Around the Bay 30K Race Report – March 27, 2011

Thankful to be done the 30k Around the Bay 2011 RaceFor anyone looking for the Around the Bay 2011 Race results for the 30K here is a direct link.

Yesterday, I learned a very hard lesson about race nutrition which provided me with a very humbling race experience on the 30K Around the Bay Road Race held on March 27, 2001 in Hamilton, Ontario.

As 28k was my longest run-to date, I had yet to really reach a point where I had faced nutrition issues before and never experienced one cramp in all my running. I am very grateful for finishing the race when I did as the last 3k took “forever” to get through. Oddly, the hills were not an issue for me but as I had trained on a lot of hills they were not that difficult.

What challenged me the most on this course ended up being strong muscle cramps. As I was running downhill toward the last big hill where the “we are the champions” was blasting on loud speakers, I was struck with a very strong hamstring cramp that locked my left leg. Up until that point I was close to the edge but managing well. I did feel some soreness in my legs from 20K-25K and I paced it back a bit to account for that, the hills and to recharge for the final 3k. I continued to keep my heart rate in an expected range.

With these adjustments the 20-25km was focused effort to keep my core tight and posture aligned; it was hard but going fine. I remember thinking “only 5K to go” and I knew the last 3k was mostly downhill so I was hoping to pick up some time after the hills. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. Once the cramps set into my legs they were there for the rest of the race. I learned a very good lesson on my path towards the Mississauga full in the spring.

The last 5km took me took me almost 30.5 minutes to complete, which based on the previous 25Km (5K average pace of 24:40 – 4:56m/km) it made it seem like I was crawling.

So here I was stuck 5 steps from the man high-fiving people on the way to the last hill, and I was stopped in my tracks. “We are the champions” is blasting right at me, but the music was miles away. I stretched for a good time and rubbed the area and it eventually released. I stumbled by, gave a high five and started to jog again slowly as it loosened. My mind was spinning with questions such as “What now?”. The unknown was certainly part of the problem as I was now in uncharted territory; it turned out to be a real challenge to just finish the race.

Looking at my heart rate, it was low but I simply could not run efficiently anymore. At that point, I did my best to accept that my race fundamentally changed. I switched from “Plan A” to “Plan C” in an instant. My new focus was now to just get to the finish line. In retrospect, I did have the precursor to the cramps around 23-25K: This was a mixture of small muscle spasms in my quads, calves and hamstrings. I did not know about these warning signs before and I continued running with quick / light feet and I grabbed as much water as I could get. I even had a half of a banana half-way through the hills in hopes the potassium might be the issue. But at that point it was too late.

I know now what to expect when I get that precursor feeling again and hopefully I will work out a plan on dealing with that issue in future runs so as not to experience that again.

So as I proceeded, I did my best to stretch my legs and it took time for each cramp to settle before I could walk again. I found it helped to limit the length of my stride to lower the frequency of them. But despite this, the problem was with me for the rest of the run. I have a renewed respect for the challenges fellow runners face on the course. I found that being forced to stop within close range of the finish line was a real battle between my mind and body.

I have to say I was extremely relieved when the race was over. The first 15k was by far the best part of the race for me.

I had everything ready for the course. Or, so I believed. The night before I created my race mixture of dates, chia seeds and maple syrup. I had used that successfully on my 27K trial ATB run the previous weekend with a weak mixture of gatoraid in my water supply. This time I upped the caloric content from my trial run in which I took the following:

  • 7 tbsp of chia seeds (350cal)
  • 350 calories of dates
  • 2+ tablespoons of maple syrup

At about 28K I was totally “sick” of  my running fuel and the previous 4-5k I had a hard time eating it. I ended throwing out about 1/8 of what I took as the bag I had it in was ripped. I am going to need to clearly work on that for my future races. As I was recovering from illness earlier on in the week and a few late nights working this may have been a contributing factor in the onset of the leg cramps.

Running provides so many opportunities to grow from its hard earned lessons. I find that learning from these lessons helps throughout all areas of life. I decided to run the race a bit beyond my capabilities to challenge myself. I knew I could do it based on my training trials but I have to admit it was close to the edge of what was possible at this point. I almost pulled it off. While it would have been an amazing experience to finish strong with a perfect plan execution, I ended up leaving — the Around the Bay race — as a better runner. I am very thankful for that.

I hope every one who ran yesterday really had a great time.

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