March 29, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. – the start of North American’s toughest 30 kilometre road race in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (Around The Bay) – will live on as a most special day in the annals of Team Over The Top running performances. The day broke sunny and relatively ‘balmy’ at -6 degrees Celsius with little wind. As per usual on the Bay course, this changed throughout the race. By the 6 kilometre mark, the head winds had picked up significantly and the temperature dropped a few degrees along Beach Blvd. (as per usual). By the time the runners hit the hills of North Shore Blvd., the temperature had risen to 6 degrees Celsius and clothes were being shed left, right and centre – big mistake as usual for most of the mid-packers. By the time they hit Plains Rd./York Blvd., the head winds were beating them back – intense and cool – making the last 5 kilometres seem like an eternity to cover. All this with the infamous Valley of Death closed for the race due to major construction. As many commented, they would have rather done the VOD (where the winds are a non-factor) – even though this is the culmination of 8 kilometres of hills! The organizers promise that the VOD will be back in play for the 2016 ATB race.
My Team Over The Toppers (even though this was my smallest group ever actually doing the race) performed unbelievably well. Results are as follows:
- Kerry Howse earned a silver medal with a 2:27 time – this only 8 months after delivering her 2nd child (Vivian) and it being only her 2nd competitive race post-pregnancy. Heck, Kerry’s warm-up was a 20 minute breast-feeding session. Truly amazing performance (see pictures)
- Dave Harris earned a bronze medal with a time of 2:40 – this being his lead-in race for the Mississauga Marathon on May 3. With a steady pace throughout, Dave avoided his nemesis – major leg cramping – a great sign heading into Mississauga
- Kristen Page finished in a Personal Record time of 3:07 – a full 12+ minutes faster than her previous 7 attempts at the Bay race. Being my newest TOTTer (she only started training with me in early January, 2015), this was a particularly satisfying result. For the 1st time, Kristen was NOT injured training for and racing in the Bay. She has made a fantastic shift to my Squat/Scoot style of safe, efficient running in combination with my barefoot running drills (see pictures)
- Michelle Bolhuis (my only full time barefoot outdoors runner) completed 13 kilometres of the Bay race – most of it barefoot. Why was this significant? Well, she had completed the Ocala, Florida 1/2 iM on the Saturday before the Bay race (March 28), doing the full 1/2 marathon distance barefoot and finishing 8th out of 18 in her age group. Michelle then hopped on a plane for Toronto, got into her Hamilton hotel room at 4:00 a.m., grabbed 3 hours of sleep and hit the start line for the Bay race. As crazy as this sounds, she was running well up to the 8 kilometre mark when fatigue started to take over
As you can gather, my TOTTers are NOT your average runners. They are special people focused on making a difference. They do NOT settle for average, they do NOT settle for simply participating, they do NOT shy away from setting ‘out there’ personal goals – and achieving them! As their coach, I demand as much. I am not interested in “just getting them to the start line”. I AM interested in having them reach way beyond their wildest dreams by running safely, efficiently…AND powerfully!
Finally, I would be remiss in not mentioning the performance of my friend, Randy Swanson. For those who read my post-ATB blog from the 2014 race, you will remember Randy. As a refresher for you and those new to reading my blog, back in the day, Randy was a fantastic athlete, super successful senior executive in the mortgage insurance business and father of 2 great kids – basically, a ‘guy living the dream’! A number of years ago, Randy suffered a massive stroke, leaving the left side of his body virtually paralyzed. A few years after this, he had progressed in his rehab enough to partake in the Ride to Conquer Cancer. During the ride, he was hit by a car, ending up in a coma with further brain damage. Somehow, he not only survived BUT he got himself back into the workforce part time, exercising (spinning, Tai Chi, walking), volunteering and entering the 5 kilometre segment of the ATB race. This year, I encountered Randy and his team (that included his brother) at the 3.5 kilometre mark. I proceeded to walk and talk with Randy about what he was accomplishing, – how he was motivating so many others to NEVER GIVE UP HOPE – when he suddenly broke into a run. I latched onto him, amazed at his determination, internal fortitude and his flat-out ability to run despite the odds. Once again, I found myself humbled in Randy’s presence, realizing just how special he is and how he is an inspiration for so many. There is no room in Randy’s life for pity or self-pity; nor should there be. His motto – deal with the cards you are dealt and make the best of your life – is one all of us should adhere to!
Thanks to my TOTTers and to you, Randy, my special friend, for making the 2015 Around The Bay race one of the more memorable in my life.