Almost 200 wicked people that you’d want to get to know running through the streets of Vancouver, and then finishing up with delicious food, cold beers, rad hats, and statement socks. Conversations were flowing and friendships were strengthened and formed. Geographical barriers were non-existent. Laughter filled the air into the late hours of the night.
Two days later, one of the biggest running parties took over Vancouver. The SeaWheeze Half Marathon brought together 10,016 runners from around the globe to crush a goal, experience Vancouver for its raw beauty, and celebrate over yoga and music in beautiful Stanley Park. The two biggest highlights for me:
I was part of a special group of 40 people who were Pace Beavers and were privileged enough to lead groups to their goal time. But beyond that, I was connected to not only the Pace Beavers who were all lululemon ambassadors, but to all ambassadors who came to SeaWheeze. Through multiple events, ending with a picnic style dinner at the SSC (lululemon head office), we shared, mingled, and connected, creating friendships and bonds that go beyond the weekend.
As a Pace Beaver, there is a responsibility I have to have integrity in the promise that I will carry my runners across the finish line in a certain time. It may not seem like much but it is a true honour to lead and hold tight to the trust that runners from near and far have given to me. This was my 4th year as a Pace Beaver and I cannot begin to express how excited and overjoyed I get when I help someone achieve and crush their goal. This is what drives me to continue giving to the community in any capacity I can.
Luck doesn’t begin to describe it. I feel as though I’ve won the jackpot when it comes to life and I keep getting the winning ticket. I’m an ambassador for both Vancouver Running Co and lululemon, each providing me avenues to connect to my community and space to create more. My passion is so deeply rooted in authentically connecting with people through our shared unbridled love of run and celebrating every success along the way. In all capacities. On all terrain.
Did it really happen? Some days I forget that I even did the 100k. But if I think about the events of the day, I question how I could forget the way everything came together so perfectly. Maybe it’s because it felt like it was too perfect…
The alarm offensively rang at 2:30am and, one by one, we got up to get ready for a long day – myself, Tav, and Greg. By 4:15am, we were ready to roll out the door with everything in check. After an extremely windy drive, which eventually gave Greg motion sickness, we arrived at the Stinson Beach Community Centre – the hub for this year’s Miwok 100k. Race bib acquired and pinned. Now, to find my partner in crime / training partner, Linda, to make up the Power of Linda^2. With 15 minutes to race start, I spotted her and I was calmed. For over a week, I was a huge bag of nerves..
Am i ready? Did I train enough? What if my sciatic rears its ugly head? What if I can’t do it? Am I in over my head?
The pep talks I got all week helped: Hoz offered good advice about the course, Tav was amazing in keeping me focused on the execution of the day, and Linda, who was there for so many of my long runs, gave me the confidence in my fitness that the finish line was more than attainable. But even still, it was difficult not to let my mind race about all the negative potential possibilities.
So there we were, at the start, headlamps lit and ready to take on the next 100km. I don’t remember if there was a gun, but a quick send off from the boys, and Linda and I were on our way. The race started at 5am so the sun hadn’t risen yet, which meant it would just be a hike/trot until the single track line of over 400 runners started to spread out. It was, in fact, a blessing in disguise. There was no ‘going out too hard’. The opposite, actually, and it gave Linda and I a chance to spend about an hour chatting, almost forgetting that there were runners around us. I’m sure they were all entertained by our banter – at least that’s what we told ourselves. I don’t know how to describe that first hour or so, but it really was something else. Tav had described the scenery to me before that it was very ‘Sound of Music’esque’ — The Hills Are Alive!
There was a calming melodical tone to everyone’s footsteps and relaxed demeanour. The time went by quick and the gap between Linda and I started growing. I could feel my old road runner instincts wanting to kick in and dart forward to pass, but I had many voices in my head to hold back. I did pull ahead, but bit by bit. I was crossing a small road section as one trail ended to another trailhead, when I caught sight of the sunrise. I took my camera out and snapped a quick photo. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was beautiful and so worth it.
