Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon

Arriving at the Vegas airport...
This time last year, I came to Las Vegas for a 36 hour trip to run the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon.  This year, I pretty much duplicated the trip, but instead ran the full marathon.  Back in July, I was able to secure a $90 one way flight from Newark to Las Vegas (by way of Charlotte), and then ponied up some extra cash to pay for the last possible redeye flight to get me back to New York on Sunday night.  The catch was that the Newark flight was at 5am... a time when no mass transit options would be available to get me from New York City to the airport, other than the last bus, which left at 2am.  I arrived in Newark about half an hour later, and then had to wait another hour (which I used for some extra sleep - on an armless bench in the terminal!) until security opened up at 3:30.  The flight was pretty uneventful (I slept again) and arrived in Vegas by around 10am, and was picked up by Hollie, who had recently relocated to Phoenix and drove up to Vegas to run the full as well.

At the expo, with my new
Hall of Fame backpack!
After stopping back at their hotel (the Westin), dropping off my bags, and also picking up another friend Deb, we headed off to the expo to pick up bibs and other necessary items.  As the expo was known to be pretty crowded, we tried to keep our time there limited before we headed off to get lunch at Capriotti's (seemingly a tradition for me every time I'm in Vegas!) sub shop.  After lunch, they dropped me off at my hotel, the Tropicana, which I was staying at for only one night.

Black Sheep Run at the 5K!
After settling in, I changed into my running clothes for that evening's 5K and also put together a bag of warm clothes to change into after the race, as I had purchased tickets for Hollie and I to go see Cirque du Soleil's KÁ at the MGM Grand.  But even before heading there, I made arrangements to see my second cousin Erika for a quick visit, who worked at the Trump International Hotel and Towers, about a 15-20 minute walk off the strip from the Bally's monorail station.

Some of the fun light tunnels at the 5k

After our quick tête-à-tête, I got an Uber to take me to the Las Vegas Festival Grounds, where the 5K was to be held.  The 5K route this year was different than last years, as much of last year's race was held in the empty lot next to SLS.  For this year's race, we started and ended in the festival grounds, but also ran an out-and-back portion on Industrial Drive, just off the strip.  We returned to the festival grounds, doing zig-zags through the areas asphalted areas. I finished the 5K in 30:36, an easy 9:50 per mile pace, good to get my legs ready for the following evening's marathon (and not bad for the first time running since the NYC Marathon!)

After a couple beers, hobnobbing with friends, and enjoying the music, Hollie and I made our way to the monorail to take us down to MGM for our show.  It was a really fantastic show, but our exhaustion from the day's events was really showing, as we both looked at each other at moments during the performance, knowing we were EXTREMELY tired.  After the show, we searched for food all over the place and finally found a café at Tropicana that served a late night menu, and then decided to turn in for the night.

5K, beer, and Stratosphere photo with appropriate photobomb
Pedicures with Sharon pre-race...
Being able to sleep in the day of a race was quite awesome, so I took advantage, but still needed to pack things up as I was essentially checking out of the hotel that morning. I made arrangements to have brunch with Sharon, an old family friend of mine.  We met at Cafe Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas, and then spent the remainder of the day reminiscing and catching up over pedicures (I feel like  I'm one of a handful of people who actually gets a pedicure BEFORE a race, lol!)  Sharon helped me with some logistical arrangements for bag pick up after the race, dropping it off with Hollie and Deb since the Westin was just after the finish chute of the race; and then she dropped me off at the Mandalay Bay where I was to meet up with my friend Jeremy (fellow Team Nuun member), who was kind enough to let me use his room to prepare for the race, as his hotel was near the start line.

On the strip before the race...
Jeremy and I headed off to the park across the empty Strip where Kid Rock already began playing, slowly moving in lines to get through security, as we were needing to drop bags off at the bag drop located inside the park.  It was a madhouse in there - so many people arranged to get ready for the race!  I met up with the rest of my Black Sheepers as we watched the end of the Kid Rock concert and took lots and lots of photos, before Hollie and I raced off to get to our corral.

