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!

5peaks Mt Seymour/Golden Ears

I’m finally caught up on race reports! It seemed like I was barely racing at all and then all of a sudden they were back to back. I decided to race the 5peaks Mt. Seymour race as a bit of a last minute fun race – it’s kind of a long story.

Back in May, we went to a fundraiser for some of our running friends. They’d been chosen to represent Canada at the 50k World Championships. It was held in Italy this year, which was super cool and super expensive (flight, hotel, food, etc).

So anyway, the run club they (and sometimes we) run with hosted a big fundraiser. It was a really relaxed evening at our friend Jess’ studio (early childhood education by day, runner hangout by night). We first did a mellow 5k run, then ate a bunch of pizza, had some drinks and hung out. There was a silent auction and a raffle, so of course we had to get in on those, too.

Jan and I both ended up winning raffle prizes (hat + bag + water bottle for me, and shoes for him) but I also entered the silent auction and won… this race!

THEN, we found out that there was still so much snow on Mt. Seymour on race weekend (June 17th) that the race had to get moved to Golden Ears (where I actually raced last year!). So long story short, I found myself driving to a race at 5.45 am, less than 12 hours after a 5k road race, with Jan, my parents, and the ever-adventurous Moira, who agreed to come race as well.

The race itself was classic 5peaks – low key, well organized, really friendly and beautiful scenery. Also need to say that the race director, Solana, was really nice about helping me squeeze Moira into the race (it was sold out and I emailed her the night before begging for an entry!). Seriously, they are so, so great. Definitely recommended if you want some fun trail racing!

I think I was a bit in my head about being tired, and I probably told myself for the first 3-4 km that I needed to just settle into it. I was in third place or so (thanks to some long slow climbs that were very non-technical) for the first half but got caught on the more technical downhill. I finished 5th female overall in 1:18 on a 13ish km course.

It was a fun day overall! Definitely made me think more about being confident heading into a race instead of having to convince myself that I’m fit while I’m on the course. Also note to self for next year/other races- I really don’t need to carry that water on a run <20k… I don’t end up drinking anything!

On a side note, I was SUPER tired last week and took a few days off from running. I was able to hold a faster pace for my long run on Sunday, so hopefully that’s over! Also tried to add more meat/protein and sleep. We’ll see!

Any tips? (Besides sleep more :-) Have you raced 5peaks?

 

Sunshine Coast April Fool’s Half Marathon – Race Recap!

On Sunday I ran the BMO Sunshine Coast April Fool’s Run presented by Coast Cable. It was a really beautiful day, lots of friends were on the coast for the run, and I actually ended up running a surprise PB! Here’s how the day went:

I’ve been living on the Sunshine Coast for the past 8 weeks while working at St. Mary’s Hospital and the Upstream Family Medicine Clinic. On Saturday, our friends Greg, Martina and Greg’s brother Jeff took the ferry over from Vancouver to join me and Jan in Sechelt for the weekend. We had a late lunch at Shift Kitchen, and then drove to Smuggler’s Cove Provincial Park for a short hike. We didn’t attempt anything too intense, since Greg, Jeff and I were running the half the next morning. On our way back, we grabbed some groceries and made an awesome dinner of steelhead, quinoa salad, risotto and grilled asparagus. Martina also made this really awesome guac that we ended up eating with lime-flavoured tortilla chips..the best.

almond milk + coffee + nervous Alyssa = must be race day

So Sunday morning I woke up early with my usual pre-race nerves. After scrolling through Twitter for Barkley Marathon updates, I decided to just get up. I ate a bowl of oatmeal with a little bit of almond butter and chocolate chips. I also drank about 1/2 a mug of decaf coffee with almond milk. It was so nice to have Jan, Greg, Martina and Jeff to chat with! Really helped distract me from the race.

time to boogie! Greg 1.0 , me, Jeff and Greg 2.0

 

Since the race is point-to-point, we left one car at the finish line and all piled into Martina’s car to head to the start. There, we met Alan, Greg B., and Dimitri (also saw Julie and Steph!). We all grabbed our race packages, put on our numbers, and did a quick warm up.

It was sunny and clear, so I went with shorts + singlet + arm warmers and gloves for the race. I think it was the right call! I would have been warm in a tee-shirt but I was glad for the arm warmers. #ventilationFTW! The race goes off at 9.17 am, and around 9 the volunteers started corralling us all to the start line. I went to the bathroom one last time and gave Jan my joggers and hoodie.

