Thursday, August 18, 2016

Race Recap: SeaWheeze Lululemon Half Marathon And Sunset Festival

If you missed my recap of the pre-race festivities you can find that HERE. This is my second time running the SeaWheeze Lululemon Half Marathon. Last year, I earned myself a new PR of 1:51:44 but this year the goals were much different. I have been having some health problems, since the beginning of the year, and speed hasn't been my focus. Instead, I have really enjoyed slowing down, running with friends, and having fun! As our medals spelled out MISSION COMPLETE.

Race day started early. We had set our alarm for 4:30 since the roads close, in Vancouver, at 6 and we wanted to secure a parking spot close to the start and finish area. We had laid our clothes before, and made our peanut butter sandwiches, so we were out the door in ten minutes. There was a little bit of nervous energy, on the 40 minute drive, but mostly excitement. We wanted to get June a new PR but knew that was easily possible based on how hard she had been training. We found a parking garage about a five minute walk from the Vancouver Convention Centre and made our way to the starting line. We had time to use the bathroom twice, warm-up for a few minutes, and then make our way to the starting line. The race is self-seeded but they do have pace bunnies (or beavers as they're called) which makes it a little easier. And, unlike last year, they seemed to be spread out properly. They also had waves separating racers into three groups; over 3 hours, under 2:30 and under 2:00 which I really think helped alleviate some of the congestion. We lined up around the two hour mark, sang O'Canada and were off! 

The SeaWheeze course is unbelievable. You start with a tour of downtown Vancouver. At one point, I remember telling June I had no idea how I PR'd, last year, as there's quite a few rolling hills. My Garmin wasn't working so I wasn't able to gauge our pace. We were strictly running by feel. My new bluetooth headphones also decided not to work so I was running without any music which was actually fine. There's lots of crowd support, along the course, plus cheer stations and June and I were quite chatty. It's pretty fair to say we were having a LOT of fun compared to some of the people around us.

The Burrard Street Bridge, an out-and back portion of the course, wasn't as tough as I remembered. Before we knew it, we were at the half way point and needed to stop for a photo. We ran ahead a few steps before June noticed we hadn't actually crossed the marker. So, we headed back laughing, and crossed over it before continuing on our way.

 One of our favourite cheer stations was on the bridge. A spin group had set up bikes and were blasting music. We could hear Spice Girls as we approached and definitely broke out into a run/dance party as we made our way past them. Their energy was contagious.

The long stretch along the Seawall was just as gorgeous as I remember. I think June and I both hit a little bit of a wall around the 12 kilometer mark but that's exactly when we spotted a group of mermaids and decided to stop for a photo. We fully committed and dropped in the sand to pretend we too were mermaids which had a lot of people laughing. It was exactly the boost we needed. 

Before SeaWheeze, I hadn't run longer than five miles, in two months. It was the least prepared I had ever been for a race but just felt thankful to be able to running. My doctor had me monitoring my heart rate so anytime it hit 190 we were forced to take a short break. Thankfully, that seemed to always coincide with the Nuun and water stations every three kilometers. June and I loved that each station had a different flavour. We were definitely well hydrated that day which was probably a good thing because it was smoking hot. Thankfully, the Seawall was mostly shaded; however, we saw quite a few runners down and needing medical attention. 

The hill at 18 kilometers also wasn't as bad as I remember (I guess that's what happens when you're not pushing for a PR) and they had a T-REX waiting at the top. June insisted on a photo and then we grabbed a selfie before continuing on to the finish line. 

They changed the finish line location, this year too, so we actually crossed on the Seawall which was pretty cool. I did miss the street lined with screaming people though and the early exit. We crossed the finish line, holding hands, and with huge smiles on our faces.
June got a 30+ minute PR!!!

Now, this is where I missed the early exit. It took us fourty-five minutes to get from the finish line to the free brunch and exit. We were given small Lululemon bags to use to collect goodies along the way. We also got a bottle of water and cold towels which we instantly threw on our heads. In our bags, we collected Sage products, Kind bars and a new Lululemon hat. I do love that you get a surprise gift for finishing!

When we finally made it to the finish area and free brunch I was disappointed to hear they were not serving the waffles that were so delicious last year! Instead, they had a Frittata which I didn't eat. Apparently they had a vegan option but didn't promote it. We ate our food (they also had a cherry tart and grapes) grabbed some photos, and then stood in line for about 20 minutes for the most amazing massage. They also have a Chiropractor on site along with foam rollers and an area to stretch. 

Once we were done that we headed to the Cactus Club for a drink and appetizer and then spent the next couple hours walking around downtown and chilling out in Starbucks. We facetimed with our friend, Melissa, who moved to Dublin and was unable to join us. Next year Melissa!! 

