Throughout the past few decades that I have been doing my Team Over The Top running clinics, there have been 2 consistent goal races for one reason – they are the TOUGHEST of their kind in North America. The 2 races?
- the 10.8 kilometre Egg Nog ‘Jog’ held on the 2nd Sunday of December in Terra Cotta, Canada in the Niagara Escarpment and
- the 30 kilometre Around The Bay held on the final Sunday of March around Burlington Bay in Hamilton, Canada (anchored by the infamous ‘Valley of Death’)The 123rd Around The Bay race did not disappoint. Bitterly cold swirling winds seemed to attack the runners from all angles – and it was relentless. The only saving grace was the freezing rain never materialized. In spite of this, my team showed up confident and ready to rumble.Terry (slated to go under 2:20) aggravated a calf strain on the Thursday before the race and had to sit out. Despite the disappointment, he was there to support his wife, Kimberly and has entered the Ottawa Marathon in late May – his new goal race. Kimberly ran on sheer guts and determination, lasting up to the 23 kilometre mark until an old fractured tailbone injury put her in too much pain to continue. Hell, most never would had STARTED the race. Next year…young lady!!Jason, who has run the Bay as part of my team in 2:08, decided to channel the old coach by donning my Mickey Mouse gloves. Nice try, Jason! This year, he ran the full 30 kms in 2:50 BUT also entered as part of the 3-person relay with his 18 year old daughter, Jasmine, and 12 year old son, Ajay (who ran a 51 minute last 10 kilometres over the hills of Northshore Blvd.! Jason also did this on an infected foot 4 days into antibiotic treatment. As most of you know who follow my blog, Team Over The Toppers are a unique, resilient, stubborn AND talented gang!Emidio (photo above) was back for a 2nd crack at the Bay even though his training was not up to par. His goal? Sub 4:00 hours. His result? 3:34 – quite simply, an amazing result especially considering he started to run distances only 11/2 years ago!Kerry brought her favourite cheering section that included not just her daughter BUT her husband, son, sister AND mother!The added support MUST have worked as Kerry once again dominated the course, finishing in 2:27, 9th out of 391 in her age group! Kerry is living proof that you CAN run faster, longer and stronger post pregnancy AND as you age.
Of course, the Bay would not be the Bay without the teams of paramedics who inevitably take 2-3 runners to hospital every year – it’s that tough a race!The start is always a scene of controlled chaos as upwards of 8,000 make their way to the start line. When I think back to 1983 and my 1st ever Bay race, there were only 280 in the field. My, how times have changed!Once the gun goes off, the field TRIES to spread out – this always takes at least 2 kilometres – there are that many runners. I started with Jason and Kimberly – in the photo below, you will notice them from the back. Showing perfect Squat-Scoot running technique, they were light, tight, compact and forward as well as calm. When they move like this, it is almost ethereal!Further out on the course, I always encounter my long-time ‘associates’, the Grim Reaper (at the 28 kilometrte mark) – he is strategically placed to guide those who are flagging into the nearby cemetery. Nasty!!!Continuing further back along the course (I always run back to at least the 25 kilometre mark to pick up my runners and pace them to the finish), I come across a fixture in the race – my dear pal, Stan and his ‘posse’ – stationed as always just before the Valley of Death. With Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You” blaring out of speakers on a loop, ALL runners get an extra burst of energy as they approach Hell on Earth!!At the top of the valley leading to the Valley of Death, Casey blew by me – he was on pace to run a 47 minute 10 kilometre section of the 3 person relay. All I got was his backside (he’s the one in the photo below wearing the white shirt with right arm aloft acknowledging my yell!). His technique is flawless…Just ahead of Casey came Kerry…strong, confident and FAST as she approached the drop-off into the Valley of Death. We are still working on getting her lower to the ground with a more powerful claw-back. In spite of that, she STILL runs quiet and with power over long distances. Beautiful…Of course, I had to get a shot of the race leader (the 1st photo below) and a few of the top 20 finishers as they hammered past the 27 kilometre mark or powered down AND up the Valley of Death. You will notice the perfect Squat-Scoot form of all of them along with being totally locked into the moment. It is no accident that the leader won by over 7 minutes and the others finished in under 1:45.The finish line inside First Ontario Place NEVER seems to materialize. Once it does, though, anyone finishing the 30 kilometre race lets out a big sigh of relief.Alas, once the well-earned medals get draped around your neck, it actually all seems worth it. Alicia, her husband, Wes and Casey finished 8th overall in the 3 person relay – a truly commendable placing! Teresa, my on-line client from Brantford who joined us for a few training sessions and technical lessons from me, finished her 1st Bay in 3:37! Her goal? Sub 2:40. She followed my training programme to a T and the results spoke for them selves. A hearty congrats to you, young lady!!
Kerry and her sister, Sarah (who finished the 5 kilometre race in a career-best 27:34) posed with their medals followed by Kerry’s son, Devon, showing off Mom’s hardware. Everyone was getting in on the act!!As I say every year, it was a SPECIAL Bay race filled with SPECIAL moments and SIGNIFICANT achievements. There are always life lessons learned – you cannot finish the Bay without overcoming internal ‘darkness’, the elements and, last but not least the VALLEY OF DEATH!
Congratulations once again to my Team Over The Top gang for a race well done. Not many train like us AND not many race like us…there’s a good reason for that…not many are as TOUGH as us!!