Nov 05 2012

Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope – Race Report

I committed to this race due to successful goading and bribing from the organizer at this year’s Around the Bay race expo, way back in March.

I met up with Amar and Andrew from Square One Running Room, who drove us to the finish area, and took a school bus up the “Mountain” to the start line at Dofasco Park.

It was a bit crowded inside the recreation complex, but I appreciated the heated shelter.

Race Start

The start was delayed by 12 minutes while waiting for the last shuttle bus to arrive. I lined up with the 3:30 bunny at the start, but lost him once we got going.

Km 1 to Km 8

The most scenic part of the course was right at the beginning, along Ridge Rd. Just over the guard rail is a steep drop down the cliff, providing a panoramic view of downtown Hamilton and even a tiny CN Tower in the distance.

Over the QEW, heading towards the beachThis whole section was two-lane country road, with fields on both sides. I didn’t know there are farms this close to downtown Hamilton.

I settled into what I thought was a good race pace. A little faster than usual, but I wanted to see what I could do.

There were two minor rolling hills but nothing serious.

Km 9 to Km 16

The course returned to civilization after turning on to Mud St. I upped the pace slightly and backed off as needed. I was still feeling good at this point.

Somehow I found a girl doing the same pace, and we worked well for at least the next 10km.

Km 17 to Km 22

Everybody’s favourite downhill section, running north on a closed Red Hill Valley Parkway. I quite enjoyed letting gravity do the work, but made sure to not attack it too hard.

Km 23 to Km 25

On Hamilton Beach trail. Physical manifestation of pain clearly on display, without the disguise of sunglasses...The fun on the Parkway was over, and we were immediately thrust on to a dirt path. Then there was a “Caution” sign followed by a steep drop on uneven bricks – the ankle twisting type. A reciprocal short steep incline on the uneven bricks followed just ahead. Sorry to report that this part alone makes the course barefoot unfriendly.

After making across the QEW on a pedestrian, I was on Hamilton Beach recreation trail for the final stretch.

Km 26 to Km 32

I was starting to feel it at the point, but was still managing. The course went out to Beach Rd, running parallel to the rec trail, then looped back on the trail at 30km. I only found out now that I had to turn back on to Beach Rd. for a second loop.

At this point, I finally knew I went out too hard. There was lactic acid build in the quads and calves, and I was starting to get the pre-cramp twitches.

Crashed and burned! The "burn" part is literal.A kind stranger served me a banana, which was greatly appreciated!

Km 33 to Finish

And so the death march was on. My pace girl from earlier passed me on the second loop, then the 3:25 pacer, and then the 3:30 pacer with 5km to go.

I had to slow down several times to prevent full on cramps, and in a vain attempt to stop the tingling/trembling sensation on my face.

It was a relief to be able to stop after crossing the line, and let my legs cool down from all that burning pain.


In all my prior races this season, while I had negative splits and finished strong, I wondered what would happen if I pushed a bit harder up front.

I got a bit out of my comfort to push the pace a bit today, and now I found out how it feels to crash and burn.

I think the downhill section may have been a contributing cause, as I’ve never experienced this kind of calf cramping in any run before. Notwithstanding that, Red Hill Valley Parkway was the most enjoyable part.

I need to know how to tell when lactic acid is building up before it’s too late. I was definitely caught off guard today when the problem sneaked up on me.

Finally, I discovered some weird things my body is capable of doing when pushed over the limit. Has anyone ever had tingling all over the face? What is up with that? There was also the occasional blurring vision, but those didn’t last very long. Any slight flexing of my toes caused massive leg cramps, so I had to make sure they were kept perfectly straight!

As for the race itself, the organization was top notch, the shuttle service was excellent, and feed stations were frequent and evenly spaced. The only minor complaints were the eLoad mixtures were too watered down, and the setup of feed stations should be more consistent. Sometimes eLoad was served first, and sometimes water was. It should be one way or the other for all feed stations.


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  1. Paul Radcliffe

    Congratulations. You have nothing to be ashamed of! I’m curious how far ahead you were at half-way.

    Finding ideal pace is very tricky. Even the best predictor runs can miss the effects of lactic buildup or muscle breakdown.

    It’s interesting to see how pushing really hard affected your body. I had something similar years ago. The tingling may have been the edge of a full-on bonk. Perhaps you were running out of sugar to your nervous system and your body was reacting funny. It’s impressive you ran through that!

    1. Henry Lo

      Up to 30km, I think I was still on pace for around 3:20. That’s the only reason why I was still close to 3:30 with all the walk breaks.

  2. Ali Mc

    I think you did amazing. The course is kind of set up for negative splits with that downhill and then the last kilometers that go by each other making you want to jump over the pylons to the other side 😉


    1. Henry Lo

      Yeah, I made sure to not attack the downhill too hard.
      Not sure if you noticed the signs, but the worst part was when I found out marathoners had to do a 2nd loop before coming back to Confederation Park. Guess I should’ve read the course map more carefully!

  3. Robin

    Congrats again, you did great, especially considering you were struggling. That’s a great time and it’s awesome that you pushed through. We all do it, at least once (sometimes more), start too fast. It’s all part of the process of learning how to run our best marathon!

    1. Henry Lo

      Thanks. I did make sure there were no cameras anywhere during walk breaks 😉

  1. Around the Bay 2013 – Race Report – HenryLo.ca

    […] he mentioned his strategy was to speed up going downhill to take advantage of gravity. For me, Hamilton Road2Hope marathon was still on my mind, so I didn’t want to go full out on the downhills and fatiguing my legs […]

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