Kid Rock on stage at the pre-race concert
Four of us reaching the Hall of Fame - our 15th RnR race of 2015!
(photo by Hyalker Amaral)
My back :)
With the Marinos, who renewed their wedding vows during the race!
The startline!
Now, because of my evening flight, I had to arrange to get myself in as close to the front corral as possible.  I was able to get into Corral 3, and not long after the 4:30pm start, we were off, heading south on the Strip!  Hollie and I kept up with each other for the beginning of the race, in order to join up for pictures at the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign, and then leapfrogged for the next two miles as we proceeded north on the Strip, past Las Vegas' many iconic hotels.

The "Welcome to Las Vegas"
sign shortly after the start of
the race!
It was at roughly the mile 5 or 6 mark where the rain started to fall.  Now... this is Las Vegas. It maybe rains five times in a one year period.  Of all days, Mother Nature decided to rain on the Las Vegas Strip today. I remember running past the SLS and the Stratosphere, and then the surroundings getting much, much darker, as we approached downtown Las Vegas.  We turned into a residential area, the same area we had run through last year - I remember it being especially dark, but this year, I didn't pay much attention - I was more concerned with watching my footing as the roads had turned slightly slippery from the rain.  Soon, we returned back toward an area with lots of lights - and ultimately, the return to the strip, running past the Fremont Street Experience (which sadly, the marathoners didn't get to run through *this* year, but got to last year.)

Just before the turn off for
the marathon
We ran four blocks back down the Strip before the turn off happened for the marathoners onto Clark Avenue.   And we weren't even halfway through the race yet - we had just reached mile 9.5.  Thankfully by this time the rain had stopped - so it rained for maybe 30 or 40 minutes total. We headed further into downtown Las Vegas, through the Civic Center of the city, and made our way up a steep uphill on Bonneville Avenue, before making another turn onto S. Grand Central Parkway past the Smith Center, and then again onto Symphony Park Avenue.  We turned into an area where three huge tent structures, the Pavilions at World Market Center, were located, and ran in and around that area, before heading back out onto the roads to S. Martin Luther King Blvd, and into the desolate areas of West Las Vegas.

Favorite sign on the course :)
Running at night is a different animal, as is running at night when there's not many people around you.  While there were over 3000 people running the marathon, having everyone spread out on a course like this one is still quite an experience, and somewhat of a lonely one.  We finally hit the halfway mark as we proceeded on the long northward haul on S. Martin Luther King Blvd, and then even made a small detour as we continued northward in a rather un-scenic part of West (or is it North?) Las Vegas.  Either way, it was VERY suburban-feeling, not like we were in Vegas at all anymore.  As we hit the 15 mile marker, we hit the turnaround mark, and I sailed downhill before we made a second turn onto W. Carey Avenue.  As I ran down, I saw Hollie and gave her a high five.  We hit mile 16 along W. Carey Avenue -- there was another turnaround just before Simmons Street, and that part just seemed to feel like it took FOREVER.  I had abandoned my normal intervals I had been keeping up with in the first half of the race.  We continued on Carey, until we ran back on Martin Luther King bak the way we originally came, retracing our steps back to downtown Vegas.

The wind was relentless, but thankfully it was no longer wet.  It made the second half of this race pretty chilly, and I was thankful to have been wearing a long sleeve shirt and long tights.  I was consciously timing my GU intake, of course, considering I hadn't eaten particularly much earlier that day and wanted to ensure I still had fuel for the rest of the race.  As we approached the mile 20 mark, just before the highway ribbon formed by I-95 and US-15, the lights of the Strip began to return to view, and we were only a 10k away from the finish.

Sharon's son Landon
handing out water at mile 22
Of course, that last 10k was a doozy, and I was resigned to the fact I was going to have my worst marathon time upon finishing.  While it had been windy, and right in my face for the long run going south on Martin Luther King Blvd, we still had to retrace our steps back to the Strip.  This included a section of the race going back through the pavilions at World Market Center.  We headed back into downtown, reaching Bonneville Avenue at mile 22, and then to Clark Avenue.  Sharon's son Landon happened to be working at an aid station, providing water to marathoners with his fraternity, so it was nice to be able to see a familiar face (though I had not met him before, but at least it was someone with a degree of separation, enough for me to push through to the end!)

