March 26, 2013

Around The Bay 2013 Race Report – Pacer Redemption!

by pyrad
Categories: Race Report
Tags: ,
Comments: 9 Comments

Before anything else, I want to say thank you to everyone who has been so supportive! I have been beating myself up since the failure at Chilly, but you were all very supportive and encouraging! I love the recreational running community!

Date Event Goal Time Chip Time Gun Time
2013/03/24 Around The Bay 30k 3:30:00 3:30:10.5 3:35:32.2

So many things went well during this race! I’m almost beside myself with happiness. My whole clinic had really good 30k runs. I got to meet A LOT of fellow runners. And, I successfully paced Around The Bay in 3:30.

A little while ago, I was looking over my Facebook profile and noticed a great quote I posted a couple of years ago. In January 2011 when the Canadians lost the World Junior Hockey Championship, Earl McRae wrote this great line:

If you’re okay with accepting the tumultuous accolades that come with victory, then you have to accept the avalanche of criticism that comes with ignominious defeat

I feel like I got this in reverse: I heaved an avalanche of criticism on myself after my failure at Chilly, so I feel a little justified to accept some self-affirming tumultuous accolades for this ATB success.

This is my third time doing Around The Bay. I had forgotten that I wrote a detailed report last year too. This race it doesn’t get much less intimidating each time. The rolling hills are always there, but my clinic did a good training run in that area a couple of weeks ago to prepare.

I take pacing very seriously. Take a look at what I did to my pacer sign: Custom Paceband, schedule of walk breaks, list of water stations and a topographic map! And I brought some extra pacebands for the rest of my group too!

Back of my pacer sign with lots of info
Back of my pacer sign with lots of info

I wasn’t sure how to dress for this race. It’s been super cold all winter, so anything above freezing seems downright tropical. The forecast several days out was that it would be 5 degrees Celsius. The night before the race, the forecast dropped dramatically and showed a windchill below zero. That wasn’t what race day felt like!

Before the race I had decided on two layers: a long-sleeve tech shirt with a short-sleeve tech shirt above it. I regret that decision because I had to do a “wardrobe change” half-way through the run. However, I was very glad to have two layers of gloves.

Geared up before ATB2013
Geared up before ATB2013

My cold that haunted me at Chilly was finally gone, or at least, in remission. I also got a ridiculously good night sleep the night before. I was in bed by 7:30pm. There was still sunlight! There were so may other things I could have done that night (including a party), but I have my priorities.



I was very glad to share this experience with my marathon clinic from the Square One Running Room. For a lot of them, it was their first Around The Bay, or first time doing 30km at all!

Square One Running Room marathon clinic and friends before Around The Bay 30k 2013. Slightly edited.
Square One Running Room marathon clinic and friends before Around The Bay 30k 2013. Slightly edited.

And, I got to meet a lot of runners that I converse with online. Long list! Patty S., Macnic, Emma I., Phil-A-Matic Morris, Sam and other’s I’m probably forgetting. And I got to meet the blogger of Running With Spatulas, Ali Mc! I attached a spatula to my pacer sign so that I could run the race as an official “Spatula Runner.” Ironically, the spatula came in handy. The pole for my sign is really small and hard to hold, but the spatula made the handle larger and more comfortable to hold!


Me with the Running With Spatulas Queen herself, Ali Mc (photo by Ali Mc)
Me with the Running With Spatulas Queen herself, Ali Mc (photo by Ali Mc)

I headed to the starting corral just after 9am. A fun part about holding a pacer sign means it’s easy for people to find me. J Pierre Mihok found me and I met him in person for the first time. A nice group collected around me. Someone said she recognized me as a pacer from Chilly… then she shook her head and left. However, there was someone else who said she recognized me as the pacer at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last fall and she remembered that I did well. A little bit of good with bad. I started the race with 4 people from my clinic, and at least 20 others.

Sea of runners collecting before the race (photo by Bob Didier)
Sea of runners collecting before the race (photo by Bob Didier)



The first 10km of the race were quite crowded and seemed all over the place. Macnic who eventually finished in less than 2:53 passed me around 2km. She must have started way far back. The seeding must have been very odd because the 3:20 pacer passed me around 3km in. So confusing! Someone said it was a “convergence of bunnies.”

I was definitely going a little faster than the 6:40 min/km walk-adjusted running pace (7:00 min/km total average). I had a little plan to bank some time for the difficult part that would come later in the course.

