Anyone who knows yoga knows lululemon athletica. Anyone who lives in Vancouver – yogi or not – knows lululemon. And like it or not, lululemon is part of the Vancouver athletic landscape. Any runner or would-be who likes yoga – or who can’t get enough of lululemon – knows about SeaWheeze.
The SeaWheeze Half Marathon launched in 2012, making this year its fifth anniversary. Previously, all I knew about the SeaWheeze was that there were a lot of women running, and that buying exclusive lululemon/SeaWheeze gear was serious business. Not being particularly brand-driven, and owning no lululemon gear myself (except some running sleeves I got as a gift a few years back), I had never felt the urge to register for this relatively pricey half marathon.
However, when both Debra and Susan encouraged me to sign up for 2016, I decided to give it a go. Why not? And that’s where this story begins…
Everything about SeaWheeze is epic, including registration (and the man-buns). It is, in fact, probably one of the hottest topics surrounding the race itself. Registration opened 11 months ago, at 10:00am on Wednesday, September 15. Somehow, I left my wallet at home that day, so Susan gave me access to her credit card (bless her heart). We sat poised, ready to hit the registration button at 10 o’clock sharp. We did, and there was a moment (maybe even a few minutes) of bated breath…and we were in!
In a rush, I filled out the form, selected the type of shorts I wanted (ack! I don’t know…just pick one!), and got myself registered for SeaWheeze 2016. Not cheap, but hopefully worth it. The whole event, over 10,000 registrations in all, sold out in about 10 minutes. I was one of the lucky ones.
Fast forward to August 2016. Where did the time go? When the heck did I sign up for this crazy race?
Sunrise on Friday, the day before the half marathon. The lineup for the store…well, people have been lined up since yesterday. The keeners were there at 10am…on Thursday. Yes, that’s right, about 21 hours before the doors opened. By 10pm on Thursday, there were over 600 people in line. I was not among them.
I showed up at 8am on Friday, and within about 20 minutes I had my race package in hand. But not before a bit of entertainment…
Remember those shorts I ordered? In a panic? There were not my style, at all. I asked if there was another option…and after holding my breath because she wasn’t sure if there were any left…I got the shorts that suited me best. In addition, we got a mesh duffle bag, sunglasses, a water bottle, and some nuun!
Outside the Convention Centre, a bunch of vendors were set up. My favourite, of course, was nuun..so I snapped a quick pick of David and Amanda, and got a free water bottle!
The lineup for the ‘exclusive’ lululemon store wrapped almost entirely around the Vancouver Convention Centre. That’s impossibly long. According to Susan, who wisely(?) took the day off work, the wait was approximately two and half hours. That’s some dedication that I don’t have. Reports from the store include not enough of my size, women sitting on the floor gamely sorting through all the goods, and a bunch of people being overcharged. I was not there, though I could see some of the chaos during package pickup…
I will admit, however, that some of the menswear had a certain flair that I rather liked…
At noon, I joined Susan and about 400 of our closest friends for nooner yoga. The sun was beating down and, despite the sunscreen I had slathered on, I felt vulnerable. The instructor was aware of the variety of experience from amongst the participants, but perhaps I engaged too ambitiously. It was a fantastic practice, but by the end I felt dehydrated and over-zenned. On the up side, everyone with a yoga map received a Saje Wellness yoga kit, which included ‘Yoga Transition Spray’, a peppermint headache remedy, and yoga mat anti-bacterial spray (doubtless the most practical item!).
I believe there were both sunrise and sunset yoga, but I erred on the side of familiarity and went to Pilates after work, and prepared myself for race day.
I cruised down to the start line bright and early on Saturday morning. Taking advantage of the proximity to my office, I stashed my gear at the gym (and was able to take a quick shower right after the race!) Jack Poole Plaza, where the Olympic Cauldron sits, was heaving.
Thousands of runners converged – and it wasn’t long before we made our way to the starting corral. Debra, of course, snapped our pic!
Although I tried to seed myself somewhat nearer the front, as soon as the gun went off the crush was incredible. I found it difficult getting off to a good start, especially as there were a few turns almost immediately. But once we hit the straightaway along Dunsmuir and over the viaduct, I started to get my rhythm.
I won’t provide a blow-by-blow of the race, except to mention a few highlights (and the odd lowlight):
Spinning – the throbbing music, and a cheer station of about 20 people doing spin class on stationary bikes – so much enthusiasm!
Burrard Bridge – both ways on the bridge; no one’s fault, but due to the construction going on it was considerably less enjoyable/scenic than it might otherwise have been. BONUS: Got to high five Susan as she went by, and Debra caught me in action!
The Heat – Vancouver has literally had almost no summer…until this week. Not what we have been used to! And after the turnaround point we were running into the blinding sun. Glorious. Sweaty.