The last 3 miles were ROUGH.  We ran down S. 4th Avenue, a street that runs parallel to the strip, but far enough north that it's still in the area of downtown, before emerging onto the Strip near the Stratosphere.  With two miles left to go, the wind picked up significantly as the marathoners ran down the Strip toward the finish line, still far in the distance.  We ran down the right side of the Strip, while the last of the half marathon finishers continued down on the left side of the Strip.  Finally, we saw the Fashion Show Mall, Treasure Island, and The Mirage, which signaled the finish line.

Victory Headstand!
I crossed in 5:15:26, nearly 16 minutes slower than in NYC two weeks earlier, but considering the weather, I was fine with just being able to finish.  The finish chute for the Vegas race is notoriously long (nearly a mile), so I slogged through and got my finisher medal and headed straight for the heavy medal tent to get my Hall of Fame medal from Ryan.  I grabbed my bag from gear check and then Ryan kindly took my headstand photo, and then beelined it straight to the Westin, as I had just over 2 1/2 hours before my flight (thankfully, there was a 30 minute delay in my flight's departure while I was running!)  I was able to get a shower in at Deb and Hollie's hotel room, and then grabbed a cab (which in and of itself was a mess - the streets all around the Strip were gridlocked since the Strip was still closed, and I had to navigate for my Uber driver through casino parking lots based off of satellite imagery from Google Maps, and then still needed to transfer to a Lyft car to take me to the airport due to Uber not being allowed to drop off at the airport... ugh, such a nuisance.)  But I made it to the airport with more than enough time before the flight began to board, and headed straight back home to NYC!


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Race Report: 2015 TCS New York City Marathon

The NYC Marathon Expo.  And this
year, I'm actually running it.
The New York City Marathon.

The race that many dream of doing, and roughly 50,000 people from around the globe are afforded the opportunity.  As a member of New York Road Runners, I ran nine races and volunteered at one event during 2014 in order to automatically qualify to run the 2015 race.  I ran it with the intention of it being my one full marathon that I would do in 2015.  (Little would I know, this race would plant a bug in me to do a couple more marathons before year's end)

New York City is already a bustling place because of the sheer amount of people who live and work here, but also because of tourists who come to the city.  NYC Marathon week is already a busy time, with travelers doing in for the race and participating in the many events in the lead up to the race, not only sponsored by NYRR and it's own sponsors, but also by running stores, running clubs and other sports companies, cashing in on the giant that is the NYC Marathon.  My running club, Front Runners New York, holds a pasta dinner on Friday night and a pancake breakfast on Saturday morning, both of which I attended.  The expo at the Javits Center is a MASSIVE three day event that not only brings tons of runners to the west side of town (thank the Lord the 7 train extension was complete before the marathon!) but also the general public.

With US Ambassador to the UN,
Samantha Power
The expo gets more and more crowed each day that it's held, until Saturday, when it's attended by an incredible amount of people.  That morning, a 5k is held that begins at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on the east side of Manhattan, facing the United Nations building, runs down 42nd Street, turns onto 6th Avenue and Central Park South, then proceeds into Central Park from its southeast corner, following the marathon's final miles to the finish line near Tavern on the Green.  I was given the chance to sing the national anthem at that morning's 5k in front of 10,000 people from around the world, including the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power.  Now THAT was a blast.

