Race Report: Don’t Get Lost Raid the Hammer Adventure Run 2016

When I woke up the morning of the race, I wondered if my pre-race dreams were foreshadowing how the day would unfold. Would I find my teammate? Would my map be complete? Would I figure out where I was on the map? Only time would tell.

After taking the Don’t Get Lost Navigation 101 clinic in October, I decided that I wanted to enter the Raid the Hammer Adventure Run, but I wasn’t sure how to find a team! I quite easily recruited my husband, and after putting out an all points bulletin asking for 1 adventurous friend to join us, Rebecca was in! The three of us had raced together twice before in sprint triathlons as team ARK de TRIumph, and knew we would have fun no matter what happened!

This was to be my 3rd orienteering race (the first two being Don’t Get Lost X-League weeknight 30 minute races), and the very 1st for Alasdair and Rebecca.And this year marks the 50th year of adventure racing in the Hamilton area. We signed up for the Half Raid, a 12k race (“as the crow flies”) which would likely take us between 2 and 4 hours to complete, with the average being about 3 hours. Essentially, we would have to get from Point A to Point B while finding a whole bunch of controls (checkpoints) on our way using a map, compass, and some good old common sense.

Several days before the race we learned that the “finish” location would be Saltfleet High School in Stoney Creek, but we didn’t know where we would start from. A couple of days before the race, Felker’s Falls Conservation Area was announced as being the best location for spectators.

On race morning, Alasdair and I met Rebecca at Saltfleet at 8:30 AM, where we would pick up our race kits, get pre-race instructions, and be bussed to the start line. We each arrived with the required individual gear, including a compass, a whistle, an emergency blanket, a permanent marker, a toque and water, and I had the required team gear, a first aid kit. We didn’t know if all teams would get the map at the same time, or whether it would be advantageous to arrive at the start of race kit pick-up. Since we did get our map right away, we had more than an hour to plan our attack!

At race kit pick-up we received 3 maps each (!), 1 overview sheet describing the challenges and the controls (e.g. in a valley, or in the corner of a field), a legend of map symbols, a plastic sleeve to hold the maps, a race bib, a Sport Ident timing chip to be worn on one teammates’s finger, food tickets and a pair of technical socks each!


We grabbed a section of table and 3 chairs in the cafeteria and started trying to figure out exactly where we were on the map and what it was we needed to do to get to the finish line. We learned that we would need to stay within 25 m of each other at all times (and within eyesight), and at certain checkpoints be even closer. Alasdair said that he would just do what we told him to do.

With 3 distinct sections of the race (covered by one map each), we set to figuring out what we thought our best route would be. We weren’t sure if we should take some bearings and write them on the map as a group near us seemed to be doing. In the end we only wrote on the maps that 1 cm = 50 m or whatever the scale was, since the scale changed between maps. For controls 1 to 5 (map 1), we would be in a forest, and would need to find these controls in order. For controls A to F, we would be in a sports park, and would need to split up to cover 5 of the 6 controls between the three of us, arriving at F together. For controls 6 to 13, we would be in the forest and then fields, and would have to do the controls in order, choosing between two 8s, and finding a mystery 9 and 10 along the Bruce Trail. Finally, we needed to arrive at the finish together.

There was a bit of confusion due to a printing error on the instruction sheet (wrong control numbers), but that was straightened out during the pre-race briefing. We also learned that for controls A to F we actually had to stay together, but only had to do 5 of the 6 and could do them in any order. By this point, all our questions had been answered and we were pretty much ready to go!

We boarded the school buses with everyone else at 9:45, and after a short drive, arrived at a small parking lot. Alasdair, Rebecca and I each wore a camelbak, with all the gear we needed plus some food to snack on (a banana, granola bars, and almonds with M&Ms for me).

On the school bus en route to the start line.

Like a few others, I had to pee, so I ran into the bush and returned ready to go! It wasn’t long before the race started – the most anti-climactic race start I’ve ever experienced. No gun, no horn, no 3-2-1 countdown, just a few hundred people starting to run!

Start to Control 5 (Escarpment Challenge)

Since everyone was heading for control 1, we were a big mass of runners at first, but it didn’t take too long for the speedy experienced navigators to lose the slower newbie ones. And despite how easy we thought it would be to find the first control, it wasn’t long before we were trying to figure out exactly where we were and where we needed to be. Before race day, Rebecca and I ran 100 m and counted the number of steps it took us to get there, so that we could estimate our pace (every 2 steps) for 1 m. Our pace counts were similar, and we practised counting from the beginning of the race. It really helped us to know how far away the next control or turning point or landmark was. It took us 15 minutes to find the first control, but only 8 to find the second. We got into a groove after that and things were going well! At each control, since I was wearing the timing chip, I had to be the one to stick it into the chip reader. I made sure I heard a beep so I knew it recorded our arrival!

Control 5 to F (Sprint and Scramble)

We had a game plan in place for which of the lettered controls we planned to find, but when we reached the park and clued in to just how close they all were together, we changed it up. We went for A, B, C, E and F, giving a pass on D. None of these were too hard to find, but I was starting to feel my legs from having run the Road2Hope 1/2 marathon just 7 days prior. We didn’t need our compass for any of these, just the map. And these ones didn’t have electronic timing chip readers – instead, we had to use hole punches to prove that we arrived at the controls.

