Posts Tagged ‘race’

Kumagaya Sakura Marathon

Late in 2015, we booked a trip to Japan – and little did I know that I would be running my first ‘international’ race at the Kumagaya Sakura Marathon! It was, in fact, a half marathon – and we coordinated our travels to end up in the Tokyo area in time for the race. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Let me tell about the Japan race experience – a bit about what’s the same as other half marathons I have run, and what is completely different. Introducing, the Kumagaya Sakura Marathon!

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West Van Run

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the West Van Run weekend races as part of being a West Van Run Ambassador. Be sure to join the West Van Run Crew for social runs on Saturday mornings, and Thursday evening training!

With just over 48 hours before our departure for a 2-week vacation in Japan, the epic West Van Run Weekend 2017 launched in full superhero force! I’ve written about all of the enticements to run West Van Run, and the anticipation paid off with a fun, well-executed two-day event. Costumes, friends, PBs and a lot of goodies made the weekend a huge success!

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Hamilton Road2Hope Half Marathon

I’ve been very fortunate to combine travel with racing over the past couple of years. Last year, I ran the Ottawa Half Marathon (which also runs through Quebec), and combined the trip with a visit with my Dad. Way back in April of this year – very likely in order to take advantage of the earlybird discount – I signed up for my second ever race in Ontario. I was able to meet up not only with Dad, but also with extended family and some friends I hadn’t seen in many years! And that race was the Hamilton Road2Hope Half Marathon!

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Coho Run

Very early in my running career – way back in 2010 – I teamed up with a friend and entered the Coho Run. At 14 kilometres, it was the longest race I had ever participated in. The day dawned cloudy and miserable, and once the heavens opened – even draped in a garbage bag – I was drenched. Having had very little experience running in the rain, I kept that garbage bag on for several kilometres, until I was so hot I had to tear it off. By the end of the race, I felt bedraggled and alone – being so far behind most of the other runners – but a few stalwart supporters were there to cheer me across the finish line.

Fast forward to 2016 – and Debra (thanks for the photos!) encouraged me to sign up once again for the Coho Run. And the experience couldn’t have been better!

What is the Coho Run?

The Coho Run is a community race organized by the Coho Society – an organization formed to support “the protection and revitalization of North Shore salmon streams and rivers”. The race takes place to coincide with the Coho Festival, held annually in West Vancouver.

This point-to-point race is a great middle distance between a 10k and a half marathon, which is why I chose to tackle it 6 years ago. It’s a very unique ‘beach to bridge to beach to bridge to beach‘ race, as you’ll soon learn!

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Summerfast 10K

This year’s Summerfast 10K was everything a local race should be – except, in my case, fast. It was well-organized, with familiar faces, plentiful prizes, delicious food and ideal running weather. Hosted by the Vancouver Falcons Athletic Club (VFAC), it was simply a great race!

I’ll admit that I’ve been slacking on doing any speed work for…well, for quite sometime. Sure, I’ve kept up with running, on weekends and a lunchtime, but I haven’t made it to any of the after-work speed clinics or pushed myself to pick the pace the way I should.

So it’s hardly a surprise that I didn’t get the race results I would have liked.

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ScotiaHalf

My role as Scotiabank Digital Champion culminated in Sunday’s race – the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon AND my 25th half marathon or what I’m referring to as my ‘silver’ half!

With 24 half marathons under my belt and a few years of experience, you’d think I’d be ready for this significant race. And yet, race day arrived, and I felt almost as unprepared as I’ve ever felt before a half marathon.

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West Van Run

It was a long time coming – months of anticipation – and finally the big weekend arrived! With three distances, amazing weather, enthusiastic volunteers, and over 1000 participants, the West Van Run was a complete success!

I was honoured when Kirill, the West Van Run race director, asked me to be an ambassador – to become part of  WestVanRunTeam. Thanks to this – and my involvement with WestVanRunCrew – I have made so many new running friends, and experienced races that I wouldn’t otherwise have participated in. My ‘ambassadorship’ included becoming one of the faces of West Van Run, and I found myself on random bulletin boards and in card displays throughout the city:

West Van Run

During one the weekend’s races, someone ran up behind me and shouted: “It’s poster boy Bradley!” Ah, the price of fame.

