A Spontaneous Half – BMO Vancouver Half Marathon

Surprise! I’m back already with another photo of me sitting in JJ and another story from a race.

It all started on Thursday morning, when I met my usual RunVan friends for the weekly run. We meet at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel downtown and usually run along the seawall or into Stanley Park. The route is usually 6-8k with a range of paces, so there’s something for everyone. I started going when Jan and I lived downtown, and when we moved to the other side of the Cambie bridge I kept running down on Thursday mornings.

Anyway, Michelle is the person who coordinates the link between the Fairmont and RunVan (really the Vancouver Marathon Society), which hosts the run. On Thursday when we were out on our run, she mentioned that she was planning to run the half marathon with a friend, who was injured and couldn’t race this year. She asked if I wanted to run with her instead.

I thought about it for about a day – I hadn’t run more than 10 or 12k since Boston, and while my legs felt normal I just didn’t have any oomph to go far or fast. But, it’s a cool course and I’ve been wanting to do a really iconic Vancouver race for a while, so I figured why not. Michelle wanted to run 1:40 or under and so I said I’d get her to at least 15k at that pace and farther if I could.

It was calling for warm weather right from the morning, so I wore a Saucony singlet (the same one I wore in Boston!) and my Nike shorts. I went with my trusty Kinvara’s for shoes. At the last minute, I also decided to bring my handheld water bottle. I had oatmeal for breakfast and tucked a gel into my pocket just in case. The bottle and outfit were a great choice because it was a hot one!! Definitely approaching 20 degrees at the start (it’s always bad news if I’m not cold wearing a singlet before the race).

The race started at 7:00 on Sunday morning, so Michelle and her husband picked me up at home at 6:15. We went to the start line at Queen E (it was so nice to have a ride!) and lined up at bag check. I was wearing a sweater over my race outfit, so we checked it in and then lined up for the portapotties. The lines were CRAZY long, so we didn’t actually make it to one… I didn’t really have to go and Michelle decided she’d rather get to the corral on time, so we headed over.

The start is organized by expected finish time, and since I didn’t register initially I didn’t know what time corresponded with my bib number, but it turned out we were in the first corral. We tucked in near the 1:50 pace bunny (TOO FAR BACK) but it was too crowded to move up. They played O Canada and we were off.

The race starts out in the park and really quickly heads out onto Cambie street. It’s a long downhill from there ’til the bridge, but since we started too far back we were dodging a lot of traffic. Jan and some FSRC friends were at 7th, so I waved to them and kept fighting for a spot to run in.

It was the middle of the bridge before things settled out (we had to pass the 1:50 and 1:45 bunnies) and we headed through downtown. After the bridge you go right on Pacific, to Quebec and back towards 2nd (this is an out and back). I saw Meghan cheering from outside her new condo, which was really fun. Then we came back down Quebec and through downtown (CLIF had a fun arch set up in Yaletown) before we were on Beach Ave.

At this point I was already starting to feel like I was a bit over it, but we were only just barely at 10k. I tried to chat with Michelle. I can’t really put my finger on what I was feeling. My legs were ok and my breathing seemed fine when I talked, but my head was saying “stop running!”

Once you get to the entrance of the park there’s a bit of winding around until you eventually get onto Pipeline road. This is an uphill and just after is where I told Michelle she should keep going. I stayed about 300m behind her for the rest of the race. By 18k I was starting to feel better (???) and smiled for some course photographers while thinking about how beautiful Vancouver is.

The last push to the finish line has a tiny uphill that feels like a huge uphill, and then you turn left on Georgia. I knew the finish line was at Bute (~1km away) but it felt like 100km away when I looked down the road and saw the blue arch in the distance. I just ran a comfortable pace in and waved when I saw Jan cheering.

I ran 1:41:13… nowhere near my best but a good effort on a hot day 3 weeks out from a tough marathon. Michelle got her 1:40, and 3rd in her age group!