Control F to 8 (Waterfalls and Fork’n Hills)

Things were going well, we were having fun, and no massive arguments had broken out as to which way we should be going! As we left Mohawk Sports Park and crossed the road to go back into the woods, my compass (dangling from my waist) snagged on a metal road barrier and broke. Alasdair offered me his and we were on our way again. It was at this point that we made our biggest mistake of the day: we didn’t listen to Alasdair. I know, I know, he said he was going to just do what we told him to do, but this isn’t exactly how things played out. Alasdair suggested following the road to control 6, but Rebecca and I were sure that following the trails was the better bet. Alasdair agreed to follow our route, but we quickly became confused as to which trail we were on.

We reached a cliff and knew that we had to descend it to reach the checkpoint, but it looked very steep. So we carefully picked our way down, and did a silly pose for the cameraman who was at the bottom – Alasdair suggested that we each point in different directions, so that’s what we did. We found the control, and then just could not reconcile the landscape with the map. Alasdair was sure which way to go. Rebecca was sure it was a different way. I couldn’t make the map fit. And then Rebecca heard someone say that this was control 7, not 6 as we believed. That explained it! And, our error forced us to climb back up the escarpment at that very steep point!! Had we been following along with the descriptions of the controls as we went (or had we listened to Alasdair), we would not have made this mistake. It clearly said that “The route to CP7 can be treacherous.” Lesson learned!

We climbed back up the escarpment, confusing several teams as they made their way down. We found control 6, where you had to record the initials of the person to whom the bench is a memorial, rather than check in using a timing chip. This was also the aid station, so I enjoyed some gatorade, pretzels, and smarties! There were also bananas and a salty snack mix. One volunteer recorded our team number, and another verified that we were carrying a whistle.

As we headed to control 7 (again), we encountered Dr. Waddington and his team, who Alasdair spotted before the race started at the high school – Dr. Waddington was Alasdair’s 1st year physics professor at McMaster in 1992! Apparently he looks the same now as he did then (he’s actually in my picture above of us on the bus – he and his wife are right behind us). Later I learned that this is the same man who I follow on Facebook, who along with his wife, have spent the past 40 years hiking and canoeing across Canada to find the sites of some of the most famous paintings done by the Group of Seven. If you’re interested, check out their Facebook group or this Hamilton Spectator article. And by the way, while his team was walking, and we were running, we were essentially progressing at the same pace, with their far superior navigational skills!

By control 8 we realized the utility of control descriptions, and consulted the sheet for the rest of the race! There were actually 2 control 8s, and we had to choose which one we wanted to look for. We ended up searching for it with Dr. Waddington and his team, as well as a team of 3 ladies. It took a while, but we eventually found it (after Dr. Waddington, of course!) on the edge of a creek down yet another steep hill. Lucky me with the timing chip, I had to climb down the rockfall and back up a muddy hill to re-join my team. I learned after the race, when I re-read the race instructions, that we were actually supposed to “hand touch” each control as a team. In other words, each person had to actually arrive at all the controls. We missed this before the race began, and found that this is not what other teams around us were doing. Some were clearly sending a teammate (far) ahead to reach a control, then rejoining each other somewhere else. Perhaps a clear mention in the pre-race briefing would help newbies like us who want to follow the rules, but were slightly overwhelmed with everything to read and figure out before the race began.

Control 8 to 10 (Walk the Line)

Controls 9 and 10 were in mystery locations along the Bruce Trail, so as we ran (and Alasdair stumbled and fell – again) we looked left and right, not quite sure whether the controls would be right on the trail, or slightly off it. We figured they would be obvious, otherwise it would take forever. We had run quite a ways without finding 9, and wondered if we had missed it (there was a mention by the race organizers before the race that one had gone missing, and if we couldn’t find it, to just continue). Eventually we spotted a control, and confirmed with the group of 3 ladies that it was the first mystery one they had spotted too. A volunteer here jotted down our team number. And we were off to 10. This one was also easy to find.

Along the Bruce Trail. Note the messy hair, the timing chip on my finger, and the fact that I’m holding the map perfectly for the shot (you can read the text clearly)!

Control 10 to Finish (Air Photo Finish)

As an added challenge, trails on the map between controls 11 and 12 were removed. And controls 12 and 13 were on an “air photo” rather than a topographical map. Control 11 wasn’t hard to find, but wasn’t easy to get to either. We followed the rules, navigating around the cliffs rather than going down and up them, but other teams did not. I spotted 12 and then we were off to find our very last control before the finish. There were at least 4 teams crossing the big field at the same time trying to find it, and we all pretty much arrived at it – adjacent to a dog park – at the same time. Then it was just a run back to the school and a final check in at the finish “line” control. My legs were pretty tired by this point, so when Alasdair suggested we sprint, I told him, “This is my sprint.”

We arrived at the finish line, which like the start was also very anticlimactic. I’m used to the cheering crowds of running races and triathlons!

We made it to the finish! See that orange and white thing? That’s what all the controls looked like.
Team ARK de TRIumph post-race!

Race stats:

Time: 3:10:47 (my watch had us at 3:08, so not sure where the extra 2 minutes comes from)

Placing: 35/50 open teams (not junior)

The winning team finished in 1:45:12 – wow!

