When I was first invited to race the Lululemon SeaWheeze half marathon I hesitated – how could I travel more than halfway across the world without little M and be separated from her for more than a day? Well somehow it happened – spent two full days and three nights in Vancouver – and I am glad I made it out there because the race was a fantastic experience.

In its fourth year, the annual SeaWheeze sells out its 10,000 spots almost as soon as rego opens (mark your calenders: sign ups for next year’s race open Sept 16 2015). There’s good reason why, starting from the race bag, which includes a pair of exclusively designed Lululemon running shorts (mailed to you early so you can wear it for the race). There’s also an awesome unique finisher medal – this year it was a gold carrot (full metal, mind you) – and a trucker cap. And a yummy post-race brunch box awaits after your effort, as well as sports massage. Oh and racers get exclusive access to buy special Lululemon gear created just for the race – I didn’t buy any but boy, things were literally flying off the shelves and gone in a couple of hours.

For me it was the intangibles most of all that made the race great: the precisely measured course hugs the sea for most of the way, with North Vancouver’s magnificent mountains for scenery across the water. The seven aid stations along the way are well stocked with water and energy drinks and gels. There are tons of supporters that line the course, including many dressed up (trannies, birds, etc), musical groups (jazz band, choir, DJ, etc), and holding big signs of encouragement. The 21km definitely passes by faster than usual with all these distractions. 

Unfortunately I didn’t run with my phone so I don’t have any photos, but this is what you’d see along parts of the route.

This being my first road half-marathon and only third race since becoming a mom, I had a modest goal: go under 1h 40min. Based on a little 5k trial I did a week earlier I felt it was realistic. The race was neither my preferred distance nor terrain, though weather in Vancouver was perfect on race day: 16 deg C, overcast, light drizzle at times, strong winds (tailwind and headwind). I managed a pretty evenly paced 1.38.06. Stats here.

That was good enough to squeeze into the top 200 overall – it was a strong field which included pro triathlete and Olympian Kirsten Sweetland, the eventual winner for the women’s. With such a strong field the race started out fast and I had to rein myself in and not follow the bunch. It was a good move because eventually I’d pass quite a few of those who sped off at the start. Given my history of crashing and burning in closing stages of races, I was extra cautious not to do the same here.

The course is pretty much pancake flat, so I was actually happier when there were some inclines, the major one being Burrard Bridge. Different muscles are used when you go up or downhill than on the flats, which actually helps the legs stay fresh. Each time I passed groups of supporters I drew energy from them and that helped also to keep me on pace.

The gold carrot has got to be one of the coolest finisher medals ever. And how funny is the timing chip with the face of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson stuck on?!

The race was just a third of the fun, however. Participants also get entry to the Sunset Festival at Stanley Park where mass yoga and a rock concert will aid your post-race recovery, as well as a local brew or two.

I’m not one for yoga but I found myself disarmed by the fantastic setting, good looking people and lager, and soon enough I was in a down dog too.

If I could have done anything differently for the race, I wish I wasn’t still chained to the breastpump (pre-race stress = stubborn boobs), I wish I had a proper pre-race breakfast (the buffet at the Fairmont Pacific Rim where I was staying is amazing – but I only had time for energy bars in the hotel room), I wish I had flown in a day earlier (massive jet lag and 10h sleep over two days – not great), I wish I had a pre-race massage (tight glutes and piriformis)…

Anyway, if you’re looking for a destination race, you must give SeaWheeze a go next year!