Overlander Sports Half Marathon – Yellowknife

Posted: August 17, 2015 in Race Reports, Travel
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Just two weeks ago, I had fully intended to track down an available bib and run the Seawheeze Half Marathon here in Vancouver. In the week leading up to that, I had a scheduled business trip to Yellowknife.

In case you’re not familiar with the Canadian Arctic, Yellowknife is the capital of the Northwest Territories – and at a latitude just a bit more south than Fairbanks, Alaska. I ran there during some rather chilly weather once before.

As noted in my last monthly update – about 10 days before my trip – I Googled ‘yellowknife marathon‘ and discovered that the Overlander Sports Half Marathon would occur on August 16 – the weekend of my visit to the Arctic! I promptly registered, changed my return flight, and extended my stay!

Yellowknife in August

Wednesday morning, two of my coworkers and I caught an 8am flight from Vancouver to Edmonton and – after a brief stopover – onward and northward to Yellowknife! We spent the afternoon in the office, enjoyed a late dinner, and checked in at the hotel.

I woke up early – the sunrise is well before 5am – and decided to go for a run! 6.5km took me along the shore of Great Slave Lake:

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And for a loop around Niven Lake:

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That beautiful run was followed by another day at the office.

Now, when I say ‘the office’ – well, this is what I mean:

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Yup – we have planes!

That evening, we did a wee bit of sightseeing as well.

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I won’t go into too much detail about Friday…or more pointedly Friday night…since it might have involved a visit to the Yellowknife Racquet Club, and perhaps a bit more beer than advisable. In the aftermath on Saturday, I found a silver lining: a forced rest day!

Our single outing for the day was bib pickup. We headed to Overlander Sports, where a single table was set up with bibs, and Buffs! Yes, every one of us received an event branded Buff as an awesome swag item!

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Race Day

Sunday morning arrived cool and slightly overcast, and I knew it would be a good day for a race! After my standard breakfast of oatmeal and toast with peanut butter, off to the start line!

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I had been told to arrive by 8:30am in order to sign in. Because of the size of this race, things were pretty…manual. Check in took about 30 seconds – just checking my name off of a list – so I had plenty of time to hang about in Somba K’e Plaza, snap a couple of photos:

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And take a quick trip to the loo.

The race is managed by the Yellowknife Multisport Club. About 10 minutes before start time, the race director made a few announcements. This included a warm welcome to all out of town runners…by name! I thought this was such a charming and thoughtful touch, and made me so happy to be there.

Someone jumped on a picnic table, and did some warmups with all of us. But she got cut short because it was time to start!

With a countdown from ten, we headed off for our first loop. The half marathon is a figure eight route – starting with a trip to historic Yellowknife – known as Old Town! This included a run around Latham Island, followed by a cruise through some residential neighbourhoods.

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I had to pause briefly when we reached a major intersection, since no streets were closed for this race. Made it across, and ran a small trail along the edge of Frame Lake before reaching our mid-race timing point…

And the second loop of the race began!

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This loop took us along the highway, circuiting Frame Lake and Jackfish Lake in a counter-clockwise direction. This part of the route is not flat. The next few kilometres were definitely the most difficult. For a good chunk of time, I could see just a few folks well ahead of me. At one downhill, I passed one guy, while I myself was passed by another.

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By this point, the clouds had burned off and the temperature was rising. It was brilliantly sunny, and I realized at that moment I had forgotten to put on sunscreen. I just hoped I was going fast enough to avoid the UV rays!

The biggest hill – up to Old Airport Road – had a reward at the top:  one of my colleagues manning the 4th aid station with water, energy drinks and oranges. This encouraged me and gave me a burst of energy…just as the guy I had passed a kilometre or two ago steamed by me.

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The least scenic part of the race took us through the retail side of town… good ol’ Canadian Tire, Tim Hortons and Walmart! At some point, I was able to overtake that guy for a second time.

