The following is a guest post by one of my running buddies in our running group, Lauren Cureton:
The Vancouver Marathon was my third marathon and quite possibly my favorite. I’m not sure if we could have asked for better weather or a more beautiful course. Add in a really fun vacation with my husband, good friends, our five year anniversary celebration, three marathon PR’s, Meredith’s birthday celebration, and tons of amazing food, and it was pretty much a perfect trip.
The night before all the girls got into town we decided to celebrate our anniversary a day early. We went for drinks at a bar/ restaurant called Lift, which is right on the water. We got to watch lots of rowers practicing under the setting sun. After that we made our way over to Rain City Grill where we had dinner reservations. Before dinner came, Nick pulled out a tiny black box and said he had a present for me. I was definitely caught off guard as we had said dinner and the vacation were going to be each other’s presents. Anyway, I opened the box and there was the prettiest, most perfect circle diamond necklace. I got him a card. Oops. But, no, seriously, it was so sweet of him and a memory of our five year anniversary that I will never forget.
Friday morning we met up with Kristi and Stephanie at Medina, a cute Belgian cafe. It was so good to see them as we had all been looking forward to this trip for quite a while. After lunch, we headed to the Expo to pick up our race packets and check out the gear. Sadly, there was not a lot of cool marathon stuff, which was slightly disappointing. They did have a Create Your own Button station which was a slight consolation. I racked my brain for something funny, but had nothing. Instead, I flipped back through a motivational email Chris had sent me and wrote, Believe. Push. Don’t Give Up … a helpful mantra for the race for sure.
Now it is Saturday morning, the day before the race. I’m starting to get a little nervous that it is actually almost here. Nick and I met up with the girls and headed to O’Douls for breakfast. We all ordered blueberry pancakes with two different bread basket appetizers. Carbs, carbs and more carbs. Yesss. We went for an early pasta dinner at Ciao Bella. After lots of pasta, lots of bread, and lots of red sauce we were officially on carb overload. Walked a bit after dinner and swung by the grocery store (which was playing Hockey … coolest grocery store ever?!) for some mini water bottles (they only had Evian, which was fine because that’s all I’ll carry during a race … I’m very fancy;)) and Canadian Twizzlers … a necessity for post race. We walked the girls back to their hotel and then parted ways.
Sunday morning was finally here and I couldn’t believe it. It’s so funny to me when you train, think, and anticipate something for so long and then that day finally comes. I slept okay and woke right up as soon as the alarm went off at 4:30am. The girls came over to our place around 5:30am and we ate our English muffins with PB and made sure we had everything ready to go for the race. Nick and Kristi headed out early as the half marathon strangely started earlier than the full. Steph, Mer and I left not so long after that and had a small hiccup with the transportation, but eventually got to the race start. We checked our bags and hit up the port-o-potties, which had extremely long lines. Start time was getting close and I was getting anxious. Then we had an incident with this incredibly rude girl who insisted we were in the wrong line. I kinda thought Meredith might punch her in the face. Fortunately, some nice people let us back in and all was fine. We rushed to the starting line with not much time left at all before the race began.
I was nervous. This had been a really fun, hard, interesting training season for me where, for the first time, I actually started to push myself … to see how fast I could go. I had a couple of great half marathons, finishing the Austin 3M Half and the Rock n Roll Half both in 1:43:14. I had definitely gotten faster, but didn’t know how that was going to translate in a marathon. Marathons are scary. A lot can happen over 26.2 miles. My first one, in Portland, I ran in 4:53. My second one, in New York, I ran in 4:12. This one I desperately wanted to run under 4 hours. I didn’t convey that to barely anyone, but I wanted it badly. Meredith and I had pretty much done every training run together this spring … over 500 miles … and our goal going into the race was to run consistent 9 minute miles and stay together as long as we could. We exchanged good lucks at the start line and took off.
As we eased into the run, miles 1 – 7 took us through downtown. They were pretty and uneventful. The weather was nice … maybe even a little warm at 43 degrees. We chatted and laughed quite a bit … mainly about Saved by the Bell and other early 90’s TV shows. We were checking our watches constantly to make sure we were on pace. At mile 7, we came across this really cool band with a DJ and a violin player. We contemplated stopping the race and just hanging out to listen to them–they were that good–but decided since we had put in over 4 months of training we should probably keep running. Around mile 9, one of my favorite memories of the race, a guy in the crowd points to us and yells, “Good pacing girls. Stick together.” I don’t know why, but this made me choke up a little bit. This guy must have been a runner and I felt like he knew what we were experiencing/ trying to do.
