Upright and smiling

How you enjoy your first marathon.

No Time Like The Present

A couple of weeks have passed and I am still tingling from the experience of running my first full marathon in Vancouver, BC. The long frigid training runs in the middle of one of the harshest winters are just a blurry memory now that I have that medal around my neck.  Here is how it played out: My boyfriend and I arrived in Vancouver a couple of days in advance to get used to the time zone difference of 4 hours.  We deliberately planned on doing nothing those 2 days and we accomplished just that.  We were staying with family so it was a pleasant visit.  We moved to a hotel the night before and stayed the night of just to be close to the finish line.

Friday
We spent the afternoon at the Race Expo/ Wellness event. Wandering around and taking it easy on the legs.

Got my number. Now I have to run. Got my number…

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Blue Nose 2015 Race Weekend

Over the May long weekend my girlfriend and I traveled to Halifax, Nova Scotia, a 4 hour drive, to run the 10 km race at the Scotiabank Blue Nose racing weekend. This was the second time that I have run this distance at this race and I was looking forward to testing my legs on a pretty hilly course. Initially I was planning on “racing” the distance but once we found out that a friend was going to be the 60 minute pace bunny we decided to treat it as a “fun” run and enjoy the sights and sounds.

The Blue Nose is Atlantic Canada’s biggest and therefore premier race to run; this year, almost 7000 people ran the distances from 5 km to a full marathon. The numbers do not include the number of walkers and the kids race that was also held. It appears that the number of runners this year was down from last, more than likely due to the horrible training weather that occurred over the winter and the spring.

The 5 km distance is run on the Saturday and the 10 km, half marathon and full marathon distances are run on Sunday. My girlfriend and I arrived on Friday evening in order to pick up our race kits on Saturday afternoon and to watch my sister and brother-in-law run the 5 km. They live on the opposite side of the harbour from the races but this year, with your bib in hand, the use of the ferry was free, a very nice touch.

EXPO and 5 KM Race

On Saturday we took the ferry from Dartmouth, on one side of the harbour, to the Halifax side and walked to the World Trade and Convention Centre to collect our kits and to watch a panel on social media presented by our friend Paul Merrigan, He is known for the @RUNATCAN twitter handle and he who hosts an almost weekly chat on twitter on Sunday evenings at 8pm Atlantic time. The panel was great and we connected with a few other twitter friends then collected our kits.

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RunatCan Panel

The expo had a number of vendors, races and of course the Running Room man himself, John Stanton. We had met him in Vancouver a few weeks ago and of course being the sharp lad that he is, he recognized my girlfriend. Our race kit pick up was simple and we even registered for another race, The Valley Harvest half marathon in October. By registering in person we saved the dreaded processing fees that the sites love to charge now…essentially for doing nothing.

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John Stanton and Nicola

We walked up to the finish line, which was located mere minutes away, in front of the large hockey arena and waited to see my sister and brother-in-law. Our timing was impeccable because they approached the line shortly after we started watching.

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Long and short of It

We met inside of the arena, they chatted with a few people and then we all headed to a local bar called the Stubborn Goat to meet up with Paul and a few of the other RUNATCAN participants. We chatted, enjoyed a few eats, a brew, then called it a day because we were all getting up early on Sunday; my girlfriend and I to run and my sister and brother-in-law to cheer on their friends and runners from the clinics that they host.

Raceday

Sunday broke cloudy and cool, as the forecast had predicted, but there was a risk of showers forecast in the morning with periods of rain in the afternoon. We were hoping that this would hold and that our race would be dry. One thing that Halifax is known for is cool, cloudy weather in May, which can be downright cold if it’s breezy and rainy. My sister and brother-in-law drove over earlier to meet some of their runners while my girlfriend and I caught the ferry once again and met our “kid” to give her her bib. We arrived with plenty of time to warm up and chat with other runners. One secret for all of you future participants, instead of lining up for the port-a-potties near the start, head over to the Cambridge Suites, their washrooms are open and free, the women’s may have a bit of a line but it goes quick and you are indoors. This ended up being  a good thing as it started to shower about 20 minutes before our race began; regardless of this I did a bit of a warm-up and then we headed to the start line. As luck would have it the rain ended and the rest of our race was dry.

