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James Wanless

this is where I write

A Victoria birthday weekend with a (better) half

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Pre-race

We took the 9pm ferry on Friday evening and, with the exception of eating crap, had a very uneventful trip to the Island. Check-in to our regular hotel was the usual breeze. We scarfed ferry terminal food in Tsawwassen coming over, then with few options at 11:30pm in our hotel room, an overpriced pizza for two had to suffice so that we’d at least have a full stomach to sleep on.

I may be biased because of the good corporate rate we get through Connie’s work, but we really love the Delta Ocean Point Resort. The service and comfort are always a joy. Something we noticed this time, in particular, was that including even the places where we could also get reduced rates, the Ocean Point was the only one who wasn’t trying to gouge guests with jacked rates on the Saturday night before the race.

Aside from wanting the best chance of moving down to the half if I decided to (more on that below), we felt that it was far more relaxing not to be taking a ferry over on Thanksgiving Saturday and rushing to bib pickup late afternoon. The only thing I’ll mention here is the very small issue of gear bags. The web site says that runners must use gear bags provided, but says nothing about how to get one. At pickup on Saturday they had no bags and, when I asked two different volunteers I got two different answers, neither of which was actually right.

It turns out you could only get a gear bag on race morning, however, people were free to use their own anyway. On the off-chance the weather forecast for rain had come to pass and a runner didn’t have any bag to bring, I’m not exactly sure how their post-race clothes were supposed to stay dry. The simple solution? Have gear check bags at bib pickup for those who needed one. Problem solved, with the added bonus of less work for gear check volunteers.

Dropping to the half

I had been thinking I’d do (and since the summer, been training for) the full marathon since I’d had a reasonably good return to the distance at the Vancouver Marathon in May, after a seven year hiatus. However, I got the double whammy of a very persistent deep calf strain at about the mid-point of my 16 week training cycle, followed by a very bad head cold. All told, while I stubbornly stuck with all but one long run, I lost most of about six weeks of my weekday training, all during the micro-cycles of speed and race prep. I got back to my normal training volume for the two-week taper phase while still dealing with some lingering cold respiratory junk, and was still toying with doing the full marathon as late as the end of last week.

Knowing how 200k or so of lost key training would have substantially increased my risk of injury and how ugly the last 10k of the race would have been regardless, I was very happy when they still had half bibs available on Saturday morning. Also, as of last Friday, given the weather forecast was still calling for a possible downpour on race day, I figured with the other things I’d be battling, the perfect storm for an awful race was brewing. Deciding on the half put my mind at ease, though my training workouts were not targeted for half pacing.

A wet Saturday

A wet Saturday

We spent most of Saturday trying to avoid the horrid weather, relax and stay off our feet. We had a leisurely coffee, took a short trip out of downtown for a smoothie and failed dog Halloween costume shopping, and to a too-busy-to-shop New Balance Victoria. We ended the day with dinner at the simple and very enjoyable Lotus Pond. If there is a restaurant that embodies Buddhism more completely, I’m not sure where it is. Inexpensive, tasty, healthy and unpretentious. Sleep came early enough for a 5am wake up, but didn’t last long enough for me.

Race day

The only hitch with the hotel was that the arranged 5am wake up call (offered by the desk attendant on check-in) never came. We had a good alarm in the room as it turned out, but had we been depending on the call, not so good. Anyway, it also didn’t really matter because I inexplicably woke up around 2:15 and really didn’t get back to sleep. Connie slept right through, so at least one of us was well-rested. In-room oatmeal and banana, along with trying to figure out what to wear for the cool but thankfully clear weather, took up our next hour and a half and we were out the door at 6:45. We did a very short warm up jog to the gear check together and, with my Garmin picking up satellites but not displaying speed or distance data, this was my only scare of the day at all. A simple device reboot and short test and all seemed well again.

We ran into a work friend, Erik, near the start and after Connie and I parted ways around 7:20, I zipped up near the start line and ran into Dimitry and Kang (each nailing PBs in their respective half and full) and, once 7:30 hit, we were off. The course was nice and scenic, though the routing seemed a little different than I recall from several years ago. Might just be me though. At any rate, the weather was clear, cool but not cold and, unlike almost any time I can recall there was absolutely no wind coming off the water on the out and back, Beacon Hill Park side. It was an absolutely perfect day for a race.

I had zero issues at all and the only thing I noticed was somewhat odd aid station placement. With 5k between the first two at 4k and 9k, I’m not sure if there were restrictions with an aid station in Beacon Hill Park, but then having another just 1k later was very strange. The rest were evenly spaced at 13k, 16k and 19k. It would have made much more sense to put the second aid station at 7k in the park. I mention this only because my gel strategy at 8, 13 and 18k kind of went out the window. I only took two (at 9 and 16k) instead, but it didn’t seem to matter much in the end.


My first kilometre split of 4:27 down Government to Johnson, was one second off my overall race pace of 4:26, so I guess you could say I started well. I’ve never found the need to begin a lot slower and ease into pacing for distances of a half or under. Given my training was less than ideal, as I hit 4k at 4:23 overall, I figured I better back off a bit. I felt myself beginning to think of gunning for 1:30 and I knew that wasn’t likely to happen with a hard goal of 1:35 for this one. From 4-8k, I brought my overall pace back down to 4:26 and stayed there for the next 3-4k. I teetered up to a 4:29 pace through 13k, due mostly to the 30 metre elevation gain in the 12th and 13th kilometre.

