I had a short burst of motivation to write something today, and as that seems to happen less and less frequently these days I thought I’d better get it down on paper (screen) quickly.
Apologies for those expecting to read about summer adventures, travels, food, drinks, etc. but this one is about running. It’s kind of hard not to talk about it seeing as it is a part of pretty much my every day life here. There is more to come about the fun things I’ve been doing this summer though, I promise.
A couple of Saturdays ago I ran the lululemon SeaWheeze half marathon. You may remember I said I hated ‘racing’ races – well I proved that point right, but I did manage to make it through a very tough race with my stomach still in tact (just) and my legs didn’t quite fall off either.
Love them or not, lululemon are a HUGE part of the fitness industry in Vancouver, and they know how to put on a good event. SeaWheeze attracts 10,000 runners from all over the world to Vancouver every summer, and so there’s no denying that’s a great thing for the city. It’s popularity does mean that getting a place in this race is probably harder than the running itself – unless you’ve got 2 laptops, a phone and a very strong internet connection, you may as well not bother even attempting to register.
I did not get a place in the initial registration (I didn’t really try, and have terrible internet), but there are a lot of people who will buy a place purely for the coveted shorts in an exclusive print each year, and closer to the time have the realisation that they don’t want to run a half marathon. Bib transfers can now be done officially, after years of people just selling them on the side for cash, and although my place went through 2 other people first, I found myself about 6 weeks before the race with goal to train for after quite a long time of running somewhat aimlessly.
Fast forward to race day and in the days preceding, the city was cloaked in a rather oppressive blanket of smoke from the devastating wildfires in the BC interior. I went for a short ‘shakeout’ run the day before the race and the smoke and heat meant I had a hard time keeping a relatively easy pace for 5km, which was a little worrying considering the time I hoped to get involved running significantly faster.
Luckily, the next morning, as promised, the smoke had completely cleared, the temperature had dropped and it was near perfect running conditions, save for our somewhat hurried dash to the startline. Relying on buses in Vancouver is risky at the best of times, let alone when you have to be somewhere on time, and early in the morning. We arrived at the bag drop at about 6:35am for a 7:00am race start – eek. There were, of course, HUGE queues to use the loos (oh god, I almost wrote bathrooms) so it was 6:56 when we jogged outside to find our way into the starting pen…the nearest pacer held a 3:15 sign. We kept moving around the edge of the pens, sure that we’d at some point find a gap we could squeeze through, but no luck. Thankfully, a security guard actually told us we should jump the fence, so that’s what we did. We didn’t get too many evil eyes, and only one of us (Devon) nearly ripped their leg open on the fence.
For this race I had employed the services of my friend Devon as my personal pacer. Fresh from a huge marathon PB of 3:21 (whaaaaat) a couple of weeks earlier, and a half marathon PB of 1:34, I knew she’d be able to drag me round to a sub 1:50 – I just had to grit my teeth and keep running. Once the gun went off, we spent the usual first couple of miles/km (I’m going to speak in km here, so you’ll have to do your own conversions if you want) weaving around people, trying to find our pace and generally trying to settle into the groove of running.
Let it be known, Vancouver is NOT a flat city. Yes, the seawall is predominantly flat, but in most instances you have to go up/down a hill to get on/off it. Plus, there are bridges. A lot of bridges. In this race, from about kilometre 6 to 11, you roll up and down more than is particularly comfortable, and when trying to run at a somewhat uncomfortable pace, it shows. To try and distract you from this pain, the SeaWheeze organisers put in place ‘entertainment’ in a number of places – think loud music, people in fancy dress, people on spin bikes, firemen spraying hoses, and people sitting on rocks dressed as mermaids. They do help, but I won’t lie, despite all the distractions, I was not a happy runner when we got to the end of the last bridge climb at about 11km in. I was hot, couldn’t breathe, and my legs didn’t want to move that fast any more. In reality my heart rate just needed to calm down and my legs to stop going uphill so much – as soon as we hit the seawall I felt infinitely better. Maybe we could do this after all?!
There was a moment of panic shortly after I’d taken a gel when I though I might have to dive into the bushes, but for the next few kilometres things ticked along pretty well. Devon wasn’t doing too badly either – she had dutifully given me most of the water in her handheld bottle whenever I demanded it, ran ahead at each water station to fetch me a cup so I didn’t have to contend with the crowds, calculated our pace and regularly let me know how much time I had banked, and held my sunglasses for most of the race because they were annoying me.
At about 17km, we ran underneath the Lions Gate Bridge and straight into a headwind. My favourite! I really was about ready to give up by this point, but Devon kept pushing me on, and a girl who we kept leapfrogging with was really annoying me, and I really didn’t want her to finish before me. Eventually we turned into Stanley Park and up one last hill (actually there were two – I might have yelled at Devon a little bit when I realised there was a second one), and back down onto the seawall to the finish. Seriously, 1km has never seemed so long. The course has 5 or 6 turns before you can see the finish line, and in previous years it’s been a bit long (don’t even talk to me about incorrect distance races) so I was fully expecting for my Garmin to get to about 21.3km before crossing the line, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the finish line approach at approximately the correct corresponding distance on my watch. I gave it a final sprint/shuffle to the line, my legs just ready to stop running, and Devon was most likely sick of my whinging by then so she let me cross a second in front of her in a time of 1:47:58, a new PB by about 2 and a half minutes – woo!
The post-race swag is pretty good at SeaWheeze, so we were coaxed through a funnel of medals, cool scented towels, protein bars, water and a brunch box before I was allowed to sit down and rest my weary legs. The sun came out just at the right time, and my post-race wet wipes and flip flops came out (seriously, you’ll never regret packing wet wipes in your drop bag) and other people we know joined us to revel in the excitement of a new PB.
I won’t lie, although I’m extremely pleased with the time I got, the experience of ‘racing’ didn’t really make me want to sign up for another one right away – I’m not the sort of runner who wants to keep whittling down their times, especially at the cost of actually enjoying the experience. But I will give another huge shout out to Devon, who was exemplary in her pacing duties, and I would highly recommend her services – it’s a heck of a lot harder to stop running when someone is telling you not to!
Expect more on summer adventures very soon(ish)! Maybe…