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SeaWheeze 2017 Race Recap

SeaWheeze 2017 Race Recap
SeaWheeze 2017 Race Recap

This weekend, I finally experienced the magic that is running the SeaWheeze half marathon.

The past few weeks have been a bit of an adventure whirlwind! Earlier in July, I ran the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage in Washington. I returned to Vancouver and was invited to go backcountry camping with Instagram friends I had never met in person. Up for the adventure, I packed my bags and went on my first backcountry camping trip on Vancouver Island. Recap coming soon! But to say the least, it was incredible.

I had one week back in Vancouver, celebrated a friend’s baby shower, and went on a long run from Vancouver to New Westminster (hitting Burnaby and Port Coquitlam along the way) with friends.

Then it was off to Prince Edward Island for 8 days of relaxation, sunshine, beach walks, and seafood with my family. On my final day of vacation, I managed to destroy my iPhone during a long run in the pouring rain. Despite my best efforts to revive it, putting the phone in a bowl of rice did not do the trick. When I arrived back in Vancouver, my first stop was Telus for a new iPhone (and Apple Care). Unfortunately, with no WIFI at our house in PEI, my iPhone didn’t do its usual iCloud backup and I lost all of my photos from the trip.

My first weekend back in Vancouver was SeaWheeze! What a way it was to be welcomed back.

What is SeaWheeze?

For those who haven’t heard of it, SeaWheeze is a half marathon put on annually by Lululemon. It isn’t your average half marathon, billed as the “most breathtakingly beautiful and ridiculously fun half marathon in the world,” I’d say the race comes pretty close to its description! A weekend of run, yoga, and party, SeaWheeze sells out within minutes every year. I was unable to get an entry when the race registration first opened, but later bought a bib off an injured runner (bib transfer are now allowed).

Pre-race party: Vancouver Running Co + Lululemon Summer Social

The SeaWheeze celebrations started a few days prior to the race. My friend Nikki and I attended the free Summer Social, hosted by Vancouver Running Co. and Lululemon in Kitsilano. The social was both a SeaWheeze shake-out run and celebration of Van Run Co.’s 3rd year anniversary.

The event had an impressive turnout, with over 200 runners from across Canada showing up! We started with an easy 5 km run around Kitsilano and the False Creek seawall. We returned to a park nearby the Lululemon HQ for a short 30-minute outdoor yoga practice. Next stop was local favourite, TurF for the after-party. We were treated to healthy appetizers and goodie bags from Lululemon. All in all, a great way to kick off a weekend of running!

Package pickup: PreWheeze Party

Runners could pick up their SeaWheeze race bib and swag the day before the race at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Lululemon also hosts a number of events throughout the day, from free yoga, boxing, and meditation classes to complimentary manicures, hair-braiding, product samples, and more. There is also the infamous SeaWheeze Showcase Store, filled with limited edition product unique to this year’s race. Runners lineup up to 24 hours in advance of the store opening! Products will often later be sold on EBay at much higher prices. The package pickup lineup was long enough for me so I avoided the Showcase Store.

Unlike other races, SeaWheeze does not require you to wear a race bib. Instead, you put a timing chip on your shoe. Your race package is given to you in a limited edition Lululemon draw-string bag (apparently retailing for $70). Inside the bag was a Lululemon water bottle, a bottle of Nuun electrolyte tablets, a can of SeaWheeze beer (brewed by Postmark Brewing), Vega samples, and a coupon for free coffee at JJ Bean.

Prior to running SeaWheeze, I admittedly scoffed at the registration process (what race sells out that fast!), the lineups, and the cost. However, after running the race and experiencing all that SeaWheeze is I can easily say it is the best race I’ve run, the most celebrated I’ve ever felt as a race finisher, and well worth the cost.

I took it easy the night before the race, ate plenty of healthy carbs, and did my physiotherapy stretches. The race came up so fast, that I had little time to think about it. I also had no goals or expectations for SeaWheeze, having not formally trained or done any speed work. It is easily the most relaxed I have ever been before a race!

