The weekend of the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon…what a weekend! Neil and I flew out to Vancouver on Thursday morning and my parents picked us up from the airport. We found out that afternoon that all conditions had been removed on the sale of our home, so that was some good news to kick off our weekend! It was also incredibly warm and sunny out but that was due to change…
My friend Shannon and I hit up packet pick up and the expo as soon as it opened on Friday. It didn’t take us that long to get our bibs, then we wandered around the booths. I wasn’t looking for much, but I did get a new pair of Yurbuds and I found the nuun booth! Gotta stay hydrated!
On Saturday morning Shannon and I went for a quick shakeout around False Creek. It was overcast and 10 deg out and it was forecasted to be just as cool but also raining on race morning. I was concerned about the temperature and what to wear for the race…long sleeves, rain jacket, short sleeves or a tank? Luckily the shakeout run convinced me that running in a rain jacket would be way too hot and I should just dress for the appropriate temperature.
For the rest of the day on Saturday I wanted to stay off my feet as much as possible but didn’t want to sit around the hotel room doing nothing. Luckily my parents had a car and I was able to convince them that we should take a drive out to Squamish to have lunch at Howe Sound Brewing.
The drive out was really nice and lunch was quite delicious. They have amazing fried pickles there! On the way back we played tourists a bit and stopped at Shannon Falls for some pictures just as the rain was starting.
I was up around 5 am on race morning and nervously scarfed down my oatmeal for breakfast. Unfortunately the weather forecast came true and it was pouring rain on Sunday morning. I decided to listen to some advice from friends and dress for the temperature and not the rain, so I wore my Roga shorts, Winona tank and my Oiselle singlet. I threw a hoodie and a plastic bag on to keep me warm and we all headed off to the Sky Train Station.
Luckily it didn’t take that long for a train to arrive and the ride to King Edward Station was really fast. I had forgotten how long of a walk it was from the Sky Train station to the race start though! We were soaked by the time we got there!
We had just enough time to hit up the porta-potties and then it was time to line up at the start. The rain was starting to come down now so I didn’t get any photos at the start. 🙁
BMO Vancouver Half Marathon Race Report
I had a pretty specific race plan. Both Shannon and I wanted to run a 2:10 or better so we agreed to start together. The start of the race is downhill for the first 2 – 2.5 miles. I figured I’d aim to keep the pace around a 9:30 mile while we were running down the hill. It was a little crowded to start and it took us awhile to find some space and a rhythm. I also wanted to keep to the left hand side of the road because I knew Neil would be waiting for me there at Broadway and Cambie. Luckily Neil was holding my purple umbrella so he stood out in the crowd. I yelled to him and blew him a kiss. As we ran up on to the Cambie Street Bridge it was time to settle in to the appropriate pace. We’d need a 9:50/mi pace to hit our 2:10 goal but the comfortable pace felt a bit faster than that. I knew the little hills along the way would slow us down here and there so I just went with it. We hit the 5K mark right around 30 minutes.
I had mapped out where the water stops would be so I could figure out the best ones to plan to take my gels at. Last year I ran with a water belt and it drove me nuts as it kept bouncing around my hips. This year I figured I’d just rely on the aid stations instead. I spotted my aid station well ahead of time so I took some time to suck down my gel.
The rain was miserable. I felt comfortable in what I was wearing temperature-wise but I couldn’t believe how wet it was. This photo of my mom was captured as we entered Chinatown and I think it shows just how unpleasant it was out there.
I was still feeling strong. Shannon and I were working to keep our effort consistent. We hit the halfway mark on the course around 1:02 which seemed pretty amazing! I didn’t get too excited about the time though because I knew that big downhill at the beginning had helped our pace. The tougher stuff was ahead through Stanley Park as we would be hitting more hills here.
I had initially planned on taking a second gel around mile 8, but as we approached the water stop we could hear the volunteers yelling that they were out of water. How could that happen? We were one of the earlier corrals and it wasn’t hot out. I think we were right near the start of the 8K race though? Oh well, scrap that plan and save my gel for the next water stop.
My game plan through the park was to manage effort on the hills as much as possible. They were definitely slowing us down and those rollers were feeling tough on the legs. I was trying to be a bit conservative here as I knew there was a good chunk of uphill on the push to the finish and I wanted to save my legs for that.
With two miles left it was time to get it done! This was where I needed to reach into my bag of tricks to keep my mind positive. There were two girls arguing behind us. One wanted to walk, the other insisted that they had to keep going and she would leave her behind. I don’t know if it was serious or a play argument but I didn’t need to hear that back and forth argument about walking at that point in time!! In order to keep focused on cadence for some reason I just kept repeating the digits of Neil’s birthday over and over in my head. It didn’t involve thinking and it seemed to work!
Finally we were out of Stanley Park and it was time to push to the finish. I picked up the pace as we turned the corner on to Pender Street for the long run to the finish line ahead.
It hurt, but I told myself to suck it up and keep pushing because I was almost there.
I didn’t see Neil as I ran towards the finish. I could hear Steve King (the voice of Ironman Canada Penticton) announcing at the finish so I just focused on his voice calling me in.
And we were done in 2:08:25, well ahead of our 2:10 goal. I executed my race plan perfectly and blew away my expectations. While the rain was not ideal the temperature was perfect out there. Unfortunately as soon as we stopped I cooled off right away. They gave us space blankets but that didn’t seem to help very much!
We made our way through the finish chute, getting a photo, getting our post race box of food and walking past the checked gear pick up. The exit for the finish chute wasn’t clear and it was before the gear pick up. That could have been communicated a bit better. Finally we were able to get out of the chute and I was able to find Neil with my hoodie.
All in all I am so happy with my race. It was a nice 12 minute improvement over my race last year, which was way better than what I could have hoped for. I’m only a few minutes off of my personal best of 2:05:22 back in 2009. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to imagine that I could start trying to better that sometime soon. But before I think about tackling a new half marathon PR it is now time to focus on Ironman training…
Garmin Time: 2:08:25
Gun Time: 2:18:33
F35 – 39: 278/662