Spectator support – amazing! My biggest laugh was the big guy sitting in a deck chair on the sidewalk…smoking.
Some guy with a jetpack in the middle of English Bay. Spectacular!
Morph suits – a lot of people in flesh-coloured body suits. Weird, but oddly encouraging!
West Van Run – the Crew had a cheer station on the far side of Stanley Park – right where we needed them!!
T-Rex – trying gamely to high five everyone as they passed by. Enough said.
Vancouver – I feel SO lucky to live here, and to be able to run here whenever I want. Despite the heat, it was really a chance to experience Vancouver in all of its natural glory!
Finish Line & Post-Race
Although I did my best to ‘gun it’ during the final kilometre, when I crossed the finish line on the Seawall, I had fallen well short of my unspoken goal time. Nevertheless.
Got my amazing Seawheeze medal! It’s like a giant decoder ring – weighty and, perhaps, my favourite medal!
I was handed a bottle of water, a cool cloth, a goody bag with some more Saje products, some nuun tablets…and then I wandered up the ramp to receive my lululemon race cap!
Here’s a view over the Finish Line…
Barefoot Bistro supplied the food: a frittata sandwich, grapes, and a sour cherry tart. I was flagged down by a few folks, including Cristina, Carla & Nikki (which I appreciate, since my distance vision is abysmal!)
Showered and changed, I returned to the finish line to cheer both Debra and Susan to their goal!
Unfortunately, there was crazy congestion at the end, as more and more runners arrived. Immediately after crossing the Finish Line, you got your medal…and then came to a dead stop. It took nearly 45 minutes for both Debra & Susan to wend their ways up the ramp towards the food (Susan finally gave up and left the line), and they had run out of water. Of everything at the race, this was the one thing I heard a lot of feedback about.
After a lazy afternoon involving pho, and perhaps a couple of drinks, and then dinner…we wandered towards Brockton Point for the Sunset Festival. We didn’t make it in time for the mass outdoor yoga session, but joined Debra and Sam to enjoy a bit of local music.
The place was packed. The lineups to buy drinks were apparently an hour long (I didn’t bother). We chatted and rocked out a bit, caught up with a few friends…but before the sun had fully set, we decided to call it a night.
And so concluded my very first SeaWheeze Half Marathon.
Chip Time: 1:51:54
Overall Place: 686/6774*
Place in Gender: 266/1355**
*This is the number of people with results – many more may have registered and not run, or not finished.
**Trading and selling bibs is extremely common, so the gender category is fluid.
SeaWheeze Half Marathon 2016 – Quick Review
Social Media: Someone at @SeaWheeze is on all the time! Their response times are phenomenal. I was also part of a SeaWheeze Facebook group, which had a lot of interesting discussion – although this was not moderated by SeaWheeze itself. The email updates were frequent enough to be useful, but not annoying. And they had an app, too!
Package Pickup: Running all day on Friday, I found the package pickup to be crowded but quick – with volunteers guiding you to the numbers spots on the ground to keep the line moving. It was all quite efficient.
T-Shirt/Swag: Rather than a t-shirt (and, honestly, I don’t need another one), we got an exclusive pair of lululemon shorts. I like this year’s design for the men quite a lot – better than designs from other years. In addition to the shorts, we got a mesh duffle bag, nuun, a cap, some Saje products, an endless supply of KIND bars, sunglasses…and one of the most epic medals I’ve ever seen!
Course: The course features some of the best of Vancouver – the city, water views, the Seawall and Stanley Park. There are a few hills, including two crossings of Burrard Bridge, but it’s a relatively flat course. I’ve run ever bit of this route at some point, but it all works together quite nicely for SeaWheeze.
Post-Race: Because I finished a bit nearer the front, the flow from finish line to brunch to post-race plaza gathering was quick. I heard from later finishers that there was quite a bottleneck, and a serious lack of hydration. Since I didn’t experience this firsthand, I can’t really comment…but I figure there are a few more logistics to sort out. Overall, I was satisfied.
The Sunset Festival was also some good fun – although I missed the mass yoga event, and didn’t stay late into the night. If you were in the mood, it would be an excellent time!
Organization: lululemon knows how to put on a good show. Overall, I was pretty impressed with how well everything was organized. The one exception – and this did not affect me personally – was the congestion at the finish line for slightly slower runners, and the fact that they ran out of water. For an August race, I consider this to be unacceptable. That aside, I thought things went very well.
Would I run it again? It depends. Since I’m not a huge fan of the brand, I’m in no hurry to get more gear and swag. And that’s what you pay for. That and the spectacle of the whole thing. This is not a criticism – simply a matter of my own priorities. If you haven’t participated in SeaWheeze before, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try!
Have you run SeaWheeze? How was your experience?
Are you a lululemon fanatic?