For people who like bright shiny things, never-ending youth and quirky west coast vibes, SeaWheeze is the half-marathon for you. With 10,016 registered (and in the end 7,640 participants who chipped their shoes and ran) this is the largest race I’ve ever been a part of. And it was fun.
Given the sheer size of SeaWheeze I was suitably impressed by the swift, smooth organization and bunches of happy volunteers. Registration for this race goes down almost a whole year in advance, and sells out in less than an hour after opening. Lulu keeps runners hooked with fun prep including a pair of Lululemon shorts in the mail (for training!) and an app that covers a half-marathon training program and other interactive goodies.
On the ground in Vancouver, sponsors included Saje and Kind, among others, and there was a lot free stuff given out pre-race through social media (gift cards) and even upon arrival (a few lucky participants randomly had their hotel paid for). Key Van City hotels had room blocks, and some kicked it up a notch by jumping on the SeaWheeze band wagon – Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, for example, gave us a welcome card, Evian and house-made granola bars, plus a comp runner’s continental breakfast the morning of the race.
That’s right, folks. This isn’t just a run (aka half marathon) in the park, this is a full-on weekend festival with yoga sessions, shopping* and an after-party in Stanley Park. The day before the race, pick up your package at the expo and you could get your running up-do on, take in some yoga classes, brand yourself Lulu with a temp race tat, and get your nails done all SeaWheezical. You could even buy race beer, SeaWheeze’s own Curiosity Lager at the Sunset Festival or at select liquor stores across BC and Alberta.
The course was a 21-km delightful tour of downtown Vancouver, complete with a snazzy bridge (did you know bridges could go uphill?) and a loop of Stanley Park. Along the route there were any number of cheerful distractions from drag queens and mermaids, to pianists and scientists.
Should you go into a half-marathon untrained?
Did I do that?
And I will make no excuses. I was lazy. I’d booked so many hiking trips this summer that running really fell off my radar. And running a half marathon really should involve daily and weekly training commitments to prepare the body and mind for the actual event. I was, however, tuned into my body, and knew what I was working with. Months of chiropractic visits for my knees and back, and deep tissue massages have been paying off in a number of different ways over the past few months.
Still, I was nervous. I considered cancelling the trip. But the Facebook SeaWheeze chat group was sooo encouraging and supportive that I got on that plane, husband in tow. Once I arrived in Vancouver, I got cold feet again. I even considered dressing for the race, going to Starbucks for a few hours, splashing some water on my face, then returning to the hotel to see my husband and telling him the race was great. And just not doing it at all.
In the end, I just sucked it up and went.
I seeded myself in the back. (I kind of knew there was no PR going down today.) I was in the appropriate corral for a 2:45 pace, but for the life of me I couldn’t see the pace beavers among the throngs of people. I just shuffled along until about 7:30 am when my group was finally released onto the course.
It’s always a curious thing to run alone. Just you there to slow you down, or encourage you on. Just you to blame if you don’t like how it’s working out. Or you to congratulate if you’re kicking ass. So, I just … ran.
Right off the bat, I loved the little hills – pushing through on the ascent and flying down on the descent. Lots of active recovery time with hills. I even ran the Burrard Street Bridge – exhilarating! I’d found a comfortable pace, and planned having a GU gel about every three miles, and water whenever an aid station popped up. I ran for 14 km before I took a walk break, and like breaking the seal on a boozy night out, that was the end of that.
When I stopped to walk, all the familiar runners with whom I played tag for more than an hour now passed me, along with a slew of others I’d never seen before, and suddenly I was alone again in a new crowd by 15 km. Gone was the girl in the tiger stripes who sang to herself and yelled at runners who weren’t looking where they were going; gone was the girl in the pink tank with YOGA RUN PARTY tattooed on her shoulder; gone was the girl with the black ponytail in the Lulu bug shorts; you get the picture.
In taking those couple of walk breaks my splits went from 36 min and 34 min, to 41 min and 50 min = blergh. Lack of training was apparent in the latter part of the race for me. It’s certainly where I could’ve used that percussive hiss of BPM (I ran without music) or another hill for motivation. The flat flat flat flat flat seawall was my demise, the monotony only broken up by the occasional cheer team, DJ or mermaid strategically placed by SeaWheeze…!
The last kilometre was a tough one. I passed the final aid station, grabbing some water and eating half a banana. Not long now! I bopped through to the end, and the announcer called out my full name, my hometown, and told me I was looking good (awwwww). My time was 2:43:54.
After that it was confusion and shuffling: awarded a finisher’s medal shaped like a golden carrot, given a cool cloth for my face and a runner’s kit from Saje, a Kind bar thrust into my hand, a recovery blanket tossed over my shoulders, a Lulu hat perched on my head and then I was ejected back into the crowd where I found my husband cheering me on.
Thoroughly enjoyed the race, and kudos to Lululemon for the entire festival weekend and the hype they create around the event for the runners.
Goals for next time:
1) train – use the SeaWheeze app!!
2) plant self behind pace beaver at the race
3) arrive early to shop
The shopping, mind you, does deserve it’s own special mention…
Lovers of Lululemon are, quite simply and respectably put, fanatical. The exclusive SeaWheeze showcase store at the race makes fans go mental, lining up in the wee hours of the morning for the opportunity to buy gear. At full price. Most of the clothing goes home with the fans, but a fair portion of it appears online to the highest bidder at double and triple the original prices. It was assumed this was the mad masses of general public who ravaged the racks in past years.
This year, SeaWheeze organizers restricted the first few hours to runners-only shopping and limited the number of duplicate styles in varying sizes, but gear still appeared online within hours of the shop opening. Meaning, runners were selling gear, too.
In my Facebook SeaWheeze chat group, one runner justified herself by saying she’s paid a $128 registration fee, $590 in accommodation, $450 for a flight…if she can re-coup some of her travel costs off a few Lulu sales to fans who couldn’t make it to Vancouver, she will – with no regret. Well, when you put it that way….
Tips for hitting the store effectively, as told to me by successful owners of the bug patterned stuff and the green CRBs, etc:
- Line up early (to get in first)
- Work in packs (have a game plan, watch each other’s stuff etc)
- Wear a sports bra (you can strip half decently to try on stuff on the spot)
I went in the afternoon, long after the shop had been deserted and pared down to what Lulu lifers were calling “junk”, “dregs,” “trash” etc. Each clothing size still did have an assortment of what I thought were nice enough items, but obviously not of the top sellers. My big purchase? A striped headband. Haha. Next time…