As I'm going to be heading down on race morning rather than using the hotel as I originally planned, I went down to Hamilton this morning to pick up my race kit. As I had a 5 miler planned for the day, I elected to go down a little early and run out to the 26K mark of the Around the Bay Route and back. That would get me down to the base of the final hill, and knowing what to expect from that terrain may help psychologically near the end of the race when fatigue is setting in. It also gave me a chance to explore the area a bit, and get familiar with the configuration of everything so I'll be better prepared when it comes to race day.
The weather this morning was pretty much picture perfect. A nice warm 7C, clear skies and only a slight breeze coming in off of the lake. After finding a parking spot (which took a little longer than expected), I headed out along York Blvd. with the target of maintaining a comfortable 5min/km pace for the duration of the run. The first little bit was a bit choppy as there are a lot of traffic lights/street crossings in this section, but once I got out of the downtown area things picked up.
The first 900 meters or so was basically flat ground, followed by a small uphill segment (400m/+2.6%). After that was about 1.4K at a very slight downhill grade (-0.5%) and then a 900m flat segment just before the big downhill. With that said, there may be a bit of variance in these numbers as I was running on the sidewalk which didn't follow exactly the same contour as the road we will be using on Sunday. Either way, all of this was extremely comfortable, and it was a struggle to keep myself from trying to accelerate to a faster pace for the duration.
At this point, I approached the turn onto the final major hill of the route (Valley Inn Rd. ). This is a very narrow street with a pretty rough surface (lots of open potholes and patches), so it will be a challenge on race day. Fortunately, the centre of the road looked pretty good with the majority of the issues on the edges so it shouldn't be too bad on Sunday (when the cars won't be there). All in all, the hill works out to about 500 meters with an average grade of 6.6% although there is a small flat section about two-thirds of the way down where it passes a railroad landing.
At the base of the hill is an extremely narrow wooden bridge (barely enough for one car) which is likely to become a bit of a bottleneck, but hopefully the crowds will be thin enough at that juncture to avoid any issues. Once I crossed the bridge, I then turned around and headed back as I didn't want to do too much mileage two days before the race. Had I kept going, I would have climbed another significant hill (longer, but with a smaller grade than the last) - fortunately, during the race that portion will be a downhill segment ;)
Naturally, as I came back the same way as I went the above covers the details of the return trip (with the hills reversed, obviously). As I overdressed a bit for the weather, sweat was building up and the altitude readings go a little wonky. Fortunately, as the course was symmetrical the altitude data for the first half is all that is really necessary here ;)
When it comes to race day, the Valley Inn Rd. hill will certainly be a challenge. I had to slow down a bit to ascend it this morning, and my legs were a lot fresher than they will be on Sunday when I hit that point. Fortunately, once I get up that hill the rest doesn't look like it will be much of a problem and that final downhill segment will likely be pretty good. Additionally, the downhill section just before this hill looked like it should help things out - it looks like it's steep enough to give a little extra speed, but not so much as to be uncomfortable (ie require heavy braking to control descent).
Either way, when I got back to Copps Coliseum I grabbed my stuff and headed inside to pick up my kit. Things were handled quite efficiently there, and after getting the kit and looking through the sponsors' booths I got lunch and headed back to the car. I then did a quick drive through the route (a little intimidating that it took about 36 minutes to do that), and headed back home before the rush hour traffic set in.