Around the Bay & the quest for intentional training

Since returning to running from injury, I’ve focused my training entirely around intentional training. I’ve focused on producing quality efforts guided toward my future races, and made an active effort to improve in the areas that will be needed most in my future.

But since March has rolled on in, it’s been all the more imperative me to slightly adapt my approach to what’s coming at the end of March – Around the Bay 30k. Around the Bay is one of Canada’s most famous races, and is often stacked with a deep field of runners from a variety of categories – from those doing a tune-up race for their marathon to those looking to build their endurance for a 10k. It therefore becomes an incredibly fast race, and one where you could run sub-2-hours and not even crack the top 100.

The cool thing for me now six weeks post-injury return is that what would have been incredibly achievable in November (running sub-2-hours), is now going to require serious ‘intentional training’ for the next month. But here’s the other thing. Around the Bay was never meant to be anything more than a fun practice race for my 2023 ultramarathon goals. So I have one of two options. I can use the race as a training run and aim for around a comfortable 2h10 (4:20 per/km) , not caring about the result and simply practicing things like fuelling, pacing and embracing the chaos of crowds within the realms of an actual race environment.

Or, I can do what my competitive edge will forever want me to do, and actually race the event, chasing that sub 2-hour finish that I am realistically and fully capable of achieving in a month’s time. The time difference may not seem all that great, but in a longer effort like a 30k, it’s a difference of 20 seconds per kilometre. It’s the difference between a 1:20 half-marathon, and a 1:30 half-marathon. One is considered elite, and one is considered good training.

So if I opt for option two, the battle then becomes a question of ‘what is the point?’. I’ll be required to shift my intentional training focus away from technical terrain and vertical gain to fast, intense road work. I’ll be chasing hard efforts in training more likely to make my persistent injuries re-occur, only to race an event that I realistically only have the intention of doing once. I’ll be chasing a relatively fast photo finish for the approval of others, when realistically they would think I was unattainably fast even if I ran thirty minutes slower.

On the other end of the spectrum, fast training and fast racing will inevitably make me faster for any distance, so long as I do it in a way where I’m not overtraining. Sticking to my current plan of running just a few days a week, overtraining should hopefully be unlikely to occur, even if I am banging up my body on those few days. So then looking at the data to the eye test, it’s clear that any form of speed work in the next month can realistically make me faster for 50k, 6-hour and sub-ultra trail races I intend on dominating.

Speed hurts. As the highway signs will tell you, speed even kills. But speed also leads to faster results for just about any race distance. So it’s not as though the hard road work of 4-minute per kilometre tempos and 3-minute intervals will be for nothing. It will make attaining the goal I set out back when I registered for Around the Bay completely attainable again, while also setting me up in a better place to manage my longer efforts with greater ease post-race.

Neglecting the technical terrain and uphill running for the next month might make that quest more difficult come April, so I’ll need to be intentional about not putting all my eggs in the Around the Bay basket, and doing at least one run a week on trails where possible. But for now, it’s true that the intentions have shifted toward doing my best at one of Canada’s most famous races, and now tailoring my training and recovery more toward what would be akin to a speedy 30k in Hamilton.

As for the question of whether or not to race the race and train to race the race, the answer likely lies somewhere in between the two options. I don’t have the same emotional investment to Around the Bay as I do to rampaging up and down hills inside technical trails of Ontario. It was always meant to be practice, and a way of checking off a bucket list race. But I still want to perform to my best on the day, in order to not only leave the race feeling fulfilled, but confident for the future. Running 2h01 or 1h59 does not really make a difference toward those feelings, and neither does blasting myself in training in the quest for that two-minute difference.

If you’re racing Around the Bay, and want to take it out conservatively and progress toward a sub-2-hour finish, send me a message. I’d be happy to join you for a training run, or even find you on race day.

For now, I’ll be designing my intentional training methods toward Around the Bay, without neglecting the actual goals that lie beyond that quest.

Thanks for reading & see you soon!

Strava Profile | Rhys Desmond


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One response to “Around the Bay & the quest for intentional training”

  1. […] speed work. I don’t have an emotional investment toward faster races like half-marathons and 30k’s. Instead, I get my joys from running long, running slow, running hills, and strategizing over how […]


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