This year will mark the 4th anniversary of the Lululemon Seawheeze Half Marathon, which is one of my most favourite running races for SO many reasons. To name a few…
- It happens here in Vancouver, so you know the scenery will be gorgeous – think mountains, beaches, greenery, and sailboats
- A beautiful race course, especially the long flat bit along the sea wall
- Super fun, non-intimidating race atmosphere
- Plenty of yoga, including sunset yoga the night before the race which is awesome
- Everyone looks super bright and colourful
- Lululemon treats every runner like a VIP with tons of pre-race activities, on-course cheer squats, a killer post-run brunch and a concert
I’ve run this race every year since it began, and knowing that registration gets even more crazy and sells out even faster each year, I feel super thankful to have had the opportunity to do so. Coming out here for Seawheeze in previous years was one of the major contributors to my falling in love with the west coast – so much so that I finally moved here!
Seawheeze 2015 falls on August 15th (which also happens to be somebody’s birthday…. wink wink!) and it’ll be my first summer running the race as a Vancouverite as opposed to a tourist. Now that I’m more familiar with the city than I have been in previous years, I figured I’d put together a little guide for anyone who’s flying in to participate. Even if you’re not participating, if you ever find yourself traveling to Vancouver one day, I hope you’ll find it useful too!
Note to anyone reading who also lives in Vancouver: At the time of writing this, I’ve only lived here for 3 months. Therefore, there is TONS I don’t know about. If I’ve missed out one of your favourite spots, please comment below and let everyone know about it!
Let’s start with location:
If you’re staying at a downtown hotel, you’re most likely within walking distance of the Vancouver Convention Centre and Jack Poole Plaza, which is where almost everything happening around Seawheeze takes place. I’ve mapped out some of the most popular ones in the map below (and you can click here for an interactive map if you like.)
Need-to-Knows About the Seawheeze Showcase Store
- You’ll want to arrive on Thursday if you can – well, that is if you want to get first pick on the clothes in the Seawheeze Showcase Store. This is at the Vancouver Convention Center, the same location where the race expo takes place. The clothes at the store are specifically branded for Seawheeze so you won’t find them anywhere else, which brings me to my next point…
- The Seawheeze Store is open from 7am-8pm to the public and to participants which means there is a whole lot more demand than supply. You can expect to find items up on eBay for 3-4x their retail value in the days following the race (yes it’s crazy, but I’ve seen it happen every year).
- To save yourself from being disappointed, I’d recommend getting to the Seawheeze Store early on Friday morning. Each year Lululemon seems to manage the supply and re-stocking sizes better than the year before which is a great thing, especially for those that simply can’t get there early. I’m sure 99% of you are going to think I’m nuts, but last year my my besties and I got there at about 3:30am and there were already about 50 people ahead of us in the line. I know, I know…. everything about it is crazy, but the clothes were super cute so I’d say it was worth it in the end.
- There will be clothes errrrywhere. On the floor, on the shelves, hung on hangers, and going in and out of the changing rooms. Our usual game plan (like many others) is to grab a whole bunch of pieces, plop down on the floor, and try them all on. There are a few shared changing rooms but you’ll be in and out a lot faster if you don’t bother with those. If you plan to take this approach too, wear a sports bra and shorts so you can easily whip clothes on and off without.. ahemm… exposing yourself. 😉
- If you, like me, plan to set your alarm for way too early on Friday morning, you might want to make yourself a tea, coffee, or other beverage of choice and bring it down to the Convention Centre with you. Something to sit on, snacks, or something to keep you occupied might also come in handy, and feel free to come and say hi if you see me!! 🙂
Packet Pick-Up Party
This is also from 7am-8pm the day before the race, and every year they have some new surprises and fun things to do. In the past, there’s been free manicures, massages, airbrush tattoos, samples from companies like David’s Tea, free fruit from Spud, life-size jenga, and a bunch of mascots and guys on stilts. Be sure to wear some really comfy shoes because you’ll be on your feet for a long time.
I’ll send you over to the Seawheeze site for all these deets because they do a pretty good job of explaining what happens. In my previous experience, with the exception of the very first year, morning bag check in the Convention Centre has been super smooth and fast. There’s a group warm-up, then you’ll be off!
