Last year, I ran the Boundary Bay Marathon. It was my first marathon, so I spent more time in my own head that really taking in the race.
This year, I ran the half marathon, a distance I’m a little more comfortable with – so I feel like I’ll be able to provide a little more race feedback for those doing research on the race. (Why are there so few race reports of the Boundary Bay marathon?!?!)
I signed up for the Boundary Bay Half Marathon on somewhat of a whim. After my Squamish 50 23k race in August, I thought I had one more race in me for the year, so I signed up for the Boundary Bay Half because:
- The early November timing was just right. I needed a goal to work towards to keep me running through the fall.
- I knew the course and the race itself – I liked the level of organization, the relatively small race size, and the overall vibe of the event.
- It was pretty cheap – $55 before September 30 (it’s $50 if you sign up before July 31).
Unfortunately, training didn’t go as planned, as I discussed in an earlier post. The three weeks leading up to the half marathon, I spent a lot of time off my feet. I did a lot of stretching and foam rolling, I got a massage, and I focused on cross training at the gym, on the stationary bike, and at hot yoga. Here’s a sneak peek at my DREADFUL training:
- 3 weeks out: 0 running from Monday to Wednesday; a whopping 3.02 k run on Thursday (5:29 min/km pace), and a 21.25 k run on Saturday that I suffered through (6:19 min/km pace) <– why did I think that run was a good idea? My sore leg got DESTROYED.
- 2 weeks out: a 3.97 k run on Tuesday (5:29 min/km pace), a 13.44 k run on Thursday (6:13 min/km pace), and a hike/run up the Sea to Summit trail on Saturday (it took me 1:53:50).
- 1 week out: a 5.06 k run on Monday (5:32 min/km pace) and a 5.02 k run on Wednesday (5:52 min/km pace).
Not ideal. Not ideal.
When I signed up for the race, I hoped to break the 2 hour barrier (which I’ve only done once before) and perhaps even nab a PB (my PB is something around 1:57). After training through aches and pains, I readjusted my focus to simply running healthy, even if it meant taking 2:10 or 2:15 to finish the darned thing. I felt like a lot of weight had been lifted off my shoulders by shifting my goal. So how did it go? I’ll get to that soon.
First, let’s talk about the race itself.
Registration is easy peasy – your usual sign up online affair. As I mentioned, the prices are reasonable, especially for the half and full marathon distances. Cedric signed up for the 5k (his first race ever – he is a non-runner), which was $50 – kind of expensive for the short distance. So the Boundary Bay races offer the best value for the longer distances, but it’s nice that they have a 5k and 10k option so that family and friends can take part.
The Boundary Bay website is not the best – a lot of the key information is kind of hidden in the left column. Maybe they’ll redesign the website by the time next year’s race comes around (which is when future racers are most likely to read this post – hey guys!)
Early package pick up is encouraged. If you live in the area, they give you a few options. It’s a roughly 2 hour drive from Squamish to Delta, so we opted for the day-of package pick up, which costs an extra $5 per person. You also have to send them an email ahead of time to request day-of pick up – they don’t email back to confirm, so you just have to assume it’s all good.
Picking up the bib on race day is smooth sailing. I just gave my name and the $5, and they gave me a bib, timing chip, safety pins and zap traps, and a long sleeved red t-shirt (you specify your size at check out).
The start line has plenty of parking, some decent public bathrooms (go early – the line gets long!), and – best of all – a McDonalds food truck giving away free McCafe beverages. If the idea of downing a coffee before a marathon makes you nervous, don’t worry – the truck is still there at the end of the race.
Fifteen minutes prior to the race, there’s a group warm up. Ronald himself participates. I suppose I should mention that this race benefits the Ronald McDonald Foundation, a very worthy cause that I’m happy to support. I believe they raised $7,000+ this year at the race. Good job, participants!
Since there are four distances in the race (5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon), there is a staggered start. Marathon folks take off at 8:30, then three minutes later the half-marathon runners head out, then the 10k, then the 3k. This is great for avoiding congestion, but it makes the gun time a little misleading – for instance, by the time the 5kers take off, the clock has been ticking for about 10 minutes.