Once we were done, we checked out the 2 food trucks providing post-race food for athletes (and food for purchase for spectators) – I never did eat any of the food I had packed for myself, just a few pretzels and smarties on the course. I ordered the Peachy Blonde from the Jonny Blonde food truck, grabbed – and downed – an iced tea, went inside to return our timing chip, and went back outside to wait for my food. I took it inside to eat in the cafeteria with Alasdair and Rebecca. My chicken/peach/brie on homemade flatbread was delicious!


Lessons Learned

  • In future events like this, I would write control descriptions right on my map.
  • If the landscape around me doesn’t match the map, I will assume that I am likely not where I think I am and should reassess!
  • I can get through a 3 hour race without having to pee (me!).
  • Sometimes men are right.

In summary, we had tons of fun!! The race was very well organized, the volunteers on the course were great, the aid station snacks were yummy, the free socks were a bonus, and the environment was very welcoming. There were some excellent photos taken too (note: individual shots of us, above, were taken by the race photographers, as was the one of everyone at tables near the top). I highly recommend this race, and would definitely like to do it again next year! (Final note: I fixed my compass!)

Race report: MEC Burlington Race # 2 — 1/2 marathon

When I realized that I couldn’t register for the Waterloo 1/2 marathon (great small race! check it out!) this spring due to a basketball conflict, I looked around for other local races and settled on MEC Burlington’s Race #2 at Confederation Park in Hamilton, which offered 5k, 10k and 21.1k distances. I had never done an MEC race before, but for $15, I decided to try one of their small, low key, no frills races.

“Race central”

Alasdair was to have run with me, but he’s still rehabbing a calf injury. In the end, it turns out he couldn’t even come to watch (instead, he spent the day driving to Awenda Provincial Park and back!), so this was to be the first time I had raced alone and had no fans cheering for me!

I arrived at Confederation Park in Hamilton at 8 AM, with the race set to start at 9 AM. The weather forecast was looking great, with a sun/cloud mix and the temperature around 10 degrees Celsius. After picking up my race bib, I lined up for my timing chip. It was my first experience securing a timing chip to my shoe with twist ties (they held)!

To keep costs down, MEC reuses these timing chips

Given the no frills nature of this race, there was no “race kit” with sample products. I was just grateful that there were sufficient toilets! And real ones at that – no portapotties.

Since I didn’t know anyone at the race (Reid Coolsaet, Canadian Olympic marathoner there to do the 10k, and I aren’t exactly on a first name basis), I mostly hung out at the car. It wasn’t long before the race began! I was hoping for my 1st ever sub 2 hour 1/2 marathon, but wasn’t holding out hope. The closest I’ve been is 2:00:32 on a flat and downhill course (the Road2Hope). This course had no run down the Red Hill Valley Parkway to help me!

The first bit of the race course was a small loop through the parking lot, including a thick gravel section that wasn’t so fun to run on. Then we seemed to do another loop before running through back sections of Confederation Park that I’ve never been to before. I was grateful to find a portapotty at the 5k mark, which came at about 28 minutes for me. So far, so good for a sub 2 hour race. One runner was questioning out loud whether we were going the right way. Eventually we made our way onto the Waterfront Trail, and ran along there for what seemed like forever, occasionally through thick patches of tiny black bugs (somehow, I managed to avoid swallowing any, though I did have to wipe one off my lip!)! I was glad that I had listened to the pre-race course description – I found some of it confusing, and couldn’t hear all of it, but I did hear that we would run all the way to the lighthouse on the pier. At least I had something to focus on in the very distant horizon! I dealt with some side stitches as I ran, but they didn’t get too bad. I chatted with another runner for a bit – she asked me if I had been sent running the wrong way near the beginning by race marshals too, but I still don’t know if I ran the extra 400m she did. I just followed the people in front of me!

I didn’t really get a good look at the course map before the race either, so I wasn’t very familiar with the details. As I ran I hoped we wouldn’t be ending with the various loops we did at the start. Near the 45 minute mark I started looking for a water station, so that I could have my gel and down it with a cup of water. As I continued along and realized that we weren’t turning around at the half-way point, I knew that we’d likely be running straight back to the finish line along the Waterfront Trail. At the 10k mark, I was at 56 minutes, so I was still on track for a sub 2 hour race.

I ran near the “wrong way woman” for a good chunk of the race, but just couldn’t hold on in the second half. With about 4 or 5 km to go, a man caught up to me and said, “This is getting hard, isn’t it?” and then, “I guess I won’t finish in 1st place after all. Let’s go for 2nd!” I was pretty ready to be done at that point! I was disappointed to find that there was no water left at the last water station (apparently they ran out of cups), because for once I had decided to run without my water bottle/belt. My pace started to slow, and by far my slowest km was the last one. I’m not sure at which point I realized that sub 2 hours wasn’t going to happen, and that I was just going to run as fast as I could (which felt very slow at that point!).

MEC Race 2
Crossing the finish line

I was disappointed with my 2:06:04.7 finish, but decided to take it as a training run and go for my sub 2 in the fall!

About to head home

I didn’t realize that there were bananas at the finish – or water! Thankfully I had lots of water left in the car, and headed home pretty much right away. I also didn’t realize that there were draw prizes, so I hadn’t put my race bib tear off strip thing in the container. Next time!