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Off to the Race!

At the start we met our friend Myles, who was acting as a pace bunny for the 60 minute race, the gun sounded and we were off. The race winds through parts of North End Halifax before crossing a centennial style bridge over to the sister city of Dartmouth. It was a comfortable pace for me so I looked at all of the small shops and the abundant construction that was in progress. We were maintaining a steady pace until about 4 km and the first crossing of the bridge when my girlfriend started to feel ill and we had to start walking. Sadly this continued throughout the rest of the race but she did brave a smile or two! We finished strongly over the last kilometre and voila! Another race completed in a time of 1:03:09. We met a number of friends at the finish and received our medals from our very good friend @crazymamaruns. We entered the arena, drank a bit and ate a few things but since my girlfriend was still queasy we decided to head back, luckily my sister and brother-in-law were just leaving and we caught a ride with them.

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Myles, our pace bunny!

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Runfie!

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The Bridge!

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Quiet, side street

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The Bling is the thing!

Final Thoughts

I couldn’t find much at fault with the weekend this year, the medals were very nice, the course was in good shape, there seemed to be lots of volunteers and the businesses in the downtown core were engaged. However during the expo there were a group of participants who were staring at a wall and didn’t benefit from the flow of traffic, why their displays were not permitted to be placed against the wall is a question for someone else but it seemed like a slight to me. I have heard that a number of the courses will change next year due to bridge construction so I’m not sure if i will participate, however I will return sometime in the future regardless as it has great energy and it seems that the city is finally understanding its benefit.

Thanks for reading my long-winded account!

One Foot in front of the Other

Chris

Next race: Saturday May 23rd, Fredericton, The Inaugural Airport Run, I’m running and volunteering!

Race Report – BMO Vancouver Half Marathon

The BMO Vancouver Marathon is billed as one of the 10 most beautiful that you can run. I have decided that I am not running a marathon this year so instead I ran the half distance while my girlfriend ran the full distance.

The Good: Expo, Crowd Support, Favorable Course, Location of Finish, Transportation to Start Area

The Bad: Start Area, Platinum Package ($99), Accessing the Start Area, Race Start Times

Average: Swag

My girlfriend was looking for a race to run her first marathon and since she has family in the area, we decided to run Vancouver and then vacation for a number of days afterwards. The Vancouver marathon has a “platinum” package that will grant you priority lines and other benefits, so as an addition to her first marathon we both signed up for the package.

We arrived on the Wednesday before to try to acclimatise to the time change and stayed at a private residence.

The Expo

On Friday we went to the expo in the morning to avoid the masses of people that would no doubt arrive Friday evening and Saturday. There wasn’t a line-up and we received our bibs quickly and without any problems. As part of the platinum package we could have bypassed the lines to our own bib person if need be, a benefit to be sure if you find yourself running late but it didn’t make a difference to us. We wandered the expo, purchased a few race items of race gear and chatted with John Stanton. It should be noted that I thought that the types and variety of gear was better in Vancouver than I found in Chicago last year. Included in your race kit was a free ticket to access the “Canada Line”, the elevated mass transport system of Vancouver, to get to the start line on Sunday morning.

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The Fredericton Family

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Fun at the Saucony Booth

Race Day

My half marathon started at 7 am while the marathon started at 8:30 am, a strange reversal of normal times, which I believe tries to reduce the influence of the higher number of runners in the half because they run down a main corridor of the city. To access the start area in Queens Park, we had to take public transit, hence the free ticket. We walked from our downtown hotel to a station, then rode the train for about 10 minutes to our stop. However, the walk from the station to the park took a good 10 minutes on it’s own, which was never mentioned and subtracted valuable time from my warm-up and general race preparedness. Outside of the park there were numerous UPS trucks charged with brining your checked bags from the start to the finish. Here the platinum package was helpful because we had our own truck which we accessed within seconds. To get to the truck however was a bit of a trek as we had to completely cross through the race area to access the platinum only tent. The access to the tent, while noted on the web page and maps, was VERY POORLY NOTED, IN FACT THERE WEREN’T ANY SIGNS AT ALL. After crossing the area we checked our bags, leaving me with 15 minutes to get into a race mind-set and warm-up. Again the placement of the tent didn’t seem to be well thought out because there really wasn’t much space to take a warm-up run so I ended up starting the race more or less cold. I was assigned a bib number in the back of all the corrals but with my platinum bib I joined the corral just where 1:50 and 2:00 were separated. It was spacious at the back of the corral but no one questioned us about our corral placement or even sought to verify our right to be there.