My race kit, ready to go!
A few months before the race, I was also requested to sing at the start of the marathon itself for one of the several waves that move thousands of runners across the startline in Staten Island onto the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  I got my assignment to sing "God Bless America" for the start of Wave 2, which would head off at 10:15, prior to the start of my race with Wave 3.  I thought, ok - I'll leave at 7am from Queens, will give me plenty of time to take the subway, ferry, and shuttle bus to the start area at Fort Wadsworth.  The subway took about 45-50 minutes, which was no surprise, but there was literally a mob scene of folks trying to get onto the ferries, which were running late (again, no surprise).  I was close to the front of the "line" when the police who were monitoring numbers going into the ferry terminal when they closed it, and I pleaded with the officers that I was needing to be on the island immediately to perform for the second wave... so they graciously allowed me into the terminal.  The ferry took it's normal 30 minutes across the harbor and then - again, another line.  This one to get to the various shuttle buses lined up along Richmond Terrace to get people down to Fort Wadsworth.  What I didn't know was that the route for the shuttle buses went along the northwestern shore of Staten Island before cutting across to get to Fort Wadsworth - in total, another 40 minute trip, beleaguered by even more delays the closer we got to the fort.

Stressing about getting to Staten
Island on time...
Immediately upon arrival, as we exited the bus was where police officers efficiently screened runners.  Then it was a short walk (in my case, run) to the start village just beyond the gates of Fort Wadsworth. Except, when I got to the front gates, park police were not allowing people in because the UPS trucks for gear-check runners were just leaving, and the street they were crossing was right in the way.  By that time, it was 9:50 am, and as we were waiting, we heard the howitzer go off for Wave 1 and saw those runners (which included the elite men) headed up the ramp to the bridge in the distance.  After about five minutes, they finally let us through, and I scrambled to find the start area, going to many different volunteers who didn't know where I was supposed to go.  I finally found a NYRR staffer, who accompanied me to the grandstand alongside the runners in Wave 1 who had yet to even cross the startline.  I managed to get to the grandstand with SEVEN minutes to spare before I sang at 10:10.  Literally, the trip took me over THREE HOURS.  According to some regulars who have run multiple NYC marathons, getting to the start this year seemed to have taken much longer than in previous years.  I took a swig of water, and then went up on stage, and sang my heart out to thousands of people from all over the world, ready to run the legendary NYC Marathon.

And then it was my turn.  After a few minutes of celebration having just did what I just did (who can say they SANG at the start of the New York City Marathon?!!), I had to get myself ready to run the 26.2 miles myself.  There was no way I was going to get back to the corral to which I was assigned (the green group), as it was across the way, and I'd literally be going up stream from people, so as wave 3 began to descend upon the startline, I jumped into the closest area I could get to, which happened to be the blue group.  These colors only matter as they split up the runners on separate paths as they run either on the top or bottom level (ideally, the top is nicer, as you get the views - and the bottom -- well, rumor has it you could get peed on if you run on the bottom level, but honestly, it's just a rumor!), and then the routes also split as you get off the bridge for a couple miles in south Brooklyn before recombining at a certain point just past the 5k mark in Bay Ridge.

The startline of the
2015 NYC Marathon!
I got into my spot in Wave 3, and ran into Alexi, a friend of FRNY who many in my club met at last year's Gay Games and I had met two nights before at the Pasta Dinner, and was running in his first ever marathon.  We pumped each other up (thanks, I think, for the 5 hour energy! LOL) and then soon, we were off!  We sped off onto the Verrazano Narrows and clocked a very conservative first mile, at an expected 10:00 mile pace.  The second mile was nearly a minute and a half faster, as we went downhill and into south Brooklyn, as we were greeted by a makeshift "Yo! Welcome to Brooklyn, U.S.A." sign.  We turned onto 92nd Street, and then again onto 4th Avenue, where we joined up with runners in the orange group, and then continued along 4th Avenue all along the length of Brooklyn for the next six miles.  I did not realize how electric this part of the run would be - there were so many spectators cheering on runners on both sides of the road!

Heading onto the Verrazano Narrows Bridge
Entering Brooklyn!

