Wait was I not just a bit early?
Having successfully completed the around the bay road race, on 6 previous occasions, I entered the 2013 race in mid-2012. This was to be an exciting race for me as it would be the first time my daughter, Sarah, had entered. Sarah had not ever run 30 kilometers in one race and I was looking forward to seeing her tackle another challenge. Training was uneventful, over the course of the next several months. As a triathlete first, my training included; cycling three or four times a week and running once or twice. I would swim was once a week and only because I had to – but that is for another blog. As summer turned to autumn and then winter, cycling gave way to spinning, swimming became less structured (yeah) and running continued.
I love running in the early morning. If not by myself, my typical partner is Bruce Smith. Bruce and I meet early on Saturdays or Sundays. We run between 7 and 20 miles. The dump run, the reverse dump, the double dump, the north shore or the lift bridge were our standard runs. Once or twice we would even run around the bay – albeit from Lasalle Park and not Cops Coliseum. On one of our many runs Bruce mentioned that for the 2013 version of the Around the Bay Road Race, he wanted to raise funds by running the course four times. Yes four times – that’s 120 kilometers. Bruce however would not take four days – but rather back to back to back to back runs. Bruce, you see, is an endurance runner and 100 miles or 120 kilometers made no difference. Distance just indicated how long he had to run. As a good friend, and recognizing that completing this alone would be mentally and physically challenging, I told Bruce that I would forgo my 9:30 “official start” and run with him through the night.
At 7:00 pm on Saturday March 23, 2013, (14 ½ hours before the official start of the 2013 ATB race) Bruce began. Vicky, Tim, and Andrea would keep him company on the first lap. Two and ½ hours later Bruce called me to say they were at Lasalle park and that they would be about one hour from the start of lap two. I dressed, found my running light, took my red reflector from my bike and headed out to meet the group at Cops Coliseum. Arriving at Cops at 10:30, I could see the lights of Vicki and Tim. Bruce and Andrea were not far behind. As I got out of my car, the sportstats timing truck was also pulling into the parking lot. Who knew they set up so early? Looking at the sportstats technician I remarked, “am I early for the race”. He looked with disbelief and said nothing.
After a clothing change, taking food and water and saying good bye to Andrea, Bruce, Tim, Andrea and I left Cops for the 2nd lap. This would be an adventure for several reasons. First, we were running the course in reverse. Second, I was Bruce’s food mule and third, I did not know what to expect over the next three and ½ hours.
Running at night is a challenge and wondrous for many reasons. It is first of all dark. While this goes without saying there is something serene about running in the dark. Second, traffic does not expect you, and finally the road and its bumps and bruises are hard to see. Nonetheless we began and I quickly found myself running with Vicki about 30 to 40 meters in front of Bruce and Tim. About ½ km into the run, Bruce called for food. Once he was fed, we continued and made our way to Hell’s hill. Just before the hill we were joined by Russell. He had run up the hill to find us and now was somewhat dismayed that he had to turn around and run down – oh well he chose to come to us, rather than wait for us to come to him!
Running down Hell’s hill is not as difficult as running up – but once at the bottom we obviously had to climb to the mausoleum. This hill may not be as steep – but its length makes up for the slighter grade. Continuing, we passed a runner with army fatigues and a knapsack as well as our first cyclist who was surprised to find five runners at just after 11:30 running towards him. The rest of the run along Northshore was uneventful with the exception of the traffic. Most drivers must have seen our lights as they gave us a wide berth. A couple however seemed to be taken aback. They slowed, honked (in anger or disbelief I am not sure) and then proceeded on their way.
We found our way to the parking lot just north of the lift bridge and we were joined by Les and Moe. There were now seven of us. Bruce and the group refueled and took on water. 14 km down we set out on the final 16km of our journey. I personally do not generally eat solid food in an endurance event. Thinking “what could it hurt” I consumed a great oatmeal cookie as we ran to the bridge and the ½ way point of my “bay race”. Bruce was at his 3/8 mark of his. Now with seven runners, there were plenty of great stories. All but me in the group were “ultra- marathoners”. I heard about many endurance races as well as Vicki’s marathon race up Mount Lemmon. Earlier this year, along with several Triathlon Club of Burlington members, I had ridden up Mount Lemmon. 25 miles and 2,150 meters of climb. It was of great interest to me to listen to what it was like to run a marathon, up hill, with 2,150 meters of climb. The most amazing part of the story was that the race organizers failed to plan for all of the runners to get down the mountain. Imagine running 26.2 miles away from your car and then finding out that you have to find your own way back to your car. Yikes!!!
It was at this time that the one cookie I ate decided to “come back” on me. Tasting it for a second time was not what I expected, it was worse the third and fourth time …. While I kept it down, cramping would soon become an issue – OK it already was. It was about this time that a car pulled alongside of us. The occupants rolled down their windows and questioned our sanity! We quickly told them about Bruce’s exploits and they were awed with the entire event. We proceeded south towards Wilson Street and the journey passed kilometer 20 and 21. With 9 kilometers to go my body began to talk – OK it began to YELL. I was cold and hot at the same time, my feet were sore and my stomach ached with displeasure. I soon found myself lagging behind the main group and would spend the rest of the journey trying to keep their tail lights in sight.
During the last 9 kilometers, at times I would feel wonderful, and at times I questioned my sanity. Fortunately, running for me is a time for reflection. In addition, I wrote a paper (in my head) for a class I was taking and set out an agenda for a meeting I was to have on Monday. I also reflected on the serenity of the night, my many friends that I wished I could see more often, the incredible quite, the lights of the city, and the view of my breath. Together these were like pieces of a puzzle that when put together became something other than the picture on the box. As I continued to run, my pains dissolved and the rhythm of my breathing became hypnotic. Seven kilometers, six, five, then 2 and finally I could see the lights of downtown and John Street. James was just a few steps away and then Cops. My garmin may have said 30.8 kilometers (we did not run on Eastport so the course was longer) and just over 3 and ½ hours, but time and distance did not matter – Bruce had finished lap two, I felt wonderful, and sleep was just a drive away.
In the end, I was happy to run with Bruce. He is a dear friend and a wonderful person for running 120 kilometers to raise funds for St. Joes. If you are reading this and agree – perhaps you might consider a donation to St. Joes to indicate you awe of what he accomplished. I was just glad to be part of it.
As a foot note, I would like to apologize to Sarah. This was her first ATB race. She ran under 2 hours and 14 minutes. She won her age group and got a gold medal as well. I just wish I had been there to hug her as she came across the finish line. I promise to be there in Binbrook!!!!!