West Van Run

Here’s how the weekend went down:

Saturday – the 5k

Debra picked me up in the green monster, we gathered Sam at the station, and we all headed to Dundarave Park in West Vancouver. We arrived to one of the most glorious scenes – sunshine, clear skies, views of the ocean and the city. Although Debra was kitted out in style:

West Van Run West Van Run

…the rest of us peeled off layers and ended up running in shorts and t-shirts for the most part. This was a stark contrast to West Van Run 2014, which was accompanied by snow and freezing rain.

In previous years, the 5k and 10k were held on the same day, so I hadn’t previously run the shorter distance. In fact, I’ve competed in very few 5k’s before. Perhaps this is the start of a trend?

So while I had nothing to compare it to, this year’s 5k was a new course, which started on Marine Drive – the ‘main street’ of West Vancouver. We gathered excitedly behind the West Van Run arch, raring to go.

West Van Run West Van Run

And go we did! A few hills, some twists and turns – 2.5km out, and 2.5km back along the waterfront and West Van seawall. Sunshine! Smiling faces! Cheers from volunteers and spectators! It was all over in a flash.

For me – a flash that turned into a personal best! 23:31 on the clock – a full 16 seconds faster than the Moustache Miler in November! I was not the only one to achieve a PB – many of the West Van Run Crew broke records on this certified course, and celebration ensued!

West Van Run West Van Run West Van Run West Van Run

We enjoyed our goody bags, cheered for the winners at the awards ceremony, and went out for some well-deserved brunch!

Final Results

Chip Time: 23:31
Average Pace: 4:42 min/km
Place Overall: 64/408
Age Category Place: 10/45

Sunday – the 10k

I woke up sore. Not the same kind of sore as after a major gym workout, or after a half marathon. More of a concentrated sore, focused on my left hip.

The sun was peeking through the clouds when we arrived in Dundarave.

West Van Run West Van Run

There was a buzz in the air – more familiar faces, a lot more people, a tingle of excitement. Happy to see a bunch of folks who might not have come to West Van Run if I hadn’t told them about it!

West Van Run West Van Run

Unlike Saturday, where I was eager and pumped at the start line, I was lacking the confidence I had before the 5k.

West Van Run

After the gun went off and we headed along Marine Drive, my gait felt a bit lopsided and my hip was bugging me. I tried to stay steady, and focused on not looking at my watch.

Within the first couple of kilometres, the rain started to fall…just lightly, mind you, so it really didn’t matter. At the far side of Park Royal, as we turned around, some supportive and familiar faces who I was really glad to see. Between kilometres 6 and 7 there was an out-and-back…which meant you got to see, first of all, everyone ahead of you. It was actually awesome, because I was cheering on so many of my friends! Saw a few more on my way back.

The toughest part of the course – as I’m sure I’ve said before – is that you can see the finish line about a kilometre before you actually reach it. Longest. Kilometre. Ever.

As I approached, after what seemed like an eternity, I heard the announcer call the 50 minute mark. Not only had I fallen short of my PB (I’ve set a PB at West Van Run the past 2 years), I hit my worst 10k time in 2 years. Now, don’t get me wrong…I know it’s a respectable time. But I couldn’t help feeling let down after the thrill of the previous day.

West Van Run

I got over it.

West Van Run West Van Run

Cheers and hugs and rainbows! More friends crossing the finish line!

 West Van Run West Van Run

West Van Run West Van Run

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for awards since I had been invited to celebrate my friend’s birthday by joining a local brewery tour. Not a shabby way to end the West Van Run weekend!

West Van Run

Final Results

Chip Time: 50:10
Average Pace: 5:01 min/km
Place Overall: 194/606
Age Category Place: 44/81

West Van Run 2016

I want to thank Kirill and Karin, who stick-handled this whole event from start to finish and did an amazing job. Thanks to the volunteers at package pickup and on the course; to the sponsors of the weekend; to Debra for all the awesome photography; and to the amazing and talented runners of the West Van Run Crew – I’m fortunate to have you in my life!

Finally, a big congratulations to the runners who broke course records, who achieved personal bests, who finished the race (or both races!), or who ran their very first race.

See you there next year!

West Van Run

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For the first time, I’m joining the Wild Workout Wednesday Link Up with Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama, Angelena Marie from Angelena Marie: Happy, Healthy & Balanced, and Michelle at Fruition Fitness.

The Fit Foodie Mama

Run Laughlin

Way back in January 2015, I got a private message via my blog from a race director in the US wanting to tell me about an inaugural race he was putting together. Little did I know that the Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon would motivate me to tackle the #yearofthehalf – and Run Laughlin became my ‘flagship’ race of 2015!