The race weather was perfect though with sunshine, cool temperatures and light winds. After the singing of ‘O Canada’ which I really liked by the way, we were off!

The Race

It starts with a little uphill then there is a LONG downhill down Cambie street, then you cross over the Cambie street bridge. The bridge is not very elevated so it’s more of a speed bump. After that you perform a switchback near the Olympic village then head through Chinatown, then the Yaletown district before you head towards Stanley Park. Sadly Chinatown was kind of boring, closed and it contained the only hill downtown. Once in Stanley park you run flat for a bit, double-back and then climb one of the two hills on the back 10.5 km, in fact the hill started at around the 14 km mark. Checking out my splits I had run too fast from 2 km until about 10 km and I was starting to feel winded, hence when I hit the hill I had to walk, which made me mad and embarrassed, I ran again and managed to run the second hill in the park and even got a bit of a boost when the 2:00 pace bunny passed me but I couldn’t sustain it. At that point I decided to dial it back a bit, take in some of the beautiful Stanley Park vistas and enjoy the last 3-5 km. I picked it up over the last 1-2 km but when we exited the park there was a small but stiff hill which lead up to the street and a longish, straight finish. I hate these small hills at this point, they always piss me off when they are included there and if I was a race director I wouldn’t include them….But that’s just me. I trotted to the finish in a time of 2:05:48, not horrible but well off my goal time of 1:55-1:57.

Race Profile from Runkeeper: Vancouver Half

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Finished!

I was/still am disappointed but tomorrow is another race day. I finished unhurt, with another nice medal and another half marathon completed; my 11th. The inclusion of musical bands along the course is always touted as being an energetic lift when you pass them but I found them to be pretty horrible and it was only a band near the exit of Stanley Park which made me smile. I didn’t use any of the water/fuel stations as I carry my own but they seemed plentiful and well spaced. There were supporters along the streets, even with a 7 am start, so I salute the residents for their support.

Post Race

After the race I hugged my fellow Fredericton runner Stephanie and then started walking to the back of the finish chute, I was looking for the platinum signs because it was there that I could pick up my gear and grab a sandwich and a beer right next to the finish line. When I double-backed to the finish line I found the sign and a woman who directed me up one floor in the Coast hotel to collect my things, there was an escalator up to the floor but not one back down; an oversight. I headed to the platinum section, grabbed a couple of wraps, had a beer and watched some of the finishers. I would not qualify the food or the beer as anything special, certainly not worth paying extra for. On a side note, when my girlfriend finished her marathon around 1:30 pm she discovered that there wasn’t any food or beer left; certainly poor planning, poor execution and more or less a theft of registration money. The finish line is nicely located from most of the major hotels in the downtown core and took me only minutes to get back to my hotel.

Overall

Both the half marathon and in particular the full marathon course are pretty, with good support and can lead to PB’s. I would not recommend a purchase of a platinum package unless some major changes, additions are made: 1) add a free massage 2) transportation to the start area from a downtown hotel of your choice 3) ensure food/drink throughout every race 4) better location of bag pick-up.

I would recommend the race for the general runner as it also includes a nice medal, good course and isn’t too crowded.

The start area in my opinion needs better signage and more volunteers to answer questions, also an estimate of total travel time from downtown hotels to the start area, including the walking, should be supplied.

Next Up for Me….Bluenose 10 km, Sunday May 17th in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Thanks for reading!

One foot in front of the other

Chris