Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Beautiful Beginning - The Inaugural Rock n Roll Vancouver Half Marathon 2014

On a weekend when most of our friends were in sunny Southern California racing in the Rock n Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon/moving costume party, we were headed north of the border to British Columbia, Canada. It was an inaugural race, so as much as we love doing the short trips to SoCal, we couldn't miss this one.

The forecast was looking like we made an bad choice. But with the string of hot summer races, the cooler weather in Denver last week was a welcome change. We would have to see how our legendary Weather Luck held out.  Just to hedge our bets, though, we decided to bring a good luck charm. If we were going to be under water, we might as well embrace our inner duck.

The Rock 'n' Roll gypsy reunion started even before we left San Francisco. Kamika had taken a red-eye from Kauai and was on the same flight to Vancouver. He got a first class upgrade, but we lucked out with a very empty exit row area.

Two adjacent exit rows to ourselves. The duck is watching Iron Man 3.

The SkyTrain was an easy way to get from the airport to Vancouver City Center station near our hotel. Kamika went one extra stop to meet a friend and head to the expo at the Convention Center station. Thanks to Kevin for the tip to save $5 by getting the day pass from the 7-11 in the terminal. Our hotel was right across from the BC Place stadium about a 1 km walk to the Expo. Our newly named Canuck the Duck was looking for photo ops.

There was some very cool decor at the airport. I missed taking a picture of the indoor waterfall closer to baggage claim.

Right about here, most tourist's trips would be complete!

Expo entrance. Canuck takes my usual race map picture.

When we went to Montreal last year, we bought the half-zip long sleeves at the expo and pretty much wear them everywhere. I'm glad they were good colors this time around because I plan to wear this one a lot too. It was good to catch up with Cathy while we shopped.

I didn't ask Jennifer if I could get a second bib for Canuck. Good thing too, because he didn't bring his ID.

Fellow SA2LV alum Kelvin hit his 15th Rock n Roll Race for the year, qualifying him for the new Hall of Fame. He and Joe Harris - running at RNR Los Angeles - were inducted this weekend. 

We met Kevin at the expo later. Apparently there's this new sports drink he's raving about called Pocari Sweat. Maybe it's just me, but I think the marketing department could have come up with a better name.

We ran into Mr. Clydesdale himself, David DeNeire. Having lived in Vancouver a while back, he gave us some good tourist tips. Maybe next time, we'll take you up on the trip to Whistler.

At David's suggestion, we took advantage of the light rain on Friday afternoon to take an Aquabus trip from the Plaza of Nations port to the Granville Island Public Market for lunch and some shopping. The Aquabus is a great way to see the city skyline and bridges and to scout out some good walking paths on the shore. Fares range from $3.25 to $5.50 depending on the route and day passes are available for $13 to $15. They even have "Cyquabuses" for ferrying bikes from port to port. 

We ended up at the Sandbar on a tip from the Aquabus captain. Ron had a craving for salmon. Canuck nearly got a bath from the waiter. It was chilly, on the porch but we had some good people and boat watching time.

Granville Island Public Market is definitely a good place to pass a few hours and load up on hotel snacks. Lots of fresh produce, prepared meals and eateries. There are a few dozen souvenir shops of handcrafted goods. 

Some items may not do well in the hotel fridge
The rain let up in the mid afternoon and we decided to cut the round trip Aquabus trip short to walk back along False Creek. Vancouver is a very bike-friendly city, especially along the water where bikes and pedestrians have their own dedicated lanes.  Fall colors were in full strength as were some of the Halloween decorations.

On the way back, I swung by the Olympic Cauldron from the 2012 Winter Olympics. You may recall the mechanical difficulties at the ceremony. It was moved to the current location after the games and is just as impressive in daylight as it was lit up at night.

We had dinner at Brioche Urban Eatery in the Gastown district. It was a small cozy place with room for maybe few dozen people. The pasta was made fresh and the veggies were very flavorful. The staff was willing to work on a custom dish for Susan since the marinara was prepared with garlic.  We passed on the signature cioppino soup, even though it had a lot of clams.

Chicken tortelli. Kevin is branching out a bit.  Note that Tea in Vancouver comes sweetened by default

Salted Caramel Torte and Mixed Berry tart. Counting the chocolates at Granville, this gave us our quota of 8 desserts. 

BC Place was right across from our hotel. We had to take a picture of the souvenir shop.