This guide would be incomplete without a solid section on Vancouver eats, and below are a list of some of my favourite spots. Many of these are walkable from downtown, and those that aren’t are just a quick cab ride away. I’ve put all of them on a map for you too, and if you click below you’ll be able to zoom and see addresses for each location.
If you happen to visit any of these places, I’d love for you to post a photo to Instagram, tag me (@eatspinrunrpt) and show me what you’re eating!
Before those of you who aren’t vegan or vegetarian dismiss this, know that Heirloom is at the very, very top of my list as far as delicious, healthy and hearty Vancouver restaurants go. In fact, last year my friends and I dined there 4 times in 4 days. (One of those meals inspired this Zucchini Noodle Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing recipe that I re-created upon returning home.)
If you eat out just once while you’re here, I’d highly recommend making it an Heirloom meal. They’ve recently taken on some extremely talented new chefs, re-vamped their menus, and I can attest that the kale slaw is absolutely to die for. There are options for vegans and vegetarians, and the portion sizes are very generous. If you’re just looking for a juice or smoothie, there’s also Heirloom Juice Co about 3 minutes up the street.
If you love seafood like I do, you will love The Boathouse. There’s everything from ahi tuna tacos to surf and turf platters, as well as my personal fave, the Chop Chop Salad.
There are several Boathouse locations but I’d recommend the Kits Beach one which is less than a 10 minute taxi ride from downtown. As the name implies, it overlooks the beach and you’ll get to watch beautiful sunsets like this one:
Since the restaurant is literally right next to the beach, you could also roll a pre- or post-dinner walk along the shore into your agenda. Just remember to make an online reservation because this is a busy spot.
There are a couple of Tractor locations, but the most convenient for anyone staying downtown is at 335 Burrard St. You can expect plenty of fresh salads, soups, stews, snacks and sandwiches (holy moly – that’s lots of alliteration), fitting for both meat eaters and veggie heads alike.
Yew Seafood + Bar
Those of you who want to get your seafood fix can definitely tackle this task by eating at Yew. The menu includes crab tacos, seafood charcuterie, shrimp nachos, lobster caesar salad, wild salmon, tuna sashimi, custom seafood platters and.. and… and…. sorry, drifted off into a blissful seafood coma there. It’s all delish. I’ll come with yew. Bahahaha!
Cactus Club Cafe
Some people I know refuse to eat here because it’s a chain, but I really love Cactus Club for its west coast feel. It’s kind of like Milestones, but better. There’s plenty of seafood, but also plenty of other dishes so if you’ve got a group with mixed eating preferences, Cactus Club would be a good option. I’ve found it to also be a very safe night-before-the-race option.
The Coal Harbour location is the newest, and it’s right next to the Vancouver Convention Centre where the race expo is. The restaurant overlooks the water and north Vancouver, so if you can, try to get a table by the window. You’ll definitely want to make a reservation because this location will be busy around race weekend, but if you can’t get in, there’s another Cactus Club within walking distance at 588 Burrard St, and another at 1136 Robson St.
My first experience with Nourish was at work about a week after arriving in Vancouver. (We have a great lineup of restos and food trucks that deliver throughout the week – it’s pretty sweet!) Nourish prepares all of their salads as either vegan or vegetarian, but they can be modified by adding chicken, salmon or free-range eggs. Ingredients are seasonal, sourcing is local, and prices are totally reasonable. You’ll find their storefront at 451 Granville St.
Granville Island sounds like a far away place, but it’s really not – only about a 10 min taxi ride from downtown. There’s heaps of market vendors here, as well as restaurants, shops, and a nice boardwalk that overlooks False Creek. If you go, and if you like salmon, you MUST try the maple smoked salmon nuggets in the market building.
I’ve raved about these several times in the past and if you buy some, you’ll know exactly why.
To track them down, head to the fish counter when you walk in the main doors and if you ask for maple smoked salmon nuggets. They’ll know what you’re talking about because these things are the BEST. (There’s BBQ ones too, but they’re not as good if you ask me.) If you’re not a fish fan, no worries -there are plenty of other delicious things to see too!
The market is open from 9am – 7pm, 7 days a week.
