Vancouver is beautiful! I think I've started almost every marathon recap post with that statement about whatever city/place I just ran through. I've been very lucky to choose amazing places to run through on this marathon journey of mine.
Ricky and I got to Vancouver late Thursday and we checked into our AirBnb just after midnight. I would recommend AirBnb in Vancouver. It's an expensive city to stay in, and we saved quite a bit by using AirBnb instead of a hotel. It was in the perfect spot too, just a few blocks from the expo and right in between the 30k mark and the finish line on the race route.
We wanted to make the most of our time so we woke up early Friday morning and headed out to the Campilano Suspension Bridge after breakfast at Tim Horton's (which is like the Dunkin Donuts of Canada - ahhhhmazing!). The suspension bridge is just north of Vancouver and they have a complimentary shuttle that will take you from Downtown right to the park entrance. We spent a few hours exploring there and met some folks who were also in town for the race.
Afterwards, we head back into the city for a sandwich at Meat & Bread. This spot is only open on weekdays, but you have to try it if you're in Vancouver. After walking around way too much for 2 days before my race, we took a small ferry out to Granville Island. It's a small art focused island underneath one of the main bridges in Vancouver. They have a nice market that offers fresh produce and lunch vendors, along with art vendors who sell handmade jewelry and photographs. We finally made our way back to our place around 6pm. Such a long day of walking!
I knew I had to take it easy on Saturday. I had an opportunity to meet up with Alicia (@aliciarunsfast on Instagram) and we did a short 2 mile shakeout run together before hitting up the expo to grab our bibs. She is the sweetest person ever! Alicia was running her first marathon and I was so excited for her. The best part about the running community and social media is when you get to make virtual friends into real friends. We talked about our fueling processes, how our training had gone, what our hopes were for the following day - it was really fun to hang out with her. After the expo, we took the rest of the day easy because my legs were sore from all the walking the day before. I was getting anxious about how my legs were feeling and went to sleep without much confidence for the next day. In addition to how my legs were feeling, the weather was expected to be above average and in the mid to high 70's. Not ideal racing weather. To top this off, the marathon had a later start time of 8:30 am. I made sure to hydrate as much as I could without overdoing it.
Alicia was nice enough to offer to pick me up on race morning and take me to the start line since my place was on the way. We got there around 7:30 am and made several trips to the restrooms before getting into our corrals. The race was extremely well organized with their corrals, an abundant amount of porto potties, and ample volunteers and support on the course. Alicia and I started together, but we broke off almost immediately so we could each run our own race.
This was my first race without music. I had done a majority of my training without it and over the last week before the race, any run I did with music felt strange and distracting from my pace. I was nervous about the last 6 miles, which is usually where you need music to pump you up and push through the wall when it hits, but I felt like this race was really an opportunity for me to test out some new things. Since my training didn't go as well as I wanted it to during this cycle, the weather being so warm the potential for cramping was high, and my legs being shot from walking around, I wasn't expecting anything grand to come out of this race.
Once the race started, I wasn't feeling too well and could tell the heat was going to be an issue. We began at Queen Elizabeth Park and ran through mostly residential neighborhoods with gorgeous homes for the first 6 miles. There's a huge hill on the course at the 10K mark. I was playing it safe holding a 7:50 average pace leading up to this so I wouldn't get worn down. The hill was surprisingly not as difficult as the elevation chart made it look - it was long and steady. I focused on effort rather than pace, made sure my breathing didn't get too labored, and finished the hill with an 8:19 pace. Not too bad at all. There was an immediate downhill which helped me pick things back up again. I made sure to take in electrolytes at every other aid station so I wouldn't cramp. While I didn't cramp up once during the race, I did have to stop in the porto potties - not once, but twice! Just after mile 8 and mile 15.
Not listening to music was both weird and amazing! Tons of people were chatting it up during the race. One guy even answered his cell phone to tell someone where he was on the course! Around mile 14, we had a nice downhill that let me pick up the pace a bit. A nice gentleman and his running buddy asked me what time I was going for. I told him I was hoping for a 3:20 but it was hot, so at least a 3:25. They were also going for a 3:25 and they paced with me for a bit. Shortly after this I had to pee, so I lost them for a bit. At the end of mile 18 was the bridge - the final hill in the course. The one gentleman appeared by himself (he had to leave his friend) and we paced up the hill together. He was shooting for a BQ - I never saw him again after the bridge so I hope he made it!
After the bridge was a nice downhill that took us into the entrance of the seawall in Stanley Park. I saw Ricky just before the entrance and I was feeling good, so I took off once I hit the seawall. I started logging 7:30, then 7:20, overtaking quite a few people in the next 4 miles. I was so hopeful of coming in under 3:25. I tried to calm myself the entire time so my breathing wouldn't get erratic with all of my excitement. At this point, I knew the course was going to be a bit long. The course was marked with every kilometer, but they also marked every 5 miles. My Garmin hit 20 miles about 1 or 2 minutes before I saw the 20 mile sign. Just after mile 24, I hit the wall. I tried to focus on catching the next person, but it wasn't helping. When my watch hit 25 miles and I couldn't see the 25 mile marker, I knew that while this might be my fastest marathon according to my Garmin, it wasn't going to be on paper. I let it go.
Once we finished the seawall, we entered the streets. I kept looking for the finish and it was far from the final turn. I searched for Ricky on the sidelines. Once I found him, I ran up to him and gave him a huge kiss! I knew I wasn't PR'ing, and I was so happy to see him I didn't care. I finally crossed the finish with an official time of 3:26:37. I came in 11th in my age group, 46th female, and 295th overall. I was smiling the entire way into the finish shoot. Shortly after I wanted to vomit, but whatevs. That's normal.
After the race, we waited for a bit to see Alicia come through, but I was not feeling very well so we took off back to the apartment. The rest of our trip was great. Ricky really wanted to go bike riding through Stanley Park on the seawall, so after the marathon we rented bikes and made our way around it (I know that sounds crazy, but DOMS don't set in until the next day so I was able to make it just fine). We also got to hang out with Alicia and her boyfriend Sunday evening. While Alicia's race didn't go as well as she hoped either, she's now a marathoner! I'm very excited to watch her develop and improve! We spent Monday in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. Its an island just off the coast and you can only get there by a ferry. We spent our time there exploring Butchart Gardens and downtown Victoria. This was a long day and I was so exhausted afterwards.
Now I have to be honest. I'm disappointed with this marathon. I feel terrible saying that for many reasons. First, I know this is still a great time. I should be happy with another 3:26. Second, my progress in the last year since I ran my first marathon in 3:48 to now, is amazing. I'm finishing races stronger and more consistently. Third, I wasn't feeling that optimistic heading into the race, so I should be grateful with another solid finish time. A few things that went through my head after the race - why did I stop to go to the bathroom so many times? Could I have held it? Maybe if my attitude had been different, I could've pushed harder. Here's the thing - I've spent the last 6 months training. Hard. With no change in the result. That is disheartening and exhausting, and so, I'm just not that satisfied with it. The lack of satisfaction with the result and knowing that I have more in me to do better is what will drive me through my next marathon training cycle. I find motivation in my time goals. I've come to realize that not everyone is going to agree with me and that's ok. You cannot accomplish anything without the chance of failure. While many think I should call this a success, it wasn't for me. I'm ready for a short break and then I'm going to come back strong for Chicago in October. Thank you all for your support - as always, it helped me through the toughest parts of this journey.