Unfortunately, the ‘Sound of Music’ hills didn’t last forever, and I went right through Aid Station 1 (Bolinas Ridge – 6.3miles). I knew I wouldn’t see my crew until Aid Station 2 (Randall Trail – 12.9miles) so I set my sights on that. The trails between AS1 and AS2 were rolling and I found myself able to run more than I needed to walk. My strategy for the day was to be conservative on the hills. They weren’t my strength so I was better off hiking the uphills and using the downhills to my advantage, as that was where I excelled. What I didn’t account for was the long downhill into AS2, but it was glorious. I flew right into AS2 to meet Tav and Greg at almost a 14 hour finish time pace. They grabbed my pack to fill it up as I went into the portapotty line up for a quick tinkle. Little did I know that the line up would be longer than anticipated – almost 10 minutes. As I was waiting in line, I hear.. “Honey…”. I look over and Tav has pulled a near full bladder out of my pack. Ooops… I guess I wasn’t that thirsty.
As I got ready to leave AS2, the boys told me that it would be close to 4 hours before I would see them – this was key information for me. We did a quick check for fuel and I was on my way back to AS1 (doubled as AS3). What goes down must go up, so that glorious downhill into AS2 became a grunt of hike. About 5 minutes of climbing, I see Linda flying down and we hollered our hello’s. For those that don’t know Linda, well, you should. She has a smile and an energy about her that perks anyone up.
Again, I go right through AS3 (19.5miles) and on to AS4 (Cardiac – 26.5miles). I tried to stay on top of my fluids and my fueling to avoid getting the evil eye again when I was renewed with my crew at AS5 (Muir Beach – 31.5miles). During this time, my crew would grow by 1 as the boys met up with Soroush, a good friend who lived in the Bay area. From Cardiac to Muir Beach, it was mostly downhill and it was fabulous. There was also a small road section so I was able to maintain a fairly good pace. In fact, with the downhill and road section, I surprised the boys by meeting them en route – them in the car, and me on foot. They sped ahead to the aid station to get there before I reached it. Apparently, it was close. Mentally, I was still feeling good.
Physically, my legs were a little fatigued but my back and hamstrings were starting to act up – a symptom of my sciatic issue. I kept this in the back of my mind to ensure I didn’t do anything to aggravate it anymore. You might, however, say that running ANOTHER 50km would be aggravating it.. you might.
The boys filled up my pack, loaded me up on my fuel and I was on my way. I was still in good spirits and I was still having fun. From here, it would be about an hour before I would see them again at the next Aid Station (Tennessee Valley – 36.5miles). I can’t recall much about the trail, but I did spend some time hiking a big hill and chatting with someone from DC – an investment banker actually. Unfortunately, he misread the instructions and thought his drop bag was being moved forward from each drop area and he didn’t have any of his gear until he reached the next AS, where he was planning on pulling out. As soon as the trail started to go downhill, “we” decided to try running. “We”, however, soon turned into just me. I was feeling strong on the downhills and seemed to fly by a handful of runners, with some commenting that I seem to always pass them on the downhill.
I came into Tennessee Valley (AS6) a little more fatigued, a little more sore, but in ok spirits. I had a little niggling pain in my soleus area and Greg checked it out. There was really nothing to do except a little bit of extra compression with his magic hands. I asked the boys how long til I saw them again as I knew they weren’t allowed at the next aid station (Bridge View/Rodeo Valley – 41.5 miles), but I was coming right back to Tennessee Valley (doubling as AS8 – 48.9miles). Now, doing simple math, you would be able to deduce that the difference would be 12.3miles, but the day was long and charts can be confusing. I heard 7.8miles and I would be back. There was a sign at the aid station saying that it was 5 miles to AS7 so in my head, it would be a short 2.8miles back to my boys. Then I would have a pacer to the end.
