So, this will be my first race review. And, based on the fact that it’s my first half marathon I guess it should all be taken with a grain of salt, since I don’t have much to really compare it to!
I chose the Edge to Edge because of the location – Tofino is seriously one of the most beautiful spots on this planet and I absolutely LOVE it there. I knew that choosing this location for my first half would keep me motivated to stick to my training so I could get my mini vacation to the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The Edge to Edge offers a full marathon, half marathon and a 5-person relay (which follows the full marathon course). The full marathon starts in Tofino and goes all the way to Ucluelet, with a portion of the course being right on Chesterman Beach. Stunning!! The half marathon is an out and back from Ucluelet. After the race I was told by a local (who saw me wearing my medal – yes, I’m one of THOSE people who wears my medal ALL day on race day!) that they switch it back and forth every year (meaning next year the full would go from Ucluelet to Tofino and the half would be an out and back from Tofino). I’m not sure if this is true and didn’t have any luck finding any info about this on the website.
Race kit pickup was Saturday afternoon at the community centre in Ucluelet. Driving into Ucluelet allowed me to see the vast majority of the race course. Um… can you say hills? It was actually a bit frightening and made me feel slightly nauseous when I saw it for the first time.
Since this was my first half marathon I guess I was hoping for a bit of an expo. There really wasn’t one – there was a booth where you could purchase some Edge to Edge gear and another booth set up by local running store with a few items available for purchase. In retrospect this shouldn’t have surprised me, I guess. These are small towns and involves travel (a 2 hour ferry ride and a 4 hour drive for me) to get there. It would be quite expensive for suppliers/sponsors to travel all the way there just to set up for a few hours for an expo.
They had separate tables set up for the full, relay and half marathoners to pick up their gear. When I was there the full & relay tables were pretty empty and there was quite a long line up for the halfers. It would have been nice if some of the staff from the other tables came over to help out the two very busy ladies at the half table. It took about 30 minutes to get to the front of the line and get my kit. The kit consisted of my bib, timing chip, a pen and a bag. No gels or other goodies. Again, I would imagine sponsorship is difficult to obtain because of the location of this race. This was a bit of a let down at the time, but the race course and volunteers more than made up for it!
The race organizers had shuttle busses running back and forth between the two cities on race day in order to eliminate some of the traffic. I didn’t use the shuttles myself, so can’t really comment on how it all worked. My husband and my parents were with me and wanted to find me a few times on the race course, so we opted to drive to make it easier for them to get around. There were lots of spectators who did use the shuttles and then didn’t have many options of where to stand and find their racing loved ones (and it was raining) so my husband ended up giving rides to a few people to get them to the finish line. Gotta love small towns for stuff like that!! :)
The start of the race was quite well organized. It started right on time and they had arranged a fire truck to be there to lead us out of the city roads onto the highway where the majority of the course took place. Follow the firemen?? Ok… if I have to! ;)
I was nervous to start, but tried hard not to get too caught up in the excitement and tried to maintain my pace for the first couple of miles. When I began this training program I hoped that I’d run my first half marathon under two hours. I know, I KNOW, you’re not supposed to have a time goal for your first – just aim to finish. But, that’s not really my style. I mean, if you’re going to train for something then you may as well train for a goal, right?? Once I saw the course elevation and the drove the majority of the course I kinda gave up that hope and opted to just hope to finish. I figured I’d keep my early miles at a 9 min/mile pace, which is what I trained for and would just adjust accordingly as I got to the hills and play the rest by ear.
I don’t know if it was just the adrenaline or the excitement of the race, but the hills didn’t seem nearly as bad when I was running them as they had when I was driving them. Awesome!! We were running on a nice wide bike path along the highway. The course was not closed, so there were cars travelling along the highway beside us. There were many signs up warning drivers that there was a race going on, so most people honked and waved as they drove by, which actually helped make it even more fun.
Run, Kerri, Run!!!
I swear I wasn’t the only person running this half marathon. It just kinda looks like it!
There were water stations about every 5 kilometres. It seemed (I don’t know for sure) that maybe local businesses had volunteered to man some of the water stations. Some of them had signs up for local businesses and it seems most of them seemed to pick some sort of ‘theme’ for their water station. At the first water station all the volunteers were dressed in pyjamas! At another they had a bunch of balloons and a bubble machine! All of the volunteers were super friendly and encouraging! They really did make the race fun!! And since the half was an out and back I got to see them twice!! Each water station had water and powerade available. It didn’t seem to me like there were any issues with any water stations running out of supplies.