We eventually used a nearby hotel to clean up, and change, and then made our way to the Sunset Festival. The ticket is included in your race registration but friends and family can also purchase extras. We made it to the park around 3:40 and found pay paying ($11 dollars for the day) nearby. We were actually the first in line since the event didn't open until 4:30. We sat around, chatting with other races, and finally were let in. 

We headed straight to grab a beer. We didn't realize they have a special post-race Lululemon store on site so we missed getting any more gear. It is different than what they sell in the Showcase store. Next time, I may check that out first as they did have a cute hoodie I wouldn't mind adding to my collection. Besides the store, beer and multiple food options they also had photo booths, mini golf, phone charging stations and some exhibitor booths. 

The main stage performers started at 7:30 but, before that, there was a huge group yoga session. I didn't do the yoga but we did get there early for a We Run Social meetup. WRS is a community of social-media savvy runners who get together to talk about running as well as support and inspire each other. Meetups happen at most major races, around North America, so if you haven't already been to one I highly suggest checking it out. These people are amazing!! 

June and I ended up leaving before the musical acts came on because my mom had been alone with London all day and we hadn't showered, or napped, like we would have liked. Next year, I think we will plan to spend one night downtown so we can chill out for a couple hours in between the race and festival.

Overall, I absolutely love SeaWheeze. It's well organized, fun, you get a lot for the $128 registration and it's in a beautiful location!! 

Registration opens this fall (yes, it's early and yes it will sell out in minutes) and I will definitely be setting a reminder. 

Hope to see you all in 2017!!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

SeaWheeze 2016- (Pre-Race Festivities)

I decided to break up my SeaWheeze experience into two posts because there is really so much to talk about. The race takes place on Saturday but the day before is packed with stuff to do. June and I decided to head down to Vancouver, from White Rock, around 6:30. We were able to find parking a few blocks away. It was eleven-dollars for the day which was much cheaper than the thirty-plus I paid last year to park on site at the Convention Centre. The Showcase Store (featuring exclusive lulu gear) was open for runners from 7am to 11am and then to the public until 8. I heard some people started lining up at 10am, the day before, but I didn't have it in me. I did it, last year, but was okay sitting this one out.

When we got to the Centre we headed straight to registration (which also opened at 7am.) We waited about five minutes before we were given our things. Now, registration for this race make seem steep at $128 but it isn't for everything you get. Besides the exclusive shorts (that are mailed out to you a few months before) you get a lulu mesh duffle bag with a lulu water bottle, tube of Nuun plus post-race you get a medal, Sage products, KIND snacks and a surprise gift once you cross the finish line (this year it was a hat!) You also get access to yoga session and the Sunset Festival (which I will recap with my race day experience separately.)

After we picked up our registration package we headed out to the outdoor festival. They had a bunch of different vendors handing out samples; including Sage, David's Tea, and a frozen yogurt truck. There were also stations offering free photos, tattoos, nail painting and race-day hair. 

Hi Heather!

We did everything, except the hair, between 7:30 and 11:30, and then it was time for June and I to split up for a few hours. She was meeting up with a friend and I had been invited to attend a social lunch with the team from Vega to learn about their best life project. 

The lunch was hosted at Field and Social a trendy, gorgeous, venue in downtown Vancouver. The Vega crew had it decorated beautifully with fresh vegetables everywhere. As we chatted, with the other guests, we munched on some Canapes including gazpacho, vegetable chips with spicy baba ghanoush and tomato cups with herbed kefir vegan cheese. The sit-down portion of the meal was probably one of the best meals I've ever had. It was served family style which meant I may have had more than my fair share of the tabbouleh and rice paper salad rolls. If you're Vegan, or looking for a fresh, delicious, meal you must check it out.

I am not an ambassador for Vega but I do use their products. It's the one protein powder I find agrees with my stomach every time. I did enjoy meeting the staff (talk about an inspiring, high-energy and motivating group) and learning about their #bestlifeproject. The project is about sharing those small moments and daily triumphs that the best lives are made of. By living, and sharing, those moments hopefully you'll encourage others to do the same.

Once the lunch wrapped up, I headed back to the Convention Centre to meet June. We decided to get in line for the Showcase Store as I had my heart set on a new pair of crops. It turns out, the key to the store is waiting until 3pm as there was NO LINE. Yes, we missed out on some of the items but if you don't care what you get it's worth it to go later. I heard they still had some things left later in the day too.

June and I both found a pair of crops we loved and then headed outside to wait in line to get our race hair done. It took about 45 minutes to get through the line but it was fun because of the atmosphere. We got our hair done, took some more photos, and then headed back to my parents' place to carb-load and lay out our race day outfits. 

We were both in bed by 9:30 as we had a 4:30 alarm set for the next day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Race Recap: Mud Hero Alberta 6K

Completing a mud obstacle race has always been on my fitness bucket list so I had to say yes when Columbia Sportswear approached me with the offer to participate.

Disclaimer: I received two race entries and Columbia gear in exchange for posting about the race but, as always, all opinions are my own.