Race Day

In the two weeks leading up to SeaWheeze, the air quality in Vancouver was terrible (reportedly worse than Hong Kong). BC is experiencing bad wild fires this summer and the smoke spread to the city. By some miracle, the smoke started to clear on Friday and Saturday was the perfect running day: cloudy, not too hot, and a breeze on the seawall.

Speaking of miracles, I had a great sleep (another pre-race first). I woke up at 5 am, ate my standard pre-race breakfast of overnight oats, did some quick PT stretches and glute activation exercises, and headed out. Seemingly SeaWheeze was a race of many firsts! For the first time, instead of walking to the start line, I did an easy 5-10 minutes run. With 30 minutes to kill before the race start, I went to the bathroom a few times, ran into my friends Alyssa and Jan, and found a spot in the self-seeded corals.

Running SeaWheeze: the race 

Shortly after 7:00 am we were off. Let me tell you: running a race with no goals is a lot of fun. I knew I was capable of running a relatively good time at SeaWheeze, but mostly I wanted to enjoy the experience. My last several races have been so entwined with stress, tension, and injury that I wanted SeaWheeze to be the exact opposite! Apparently, this attitude would pay off.

The first few miles went by quickly. Crowd support during other races I’ve run has been great, but nothing compares to SeaWheeze. From the huge group of people on spin bikes, yelling, cheering, and blasting music to the drag queens, mermaids in Stanley Park, firefighters spraying water, and more! The energy was fantastic.

Unlike other races, I was unafraid to take gels and ended up taking 3 throughout the race. They made a huge difference, I never felt like I was depleted. I didn’t carry water, but drank water at all of the aid stations.

By the halfway point, I was feeling good but getting a little bored. I started running with the 1:50 Pace Beavers and kept with them until mile 11. They were a great distraction and it turns out all of them are running the North Face Endurance Challenge in California this November, my first 50 km trail race!

As we passed mile 11, I was having relatively easy conversation with the pace beavers. With 2 miles to go, I figured it was time to push it and run hard. With no set finish time goal, it was a lot easier to just see what I was capable of and not worry about burning out too soon.

The last 2 miles weren’t exactly fun, but never have I felt so good during a race. Unlike prior races, SeaWheeze never felt like a struggle. Mentally I felt good and physically I felt strong. My finish time was 1:47, a 4-minute half-marathon PB! While I pushed it in the last 2 miles, I could have run harder during the rest of the race and actually done speed work beforehand. I’m eager to see what I can get my next half marathon time down to.

Running SeaWheeze: the finish line

Crossing the finish line was just as fun as the race itself! Runners slowly make their way back up to the Vancouver Convention Centre. Along the way you receive: your medal (also a bottle opener), a cold towel, a bottle of water, a Nuun electrolyte tablet, special SeaWheeze sunglasses, and a Vega protein bar.

Then, you reach the brunch station, pre-packaged meals prepared by Whistler’s Bearfoot Bistro with options for different dietary requirements. Inside was homemade buckwheat banana bread, overnight oats, a fresh apricot, and dark chocolate. Everything was very good! The final gift runners receive is a Saje Wellness package with essential oils and muscle relief cream.

I ran into friends at the finish line, caught up, reminisced on our races, ate food, and took lots of pictures, still riding that PB high. Later in the day, I feasted on Indian food with friends.

Party: SeaWheeze Sunset Festival

That evening, we walked along the Stanley Park seawall, yoga mats in hand, to the SeaWheeze Sunset Festival. What better way to end a day of running then an outdoor yoga class, food, and concert with friends. The food lineups were very long, but initially died down and I enjoyed some frozen yogurt.

Cold War Kids opened for Young and the Giant. Both were great, and we were all on our feet, dancing, and singing along by the time Young and the Giant came on (despite very sore legs and calves).

Much to everyone in Vancouver’s delight, it started to rain during the concert (much-needed after all the wildfires) but the dance party didn’t stop. We left the Sunset Festival only to see fireworks going off at the Convention Centre! Unrelated to SeaWheeze, but pretty awesome nonetheless. Well it may be hard to top next year, I can’t wait to run SeaWheeze again.

Do you have a favourite race? Have you run SeaWheeze before? 


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