The Trek and Run Team were supported during this event by;
Virgil – ATB is one of the best known Canadian races on the calendar, with the distinction of being older than Boston. The iconic climb late in the race that is short but at a crucial time, combined with the Grim Reaper taunting runners at the appropriate place (the Hamilton Cemetery) make it a memorable event. The day started out at a chilly -4°C, forecasted to rise to a still freezing -1°C at the anticipated race end three hours later. After parking at our friend Adam’s house we walked over to FirstOntario arena and dropped off our belongings at VIP bag check. David and I were understandably hesitant to head out until the last minute, it was freezing and I was on day six of a pretty bad cold.
I decided to aim for a 3:15 time, a bit conservative but enough to beat my old personal best time for this race. I made it a game day decision to wear my vest, knowing that I get hot easily. I erred on the side of caution due to the uncertainty of my cold, and also because of several exposed sections on the course where runners could be buffeted by the winds. The corrals were quite easy to access even with four minutes to gun time.
I started off overtaking the three hour pace group and doing a good 5:45 pace tempo for the first 8 km. This section was mostly nondescript industrial buildings. I started slowing down slightly and the 3:00 10/1 (run/walk) pace group engulfed me. I decided to settle in with them. Eli Banta was a great pacer, entertaining us with quips and some animated jumping around us. The relay runners changed teammates at 10k and again at 20k. I was feeling pretty good, sucking on a throat lozenge to sooth my throat while taking in gummies and Nuun. Running along Beach Blvd between Lake Ontario and the QEW was a scenic route and then we ran across the unique Burlington Bay Canal Bridge.
My knees started to ache on the not-very-steep but long climb up a sheltered tree-lined section just past the 21k mark, but I was left playing catch up when the group did their minute walks. Unfortunately I would catch up to them just as they started running again – no walk break for me! They disappeared at around the 23k mark.
I’d wanted to take photos of anyone I saw doing Jeff Rowthorn’s Easterbrooks hotdog challenge. This was an unsanctioned challenge where you would eat a footlong hotdog (veggie option available) along with a pop and a truffle; with a time penalty if you dropped your food or threw up before crossing the finish tape. When I ran by the restaurant I was so focused on not bleeding more time that I completely forgot about it. After running down the slope and across the wooden bridge I faced the dreaded 400m hill climb up Valley Inn Road. My knees were aching from the effort so while I was walking, I texted David that I was ahead of schedule despite my slowed pace and crested the top. There was a fallen runner there surrounded by volunteers, and soon afterwards two police cars wailed by.
The Hamilton Cemetery was on the right with the familiar series of white signs with runner slogans by the curb. The Grim Reaper gave runners his trademark words of ‘encouragement’.
Unbeknownst at the time, the photo I took of him also included Andrea Lynn Sloan handing out truffles, the finishing touch to the hotdog challenge! A firetruck and ambulance flashed by – I certainly hope the runner was ok.
My calves were screaming at me, but I tried to hang in with only 2.5k to go. The 2:55 pacer breezed by me uncontested. It wasn’t until Josie Li, the 3:05 pacer, sidled up to me that the urgency hit me. I wasn’t going to let the time slip away without a fight. I thanked her for the brief pacing assistance and with a renewed focus I dug deep through the pain and rounded the corner and down the ramp into the FirstOntario Centre.
I really enjoy ATB for its finish line in the arena. The athletes are greeted with a large video screen, the raucous cheer of the spectators, and the booming echo of the announcer greeting the runners. I dashed across the finish line to a flurry of photo shutters. Completely spent, I made my way through to collect some food and get some photos taken. Our friend and team mate Adam greeted me at the photo stations, finishing just over a minute behind me. First it was Chilly Half Marathon, now this – I swear we need to start running together!
Congratulations to David for doing a sub 2:15 time and earning a silver ATB medal, saving some reserve for MDS Morocco just 12 days later.
For my efforts I was rewarded with a 3:04:06.1 time, which was a course PR and a 30k PR. Without a cold hampering me, and a few quality long slow runs, a sub-three hour race is waiting for me at the (word of the day alert) quasquicentennial edition of the oldest race in North America!
I always enjoy the cooler season races and ATB should be on your list if you too like to keep it cool. It’s very well run, the race organizers always do a good job at this prestigious race. The two day Health and Fitness Expo offers a lot of merchandise and services offerings and the long sleeve race shirt is a perennial favourite of mine.