Since the event is held in Red Deer (three-and-a-half hours away) my friend June and I drove up the day before. The race is held at Canyon Ski Resort. It's about 10 minutes outside of Red Deer. I found the signage heading out there to be awesome and we easily found our way. Parking is 10 dollars but no complaints as it was well executed and they had someone directing you where to park and all the parking was within minutes of the starting area which was nice. Mud Hero recommends you arrive at the site 90 minutes before but we found 60 minutes to be more than enough. 

Once there we headed to pick up our registration packages. Instead of a bib all racers are given a green headband with your number on it. You also are encouraged to write your number on your body, with a Sharpie, for photos. There was only a short line for registration so we were through fairly quick. We took a few pre-race photos, checked our gear, and then met up with Jen and her friend Chelsi to run the race together. 

We were in the 10:30 heat. The event is held over three days, and it had been pouring rain, so the course was very muddy. They had to close one obstacle because it was too slick but otherwise the other 17 were open. The starting line consisted of a dance party hosted by one high-energy DJ and lots of nervous laughter as we talked about what we were about to get ourselves into. Before I knew it, we were off and running! 

The first kilometer, or so, was straight down a hill. We started out running but soon had to stop as the path was extremely slick. Half the people were sliding on their bums or "surfing" down but we chose to walk on the far edge of the path, and hold on to trees and random branches, to try and make it to the bottom without falling. Once we got to the bottom it was back up. This course has a lot of hills! We eventually came across our first obstacle which was the Superhero Cargo Climb. 

We high-fived each other after we had all conquered it and headed off running. From there we did scaled three walls before making or way to the giant slide. This was probably the one I was most excited about. You basically slide into a giant pool of muddy water. June had to sit this one out, because of her contacts, but the girls and I had a blast as we threw our hands up in the air and screamed as we flew down the slide and were catapulted into the mud. It was the first time we got really dirty and I was loving it! 

We stopped running, in between obstacles, at that point as our shoes were soaked. We decided to just walk and really enjoy the experience. The next obstacle was a frog spa where we had to make our way across this out of really thick mud. It was tough but we all did it and then helped pull each other out at the end. The Donkey Kong was the one I was lost nervous about. Basically you climb up a 15-foot structure then climb along cargo nets, suspended in the air, and then back down. I'm terrified of heights so I could feel my body shaking. Thankfully, I just took my time and, with some reassurance from June, was able to make it safely back on the ground.

Other obstacles included the Muddy Lagoon and the Backwards Bullfrog.

The end was probably the hardest. After climbing hamburger hill (which we can only guess is named that because you deserve a free hamburger, at the very least, for climbing it) we did monkey bars and then came to the wall scale. There was a platform and a rope and you had to pull yourself up and slide down the other side. This obstacle is right next to the starting area so we had been watching people try it earlier. June easier made her way up and then it was my turn. I made it almost three-quarters before my feet and hands started slipping. The rope and surface were covered in mud and it was impossible to get any traction. I tried one more time but still couldn't do it so Jen, Chelsi and I moved over to the other end of the obstacle where they had wooden steps to make it a little easier but still challenging.

The last 120 metres is a giant mud pit with a number of obstacles. This is easily where we had the most fun. At one point, I slid down into a pit and my legs went behind me, instead of in front of me, and I was stuck. The mud was so thick I couldn't pull myself upright. I remember just laughing and then calling for June as someone yelled "she's sinking!!" June grabbed my hand and contemplated just pulling me, superman style, but I managed to somehow start moving on my own and get out. If you weren't dirty before you were now. The pit had you swimming under logs and doing the backwards overhead crawl towards the finish. I was covered in mud up to my shoulders!

The girls and I crossed the finish line together with huge smiles on our faces and very dirty!

We had thrown around the idea of finishing under two hours and we did! 1:41:XX

I think the fastest person finished the course in 30-something minutes that day but I'm glad we decided not to race it. We had so much fun doing it as a team, chatting between obstacles, and just taking our time to soak it all in. 

After the race, we picked up our bags and attempted some post-race photos (my phone still has mud on it) and then went to shower and change. 

There is a big water structure with multi shower heads to hose you down. I was able to get decently clean but next year I would consider wearing a swimsuit under my race clothes so I could just strip down after. I definitely took off my top and showered in my sports bra in an attempt to get clean. They have a changing tent but we decided to set up camp outside. It took awhile but we eventually cleaned ourselves off, and put new clothes on, and then made our way to the beer gardens. Your entry also gets you a medal, t-shirt and one free beer. They had a band playing so we sat and chatted for a bit while we sipped our drinks. If you were hungry there was also a lot of decently-priced food options on site. 

Overall, I had a blast at the race! I would absolutely do it again. In fact, I think I'll bring London next time since they have a kids' race for those 4+. 

Thank you Mud Hero, and Columbia, for a great experience! And, thank you to the girls for making the experience so much fun!!!