Well it’s certainly been a while since the last one of these!

My race number - BMO Half Marathon 2016

Yesterday was a day that I’m sure all the non-runners in Vancouver loathe because of inconvenient road closures: The BMO Vancouver Half Marathon and Marathon. As I was driving to the race expo on Saturday afternoon, I realized that the last race I did was Challenge Penticton at the end of August last year. It feels like ages ago, and over the past month I’ve been really looking forward to getting back to the racing atmosphere.

Run Vancouver - BMO Half Marathon 2016

I met my friend Danielle at the Vancouver Convention Center on Saturday for packet pick-up and a chat as we walked through the expo hall. Danielle signed up for the marathon (her first!) and has been training like a rockstar, so I was pretty confident she’d have a great race.

signing the wall at the BMO Half Marathon 2016

After the expo we parted ways and I went home to do what lots of other Instagrammer runners do: lay out my gear in a square and take photos of it.

Race Gear - BMO Half Marathon 2016

I also packed my gear check bag with a bit of post-race food – Vega Recovery Accelerator, a Simply Bar and an apple.

Post-race refuel - Simply Bar, Vega Recovery Accelerator and an apple

Before bed I worked out how long it would take me to get from home to the Skytrain, to the bag drop and then over to the start line in the morning, and set my alarm based on that. I was in bed by 8:30 and up dark and early at 4:30am yesterday.

Even though I wasn’t hungry in the slightest, I had my usual bowl of Love Grown Foods Mighty Flakes and an orange for breakfast. (I used to have an apple but realized last year that oranges seem to work a bit better for me – perhaps because they contain a little bit less fibre.) My goal was to have this down the hatch before 5:00am, leaving a full 2 hours before the race started for it to digest. I was ready to go way earlier than I thought, so I did what I always find myself doing before races: channeling my nervous energy into cleaning my apartment. I know, it’s super awkward but also strangely calming at the same time!

Race morning breakfast - Love Grown Foods Mighty Flakes and an orange

I walked to the train station and hopped on with a whole bunch of other runners. We arrived at the start area by about 6:20am, which meant time to drink my Vega pre-workout energizer, make one trip through the porta-potty line, blow my nose a bazillion times (#springallergiesdrivingmecray), drop my bag in the gear check area and walk to the start line.

pre-race

My corral was yellow, and I think it was supposed to be for runners who planned to run 1:40 or faster. Before race day I’d decided that a time of 1:40 would be fine, given that my training hasn’t been particularly fast and I know I’m definitely not back in sub-1:30 shape yet. I found a spot mid-way through the yellow corral and shivered nervously as we all waited for the gun to go off.

corral signs

just before the start at BMO Vancouver Half Marathon 2016

The race had about 8600 participants which meant the first 2 miles were spent doing a lot of leapfrogging from side to side. The first portion was also very downhill, and I wish I’d started further forward so that I could have really used them to my advantage. My Polar V800 was on my wrist, but ignored up until I crossed the half way mats. Somehow I managed to make it there in just over 44 minutes, and I remember thinking that the second half would either be great, or I’d deeply regret going out as fast as I did. I chose to believe the former though, and kept chugging along.

BMO Half Marathon Route - 2016

Just before the 8 mile mark (around 55 minutes on my watch), I squeezed about half a gel into my mouth while approaching a water station. My legs were starting to feel a bit tired, and with a fairly flat stretch ahead it seemed like a good time to get some fuel in. After a big swig of water to wash it down, I continued along running alongside a group of runners who seemed to be moving at a comfortably hard pace.

There were plenty of rolling hills in Stanley Park (some much more rolly than others!) and luckily, lots of shade. It was an absolutely beautiful sunny day, and the shade from the trees helped to keep the temperature just perfect for running. The scenery was stunning and definitely made the miles pass faster – up until the last 3 which was where the pain set in.

My breathing felt very under control, but I started to get a small cramp near my left ribs. I decided not to finish the rest of my gel for fear that it might get worse, and instead focused on breathing and counting from 1-11 over and over again. (Don’t ask why I picked 11 – I have no idea.) With every stride my quads burned a little more, and by the time I could see the finish line they definitely were screaming that they’d had enough!

medal from bmo half marathon 2016

The last 500m were tough, but the runners around me put up some fierce competition and the prospect of overtaking a few in the final stretch helped me find a few extra gears. I crossed the finish line with an empty tank, and a chip time of 1:34:28, which I felt was a super solid way to start the season.

Final race results from Sportstats

A few of my friends came in shortly after I did, so we chatted a bit and celebrated before going our separate ways. The streets were mobbed with people, and while inconvenient to anyone who wasn’t involved in the race, it reminded me why I love being part of the running community so much. The vibe was awesome, the weather was gorgeous, and although exhausted and sore, I found myself already getting excited for my next race in June.

One of my former work buddies and I had plans to meet a few others for brunch, so we hobbled along the streets of downtown Vancouver to the restaurant. My brunching appetite was nowhere near what it usually is, but I put away some eggs and a pile of fruit before walking home for a shower that felt like the best thing EVER.

Vancouver Convention Centre

What’s next?

With this race out of the way, my sights are now on the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon on June 26th. It’s a fast, flat, net downhill course, and a great opportunity for a PR. There’s certainly a lot of work to be done between now and then though if I’m going to shave ~6 minutes off my time, especially speed work. My plan is to get right back into training next week, but this week is all about recovery, sleep, and getting my legs feeling good again. Speaking of which, I’m off to foam roll!

Now it’s over to you! Tell me…

  • If you raced this weekend, how did it go? How did you celebrate?
  • If you didn’t race, what was the best part of your weekend?