Thanks for hanging in there. I know you’ve been waiting with baited breath for me to write and post my race recap for the Lululemon SeaWheeze Half Marathon. (Just kidding. I know you weren’t waiting for it because, because… you have a life.).
The truth is, it’s challenging writing a recap for a race in which I performed just okay. To put it another way, if my race performance was a movie, I would give it an unenthusiastic “meh”-rating. Races like the 2014 SeaWheeze don’t make me bolt to my laptop/iPad/iPhone (yes, I actually do write posts on my phone, as weird as that is) to jot off a detailed recap.
But. There is a story to be told.
The 2014 SeaWheeze Half took place on Saturday, August 23, in Vancouver, BC. As I’ve discussed before, the race is only one part of a weekend festival including yoga, a concert, manis, hair styling, a “showcase store” (a.k.a. expotique stocked with limited edition gear) and cotton candy (yes, really). Here are some pictures of the rest of SeaWheeze, although not the Sunset Festival (where a couple of bands, including Capital Cities, played, and where a lot of yoga was going down), because I didn’t go.
Okay, that’s over. Let’s get on to the race!
I met-up pre-race with some fellow Oiselle Flock team members at the Olympic Cauldron in Jack Poole Plaza. We chatted it up for a bit and took a group photo before we had to line up for the race to start.
I started the race with my best friend since 7th grade, T, and friend/running partner extraordinaire, Aimee. T planned to run it with her headphones and solo, and Aimee and I had already decided to run at a conversational pace since we’re both slowing coming back from injury.
We decided to line up in the 1:45-2:00 corral fairly close to the 1:50 pacer even though we knew we wouldn’t run close to 1:50. Why? Last year, I made the mistake of starting near the 2:10 pacer as my coach made shoot for that time (I was also coming back from injury last August), but got stuck behind mega groups of walkers strolling–I kid you not–5 abreast at times. Never again. Never again! Because SeaWheeze corrals are self-seeded, and there are a lot of people who run or walk it as their first half, the corrals are actually stocked with inexperienced racers running much slower than the advertised pace for the corrals. I didn’t want to make the same mistake this year.
We were in the second corral, which meant the first/fastest corral was released and then we had to wait for 5 extremely long minutes before our corral could start. Once we started, the race was tight for the first mile or so as we ran down Cordova Street and made some turns through downtown Vancouver. Consistent with 2013 and 2012, the tall buildings threw off my Garmin, which showed me running something like a 3:15/mile pace for the first few hundred yards. Ha!
The crowds started to loosen up as we ran onto a bridge headed for Chinatown. At that point I began to realize that the sun was pretty intense for 7:00 am and that I was already warm even though I wore only my Oiselle singlet and Distance Shorts, both of which are light. I began to wonder whether I would experience overheating issues but tried to put it out of mind.
Aimee and I chatted here and there as we wound through Chinatown and settled into around an 8:50/mile pace. We kept that pace up as we began to run along False Creek with the sun at our backs. As we neared the Burrard Bridge, a fellow Flock member, Marilyn, ran up behind us and said “hi.” We ran and chatted with Marilyn until the bridge, when she took off like the badass she is (she ended up finishing around 1:53).
For the first time at a race, I actually enjoyed running up the hills. We ran up a hill to access the Burrard Bridge, which is also technically a “hill,” too. It was a nice break from so much of the flats on this course to run on an incline. Also, because the inclines are on out-and-back portions of the course, I was distracted and entertained by runners heading in the opposite direction, making the time and distance speed by.
After crossing the Burrard Bridge, we landed in Kitsilano and its myriad of course supporters on Cornwall Avenue. This was also an out-and-back portion and it didn’t seem like much time at all before we were heading back up the bridge towards downtown Vancouver. I really enjoyed seeing the little girls from Ivivva during the section in Kits… even though they were dancing to the new Taylor Swift song, “Shake It Off,” which is currently the world’s most powerful earworm.