We ran through Chinatown, Rogers Arena, False Creek’s inner harbor, and eventually into Stanley Park. The sun was shining and we could look to our right and see mountains and water and look to our left and see huge trees and tons of flowers. Seriously, the scenery along the course was breathtaking. I tried to take it all in and keep reminding myself how lucky I was to be able do something like this.
We were in Stanley Park for a while and, unfortunately, they had run out of cups and GU’s since the half marathoners had run through earlier and must have taken them all. Luckily, we were prepared with our mini waters and GU’s. I have always had a hard time taking GU’s during races and was a little worried how this was all going to play out. In New York I only took two and ran out of steam around mile 16. This was my fear for today, so I was bound and determined to force those GU’s at miles 10, 14, 18 and 22. I even wrote it on my arm so I wouldn’t forget. When it came time to take them, we would take turns holding each other’s water so we could get the GU out and opened. This was incredibly helpful and I didn’t miss a GU. I have no doubt this helped me power through until the end.
After finally making it out of Stanley Park, we headed to the dreaded Burrard Bridge. Going up it at mile 17 wasn’t so bad, but I knew we would have to return over it up a steeper incline at mile 24, which I was not excited about. We were now in the Kitslano neighborhood. It was mile 18 and we were still together, side by side, and still peeling off 9 minute miles. I was still feeling strong and very happy we had made it this far together. I had crashed and burned by this point in NY, so to still be feeling good was quite a relief. This stretch was tough, though … lots of rolling hills and out and backs that made it challenging. We headed back for the return over the Burrard Bridge, which absolutely felt like it was never coming–so much so that the next day we were all convinced they had changed the route mid-race, even though we saw people crossing it on our way over.
Miles 20-23/24: Mer and I are still together. Talking had pretty much ceased and, at this point, we were just trying to make it to the end. I was trying to keep up, but was falling slightly behind. Crap. Keep moving, I tell myself, but it was getting hard. Really hard. I grabbed a cup of water and tried to force it down. Then, like a miracle, Nick appeared. He and Kristi were waiting for us around mile 24. I was totally not expecting him, but it was a much needed and pleasant surprise/ boost. I saw Kristi join in with Mer as we parted ways. Going into the race, I didn’t really know how long we’d be able to stay together, but getting to run 23/24 miles together was pretty freaking cool and it was very comforting to have her there next to me.
Alright, home stretch, up the Burrard Bridge. Kill me. I want so desperately to stop. Nick is running a few feet ahead of me, trying to pull me through. I know I’m close to 4 hours. All I can say to him is, “Help me. Help me.” He’s like, “I’m not sure what you want me to do.” I tell him I’m not sure either. I’m whiny and want to know if the finish line is ever coming. Nick assures me it’s right around the corner. He runs ahead through a tunnel of people and pumps his arms up, getting them to cheer for me. I want to laugh because this is funny, but I just keep moving my feet. He’s bound and determined to help get me in under 4. We turn the corner and I see the finish line. FINALLY. The clock still says 3 something. GOOOO! I’m trying. Nick wants to split off, but I won’t let him. He stays behind me until the end. Finally, I cross with an official time of 3:58:16 … a 14 minute PR. I collapse crying into Nick’s arms with such a mix of emotions of relief, exhaustion, and complete happiness/satisfaction. I did it … under 4 hours!
I looked over and saw Steph, who rushed over and gave me a big hug, and then saw Meredith sitting in a wheel chair. (Don’t worry, she was ok). I made my way over to her to exchange hugs and congratulations. I couldn’t stop smiling. We met up with Kristi and Nick, who both had great races in the half and try to collect ourselves. It truly was a beautiful course with near perfect weather and I just felt so lucky to be able to share this experience with my husband and great friends. Steph (3:50), Mer (3:56), and I were fortunate enough to all hit PR’s, which was cause for celebration.
Here are my splits: 9:09, 8:59, 8:57, 8:58, 9:02, 9:02, 9:02, 9:02, 9:00, 8:54, 7:48, 8:57, 9:02, 9:03, 9:15, 8:47, 8:58, 8:56, 8:51, 8:58, 9:05, 8:47, 8:46, 8:45, 9:19, 9:17, 8:50 (last .65)
I woke up the next day not feeling too terrible. A little sore, a little dehydrated, but not bad. It was rainy and cold again … seriously lucked out with the weather for race day. All in all this was a great trip and fantastic race with wonderful friends. I’m so happy I got to share it with you guys. Vancouver has now earned a special place in my heart.
Can’t wait for the next one 🙂