I know what you must be thinking. “…what? A race report? I thought you were on vacation!” Well, folks, I have to say: I have never done anything that spontaneous, and I don’t regret it at all. But let me back up a bit.
As you already know, last week I was in Vancouver. On Thursday NB and I went on a fabulous run around Stanley Park, snapping some great photos and really enjoying ourselves. Friday we woke up to rainy weather, as expected, and decided to check out the hotel gym, which was a bit cramped but did the job. NB put my arms through the ringer and I returned the favor with some pilates side-lying series that shredded both of our hips. Awesome.
We went out to lunch at a Thai place and, having passed a local running store called Running Room a couple times in our travels, wanted to stop there after, as well as scout out bike rental places to hit the Seawall path via bike. As we were coming down the street approaching the running store, we saw a huge line snaking out of it. What was going on? Big product release? Elite runner in town signing autographs? We went up to a couple ladies in line to ask. “Picking up packets for a race tomorrow.”
Of course, we had to know more. It was a night race, set to go off Saturday evening, and everyone got a headlamp in addition to the usual tech shirt. There was a 10K and a 5K, and there might be spots still open for late registration.
So what did we do? Of course, we got in line. NB wanted the 10K, but we quickly found it was sold out, and took the 5K instead. The registration price was steep $70 Canadian, but in addition to the VERY swank headlamp, we got black Brooks short-sleeved shirts with reflective yellow strips draped over the shoulders. They only had a large for me, but it ended up being perfect somehow, apparently running super small. The race was to go off along the Seawall in Stanley Park, so we’d only have maybe a half-ish mile or so wall to the hotel. With our swag in hand and excitement in our bellies, we headed out to enjoy the rest of our day, which included the rain ending just in time for a bike ride around the Seawall in absurd winds: 35 mph gusting to 48, according to weather.com. Ri.diculous.
Saturday, it rained. All day. We got up just before 8 a.m. and went to the hotel pool and just fooled around in the water, mostly just talking and goofing around, and spending a few minutes in the hot tub. After a shower and a very expensive hotel breakfast, we walked over to the aquarium for our rainy-day plan. The rain didn’t cease while we were there, and in fact we stood in the rain during the dolphin show. We were preparing ourselves for a pretty wet race.
After a few days of eating pretty unhealthy, we were trying to clean it up a bit. We’d had fruit and veggie-filled breakfasts, and stopped at Whole Foods for soup and salads, which we ate in bed while watching “Tangled” on Netflix. I was a little concerned since we didn’t finish eating until well after 2 p.m., and the race start was 5:15, but I hoped it was light enough that I’d be okay.
A little after 4 pm, we started gearing up. It was in the low 40s, felt like 30s, and raining. I donned compression shorts under tights (in a futile attempt to keep my butt a little warmer), a short sleeve tech shirt under a long sleeve tech shirt, and my rain shell over this, in addition to my Air Force hat, earband, gloves, and, of course, the headlamp. We pinned on our bib numbers, double-checked directions, grabbed a couple Gus and took some pictures before heading out into the fray.
We stepped out into the rain and instantly felt the cold. We walked briskly to the race start, winding through the streets and into the park, which warmed us a bit, but we knew this would be a tough one. We both wanted to try to do this fast – it was a flat out and back – but knew that the nature of the race, being on the narrow path, would make that hard, especially if we didn’t get good placement at the start.
We began approaching the start and saw some other runners (including one wearing his bib on his back – n00b alert!) and then suddenly we were inundated by them: the sun set by 4:30 or so, so everyone was highly reflective, some wearing their finisher’s shirts (bad joo joo), others not, and all donning their headlamps. We were definitely in the right place. We passed by a lodge and approached some tents, one large one from which loud music was pumping out and an announcer talking excitedly, telling the 10Kers to start lining up. We had to walk through the muck a couple times, first looking for water to take our Gu (I took a chocolate-raspberry Roctane, my current favorite), and then getting on another section of the path to try to squeeze in a warm up. We jogged up for maybe a quarter mile and back, and I felt my stomach clenching a bit. I was hoping it was just nerves and not my lunch.
Because we warmed up, we sacrificed a good start position. We figured, oh well, this is just supposed to be fun anyway. We jumped up and down, rubbed our arms, did butt kicks and high knees and chatted with runners around us, trying to keep warm once we stopped moving, the rain still dripping down on us.
