Rod Lowe started the Around the Bay 30km race
– Courtesy of Sportstats
The sun shone intently, bestowing a foreign sensation of warmth after a long winter of absence. My pace a controlled aggression as I set out on York Street amidst a sea of close to 7000 runners. The early race adrenaline courses through one and all. And despite weaving through my fellow racers, I find myself clocking my first kilometre at least 10 to 15 seconds faster than anticipated.
My lungs tinge with effort. Nerves certainly the culprit so early on. Nevertheless flashbacks of 2013 unwantedly play themselves in my mind’s eye. Last year my speed diminished precipitously after the first 10 kilometres and even more so in the final 10. My mind is haunted by the remembrance as I battle yet again the demons that typically lie in ambush on race day. Begging me, “Why are you doing this?”. Militantly calling to the fore my aging body and the demands it will have to once again overcome.
As I struggle to resist the existential torrents within my own head runner after runner begin to pass me. But I refuse to be baited into keeping stride. If I play this right I will repay the favour in kind within a couple of hours.
Rod Lowe passed the 10km point of the Around the Bay 30km race in a time of 00:53:26
Even with my controlled efforts I am over 4 minutes ahead of my 10km split from last year. On a revamped course that features more rolling hills early on. More formidable than previous renditions of this event which featured a flatter start. A foreshadowing of the hills that will impose themselves in the final stages of this race.
As the race flattens I settle into my pace. For now I have assuaged the inner tauntings that would have me doubting. And with this mental act of defiance I find that I am no longer being passed by my fellow racers. Rather I am now easily holding my own as I set about tracking the runners ahead.
Continuing northward the winds are gusty and head-on. The morning sun’s warmth acquiescing under the strains of the cool bay breeze.
Rod Lowe passed the halfway point of the Around the Bay 30km race in a time of 01:19:54
15 kilometres done. For the first time today the mileage that I have covered exceeds that which I have still to accomplish. I am now 6 minutes ahead of my pace from 2013 and begin calculations predicting a finish time that betters that of last years.
But the hills lie in wait. A sobering reminder that nothing about this race can be so cavalierly disregarded.
A quick hit of a Cliff Shot at kilometre 18 and I resolutely push forward.
Rod Lowe passed the 20km point of the Around the Bay 30km race in a time of 01:46:38
8 minutes ahead of last year.
The final segments of The Around The Bay Road Race are infamous for the perils of the hills that loom beyond the 20 kilometre mark of this arduous course. Just as they’ve done always, the 120th rendering of this event will prove daunting to all. Moreso for those whose training has been ravaged by the winter that is only now relinquishing it’s icy grip. Consequently this year will see the average finishing time creep above the 3 hour mark for the first time in 15 years.
Thankfully I have trained. And trained well. As I summit and ascend the now familiar hills my steps remain spry.
I round the corner to the long downhill at the 25 kilometre mark. My mind and body relishing the reprieve and the opportunity to open up my gait. Strands of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” beckon. As they do every year to herald our final 5 kilometres. In years past my footfalls matched the slow methodical beat of the music as I plodded onward. Today my footfalls are ahead of the percussive tempo. I am in good shape prior to the final most dreaded hill of the day.
The 500 metre climb up Valley Inn Hill will see us beyond kilometre 26, culminating in a cemetery and a literal appearance of the Grim Reaper. The epitome of dark humour enveloping elemental truth.
Now as opposed to working against me, my mind conspires with me. Reminding me of all the hill repeats on Poplar Plains. The driving finish. The sprint at the apex. Before descending to do it all again. I’ve done all of this before. It’s time now to show what I am made of. To prove that the endless weeks of minus 30 degrees, running in blackness and wind, ice and snow, have all been worth it.
Unlike in my first year on this course I will not cower in the face of the Valley Inn Hill. As I crest the pinnacle my stride is strong. The hard part is over. A high-5 to the Reaper and a quick check of my watch. Unless disaster strikes I will be swifter than last year’s 2:51:04.2. In fact I am projected to be well under 2:45.
The throngs thicken as the excitement of the finish line nears. A sharp right turn and a descent into the hall of darkness before the final hundred metre sprint on the indoor track of the newly christened First Ontario Centre.
The stands are filled. The jumbotron lit. As I charge to the finish I spot an opening in the right hand lane.
I head right and gun for the line. With the roars of the crowd all around me, I raise my fist in triumph.
Congratulations! Rod Lowe finished the Around the Bay 30km race in 02:41:29