Vancouver First Half – Race Recap

My 2nd race of 2013, was not quite as good as my 1st.  It had all the makings of a great race, but unfortunately, it was a struggle most of the race for me, and I did not hit my goal time.

The short version : Nikki, Hilary, Krista, and myself all headed to Yaletown on Sunday am to run one of my favorite road races, the Vancouver First Half.  It was a beautiful day.  All of us had PR’s!!  It was a great day, and although I’m bitter about my race overall, I’m still glad to have been out there running with some 1900 of my favorite local runners in the glorious sunshine!


Spoiler alert : I finished in 1:46:59 officially.  This is a 30 second PR from my last PR at the Surrey Half in September, but it wasn’t the race that I know I have inside of me, and the wheels fell off the bus for me at about 13kms into the race, and I managed to hang on, and still have a grasp on my time goals, when at 18kms, the bus broke down, and I was left limping the last 3 km, and coming in 2 minutes longer than I had hoped and trained for.  UGHHH.  Caution : This blog post is probably going to be pretty whiney. 

The First Half is a crowd favorite for runner’s in Vancouver, and it sells out within hours of registration opening.  It’s a great course, a flawlessly run race, and donations are made to a great cause, which makes it even better of a race!

I convinced Hilary to sign up with me, as it’s a great half marathon to gear up to before getting into the full-on marathon training cycle.  And then I convinced Nikki that she should run it too.  It was one of the many races that we’ve both run in the past few years, but we didn’t know each other yet, what a shame!

So, if you’ve been following my blog, or Nikki’s recently, you’ll already know that I was doing a bit of “Beast Coaching”, and having Nikki run a bunch of my fave speed workouts to get her confidence and speed built up.  Recently, she crushed the 8km we ran together, and was looking forward to PR’ing at First Half.

The race started at 8:30, outside of the Roundhouse in Yaletown, Vancouver.  Nikki and Krista met Jay and I at our house and carpooled down together.  We parked about .5 of a K from the start line and went to meet Hilary.  We jogged down, but in retrospect, I think I needed a bit longer of a warmup.

My outfit for Sunday was Lululemon capris, a thicker Lulu long sleeve, Nike sports bra, Patagonia underwear, Merrell wool socks, and my Nathan handheld.



After a few quick pre-race pics, it was time to line up.  It was chilly, but gorgeous.  As we weaved through the crowd, I saw Greg, who’s recap, as well as many others, is linked at the bottom of this post.  We settled into a good spot, and after the anthem, we were off!

I’ve run this race a few times before, and have run the seawall hundreds of times, so I know the route well.  My game plan going in, was to hit 1:45, and I knew I had to keep my pace under 5:00/km.  I started off fast (probably too fast), but I felt good and strong, and just ran by feel.  After the loop around BC Place, I smiled to Jay at the start line, and he managed to catch me and Hilary.



Nikki & Krista had disappeared into the crowd.

I felt good going up the first hill, and then down onto the seawall.  The pace was fast, but I felt pretty confident in myself.  As the race continued along the seawall, I settled into a nice steady running pace, I had to keep pushing myself to stay uncomfortable, because as soon as I relaxed, I fell back into closer to a 5:20/km pace, which seems to be my “happiest running pace”.

I passed 10 km in good time, I was on the mark to go sub 1:45, and I was feeling pretty good.

As we came along the backside of the park, towards Lionsgate Bridge, I felt my body starting to get a bit weak, a bit hungry.  I had packed a few of my homemade fruit’n’nut balls, that I’ve eaten during trails runs, and my ultra before.  However, when I tried to get them out of my back pocket, it just didn’t work, and I didn’t think I had the time to actually stop and eat them.

After turning the corner on the tip of the seawall, is where my race started to fall apart.  I didn’t eat my balls, and was struggling with feeling like I needed fuel, and feeling like my pace was slipping (it was, a bit).  Around 13 km is when disaster struck, I got a stitch in my left side, right up under my rib.  It was stabbing me.  It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good.  I started to really struggle, as I battled on and off side stitching stabbing pains for the next few kms.

At both 15 & 16 kms, I was able to do the math, and knew I still had 1:45 in my grasp.  Unlike most of other racers, I didn’t actually mind going around Lost Lagoon.  I enjoyed that part of the race, and actually got my pace back on track, and though I was going to be able to finish strong without any other issues.

I was wrong.  I hit 18kms, and the stabbing came back, way worse than before.  I struggled the rest of the race.  I was basically dragging my body along, as fast I could move, but it wasn’t pretty.  I tried running with my fingers jabbed into my side, which helped the pain, but really killed my form.  I barely even noticed the last few hills because I was struggling so much with my side.  Normally, I would rock that last downhill finish line stretch, but at that point, I knew my goal time was shot, and I was just in a ton of pain.



Of course, as soon as I stopped running, it stopped hurting.

Heading back towards Jay, Hilary came in almost immediately after me, she had absolutely rocked the race, it was her first ever half marathon, and her official results were 1:50:23!!!  How insane is that??  I should also mention, she was sick for almost half of January, wasn’t able to run and train as she wanted to, and was very worried about running her first half.  She obviously didn’t need to worry, she KILLED IT!!


