre 18.

Keeping a pace within a tenth of 5 minutes/km was starting to wear me down. I valiantly fought to keep up with various runners whose confidence and excellent pacing pissed me off enough to fire me up.


 Gu number two powered me over the rollers that lead to the Mother of All Hills. It's always fun, by the way, to mess with the minds of other runners who haven't experienced this race before. Telling them that some people use ropes to get up the final hill, for example. Or that the worst part is tripping over the bodies on the way up.

Miraculously, I was doing just fine on the windless, sunny, 3 degree Celsius route. Sure glad I wasn't one of the unfortunates who were stopped by a train (heard about that after the race).

Anyway, just before the hills started, and after the High Five Station (a girl holding up a sign and a white mitten that she would have to burn after the ten thousand high fives it took), there was a whole lot of crowd support that needs to be acknowledged. In fact, all along the route there were freelance water and citrus stations, one beer station (too far from the end for me, but the effort was awesome). Citizens of Hamilton, you did your city proud, we salute you. You are fantastic. People in groups or alone yelling their lungs out with encouragement to total strangers, something that brings a lump to my throat every time I see it (what are their stories, why are they so incredible, what drives them???)

Ok, so plunging down into the valley before the Hill that Dwarfs All Hills, you hear it before you see anything. The concert-level boom of Queen's "We Will Rock You", always the same every year, always gets your heart pumping and your energy surging. And then you see the huge speakers, the tent, the pickup truck, and The Little Guy in his wheelchair, and you High Five him and hit the footbridge, single file, before you start Up the Hill.

The hill is a bit of a letdown at first. It's not terribly steep for the first couple hundred metres, but then you turn a corner and it gets a bit steeper. You go under a bridge, turn again, keep climbing, and it gets steeper. The final thirty or forty metres are almost straight up, and your heart and pounding and you can barely see because I'll be damned if I'm gonna stop running and walk. And then with about 20 metres to go I hear a huge voice yell "Myron!!!" Sure enough, there he is at the top of the hill, Mike, the guy I ran for. No High Five here, this was a firm grasp handshake and a "Go hard, make sure you get a good time for me!". A most excellent slingshot effect.

All downhill from there. Legs wouldn't stop, partly pure adrenaline, partly that kilometre 18 gel, partly a refusal to let that punk kid get past me, partly a desire to have that Finish Line picture include a much more athletic type and pysch people into thinking I could compete with THAT.

High Fives? How about this: I beat my previous PR for this race, set last year, by FIVE minutes and ten seconds.

So of COURSE I'll have to run this thing again next year. It will be the 120th year of the race, which really and truly blows my mind, and it will be my... let me see... fifth(!) time Around the Bay.

Gimme Five!!