One of the things I love most about Vancouver is that juice bars are almost as common as coffee shops. I’m steadily working my way around as many as I can find, but here are a few recommendations:
- The Juice Truck – Storefront is at 28 West 5th Ave, but the truck is a little closer to downtown at 200 Abbott St
- Krokodile Pear – Not just a fun name – fun juices with west coast names too! There are 2 locations and the closest to downtown is 518 Davie St.
- Melu Juice and Health Bar – These guys are officially opening on July 15th but I checked them out at their soft launch party this weekend. It’s a super cute little spot at 1110 West Pender St (very near to the Vancouver Convention Centre) and they’ve got heaps of juices, nut mylks and gorgeous looking snack bars.
…. because everyone needs healthy hotel room snacks, right? There are 2 grocery stores within close walking distance from the hotels on Burrard St in case you want to stock up on a few things once you arrive.
One is Marketplace IGA (corner of Burrard and Smithe St, or on the corner of Robson and Richards) and the other is Urban Fare (one at 1133 Alberni St and the other at 305 Bute St). Urban Fare is a bit like a smaller version of Whole Foods and has a great salad bar, prepared food (including hot breakfast) and a sit-down cafe.
If you’ve got cash or a credit card burning a hole in your wallet, Vancouver has no shortage of ways to help you to spend ALL the monies. Very close to the race festivities downtown are Robson and Alberni streets, both of which have heaps of shops – pretty much everything from the clothing stores you’d find in the mall to Tiffany’s.
Your nearest Lululemon store in the downtown area is at the corner of Burrard and Robson Street – 970 Robson St to be precise. My aunt jokes that our province is called BC – not British Columbia, but Bring Cash. She’s right.
As a Seawheeze participant you’ve obviously got a thing for Lululemon, so you might also be interested in checking out the Lululemon Lab. It’s a space that’s half store front, half designers creating new exclusive Lululemon clothes. This is a concept that the founder created to let local designers have a place to experiment.
The clothes at the Lab aren’t sold in Lululemon stores because the designs are less mainstream, but it’s still fun to go in and have a look and watch the designers as they work. Conveniently, there’s a Whole Foods (one of the best in Canada, in my opinion) just around the corner from the Lab. Inside there’s an amazing juice bar with all sorts of juices and Vega smoothies. The salad bar is awesome too.
Other Things to Do
Depending on how long you’re visiting, you might have a little spare time outside of the race to check out a few other things around the city. Here are some of my top recommendations:
I did this for the first time 2 years ago here in Vancouver, and there’s all sorts of companies that will take you out for private lessons. You don’t need to bring any gear with you as they supply it all. The company I used was Stand Up Paddle Vancouver and the lesson was 90 mins. One thing I’d highly suggest is bringing a waterproof pouch on a lanyard if you want to take photos while you’re out on the water.
The Grouse Grind
Probably not a great pre-race idea, but if you’re up for a little extra physical activity on Sunday, the Grouse Grind is one of Vancouver’s famous climbs. Grouse Mountain hasa 2.9km trail winding to the top, and you’re only allowed to climb up. There’s a gondola that brings you back down to the bottom and a big chalet at the top with food and drinks (although they’re nothing to boast about – save your appetite for one of the restaurants listed above!) The view is gorgeous, so make sure you bring a camera. If you decide to do the Grind you’ll want to wear running shoes (and deodorant) for sure, and it’s best to get there at 9am or earlier if you can because it gets busy.
False Creek and The Sea Wall
There are heaps of bike rental shops in Vancouver, and plenty downtown which you can check out on this map. Whether you want to bike or walk, False creek and the Sea Wall are gorgeous places to do both, and so is Stanley Park. The race will go through these areas, but you’ll probably be wishing you could come back and take photos so I definitely recommend it if you can afterwards!
As I said, there are endless things to see, do and eat here but those are my top picks for anyone coming to town for Seawheeze. So now:
- For Vancouverites: If you’d like to give a shout-out to any other must-see places in the comments I’d LOVE for you to do so.
- For Seawheezers coming for the first time: What are you most excited about?
- For everyone else: What’s one of the most popular tourist attractions that you’d recommend to people coming to visit your city?