Once we climbed back over the Burrard Bridge and into downtown Vancouver, I was pretty disappointed to get dropped back on to the flats of English Bay and the Seawall. The Seawall is a legendary running location because it’s gorgeous, yes. At the risk of sounding like a total jerk, it’s also a little boring. I live near the water in my town and run along it at least a couple times a week, so it’s not a novelty. Also, the portion of the course that includes the Seawall–Miles 8-12–is usually the portion of the half marathon when physical and/or mental fatigue sets in and a runner needs a little extra motivation to keep going. Without general course support (and I mean regular people–family and friends), it was a little bit lacking in the motivation department. There were several points with Lululemon-affiliated people cheering for runners, thank God, but it still wasn’t the same as having friends, partners, kids, and the like cheering us on. Around Mile 11, I turned to Aimee and said, “I would like to be done now.” I was over it at this point.
Finally the Seawall portion ended and we ran up a hill (yay!) as we traversed a portion of Stanley Park to head towards the finish line back. I was feeling strong and energetic again with the finish being so close and then, at around Mile 13, disaster struck. Okay, slight exaggeration. Not a disaster, but definitely a setback. I experienced spontaneous, sharp pain in my left ankle that made me wince, slow down, and eventually stop to walk. I didn’t want to keep running and make it worse, and I sent Aimee on to the finish. She felt bad about leaving me, but I told her to go.
I walked for about a tenth of a mile and tried to jog, which felt fine. Then I tried to run, and that felt fine, too. With a major sigh of relief, I picked my pace back up and ran up to catch Aimee, who had slowed down and then decided to stop to wait for me (what a pal!). We ran together towards the path to the finish.
Cordova Street was packed with spectators all the way up to the finish line, boosting us to run faster. About 100 yards from the finish, I heard our friends yell our names and we began to ran even faster. As we approached the finish line, we heard our names announced (along with the announcement that one of us, mysteriously, is actually from Washington, DC), which I don’t usually hear because I almost always wear headphones at races. Aimee and I crossed the finish line together, both of our arms raised, and me with my tongue sticking out. I wish there had been a race photographer to catch that image.
We finished in 1:58:43 and :44–not too shabby for running at a conversational pace and having to stop and walk at one point.
We were given our medals, which are these somewhat strange and mysterious geometric donuts with a barely noticeable “SW14” engraved into them, as well as water, coconut water (made my day), a runner’s aromatherapy kit from Saje (with vials of aromatherapy oil for headache and pain relief), and an all-black SeaWheeze cap. There were women’s and men’s styles available, but I opted out of the female version because it was a trucker cap style. While other women such as T look adorable in trucker caps, I look like someone’s bespectacled middle-aged mom trying too hard to look young when I’ve tried them on in the past.
I chose the men’s style also because I have a man-sized head (no joke) and it’s a more traditional running cap, which I’m more likely to wear while running.
After we exited the finisher’s area, we wandered over to grab some fruit from the post-race “brunch” and waited for friends to arrive. T had a difficult time with the warm weather and has vowed that this was her last half. I sincerely hope that’s not true. I am awfully persuasive, so we’ll see about that, T.
She still managed to look cute as hell for our post-race pic, though. Me, not so much. I don’t think I’ve ever before made that face in a photo.
Aimee’s husband, who started the race and ran about 5 miles before walking back to the start area, found us at the Olympic Cauldron, our designated meeting spot, as did our friends who had watched the end of the race. I waited around for about an hour for my husband, who I had expected to follow suit with Aimee’s husband and drop out midway because they were both significantly under-trained. But, nope. My husband wandered over to our meeting area after he finished the whole race. Wow. He ran 8 miles and walked the remaining 5, and he was hurting (badly), but he did it.
I think he may feel similar to T as to the prospect of running another half-marathon, though.
All in all, the 2014 SeaWheeze Half Marathon was a much better race than its previous two years’ versions. The 2014 race was better organized and supported, the approach to the finish was pretty damn exhilarating, and the swag was great (even if it didn’t match the quality and value of last year’s Skullcandy headphones). I had a good time running it, a better time than the past two years, although that has more to do with the company with which I ran than the race itself.
So the question remains: Will I run it next year? There’s something magic about the number 3. I don’t feel any compelling reason to run it again. I’ve run it 3 years in a row and, frankly, I’m tired of the course as well as the inescapable brand behind it. I don’t partake in rest of the festival–the concert, the yoga, the manis, the store, etc. I will have to decide whether this is my last running soon, though, because registration for the 2015 SeaWheeze opens at 10:00 a.m. on September 10.
And I’d bet my last Canadian dollar that the 2015 race will sell out even faster than this year’s.
Have you run the SeaWheeze Half? Do you want to?