One-word summary of the Seawheeze 2016 half-marathon: Fun.
One-sentence summary: A long weekend in lovely Vancouver was punctuated by a steady run with a truly good friend.
Spoiler: Run time was 2:13, which is 28 minutes slower than my personal best. And I’m fine with it. So are my Achilles’ tendon and IT band.
And now for all the details about the weekend and the race. I never wrote a race report after running the Seawheeze half in 2015. I wish I had, because it was a good time with my training buddy Kristen, with a bonus side trip to see Deb in beautiful Victoria.
I had good reason to not blog: I broke my thumb four days after the race while still in Canada, flew home late in agony due to canceled flights, saw two doctors, had surgery, was in a cast, had to cancel a marathon due to medical bills, and I couldn’t run for awhile because of the swelling. I only got this far in a rather sad blog post: “Last week at the end of the half-marathon, I received a carrot-shaped medal that was the most appropriate medal I could have ever received. Standing by the Olympic Cauldron, it felt like I had walked through a door into a ray of light, and that another door was finally opening ahead of me. Four days later, I smashed into the asphalt. The sound I heard was that of a door slamming shut.”
This year, I returned to run the Lululemon Seawheeze Half-Marathon, and I once again got to spend a long weekend in Vancouver. It’s a great city, and I could easily spend many more vacations there. The people are nice, the weather is lovely in the summer (and I hear the winter isn’t too bad), the views are great, and the U.S. dollar has gone a lot further there in the last couple years. (British Columbia has 12% sales tax, but once I factored in my taxes and the exchange rates, everything was about 22% cheaper for me.)
I flew into Vancouver on Thursday morning and promptly began walking.
Since I’d been to Vancouver a year earlier, I tried to see new-to-me parts of the city, but I generally stayed near downtown. Between the Inukshuk above and the wishing tree below, I was once again smitten with the city.
Michaela arrived that night, and we were up early the next morning to go stand in a line to shop. Because of course that is a wise thing to do 24 hours before a half-marathon.
So, about this whole “line up to shop” thing. Lululemon, which puts on the whole race, creates limited-edition clothing sold only at the expo one day before the race. The clothes kind of go along with the whole theme of the race, which this year had a fun spy theme (and was totally up my alley). Every year, people have gotten more fanatical about the clothes, and Lulu encourages it by only making small amounts of clothing. Well, this year the first person got in line at 10 a.m. the day BEFORE the expo. It turned out she’d been paid to sit there, which I think is a bizarre way to spend money, and this had the effect of getting people in line even earlier. Some had already been planning to camp out, and they brought inflatable beds, blankets, etc. And, get this: The clothing is not sale priced.
The store opens to runners at 7 a.m. We got down there at 6:30, and it took us THREE FREAKING HOURS to actually get inside.
They put the clothes out in order by size, so when you actually get inside, you rush to your section and see what there is to see. You can’t buy more than 15 items, and you can’t buy more than three of the exact same thing (for friends back home). So people generally grab a bunch of stuff and then get away from the madness to ponder how much money they really want to spend on running clothes. I fully admit to liking the company’s clothes, because the anti-stink material helps, and because the bras and shorts actually do not chafe me; I will spend many dollars to avoid raw skin. But I was not about to reach the maximum amount of items — I ultimately bought one pair of shorts and two tank tops. I later heard some crazy stories, like people who grabbed entire piles of clothes and then sat on them while deciding what to buy. Then there are the people who buy stuff and immediately post it at much higher prices on eBay.
Michaela and I were both about to lose our minds, so we went and ate brunch. Then, while 500+ people did the free waterfront yoga, we took advantage of short lines at the various free stuff being offered as part of the race expo: sticker tattoos, photo booths, food and drink samples, and hair braiding and manicures that we skipped. We finally got around to picking up our race packets, which contained our timing chips, a nice water bottle, actually cool sunglasses in a case, a whole tube of Nuun, and a mesh duffel bag. Every entrant also received a pair of shorts earlier in the year.
At some point, we ate again.
And then I actually took a “flat runner” picture, which I rarely do.
And then at some point we went to bed and woke up. Yes, this is a very precise blog post. Here, have a sunrise photo.
Our hotel was about a 15-minute walk from the start line, which was perfect. I did that last year, and it’s so nice to avoid vehicle traffic before and after a race. (And, really, weekend tourists staying in Vancouver don’t need a car. I do wish Uber and Lyft were allowed, though.) The race started at 7 a.m., and we got down there around 6:30. We made last stops in port-a-potties that had no lines, and then we went to the start corrals and said, “Hmm, what are we going to run?”
Michaela was coming off a half-Ironman and I was coming off a two-month Achilles tendon strain, so neither of us had any dreams of speedy times. Michaela figured she would just stop and take pictures along the way, and I figured I would just try not to run my slowest time ever (the bar is low on that, if you count trail runs…) So we stopped at the 2:20 pace group and figured we would just start there to avoid racing at the start.
