A word of warning now… this will be a long post… but there will be lots of pictures! The BMO Vancouver Half Marathon is a race I’ve been excited about (and dreading) for the last 6 months. I had just started running for fun in the fall of 2014 and around that time, work was putting together a running team. I decided to put my name in for the 8 km distance. A month later, after some peer pressure and apparent improvement in my endurance levels, I broke down and switched to the half. I had 5 months to train so I figured it was worth a shot.
Fast forward to Thursday, April 30th… the first day of the health and fitness expo aka package pickup. Receiving my bib made it all too real and the butterflies started fluttering in my gut. It was a pretty big expo with lots of volunteers telling you where to go, what to do, and what not to forget. Cuski and I walked around and had our first taste of SoLo energy bars. This is by far my new favourite energy bar – it doesn’t even taste like an energy bar, it tastes like dessert! We ended up buying 2 boxes. The major running stores had booths at the expo but I didn’t really see any good sales, which was too bad. I picked up my free tech shirt and beer glass which I pre-purchased through the BMO website’s Participant Dashboard. I loved them, they were quite nice. I also liked that they provided a free transit ticket for each runner. I don’t know why anyone would wanna drive anywhere downtown while the races are going on. I also got a free pair of BMO Vancouver Marathon gloves… which I later found out was used to just keep you warm at the finish line and then runners just tossed them aside. Not cool, I thought. I kept mine at home.
The night before the race, I prepped everything I could so that I didn’t need to scramble in the morning. All my clothes were laid out (Lululemon Run Swiftly T-shirt, ASICS shorts, and New Balance socks), my water bottles, my snacks, my bib, everything. All I had to do was fall asleep. I decided to go to bed at 10:30 and surprisingly I fell asleep right away. Unfortunately, I woke up thanks to a dream… at 2:39 AM. I had another hour and a half before my alarm rings. I couldn’t fall asleep for the life of me. When my alarm rang at 4:15, I gave in and just got up. I groggily made myself breakfast: toast topped with half an avocado, Havarti cheese and salt and pepper. I also ate an energy bar for “dessert.” I brought along a water bottle with Vega energizer to drink on the way to the start line. For race snacks, I packed a pouch of Honey Stinger gummies and a Honey Stinger gel. My tactic was to eat a gummy every 2-3 km and the gel at 10k. Cuski and I took the Canada Line to QE Park and made our way to the start line. It was quite a walk so at least I was able to “warm up.” I saw my friend and fellow Bell Media teammate, Nafeesa, hanging out in my corral (green). I’m glad I was able to take a photo with her, she’s been so motivating throughout this whole process. Cuski and I said our goodbyes and it was time for me to mentally prepare for my biggest physical challenge so far.
My corral was second last but I only had to wait 10-15 minutes before it was our turn to go. Not too bad at all. The first couple of kilometres are downhill, going north on Cambie Street. This was probably one of my favourite parts of the race… moods were high, I was pumped and strong, there were so many people cheering on the sidewalk with funny signs, and the view of the Downtown skyline and North Shore mountains ahead were spectacular. The beautiful weather helped too… we had perfect running temperatures.
The first climb was the Cambie Bridge, nothing new to me. I was getting a little worried because I was running faster than normal for a long run. Any attempts I made to slow down didn’t really work, I was still running too fast. I felt great though and I kept eating my energy gummies so I decided to sustain that pace for as long as I can. The first tough hill was on Pender from the Chinatown Gate until Homer Street. I had already walked that steep hill that morning on the way to the skytrain and I forgot that I had to run up there. I didn’t stop (as much as I wanted to) so I kept going.
The next area was Yaletown… that was pretty cool, running through Mainland Street and not having to deal with cars. A gigantic banner that says “Yaletown Loves Runners” greeted us. I rounded the corner on Davie and I saw Cuski there with the camera. He got a few more shots of me on Pacific, as you can see 🙂 It was great seeing him there supporting me and cheering me on. Added more fuel to the fire and I hurried on to Beach Avenue. I was still feeling excellent and running a great pace.