Race morning was in the low 40's with a forecast for 20% chance of rain and some breezes by 10 AM. I keep telling myself that Antarctica was fine, but for some reason, we always over prepare for cold weather. We just caught the Half Fanatics pictures at the Cauldron at 7AM on the way to the starting line.

We decided at the last minute to spring for VIP to stay warm, especially since it was a point to point course. We also met up with fellow race walker Gary Baldwin from Portland. Between Gary, Kevin, Susan and me, I can only think of two or three other sub-2:30 half marathon walkers on the Rock n Roll circuit who aren't Olympic qualifiers. Granted, the gap between our 2:25 - 2:30 PR's and the Olympic 1:30 - 1:40 times is huge, but it's nice to have a niche. 

Canuck didn't want to miss the race. Fortunately, my race pack had a convenient pocket that fit him perfectly.

Dave was going to pace Shelly to about a 2:30 finish. We caught a quick group shot before the starting gun. RNR Vancouver held to wave starts all the way to the last corral to keep the crowd spread out on the narrow Seawall paths.

Vancouver had one of the most scenic courses we've ever seen. It had a wonderful mix of cityscape, water views, park and forest. Some commentary below, but most of it was just fun to look at.

BC Place comes up in the distance and made for some beautiful photos on the race course.

Short section along False Creek. The brick and cobblestones were slippery in some spots with the wet leaves, but easily manageable.

Susan caught this because it was our 12th Rock n Roll race for 2014. And it was pretty.

Lots of beach and shore areas have rock stacking statues. Apparently, Vancouver took this to the next level.

Entering Stanley Park. The smell of the fir trees was like a Christmas tree lot.

This turn had a view of the Lion's Gate suspension bridge. The 10K passed the iconic lions, but the Half missed it by a few hundred meters.

I caught this picture as the sun started breaking through the clouds in Stanley Park at kilometer 16. It was a good diversion since it was also the point where most of people's splits went to mush. The hills in the last 5K had most of us slowing way down.

More views along the Seawall on the way to the finish line at Devonian Park

The last kilometer along the marina. The people lining the right side of the path were giving us a much needed boost. 

We didn't feel a drop of rain the entire race and finished with temps in the low 60's. Devonian park was a bit muddy, but easily big enough to hold the 9000 or so finishers for the headliner concert.

Another SA2LV alum had a great weekend. Jessica PRed in the 10K, ran a mile back to the starting line and finished the half. Oh yeah, she got her Cascadia medal for having done Seattle and Portland too.

We haven't actually met many of the Race Ambassadors. Lisa gave us some great ideas for exploring the city and was absolutely thrilled to have Rock n Roll in her backyard.

It was a really good weekend for a race. Inaugurals can be unpredictable as far as quality, but Rock n Roll seems to have it down pat. This was the 10th Inaugural RNR races we've completed and we've enjoyed every one.  If this year's event was any indication, Vancouver and Rock n Roll are at the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 


The 2014 running of Rock n Roll Vancouver was an inaugural event at the Half Marathon distance, but was an acquisition of the previously known Cunningham Seawall 10K.  This year, there were 6337 finishes in the Half (median finish time: 2:09), 354 in an early start for those needing extra time to meet the 4.5 hour cut off, and 2808 finishers in the 10K (median finish time 1:06).

The course starts just south of Canada Place and heads east through the Gastown District before turning south and west on Prior Street on the way back to the trail on False Creek. The course follows the coast past Sunset Beach into Stanley Park and back along Lagoon Drive to cut north toward Vancouver Harbor. The last 5K are along Stanley Park Drive. As mentioned before, it's a bit hilly there, so thankfully, it's at least pleasant to look at.

Ron finished in 2:29:57, his 11th half walked under 2:30 and his 6th this year. Susan finished in 2:33:15 which is her fifth fastest race, so clearly the training this year is paying off, especially with the cooler weather. This was Susan's 75th lifetime half marathon. Twelve more events and she'll hit 100 for full, half and ultras. Ron needs a few races to catch up.

A few scary moments. We saw two runners down at mile 9.25 and 11. The first was receiving active chest compressions and the second was just being loaded into an ambulance when we passed. Thanks to the Half Fanatics group page, the last reports were that they are both recovering in local area hospitals. There hasn't been an update since then, but we are hoping for the best.

We haven't signed up for Rock n Roll Vancouver 2015, but it's one that would be high on our list for future races.

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