Before I knew it, the race started and I was over the timing mat. I was trying to run by feel for the first little while. The last time I raced a half marathon was in August – Seawheeze! This was also my PB, and while I knew I’d gotten stronger since then I also didn’t feel like I was in that kind of shape. I didn’t taper into this run and I’m in the middle of a 50k training cycle, so I thought “ok, let’s just see”. My best guess was that I’d run around 1:40.

So we start the race and I just try to settle in. My first three km splits were 4:19, 4:13, 4:17 (averaging 6:45/mi) and while my initial thought was “whoa too fast”, I also thought “but I feel really comfortable”. I decided to just go with it and see what happened.

still feeling good at 6k

The first 10k of the race flew by. This has never really happened to me. I felt like km markers were just coming up so quickly. I’m not sure if it’s because I was enjoying the rolling hills, or because I’ve gotten used to much longer runs, but I found myself thinking “How are there only 10km left in this race?!”

With every km I checked my watch to see how far off of 4:30 pace I was. I wasn’t planning to push myself for anything faster than that, but the plan was to try to use it as a benchmark. For every km under 4:30, I just felt like I was putting seconds in the bank – and I ended up needing a bunch of those to get up the hills in the next part of the course.

there’s the pain face!

I ran with a few small groups until this point in the race, occasionally drafting in the headwind or pulling one or two runners (mostly men) with me. I took a cup of water at every aid station (there were four) but none really made it into my mouth. One I splashed on my face, another down my neck and I think I got a tiny sip out of the third or fourth. I didn’t have any food for the race (this is pretty standard for me in a half).

At km 15-16, I was running totally alone, and came to the start of the large hills on the course (Marlene road up to the highway, which continues up). I really had a moment coming up Marlene when I thought I’d burned all my matches and just about died, but then I settled back into a rhythm and the highway seemed like no big deal. At this point the race was really spread out – I could only see one or two other runners ahead of me.

chasing down 10th place!

The hill crests at km 18, and from there it was just get to the finish! I saw Jan and Martina at a few points (the start, 6km, 12ish km, and the finish, plus driving from point to point) and that was a big boost. I saw Jan with his camera just before the finish, and turned to sprint home. I passed one woman in the chute with only a few metres to go!

I have fast friends :) Alan and Greg were already done and demolishing bagels!

Ultimately my official time was 1:34:17, 10th F overall and 5th in my age group. This is a 41 second PB over Seawheeze on a tougher course, so I’ll take it! After the race we all came back to my Sechelt place for a family brunch – the best way to finish a race :).

Jan and I also took a quick afternoon drive/walk to Porpoise Bay, just up the road from where I’m staying. It was so pretty but so windy! Towards the end of the evening I got a really bad headache. I tried everything (caffeine, fluids, rest, a shower) until I realized I probably needed salt (I had already eaten oatmeal, then pancakes, fruit salad at brunch and then a salad for dinner). I literally put some margarine on a piece of toast and dusted heavily with salt and magic! 30 minutes later I felt like a different person.

What did you do this weekend? Anyone else a very salty sweat-er? 

All photos by the wonderful JAN except the one with the Fool’s Run banner, which is thanks to Rick Horne

Lynn Peak Hike (Guest Starring Catherine and Silvia)

Longtime blog readers (and, ok, my cousin and her bff) came for a visit to Vancouver last weekend! We had a great time exploring the city, and ended up on a surprise hike. Here’s the story:

img_8700
Jan usually takes (and edits) blog photos but since this was spontaneous, it’s me & an iphone :)

On Monday morning I had planned to take Catherine and Silvia to Lynn Canyon. It’s my favourite alternative to the Capilano Suspension Bridge (almost as long, way less crowded and free!). We didn’t really have plans for the afternoon, so we got a slow start to the morning. Around 9, we walked to Whole Foods for breakfast and almond milk lattes of course (Silvia got the mac’n’cheese, which ended up being the best decision). Then, we got in the car and drove to Lynn Canyon.

Once you get into the park, the suspension bridge is only a few steps from the parking lot. I thought we’d go across, take some photos, then do an easy hike to Rice Lake and back (total time ~1h max). We did cross the bridge, but once we climbed the stairs above the 30 ft pool, we passed a sign showing the path to Rice Lake. It was an inset on a bigger map, which included the trail to Lynn Peak via the Lynn Loop trail.