After I got in the car, I realized that I was bringing some dead bugs home with me!

Just a few of the many bugs I encountered!

An added bonus of this race series is that following the race, you can take your race bib to MEC Burlington and save 10% (race day only). So, you can bet I went there later in the day to replace my #epicfailboots!!

For a small, low key race, I have very few complaints. I would definitely do an MEC race again. I must say though that I prefer racing with someone else, or at least having someone to cheer me on!

Race Stats

Time: 2:06:04.7

Pace: 5:58 min/km

Overall: 62/80

Females 40-44: 5/8

Next up: 8 triathlons between June and September!!

Race Report: Good Friday Road Races 10-Miler

This was to be my 1st time running the Good Friday Road Races 10-Miler, put on by the Burlington Runners Club, but I wondered whether my right hip flexor was going to hold up…


At 6:30 AM my alarm went off, and by 7:30 I’d eaten my oatmeal and banana and Alasdair and I were on our way to Aldershot High School. The forecast was for a sunny 7-9 degrees Celsius during the race, but first, the fog needed to clear! It was so nice to even think about racing in shorts!! After a very short drive (no race is closer to home than this one!), Alasdair dropped me off at the high school, then went to park at LaSalle Park not too far away – parking at the high school was reserved for race volunteers. There was also the option to park at the Aldershot GO station and take a shuttle bus to the race start. Because of a calf injury Alasdair wasn’t racing, but I waited for him to return to the high school so we could pick up our race kits together. In the meantime, I people watched. We got our race kits (bib with embedded timing chip, a GFRR-branded toque, leaflets advertising other races, and sample natural health products, which are illegal, but we don’t all know the ins and outs of the Food and Drugs Act!) and then had lots of time to people watch some more.

A 1k Bunny Hop (a run, not a hop!) was to start at 8:50 AM, so there were lots of little people around wearing bib #1, and quite a few kids and adults wearing bunny ears. We spotted our next door neighbour, who would be running with his dad, and one of my soccer teammates with her husband and 2 girls, who would also be running. They were also participating in the 5k, with him pacing her! We went out to watch the Bunny Hop, which had the kids starting in “waves”, the oldest ones first and parents pushing strollers last. There were even Easter bunnies handing out chocolate eggs before and during the race! I wish I could run as fast as the race’s unofficial winner – 3:15 or thereabouts. All the kids got medals at the finish line.

We went back inside so that I could use the bathroom again, but with only 3 toilets for all the women (and kids!) there, the line-up was long (this is my only complaint about the entire race experience – opening up a bathroom in another part of the school, or at the attached pool would help!). After my turn, I went back to the end of the line, knowing I’d have to go one more time! Thankfully, the timing worked well  – after emptying a tiny pebble from my shoe (that would have been annoying for the race!), I headed right for the start line.

We watched the 5k race start at 9:30 AM, and then walked to the 10-miler start line (not too far away). It was here that I learned we’d be running 2 loops of a 5-mile (8k) route – if I knew that before this point, I had forgotten completely!

At the start line

I was glad to have grabbed my sunglasses, because just before the race was to start, the clouds began to clear! Alasdair wished me well, moved off the road, and less than 3 minutes later the race was on!

The race started downhill, but it wasn’t long before we were on the rolling hills of Northshore Boulevard, which also make up part of the Around the Bay (30k) race route (which we couldn’t run this year because of basketball conflicts). I didn’t have a time goal for this race, because I knew the hills would be tough and I wasn’t sure what pace I could hold. I knew that finishing in 1:30 would be an excellent time for me.

As usual, I started off too fast, with my first km done in 5:19. There were not a lot of spectators out on the course cheering, but there were lots of enthusiastic volunteers. On the first loop, I dealt with some side stitches, but they were never too bad. Close to the Royal Botanical Gardens was this guy, who suggested it was so easy we might want to do 3 loops. (This picture appeared in the Hamilton Spectator after last weekend’s Around the Bay, which he ran in – apparently he makes his own costumes and wears a different one for each race he enters. I wonder why the word “costume” appears on the bottom of the picture… as if anyone wouldn’t know?!)

Screen shot 2015-04-04 at 4.08.30 PM

Near the end of the 1st loop, I decided to have some gatorade at an aid station, and wouldn’t you know it, it was the one artificial flavour I can’t stand – orange! I downed it anyway, as I walked for about 10 seconds or so. I finished the first loop in 46:39, or about 5:49/km. I was not looking forward to doing the hills again!

Because of the course layout, Alasdair was able to see me multiple times during the race, which was nice!


The 2nd loop was unremarkable, really. My pace was slowing, but as usual, my legs weren’t the limiting factor – it was my cardio. I forced a gel down, though really didn’t feel like having one – I knew the energy may come in handy towards the end of the race! I ran for a while beside a man and a woman, and chatted a bit with them. There was a heavily tattooed man ahead of me, who every once in a while was taking walking breaks. But he kept looking behind him, and every time I narrowed the gap and got close, he started running again! It was actually good motivation to try not to lose him.  I grabbed another cup of gatorade at the same aid station as on the 1st loop, and walked for a few seconds while I drank it. This race had mile markers and km markers, but I mostly just listened to RunKeeper on my phone talking to me at every new km I reached.

