The Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon

Two of my oldest and dearest friends have moved from the prairies to the Vancouver area.  I went out there two years ago when one of them got married in Whistler and have vowed to go back ever since.  I love the mountains. I love how everyone who lives there is so active. And I love how much scenery you can see even on a short run.

So, in March, when WestJet lost my suitcase on the way home from Las Vegas (they found it only a few hours later) and gave me a travel credit as an apology, I knew instantly how I wanted to use it. I started to look for seat sales from Saskatoon to Vancouver, then further inspiration struck. Why not plan my trip for a weekend that also had a running event going on?

The Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon attracted me for several reasons: first, the timing was right. A month after my first half marathon, and timed almost perfectly to fit in with a farmer’s wife’s summer schedule. Second, I’ve never run a point-to-point course before, and I thought it would be interesting. Third (and this was the best part), the course followed the coastline for almost the entire route. Oh, and we bank with Scotiabank, so might as well get something back for all those service fees we pay, right? Lol!

I spent a couple of days excitedly texting with my girlfriends in Vancouver and Langley who assured me I could of course stay with either of them, then booked my flight. My credit (which actually was doubled as it wasn’t emailed to me as promptly as it was promised!), coupled with a seat sale meant I got a very reasonable flight! At 4:30 a.m. on June 28 my Dad dropped me off at the airport and I was in Vancouver by breakfast time.

I won’t go into the details of our trip, as I try to keep this blog running focused. Suffice it to say that Vancouver is a beautiful city.  My friend Adria lives a block from the ocean, and two kilometres from Stanley Park. She has a partial ocean view and a sea bus stop just a few minutes walk away. If I had to live in the middle of a city, I would want to live exactly where she does!

One block from Adria’s condo! The bridge in the background is the one we ran over during the race.

Friday morning we went for an easy 5 km run along the seawall to Stanley Park and back. I was taken aback by the humidity! I had brought several different clothing options for race day (Girl Guide motto: Be Prepared!), but after feeling the humidity that morning I settled on my light weight singlet and shorts despite the cooler temperatures forecast for Sunday morning.

Saturday my friend Diane and her husband drove in from Langley (they had registered for the half too!) and we all walked to the package pick-up and expo at a hotel about eight blocks away. I was looking forward to the expo and wasn’t sure what to expect. This was a bigger event than the Saskatchewan Marathon, but “our” expo is bigger and better! The Vancouver expo had more samples to give away (Gatorade pre-race samples, copies of iRun magazine), but the race kit had none of the coupons and freebies that we usually get in Saskatchewan. There were also no presentations going on, which is part of what I love about the SK Expo. Fewer booths to shop at and less variety (THREE booths for compression socks?!) were also disappointments in the expo. One thing I did enjoy was the opportunity to buy red shoelaces for charity.  This race supports many charities, and Scotiabank donated all profits from sales of the laces to them. For every person who crossed the finish line with their red shoelaces they donated an extra $2.00!

After getting our bibs (chips were right on the bibs, which I always like), we had the brilliant plan to rent bicycles and ride around Stanley Park. Let me say right now that this trip was not about the race. This trip, for me, was about seeing Vancouver and Langley, and doing fun things with good friends I don’t see enough of. I didn’t really care what time I finished the race in, so spending my “day before the race rest day” biking for the first time in 15 years instead of resting my legs was totally fine with me!

We collected our bikes (a rental place is across the street from Adria’s building – perfect location once again!) and teetered off towards Stanley Park. What an amazing place that is! We biked about 15 km (who forgot their GPS in the condo? This guy!), then returned our bikes and walked a few blocks in the rain to a pasta restaurant for some carb loading!

The next morning, I insisted on arriving at the start line an hour early (Adria dropped us off, what a sweetheart!).  Diane’s husband, Ryan, rolled his eyes at me, but later had to admit that we were far from the first ones there and we needed the time to wait in the porta potty lines! We checked our bag onto a school bus headed for the finish line then got in the enormous potty line again.  At 10 minutes to the gun we were still a ways back in line (I don’t know what the magic number for potties at the start line would be, but it always seems there are never enough!). I got nervous about missing the start and found a shed to pee behind instead. I was not alone, it was a popular pee spot! Upon returning to the line with Diane (who refused to pee behind anything!), I pointed out the shed to her… and realized that “behind” was actually “beside” from where the line of people were.  So if you saw my butt that day give me a shout out, lol! I’m quite sure many people got a view! 😛

We just made it to our corrals in time and the horn sounded.  This was my one disappointment with race day itself (aside from the potty shortage) – there was zero hype at the start line. No playing of the anthem, no pep talk from anyone, just the horn. I had found a 2-hour pace bunny in my corral and kept my eye on her as we started out. Diane and Ryan were behind me in the next corral.

