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Battling the Bay

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Hamilton, ON (Betting Express) - Reid Coolsaet wants to make history.

The 32-year-old wants to become the first Hamilton native to win the Around the Bay Road Race since Gord Dickson did it in 1964.

The 118th edition of the event, known simply as "The Bay," will be held March 25.

Hamilton's Around the Bay Road Race is the oldest on the continent, first run in 1894, three years before the Boston Marathon.

Rich in tradition, it has been won by the best from around the world, including Boston Marathon winners and Olympic gold medallists.

The 30K course is challenging, as it takes runners around Hamilton's natural harbor.

Coolsaet finished third in the 2011 Toronto Marathon and was the first Canadian to finish under the Canadian standard of 2:11:29.

He finished in a time of 2:10:55, which means he is now qualified to run the marathon for Canada in the 2012 London Olympics.

"I wanted to run this race for a long time, but it never really fit into my schedule," Coolsaet said. "This year, I won't run a marathon till the summer. I wanted to have a couple of months where I could focus on a long run. The 30K fit into my schedule, and since I'm from Hamilton, it's an extra little treat."

The course record was set in 2010 by Ethiopia's Alene Reta, who finished the race in 1:32:22.

In 2011, Derek Nakluski of Kitchener became the Canadian male to win since 1996.

Coolsaet recently spent six weeks training in Kenya, and he said he's confident that training will help him when he tackles the Around the Bay course.

"They live and train in altitude, which is a big factor," he said. "Where I trained is at 8,000 feet. When you train at that height, it's really hard to breathe, but you get used to it. Your body responds by making more red blood cells, and that way you can transport oxygen easier to your muscles. And, when you come down to sea level, it's much easier."

Coolsaet pointed out, the lifestyle for many of the elite runners leads to success.

"Training in Kenya is just amazing," he said. "It's pretty much the same weather every day, and it's a very simple life. Most of the guys have the same routine: you get up, you eat, run, sleep, run, eat, then go back to bed."

The 30K course is relatively flat, until the runners hit the 26K marker.

That spot, at Valley Inn Road, is Hamilton's version of Heartbreak Hill. While only 380 meters (.23 miles) in length, the grade is 29 vertical meters, or a grade of 7.6 percent.

By comparison, Heartbreak Hill is an ascent over 600 meters (0.4 miles) on a road that rises only 27 meters, or 88 vertical feet, which works out to a grade of 4.5 percent.

"I'm not going to try and kill that hill," Coolsaet said. "If you try and go up it way too fast, it's going to hurt you. I know I'm going to slow down a bit on it, then on the next 3.5K really try and pick up the pace. If you don't go too hard on it, your legs will still be fresh enough so you can pick up the pace.

Reta and Coolsaet met before in a West Virginia half-marathon. The Hamiltonian defeated Reta that day, but knows the battle in Hamilton could be different.

"He does have the course record, so he'll be very tough to beat," admitted Coolsaet.

The New York-based Reta has registered again for this year's race.

Once the Around the Bay is over, Coolsaet will head travel to Flagstaff, Ariz., for another month of altitude training.

NOTES

* The Coolsaet-Reta duel is just one feature of the Bay Weekend, which is growing in popularity.

The weekend starts on Friday, March 23, with a two-day Health and Fitness Expo at Copps Coliseum, the 18,500-seat arena in downtown Hamilton.

* Both the 30K and 5K races will finish inside Copps, which enables spectators, friends and family to view the event from climate-controlled comfort.

"The numbers have grown in the last 10 years," said race director Michael Zajczenko. "We'll have 7,700 runners in the 30K, over 300 walkers in the 30K, 534 people in the 2x15 relay, and 744 in the 3x10 relay. We expect around 9,239 people in the 30K, then another 2,500 in the 5K."

Zajcenko said participants and spectators love the atmosphere of the Around the Bay.

"The start of the 30K is amazing, with thousands of people running by, but the finish is incredible," Zajczenko said. "When you come down the ramp, go through the entrance and run onto the ice surface at Copps Coliseum with thousands in the stands screaming, you get a chill going through your body. It's electric."

* The Around the Bay Road Race is also an important fund-raiser in Hamilton.

"Since 2005, the Around the Bay Road Race has been a signature fundraising event for St. Joseph's Healthcare Foundation," Sera Filice-Armenio, the president of St. Joseph's Healthcare Foundation, said.

"We're so proud to be the sole beneficiary of all funds raised through one of Hamilton's most historic events. Over the past seven years, the race has cumulatively raised more than $1 million to support patient care and research at the Hospital."

The fundraising goal for 2012 is $240,000. Funds raised through the race will support Timeless Care, Tomorrow's Discoveries - The Campaign for St. Joseph's Healthcare.

* Businesses in Hamilton also are huge fans of Around the Bay Weekend.

"An estimated 7,000 runners will come from out of town," said Dana Borcea, marketing and media relations coordinator with Tourism Hamilton.

"Local hotels have been sold out for months. The estimated economic impact is more than $1 million."

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? ted@900chml.com.

March 13, 2012, at 02:42 PM ET
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