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Then after another turn…we were back on the trails skirting Frame Lake. And now when I say ‘we’ – I mean me and the guy in a green shirt just in front of me.

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I was still feeling the effects of Friday night, but I had enough energy for a little kick at the end, pushed past green shirt guy, and reached the Finish Line with a smile! My eighth half marathon of 2015 was complete!

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My friends were waiting for me, and we spent a bit of time milling around and watching a few more folks finish the race. They were offering sausages and salads – but I had a plane to catch. By late afternoon, I was back in Vancouver!

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And I took home a handmade glass (mirrored) medal, produced by Old Town Glassworks!

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Yellowknife is a beautiful city. I loved this race because:

  • it was small, intimate, and very welcoming
  • the nifty swag – an amazing Buff – and a very unique medal
  • I got a chance to see the whole city, to run through the old and the new, and see some awesome scenery

Final Results:

Gun time (no timing chip): 1:47:46
Average pace: 5:13 min/km*
*Maybe due to cutting some corners, the course measured about 600 metres short on my GPS; I compared with others on Strava, and that seemed pretty consistent. So I won’t claim this time as one of my fastest, since I’m pretty sure it wasn’t!
Overall place: 17/61
Age Ranking: No age ranking for this race

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RACE REPORT

Overall
A wonderful, small, local race. Nothing more, nothing less. As fun as I expected – definitely worth staying in town for a couple of extra days!

Packet Pickup/Expo
Just the table at Overlander Sports. Name, bib, Buff, done! I didn’t stay to look around the store – had to get home and drink some ginger ale…

T-Shirt/Swag
I was so pleased to get my first ever Buff! It has the race logo on it, and makes such a useful souvenir. No t-shirt for this race. The medal is mirrored glass made by the local Old Town Glassworks.

Course
Double loop – through historic Old Town, some residential neighbourhoods, along the highway past a couple of beautiful lakes, along the main retail strip, and back through the trails of Frame Lake. Start and finish in Somba K’e Plaza beside City Hall. There is a marathon as well – a second time around the double loop! There are no major hills, although the course undulates significantly during the first part of the second loop. None of the roads are closed, so ‘self-preservation’ was one of the themes of the race! The course was well marked.

Aid Stations
There were five aid stations, all with water and energy drink, and friendly volunteers. I heard the guy at the first aid station say: “Maybe we should have put vodka in the Gatorade!” Some of the stations had gummy bears, bananas, oranges – a nice variety.

Post-Race
Cookies, bananas and oranges waiting at the finish. They weren’t yet ready when I finished, but there were also sausages (but I don’t think there were veggie options) and salad. I didn’t stay around to see what the awards ceremony was like, since I had a plane to catch!

Race Management
Things seemed to run pretty smoothly. I noticed that the course ran about 600 metres short – not sure if this was due to measurement, or because we cut a few corners. There were marshals on bikes, but not a lot of people to direct us. My only disappointment is that few of the locals seemed to be aware of the race. I don’t think it got a lot of press. I would love to have seen a bit more local cheering on the course – though I certainly don’t fault the race directors for this. Overall, a well-organized and fun race!

 

The Silvah Lining

Once again joining Jessica at The Silvah Lining for her race recap link up! Share your race recaps!

Comments
  1. This is my kind of race! I love the smaller races. I ‘m running a local half in September as a warm up to the Chicago marathon. I’m looking forward to that “small town'” feel. Of course, mine won’t be as beautiful as yours. Wow.

    Thanks for linking up!

  2. Laura says:

    This race sounds super awesome! I love the medal (very unique!) and the Buff as swag! I’d take a Buff over ANOTHER tech shirt for sure!

  3. Wow only 61 racers! That is small. And I love that you got a Buff as swag. I have a couple and they come in real handy in the winter here! Well done!!

  4. Emily G says:

    “when I say ‘we’ – I mean me and the guy in a green shirt just in front of me.” LOL, love small races like this, though they can get lonely! Hope to catch up soon!