On Sunday November 1st 2015, I ran the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon #1 fastest Boston Marathon qualifier on Canadian soil. The race course goes like this: “It starts at ArcelorMittal Dofasco Park, at Green Mountain Road and First Road East, Stoney Creek ON, and the first 15K of the marathon is along the back country roads of Hamilton, and the edge of the escarpment. You will then head towards the Red Hill Expressway where you will meet up with some of the half marathoners. You will enjoy this down hill coast and the beautiful scenery of the Red Hill. It will be closed to traffic. Once you exit the Red Hill you will then start your journey towards Beach Blvd, running towards Burlington and then turning towards the Waterfront Trail, to finish the last 7K’s along the lake.” The route ends in Confederation Park to make it a point-to-point race with the terrain starting out on streets for 3/4 of the race, then a bit of gravel trail which leads to a short road section and finally the last chunk is paved path to the finish.
This race was just 2 weeks after I PB’d at the Toronto Marathon which is an uncommon thing for runners to do back-to-back marathons but it felt like the right decision and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. Toronto was a time focused marathon to get a PB by running at a consistent pace with others for as long as I could before trying to hold on and stay strong to the finish while Hamilton was a placing focused marathon so I just kept myself in the highest place I could throughout the entire race not worrying about pace as much so ran by how I felt in the moment. I knew not giving myself proper recovery time after the first marathon would leave me not in peak shape for the second but that was a sacrifice I was willing to take as it would still leave me in good enough shape to do very well at my second marathon. Of course getting a 2nd PB in 2 weeks at the same distance would be great but it wasn’t expected even with it being a super fast course so I was happy to take whatever I could out of the experience.
Saturday afternoon I had to work on my feet and do physical tasks at my bakery job for 8 hours so I tried to be careful and not tire myself out too much with the constant lifting, pushing of various equipment and repetitive motions of preparing, baking and wrapping. Then straight home for my traditional carb load supper of spaghetti, toast and a big bottle of water. But before I could hit the bed I made a few short trips to make an effort to see friends at their Halloween parties since I wouldn’t be able to actually stay and enjoy myself. I went to sleep and actually had a pretty peaceful night before the 5AM wake up time 3 hours before race start. I actually had breakfast for the first time before one of my race by having a banana and toast with peanut butter as well as my usual chai tea. I drove down to the race with my Mom, picked up my race kit, did a 2K warm up and sucked down a Huma Chai mango gel with water 5 minutes before I hit the start line with seconds to go. I was geared up in my Health & Performance Canada edition club singlet, brand new CEP no-show compression socks and out of the box New Balance 1400v3. In the past I had done all 5/5 marathons in the knee high CEP compression socks but wanted to mix things up and try these newly released ones and for my shoes well my old pair of 1400v2’s have done me well and took a beating in doing so and it was time to test out the new version of the best marathon shoe I know.
In the race was Terrence Attema and Mitch Free as far as competition as most of everyone in Ontario had already ran their marathon 2 weeks earlier just like me at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon which was even more popular due to it being the Canadian Championship. I knew this would be a 1-2-3 finish between us guys as long as we finished. Terrence is a beast of his own being the Hamilton Around The Bay 30K winner, a PB this year at Ottawa Marathon also getting 3rd Canadian in 2:22 and Paris Run For The Toad 25K winner among many other accomplishments. Mitch and I have been very close the past few years in fitness and results at the same races with him having a strong build up for this marathon and similar goal time to me so I knew it would be a grind out there between the two of us. The gun went off and the 3 of us darted off down the road along with some excited runners that went out too quick on a fast first kilometer. I ran side by side with Mitch for the first 5K or so trying my best to run as conservative as possible but it was hard with a downhill first 2K start and then from 2K-7K a steep down dip to gradual uphill all at 3:30/K even though our goal pace was at best 3:35/K. At 8K either I couldn’t allow myself to hold back anymore or Mitch made the smart move to pull back from me but we went our separate ways unfortunately which would last the rest of the lonely race. From 8K-10K was a wide open farm road with the strongest wind I’ve ever literally faced causing my singlet to flap around like a flag with me whaling my arms around to fight against it and my body blowing sideways at times too. It was pretty rough and sucked a bunch of energy out of me hitting between 3:35-3:50/K so pacing was thrown right out the window for that stretch.
Now with me looking forward to turning the corner and getting a break turned to no luck as it was more strong wind once again but this time for the huge chunk from 10-21K averaging 3:40/K so still faster than my marathon PB pace all throughout this. At this point I was starting to lose sight of Terrence ahead and had no sight of Mitch behind so it was definitely the quietest part of the race. It was very uneventful other than drinking at 2 water stations, screaming at the sky in anger of the wind, hating myself for being stuck in this shitty situation of being on Canada’s fastest marathon course but there is no one to work with to help push me, taking a GU strawberry banana gel at 15K that I carried with me and looking for some human life to cheer us runners on. I reached the half-marathon point in 1:16:40 according to my watch which is bang on exactly what I did when I evenly split each kilometer leading up to 21.1K in Toronto. Finally my frown from my experience so far turned into a big smile as I was entering the net downhill highway for the next 7K which I distinctly remember from when I ran my Half-Marathon PB on this part of the course going forward last year. I felt like the race started all over again as my legs were fresh and I was seriously rolling with little effort hitting between 3:20-3:30/K to get me back onto 3:35/K average pace overall once I exited the highway at 28K. According to the race website “gels and Bloks will be available from CLIF at one aid station only at about the 29km mark” but to my surprise I waited and waited before giving up on finding this. Either I somehow completely missed the station even though I was running on my own focused with no distractions, they missed me by not having a gel out in hand to give to me as I passed by or there was no station to begin with. My past two marathons have had race course fueling troubles so I knew I was in for a rough ride the last 15K or so knowing my last gel was at 15K/42.2K and that sets me up for a ‘bonk’ or ‘hitting of the wall’.
