After what has been one of the worst winters in southern Ontario history, Sunday, March 30 broke sunny, 11 degrees Celsius with little wind. Why is this significant? Well, it was the 120th Around The Bay race, North America’s oldest (and one of its toughest) running road races, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Further, the conditions for training on the Bay course and elsewhere, for that matter, left MANY runners ill-prepared for race morning. As a matter of fact, there were more ‘did not starts’ in the race’s history. That speaks to the respect the running community has for the Bay – if you are not fully prepared, do NOT even attempt it!!
My TOTT runners were no exception to the above. From a starting group of 17, we actually had 4 start and finish the race. Some of the team were injured from winter wipe-outs, some missed the registration deadline, some had pressing business commitments, some were pregnant, some simply fell by the wayside. As the coach, I once again learned that life always gets in the way of the best intentions.
Having said that, the 4 who finished did themselves proud. As usual, the Bay was full of great stories. From my team, please note the following:
Terry and his wife, Kimberly (also a TOTT runner), are no more than a few days away from expecting their 1st child. In spite of this, Terry trained like a Navy Seal since September, 2013 with me, his ‘A’ goal being a sub-2:20 Bay. He had never gone under 2:35 in previous attempts. I picked him up at the 24.5 km mark and he was flying. Quiet in his Vibrams, low and compact, flicking forward beautifully, I could barely hang with him. As we headed into the Valley of Death, I had to pull out – yelling after him to finish strong as he raised both arms and disappeared. He finished in 2:20:28! Quite simply, a deservedly fantastic result by a fantastic person
young Patrick (age 15) and the youngest in the field, started out with Paige (my other teenager – age 16 – and the youngest female in the race) and his mother, Louise (one of the mentally/physically toughest I’ve coached). I hung in with them for the 1st 2 kilometers before peeling of and heading back to the 24 kilometre mark. I saw him next near the top of the Valley of Death (the 26.2 kilometre mark). He says “hi, Jeff” as if we’re meeting at a Tim Horton’s! I asked after Paige and he says “she’s still coming up the hill…I’m going to wait for her at the top!” I couldn’t believe my ears. He was on pace to break 3 hours but he didn’t want to leave his running buddy behind. On top of that, it looked as if he hadn’t even started running yet…incredible! Thinking about this post-race, I came to the conclusion that Patrick is an ‘old soul in a young body’…wise beyond his years, respectful, unique. Reminding myself that Patrick normally kicks in around the 15 kilometre mark of a run and had trained well during the winter, his performance was not a surprise. His respect and caring for Paige, whilst catching me off-guard (how many other runners would do such a thing?), also was not a surprise. Patrick finished beside Paige in 3:04:10. He now sets his sights on completing the Mississauga Marathon on May 4 as the youngest entrant ever
young Paige (age 16) is quite simply one of the mentally toughest young athletes I have ever trained. She simply refuses to quit no matter what the odds. This is a young lady who started training with me only last September, 2013. She had NEVER run beyond 7 kilometres (her specialties are cross country and track where she competes in the 1500 and 3000 metre distances, doing all of these EXCEEDINGLY well). After placing 2nd in her age group at the Egg Nog Jog 10.8 kilometre race in December, 2013 (a brutally difficult race in the hills of Terra Cotta), she continued on with us to prepare for the Bay. Having to drive 60 minutes 1 way just to train with me and the team, Paige could only attend 1/2 of our workouts. In spite of that, she learned how to run lighter, tighter, more balanced AND injury-free…all of which helped her conquer the Bay. I know she feels a debt of gratitude to Patrick and Louise. Having said that, I also know this is a special young lady with special talent who also finished in 3:04:10
Louise is more than a TOTT runner. She’s a fantastic mom, a great runner, a caring wife, a successful business professional…and one tough Mother! :-)). Early in our Bay training, Louise was on pace to go well under 3 hours…she was that strong. Then, one evening at home, she fell DOWN the stairs, breaking her left big toe. This would have ended the Bay race dream of most runners. For Louise, it was simply a “tiny setback”. After no running for 3 weeks (during the most important cycle of our training), she came back with 3 weeks left before the race and carried on as if she had never been away. During the race, she made sure Patrick and Paige kept a strong, steady pace, encouraging them all the way. At the 15 kilometre relay exchange point, she had to stop for a washroom break, sending the teens away on their own. In spite of this, she managed to almost catch the kids, finishing in 3:04:15 – her 4th and final Bay race. She now heads for the Mississauga Marathon with Patrick
honorable mention goes to young Megan (age 19) and a former TOTT runner before she headed off to university in September, 2013. She paired up with a colleague (Lucas) to do the 2-person relay. Megan did the 1st 15 kilometres with virtually no training (she is in 1st year after all!!) and finished in a more-than-respectable 78 minutes. In 2013, before heading off to school, Megs completed the full Bay race and the Mississauga Marathon as a 17 year old
In closing, let me say that the results of the team were impressive. As a coach, I am humbled to have worked (and continue to work) with such special people.
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