Around The Bay Relay Race Report

This report is a little late, especially considering that Kenny, Emma, Nicole, Robin and Patty seemed to publish their race reports within minutes of the race! But better late than never! I wasn’t sure I was going to write a report on this race since it was “only” 15km, but running the Around The Bay relay was such a new and unique experience that I thought I had to share it.

I’ve run Around The Bay four times before. It’s definitely an iconic and challenging race and it seems that the “who’s-who” of Ontario distance running comes out to this race. However, the course is rather punishing and year after year I find myself licking my wounds in early April when I should be ramping up to the real goal race.

So, way back in November, I registered with my buddy Amar to do the 2-person Around The Bay Relay. It sold out not long after that. Amar did he second half of a 2-person relay last year, so he was keen to try the first half.

I was down with a bad flu shortly the whole week before the race. On the Friday before the race I was worried I was dying and warned Amar I might have to back out. By Friday evening I was starting to feel quite well.


Team Soar Results

Date Event Checkpoint Chip Time Gun Time
2015/03/29 Around The Bay 15km (Amar) 1:27:31 1:35:49
2015/03/29 Around The Bay 15km (Paul) 1:42:29 3:18:16.4
2015/03/01 Around The Bay 30km (overall) 3:09:58.3 3:18:16.4



On Saturday, the day before the race, I came up with a crazy idea. When running through the Relay Exchange Areas in previous years, I noticed that it would be hard to identify your partner in the mass of people. So, I thought of making some sort of flag so that Amar could see me. That idea evolved into putting a cowbell on the end of a stick so that it would make noise too.

“Presenting my latest invention: Cowbell on a stick!! (patent pending) Go ATB relay tomorrow! (and yes, I’m feeling much better)”. Caption from my Facebook post sharing this photo.

But, what’s better than one cowbell? TWO COWBELLS!!

“Wait! New and improved! What’s better than one cowbell on a stick? TWO cowbells in a stick! Cowbell On A Stick 2.0!! (patent pending). Look for me and the cowbells at ATB tomorrow at the 15k relay handoff point.” Caption from my Facebook post sharing this photo

Coming up with such a goofy idea was probably a good sign that I was feeling better.



Actually getting to the race was a comedy of errors that worked out for the best in most cases.

First, since most of the group thought I was dying from some asian flu, most of them refused to ride in the same car as me during the carpool to the race. My constant refrain has been “rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

Next, the muffler on my car broke two days before the race. It sounded like a muscle car. I know that some people pay lots of money to make their cars sound like that, but I wasn’t comfortable driving it to Hamilton. I took it into the shop on Saturday morning and they gave me a loaner car. The car wasn’t in much better shape but it would have to do since most of the group was afraid I’d infect them. I wound up driving Amar and Javaid in my car.

On the drive to Hamilton, Javaid realized he’d forgotten two things: His coffee and his Garmin! He left is coffee at home, so we stopped at a Tim Horton’s Drive-Thru. That wasn’t a big deal, but his forgotten watch was a little harder to replace. We tried giving Javaid many tidbits of advice like running by feel or following a pacer. Javaid wound up setting an astoundingly impressive PB breaking his old PB from last year by about 30 minutes! Amar and I think he should forget the watch for all his future races, lol.

And then we got lost getting to Copps Coliseum the FirstOntario Centre. After all these years you’d think I’d have the route memorized. We missed our exit, and wound up in Ancaster or something. After turning around we followed the GPS on my phone that took us on an unusual route into Hamilton. Ironically, it led is to a public parking lots that was much closer to FirstOntario Centre than we’ve ever been before! And it was only $7! WIN!

We made it to our planned meeting spot. We never quite got everyone together for a group picture, but oh well. It was also nice to see quite a number of DailyMile friends in the same section including Nicole, Patty, Sam, Emma, Peter and Irina.

Go cowbell!
Tracey, Athena, and Kathy. “Nav’s Angels”


Some happy faces from the Square One Running Room. I regret we couldn’t get everyone in one pictures, but we were all over the place


Me and Amar. Team “SOAR”



I left the FirstOntario Centre shortly after 9am and made my way to the buses. I squeezed onto the first bus going to the 15k mark. In retrospect, I should have gone to a bus further back.

The folks on the bus were quite friendly. The gentleman sitting beside me had done ATB a few times but did the relay because he knew the winter would be bad. Some ladies in the aisle across from me were new to Around The Bay, but were thinking they’d wind up walking most of the route.

The bus got us to the 15k point before 9:30am, so before the race even began. A volunteer came aboard and told us the relay handoff point was about 100 meters behind us, to which one person hilariously quipped “We have to walk?!