We spent the rest of the day cheering on the full marathon in the sunshine, which earned both of us some tan lines. Later we grabbed some groceries and had a relaxing night at home. I’ve been reading this book Look Alive Out There, which is this really funny collection of essays (recommend if you’re looking for something light!), and I spent some time writing this post – I think it’s bedtime when I’m done!

It was a really fun day and I’m so happy Spring (almost Summer, really!) is finally here. I love the warm, long days – there’s nothing like it!

The 2018 Boston Marathon – Race Day

You can read more about my lead up to the race and weekend in Boston here! You can also check out my Instagram Stories of our weekend here.

Marathon Monday started bright and early in our AirBnB when I woke up around 5… WAY too nervous to keep sleeping. I chatted quietly to Jan for a bit, then got up and got dressed. Like I mentioned in my earlier post, I had decided to wear a long sleeve top, singlet and shorts. I put a headband over my ears and a hat on top of that to keep the rain off my face as much as possible.

On top of my running clothes, I wore a sweater and sweat pants that I planned to leave at the start line. Boston is a point to point race, and you aren’t able to check anything in after you get to the start line. I did pack a gear check bag with a complete change of clothes, a snack and my phone, which I would have waiting for me at the finish line. I stuck a credit card in the pocket of my shorts for emergencies.

I want to pause here and say that the full change of clothes was important!

So anyway, after I got dressed I ate my “pre-breakfast”. Since the race starts later than most (my wave was at 10:25) I didn’t want to eat breakfast too early. Usually when I do my long runs on Sunday, I eat oatmeal with dried fruit about an hour before the run starts. So, I had planned to do the same thing for the marathon, and packed some oatmeal with dried cherries (my fave) in a plastic container. At home (a good 4 or 5 hours before my start time) I ate a few gingersnap cookies and drank a cup of black coffee.

On race morning, athletes go to the buses at Boston Commons, which is near the finish line. You check in your gear bag and then show your bib to board a yellow school bus, which will take you to Hopkinton.

My whole family (Jan and both sets of parents! That’s my dad, and my mom is next to him all bundled up) took the train with me to Boston Commons. At the last minute, my mom handed me a disposable rain poncho, “just in case” (how do moms always know?!?). It was starting to rain lightly in Boston.

I hugged everyone and told them I’d see them in a few hours. I knew they planned to be cheering near Boston College at mile 21 or so, and then I’d see them again after finishing.

Jan reminded me to stick to my nutrition plan, including eating my oatmeal around 9 AM even if I was still on the bus (he ran in 2015, so he was familiar with the schedule).

So, I put on the garbage bag poncho and hopped on a school bus – at that point it was around 7.45. I was sitting towards the back with a bunch of men who were also first timers. We chatted a bit about our running backgrounds and racing plans for the year. Soon enough, it was 9 and like Jan said, I was still on the bus. It didn’t look like we were anywhere near the start (we were on a secondary road lined with trees) so I ate my breakfast. 15 minutes later it still seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere, and people started commenting on how long the bus ride seemed.

At around 9.30, the bus driver pulled over and let us know that we, and the bus we had been following, were lost on the way to the start. After consulting GPS (and lightly hitting the other bus while doing a 3 point turn) we were finally on the way. We got to the start around 9.40.

Usually, the start is at a school and athletes wait on the field in the “athlete’s village”. This year though, the snow (yes snow. In April.) and rain at the start line made the field a complete mess. I waded into the mud a bit but quickly decided it wasn’t worth the bit of tent coverage. I just found Amelia’s blog, and she has some good photos of the mud at the start! About 10 minutes later, my wave was called, and I walked to the start – a farther walk than I expected! It was probably 800m before I was at the corral.

When the announcement for a few minutes to race start was called, I took off my sweatpants and eventually my sweater, I told myself I would wait until the last second and take off the poncho. But then, the gun went off and I couldn’t do it! So I told myself I would just run 1-2 km and get warmer, and then take it off. Well, I told myself this pretty much every 5km for the entire race and I ended up wearing it the whole time!! There’s a first for everything?