In the last 100m of the race, I got a high five from a kid and an adult, and then ran down the hill to the finish line. In the end, I finished in 1:35:46, and my hip flexor didn’t bother me one bit (it had been giving me trouble in the last week or so). I was happy with my time. Because I’d never done this race before, it was an automatic PB for me! Just past the finish line, I received my medal and a bottle of water, and then I walked a bit while I waited for Alasdair to get back to the school.


We went inside, grabbed some food (including chocolate eggs – yum!, fruit, bagels and jam, cookies, bars of some sort, and awesome Oasis juice!), and were just in time for the awards ceremony.

Someone being goofy

The race winner finished in a blistering 58 minutes! The top woman finished in 63 minutes.

Later, when we were leaving the school, I looked for my results posted on a board, but not all results had been posted yet. I did find them on one of 3 iPads they had set up under a tent though. Neat!


I highly recommend this race – it’s got some challenging hills, and for the most part is along quiet side streets. Everything was well organized, from registration to email communication by the race organizers, to race kit pick-up. There were lots of volunteers on the course, and police where necessary to control traffic. I’ll be back!


Time: 1:35:46 (9:34 min/mile or 5:59 min/km)

Splits: 1st 8k – 46:39; 2nd 8k – 49:07

Overall place: 108/155

Gender place: 46/83

Age group place (women 40-49): 22/39

Race report: Grimsby 10k (or what was supposed to be a half marathon)

As Alasdair put it, today we out-toughed a half marathon.

With extreme cold weather alerts on tap this weekend, I was keeping an extra close eye on this morning’s predicted temperature in Grimsby. Yesterday, the forecast called for -21 degrees Celsius feeling like -28 with the windchill. This morning when we woke up at 6:30 AM, it looked like this:

Yes, that is -26 degrees C feeling like -35 with the windchill, with temperatures expected to rise in the morning to -24 degrees C feeling like -30 with the windchill.

At breakfast (oatmeal, yogurt and a banana for me), Alasdair mentioned that he wouldn’t be heartbroken if we didn’t race, but I’ve been training in the cold, wind, and snow all winter, and I wanted to race! I knew that if we dressed in lots of layers, we’d be fine! I wore long johns + racing pants + windbreaker pants on the bottom, and long johns + 3 running tops + 1 merino wool base layer + a running coat on top, plus a headband, balaclava (which I didn’t actually use to cover my face – wasn’t needed), fleece hat, and 2 pairs of running gloves. I also had extra fleece gloves in case I needed them! “Experts” always say to never try anything new on race day (new clothes, new food, etc.), but I broke that rule today by wearing brand new never before worn long johns – that thankfully weren’t itchy – and Alasdair’s running coat – the  zipper broke on my running jacket this morning – wouldn’t budge – so I wore Alasdair’s old coat, which he thankfully found this week after having lost it and gone out to replace it a month or so ago.

So, we left the kids sleeping in bed and headed for Grimsby. It wasn’t until we reached the gym doors and read the note posted that we learned the half marathon was cancelled due to the weather – we later learned the decision was made because it would have been too cold for the volunteers manning the aid stations and directing runners at intersections (understandable – we would have been running, while they would have been standing still for hours)! We were rather annoyed though that we hadn’t received an email notification, given that the race organizers (Subaru of Hamilton and Niagara Running Series) had our email addresses and sent out a final race email just a couple of days prior. In any case, it didn’t take us long to decide that we would switch to the 10k race (a first for me). Unfortunately, after going to the registration table like the notice told us and standing in a long line up, we were told once we got to the front of the line that we had to go find our race bib with timing chip on it first, and then go to the back of the line! Alasdair politely complained and we were told to just get the bibs and go back to the front of the line. After that was dealt with, we picked up our race shirts, used the bathroom a few times, dropped our bags off at the baggage check, and headed for the start line.

I had completely forgotten about my hip flexors, which I don’t normally feel but could Sunday after Saturday’s partner yoga session with Alasdair at the Yogashala in Waterdown. I had been hoping they wouldn’t cause me trouble… and I think Alasdair was feeling the same way about his hamstrings and groin, which got a workout holding me in the air (we had tons of fun but also learned that we have a loooong way to go before we can even attempt many of the partner poses that Meagan and Chris make look so easy!!).

Ready to race!

We didn’t want to go outside too soon, but it turns out we left it a bit late! At 8:56 AM Alasdair decided to stop for a last bathroom break, and once we got outside we realized the start was around the corner (not right out front of the school). We turned the corner and the horn sounded – the race was on and we weren’t at the starting line! Unfortunately in this race, the gun time was the official start time, not the moment you actually cross the starting mat (there wasn’t one). So, we ran to the starting line and lost between 10-20 seconds right off the bat. It also meant we had to weave through slower runners as we made our way forward. Lesson learned!

The roads were mostly dry – except for the smaller roads, which were covered in hard packed snow – and the course was relatively flat, except for the bridge that went over the Queen Elizabeth Way. I didn’t notice any wind, but I did enjoy the full sun and the view as we ran along Lake Ontario. The weather really wasn’t bad. I had cold fingers on my right hand for a bit, but I scrunched them into a fist inside the 2nd glove and they warmed up quickly. Later I did the same on my right hand when just one finger felt icy. My butt did feel cold for a bit, but not too cold (I would have thought it would be pretty warm!). According to Alasdair, one man ran in shorts, but THAT is crazy!