I was worried about having to stand outside for up to 2 hours, but we were allowed to sit on the bus for most of it. I almost felt a little silly sitting on a warm bus while I knew people, including my relay partner Amar, were already running. I went outside once use the nearby porta-poties.


Selfie at the relay point long before anyone got there
All quiet by the lift bridge, for now
Buses full of relay runners

The lead runners came by the bus around 45 minutes after the gun went off. It was interesting to see the elites sprinting.

Around an hour after the gun went off the kicked us off the bus because they needed it to take people that had finished back to the start.

I was glad I was very bundled up waiting. I had to jackets on as well as a scarf, toque and two pairs of gloves. My cowbells on a stick were fun, but the ringing part in the cowbells kept getting stuck so I had to keep fixing it. I got to see a lot of familiar faces run by, which was nice!

I remember seeing one young lady who got to the relay exchange point and kept walking up and down. Apparently she couldn’t find her partner. I don’t know if her partners was still on a bus or got on a wrong bus, but it was not a nice situation.

Amar came almost right as scheduled, shortly after the 3:00 pacer around 1:30. He actually made really good time. They had the relay people start behind the main crowd and he didn’t cross the start line until almost 8 minutes after the gun, so he must have been passing people like crazy to get as far ahead as he did.

We passed off the timing chip without hurry. I laced it into the top layers of my shoe to make sure it didn’t fall out.

He said it was really warm and told me to get off any layers I could. I had brought a bag with clothes Amar wanted to put on after his leg, so I stuffed my jackets and such in there. I was glad to ditch the layers because minutes into the race I was overheating. In fact, it was so sunny that I feel like I got a tan during the race!



I wasn’t quite warmed up because I wanted to make sure I was standing by when Amar arrived. So I started kinda slowly. I had barely run in a long time because of the cruise and the cold, so it was an odd sensation when my muscles warmed up. I was almost as if I could feel the capillaries in my calves opening up for the first time in a month.

Starting the race at 15k was an odd experience. Amar had me in the thick of runners who were aiming for 3 hours, so most of the people around me at the time were much faster. I was okay getting passed right and left. Given my lack of training at that point, I was happy to enjoy the beautiful day as a 15km training run. And I was hoping to do the back 15km in about 1:45 with 10-and-1’s. I seldom even looked at my Garmin and just went by feel.

Around the 21km mark (6km for me) was when the relay effect really started to show. I was finally warmed up, but people around me were struggling, BADLY! There was a nasty headwind, but I was overheating a bit so it was quite welcome for me. I saw a lot of people limping, struggling up the hills, and even telling each other they were hurting. I had just started so I was zipping up the hills happily.

I almost wanted to encourage those around me, but I knew I looked fresh and had the “relay” tab on my back so I decided it may not be welcome.

I had mixed feelings when we didn’t turn onto the road that leads to Valley Inn Road. There was a gentleman standing there and I jokingly said “I thought we turn here!” The new route was pretty boring, but it was nice to see Stan, the little guy playing rock and roll music at a new point. I had the same wistful mixed feelings when we passed the top of Valley Inn Road.

In the final stretch, there were a lot of people struggling badly. They had run almost 30k, and I only did about 15km. But, I didn’t feel bad. It was nice to get the finish line experience for ATB without running all the way around the bay.

The clock said 3:18 when I crossed the finish line. Our stats say our combined time was closer to 3:09, which I think is pretty respectable. I’m very happy with my leisurely 1:42 15km.


Team “Soar” with our relay medals after the Around The Bay relay



After the race my illness finally manifest itself and I coughed for about 5 minutes. It was kinda scary. I was glad the cough didn’t affect me during the race at least.

After getting BOTH medals, I made my way to our meeting point and gave Amar his medal. He said he felt weird being in the stadium surrounded by people with medals and he didn’t have his, yet.

Some Square One Running Room runners after Around The Bay 2015. We didn’t get everyone together. Maybe next year.

I quite enjoyed doing the relay. I didn’t feel worn out by the distance and still got the best of the Around The Bay experience. I might even do it again next year as a relay depending on my training goals at the time.

Around The Bay relay medal. Same size as the 30k medals but this one was silver! My first ATB silver medal (okay, maybe all the relay medals are silver, but still :p)



5 years of Around The Bay 30k medals (4 and half times around the bay)
5 years of Around The Bay 30k medals (4 and half times around the bay)

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  1. […] came in March, but the training season has one more month left in it. The Around The Bay relay is behind me and now I’m in for a grueling month to get ready for the Goodlife Fitness […]


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