Found Kendra at Mile 7!
We headed up from Bay Ridge up through Sunset Park, hit the 10k mark, then ran up a stretch of 4th Avenue that bounded Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill on the west and Park Slope and Prospect Heights on the east.  At mile 7, I knew to find my friend Kendra who was volunteering at a water station, who I was able to find and take a quick picture with before I continued on, slugging through past Atlantic Terminal and then along Lafayette Avenue as we crossed into Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, and even past the first apartment I lived in at Classon and Lafayette Avenues during the summer between my third and fourth years at Michigan.  We made the turn onto Bedford Avenue, and into the quieter section of south Williamsburg, dominated by Hasidic Jews cautiously veering past runners as they crossed the street and going about their business on a regular Sunday morning for them, and then eventually the busier section of Williamsburg through McCarren Park, and then into Greenpoint as we went along Manhattan Avenue, turning onto Greenpoint Avenue, and then onto McGuinness Boulevard before hitting the halfway point of the race along the Pulaski Bridge.

Metropolitan Ave and Bedford Ave

The halfway point!
By this point, I was able to run my first 13.1 miles in 2:10, almost exactly the same time it had taken me to run the first half of the Chicago Marathon in 2014.  We finally were in Queens, my home borough, and a very short section of the race that we would see for roughly two miles.  I continued to chug along and check for friends that may be cheering alongside the course and managed to see a few Front Runners, including my friend JJ, who was cheering with his boyfriend Michael at the 15 mile mark just before getting onto the Queensboro Bridge.  I stopped for a picture, and a quick sip of prosecco (as one would do at mile 15 of a marathon!) and then eased on down to the Queensboro Bridge.  I managed to miss my friend Alexis who was cheering at roughly the same point, unfortunately, but she was kind enough to post a picture of her sign on Facebook.

Prosecco stop...

On the Queensboro Bridge
The Queensboro Bridge was tough.  Not only is it just at a hard point in the race, it's an uphill climb to get over the crest of the bridge, and it's one of the quietest points in the race due to it being devoid of spectators.  This was where I walked for a bit for the first time in the race.  As we crossed the East River and neared Manhattan, one could hear the deafening crowd of cheers coming from 1st Avenue as runners come off of the bridge.  We began our descent at mile 16, and then headed northward on 1st Avenue, where the crowds were literally six or seven deep for MILES.  Even into Harlem.  It's a picture in my mind I won't ever forget, as it made such an impression on me.  I felt like I got a second wind as I travelled uptown through the canyonlike avenue with huge buildings on both sides of the wide street.  My pace wasn't nearly as good as it was at the beginning of the race, but I really was just trying to take in the awesomeness of the experience running up 1st Avenue.

The impressive crowds lining 1st Ave
The crowd thinned out as we got to East Harlem, and then crossed the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx, where we were greeted by some amazing music!  While on the bridge, I ran into a fellow FRNY member who was struggling, but gave him a little pep talk and pumped him up for the rest of the race.  The Bronx was alive and with lots of people lining the route and cheering us on! Another wind (a third wind) got me through the borough that I had initially thought would be devoid of people - but no, there were tons of people there!  Soon, we were crossing the Madison Avenue Bridge back into Manhattan.

Heading into the Bronx on the Willis Ave Bridge
Our short foray into the Bronx
Headed back into Manhattan

Finding Mimi at Mile 25
As we curved through the upper reaches of East Harlem and onto Fifth Avenue, we reached Marcus Garvey Park, which we would run around its northern, western, and southern boundaries, before running up Fifth Avenue to 90th Street at the Engineer's Gate where we run into Central Park.  At Marcus Garvey, I ran into another FRNY member, as well as my a cappella friend and fellow runner Sara, cheering for folks along the route.  After a little motivation from them (I was starting to slow a bit by this time, anticipating that the gradual Fifth Avenue climb was about to happen...), I made my way for the last long stretch of route.  Because my pace had slowed, this felt like it went on forever.  But still, tons of people cheering us on as the street numbers began to decrease.  I finally made my way to the Engineer's Gate and into Central Park, where we had our last three miles of the race.  I knew mile 24 was going to be the Front Runners station, so I had that going for me as I trudged on through, and then spotted Tara, the first of the Fronties on the left side of the street.  I managed to grab hugs from several of them, yet completely missed a whole section of FRNY folks cheering on the right side!  Sorry guys :(  A little while later, I spotted a former coworker, Mimi, and took a quick photo with her.  I continued on to the section where we exited the park and ran down Central Park South.