Given that we were running a 10k and not 21.1k, I decided to run at a faster pace. My first couple of km’s were around 5:15 min/km, which is very fast for me! I ran 3k in about 16 min, 5k in 26, and 6k in 32 or so. I was moving! I didn’t stop at all, and didn’t even slow down to get water/gatorade at the aid stations. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to keep the pace up, but I intended to try. I had a side stitch for 3/4 of the race, so I was just on the fast side of what is comfortable for me, but it was minor and I was able to just ignore it. I was doing the math in my head and hoping to finish in less than 56 minutes. My 10k PB for a triathlon run was last summer in Wasaga Beach, when I ran it in around 54 minutes. But, I haven’t been running fast lately and have been feeling as though I’ve lost all the speed I had in the fall. With just a couple of hundred metres to go, I spotted Alasdair and he said, “Kyra?” (remember, I wasn’t wearing my usual coat, and as he said, there were lots of blue coats in the race!) I waved, and then he cheered for me and one of the volunteers did too. I just had to turn the corner, turn the next corner, and run across the finish line. I knew at this point that I wasn’t going to be sub 56 minutes. But, I was still happy with my finishing time of 56:57 (official gun time). In actual fact I was 10-20 seconds faster. My legs felt great today, and as usual, my cardio was the limiting factor.

Back in the warmth of the school

Race stats:

Total time: 56:57

Age group placement (women 40-44): 8/10

Gender placement: 26/39 all women

After getting my race medal, I went into the gym and changed into clean dry clothes. Runners were given pizza, bananas, apples, donuts, protein bars, pop and coffee. I rarely drink coffee but felt like a warm beverage, so I had one today.


We stayed for the awards, and while waiting for them to start, Alasdair checked the results board and saw that he was 4th in his age group but would have been 2nd if he had registered for the 10k (we were competing against half marathoners who switched to the 10k, not those who registered for the 10k originally). He was pretty happy with his 4th place finish out of 8 or so runners… and then… when the winners for his age group (men 40-44) were called up, 2nd place was from Waterdown, and then the announcer said 3rd place from Waterdown… and Alasdair was wondering what the chances were that there was someone else from Waterdown in the race… and then they called his name! It’s just the 2nd time he’s been on a podium for a running race (the other time was the Santa 5k in Hamilton in 2013 when he ran at Keaghan’s pace and came 3rd in his age group). He’s now declared that his new hobby is going to be finding obscure races and getting on the podium!

Here his medal is placed around his neck
Check out that bronze medal! 

Here are the finisher medals:


And here is the race t-shirt:


We were disappointed that the half marathon was cancelled, but I’m pretty sure Alasdair wouldn’t change a thing (except maybe running faster if he had known how well he was doing relative to the field)!! And next year, he said he’s signing up for the 10k!

The next race for us is MEC race #2 in May, a half marathon in Hamilton!


Race report: Boxing Day 10-Miler

“It is not so much that I began to run, but that I continued.” – Hal Higdon

Unfortunately, this year’s Boxing Day 10-Miler in Hamilton fell at the tail end of a (seemingly never-ending) cold, which lingered by way of a congested chest and had me coughing up a lung in the night. I decided to run anyway, because really, I was fine during the day, though slightly lacking on the cardio front. I knew that realistically, a PB was not within reach this year, but I was going to try to run as fast as my recovering body would allow me!

This was to be my 2nd running of the Boxing Day 10-Miler, and Alasdair’s 1st. We brought the kids with us to the Hamilton YMCA (“race central”), and left them to shoot hoops in the gym or read while we ran (membership privileges!). After multiple trips to the bathroom, Alasdair and I headed over to the Hamilton GO Station, which had additional bathroom facilities and was conveniently located at the start line!

At the start line

Apparently the weather for this race was the best it had been in 10 years – the roads were dry, there was a forecasted high of 5 degrees Celsius, and there was sun (we’ve been a bit lacking lately). It was perfect running weather.

At 12 noon the race started. I ran beside Alasdair for the first few seconds, and then he was gone. Once again I had to do quite a bit of weaving around people, but eventually the pack spread out and I settled into a steady pace. I wasn’t overtaken by a running talking Christmas tree this year (I think he started ahead of me!). And I never did see the running penguin during the race either (only afterwards). It wasn’t long before I removed my gloves and flipped the ear parts of my headband up. I was wondering if I had overdressed! It seemed to be taking a while to reach the 1 km marker, but then I saw the 1 MILE marker (this was the 10-Miler after all, though I had forgotten from last year’s race that this was how the course was marked) and I was relieved, knowing that I had already run 1.6 km and wasn’t plodding along as slowly as I feared. I had RunKeeper going on my phone but I couldn’t hear it, so I struggled the entire race knowing exactly where I was – I didn’t notice all of the mile markers, don’t know my pace per mile anyway, and am convinced that there wasn’t a marker at every mile. I soon heard two runners discussing their pace, and when I heard it was 5:33/km, I knew I should slow down.

