If you’d have asked me one year ago if I planned to run a half marathon, the answer would have been a solid no. While I run, I know I’m not a great runner. I’m not fast, I don’t thrive off the challenge of improving speeds and distances, in fact, it sometimes makes me downright grumpy that none of it comes easily to me.
But after a few years of seeing all the fun my girlfriends have had running SeaWheeze, I wanted in on it. Not so much for the running, but for the camaraderie of the weekend itself. Brie and I talked about running our first half marathon together and joked about trying to get into SeaWheeze for 2017. I don’t think either of us were serious about it until suddenly we were both in and committed.
Nine months later, we were on an airplane headed to Vancouver, wondering if this was really happening.
I followed the training plan provided as best as I could. I juggled my work schedule to fit in lunch runs, I passed Liam off to friends and family to get my long runs in on the weekends. I sacrificed a lot of time. My training fell off in the last month or so. I was getting tired of giving up hours on the weekend. I was tired of not seeing much of an improvement. My longest run prior to toeing the line was only a broken up 16km, 8k outside and 8k on the treadmill while on vacation with my family. I did not feel prepared for 21.1km when I arrived in Vancouver.
Those already familiar with SeaWheeze kept feeding me doses of optimism. It would be so much easier running at sea level, the course was flat and would make for an easy first half marathon. I believed them.
I ate a generous portion of carbs the day before the race, kept up with my water intake and stayed away from caffeine and alcohol to avoid a repeat of the disastrous Calgary Marathon 10k of 2016. I called it an early night and attempt to calm my nerves enough to get a good night sleep. Of course, I hardly slept a wink and woke up feeling more nervous than ever.
Mary, Heather, Lindsey, Chad, Brie, Me
I woke up early, ate my market fresh bagel with peanut butter and half a banana, downed some water, and made sure I had everything I needed before walking down to the convention centre. I’m sure my friends can attest to the fact that I was feeling the race day nerves by the look of fear in my eyes that morning. I was fighting back tears most of the morning and I’m not sure whether it was from nerves or the emotions of making it to the start line. It took no time at all before we made our final stop at the porta potty before shuffling into the crowds and finding out corral.
I wanted to line up with the 2:15 pace beavers, which was highly optimistic. I figured it didn’t hurt to line up ahead so we didn’t have to wait an hour to cross the start line and hoping to fall in with the 2:30 crowd. The corrals were full of nervous and excited energy and after about 15 minutes, our wave was finally off. Brie and I had loose plans to stay together as much as we could, but knowing that it was totally ok to move ahead if needed.
I had my watch set to run 10 and 1 intervals but felt so strong starting out that I ran continuously for the first 6km. By 6km I could feel that my legs were getting a bit tired so I thought it would be smart to start the intervals and hopefully continue to maintain a good pace. At some point we lost the 2:15 pace beavers and were passed by the 2:20 pace beavers and I was so scared the 2:30 group was going to pass me as well.
I tried to focus on as much of the scenery as I could. The cheer stations we passed were so full of energy and there were so many spectators along the course rooting for their friends and family. Running through the streets of Vancouver made me remember some of my previous trips to the city with my family, exploring the night market in China Town and coming too close to East Hasting for comfort. Running past the beach where I took Liam to see the ocean for the first time. Walking with thousands of people down the streets to watch the global fireworks show.
photo credit: SeaWheeze
By the time we got to the bridge crossing over to Kitsilano, my hip flexors were screaming mad. I tried to ignore it but every time a walk break ended it became harder and harder to get moving again. I was also a tad grumpy running through Kits, passing a cafe oozing with the smell of bacon. Oh, I wanted to be done running and enjoying bacon instead. I temporarily lost Brie on the bridge while she walked to save her hips from the steady incline after the turnaround, but she caught up to me pretty quickly. It was this point that I turned my music on to try to distract me from the pain of my own hips.