Once the race started I was focused on how cold I was. The gloves I had were soaked before I crossed the start line, and my hands were too cold to move. By 3k I decided I had to toss the gloves and deal with being cold. It was better pretty quickly, but at 5km a spectator gave me a pair of handwarmers and that was a game changer. Thank you stranger!! (Also, how cool is THIS story about spectator help?!)

I tossed the handwarmers around 10k and tried to settle in. I could not believe how many people were cheering along the course even in the terrible weather. There were strong headwinds and it was alternating drizzle with dumps of serious rain. I had been worried about running alone, because I almost always run with friends, and even though I never found a group to settle in to I was definitely never alone. 30,000 people on a course is no joke!

Around 15k a spectator yelled out, “Way to go! Only 17 miles left!” Um, thanks?

Soon we hit Wellesley and I could hear the girls screaming. I saw a few people stop for kisses or high fives and just pushed on. When I looked at my watch at half way, I saw 1:42 and felt good about running under 3:30. My “A” goal for the race was 3:25, and I was still in that neighbourhood. This gave me some confidence through a harder patch between 22 and 28 km. Strava splits here, if you’re curious.

I also decided to fuel a little earlier during this race. I’ll never forget my friend Kat telling me “Eat early!!” on my way out the door at my first ultra. You can’t trust your stomach after hours of racing, I guess :). Usually I eat at 1 hour and then every 45 minutes, but this time I bumped it up to 50 mins and then every 40 or so after that. I ate 1 pack of honey stinger chews (cherry cola is my favourite flavour) and 3 waffles over the course of the race. I was also carrying a bottle (I like this one too) with 700 cc water and a half tab of Nuun (lemon lime!). When that was done I switched to Gatorade, which is what they had on course.

The next part to get through was Newton and the infamous hills. I have to say – the Newton hills, including Heartbreak, are not that long or steep. They are challenging because you are 30 km into a marathon. Plus, Boston is an early season race, which means many people have been training on treadmills through the winter. Running outside in Vancouver all winter made me more than ready to tackle the hills.

I got through the first two and started to notice some left calf tightness on my way up the 3rd hill (approaching km 30). If I kept my foot more dorsiflexed it was OK, and I told myself it would pass. Getting up and over Heartbreak hill, my left calf started to cramp and I knew I was in trouble. Suddenly I just couldn’t do more than shuffle, trying to keep my calves long. Whenever I deviated to my usual stride, they would instantly (and painfully) bunch up.

Still, as I came downhill towards Boston College and saw the big “THE HEARTBREAK IS OVER” banner over the road, I started telling myself to just run home. I saw my family, dressed head to toe in garbage bag dresses my dad had made for them, and waving a huge Canadian flag. It was the best boost ever and I cheered at them through the downpour and just focused on getting back to Boston.

Desi going for the W! This is not how I looked ;)

My pace really slowed down and by 36 km I was counting in my head to distract myself from the pain in my calves. Basically, I would count to 100 and then let myself check my watch again. I was SO happy to see the Citgo sign and eventually I turned right on Hereford and left on Boylston, and I was staring down the straightaway at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

I tried so hard to push through that last 800 m but it was hard and I had tears in my eyes when I crossed the line. I paused briefly for a photographer to take a photo, and then a volunteer grabbed me in a big bear hug and wrapped a heatsheet blanket around me. Suddenly I could not stop shivering and I knew I had to get to dry clothes.

I walked through the finish chute to collect my bag, which was a pretty chaotic process due to all the other finishers. I managed to get a volunteer’s attention (her first question was whether I needed a wheelchair – I was really shaking) and she found my bag and pointed me towards the family meeting area, where I was planning to meet Jan + the parents.

When me and my cramping calves got to H (H for Heuninck and H because we thought C would be busier? I don’t know) I was almost crying from the pain and cold. A volunteer at the H station helped me get my phone and dial Jan’s phone number. She also wrapped my legs and shoulders in two more blankets. A few minutes later Jan was there and gave me a big hug and suddenly so were all of our parents – both moms crying and both dads giving me hugs and high fives. We started to head out of the finish area but it was becoming clear that I could barely walk because of the shivering.