The first 5k went relatively well, and it was somewhere not too far after this point that the race leaders zoomed by me going in the opposite direction. The man running just behind me yelled, “Awesome!” As he got closer to me I turned and said to him, “Awesome and depressing!” to which he replied, “We’re not all paid to run!” So true.

Race course

Just past 7 km there was a very short out and back section, and then a climb up a hill into Westdale. I hate that hill. But as I ran it, I thought (and almost said to those around me) “This isn’t heartbreak hill!” (from the Around the Bay race) so really it should be easy! It wasn’t long before I realized that I must be half way done the race, and though I felt that my pace was slowing, I was still moving along at a pretty good rate. I ran across a timing mat and figured it must be the 10 km marker. Turns out it was the 6 mile marker or 9.6 km. Then I saw a young woman who was running while apparently trying to get rid of a cramp. I reached her and said, “You and me both!” to which she replied, “Stupid stitch!” I had cramps for part of the run – the worst around 4 km I think – but they didn’t last long and weren’t too bad.

For the rest of the race, I spent the time knowing that I was slowing down, but determined not to stop running (it’s always so hard to start up again). I did stop to walk once, at around 13 km, for a cup of gatorade at a water station. And then I was back at it, knowing that the end was near. With just over 1 km to go, there is a short-ish, steep climb up out of Bayfront Park. I ran it but many people were walking. I felt like I picked up the pace for the last km, but I’m not sure I actually did. It might have just been an increased perceived effort!

As I approached the finish line, I heard Alasdair cheering for me, and then just like that, I was done! A full 6 minutes (5%) slower than last year, but I’ll take it. And next year, I’ll run for the PB! (It was only once I stopped running that I started coughing uncontrollably!)

Just past the finish line

We headed back to the Y for some delicious canned Campbell’s tomato soup, crackers, a bun, and fruit. (The only negative of the whole experience was the garbage left behind in the gym by some of our fellow – selfish – runners. Cracker wrappers, banana peels, crumbs, water bottles, you name it left all over the bleachers! Disgusting.)

2014 Stats:

Time: 1:36:59

Pace: 9:44/mile or 6:05/km

Women 40-44: 24/41

All women: 148/281

All racers: 461/662

Back at the YMCA

2013 Stats:

Time: 1:31:56

Pace: 9:15/mile or 5:46/km

Women 35-39: 17/44

All women: 111/321

All racers: 357/684

Race medal
Sporting our new (huge) sweatshirts

Alasdair had a great race, finishing in 1:19:59. We’ll both be back next year – chasing down PBs!

Race report: Road2Hope 1/2 Marathon

The Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope race weekend began for me at 7 AM Saturday, when Ailish and I arrived at Confederation Park, Hamilton, to volunteer at race kit pick-up. We helped out at the 5k table and then at the 1/2 marathon table until 11 AM, but stepped out at 10 AM to watch Keaghan’s 5k race. Despite a short night due to Hallowe’en festivities, first words after being woken up of “I’m never racing again!” and a refusal to eat breakfast, he ran through the rain, snow and wind to a 5k PB!

Race morning

Sunday morning our alarm went off at 5 AM, but with the time change it actually felt like 6 AM, so it wasn’t as bad as some of our triathlon race day starts! With the kids having slept at Nana and Papa’s, we were on our way just after 6 AM and at Confederation Park by 6:30 AM. The weather forecast was good – nothing like Saturday’s weather.

Perfect fall running weather

After a quick portapotty stop, we hopped on a school bus shuttle to ArcellorMittal Dofasco Park on the “mountain” where the race was to begin. We spent the next 1 1/2 hours alternately standing in ever-growing portapotty lines, getting our race stuff ready, and people watching – some runners have quite elaborate warm-up routines, and others, too short shorts or awesome costumes! Even Captain America competed (and beat me).

Captain America after the race.
Captain America after the race.

Before heading outside for the last time, we checked our bags with volunteers, who would ensure that our stuff (extra clothing layers, water, etc.) would be at Confederation Park waiting for us when we finished the race.

The marathon (not our race) started at 8 AM while we were in the portapotty line-up for the last time. Frequent use of portapotties at races can be educational. Yesterday, I learned that despite what you might have thought was a simple concept of forming a line and taking turns, there will always be someone confused by the process. Thankfully, we were at the start line with several minutes to spare before our 8:15 AM start – but not so early that we had to stand there shivering for too long! I decided to line up with runners who would be heading out faster than me, so that I didn’t end up having to pass and weave around lots of runners for the first km or so (very annoying). It worked, except that I was probably one of those annoying runners that others had to weave around!

We decided to follow the suggestion of the race organizers and wear red, white, and poppies in memory of Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent, and all Canadians who have served our country.

Ready to head for the start line!

My goal for this race was to finish in under 2 hours. My 1/2 marathon PB was last year’s Road2Hope, when I ran it in 2:00:35 (with one pee break!). I intended to run a 5:36 min/km pace, giving myself a 2 min cushion in case I needed to stop to pee (and very likely stand in yet another portapotty lineup!).

The race

Alasdair and I wished each other good luck, but not before I asked the man beside me if he wanted to run holding hands, since our hands kept touching as we waited for the gun to go off! He laughed but that might have been a tough run.