At 5:15 sharp, the gun went off, and the race began! We first scrunched up at first and after a few bottlenecks, we were past the start line, garmins ticking away. But the crowd was NUTS. The path was maybe eight feet across and there were hundreds of runners. We both zigged and zagged, and within a hundred feet I had dunked my right foot in a puddle. Oh well.
The path quickly curved and then we were along the water, running along a section we had only run a tiny piece of at the end of our Thursday morning run. It was like playing dodgems. I was constantly surging and slamming on the breaks, squeezing through tiny holes and saying “excuse me” and “on your left” and “coming through” every other breath. I’m fine with slow runners. I’m fine with slower-than-me runners (and I don’t consider myself fast). I am totally fine with walkers. But can the walkers PLEASE line up at the back? I actually came up against a wall of three people walking ABREAST of each other. I bit back my frustration and waited for a gap, zipping through as soon as I could. I had my Garmin set to a screen that showed my projected lap time, and it was pretty dismal for a while. I have to say though, one runner was kind enough to even let me through, asking “did you want to go ahead? Go right through!” completely sincerely. I thanked her profusely and zipped along.
I wanted to push and try to make up time, but didn’t want to be stupid and end up blowing up at the end because of it. The first mile wrapped up in 9:15, which was better than it could have been I suppose but much, much slower than I would like (my previous 5K first miles were in the 7:30s and faster). At that point the crowd had thinned significantly, which was good as far as the crowd situation but I realized it had become very difficult to see. At times I was able to avoid puddles because I saw another runner step in one, but other times I totally missed them. Even with a cap on, my glasses were quickly getting covered with water, and no amount of wiping away the water really helped the matter. By the 2K marker (and I laughed at the fact that the marker was in kilometers. Oh, Canada) both my feet were soaked. A volunteer was twirling a huge hula hoop decorated with bright lights and told us of the upcoming water station.
After the turnaround, it started getting nerve wracking. The crowd thinned even more, and we actually apparently got off course, something I suspected and asked a nearby runner, but he didn’t hear me since he was wearing headphones (which weren’t allowed, and NB and I grumblingly obeyed. We actually did fine sans music, and I’ve always found hard, short efforts hard to do without music). We ended up going up onto the bike path – since the pedestrian path and bike path are parallel-ish and separate) and up a long-ish, gradual hill and along the road for a bit. The ground and path ahead was difficult ahead, and I tried to keep at least one shiny, reflective-dressed runner in my sights at all times. Eventually we traipsed down some grass and got back on course, not having really lost any time, but losing a bit of confidence. I missed my 2 mile split but figured it was in the 8:30ish range, given everything.
I couldn’t see my pace at all for mile three. My glasses were so coated that I couldn’t check my watch, and I honestly was too worried about where I was going to even really try. So I just tried to keep pushing. I kept passing and getting passed by headphones guy (I think I eventually chicked him at the end), and just listened for the sound of the blasting music at the tent. We passed a volunteer shining a light into a white umbrella, which she spun, lighting our way, and she told us to keep going, we were almost there.
I started seeing more headlamps, and the white of the tents, and hearing the music and the announcer calling out the finishers. As we rounded the corner I started my kick, passing a girl as I drove to the finish, throwing my arms up in the air with a grin and stopping my watch a couple steps later. NB was there waiting for me.
We were frozen. After the race, we were hot and sweaty of course, but we got our goodies and headed out, knowing we had a bit of a walk and wanted to grab dinner before heading back, and very aware that our core temperatures would drop rapidly. I was shivering badly, but a hot shower and a cup of hot soup later I was happy as a clam.
And the results? My chip time was 26:40, which is almost 3 minutes slower than my PR, but I’m still pretty happy with it. The results page is a little effed up, but from what I can tell I should have gotten 4th in my age group (some of the times are translocated and weird. I can’t figure it out). I could have been over a minute slower than my PR, and won my age group – in ideal conditions of course. What’s realy hilarious to me is my pace in km/h (5:21) and the fact that they list me as from Vancouver (NB is apparently from nowhere – he got 23:29, 13 seconds faster than my PR and a minute and a half slower than his).
It was not a PR-course, except for being a flat out and back, but we had an absolute blast. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run a road race in another country, and it was an unforgettable experience.