The last stretch on Central Park South
This part of the course felt like running through a New York City parade, with literally THOUSANDS of people lining the street.  So much motivation here as we ran down a relatively short section of street that just seemed to take FOREVER (seemingly these last few miles always do feel like they take forever!)  At last, we made our turn back into Central Park, and then it was only a matter of time with the last little climb before we could see the finish line in sight.

I made it across the finish mat in 4:57:21.  Not bad for my return to the marathon distance, as well as a race where I stopped quite a bit to see friends who were cheering from the sidelines.  Like Chicago last year, I teared up as I made it through the finish chute, and managed to find my friend Dave, who was handing out heatsheets to runners.  As expected, the finish chute was a long trudge, as we felt like cattle making our way to the exit along Central Park West.  Here was where we received our fleece-lined parkas, and it was quite a sight, seeing hundreds of runners all around me slowly making our way south down Central Park West to the closest exit/family reunions.  I decided to take my headstand photo here, as this seemed like an iconic enough location with the parade of blue ponchos walking behind me :)  I made my way to my friend Zander's who lived nearby and kindly opened up his home to runners for bag check, hot shower, and good food.  After some celebrating with my friends, I headed back home to Queens, and slept for a good long while before... you guessed it... waking up for a full day back to work on Monday morning.  LOL!

Victory Headstand!

Moments after finishing my first NYC Marathon!

Made it into the New York Times!!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Race Report: Cunningham Seawall 10K and Rock 'n' Roll Oasis Vancouver Half Marathon

So many seats on Cathay Pacific!
My flight to Vancouver was pretty late on Friday night; in fact, so late that it arrived in the earliest hours of Saturday morning.  I boarded the Cathay Pacific flight from JFK airport (at their smallest terminal, in fact…) onto a HUMONGOUS plane that was fairly empty – lots of middle seats open - on a wide-body jet with a 3-3-3 seat configuration, as well as a business class section with private “carrel” style seats.  I was sat close to the back, but had lots of room as there was an empty seat between me and the person on the aisle.  This flight was headed to Vancouver to let off passengers, but would continue on to Hong Kong, so there were a number of people on this flight who were in for the long haul.  The five hour flight included free tv and movies on the back of each seat, as well as dinner – something I would NEVER see on an American carrier.

At the 10K startline
We landed in Vancouver well after midnight, and after proceeding through Canadian customs (quick and painless… and you can even scan your filled-out document, only having to go through the customs inspector before proceeding through arrivals), I went out to the street and hailed a cab that took me into downtown Vancouver, to my hotel.  I arrived at the Buchan Hotel in Vancouver’s West End after 1am, and got to my room where my roommate for the weekend, Hollie, had already gone to bed, as we had a 10K to do in the morning!  I set my bags down and went to sleep myself, hoping to catch a couple z’s before the running in my second Canadian province was to commence.

Loving on Lisa's crazy hot dog costume!

Photo photo photo photo with Leny :)

