I thought about trying to make this post more literary than my usual posts…that was spawned by listening to a podcast on my walk to work last week. But then I decided to stick with what I know, and just share about my experience over the (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon!
One of the highlights of the past couple of weeks – and my excuse for taking my sweet time in writing my race recap – was my Dad visiting from Ontario. He’s been present for a couple of my runs – the Scotiabank Half in 2013 and the Ambleside Mile in 2014. But in the past year I feel like I’ve grown as a runner, so it was great to have him here to see me finish another race!
Rather than driving, we decided to take the Pacific Coach (bus) to Vancouver Island. The highway bus takes us straight to the ferry, so no need to arrive early by car and wait in line, or risk missing your ferry. It was a very rainy day, so unfortunately the view from the ferry was rather blasé. We were dropped off in downtown Victoria – just steps from the Convention Centre, where the expo was taking place – and adjacent to the famed Fairmont Empress Hotel!
As expos go, this one was pretty tame. For whatever reason, they didn’t email us our bib numbers ahead of time. I found my name and bib number on the list on the wall – but I was not the only one squinting at the tiny print!
Heading upstairs, I bypassed the Goodlife Fitness table (since I already have a gym membership), then grabbed my bib. Headed through to get my long-sleeved technical shirt, and found my name on the giant display board!
Our local friends picked us up, and took us to our accommodation – her parents were out of town, so the three of us (me, my better half, and Dad) had the place to ourselves. Plus, they lent us a car for the weekend! We joined our friends for a lovely home-cooked spaghetti (read: carbo-loading) dinner. No wine for me!
I had planned for multiple weather eventualities, since the forecast had been consistently wet. But morning dawned clear and dry, and surprising warm. After a light breakfast of oatmeal and banana, I took the car and headed downtown.
Parking in Victoria is free on Sundays, so I got a spot just a few blocks from the start line. Views across Victoria’s Inner Harbour of the Legislature, and the pre-dawn Empress Hotel:
Then I went in search of a porta-potty. The line-ups were horrendous. I asked an ‘ASK ME’ volunteer if there was a men’s urinal station – she said that I was the fourth person to ask her, but that she didn’t think there was. I laughed and said that I have started to judge races on whether or not they have this feature – not entirely true, but I’ve come to think that they just make sense. I ventured down a side street, came across a hotel, and took advantage of their lovely clean washroom! No line-ups, no fuss! Lucky me!
Hung out at the start line with Kristen from Forerunners (we actually met on the ferry as well!) – she ended up ahead of me for the whole race, back at her first half in quite a few years. Maybe the snore guard helped!
After the national anthem, we headed out around the backside of the Legislature, and then north through downtown. It was pretty crowded for the first kilometre, and with several tight corners it was tough to get through the hordes. I didn’t want to push things too hard at the beginning, so I just tried to keep a steady pace. And we were just in time to catch the sunrise.
A loop through Beacon Hill Park, with cheering locals on the sidelines. The route criss-crossed itself a bit, so we kept encountering other runners – both ahead of us and behind us. This was kind of neat, being able to cheer in both directions! We then exited onto Dallas Road, a long stretch with an amazing view of the ocean. Around the 10k mark, here came the lead runners on their way back!
Uphill for a kilometre, followed by twists and turns through one of the neighbourhoods – and the amazing Ben on his speedy return! Then a loop, and we were headed back. More charming Victoria homes! More views of the ocean! More cheering spectators!
In the last kilometre, there were signs counting down each 200 metres…and I don’t know if that was helpful or not! Because the route twisted and turned, we couldn’t actually see the finish line until the very end! Also, the start line of the 8k came before the half marathon finish line, which gave the illusion that we would finish sooner. But with my honey on one side snapping photos, and my Dad on the other getting a video – it was a strong finish!
Here’s the video of my race finish (almost to the Finish Line!):
Finally, here’s a Strava map of the route:
Then we went to enjoy an amazing brunch at a local diner, followed by some local sightseeing, including Craigdarroch Castle:
And Hatley Castle (at Royal Roads University) – plus the beach near our friends’ place.
That evening, we gathered with our friends for a cozy Thanksgiving dinner.
So concludes my 9th half marathon of 2015, with a respectable time and a fantastic race experience! Not to mention a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends. I feel truly blessed!
Chip Time: 1:48:21
Average Pace: 5:08 min/km
Place Overall: 576/3260
Age Category Place: 46/122
Except for the fact that we didn’t get bib numbers ahead of time and had to squint at a list of names in tiny font on a wall to get it…the rest was smooth. The expo was small, and a bit crowded – it didn’t flow really well. At one spot, there were two sponsors right across from each other giving out samples (and not a lot of booths were doing so), resulting in a traffic jam. Because I was with non-running family, we didn’t stay too long.
A long-sleeved New Balance technical shirt in two-tone blue – love it! The medal is big and chunky – also love it! Reminds me a bit of the Scotiabank series of medals, perhaps from the same manufacturer?
The course starts at the Legislature, loops through downtown, meanders around Beacon Hill Park, and then does an out and back along the ocean and among residential neighbourhoods. I have to say that this is probably one of the most beautiful races I’ve ever done. Honestly, it was scenic pretty much the whole way. There were plenty of aid stations, enthusiastic volunteers, and positive energy from start to finish. There is a fairly challenging hill at the 12km mark – not especially steep, but fairly long – however, you can make up for it on the way back!
We didn’t stay for too long, since family was waiting – came through the finishing chute, got my medal and a photo, and grabbed a bit of food. Not sure what all they had, it was a bit of a blur, but definitely had cookies and fruit!
Would I Run It Again?
Absolutely! As noted, it is one of the more beautiful courses I’ve been on. Well-organized and worth the trip to the Island! Maybe I’ll give the full marathon a go someday?
Your turn! What’s the most scenic race you’ve ever done?