The trail from AS6 to AS7 was tough. It was a climb. A big climb. And it was DAMN windy. So windy that I was blown sideways into the railing. But the view. Amazing. Clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I came into AS7 feeling a bit battered, tired, and was looking forward to a mere 2.8 miles til I saw my boys again. And then I saw the sign. 7.3 miles to the next aid station. My heart dropped. This can’t be right. But it was. I took a minute to absorb what I was reading and struggled to think of what I needed to do, as it would be closer to 1.5 hours until I saw them again. I took my pack off and refilled it. I wasn’t thinking clearly, but I remember telling the volunteer that I should eat. She agreed, but nothing on the table was appealing. I may have grabbed something but I can’t remember. I just wanted to go.. but I also wanted to stop. I left the aid station and it was a good downhill to the bottom of the mountain, but that only meant one thing. We had to climb back up to the top and then over to get back to the boys. I started hiking and I was joined by a few of the guys that I had apparently been passing on the downhills. We chatted a bit – they were all so nice. Slowly, they pulled away from me, except for a guy (whose name I later found out to be Sascha) from Florida. We climbed to the top together and then it was downhill to the boys at Tennessee Valley.
Greg met me along the downhill and tried to gauge how I felt. “Garbage” was my response and I started to choke back tears. I came into the aid station, gave them my pack, and went to the loo. I came out and as soon as I saw Tav, the tears starting rolling. All I could say was, “I don’t feel good.” And I couldn’t stop crying. Tav pulled me back together, somewhat, and tried to send me on my way. Before I would leave, I swapped watches as mine died and I went to the aid station to grab something to eat. The volunteer was so lovely and told me that my outfit was her favourite of the day. I thanked her as more tears rolled down my face.
Tav wiped my face and looked me in the eyes. All I had to do was do 5 miles with Soroush and then he would take me to the finish. Just 5 miles. I can do 5 miles. So the 3 of them started to walk me out of the aid station. After about half a km, Greg and Tav left and it was Soroush and I. We started to climb and it was like someone flipped a switch. Everything was fine. I felt really bad for Soroush – he was so great to come out and he was excited to pace me, and here I was, a tearful mess. But, everything was fine now. I had my crew.
So Soroush and I went through the rolling 5 miles which had more downhill than uphill. At one point, we bumped into Glenn Tachiyama – my favourite photographer with the most uplifting smile. He had situated himself at Pirate’s Cove (~51miles?) and we continued on our way. We flew down the hill into Muir Beach (AS9 – 53.7miles) and I was greeted by Tav and Greg. I swapped pacers – Soroush for Tav, or as Soroush was saying, Stud Muffin 2 for Stud Muffin 1 – and we were on our way. And everything was good – it felt like home.
Of course, I whined a little more and Tav had to invoke the “tough love” strategy to get me to the next aid station – a 1300 ft climb to Cardiac (58.7miles). As I said, uphill is not my strength so the poor guy had to listen to me hyperventilate and stroll uphill as best I could. He knew, though, that all he needed to do was get me to the top and I would be golden for the 3mile downhill to the finish. We got into Cardiac, I did a quick pit stop to the portapotty, and we were on our way.
I was tired and sore and had been on my feet longer than I had ever been before, but I’m pretty sure I was flying on those downhills. We passed a number of people and all I could hear was Tav telling me that I was doing SO good, that he was SO proud of me, and to NOT look at my watch. He pushed me to keep going and as we came down the last set of stairs, we were joined by Greg and Soroush. We turned right onto the road and there was the fire hall – the community centre where the finish was next to it.
As I started to make the last turn, Tav was yelling at me to get under 14:05 as I could see the clock reading 14:04 and 30 something seconds. I dug deep and managed to actually pick it up until I crossed the finish line.
Tia, the Race Director, congratulated me and put the medal around my neck. I turned and saw Greg and Tav. Greg gave me a hug. Soroush was behind him filming (see the video at the bottom of this post). And then I turned to Tav and fell into him. I was so overwhelmed .. physically and emotionally. I did it. I really did it. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow, I managed to cross that finish line.
And then I couldn’t move. After sitting for a bit, I slowly made my way to the washrooms to change. I must have been in there for 30 minutes as I was moving at the rate of snail snot. I was also choking back tears. Finally, I came out and was looking for Linda. I soon found her and we had our big teary hug.
It’s been almost 2 weeks and I’m still absorbing the whole experience. I get glimpses and flashes of pieces of the day, but I’m having a hard time stringing it together into one full day – into the fact that I did a full 100km ultra. What keeps going through my head is that I had a pretty damn perfect day, with the absolute best crew, best training partner, best support from back home and my community. I am truly a lucky girl – I don’t know how I got to be this way but I am ever so thankful. It’s probably why thinking of the full experience still makes me cry. damnit.