Duck faces to the max

Beautiful scenery along the seawall
Thankfully, the 10K was scheduled at 9am, fairly late for runners.  In its 45th year, the Cunningham Seawall 10k is a scenic race that begins at the Inukshuk at English Bay on the south coast of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, and follows the winding roads around the park for 6.2 miles, until finishing near the harbor at Devonian Harbour Park.  I had picked our hotel for its convenience to the start and finish lines for both the 10K and Half, as well as the fact that it was VERY cheap in terms of accommodations in downtown Vancouver.  We walked the ten minutes to the 10K start, and met up with countless other Black Sheep folk who had come up for the weekend, as well.  My friend, local runner and RnR Vancouver promoter Lisa showed up in a hot dog costume, which was a hit among runners and spectators alike!  The race was a blast, and the views of the bay, the mountains, the bridges – everything --  was just ABSOLUTELY beautiful.  I finished the 10k in just a little over an hour, and met up with friends afterward at the finish line beer area, which was serving local brews – and to my elation, a porter-like winter ale that was fabulous!
Expo time!
For the remainder of the day, Hollie and I went off to the expo to pick up my half marathon bib as well as check out the area around Canada Place, Vancouver’s massive convention center.  We made a quick stop at Subway to grab lunch before running to the bus that took us to North Vancouver and to Capilano Suspension Bridge park, to explore the beautiful forests and canyons that British Columbia had to offer, not to mention, the harrowing and bouncy, but still very sturdy suspension bridge that crossed the Capilano River.  We even sighted some wildlife – a bald eagle, and a chipmunk that decided to jump in my lap (before I screamed bloody murder, because… hell, the thing JUMPED IN MY LAP.) and did maybe just as much walking around this park as we ran earlier in the morning. We grabbed a coffee and a Nanaimo bar (as well as some fun animal hats we would wear in the following morning’s race) then headed back on the bus downtown so we could meet up with other Black Sheep-ers for dinner and drinks.  Hollie and I got very tired quickly (the time difference and hours of travel did me in!) and headed back to the hotel for much needed sleep prepping for the morning’s half.

Sass in a totem pole
The suspension bridge!

I'm fa-moose!
Morning came, and Hollie and I  (her in a bear hat, and me in a moose hat) headed off for the startline on Hastings Street, which was easily a brisk 20 minute walk from our hotel.  After taking advantage of Brooks’ private bathroom area (thanks Jon!), we dropped off our gear at gear check, and then met up with the group in corral 3 for pictures before heading off on the course.  Soon, we were off, and the race took us a block up before turning onto Burrard, then again on Cordova Street, which turned into Water Street as we proceeded through Vancouver's Gastown district, then onto Alexander Street before hitting the 1 mile marker.  We continued along the perimeter of the district, onto Railway Street and back onto Alexander before we before we turned onto Powell Street, and continued on a short out-and-back section on an overpass.  At the turn around was mile 2.  Over the next mile, we proceeded southward toward Prior Street, and skirted alongside Strathcona Park, and then headed westward along the Dunsmuir Viaduct with BC Place in the distance into Vancouver's Chinatown.

On the Dunsmuir Viaduct, around mile 4.

Vancouver Chinatown
We took Carrall Street from Chinatown down through Andy Livingstone Park and under the Dunsmuir and Georgia Street viaducts, all the way to the paved path that lined the north shore of False Creek, the short inlet in the heart of Vancouver, off of English Bay.  We would follow this beautiful scenic path for the next 1.5 miles until we came upon Beach Avenue, which we would follow all the way toward Stanley Park, past where the previous day's 10K startline.   However, instead of following the route from the 10K, we would turn right at Park Lane and then left onto Lagoon Drive, which we'd take into a loop and a pseudo-out-and-back, past the mile 9 marker, and onto North Lagoon Drive.

The endless hill of Pipeline Road
The next two miles consisted of a gradual hill (thanks Lisa for warning us!), particularly along Pipeline Road, which took us to the northern coast of the peninsula, where we would take the Stanley Park Drive, parallel to the seawall, all the way to Devonian Harbour Park for the finish line.  My finish photos were awesome, as I had caught up with a couple who had dressed up like strips of bacon, so at that moment, here came the costumed brigade! I crossed in a time of 2:14:15, imbibed the fantastic local brews, and then headed back to the hotel to check out.  My second cousin Rommel would come to pick me up and take me out for the rest of the day including a delicious meal at a restaurant that was actually just off of the race course.  My flight back home wasn't until later that night, so we spent the rest of the day exploring Vancouver --  and of course, I choose to do the Grouse Grind, a taxing 1.6 mile hike up Grouse Mountain, an elevation change of 2,800 feet.  Ridiculous decision, but I did it!

Post race revelry - and five medals to bring home!
I found another corgi!
Victory Headstand!
Trepidation before going on the hike... what was I thinking?!?!
Exhaustion after completing a half marathon AND the Grouse Grind