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

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