I purposely avoided trying to bring my pace back down much returning back along the water, rather just using gravity to pick things up a bit. I’d picked it up to a 4:28 overall pace by the time I hit 18k, but I felt reasonably good and decided to push things a bit for a snappy finish. Doing my final 3.2k at a 4:19 not only felt good, but mentally it ensured I would be well under my hard goal time of 1:35. The results page shows my pace as 4:30 but it doesn’t clarify that it’s gun time, and the math doesn’t work for my chip time. My Garmin/Strava time shows 4:26/km for 21.22km for a time of 1:34:13, while the official results show a time of 1:34:14 with a 4:30 pace. It pretty much has to be my gun pace and my chip time.

Race data - click to enlarge

Race data – click to enlarge

A deeper analysis of my cadence and heart rate (which I don’t usually do much) made me pretty happy. After a warmup kilometre with an average heart rate of 145, I was very consistent, with my per kilometre HR fluctuating between 156-160 through 19km and bumping up to 164 by the end as I was pushing the pace to 3:46/km as I bombed down the chute. Similarly, for the entire race my cadence remained very consistent. With the exception of dipping a few steps in the 18th and 21st kilometres, I was banging along at 176-180 steps throughout.

However, regardless of distance and precise pace, the numbers I can be sure of are as follows:

Time: 1:34:14
Age Group: 7/134
Gender: 85/1048
Overall: 115/2822

The remains of the (birth) day

I couldn’t have my usual home brew smoothie recovery concoction, but we managed to get back to the hotel room for a bit of rolling, stretching and showering, followed by a day of slightly less unhealthy (than the previous 36 hours) pub grub. Being Thanksgiving weekend, business hours were a little all over the place. Most craft brewery tasting rooms were closed, so we decided on a little food and craft brew where we could get both.

A post-race paddle

A post-race paddle

Ending up at Moon Under Water mid-afternoon proved to be a great decision. Not only are they the home of one of my favourite dark lagers, Creepy Uncle Dunkel, we did alright on the vegan front, too. A paddle and black bean burger, along with helping Connie finish her pint of Heffeweizen and things were good.

We both felt a late afternoon nap coming on and decided to crash at the hotel for a bit and figure out a mid-evening dinner later. I originally wasn’t going to bother with the second presidential debate, but with Friday’s lewd video release, we decided to watch Donald take some body blows and then hit The Sticky Wicket pub for a very non-traditional birthday/Thanksgiving dinner. I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t remain vegan for the day, but ended up with a very filling dinner of vegan appies and definitively non-vegan mac and cheese mains. However, our first choices (notably our perennial Victoria favourite, Rebar) were too busy so beggars couldn’t really be choosers.

Given that I eat a very small amount of dairy normally, between the crappy ferry terminal food, midnight Friday pizza and this, I was sick of heavy gut fillers and decided I’d do my best to really eat healthy on the Monday, since we were sticking around until Tuesday.

Relaxing Monday

Monday's sun, contrasting Saturday's none

Monday’s sun, contrasting Saturday’s none

Olo - farm to table delicious

Olo – farm to table delicious

While the food had left a little to be desired thus far, we’d been having a really good time on what amounted to a multi-day extended date night, and planned for a really relaxing holiday Monday on the Island before coming home on Tuesday. After our usual morning caffeine fix, we wanted to ensure we had a decent brunch. We’d tried to get into Olo for Sunday dinner, but as with many of our first attempts, they were too busy. At 11am Monday, we had no problem.

While vegan was again not an option, given that this place was a busy and well-reviewed farm-to-table place, we figured we’d give it a shot. The food was very flavourful, beautifully presented and, aside from the poached egg, pretty vegetarian-friendly.

A holiday Monday panorama

A holiday Monday panorama

Fresh Vazee Paces

Fresh Vazee Paces

After coffee and brunch we enjoyed the beautiful sunshine with some strolling around downtown and Jugo Juice smoothies, making stops at Capital Iron, where I snagged a good deal on a couple shirts, then returning to New Balance Victoria. It was considerably quieter than it had been Saturday, and both Connie and I each found exceptional deals on a pair of Vazee Pace shoes. I absolutely love my black/orange V1s with about 300k on them. I also finally met face-to-face with Ben, one of those runners I connect and chat with via social media, but never end up running with.


As Rebar was closed Monday, dinner there was not to be on this trip, but we found Be Love on Blanshard. Given its primarily vegan menu and online raves, we couldn’t resist. I must say we were not disappointed. In fact, it is probably one of the best meals in recent memory, vegan or not. Casual fine dining that really hit the mark for us. We finished our final day in Victoria with a beautiful stroll around the inner harbour, with a few evening pics below.

As today was a typical check out and catch the ferry day, there was really nothing remarkable about it. Except, that is, how ridiculously happy to see us Brody was.

All in all, a great long birthday weekend.

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[…] already had to back off my planned Victoria Marathon and do only the half due to an ill-timed calf pull injury in late summer. Then, right after the half the bug I got […]

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