We passed a cafe/bar that was open (my google searching tells me it’s Post390.. THANK YOU!) and someone at the door (a waiter?) pulled me inside. They had this amazing fireplace and actual paying customers moved so that I could stand right next to it. This is where the dry clothes I had checked in became so important. When people are hypothermic, you need to get them dry. You can’t be warm until you’re dry and warm. I knew I needed the wet stuff off.

Luckily, there was a staff bathroom and Jan took me in there and helped me get changed into my dry clothes – I was too shaky to do it myself. After a few more minutes in front of the fire, we headed out to the train station and made our way back to the air bnb. I was still shivering slightly, so I just relaxed on the couch and talked to my family about the race. They said everyone looked cold and wet, and I have to say how amazing my family is to stand in the pouring rain for 3 hours just to see me run past… as hard as it is to run through a downpour, it’s harder to stand still in one. I’m so lucky to have so much love and support around me!

Eventually we rallied and went to a local Greek place for dinner. I finally braved a shower (I so didn’t want to get wet) around 9 and was asleep before my head hit the pillow. When I woke up the next morning I was a bit sore but it eased up as I walked around. We left pretty early to fly back to Vancouver, and I tried to walk around on the airplane a bit to stay loose.

My official time is 3:34:13. Overall, Boston was a crazy experience. It wasn’t the performance I’d hoped for, but it was special to be a part of something so much bigger. As for whether I’d go back… it’s still too soon :)

I took a few days totally off running and did a little 3k jog on Thursday (one week ago). Then I ran on the weekend (6k and 10k) and this week I’ve been more or less back at it – an easy 45 mins yesterday and my usual Thursday morning group run today. I’m planning to take it easy/casual for one more week and then think about a plan for the Knee Knacker, which is next on the list!

Thanks so much to the race organizers, volunteers, total strangers who helped me out, training buddies (everyone racing finished!!) and of course to my amazing family: my Mom and Dad, future in-laws and Jan. Couldn’t have done it alone!

Have you ever run Boston? Or another Major? What was it like for you?

The 2018 Boston Marathon – Part 1

This past Monday I ran the BOSTON MARATHON! I remember watching a live stream of the race 5 or so years ago and thinking about how I would never be able to run that far, let alone that fast. But here we are!

I can do hard things.

Also, this post will be long – it covers everything BEFORE the actual race.

Before I get into my full recap, I just want to say that I have never felt anything like this energy coming from the athletes, volunteers, and the CITY at any race I’ve ever been to. It carried me along this weekend and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience it.

I’ll rewind to the start of my weekend, a very luxurious 5-day affair. On Thursday morning (April 12th), Jan and I hopped on a plane to Toronto. My sister met us at the airport, and my dad picked the three of us up and zoomed us to my parents’ house in Aurora.

We did a quick change and I came downstairs to find myself wearing the same jeans as my sister and the same jacket as my Mom. Must be baked into our DNA!

We went to a local restaurant called Joia for dinner, to celebrate our engagement (which I guess is also news if you only know me via this blog! Jan proposed in February). My aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents joined us, so it was really great to see everyone after so long.

Early the next morning Mom and Dad, Jan, and I headed back to the airport, this time heading for Boston! Our flight was a bit delayed, so I had time for a second coffee and then we took off.

Jan’s parents met us at our AirBnB a few hours after we landed. We stayed in Cambridge, which I think worked out well. Downtown would have been more convenient on race day for sure, but I was not prepared to spend so much extra $$$.

On the first day, we grabbed groceries (breakfast stuff including fruit, coffee and oatmeal, and some snacks like chips and guac) and stocked the house. Then, we wandered over the bridge and into downtown Boston along the Beacon Hill neighbourhood to check out the finish line.

We stopped for coffee at Tatte, which my friend Zamin had suggested. I had a cappuccino and a pastry (carb loading, right?!).

Yup, cue the nerves. We ate dinner that night at a cute place we’d scoped out on Yelp. It was fine, but nothing special. Everyone went to bed early (jet lag + lots of family + nervous Alyssa… you get the picture).