And, if all the support wasn’t enough, here’s a fantastic video that Soroush made of my day.
Do you ever feel so overwhelmed that you become speechless? Does your heart ever swell so much that the only way to express it is through tears? Do you ever sit back and wonder how you got to be so lucky?
Those thoughts and feelings have been coursing through my blood for the last while. August was an extremely emotional month for me – so much so that I needed to give myself some time and space to find the right words. But, the right words will never come so these will have to do.
Like I said, August was an emotional month. I couldn’t have packed more into it:
There were only 5 weekends in August and 3 were full. Somewhere in there, I had to fit in training for my next ultra (Cle Elum 50k), lead the lululemon Robson Street Run Club, see friends and family, and relax.
In and amongst all of that, two very unplanned things happened.
On the Wednesday before SeaWheeze, it was a day like any other. Work during the day and then Run Club. Run Club gives me so much. I had a vision at the beginning of the year for Run Club and it was to build a run club that was a strong tight-knit supportive family, and it was very much becoming a reality. These amazing people inspire one another, support one another, motivate one another, and they make Wednesdays the highlight of my week. The fact that they are continually present for one another and for me is a pretty special thing. On that day, we were planning a route that goes down Bute to the seawall and then running along the seawall. Andrea, an educator from the store, asked if we could do our weekly icebreaker at the park a few blocks away and I agreed. The weather was gorgeous and it’s a nice short walk. So, that day, like any other, we left the store and walked up Bute towards Nelson Park. Two blocks in, a group jumped out cheering and with signs – it startled me! My first thought was, “Who are we surprising?” and then, “Why don’t I know about it?”
Lo and behold, that person was me. Earlier in the year, I set out to start an initiative called #GoalForward. It was an initiative to bring together the things I was passionate about – community, running, goals, and philanthropy. People would apply for #GoalForward, a program where they would get rewarded in charitable dollars for attaining a SMART goal. I would offer to coach and guide them along if they wanted. If not, it was just a matter of connecting with them and if they crushed their SMART goal, then I would send them $100 in charitable dollars. The money from which I was drawing was part of another campaign – One Year, One Percent. This campaign challenged you to put aside 1% of your annual earnings towards charity. I took this campaign and topped it up to an even $1,000 to be given out to 10 people.
lululemon Robson Street was surprising me that day with the gift of paying it forward. They were supporting my #GoalForward initiative by gifting me $500 for the program. So, now, I am able to pay it forward and reward 15 people instead of 10. I was humbled, floored, and overwhelmed with gratitude.
The second occurrence was around SeaWheeze. I was a Pace Beaver last year and it was so much fun. This year, I was asked to be a Pace Beaver again and I was definitely excited. I was going to be pacing 2:10 and was so happy about it because that was the goal time of some of the people in my run club. Not only do I get to watch them train up to the half marathon distance, I now get to bring them across the finish line.
Kat, Alex and Winnie from Run Club were toeing the line with me and my fellow 2:10 beavers, Susan and Marisa. The gun went off and we set out to find our pace. Susan, one of the other 2:10 beavers, and I were keeping each other in check to make sure we weren’t going too fast or too slow. Our strategy was to give ourselves a couple of minutes cushion and to finish just under 2:10 so that anyone who finished with us would not only reach their goal of 2:10, but they would in actual fact crush their goal. Not too long after we started, I realized Kat was the only one with us so I kept my eye on her, encouraging her, reminding her to fuel, pointing things out on the course and throwing in a few comments and jokes along the way. We were also running with another girl who ran SeaWheeze last year and she said that I got her across the finish line in her goal time – awesome.
