Just a week after my Washington Road Trip with Brie, where we ran the North County Wine Run, I had the Spirt of the Shore Half Marathon on my roster. As one does, I had signed up for this race months ago, and it kind of slipped my mind. And although I have a race calendar, October was on the ‘next page’ – so I didn’t notice that I had back-to-back halfs until they were pretty much happening.
However, this was my first half marathon on the North Shore (including both West Vancouver and North Vancouver) – and we had the amazing support of the West Van Run Crew – so the experience was fantastic. No regrets…except for one wee error in judgement…but more on that later!
Spirit of the Shore has some great sponsors – including Icebreaker (where we did package pickup the day before), Park Royal (where the race starts & finishes), BlueShore Financial (who opened their doors to us on race morning!), and Whole Foods (who replenished our stores after the race). Combined with good organization, this made for a very successful small, local race – one of the best!
I carpooled over early Sunday morning with Samantha, who was running the brand-new-this-year 10K. We checked our bags, greeted some friends, and took a few pre-race photos.
Despite the threat of rain, we were very fortunate to get away with just a sprinkle…followed by one of the most stunning double rainbows I’ve ever seen arching over the finish line!
The race started promptly at 7:30am, weaving through the streets around Park Royal Mall, before (in a race first) entering the parking garage, which took us up and across Marine Drive. What followed was the toughest (perhaps the only) hill of the course, sloping steeply upwards for just about a kilometre. Tough this early in a race, but at least we got it over with! Here’s the course map and elevation profile – see what I mean?!
And then my rookie mistake – I tried something new on race day. A few weeks ago I purchased a SPIBelt Hydration Companion (a small water bottle that clips neatly to SPIBelt). Although it’s a great solution, I hadn’t tried it out with my belt, which was loaded down with gels and my iPhone. So for the first couple of kilometres, I was totally distracted – trying to adjust the belt so it would sit properly, and not slip in bounce – all while still running. Why didn’t I try this out beforehand? Lesson learned.
Running back downhill, we looped around and over the Capilano River, entering North Vancouver. As we headed underneath the Lions Gate Bridge, the 10K runners were turning right and back towards Park Royal – while the half marathon veered left towards the Spirit Trail.
The Spirit Trail took us alongside Squamish Nation land, and eventually beside the water, for about 4km before we hit the turnaround point. As I was approaching the turnaround, cheering a bunch of the runners ahead of me, I spotted Sam. “Are you doing the half now?” I shouted. Her response: “I don’t know!” This would not be the last time I saw her en route!
Returning again to Lions Gate Bridge, we crossed back over into West Vancouver and the familiar Ambleside Park (where the Coho Run had finished up just a few weeks ago). We continued along the Seawall towards Dundarave for another out-and-back, with a turnaround at about 17.5km.
And there was Sam! Yes, she had missed the 10K turnoff, and ended up running the entire half marathon!
A final loop of Park Royal, and the finish line was in sight! I had a little bit left in the tank, and sprinted to the end for one of my favourite finish line photos ever!
At 1:51, this was not one of my fastest half marathons, but I think I was grinning throughout most of it. While I’m not a fan of 100% out-and-back races, I enjoy those that incorporate some turnarounds, so you have a chance to see many of the other runners – running friends, familiar faces, and sometimes the lead runners!
I was most impressed with 24-year-old Thomas Des Brisay who not only won the race, but broke a course record with a time of 1:13:04. Not only that, Thomas suffers from autism – but he hasn’t let that slow him down (quite the contrary). Admirable young man! Our beloved Mike Hsaio also shared the spotlight with his age group placement!
And, with that, my 29th half marathon is a wrap!
Chip Time: 1:51:02
Average Pace: 5:16 min/km
Place Overall: 40/121
Age Group Place: 7/17 (M40-49)
Quick Review – Spirit of the Shore Half Marathon
Social Media: As a small local race, I understand that volunteers take care of most everything, so I don’t expect a ton of social media. The Spirit of the Shore Facebook page is pretty decent, however, and there are lots of photos post-race!
Package Pickup: Pickup was held at the Icebreaker store at Park Royal – so on Saturday we made it into a grocery/shopping trip to get a bunch of stuff done at once. We arrived promptly and got in and out in a few minutes.
T-Shirt/Swag: No t-shirt BUT we got an amazing Icebreaker merino wool cap! I have one from years ago, but it’s getting a bit worn out. It was warm enough on race day that I didn’t need it, but I expect it will get lots of use this winter! In addition, we got one of the biggest medals I’ve ever seen, with a picture of the Capilano River tressle bridge – awesome!
Course: The course is mostly flat, as it follows the Spirit Trail and West Vancouver Seawall, hugging the water most of the time. The exception is the significant uphill within the first 2 kilometres – but it’s over and done with pretty quickly.
Post-Race: Good food and drinks provided by Whole Foods, so I felt pretty satisfied after the race. We stuck around for the awards ceremony as well, since I know a lot of speedy runners!
Organization: No complaints – I thought this race went really well! My only observation stems from Sam’s experience – there should have been far better signage and more active course marshalling at the 10k/half marathon split. True, it’s up to the runners to know their route – but something to keep in mind for next year! Otherwise – fantastic job, with huge thanks to the organizers and volunteers (including Mike’s RaceForce team!)
Would I run it again? While I found the race a wee bit pricey for a local half, I signed up in time to get an earlybird discount. But given the bling and the well-run event, I think it’s good value. Depending on how my race plans go – I would definitely give this race another run!