I was hoping to do better in Vancouver than I did in Regina. Unfortunately training hadn’t been going well and with the nice weather lately it’s becoming more difficult to give up a day in the mountains at the expense of getting in enough running. I guess I did “just” enough.
We flew in Friday night, took the Skytrain to Waterfront and walked the 1 km to the hotel via Cordova Street, past revelers in the warm night. Tracy had reserved the Skwachays Lodge aboriginal hotel and gallery (skwach as in saskquatch and ays as in eyes – squatch-eyes, or so), where the downstairs is a gallery, dining/living area, and each room is designed by different artists around a different theme. We were in the Northern Lights suite that has a mural by Jerry Whitehead over the stairs, and beaded bear and fish sculptures over the beds by Nancy A. Luis that Scott didn’t notice until the next morning when, while lying in bed, the bear claws caught his eye. It’s unique and perfectly located near Gastown and the international square, just far enough away from Canada Place and the harbor hubbub, but still only a short walk. Good choice, Tracy.
(..This short walk did feel quite long after the race. Though I once ran a 3:26 marathon and then did 10k back to the hotel. For fun.)
Tracy and Peter had arrived earlier and had already done package pickup at Canada Place, but accompanied us on Saturday anyway. Peter had flown in directly from vacation in Mexico and was also staying at Skwatchays. Package pickup was as usual with exhibitors doing their spiels, noise and excitement, overpriced stuff, race organizers and charity groups promoting their events, the Nepalese aid group outside the front doors being a reminder of recent tragedies. We even ran into acquaintances from the old running group (I’d done Van 2007-or was it 2008-with them). Scott confided that he was getting excited, and I have to say that I was, a little, too.
We had lunch on the harbor front. I had a delicious papaya and avocado spring salad with chicken, and we enjoyed beer, ice water, or fruity cocktails in the sunshine. I think it was around this time everyone let go of their ambitions of doing any sort of pre-race run.
On the patio is where I left the group to catch the Grouse Mountain shuttle… Turns out Grouse Grind is closed due to construction, as is the other main trail. What?!! So I went to Capilano park instead.
WOW. Capilano is serenity in the city. Even the general hum of tourists can’t overwhelm the scale of the trees and depth of the canyon and overall sense of wonder at being immersed in ancient forest. Tall straight trees of weathered bark and bright green spring foliage dappled with sunlight. It was such a beautiful fresh afternoon, wandering on the Nature’s Edge boardwalk next to mirror still pond filled with fish and one great heron, getting high up in the treetop platforms, and leaning over the cliffwalk. Sure, the bridge itself is fun too but I loved the lush forest. It was fantastic and I’m glad I went. The free shuttle system is so convenient and kudos to the drivers for navigating downtown traffic and maintaining a sense of humor while sharing the fun sort of tourist info about the city (Stanley Park, Stanley Cup.. same guy).
By the time I got back to Skwachays I was ready to burrow against Scott’s snoring mass under the sheets and catch a nap. During my Capilano adventure Tracy, Scott and Peter had visited East Van Roasters Coffee & Chocolate and some galleries, and Scott brought back some incredible truffles. I had the restraint to eat only one. Mmm.
We spent dinner at Catch 122 for a tasting plate of charcuterie and cheese, etc., and mains of Lois Lake trout (me, Tracy, Peter) and juicy cornish hen (Scott), homemade ginger beer and iced tea and more girly cocktails served in delicate glassware, that earned Peter some ribbing even though they’re beer based. Errands, joining the street crowd outside a pub to watch a bit of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight which truthfully I couldn’t care less about, and then… A Shark Tank episode and bedtime.
Scott and Tracy got up at who knows what time. My race would start an hour after theirs and I am a show-up-at-the-bell kind of runner, so I blissfully continued to snuggle under the covers after they left at around 5:45 to meet Peter in the lobby. By 6:15 I couldn’t stand being in bed anymore and got up and put on my race stuff. As it wouldn’t do to break “the rules” and wear new shoes and a new shirt and new baseball cap, I decided on a new shirt that says RanVan that implies you shouldn’t wear it until you’ve actually finished, and my 2 year old shoes (hm, if I had a baby around the time I bought these shoes, it would be the parent of a 2 year old by now. And I’d probably not be doing this race…).
At 6:45 I went back to bed clad in my race gear, legs overhanging the bed so as not to get the sheets dirty from my shoes. What else is there to do. Besides go pee every 5 minutes. At 7:30 I decided to head downstairs. While chewing a banana and cinnamon sugared bannock and chocolate with ginger bits I watched the 8k runners run past the hotel for a bit, then headed over to the train.
It’s an infinitely long walk from the station to the start line. (And WHAT is with stiff oversize cardboard-y bibs? The best part of pre-race ritual is balling up the bib in your fist and then smoothing it out before pinning.) I got there right at drop bag last call and after portapotty and a cup of water, it was the 7 minute to start call. Heh heh, excellent timing.
I was in Corral 3 (4:00 to 4:15 estimated finish time). The start would be staggered even though there were only about 5,000 of us, which is kind of nice. You can see the mountains in the distance. It was already quite warm. A guy handed me his phone and asked me to take a photo of him. It was his first marathon. There was a girl next to me and we smiled at each other at something the announcer said. It was a good relaxed vibe. We watched Corral 2 start and disappear around the corner. A few minutes pause, and we were off.
Well I don’t really know what to say about my experience of the marathon. I remembered parts of the route from last time (2011, I think), and didn’t remember others, but it wasn’t the annoying feeling of nasty surprises. It was more like, oh yeah, this hill. Oh yeah, this part. The hills I did really well on, I must say. At least compared to the people around me. The course is a bit misleading because on the map it looks like you hug the shore pretty much the whole way, which it does, but behind in the trees. So you really only get a rare glimpse of the coast, but at least there was an occasional breeze. With an 8:30 start, it got hot so good thing for the trees and shade. We kept passing cool dark trailheads and I almost wished I were running into there instead. Then, the seawall. oh yeah, the endless seawall for the last 10k. It reminded me a lot of Penticton and the end of Ironman, with all the curving around and that reserved feeling of being careful to not fool yourself that the next marker is just around the curve. Cause it’s certainly never just around the next bend.
I didn’t have much of a kick at the end when we finally turn onto W Pender. The finish line seemed far away. And it’s uphill. okay, only 25m gain but I felt it.
At the end I was pretty dizzy, I think from the heat, and a volunteer grabbed my armpit in that strangely aggressive way they have of doing that, and offered me a wheelchair (!!) which I waved off. Coincidence, I ran into Scott on the walk back to Skwachays. Maybe it was the motion of the car on top of all that but on the way to the airport I had to ask the taxi driver to pull over and let me retch into the ditch.
Why aren’t there chairs in the airport security lineup.. After security Scott got me a couple gravol while I lay prone on a carved cedar bench – maybe it was supposed to be decorative only – and felt better. Scott took very good care of me and we switched to an earlier flight. I put on my sunglasses and conked out on the plane but I don’t think I dribbled on anyone.
Given how that went I am pretty worried about my next race.
Vancouver: everything you expect from a top notch big city marathon was there. Yep, organization was top notch. As usual. Okanagan, take note! You too, Calgary.