Lululemon SeaWheeze Half-Marathon Race Recap
Over the past 6 years, SeaWheeze has become THE race to run, and it's been on my bucket list ever since I tried on my first pair of Wunder Unders back in college. Unfortunately the first year that I threw my name into the Lululemon lottery, I didn't make the cut. 😭 However, this time around, the Lulu gods were on my side and they granted me a golden ticket after only 15 of the most stressful minutes of my life! (We're talking 3 computer screens, 300 browser refreshes, and countless curse words...) So I packed up all of my Swiftly Techs, dreamt about what color this year's limited-edition race shorts would be, and convinced the rents to join me in Vancouver for a week-long family vacay.
We touched down in Canada the Wednesday before the race and spent three days exploring the city, biking the SeaWall, shopping Granville Market, and stuffing our faces with all types of yummy cuisines. I definitely broke the two cardinal rules of race prep (staying off your feet and staying hydrated), b/c rumor had it that Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson were in town and obvi I had to hunt them down (... no luck, but I did spot the Deadpool 2 crew in action twice!)
Lululemon sure does know how to throw a party.
The day before the race, Lululemon hosted a “PreWheeze” festival, which is basically the ultimate hippie pep-rally (think yoga, kombucha, flash tattoos, and essential oils), but also included the highly-anticipated “Runner’s Shop” where all kinds of limited edition gear are sold for one day only. (No lies, people were camping outside over 24 hours beforehand to be first in line.) Long lines aren’t my style, so I passed on the store and enjoyed a more eventful itinerary: I picked up my packet, got a complimentary SeaWheeze manicure, sprinted on a treadmill for the Lulu product research team, taste tested goodies from Vega and Nuun, and downward dogged with 100+ other yogis. It was just what I needed to get those butterflies churning in my belly for the big race.
Dancing is the best kind of warm-up.
On race day, I sprung out of bed at 6 am and jogged 1 mile to the starting line. I was expecting to be one of the first early birds there, but when I arrived, I was surprised to see that hundreds of runners were already squeezing into the corrals. So without wasting any time, I wrestled my way to the front, and very ambitiously (or naively) settled into the 1:40 pace group with about 15 minutes to spare.
You would’ve never guessed it was 6:30 am though because I'm pretty sure the DJ was set on waking up the entire neighborhood. Everyone was dancing around like we were in a nightclub, and it was a legit party. And for a brief moment, I completely forgot we were about to run 13.1 miles (mostly b/c I was too busy Spotify-ing the beats blaring through the speakers 😜).
With ten minutes to go, the rave came to a brief halt and the crowd silenced for the national anthem. I opened my mouth for a patriotic “Oh say can you see…”, but I embarrassedly realized that they were playing the Canadian anthem instead. Come on, Nat. Fortunately, this was a culturally diverse crowd, and I wasn't the only one who was awkwardly not singing along. But when the final countdown began only moments later, we all found our voices and roared "5...4...3...2...1!" before we sprinted down Hastings Street.
And off we go!
The first mile toured us through the neighborhoods of downtown Vancouver. It was thrilling to stampede down these streets that were so packed only a day earlier. Although I gotta admit, for the first 10 minutes I didn't do much sight-seeing, because I was too busy shopping all the Lululemon clothes racing around me. Neons, reflectives, rainbows, oh my!
But as we neared the BC Place stadium, I finally looked up and that’s when I spotted my sweet parents jumping up and down at the sight of me. They looked so proud, and their excitement gave me the goofiest smile, followed by goose bumps, which ended in tears of joy. Mom and Pops have always been my biggest fans and feeling their love and support always puts a pep in my step. Moments of pure joy right here:
So when I continued into the third mile, I was filled with positivity for this race. And the random group of cycling cheerleaders situated in the middle of the Dunsmuir bridge was also determined to keep me smiling. (Gotta say, never before have I seen stationary bikes set up in the middle of a highway before.) Later I would realize that this was just one of the many zany cheering stations to come. Totally random, but much appreciated.
Miles 3-4 gave us a waterfront tour of False Creek and then led us under both Granville and Burrard Bridges. Across the water, I spotted the familiar Granville Public Market, where I went a lil crazy on the fish 'n chips the day before 😳. But fortunately, this route was super flat as well, and I was quickly becoming convinced that this might just be one of the easiest courses I’ve ever run. The salty breeze was blowing through my hair, my legs were rockin' a solid 7:30 pace, and I was feelin' pretty darn good.
But I was instantly wrong. Because at that very moment, we veered right, climbed up a hill, then turned onto the massive Burrard Bridge, where we faced an even greater climb over the water. This bridge was no joke. It was the first real challenge of the race and each step made me question how much longer I could hold my speedy stride. We're talkin' side cramps galore.
