Yes, as you can see, the race features a long downhill section just before the halfway mark. I've run up and down this hill a bunch of times, and I can tell you it's a lot more fun to run down than up. The race was also a point to point, starting at the thickly forested University of British Columbia campus and ending in Stanley Park, which is a stunning urban park. I was sold, and signed up in February.
In March, one of the e-mail bulletins from the race organizers mentioned that runners had the option to choose one of 15 different charities to raise money for by running the half-marathon. Having just lost my dog Fred a few days before, who we'd adopted from the SPCA in 2002, I decided to run the race in his honour by raising money for the SPCA. I set my fundraising goal at $1310 ($100 for every mile) and started the campaign. This was my first experience raising money through running and I am sure it won't be my last. I was able to raise just over $2000 for a very worthy cause.
I picked up my race package on Saturday afternoon at a local hotel and was greeted by friendly, well-organized volunteers who quickly found my bib and chip, scanned the chip, and then sent me to the T-shirt table.
This is where things get interesting. I held up the shirt to see how big their "medium" was. In this case, medium was huge and I asked if I could get a small. Instead of being told what that process was for requesting a different size, the crotchety old guy working the T-shirt counter grumbled: "Over my dead body" and started blathering on about how it's not the way they do things...etc...etc....etc. As I started to walk away, he made this remark: "You ordered a medium, what happened to you?"Anyway, to make a long story short, I got my small. But obviously the volunteers were not instructed what to do if someone asks for a different size, which I think is strange.
On race day, I drove up to the university campus, parked, and jogged about a mile to the start. I was annoyed yet again when I got to the gear check table to find out there was a $2 cash charge to check bags. That was a first for me. Do people have change with them on race days? (our $1 and $2 are coins up here in Canada). Why didn't they just roll the two bucks into the cost of the race? Luckily, a nice gentleman behind me in line spotted me so I wouldn't have to run with my backpack.
With about 20 minutes until gun time I headed off to try to find a safety pin and use the potty. I only had 3 pins and thought the late registration counter was a good bet. Nope. They had long since run out. Slightly irritated, but with no time to waste, I headed to the port-o-potty area to find this:
Port-a-Potty line with only a few mintues until the start
It's safe to say the organizers didn't have enough port-o-potties for the 5000 runners who showed up. The line was super long all the way until the start. I jumped out of my little unit with about 2 minutes to spare!
Two minutes went fast, the air horn sounded, and we were off. I spotted my Twitter buddy, triathlete, podcaster, and blogger extraordinaire Erin (@erin337). She was holding a huge pink sign with my Twitter name on it (@runningbebe) as well of those of a few other Twitter runners.
The first couple of miles I definitly ran a bit too fast at about 8 minutes each. I had to regroup between miles 3 and 4 and took a bit of a walk break, followed by a jog. Then I got my groove back and settled in.
Tree lined street at UBC taken during my little break
The rest of the race went rather smoothly. As predicted I thoroughly enjoyed running down the long hill. After the hill there was a long stretch along the shoreline near Spanish Banks, which is very scenic. I took short walk breaks at all the water stations and alternated water and Gatorade.
There were two significant uphills where a lot of people walked (miles 8 & 10), but instead I just took it down to a jog and kept myself running. I had hoped to be able to speed up a lot after the Burrard Bridge (the last uphill) for the last few miles, but I was pretty tired by then and could only manage the normal pace.
With 0.1 miles left I sprinted past everyone I could see for the dramatic finish. Sadly nobody I know was there to see the heroics and I had to settle for congratulating myself.
I did know my mom was working at one of the food tables, however, and after getting my medal and catching my breath I set off to find her.
Me after the finish, picture taken by my Mom...Reason: Made a mistake on Thursday and only did 1 mile warmup and cooldown instead of 1.5 miles each, skipped a 6 mile run on Saturday (the day before the 1/2 marathon) because I only slept 5 hours on Friday night and was too tired.
I found my mom working the bagel table, like quite the pro, and she was kind enough to take my picture with the fancy new hardware.