We headed back out to the street to wait for Nikki, and I walked back along the course, watching for her purple shirt.  Before I knew that, I spotted her, with a huge smile on her face.  My watch was at 2:00, and I knew she was going to crush her previous 2:09 PR.  I jumped in, and ran a little ways with her.



Before we knew it, Krista was also coming in to the finish, with a PR of her own!!  I love this shot that Jay got of her.


It was a beautiful day, and was great to see some familiar faces.  I got a big hug from Chloe, who’ll you’ll remember as my running buddy during MYM last year, and the reason I decided to sign up for the full race this year.  I also got to see 5 Peaks race director Chris, who had been hanging out with Jay during the race.


We headed inside the Roundhouse, and it was packed!  We grabbed food, all I could have was a banana, but I grabbed a muffin and bagel for my race photog.  We waited around a bit for door prizes, but even though they kept saying “in a few minutes”, the prizing wasn’t happening, so we decided to head for home.  Before we left, we ran into Ellie Greenwood, who just so happens to be one of Nikki’s Team CEP Canada team members, and 1 of my biggest influences in getting into ultrarunning.  You might remember my run & chat with her last summer.


At home, we had a yummy yam hash, with poached eggs, a spread of fruit, and water.  Definitely not the normal post race brunch at Dutch Wooden Shoe of sweet pannekooks and lots and lots of coffee.  But, I have to say that I felt very proud of myself for being strong, and sticking with Whole 30, even though I had a bad race, and emotionally really wanted a Starbucks latte.  I fought the emotional attachment, and made better choices.

 Our official stats :

Me – 1:46:59 – 30/115 in 25-29 age group, 206/1063 women, 604/1919 overall

Hilary -1:50:23 – 21/60 in 20-24 age group, 269/1063 women, 726/1919 overall

Nikki -2:01:31 – 107/182 in 30-34 age group, 567/1063 women, 1197/1919 overall

Krista -2:17:37 – 54/60 in 20-24 age group, 875/1063 women, 1671/1919 overall

And now, for the nitty gritty race info/critique :

Overall, how would I rate this race?

Terrain/Course/Difficulty : A.  Great race course.  Fantastic views along the course.  Well marked, no chance of getting lost, good volunteer marshall’ing.  It’s not pancake flat, it’s got a few little hills, but nothing too crazy.  It can get a bit crowded along parts of the seawall, but overall, this is a great course.

Affordability and Value : A -.  This race cost $65 all in, and sells out in a number of hours.  For your money, you receive a Mizuno shirt, a medal, bib, & timing chip, a good assortment of food including post race soup, as well as this race is a fundraiser for a great cause, Variety Children’s Charity.  Personally, I never liked the First Half shirts, and would prefer a cheaper race fee without a shirt, but that’s just me.

Organization : A+.  Absolutely no complaints, other than the slow draw prizing.  I prefer races that have already drawn random prizes, instead of having to wait around.

Overall, I’m glad I ran this race, and will run it every year in the future that I am able to.  It’s a Vancouver winter/spring running staple, and I’m a big fan.  

Even if I didn’t have the race I wanted to have, it’s a learning experience, and I know that I’m going to be switching my focus from roads to trails after my full marathon in April, so for me, the best choice at this point, is to wait until Whole 30 is done, and race another half this spring.  So, on March 2nd, I’ll be lining up to race the Run for the Honeywagon in Bellingham with my friend Jessica, and Nikki if she decides to man up.  A $15 race just across the border, that is pancake flat, on a Saturday (love Saturday races), well that just sounds way too good to turn down!

I also am going to be following Josh’s advice, and next races, I will be setting 3 time goals, a best case, a realistic, and a worst case.  I think if I had gone into this race with more than 1 goal, I wouldn’t have been so frustrated and bitter at the finish.

Second race of 2013 will go down in the history books as my current half marathon PR, but more importantly, a wonderful morning spent with 2 good friends, 1 new friend, and 4 sparkly new PR’s.  You girls are all amazing, and you all inspire me.



Other race reports from Sunday :

Greg, Josh, Nikki, Krista, Steve, Alex, and Ellie!

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6 Responses to Vancouver First Half – Race Recap

  1. d-ana says:

    Those kind of races are the one to make you strong runner.
    Considering the “Whole 30” – you did amazing job. it is,after all PR. Next one will be even better.

    • Solana says:

      Very true. The hard training runs and races, are not for waste, they are always learning experiences. Thanks for the support, looking forward to hitting 1:45 in the future!!

  2. Leana says:

    I’m sorry that you didn’t make your goal time! Running with cramps like that would not be fun. Any thoughts on what might have been the culprit? Good for you for sticking with the Whole 30 and having a healthy brunch and not giving into the emotional Starbucks!

    • Solana says:

      I think it had to do with running at that fast of a speed, that high of a level (for me), without any extra fueling. I think I needed something midway to push me through.

  3. Cathy says:

    Great recap! Less whiny than you warned of;) I missed volunteering this year:( but I’m glad to see you had lots of company! Always next year! Great job all around!

  4. nikki says:

    1. Great recap
    2. I look like a total geek when I run.
    3. Man up?
    4. Thanks for the new PR!

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