Saturday morning we had coffee and breakfast and piled into an UBER to… PACKAGE PICKUP! The expo and bib pickup were both located at the Seaport, about 20 minutes away from our place.

It was super well organized – I walked up to the volunteer without waiting at all, handed him my runner passport and my actual passport (you need to have photo ID, and my driver’s license is currently expired!) and suddenly… I had a bib! Things began to get real.

 

We took some photos in front of the course map and went down to the expo.

When you walk in, you go to another volunteer corresponding to your bib number, and they hand you the following:

  • your Boston Marathon finisher’s shirt (usually a yellow long sleeve, but this year blue and silver to commemorate Adidas’ 30 year anniversary with the race)
  • your gear check bag
  • a smaller bag for the start line
  • water
  • some treats (stickers, tattoos, CLIF shot bloks)

We then continued through the expo, which was a total zoo. It was just so, so busy! Pretty much the first stop was the massive Adidas booth where I got a celebration jacket (which Jan’s parents got me for my birthday – thanks you guys!) and a yellow short sleeve t-shirt. They also give you a free poster that has every runner’s name on it. We stopped at the Saucony booth so I could show my parents the donut shoes, and I got a new singlet and t-shirt (can’t find them online, but they are on the right in the photo below!)

After that it was on to the free stuff! Tons of samples of mostly food and hydration products. None of our parents had been to a major expo before and they had a blast trying new stuff – we’re going to be eating protein bars for a year. Tip: backpacks would be annoying because of all the security checks, but a shoulder bag was a total non issue, and an easy way to carry everything.

In the afternoon we had a late lunch with some Vancouver friends (Greg, Geoffrey, and Emily, and their families) and then meandered along the Freedom Trail back to the AirBnB where we had a happy hour and UNO game to cap off the evening.

This is where I should tell you that while Friday was nice, Saturday was much cooler and windier. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t going to get much better.

Sunday morning we tried to sleep in. I hadn’t been sleeping much at all, mostly because of nerves (does this happen to anyone else?!). Eventually everyone was up and dressed and we headed back to the finish line and to check out some of the shops on Hereford (by far my favourite: Tracksmith! I’m wearing their tank in this photo). We had brunch (read: I ate three potato wedges) at Sonsie’s.

I’ve only run one other marathon, CIM, in December 2016. I remember being very, very nervous that weekend as well. I don’t know why… I know my legs will take me 42km if I ask them (I know they’ll take me 50!) but I think I also knew it would hurt? The weather was also heavy on my mind, which made everything heavy on my stomach.

After brunch, we went to Fenway Park! Jan had the idea to get baseball tickets several weeks ago, so we met up with my running buddies Christi and Meghan and their families. It was cool to be in an iconic stadium, but it was just way too cold to stay outside.

After negotiating for free hot chocolate (honestly, I don’t know how my Mom does it.. she somehow convinced the Fenway people to give us 8 free hot chocolates!?) at the bottom of the 5th inning, we decided to call it a day and headed home. The temperature was hovering around 0 with the winds picking up.

At home, of course, we turned on the weather to see that it was the coldest April 15th in Boston since 1881…ok, cold I can work with (I’m Canadian, right?). It was also calling for a 100% chance of showers during the race (ok, I’m from Vancouver, right?) and a strong cross wind (I don’t have anything to make me feel better about this).

I decided to adjust my wardrobe plans for the race. Initially, I’d planned on a t-shirt and shorts, maybe starting with arm warmers. But, after feeling the temperature that day and seeing the forecast, I decided to go with a singlet (the saucony one) over a long sleeve. I didn’t have anything warmer to wear on the bottom. If I had one available, I would have seriously considered a windbreaker/rain jacket.

I ate a bagel with jam, drank maybe 750mL of water and went up to bed. I fell asleep a few hours later (after realizing, around 11.30, that I was hungry in the middle of being nauseous and ate a huge chunk of watermelon). I was up again around 2, and then dozed off from 3-5. At that point, it seemed like it was time to get up and face the day!

Stay tuned for the race day recap! (Update: recap here!)