We entered Stanley Park and I knew things were starting to get tough for our group. But I knew we could do it. For Kat, I knew she had it in her to do it. After all the physical rigours of training, it all comes down to a mental battle. When your body starts to get tired and sore, self doubt starts to seep its ugliness into your brain. Distraction is the best remedy. So we kept the chatter going – or maybe it was self-chatter for me. We got to Lumberman’s Arch and saw Maya, another Run Clubber, cheering and it definitely lifted spirits. There’s a big hill at Lumberman’s Arch and Susan and I were shouting encouragements to power up the hill. When we got to the top, we realized we had almost lost our group so big brakes came out until they caught up. Oops, a bit too excited. I still hadn’t seen Kat and I knew that it would be bad news if I continued without her so I didn’t. We were well under our goal time so I basically hung back until I saw her. Then I continued forward in baby steps until she caught me. My Run Club knows that I’m a bit of a mother hen – I call them my babies, in fact. So, to leave one of my babies to fend for herself – not going to happen. All the while, I knew I had a responsibility of being a Pace Beaver. But I had time. I had minutes to spare. So I was safe. Kat and I resumed our positions – me slightly ahead and her just slightly behind. I kept telling her that she was going to get her goal (and she was!), that we was doing SO great (and she was!), and that we would do it together (and we were!). I told her not to rush it. We were going to do it in HER pace, not mine. When, and ONLY when she saw the finish line, and if she had it in her, she could pick it up, but we were going to cross that line together.
And damnit, we did. And it was fan-freakin-tastic. I can’t even express the emotions I was feeling – words don’t do it justice. I was so proud of her. That day changed both of us and we will forever be bonded by that experience.
And, if you check the results, she actually finished 2 seconds ahead of me. 🙂
With an extremely shaky hand, I raised my Starbucks cup up to my purple lips and let the warm liquid slide down my throat in hopes that it would soon spread to the rest of my body. My teeth were chattering, my clothes were dripping, and I was shivering through and through. I tried to make some idle chatter with Jeff and Jillian as we sat in the Starbucks, but my thoughts weren’t coherent nor were my motor skills functional. The day was over. Terry, I hope we did you proud. Today, a nation took a few steps to honour a young man who had a dream and moved millions.
It proved to be trying conditions for each runner in each province/territory who undertook the challenge of running a marathon through their respective cities to pay Tribute to Terry Fox to mark the anniversary of the Marathon of Hope. Eddy Nolan, the man who started this national movement, ran through the toughest conditions, with temperatures reaching -8 with the wind chill mixed with snow, rain, and ice pellets. In true west coast fashion, Vancouver saw cooler than normal temperatures of about 5 degrees, 10mm of rain, and high winds with max gusts up to 45kph.
The physical conditions of the day in Vancouver progressively got worse but the energy and support kept all of our spirits high. I know I sound like a broken record but I am absolutely humbled by the support I received and by my community. We started off the day with roughly 20 people, including a contingent from Field Hockey Canada, Thomas who ran the whole way with me last year and was looking to repeat this year, friends from my lululemon family, Dave Cressman from distance runwear, new friends I’ve made that believe in the cause, and close friends who are near and dear to my heart. The day started off with perfect running conditions and we made our first stop at distance runwear, where Dave left us to open his store, and we continued to City Hall. Councillor & Deputy Mayor Tony Tang came out and took a few photos with us, and commented at how surprised he was as to the number of runners we had. Wait til next year!
At City Hall, Field Hockey Canada bid us good-bye and we picked up a few more friends. We continued to our next planned stop – Rackets & Runners – where we were received with warm smiles. As we made our way to lululemon Oakridge, the rain started. A few drops at first. And then a few more. And then too many to count.
Making our way up Cambie to 41st, we were greeted with great enthusiasm and energy by the lululemon crew with signs and balloons. Another couple of people left us at this stop and we picked up another runner – Jeremy Hopwood. Our next stop was the Run Inn Kerrisdale, and then continued up 41st Avenue and then up Dunbar to our highest point of the day. With the rain starting to pick up even more, we were powering up the hill to enjoy the downhill to the Alma Running Room. At this point in the day, we decided to do as many photo ops inside the stores rather than outside. Temperatures had dropped to about 5 degrees and winds were picking up. From there, we made our stop at Forerunners, and then to LadySport, where we were met by enthusiastic staff and a smiling Phil, the store owner. Ashley Wiles, of Sole Girls, caught up with us at this stop and joined us as we made our trek up hill to lululemon Kitsilano.