I shook the disappointment off and fought on as the next 2K was a tight gravel trail but thankfully I had a lead cyclist to warm the half-marathon runners which I had caught to move to the side so I could pass with ease. When I first caught the half-marathoner runners on the highway it was not an issue at all as the road was so wide that I could run in a straight path of my own. At the end of the trail I crossed over a short bridge with a sharp turn that lead to the last very flat 12K out and back paved path along the river. This is where everything started to go bad for me as I was struggling to keep pace and was doing between 3:40-3:50/K for the next 5K, then 4:00-4:30/K for the 5K after that and the last 2K I thankfully had Tyler Chacra (who finished the Half-Marathon race) find me and help keep me mentally strong with encouraging words and staying one step ahead of me to push me along at a quicker pace than I was falling at before. It was never a race for time but now I was suddenly questioning if I would lose my overall place in the race or worse yet even finish. I no longer had energy in my legs and was shuffling along the path looking over my shoulder trying to spot other marathoners sneaking through the half-marathon crowd. I could see the finish area on the other side of the grass but I still had to do 400m to loop around before the sprint to the finish. I crossed the line in 2:38:18 only 1:14 slower than my PB 2 weeks earlier for 2nd overall behind Terrence’s 2:23:55 and ahead of Mitch’s 2:40:53. Even with the crazy strong wind, no consistent pacing on my part, lack of competitors to work with, fueling troubles and dodging through the slower half-marathon runners I still managed to run a fairly reasonable time and bang on the overall placing I could get on this day. I celebrated with multiple bowls of soup, pizza & cookies and got a much-needed massage for 15 glorious minutes as I awaited the award ceremony that got pushed back a whole hour. I talked & got pictures with friend Fazmin Nizam who did the Toronto & Hamilton Marathon double like me as well as finally meeting Canadian legend Jean-Paul Bedard who is known for doing Boston Marathon twice in a row and Toronto Waterfront Marathon 3 times on race day.
Now I am instructed to try this thing called recovery where I take 10 days off from running and other activities to rest my body. Even though I like to think I am super human, invincible and very well couple jump right back into running, there is muscles and fibers in my body that need to rebuild even though I can’t feel it. I’m not good at explaining the science behind it but its well knows to take up to 3 weeks off after a marathon no matter what to avoid injury and get your head clear for the start of a new training cycle. This was my last big race of the year so moving forward I will do my 5th race in a row and back-to-back wins at Cambridge Jingle Bell 5K with no stress, just go out there, run hard and have fun representing in my local city. Unfortunately due to my work schedule, long travel time and the high price tag, I won’t be going to the Canada XC Championships in Kingston or Ontario XC Championships in Toronto before that either. Instead I will be doing the Ontario University XC Championship and Canadian University XC Championship courses in a time trial fashion of my own hopefully with a few friends to tag along for company and help push me. Both courses happen to be close by in Waterloo & Guelph and I’ve run on them in the past so this sets me up for a great opportunity to tie up my spikes once again after 2 years as I miss the feeling of cross-country running as that is what got me into the sport in the first place back in high school and College. I’m also looking into the Boxing Day 10-Miler but no confirmation on that yet.
I won’t be doing my annual trip to Kenya this winter as I already treated myself to high altitude training back in September-October in Flagstaff, Arizona with friends and Canadian elites. I’m stuck here in Cambridge, Ontario all winter long, no excuses. As tough as it will to run in winter with the snow, ice and cold weather, I’ll actually have something to look forward to as I have two races planned for the new year already. I will be at the Burlington Chilly Half-Marathon and Hamilton Around The Bay 30K which I have done before once for each. Other than that I get back to easy running starting Wednesday November 11th and ease into speed work the following week with my Health & Performance club once again. With the winter making it hard to hit race paces I feel like I’m going to plan some big endurance runs to build the mileage up and not worry about speed too much as I won’t need it until April rolls around and I find some fast road races to do like Toronto Spring Run-Off 8K and Toronto Yonge Street 10K. I’m thinking about taking my blog to the next level and writing weekly or bi-weekly training updates but I’m not sure how exciting the next couple months are going to be with the slow-paced winter season but well see. Anyways, thanks for tuning into my race recap of my 6th marathon (4th one this year) and I’ll be back again after my race on November 22nd. See ya around, all the best in your training, Runner Rob out! 🙂
Location | Hamilton, Ontario
Event | Road2Hope
Distance | marathon (42.2K)
Time | 2:38:18
Pace | 3:46/k
Overall Place | 2nd/783
Age Place (20-24) | 1st/11
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Robert Brouillette 😀