The race course started by weaving around through the University of British Columbia campus for a while. We had driven the course the night before, which I always find very helpful (Ryan: “It took us half an hour just to DRIVE this damn thing! What have you gotten us into?!” It’s been a few years since Ryan’s last half marathon, lol). There is one double-back portion of the course which I liked. It was short (only a few kilometres long, from about the 3-6km marks), but gave us regular people a chance to see the elites leading us all. I squinted across the meridian to see who was among us and there were Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis, two of the three men representing Canada in the marathon at the Olympics in London! Can you say STAR STRUCK?!  How cool was that?! First highlight of the race, right there! When I got to my double back portion I began scanning the crowd of on-coming runners for Diane and Ryan, and we waved to each other as we passed. It was a boost to see them again, and it would be the last time I saw them until the finish line.

By the 8 km flag I knew I wasn’t going to make it through this race without stopping for yet another potty break. I’d been having trouble with this in training, it seemed that no matter how long or short my run was I had to stop at the halfway point. It was frustrating to me, it seems like such a stupid way to waste time in a race. After my stomach issues during the Saskatchewan Marathon from using gels I’d switched to chomps for the Vancouver Half. Apparently chomps mess with my guts in a race (but work fine in training), and I had no choice but to stop. The potties at 8 km had quite a line-up, but I knew there were more coming up around 11 km (another bonus of driving the course the night before!), so I waited. It paid off with shorter lines there, and I only lost about two minutes total. Still, that’s two minutes too much!

After this point, the race course stays right along the coastline for a long time. The clouds had lifted, giving us a great view of downtown and the mountains. For the scenery alone I would highly recommend running this race! There were a few steep but fairly short uphills, and one very long downhill, but the race was relatively flat throughout. At the 18 km mark we hit the Burrard Bridge. It is very long and has a gradual but steady incline for about two thirds of its span. I had been dreading that incline for the entire race, but I did what Adria’s boyfriend Shawn (a triathalete) had told me: keep your head down and throw your elbows. I’m sure I looked like a cross-country skier with the enthusiasm and determination in those arm swings, but it worked. Before I knew it I was at the top and ready to come down the other side.

The rest of the race was smooth sailing and I crossed the finish line at Stanley Park in 1:58:24 chip time, a personal best by 57 seconds! I got my medal and headed back along the sidelines to watch for Diane and Ryan when I saw them waving to me from the side. They had passed me as I went into that damn porta potty and had the run of their lives! Ryan smoked the course in 1:52:41 and Diane mastered it in 1:53:37! I am so proud of them and their accomplishments – they had estimated their finish time around 2:10:00 and had been put in a slower corral, then did nothing but pass people for the entire 21.1 km! What an amazing day.

We found Adria and grabbed some post-race snacks (a great variety of cookies, recovery Gatorade, juice, fruit and more), then walked back along the sea wall to her condo. All in all it was a great race, perfect weather, and an enjoyable experience all around! I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

How I finished:

1:58:24 chip time, 1:59:57 gun time

1525 of 3838 overall

587 of 2182 women

127 of 405 women 25-29

54:33 split time at 10K

Have you ever run the Scotiabank Vancouver Half, or plan to? What did you think of it? Would you go again? And can anyone please offer me some advice on my mid-run stomach issues?! 

Gotta run.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. seeing you tweet about running this race, and now seeing this post… i really want to run it now! i’ve never been to BC ever… ya i guess I just stick to the Sask ways. (although I am going to Victoria for a few days coming up soon, yay) I would LOVE to run this, especially since the course layout is so awesome.
    Its so exciting to PR! Great job, even with stopping!

    Reply

    • It was a blast Allison, I’d love to run it again! We met a woman in the potty line before the start who basically guaranteed us PB’s, it’s a very downhill course. Victoria has a half coming up this fall, maybe your trip will match up with it!

      Reply

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