It didn’t take me too long to decide to Run Laughlin. Mark Villalovos, the race director, was a true inspiration, putting his heart into creating a race from scratch. His enthusiasm was infectious. As the day of the race drew nearer, I got more excited about Laughlin because it ended up being a trifecta of coolness for me:

  • It fell on my birthday!
  • It was my 12th half marathon of 2015
  • It was my 21st half marathon ever (and – just as a reminder, especially if you think in miles – a half marathon is 21.1 kilometres!)

TravelRun

We flew into Las Vegas on Friday, December 4, rented a car, and headed off to Laughlin, Nevada. If you’ve never heard of Laughlin, like I hadn’t – it’s a little spot on the west side of the Colorado River, right at the very southern tip of Nevada. It’s grown into a successful casino town (third most visited, after Vegas and Reno). And it’s pronounced ‘loff-lin‘ (rhymes with ‘cough’).

Run Laughlin

We checked in at the race’s partner hotel, Colorado Belle. A lovely and thoughtful touch was that every runner received a welcome gift, put together by Mark’s wife, Denise.

Run Laughlin Colorado Belle

Then we went to the little expo to pick up my race package. Although it was small, there was such a friendly, vibrant energy at the event. I was offered my bib and I actually requested a different number…so I got #143 since, as I told the volunteer, I would be turning 43 the next day!

Run Laughlin

I was absolutely delighted to finally meet Mark in person, and thank him for organizing the event.

Run Laughlin

Wandered to a couple of the casinos, and had a great carbo-loading pasta dinner across the street at Tropicana. Bedded down fairly early to prepare for the next morning’s event!

Run Laughlin

The desert gets cold at night, and it was very brisk as we headed to the parking lot of Laughlin Outlet Center. I struggled with what to wear, and decided to stick with just my BibRave t-shirt, along with my BMO Vancouver Marathon gloves! During the pre-race announcements, was able to shout out that I was one of the (few?) folks down from Canada, though someone from Rhode Island had certainly travelled further to get there.

Run Laughlin

Saw a flash of orange and grabbed a selfie with fellow BibRave Pro, Laurel (@RheaCycleHer)!

BibRave

To give you the full race experience, I’m going to try a different approach to describing the race when it started just a few minutes after 7am!

Run Laughlin

Now, run Laughlin with me…

The Hill

You head out along the main ‘strip’ of Laughlin, past several of the casinos. But soon, after about a kilometre, the route turns to the left, and your gradual ascent begins. Remember yesterday, when you arrived in Laughlin? Remember the view from the highway, overlooking the town and the river, and the mountains beyond? That should have been your first clue.

Run Laughlin

For three kilometres, it’s an uphill trudge. Not only that, but there’s a dry desert wind blowing. If only the wind was coming from behind, pushing you forward – but it’s buffeting you from the side, causing bibs to flap vigourously. It’s tough. It’s endless. You’re breathing through your mouth, and your tongue is dry as a bone.

Run Laughlin

Thankfully, you finally reach the peak, and make a sharp turn on the road down towards Davis Dam. There is a water station, which you eagerly take advantage of. Though the elevation is decreasing, you’re now facing a headwind, blustery and persistent. But you’re not a quitter, you forge ahead.

Run Laughlin

The Desert

At the 7km mark, you can see the Davis Dam looming to your right, but the route takes you to the left onto a dirt track. You hadn’t been sure what to expect – maybe in your mind it was a wide open space with scrub brush and cactus lining a long straight road.

It’s not like that at all. The dirt is loose and rocky, and you are surrounded by hills and outcroppings of ancient desert stones. There’s no breeze now in this sheltered canyon. The sun is beating down and you’re glad you decided to forego the long sleeves and run in a t-shirt.

Run Laughlin Run Laughlin

At one point, you are pursued by a desert bandit after you snap his picture! “You’re not gonna get no reward for me!” he drawls, but you outpace him.

Run Laughlin

At the turnaround, you realize that you’ve actually been going uphill again this whole time. Now you’re heading back, cheering on the other hearty souls who are fighting their way on unstable footing. You even get a cheery ‘Happy Birthday!’ from a fellow BibRave Pro (Laurel!) who knows it’s your special day!

Run Laughlin

And you can’t help but admire this woman from Vegas…

Run Laughlin

The Dam

Hey look! Another hill! But this one is short and steep, up to the top of the Davis Dam, holding back the Colorado River and forming Lake Mohave.