More fun cheer stations were ahead, like the drag queens and soon we came to an electronic sign that posted shoutouts from our friends and family. I had tears in my eyes again seeing the message of encouragement from a coworker. Shortly after this, Brie stopped at an aid station to get a band-aid and use the washroom and I wouldn’t see her again until the finish line. At this point, it was a struggle for me to keep moving but we were entering Stanley Park and probably the most beautiful portion of the race. I did my best to stick to my 10 and 1’s, but I often wouldn’t make that long ten minutes before my hip flexors screamed for a break and those one-minute breaks became longer and longer since it was so hard to keep moving. I focused on the scenery and the best stretch of cheer stations. The Vancouver Police and Fire were my favourite. They were so energetic and getting soaked by the water guns and hoses felt so great.
photo credit: SeaWheeze
Somewhere around kilometer 16, I texted Jessica back home. She always sent me encouraging texts to not give up on my long runs and I needed a little boost. I also texted Brie to see how far behind me she was in hopes that she’d catch up with all the walking I was doing. I was disheartened when the 2:40 pace beaver passed and knew at this point it would be a struggle to stay under three hours. I always joked that it would take me three hours to finish a half and now it was becoming a reality.
photo credit: SeaWheeze
photo credit: SeaWheeze
photo credit: SeaWheeze
Finally, the final kilometer came. I told myself there was no more stopping until the finish line. It felt like I was shuffling, but I shuffled my way to the finish, which came up more abruptly than I expected. I was thankful for that. I was instantly in tears. For finishing, for being in so much pain, for being upset with my body for failing in strength, but for also having met my goal of crossing the finish line at my first half marathon. I managed to squeak in under three hours, with an official time of 2:58. While shuffling through the finishing chute, Brie crossed the finish and caught up to me. I was fighting back tears but man was I ever happy to see her.
This is where I started to get super grumpy. It took forever to get out of the finishing chute. We collected water, Nuun, and a Vega bar, plus SeaWheeze sunglasses from Clearly Contacts and then waited forever to get the brunch. I took the opportunity to check my phone and was overwhelmed with all the messages of support that came in while I was running. Of course, this made me cry again. It seemed to take hours to make it through the line and by that point, Brie had taken off to go meet her sister and baby and the rest of the crew had left aside from Scott and Mary who I saw briefly before they headed off to shower. I was disappointed that the complimentary Sage kits for runners were out and that there was no more Lululemon swag as in previous years. All the grumpiness had set in and I knew I just needed to make my way to my hotel for food, coffee, and a nice long shower.
Let me tell you, that walk back was miserable. All the stuff I was carrying felt like a ton of bricks, it hurt to lift my legs let alone walk mostly uphill. I wanted to sit down on the sidewalk and just have a meltdown. I got back to my hotel and cried for a good solid half hour or more while eating my brunch. Brunch consisted of a thick slice of banana bread, overnight oats, fruit, and chocolate, which was all delicious. My hotel room even had a Nespresso machine and bottled water, so I was set while I collected my emotions.
What a thing, to put so much time and effort into one day and have it turn out nothing like I expected. I’m proud of running the first half super strong, but can’t help but wonder what went wrong to make my hip flexors so angry when I’ve never struggled with them before. I’m thankful that I got to complete my first half marathon in a city full of friends, with tons of love and support back home too. I’m thankful to have been able to run in such a beautiful city and be part of such a well-organized race. While there were some minor disappointments, Lululemon does a great job of organizing an event for 10,000 runners and their spectators to enjoy.
So now the question is, will I do it again? Immediately after the race, I said I would never run a half ever again. Now that I know what to expect, perhaps my second half wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s not something I’m running out to register for right now. I feel like half marathons are kind of like kids. Once you’ve had one you say you’re never putting yourself through that again but eventually, you forget how hard it is and think that you could probably handle it again. Even if I decide to run another half, I don’t think I’ll return to SeaWheeze, solely because there are so many other great races out there that I’d like to experience once I feel ready to do it all again.