When I finally reached the top, I caught my breath and looked to the left at the elite runners who were already passing us in the opposite direction. That’s also when I spotted my Insta friend, Meg, who was sprinting by in perfect form. I cheered her on with, “Yeah! Go Meg!” and she looked up, smiled and gave me a cool thumbs up.
Y’all. She was making a 6-minute pace look effortless. She made me question how a human could be so bionic, but she also inspired me to try a little harder to get on her level. So at that very moment, I decided that Meg was going to be my motivation for the rest of this race and I wasn’t going to go home without my best half-marathon time ever. (How's that for #runspiration!?)
Because every story has a cheesy lesson learned.
Once we landed on the other side of the bridge, we raced down Cornwall Ave for about a half of a mile, turned around, and headed back towards the daunting bridge once more. When I finally caught up to the same spot where I saw Meg earlier, a slower runner heading in the direction I just conquered, looked over and yelled, “Way to go, runners!”
That’s when it hit me: we were all exchanging cheers because we were all motivated by someone else in the race. And each one of us was simultaneously motivating someone else too. Whether you were a speed demon in the front or enjoying a more comfortable pace in the back, you were inspiring someone else behind you to work harder. And I guarantee that even the very last runner was still inspiring someone on the sidelines to train for this race next year. What a cool realization that was to know that we all had a role to play in this race. I couldn't help but crack a smile.
Then came the shenanigans on the Seawall.
Around mile 7, we finally stepped onto the anticipated SeaWall in Stanley Park. As expected, it was flat, breezy, and breathtakingly beautiful. It was also filled with all kinds of cheering sections, from sparkling mermaids to Cirque Du Soleil-esque characters on paddle boards, and even hunky firefighters who were spraying us with their fire hoses (total bucket list item of mine ✔️). So since miles 8-10 were more of a carnival ride than a race, they went by in the blink of an eye for me.
But around mile 11, my legs decided they had enough. Fatigue was taking over and doubt was creeping into my mind. The 1:40 pace group had already left me in the dust, but I still had one last chance to jump on board the 1:45 pace train. It was time for me to decide if I was going to chase that coveted PR or not.
I determined that I still had some fight left in me, so I hopped in line with the pacer and trusted him to take me to a rockstar finish. But it wasn’t going to come easy because he was hustlin’. Much faster than I expected and keeping up was really tough. I wanted to quit so badly, but I also thought about how hard Meg was working.
So I kept trucking on. And with 0.5 miles to go, I found a hidden reserve of energy and kicked it into high gear. I sprinted around the final curve of the SeaWall, made eye contact with the finish line, and soaked in every sensation I felt in those final seconds: the goosebumps from the rush, the burning in my legs, the cheers from the crowds, and the adrenaline pumping through my heart.
I gave this race everything I had, and I can honestly say I’ve never pushed so hard in a run before. After crossing that finish line, I was breathless, lightheaded, and weak, but I was so damn proud of my body for giving me that glory. I earned every second of that PR of 1:44:31 (beating my previous record by about 2 minutes).
The Not-So Storybook Ending.
Right after I was given my medal, I got the call from my dad that my mom was taken to the emergency room while I was racing. My heart crashed into my stomach, and I immediately entered a state of hysterics and confusion. The race’s medical team brought me into their tent, explained the situation, and immediately escorted me to the hospital to reunite with my family.
I was told that when my parents were rushing to watch me at the finish line, my mom tripped and took a hard fall down a flight of stairs. She suffered a severe head laceration, a shin laceration, a broken nose, and a broken wrist. To hear of anyone suffering that kind of pain is completely disturbing, but to find out it happened to your very own mom?? It shattered my world. But of course, when I raced into my mom’s hospital room and was finally reunited with her, she wasn't grieving about the pain. But instead, the very first thing she said to me was, “How did you do??”
I think that’s a testament to how selfless, loving, and strong my mom is. Every day she redefines what it means to be tough and she never ceases to amaze me. I have no doubt she will bounce back in no time.
Sure, SeaWheeze didn’t end the way I had hoped. In fact, it was probably the worst ending I could've ever imagined. But at the same time, this race experience empowered me in two very unexpected ways: 1) it taught me to find motivation in defeat, and 2) it showed me how strength can still persevere in even the most unlikely circumstances. SeaWheeze, you were one hell of a rollercoaster ride, but nonetheless, you showed me what it means to never give up.
1:44:31 finish time // 7:59 average pace // 308 place female out of 7,922