Apparently a lot of people got stuck where the train tracks meet Woodward Avenue around 9km. It was cleared before my pace group got there, but I’m sure this will be talked about for a long time. Kenny Yum has a great post talking about the train delay and summarizing some timely tweets.

Patty Scott arrived there when the rail crossing arms were already lowering. She told her friend to RUN LIKE HELL and they cross the tracks in front of the train. Crazy! Outrunning the train needs to become a new running meme!

And the Around The Bay posted an apology about the train incident on their Facebook page.

I hit 10km at 1:13:14 gun time. Because I crossed the start line 5:22 after the gun, I calculate that my pace group crossed the 10k mark around 1:07:52, banking a cool 2:08 on the comfortable downhill.



The long stretch heading to the left bridge was pretty boring. It was unusually quiet. At this point several of the people that started with me began to creep ahead. I knew what pace I wanted so I let them go. I was starting to feel really warm though. It cooled off a bit as we got closer to the water, but not cool enough for my comfort.

By my calculations, we hit the 15k mark around 1:42:16 and had now banked 2 minutes and 44 seconds. I knew we were going to need it.

When we got near the lift bridge after the 15km mark, someone told me a funny story. She said that many years ago, the lift bridge was unexpectedly up during the race when the leaders got there! Apparently there was a ship in distress in Lake Ontario that year and someone had ordered the bridge up. The story goes that the lead runners couldn’t continue and ran back to the start but were disqualified for not completing the route properly. We didn’t know about the train delay, so the story is even more ironic now.

I had a pack of my trusty Honey Stingers around 9km, and other about 18km. I had forgotten how thirsty you get when you eat them!

At one point during this stretch, some of the people pacing noticed the topographic map that I had taped to my sign. Some of the questions were “is that accurate?” and “we have to climb that mountain?” I continually warned the group that we were ahead of pace on purpose because of what I knew was coming.

Just after 16km, I did something I’ve never done before during a race: A wardrobe change. I stopped during a scheduled walk break, took off both my shirts and just kept my short sleeve t-shirt. I left the long-sleeve tech shirt on the side of the road beside the 16km sign. I didn’t believe I was racing in a t-shirt in March.

We reached the 20km checkpoint at 2:22:53.0, or chip time of about 2:17:31, leaving 2:29 in the bank. I warned the group that I was going to be actively slowing down because of the hills and eating up the bank.



I’ve done this route a few times, and it’s still tough. The first long run up North Shore Blvd is tough. You almost feel like you’re barely moving. At the top of one of the hills, there was a radio blasting the Rocky Theme. Very appropriate!

3:30 pace group. Not sure where this was, but you can see Ali Mc's husband Colin behind me.
3:30 pace group. Not sure where this was, but you can see Ali Mc’s husband Colin behind me.

Over the next few kilometres, I lost most of my pace group. I could hear that a lot of them were struggling on the level ground, and it only got worse when the terrain got harder. I also noticed that some moved ahead while I was slowing down. Good for them!

I noticed that thinking gets really hard when you’re tired and running low. We were coming up on the historic 16-mile milestone that someone pointed out to me a couple of weeks before. I was trying to convert 16 miles to kilometres and having a really, really hard time! I was carrying the 3, then something didn’t add up right… so confused!

There was a point where I kinda forgot how to pace. I had set my lovely new Garmin 410 to beep for the 10-and-1 intervals. Somewhere after 23km my watch beeped and I looked at it confused, like why are you beeping? It took a moment for me to realize, OH WALK BREAK!

Lots of other fun delirium during this stretch. My right shoulder was starting to feel weird and stiff. I was confused and didn’t know why. Then I realized I had been holding the pacer sign in my right hand the whole race. Oops!

Ooh, and I advised my whole pace group that we have to high-five the guy playing rock music right before Valley Inn Road. It’s tradition!

Running with the pacer ears always gets interesting reactions from the crowd. Some know about the pace bunny program and cheered on the “3:30” pace group. One lady even said “follow that handsome bunny!” Handsome? I should have asked for a phone number! Some people thought it was just an Easter-themed thing. I guess bunny ears are timely for this time of year.

With some time banked, I was tempted to stop into Easterbrook’s Hot Dog Stand around 25km. There were a couple of familair faces from the Square One Running Room who were there to cheer us on! Thank you!!