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-3-28-01-pm

We were less than 2k from the base of Lynn Peak, and it was turning into a really nice day. I asked the girls if they wanted to try to climb up, and they agreed. I went once last summer with Brian, Sarah and Moira, so I knew the trail was well marked. I also had a lot of extra food with me, plus most of the 10 essentials (I think we were a little light on clothing but I always pack emergency blankets).

16830797_10155065747958522_2437437291994000803_n

img_8806

The first part of the hike is a steady uphill along a rocky trail. Since it was a relatively warm day, there was water flowing in some parts. Eventually, the trail changes to packed dirt switchbacks. We made really good time along both these sections (total ~1.5km), and de-layered a bunch of clothing.

img_8706

At that point, you find yourself on a ridge that goes steadily up. This is where we also found snow. We had decided that if it got too snowy or cold, we’d turn around, but since we still had lots of layers to put back on, and the snow was packed and melting, we carried on.

img_8729

The trail is deceiving here because there are several false flats – just as you think you are at the peak, it turns and there is another uphill section. There were some steep parts here where poles or spikes would have been helpful (but not necessary).

Along the way, we passed 2 viewpoints: first looking east, then west.

img_8713
Viewpoint on Lynn Peak looking at Seymour Mountain

 

img_8732
Viewpoint from Lynn Peak looking at Grouse Mountain – on a clear day you can also see the Georgia Strait behind it!

After a little more climbing, we reached the peak. I was so impressed that the girls made it up – I was definitely feeling the climb, and I remember thinking the same thing last time I did it. Lynn Peak has been called a less crowded Grouse Grind :).

img_8749

The views definitely did not disappoint – the pic I took is overexposed but we could see way past UBC and the airport to the USA. Pretty cool! Our ascent time was about 1:15, with a few stops for breaks – total ~1:30. We hung out at the top for a bit, enjoyed the view, ate a bunch of snacks, and then headed back down. It only took us 30 mins to get back to the Lynn Loop trail, and then another 20 to get back along the creek, over the bridge, and into the car.

img_8744

Total hike time: 0:25 (Lynn Canyon) + 2:00 (Lynn Loop and climb) + 0:30 (summit) + 0:50 (descent and Lynn Loop) + 0:25 (Lynn Canyon) = 4:30. Links to Strava page with GPS info.

After driving back to Vancouver, we stopped for bulk candy and Momo, and these 2 tried their best to stay awake until 9 :) It was a great day!

Cypress Snowshoeing

img_8352-2

A few weeks ago Jan and I decided to go for a quick afternoon snowshoe. We’ve gone up Hollyburn a few times, so we decided to check out the paid snowshoe trails in the Cypress resort. An adult trail ticket is $10, and you can get a season’s pass for $99. The one bummer is that the pass only gives you access to the snowshoe trails – you need a separate one for the cross country skiing. I can definitely snowshoe more than 10 times in a season, but I’m not sure I want to go to the same place 10 times.

So anyway, we headed into the trails to see what they were like.

2016-12-23-cypress-snowshoeing-026 2016-12-23-cypress-snowshoeing-022img_8353-2

Pros: The trails were easy at the beginning. Flat, short, pretty. I would definitely be able to bring my parents, or other visitors who I’m not sure I want to drag up a mountain. As we kept going, things did get harder, but the trails were really well marked (similar to ski trails – green/blue/black etc.) and we knew what we were getting into.

We had snowshoes with us, but another “pro” might be that you can rent snowshoes in the Nordic Area parking lot, which would be convenient. The snowshoes are $24 for the day and include your trail ticket.

2016-12-23-cypress-snowshoeing-006img_8305-2

Cons: Honestly, just that there is a cost. There aren’t many great viewpoints in the resort, but the trails do lead to the BC parks trail that sends you up Hollyburn. Considering you can do that (and a lot of other local trails) for free, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to pay. I think the resort trails would be nice for someone who wants to explore a few trails without a lot of elevation gain, or who just prefers marked/groomed trails (though Hollyburn is also marked, and seems groomed because of all the foot traffic).

What do you think? Worth it for the extra $$?

Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail Snowshoe

2017-01-14-als-habrich-trail-074

On Saturday, Jan and I joined our friends Greg, Martina and Christine for a day in the snow. We’d all done a bunch of snowshoeing on the North Shore Mountains (Grouse, Cypress and Seymour) this year, so we thought we’d venture further north and look for some new-to-us terrain.

We decided to head to Squamish and check out the trails that start at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola. The gondola entrance is just off the Sea-to-Sky Highway, about a kilometre before downtown Squamish. At the bottom, there are amazing views of the Chief, another awesome hike (which I’ve done in the summer, but not the winter!)

final-summer-map-2016-side-one-page-001

Anyway, you can either hike up to the top, or take the gondola. We really thought about hiking, since the fee to go up+down is $37.95 per person, but a ticket to go down only is $9.99 per person. The guys at the bottom told us to expect a 5-6 hour trip if we hiked up, so we chose to ride. Vancouver trails says the hike takes about 3.5 hours in the summer, so I guess that would mean about 5 hours of hiking/snowshoeing in the winter. We also didn’t have trax or microspikes, which probably would help a lot. The views going up the gondola were spectacular, even if the price was a bit much. I plan to come back to do the full hike up at some point!

2017-01-14-als-habrich-trail-117

At the top of the gondola, there is a viewing platform and cafe. Just behind the cafe/gondola exit, there is a snowshoe rental area and a nice, warm firepit. When we got there, around 10 am, it was really quiet. We took a few photos and then headed down a snowy road/wide walking path until we reached the trailhead. Along the way, we saw some people ice climbing on the rock faces! I’d love to try it this winter.

final-summer-map-2016-side-two-page-001

The trail we chose is called Al’s Habrich Ridge trail. It wraps up around the northwest part of Habrich Ridge, part of Mount Habrich. The trail map we picked up at the bottom of the gondola says it’s an advanced/backcountry trail.

2017-01-14-als-habrich-trail-011

We reached the trail head and pretty much immediately started going up. The trail has 340m of gain in 3km. The steepest section is at the beginning, but this was definitely a workout. We ended up getting to the top in just under 90 minutes, and the return trip was much faster (partly due to sliding down ;). I felt like we were hustling for most of the way up.

2017-01-14-als-habrich-trail-063

2017-01-14-als-habrich-trail-085

2017-01-14-als-habrich-trail-082

The trail map says that the markers go from 1-44, but at the “top”, we only saw #33. The trail pretty clearly ended, and there was a spectacular viewpoint, which looks out to Garibaldi, Atwell, Tantalus peaks as well as Howe Sound. A connector trail called Robin’s Connector apparently leads to another viewpoint with views of Habrich itself, Sky Pilot, Copilot and Ledge peaks, but it wasn’t broken in and we weren’t really prepared to be trailfinding.

2017-01-14-als-habrich-trail-030

2017-01-14-als-habrich-trail-095

Overall, I’d say that snowshoes were the way to go. We did see some people in with microspikes, but there were definitely some deep-snow sections. At the gondola, they recommended renting poles, which we decided not to do. It was totally fine without them, but you could see how they’d be helpful given the steep terrain. I don’t think it would have been worth the extra 10$/person.

2017-01-14-als-habrich-trail-054

Trail comments in general: I thought this trail was really well marked for a backcountry trail. We never really wondered if we were in the right place, which is impressive given the amount of snowfall we’ve had.

2017-01-14-als-habrich-trail-065

I will say that it’s not an easy go, and I’d make sure that you have ample time, snacks and of course the 10 essentials. We saw a few older kids (12+) on the trail on our way down, but I think the average child would have a hard time with this one. The views were totally, absolutely, 100% worth the tougher hike!

2017-01-14-als-habrich-trail-087

When we got back, I was surprised at how busy the gondola area was! The cafe was bustling with people who rode the gondola up for lunch with a view. If you’re looking for an interesting lunch spot (maybe to take visitors) this could be great! Otherwise, it seemed a little bit expensive/typical ski-lodge food, so we decided to head down to Squamish for a late lunch.

We ended up at the Howe Sound brewery, which was really great. I had so much trouble deciding what to get, but ended up going with soup+salad with salmon on top (very typical lunch for me!). Jan had a burger (I think Christine did too) and a beer, which he said were both great. I got the soup of the day (tomato-lentil), and the cup size with a small salad was more than enough food.

photo creds, as usual, to the wonderful Jan Heuninck