Does anyone else get nervous before a race? Does it affect eating and sleeping? What do you do about it?

Reading in 2017

Every year I set myself a reading goal. At the beginning of 2017, I said I’d try to get through 15 books. It’s not quite the end of the year (and I might be able to squeeze in another short book on vacation next week!) but I thought I’d list the round-up here.

I usually keep track of books I read via a “sticky note” on my computer desktop. There are platforms that are designed for this (Goodreads, for example) but my little list works for me.

Full disclosure: I’m still halfway through my last book and last audiobook so I’m not totally sure this counts as reaching my goal, but I also think it’s pretty close and I’m glad to have been able to keep up a reading habit. Also, some books felt super long! (I’m looking at you, all 592 pages of American Wife)

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologizes Last year I discovered my favourite book (maybe ever): A Man Called Ove, by Frederick Backman. I’ve been working my way through his other books, staring with this one. It took a while to get started, which I’m realizing is common for him. In the end, I liked it a lot. This book is part of a series of books that are all a similar story told from different characters’ views. It doesn’t matter what order you read them in, or if you read all of them, but the more you read, the more perspective you get. Next on my “to-read” list is Britt-Marie Was Hereanother book in the set.

The Improbability of Love Going with the theme of “takes a long time to get started” is this book, which is told from the perspective of a painting. Once I had a lot of free time on a plane to Sydney, I got through and ended up enjoying it.

The Art of Racing in the Rain This book was great. In contrast to my first two books of the year, I tore through it. It was also a bit of a cry-fest (picture me tearing up on Bondi Beach). If you love dogs you should definitely read this one.

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did, but I thought it was fantastic. It’s a story of four women, centred around a little coffee shop in Kabul and as chaotic as you might expect that to look. At first some of the cultural elements made me want to scream, but slowly I got used to it. I don’t often pass books on to others, but both my Mom and a friend got a copy of this book later in the year.

Behind Closed Doors This was an easy but SUPER creepy read. It’s also short, which means I literally ripped through it on a flight from Sydney to Cairns. I ended up leaving it at the Cairns airport for someone else to enjoy, but if you like thrillers and are looking for something quick and easy, this could be it. There were a few holes in the story, but I was willing to overlook them.

The Wangs Vs. The World Sort of a “Crazy Rich Asians” type of book. It’s focused on a modern wealthy Chinese family going through a financial in L.A. Kind of a light story with a healthy dose of pop culture references.

The Knockoff This book itself was nothing to write home about, but I did spend some time thinking about the themes involved. It’s about a magazine editor whose young assistant tries to steal her job by turning the magazine into an app (online, all the time, 24-hours-a-day).

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend I liked this book. It’s about a book-lover who finds herself on an adventure in rural America.

American Wife This book felt like it took me a long time to get through, but I kept finding myself thinking about how realistic it seemed. Then when I finished it and googled, it turns out that the novel is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush. Once I got into it I was pretty hooked, so I’d totally recommend it if you enjoy American politics, want insight into life and dynamics in powerful families, or just like a good story. I read a good chunk of it on the bus to and from Seattle to visit friends in the summer.

Hungry Heart I picked this book up in the airport on our way to Europe in October, and I really liked it. Jennifer Weiner has written several books, and I think I’ve read most of them. She’s usually funny and down to earth and a bit self-deprecating, so I was excited to see her name on the cover. Then I realized that this book isn’t a novel, it’s a memoir in the form of short essays. I think she’s smart and has really figured out who she is, so getting to see a glimpse of that and her day-to-day life was cool.

Rabbit This book is another shorty and I read it quickly on a few train rides through Belgium. It’s the insane story of a little girl who grows up with heroin, the sex trade, teenage parenthood and more, and yet still comes out on top. It’s totally worth it just as a reminder that if you can be sitting somewhere comfortable reading a book, your life isn’t going even half badly.

The Bookshop on the Corner This book was sort of similar to the Readers of Broken Wheel above, as in it’s about a woman on an adventure who loves books. There was more of a romance piece in this book though, and I liked that it wasn’t predictable. I was surprised I enjoyed it so much.