They released the runners in waves to avoid too heavy of bottlenecks, and with each wave, bursts of steam would shoot from an arch. Finally, it was our turn to go under the arch. GPS signal was a bit spotty around the buildings, but that soon straightened out as we ran. The race goes through a bunch of downtown Vancouver, and past “cheer stations” that Lulu puts some effort into. A whole spin class was riding hard in one section, and Michaela and I both said we really just wanted to stop and join in. Some actors were dressed up as detectives or spies or something to go with the theme.
Within a mile or two, we’d both had enough of the cluster of people around the pacer, so we sped up and passed them. Things became much less congested. We were still running together, sometimes chatting and sometimes pointing at the various attractions (and NOT talking about the woman whose skirt had ridden up or the young guy who was holding up his pants while trying to run). The miles rolled on, and we just never stopped or drifted apart. We did walk briefly through the aid stations because it was warm out, but we picked up the pace right where we left off. I’m terrible at aid stations and drinking from cups while moving, so I usually sped up to catch Michaela the Ironman. There was no walking. No stopping to stretch. No sitting on the side of the road. Just like last year, I discovered that I could simply keep running.
We ran over the Burrard Street Bridge and back, and did airplane arms in the process, then entered Stanley Park to run for miles along the lovely and, thankfully, shaded seawall. A woman had something like seven yapping puppies in a carriage, which boggled our minds and made up for the lack of a promised puppy cheer station. A bunch of people were dressed in nude bodysuits, and they creeped us out while successfully distracting us. People in fantastic mermaid costumes were perched on rocks in the water. A full-blown cheer party was happening on a yacht out in the water, and I was wondering how to get on THAT volunteer job which clearly involved alcohol at such an early hour on a Saturday. A guy was doing some crazy jetpack-waterski-hoverboard thing in the air over the water, and we were impressed but both knew we’d fall on our faces on top of the board if we ever tried it.
And then we had about 1.5 miles left, and we both wordlessly picked up the pace. We passed a sign that said we had one kilometer left, so we pushed harder. Then we encountered some turns, and more turns around buildings, and people saying “you’re almost there,” and I’m pretty sure that kilometer was actually a mile. The last part of the course had changed so the finish area would be off the street, and the vast consensus was that the course was long.
But we did finally finish, and we were given a huge medal, a bottle of Smart water, a nice hat, a damp towel (amazing in the warm weather), Saje essential oils, Nuun, Kind bars, and a bag to put everything in.
Then we got into a too-long line for food. Granted, it’s nice that they served hot breakfast sandwiches, cherry tarts (delicious) and grapes, but if we had finished 20 minutes later, the line would have been insane. I later heard that some people received frozen sandwiches because the big ovens were just not big enough. And I’ve heard first-hand accounts that they ran out of water, which is a big no-no and a bummer for such an overall phenomenal race. I think a critical error was that volunteers should have given runners one bottle each and told them refill stations were available near the food; nobody near the finish line knew this, and I saw runners with arms full of bottles. This is one of the two most well organized races I’ve ever run, so I’m not sure where the communication broke down. Given Lululemon’s track record, though, I’m sure they’ll have plenty of water next year.
We headed back to our hotel, but were sidetracked by a McLaren car (they start at around $300,000, and I have no idea why I knew this but I did). Itwas painted to look like a Pokemon and even had little Pokemon characters stuck to the dashboard. That poor, poor car.
That detour led us into a store that had animal masks, which you’ll learn about if you keep reading this never-ending blog post. Anyway, after showers we went out for more food, Japanese this time.
Then we went to the Gastown area of Vancouver, because why not walk more miles since you’ve already run 13.5?? (Side note: My ankles killed me the whole trip. I need to do more walking, apparently. Or maybe I should actually get into running shape…)
And then we met up with a couple more of Michaela’s friends, and had more food, which is not pictured.
Now, about those animal masks. This is what happens when you’re kind of delirious after a race, when one of you owns three orange cats (but wants many more), and when you’ve just taken pictures of a Pokemon car. We found ourselves inside a store, looking at facial masks that make you look like an animal. And this is what happens when you try them that night:
The funniest part — possibly — is that these masks were clearly not made for someone with a big head and a Jewish nose. I suspect the mask would have done more good if we hadn’t been laughing so hard that they kept lifting up. Hey, Lululemon, here’s an idea for a cheer station next year.
Michaela left at the crack of dawn Sunday morning, and I watched the women’s Olympic marathon, which was live in Canada but stupidly tape-delayed in the U.S. Score another point for Canada! Then I packed up and set out for Granville Island, because of course my feet were thrilled to do more walking.
I wandered around the tourist-crowded area, ate more food (not pictured, shockingly), and then walked back across the Granville Island Bridge.
I wandered around Yaletown a bit, but my feet were really tired so I headed to the airport a little early.
I eventually boarded my plane, settled into my window seat, and heard a loud THUNK as we backed away from the gate. Then we stopped moving, and about 10 minutes later the pilot told us the airport crew had forgotten to disconnect something from the plane, thus causing the noise, and maintenance had to inspect the plane. Well then. But all was well, only putting us 20 minutes behind — which then caused another 20-minute delay when we landed and SFO had apparently given our gate away to some other plane.
But, hey, this time I did not return from Canada with a broken thumb. A year later, I can say: “1.75 thumbs up!”