After purposely slowing a lot during the rolling hills, I only had about 1 minute left in the bank when we reached the famous Valley Inn Road. The pace group that used to be about 30 had thinned to less than 5 at this point.

I know I may get some flack for this, but I walked up Valley Inn Road. I started running and realized that I was just going to lose everyone. I told the others that the master plan all along was to bank this time early in the race so that we would be able to walk Valley Inn Road. We power-walked up the hill at a 9min/km pace and passed a lot of people. Once we got to the top, we were able to take off again without being too winded.

On York Street heading to Copps Coliseum (photo by Bob Didier)
On York Street heading to Copps Coliseum (photo by Bob Didier)

I was really tired by this point. I knew that I had used up all of the time we had banked and may have even been a few seconds behind. But I pushed hard to keep to the 6:40 min/km and even a little faster. I should have read my little topographic map more closely because it’s still uphill until after the big bridge at 28km. I was wondering why I was struggling to keep pace!

Passed the grim reaper and started passing a lot of people on the final stretch on York Street towards the finish.

Once I got back on pace, I started encouraging people to pass me! Because if they passed me they would beat 3:30! Kind of the opposite mentality of what most people do during a race.

Crossing the finish line
Crossing the finish line

In the final stretch I caught up with a couple of people from my clinic. I took one last scheduled walk break and looked intently at my watch. I was so close to 3:30, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be ahead or behind 3:30. I managed to cross the finish line with a chip time of 3:30:10. I’d say 10 seconds off is pretty accurate!


As I crossed the finish line, the announced called out my name and noted that I was the 3:30 pacer. Right after I got stopped by JOHN STANTON for an interview! I was kinda still delirious and almost forgot my name. He asked me about the train, and I said that I didn’t see it. He also talked to John from my clinic, and John praised me for pacing well.

I want to extend a huge thank you to all the volunteers, organizers and spectators that make this race so special! There’s a lot of love put into this event, and it shows!

Goofing off after ATB 2013 (photo by Bob Didier)
Goofing off after ATB 2013 (photo by Bob Didier)

Finishing the race, I realized I couldn’t go much faster if I wanted to. This was all my body had to give this year. With a little Gatorade and a pack of Honey Stingers I could have gone on much further at this pace, probably at least another 12.2km…

I’m really happy that things went well. This success has put some wind back in my sails and buoyed my confidence, a lot! I feel a little bit of pacer redemption after Chilly.

And I’m also really proud of everyone from my clinic. A lot of new PB’s especially for those who have never run 30k before!

Around The Bay 3-peat medals!
Around The Bay 3-peat medals!

I’m looking forward to pacing the Mississauga Marathon in 4:45 on May 5! I have less than 6 weeks to go, but I think I can do it!



Comments closed


  1. Ali Mc says:

    LOL what a great pacer redemption recap!!! I loved reading it 🙂 I am still giggling about that lady that shouted out that you were handsome and you thought you should ask for her phone number LOL 🙂 … should’ve!

    I am so glad the spatula added sign gripping advantages for you 😉 they are fun to run with, I’m not lying. Great photos and great performance. I love everything about this recap. Great Job Paul! You should feel very proud. PS: can we see these john stanton interviews??

  2. Andrea says:

    Congrats on your redemption! I’ve never followed a pacer before as I often run 5/1’s, but I’m considering it for the Goodlife Half. It’s interesting (and reassuring) to see how much prep you put into it.

    • Thank you Andrea! I’m not sure if all pacers are as prepped as me. I might be an exception.
      Maybe I’ll see you at HRSO!

      • Prudence says:

        Paul! Long overdue! Congratulations! Redemption – You are Awesome!!! Thank you for responding to me about the ATB 2013 Race! And for your helpful advice on the last 10K! Ran the race, and it was fun! I ended up passing the 3 hour pace bunny, my net time was 3hrs and 5 seconds – yes, I got stopped by the train for 4 minutes. Like you, I still had energy to spare for another 12.2K! Now how did that happened? Too bad, I did not get to meet you, it was jam packed that morning. However, I want to wish you well and you’re gonna Rock next week at the Mississauga Marathon! Any chance of you doing Road to Hope later on?.

  3. Robin says:

    Congrats on the great pacing job/run! Well done. Great race report as well.

  4. Hong says:

    Must feel awesome to have redemption! congrats again Paul!

  5. […] run Around The Bay four times before. It’s definitely an iconic and challenging race and it seems that the […]