Run Laughlin

You’re slightly beyond halfway in the race when you cross the border into Arizona! Not only are you in a different state, you’re also in a new time zone!

Another hill – a kilometre up and another down – with the absolute best water/cheering station waiting for you! You’ve been taking a few photos along the way, but with the view over Lake Mohave you can’t help but snap a selfie before crossing the dam back into Nevada.

Run Laughlin Run Laughlin

The River to the Finish

Now you’re cruising! You pick up speed on the downhill, and get a fantastic view of the dam you’ve just crossed – twice!

Run Laughlin

There are fewer people around now. You’re running the scenic Colorado River Heritage Greenway Trail – overlooking the mighty river, with Bullhead City, Arizona on the far side. It’s pretty warm now, you’re glad that you thought to wear sunscreen. But you’re not really sweating – it’s weird running with so little humidity. You finally spot a casino in the distance!

Run Laughlin Run Laughlin

Unexpectedly, the path twists to the right and, oh no! you’re headed uphill again! Just a wee bit, though, enough to reach the beautiful pedestrian bridge that takes you across the highway. Then, you’re back on Casino Drive. Welcome to Laughlin, NV! One more kilometre to go!

The crowd cheers as you sprint to the finish, receive your medal, and celebrate the completion of the inaugural Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon! Congratulations!

Run Laughlin

Exhausted!

Afterward

In the parking lot of the Colorado Belle Hotel, everyone gathered for a celebratory awards ceremony. We got food – fruit and a bagel – and there was even a free beer included with race entry! A DJ followed by a live band. Festive and fun.

We stayed around for about an hour, but then decided it was time for my birthday brunch. Throughout the day, I ran into folks wearing their medals and/or I Run Laughlin t-shirts – lots of congratulations going around.

The remainder of the Saturday was spent on some local sightseeing and a bit of casino time. Even the slot machine knew what day it was!

Happy Birthday

Sunday took us into Arizona and some amazing desert driving.

Route 66

Plus one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever witnessed.

Arizona Sunset

Home again on Monday after one of my favourite TravelRuns to date! Thanks to Mark and the entire Run Laughlin team for making the weekend such a success!

Final Results

Chip Time: 1:54:21
Average Pace: 8:44 min/mile (5:25 min/km)
Place Overall: 50/295
Age Category Place: 7/19

Run Laughlin

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RACE REPORT

Overall
From the moment Mark reached out to me about participating in the inaugural Laughlin/Bullhead Half Marathon, I was hooked. In the months leading up to the race, communication (in the form of emails) was excellent, giving lots of info about what to expect both on course and in town. Social media activity – primarily Twitter and Facebook – was consistent and engaging.

In terms of the race itself, the event was well organized, the course was absolutely stunning, the volunteers were enthusiastic and engaged. One of the best runs I’ve done!

Packet Pickup
Held just off the lobby of the Colorado Belle Hotel & Casino, packet pickup was a low-key affair held on Friday evening. Although we didn’t arrive too late, it was reassuring that we could pick up our bibs until 10pm. Given how far we were coming from, I appreciated this fact. The process was smooth and quick, and it was fun to chat with some of the local folks and volunteers on site.

T-Shirt/Swag
Orange t-shirt! Orange gear bag! Orange medal! Welcome gift upon check in! Very happy!

Course
Extremely scenic views of the desert, running across a dam into another state and time zone, the Colorado river. Such a unique environment for me to race in. Also one of the toughest races I’ve experienced in terms of the hills we encountered, the dry desert air and the challenging winds. This certainly impacted my overall performance, resulting in one of my slowest half marathons in nearly 3 years. Nevertheless, it was a great experience.

Post-Race
The post-race party was fun, with free beer (one per runner!) and live music. I generally don’t stick around for awards ceremonies, since I never place. I stayed around long enough for the 5k awards, but was so eager to get on with my day (and brunch) that I missed awards for the half. My only ‘complaint’ is that the awards didn’t move along a bit quicker, but I understand wanting to ensure that most people have finished before doing awards.

Would I Run It Again?
On the merits of the race itself, yes! Although Mark told me post-race that there were a few ‘kinks’ to work out, I thought everything went really well. The factors that would prevent me from attending are primarily my own issues: the time it takes to get to Laughlin, and the abysmal value of the Canadian dollar. But from the perspective of a runner recommending a race – I recommend that you Run Laughlin!