Mountain Equipment Co-Op Half Marathon: REVIEW!

Last night I pinned my race number onto my shirt (BMO Vancouver Half Marathon tech shirt made by Saucony), put my watch on the charger, and picked out the gels I wanted for race day. I have a single gel left, so I will need to stock up again before another race pops up! Or rather, before I sign myself up for another one.

I practiced the art of “carb loading” all weekend long. Not necessarily with junky stuff, but the froyo and ice cream was a bad idea. The pasta above was a delicious idea, however.

And my usual pre-race breakfast! Whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter and banana. I ended up leaving a good chunk of it on my plate (still ate the bananas. What do you think I am, CRAZY!?) because I was feeling full. Either that or my nerves were getting to me. Regardless, this combination does the trick every time!
Side note: There were no porta-potties at the race, so I went in this outhouse style toilet thing in the parking lot before the shuttle bus came and drove us to the start. I have never been in a shuttle at a race before, so that was pretty cool!
Below: Top picture is me in the shuttle, crappin’ my pants because it’s almost time to run. I am only kidding. Please don’t take me (too) seriously.

One thing I need to get a handle on is going out too fast. I hovered around 8:45-9:00 miles, and at one point around mile 4 I chatted with a guy from the Penninsula Runner’s (a local running group) about half marathons, pacing, etc. He drifted ahead of me, and at one point I looked down at my watch to see a 6:48 mile. In theory this was effing amazing. I don’t remember the last time I ran that fast, but in all honesty it wasn’t a good thing to see when you have NINE MILES TO GO. Smart, Holly, so smart. Anyway, that’s when the wheels kinda fell off for me, but I stuck to 8:45-8:55 miles up until mile 11. Then my legs were getting tired from my dumb pacing earlier on, so I fell behind.
BUT. Here is the big BUT.
The best thing about racing is that you can push your body. I pushed my body enough to go sub 7 miles, and I never do that during practice runs. During group runs, maybe, but how often do I do those? Yeah, never. The last group practice run was last year when I lived in Vancouver. Anyway, you can push yourself and see what you are capable of and where you could be. When I looked down at my watch despite having an OH SHIT moment in my head, in reality it’s almost like. OH YEAH! because I know that I can get there. This race was also fantastic in the sense that I felt good the whole time. Soreness here and there, but that’s only expected when you are running thirteen point one flippin’ miles!
I took gels at mile 6 and again at around mile 9, and I stopped at three water stations out of what felt like one thousand. It’s definitely nice when there are lots of aid stations! I will continue to practice this fueling strategy and maybe even throw in a third gel earlier on in the race. This way I will have a constant source of fuel and my glucose levels won’t drop too much. Additionally, I’d also like to make use of my fuel belt so I don’t have to stop at any water stations along the course. I saw several people with their fuel belts, so perhaps I will give mine another go! So convenient.
Pros:
– Smaller, local race
– Inexpensive entry fee ($15 for the 5k, 10k & half)
– GORGEOUS course along the Galloping Goose Trail, starting at Sooke Pot Holes Provincial Park
– Super friendly volunteers & employees of MEC along the way
– Free post-race massages from the students at West Coast College of Massage Therapy. Although I did not get one (there was over an hour wait time), I love this idea! Mainly because I’m cheap. I mean, frugal.
– Shuttle bus from parking lots to the start line
Cons:
– No medals. Hey, I’m a hardware chick. I like having something to show off. I understand that with smaller, lower cost races medals aren’t a huge priority, and that’s totally okay. Everyone loves some bling though, yo!
– No chip timing. HOWEVER they announced at the race that this will be changed in the upcoming events due to the larger turnout for half marathon participants. YAY!
I am 99% always a happy camper during a race, though. I don’t like to pick out things I dislike – nothing major ever stands out to me! – and I am always happy to just be out there running!

Overall:
I would definitely run this race again. I loved the scenery, the friendliness of everyone, and the overall vibe of the day. It wasn’t a huge competitive event, there weren’t tens of thousands of people, and it was very no fuss, no strict rules, etc. Participating in this race taught me more about what kind of runner I am (and can be!), and I was so happy to be out there on a beautiful course. Perfectly mind-clearing and FUN at the same time. Plus it sure beats some of those triple digit races out there (I’m talking the over $100 races if you aren’t quick enough to catch the early bird pricing).
Hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

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