I hit the turnaround point and checked my watch. I was totally surprised to find out I was on pace at that point to make my 2-hour goal. What? Really?!!! Awesome! My splits were kinda all over the place because of the hills – some miles were slower and some were faster, but overall I was maintaining an average pace of 9 minute/miles. I had already run these hills once and figured I should be able to maintain my pace and maybe achieve my sub-2hr goal!!
I plugged along for a few more miles, but I was definitely starting to slow down. The hills were wearing on me at this point and I knew that I’d have to pick it up a little to stay on pace. It was right around this time that the course veered off into the Wild Pacific Trail. This is a foot trail that we couldn’t drive when we were scouting out the course. I was excited about it because I heard that there were some stunning views. Stunning views indeed. But, OMG… this part of the course almost killed me. There are many steep up and down hills in this section. The path is loose gravel, and by this point of the race it was raining quite hard. As I climbed the inclines I could feel the gravel kicking out behind me, and on the downhills I had to really slow down because I could feel the wet gravel slipping out below my feet and I was really worried that I might slip and fall. Up and down and up and down and up and down. And repeat. And again. Ugh.
The views were beautiful, but there really was no time to enjoy them. It seemed like this section of the course went on forever and I was mad at myself for not studying the course map closer so I at least knew how long this section was. It felt like it was just going on forever and ever and ever. Seriously. This was definitely the most challenging part of the course, both mentally and physically. As it turns out, this section was only 4km long. Had I known that I think I would have been able stay stronger mentally, but I kinda lost it.
This is one of the look out points along the Wild Pacific Trail. That is NOT me sitting on that bench enjoying the view.
We finally got out of the trail and back onto the roads, but there were more hills ahead. By this point my knees were screaming at me on every downhill and I had a wicked cramp in my left hamstring (that left hamstring was an issue for my entire training program, so it didn’t surprise me when it started to get pissy). I stopped a few times over the last few miles to try to stretch it out, but it wasn’t helping so eventually I just gave up and tried to convince myself to keep going and just get this whole thing over with!
The finish line was around a curve and on a downhill. Thank God for that!!! At least I could create the illusion of finishing strong and fast!! I picked up my pace the best I could, but I honestly didn’t have much gas left in the tank at that point. Which is good, I guess – I can’t beat myself up for not making my (slightly unreasonable) goal when I know that I gave it my all. I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:13:09. Whew!!!
I was given my medal right away and they had the silver blankets available. It was still raining and once I stopped running I started to chill down quite quickly. The blanket really helped. There was lots of food available at the finish line – bananas, oranges, bagels, peanut butter along with bottles of water.
Overall this race was very well organized. The course was well marked, even in the trail section where I was worried I might end up taking a wrong path. I would certainly recommend it to anyone, along with a warning to add some hill training into their program! The course support was great and somewhat surprising considering the majority of the course runs along a highway and the weather was so wet. I found the volunteers to be super supportive and encouraging. I also met some new racing ‘friends’ during the run. Lots of runners were really friendly and supportive. I love the running community!!
My biggest complaint would be directed at the two volunteers (at different parts of the course) who both cheered me on and advised that there were only 2 kilometres left. The first was still in the Wild Pacific Trail and I KNEW she had to be wrong. I checked my watch and wasn’t even at the 10 mile mark yet. The other was before the final water station and again, I checked my watch only to find out that I was still a good 3km out. I don’t know if they were just misinformed about where they were on the course or what, but telling someone they’re only 2kms from the finish when it’s not true is just not helpful. Luckily I had my Garmin and went by that, but I’d be pretty upset if I was told I was 2kms out and picked up my pace to finish, only to find out I peaked too soon because the finish was farther out than I was told.
I know this is a long post, with not very many photos (um… I was busy running and am not at the point where I can pack a camera and multitask while running. Yet!) but I wanted to get this all down while it was still pretty fresh in my mind.
I will definitely be looking to do a flatter course to try to achieve my sub-2-hour half marathon goal, but I do think that I will revisit this race in the future to try to improve my time on those hills. Next time I’ll be way better prepared.
And, if you are ever lucky enough to travel to this part of the world don’t miss out on the fish and chips at Shelter or the tacos from the TacoFino truck!!!