Bear Town Oh, Backman. This was a fantastic 430-page book that felt like it could pretty easily have been 300, max. Other than that it had well-developed characters and complex themes that several times had me pause mid-page, put the book down, and think for a bit. If you grew up around sports or Canadian winters or both, you’ll definitely find it relatable.

Two Hours This book is an interesting look at what it will take to run a two-hour marathon (it was written a few years ago, before Nike staged their Breaking2 attempt). I liked the mix of running history, and found that it was a great book for bus rides or waits because I could read it in micro-chunks without forgetting the details/plot line etc.

AudioBooks

I wasn’t sure if audiobooks count as being “read” but I did start to get into listening on my commute home (in the morning I like the news). I found that picking a book that would be a bit of an “easier read” made it easier for me to stay engaged while listening. When I tried more “adult” books, I found my mind would drift away easily.

I’ve been listening via Audible!

Wonder This is the sweet story of a boy called Augie (short for August) who’s born with a severe craniofacial deformity, and the adventure that is his first year at school. I liked it a lot and thought it was really easy to listen to.

My Brilliant Friend (Book 1 of the Neapolitan Novels) I have to admit, I’m only about 30 minutes into this book. Apparently it’s a “modern masterpiece” about a friendship between two women that spans decades. We’ll see!

As a cookbook lover, I also gave a shoutout to favourites from the year: Dinner A Love Story, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, and (from 2016) Run Fast Eat Slow have been loved (aka dripped on/splattered/smudged) around here this year!

Seawheeze 2017 Race Recap

You know how I get nervous for races? Seawheeze makes me totally crazy! I wish I could channel my inner yogi but I’m a nervous nellie all the way. I’ll cut to the chase and say I had a really successful race, and this will be a bit long. If you only have two seconds here’s the short version: I had a blast and ran 1:30:42 (an almost-four-minute PB)!

I’m thinking a few things I did the week before this race made a difference. First, I barely ran all week. I was busy with work one day, feeling a bit off another day and before I knew it, I was picking up my package on Friday afternoon and thinking that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to go for a run 12 hours before racing.

there is no hiding from the camera in this house

The second thing I think I got right was nutrition during that week. I’ve been learning more about carbohydrate loading and how it only really works if you deplete yourself first. So, during the week I used myfitnesspal and cut WAY back on carbs (prob why I was feeling “off”). The night before the race, I ate sushi (salt and carbs?) and some extra oatmeal. The morning of, I was accidentally out of oatmeal (great planning on my part) so I ate plain zucchini bread. In the 24 hours before the race I tried to really decrease my fat intake.

I had a harder time falling asleep that night but eventually did. The race starts at 7, but the start line is a few blocks away and I wasn’t checking a bag, so I rolled out of bed at 5.50, paced nervously for 30 minutes, and got dressed :). I took my now-traditional pre-Seawheeze nervous selfie. I also wore my lucky socks… I know this is crazy but I have PB’d in every race I wore these and there must be some magic in there.

Also NOTE TO SELF: french braiding my hair was perfect.

Jan walked me to the start line, and I jogged back and forth for a short warm up. We headed over to the start line, and saw Danielle (who also ran a big PB! Woohoo!) there as well. Seawheeze is a huge but not super competitive race, so I jumped into the first corral (Under 1:40). It was pretty surreal to be standing on the line of a 10,000 person race (next to Nic, who came second overall, Kristina, and a few other local running celebs).

Pretty soon the race was off and I just tried to settle in. Last year, Ben gave me the really good advice that I should run a race by feel – just go as fast as I think I can hold for that distance. I think that this stops me from seeing my pace and freaking out, and also has taught me to be more tuned in to my bod.