The course itself is straightforward – you cannot and will not get lost. It starts off on a hard packed gravelly/sandy/dirt pedestrian/bike path. About two km into the course, it dips into a residential neighbourhood – this is the only portion on pavement. They don’t shut the road down, so they ask you to run single file. It is a low traffic road and there are plenty of volunteers along the way, so it’s no big deal. Then, the road returns to the path, which winds along the ocean. The surface is kind of like a good dirt road – a little slower than running on a paved road, but it’s not potholed, nor is it like running on a loose gravel path. There are parts of the path that are more worn down than others, so if you can get into one of these ruts, it’s a little easier to move faster.
The turnarounds for the 5k, 10k, and half marathon are clearly marked and impossible to miss. There are a few aid stations along the way – I believe these only handed out drinks, but I’m not 100% sure since I brought my own food and drink. As I recall, things get a little boring and industrial on the full marathon route, but the when the half distance turns around, you’re still in the pretty park-like setting by the ocean. You run by a golf course and if you keep your eyes up, you may see a few golden eagles.
If you like a varied course with lots of turns and changes of scenery, you probably won’t love this course. If you like a straight course that requires little in the way of paying attention and allows you to space out and get in the zone, you’ll love it. It’s a very flat course, but given that the surface isn’t road/pavement, it may not be the best course for setting a world record. Or maybe you’ll like the surface because it’s a little easier on the body. Who knows.
The course is marked with kilometre markers and orange pylons. Since it is an out-and-back-course, the numbers are repeated on your return. So if you see the 6k marker on your way back, that means you have 6k to go.
The finish line is the same as the start. Upon crossing it, you get a medal to wear proudly (you earned it!) and a volunteer clips your timing chip from your shoe. Results are not instantaneous, and given that the start times are staggered, the big timer showing the gun time is not perfect for predicting your chip time.
Results are posted on the Try Events website within 24 hours – this year, it only took about 5 hours. Results are divided by distance, but not by age group or sex (these details aren’t provided at all). The order is determined by gun time; there is no option to sort by chip time, so your finishing position may be a little off. If I could give one piece of feedback, it would be to provide better results data – but I’m kind of a data nerd.
Okay, time to talk about my personal race experience. We had to leave Squamish early (around 6 AM), but the race happened to take place on the day Daylight Savings wound up, so it felt more like 7 AM, mercifully. It was clear day, but cold as heck. Most of my warm up consisted of hopping around trying to maintain circulation. I was VERY glad to have worn running gloves.
I didn’t really get a chance to seed myself at the start line – I just joined the queue, somewhat towards the back, then we were off. I weaved my way through to the crowd to try to find a comfortable start in the first kilometre. I settled somewhere in the middle.
I hadn’t quite decided on a strategy for my race. On the one hand, I could try to run slow and steady to ward off my calf pain for as long as possible (it had reared its ugly head anywhere from 3k to 13k into my “training” runs). On the other hand, I could try to run fast early on to make up for the slow-down that the leg drama would inevitably cause. I was feeling pretty strong, so I decided to run at a pace that felt a little challenging but sustainable.
For this race, I had a feeling I would need extra motivation for zoning out and not focusing on any discomfort, so I busted out a secret weapon: music. I hardly ever run with music (NEVER in the trails), but I had good luck running with tunes at the Squamish Loggers Day 8k in August. This turned out to be a wonderful distraction. The two songs that gave me the most turbospeed super powers (think the mushroom in MarioKart) were Sail by AWOLNation and Forgot About Dre.
KM 1 – 7
The first 7 k felt good, but I was freezing cold. My hands and feet were totally numb. There were a lot of distractions throughout this part of the run: other racers, the km markers, the turnoffs for the 5 k and 10 k distances, the road detour, etc.