The majority of the second half was in Stanley Park. Nope, not the easy seawall… the roads. As much as I loved the closed roads, I didn’t love the hills and the lack of supporters with signs. I realize how much of an impact cheering fans made on my run. It really pushed me to do better, plus their signs were so entertaining it distracted me from all the pain I was feeling in my legs. I knew I was coming up to the Pipeline Road hill so I prepared myself mentally. Clearly that wasn’t enough because I hit a wall halfway up the hill. I remember when I ran the BMO St. Patrick’s 5K, we started going downhill here and it was fast. There was a reason why it was fast, it was freaking steep. So I walked to the top and then resumed running. By this point I was feeling a lot of pain and feeling a bit discouraged. I was still ahead of my goal so but I was feeling so bad at one point that I thought, I’ll just walk. BUT I snapped out of it and kept going. Unfortunately I had to stop again at another hill but I recovered quickly after. As soon as I saw Coal Harbour, I was so happy. I was even happier when I reached the seawall by the Rowing Club because this was familiar territory to me. I knew I was only a couple of kilometres away. By the time I reached the short Denman hill, I decided to save some energy for the finish and walk that short stretch. After all, people weren’t watching me yet 😛 I started running again when I hit Georgia thinking that the finish line is just at the corner of Georgia and Pender. NOPE I was wrong… it was 3 more blocks away at Thurlow. I was so tired at this point but I couldn’t stop… it would’ve been foolish to stop when I was so close. So I kept going at an ok speed… not too fast so I don’t get winded but not as slow as walking either. I decided to distract myself by looking for Cuski or my mom in the crowd. I couldn’t find them, which kinda sucked… and let me tell you, those last few hundred meters felt like the longest. As soon as I was within reach of the finish line, I went a little faster, just to get it over and done with. I was so relieved and happy and tired when I crossed the finish line… as you can see from my epic suffer face. I looked at my Strava and it said 2:18:something and I was beyond ecstatic!!! My initial goal was 2:30:00… and I just beat it by 12 minutes!! Needless to say, I was extremely happy with my time. My official chip time was 2:18:04 🙂 My medal is blue and beautiful, my favourite medal so far. It was worth all the hard work.
Check out my Strava here.
I Finished… What’s Next?
The Runners’ High after the half marathon stayed longer than the other races. My legs were still stiff and I was already thinking about my next challenge… and I’ve got my eye on the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. It boasts to be the fastest half marathon in Vancouver and to expect PB’s to be attained… and I heard it’s easier than the BMO. So I had to give it a try. I will be following their 8-week Half to Half training program to get me through the next two months. Let’s see how that works out 🙂 I am also thinking about possibly doing the full BMO marathon next year… but I haven’t decided yet 🙂 Let’s see by the end of the year.
The BMO Vancouver Marathon was an awesome event from start to finish. Their website was very clear and complete, and their newsletters gave me all the information I needed to know, when I needed to know it. The Expo was big with a lot of choices; however, I feel that they should’ve had more sales on. Saucony provided great quality tech shirts that I see myself using repeatedly in my training runs. The half marathon course was great. It was gorgeous and took you through so many neighbourhoods. Difficulty wise, I’d say it was moderate. It is definitely not flat but at least the hills were evenly spaced out. I loved how many people turned out to cheer. It’s a sign of a long-running and much-loved event that even if they’re not running, people are still willing to wake up and be a part of all the action. The support throughout the race was outstanding. There were so many opportunities to get water, energy drinks and gels. There were also so many opportunities to get your photo taken. All you had to do was get to their side of the road and smile. MarathonFoto is expensive but if you take advantage of their many photographers, their high price turns into quite a bargain. I got 17 photos out of it which ended up being about $4/full sized download. The entry price was high but I was lucky to be sponsored by my work. It is worth the money though. This race has everything you could ask for and if the weather cooperates and you get a PB… it’s a perfect race. I seriously can’t think of anything wrong with this race. I’ll see you next year BMO! Thank you to the organizers and the volunteers. Amazing work!
Photos by Carmen Marin, MarathonFoto, and @vcbride on Instagram.