Initially, I was thinking it would be awesome to break my previous PB (1:34:17, set at the Fool’s Half earlier this year). This past week, I also wondered if I was maybe fast enough to do 1:32? Between very few structured workouts and not looking at my watch, I really didn’t have a plan other than “get in front of the 1:35 bunny and don’t get passed”. So we went off and little did I know I went through the first 2 km in 7:48… averaging 3:54/km.

splits from strava

I do have to say that just before 2k, we went over the Dunsmuir viaduct and through the Ride Cycle Club cheer tunnel, which was epic. I was running way too fast and grinning ear to ear. Turns out that in the first half of this race I set a 5k and 10k PB as well.

photo from lulu facebook page

We rounded the corner off the viaduct and hit the Main/Keefer/Carrall loop. I felt pretty bad at that point and from 3-8k was definitely a rough patch in the race for me. I tried to remind myself that all I needed to do was hang on until I just couldn’t anymore, and if I eventually fell off the pace that would be ok. Thanks to marathon and ultramarathon training, I was very sure that I would get through 21k, no matter how slowly I had to do it.

Eventually we got off that part of the seawall and went up the hill on Bute and I willed myself not to barf. I knew Jan would be around the foot of the bridge but didn’t see him until he captured some really candid photos! From where I saw him it was only 500m to the peak of the bridge, and the downhill. was. amazing. Suddenly I felt so much better. I turned onto Cornwall and saw Yasuyo, who cheered and jumped about 30 feet in the air and powered through to the turnaround.

pure joy. Thanks for the photo Yasuyo!

When I started running back, I realized that part of feeling so good was a tailwind! Oh well. I knew I’d have to dig a bit and get over Burrard from the tougher side. I ran a 4:35 km (my second slowest of the race) and then hit the west part of the seawall. I also saw some more friends on this stretch, including Meghan, Nic, Yasuyo again, and Danielle (best thing about an out-and-back). From there I really did zone out – it seemed like every step was hard, but also suddenly I was at Siwash rock, and then Lion’s Gate, and the Vega cheering station and boom! I was turning into the park.

 

Once I was back on the Coal Harbour seawall, I started to think about my breathing and focus. I knew I’d be done running in 5 minutes, and I really didn’t want to throw up. Sometimes at the end of a race I get excited, and my heart rate spikes just thatmuch more, and that’s all it takes give me the barfs. With about a kilometer to go, I heard someone’s Garmin tell them out loud “20 kilometers. One hour and 26 minutes”. I literally did not believe it. My immediate reaction was that there was no way I was running that pace and they must have started their watch late. It was only at the 400m mark that I saw Jan, and he yelled that I was going to run 1:30.

I rounded the last corner and couldn’t sprint – too much tummy trouble. I still saw the 1:30 on the clock and couldn’t resist throwing up my arms. It was a huge breakthrough! I’ve been running 1:34-1:35 for the past year.

thinking about how much awesomeness this city has brought me in the last two years

Post-race I got a shiny medal and lots of goodies. Of course pre-race lulu sends out a pair of their special Seawheeze-branded, exclusive print shorts, and then when I picked up my timing chip on Friday I also got a bag, water bottle, package of Nuun, and JJ Bean coupon for a free coffee. There were free manicures, temporary tatoos and foam rolling in the Plaza, but I didn’t line up for any of it. Maybe next year!

 

I also didn’t wait in line for the exclusive Seawheeze store – too much $$ already spent on this for me! I think people really liked the stuff though, so if you’re in town for the race and don’t mind waiting it might be fun.

After getting the medal, I continued on towards the plaza and was given a Bearfoot Bistro brunch box. It had banana bread, chia pudding and an apricot. I wasn’t feeling up to food at that point, but it did get eaten later this weekend! In the plaza, I got an aromatherapy kit from Saje with Peppermint Halo and Muscle Melt (both of which I already loved) and a sample of vega smoothie. We took some photos and I let it sink in that I HAD JUST RUN 90 MINUTES!

Of course I hadn’t thought to bring any warm clothes, and it really wasn’t the warmest morning (which helped!) so we headed home pretty quickly. After a shower and a whole foods almond milk latte I was feeling great!

We took it easy for the rest of the day and met up with some friends at the Sunset Festival that night. Lulu puts on a big outdoor concert as part of the race, so we relaxed with friends and listened to the music. When we got home around 11, I had a huge snack (turns out running is hard) and totally crashed.

It was a great day!