Around km 7, three things happened:
- My extremities thawed. This was both wonderful and awful (have you ever had that hands defrosting feeling where it feels your nails are falling off? Yeah). I stuffed my running gloves in my vest for the rest of the run.
- Sail came on my iPod. I passed a large group of runners and felt like a superstar.
- The dull pain in my leg reared its head. I was a little annoyed but happy I’d enjoyed 7 kilometres of pain-free running.
KM 1: 5:49 — KM 2: 5:38 — KM 3: 5:29 — KM 4: 5:39 — KM 5: 5:39 — KM 6: 5:38 — KM 7: 5:42
KM 8 – 14
Though the ache in my leg was present, it didn’t feel like pain – just discomfort. My left hip flexor also felt a little wonky (this was a new ailment), so I just focused on keeping proper running form (glutes! glutes! glutes!) and listening to my music. I tried to run relatively conservatively for the first few kms in this segment, knowing that I could pick up the pace depending on how was I feeling at the turnaround.
The turnaround snuck up pretty quickly, so I bid adieu to the poor marathoners and started making my way back. I chowed down on a Kewaza ball at the halfway mark to keep my energy levels high for the second half of the race. (I talk about Kewaza balls and other fueling fun facts in this old marathon training post, if you’re interested.)
When I run longer distances, I try to assessment my effort every so often and think: can I sustain this pace for 15 more minutes? (I read this somewhere long ago and for whatever reason, it works for me). This helped keep me pushing, but within reason.
As I got closer to km 14, I felt a little tired, but I knew that I still had plenty in me. When I reached the 2/3rds mark, I was pleased with how much energy I felt I still had.
I slowed down in this segment, which I’m going to go ahead and blame on the minor but nagging leg tightness.
KM 8: 5:46 — KM 9: 5:48 — KM 10: 5:47 — KM 11: 5:53 — KM 12: 5:51 — KM 13: 5:59 — KM 14: 6:00
KM 15 – 21.1
I was feeling good and the solid tunes just kept on coming, so I allowed myself to stare off into the distance and go on autopilot. By this point, the runners were fairly well spaced out. I could see the same cast of characters ahead of me (orange jacket guy, blue jacket guy, black top guy, etc.). Every so often, someone ahead would pull over to walk or tie a shoe. A couple of people passed me, but I had a good amount of wind left in me and I was able to pass more than passed me.
This rarely happens, but the km markers seemed to come reasonably quickly as the race went on. I started to wonder if, against all odds, I just might sneak in under the 2 hour mark after all. I didn’t have a watch on me and my phone was tucked away, so I had to go purely based on feel. I knew I’d have to pick it up and challenge myself if I wanted to really go for it, so I tried my best to giv’er.
Before I knew it, I could see the finish line up ahead. Is it just me or does the finish line always seem like a mirage – so close, but so far? Luckily, the CLASSIC Darude hit, Sandstorm, doo-doo-doo-doo-dooed me all the way to the finish line.
KM 16: 5:44 — KM 17: 5:45 — KM 18: 5:54 — KM 19: 5:46 — KM 20: 5:44 – KM 21: 5:14 (it was Sandstorm)
My final chip time, according to the results, was 2:02:23. I am STOKED with this! No, I didn’t break the 2 hour mark, but I felt sooooo good the whole time DESPITE the most lackluster training and a nagging injury. You know what that means, right? It means that if I let myself heal properly and bust my butt in the spring, odds are good that I can set a PR at half in 2018. Game on!
I placed 78/249 runners in the half distance, which I’m happy with (though this is a little misleading, because a handful of runners raced faster than I did, but their gun time was slower because they started behind me). I estimate I came 37/119 for women (based on names that sound womanly) – alright!
As for Cedric, despite ZERO training (literally not a single practice run – though there was some cross training at the gym and on his mountain bike), he placed 12 out of 99 runners for the 5k! He says the runners in that group were on the casual side, but still – I’m pretty stoked for him.
And that’s that for another year of races. I’ll do a full Year in Review a little later, but I’m so happy to have finished on a high note after facing a few good road bumps in my running this year.