What a fantastic greeting! Signs, smiles, snickers, and Gatorade! And a whole lot of love. We picked up a few more runners here to our next stop at The Right Shoe, where Rand – the store owner – met us. Then under and around the Burrard Bridge, and we were greeted by friends from the lululemon SSC. We tried to keep our stop short, as the conditions were getting to all of us. We said our good-byes, and then made our way over the Burrard Bridge and started around the Stanley Park seawall, where I knew the wind would be at its worst. It was definitely quiet on the seawall, aside from our small group. In the true spirit of Terry Fox though, we managed to pick up a random runner (Samir) part way around the seawall to join our group. At Lumberman’s Arch, I checked my watch and realized we were farther along than expected so we cut out a small section on the seawall and headed straight to the Denman Running Room. After that, we made our way up Robson to the lululemon Robson store, my home store. We started to recall how tough this hill was last year but still managed to support each other to the top. When we got to the store, it was all worth it – open arms, big hugs, large signs, and loud cheers. Personally, though, things were very much going downhill for me. I knew I was getting too cold and I also hadn’t fueled well for the day. But I was close. One final push.
Seven blocks (or so). And then finally, we saw him. Terry. What a sight for sore eyes. And, of course, a few of my amazing folks from the lululemon Robson store waiting for me. They are such troopers, waiting for us in the rain and telling US how great we were.
I am grateful to be so blessed with so many great people in my life. Today was a VERY tough day – I don’t remember ever being so cold during and after a run. But I can’t complain. Terry Fox ran 143 days straight – roughly a marathon a day. A DAY. And I am positive he ran in worse conditions than I did. He didn’t have tech shirts. He didn’t have shoes with proper cushioning or orthotics. He didn’t have a leg. But he had a vision, determination, and a beautiful heart. His legacy lives on.
In just 3 days, I’ll be running a Tribute to Terry Fox, all because of Eddy Nolan. Because of Eddy’s vision, I will be amongst of group of Canadians – one in every province/territory – running 26.2 miles to honour the day Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope. I’m trying to keep everything in perspective. Every time I think about it, I get overwhelmed and I feel so lucky.
I’ve updated my previous blog post with a slightly adjusted route to include a couple of extra stops at a few more running stores on my route. Based on those stops, I’ve created a schedule below of approximate times that I’ll be at each stop. I do plan on posting my progress on Twitter so please follow me if you get a chance or want an update on where I am and when I should be arriving, especially if you’re planning on joining me. I’ll try to post on Facebook as well too!
My pace will be kept fairly conservative. I do run a lot but I’m also recovering from a 50k I ran 2.5 weeks ago so best to conserve as much energy as possible. Besides, I want to enjoy this as much as I can.
Today is Pink Shirt Day: Every seven seconds in Canada, a child is bullied. This alarming statistic fuels the passion behind CKNW’s 5th annual anti-bullying campaign Pink Shirt Day – Bullying Stops Here! On Wednesday, February 29th, 2012, CKNW is encouraging British Columbian’s to show their support by wearing pink to symbolize bullying will not be tolerated.
Today, I wore my pink shirt loud and proud. I wore it to get my coffee at Starbucks, to every meeting I went to, as well as over my tech shirts at the lululemon athleticaRobson Run Club that I lead. It’s probably been about 8 years since I actually wore a cotton t-shirt running, but I was determined to show my support!
The photo I posted here was through my involvement with the Women in Leadership Foundation. I love the work I do with WIL – I’m the Events Team Lead for the Vancouver Chapter (2nd year!) and this year, WIL has brought forward a theme of ‘inclusivity’ in their strategy and fundraising events, which means including other causes as well as other genders – men!
Because almost everyone in the Vancouver Chapter is new (all but 2!), we wanted to introduce ourselves to the world to let more people learn about WIL and, although we are a non profit foundation, we support all social good.
So, I’m inviting you to get to know us, check us out, and have some fun with us. We’re a pretty cool group, and we all love giving back to our communities. 🙂 Oh, and special thanks to our uber awesome photographer Nick Siu for donating his time to snap our photos!