The first 5k

The race start is essentially flat – I started out too fast, but by the time I hit the top of the Red Hill Creek Parkway I was maintaining a pace of just under 5:36 min/km.


The descent

The next 7 km’s are all downhill, my favourite part of the course! When I first turned onto the Red Hill, I thought I saw Alasdair just up ahead, but that didn’t make sense – either he would have been running far too slowly, or me far too quickly! Turns out, it wasn’t him. I had a gel at 8k, but nothing else for the rest of the race (just didn’t feel like anything, though I had planned to take one more). I think it was on the descent that I started to fight with my water bottle belt – I must have grabbed an ill-fitting bottle from the cupboard, because at least 5 times it nearly jumped right out of the belt. I had to keep tightening the belt around my waist every 2 minutes (no kidding!) and shoving the bottle back in – thankfully I could do it on the fly. I only drank a couple of sips from my bottle the entire race – being cold out, I just didn’t feel thirsty (but should have had more!). My pace picked up on the downhill, and when I hit 10k, I realized that I had run what was probably my fastest 10k ever – approximately 54:30.

The hill

After leaving the Red Hill, the run goes onto Barton street for a very short time (running slightly uphill towards Barton, I was following “pink hat guy” and trying to not let him lose me – motivation to keep my pace up for the next little bit), then onto a trail with a couple of nasty uphills (thankfully, they are very short). It’s when I left the Red Hill that my pace started to fall, and the km with the hills was my first one slower than 6 min/km. I struggled from there to the end trying to speed up again.

The out

From km 12 to almost 17, you run away from Confederation Park, but it is flat! Part of this stretch is also part of the Around the Bay course, but every time I run it as part of Road2Hope I am thankful that I’m nearing the finish and not having to run another 15k! With 8 km left, I realized I had only 42 min left if I wanted to come in under 2 hours, so I knew I had to run sub 6 min km’s (math helps pass time!). With about 5k to go I chucked my water bottle off the side of the path – I couldn’t take it anymore! I did take water from one water station near the end, but didn’t want to slow down for fear of missing my sub 2 hour goal!

The back

Once we turned onto the Waterfront Trail, there were about 4 km’s left.

On the home stretch

There were some great signs along here (I think) – “Run like someone just called you a jogger!” and “Why are all those people chasing you?” My all time favourite sign, though, is the one that says simply, “MOTIVATIONAL SIGN.” When I got passed by the 2:00 pacer with less than 2k to go, hope was fading that I’d come in under 2 hours. Someone yelled, “The 2 hour pacer is just up there!” – thanks, but I had nothing left to chase him. I was quite pleased that I managed a fast pace without any side stitches (which plagued me during the 1/2 marathon of my 1/2 ironman in September) and no serious complaints from my legs either – my hamstrings were tightening up but not causing any trouble. In the end though, as usual, it was my cardio limiting me – I just couldn’t pick up the pace.

The finish

With just a couple hundred metres left, I started looking for Alasdair, who I expected to be waiting for me near the end – like he always is. I didn’t see or hear him. As I turned the corner toward the finish line, I (think I) picked up the pace a bit, but knew that I could not finish sub 2. As I got closer to the finish line, I noticed that it seemed very congested, and wondered at first if I had finished at the same time as many others. It was unusual. I quickly realized that someone must have collapsed near the finish, and that is exactly what happened. The race medical staff and paramedics were performing CPR on a man who had collapsed 10m before the finish line. Runners had been stopped just before this point, with the finish line (timing chip mat) moved up a bit. I was able to cross the mat but then was stuck in a growing group of people as more and more finished. I was a bit concerned that I had yet to see Alasdair, until I heard that the fallen runner had been wearing blue shorts. I mentioned to a few spectators (just on the other side of our finishing chute fence) that I was so thirsty (normally at the finish line you get a bottle of water, but the water was on the other side – inaccessible to us for the moment). A woman offered me some sliced apples, which I was very grateful to accept! Another runner had some too. Volunteers eventually brought bottled water. It was quite a sombre mood amongst the runners. After a few minutes, we were rerouted around the fallen runner, and my understanding is that before the marathon winner crossed the finish line, the man had been taken to the hospital. I learned later that sadly, he died (see below).

I did eventually find Alasdair, after getting food and grabbing my backpack from the baggage check.

Wearing my freebie coat given out at the finish line (to stay warm)

We left right away, hoping to catch the end of Ailish’s first basketball exhibition game of the year.

I did end up getting a PB, but considering I didn’t stop for a pee break, I actually ran slower than last year, because last year I did stop to pee!

I’m hoping to run a sub 2 hour 1/2 marathon in the spring (race to be determined)!


Race stats:

Time: 2:00:31 (PB by 4 seconds over last year’s time)

Pace: 5:44 min/km

# pee breaks: none!!

Age group placing: 61/147 women aged 40-44 (this is a fantastic placing for me)

Gender placing: 392/1005 all women

Overall placing: 893/1707 all finishers

RIP Rick

As soon as I saw the photo of the runner who had died, Richard Greidanus, I knew that he was “Rick”, the man that Ailish and I met and volunteered with on Saturday morning at race kit pick-up. He was such a nice man. He asked me whether I was a runner, and we chatted about our goals for the 1/2 marathon on Sunday. I told him my plans and he said to me, “You got this!” So sad.