Expo. Pre-race, pre-sweat. (Sorry I stole from you Amanda. Love you mean it.)
I first had the opportunity to visit Vancouver when I worked for Lululemon (it's essentially the motherland) and I adore it. I liken it to being city that would be reminiscent of the love child of San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. Perfect mix of city, mountains, beach, and outdoor feel.
I've always wanted to run SeaWheeze, the annual 1/2 marathon Lululemon puts on as a love letter to Vancouver. Ergo, an entire year ago when registration opened, I signed up and coerced (reeeeaaaaal hard sell) a group of running friends to sign up too. Then we rented a house in Kitsilano and essentially forgot about it. Seriously.
Fast-forward 7 months, we lost a few, but 6 of us powered through. We booked flights, made dinner reservations, mapped out the weekend, calculated the exchange rate (HELLO SHOPPING), scheduled a day-trip to Whistler and then it was time to trek North.
I'll also preface this entire post by mentioning I've run exactly 6-7 times in 2016. Which isn't exactly stellar half-marathon training. Do as I say, not as I do folks.
Truth be told, I've been really into my 4-5x weekly yoga practice and my power walking. Have I mentioned that? Really into it. I actually went into the weekend planning to power walk the entire race.
Then it was like running FOMO hit and hit hard. Spoiler alert - I "ran" the entire way (power jogged), finished in a decently respectable time (for me) and enjoyed the rest of the weekend.
But let's back up.
- Kitsilano - Every time I've been to Vancouver I've loved Kits the most. It's where Lululemon is headquartered, there's a beautiful pool/beach and you get this amazing "I don't feel like I'm in a city but I'm like a 20-minute walk to downtown" vibe. We did an AirBnb this time (across the street from beach whaaaaat?) and loved it. While it's the best (in my opinion) neighborhood, it's not exactly next-door to all things SeaWheeze so if that's your jam, stay downtown.
- Fairmont Waterfront - Like here. This race starts and ends at the Vancouver Convention Center. In addition to that, the expo is held at the VCC and the buses to the Sunset Festival on Saturday night pick-up/drop-off from there as well. Really easy to stay there, roll out of bed and roll down to the race in the AM.
- Fable - Farm to Table in the best possible way. Opened by one of the Top Chef Candada contestants, Fable is everything. The menu is fresh and inventive and they're more than willing to work with food allergies and dietary preferences. The "Zucchini Tagliatelle with Mushroom Bolognese" was entirely vegan and entirely delicious. I can't even talk about the Roasted Carrot Salad - I don't even like carrots all that much and I could have ordered 3 more.
- Glory Juice Co - actually the best Acai Bowls on the planet (pro tip: get an extra dollup of the homemade almond butter on top.) They also make this "Glory Bowl" for lunch which is essentially a kale salad with this insane cashew tahini dressing, warm quinoa, avocado and then they pour their soup of the day over it like a really, really deilcious vegan stew. I obviously recreated it for dinner last night. Acai bowl count: 4.
- 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters - Next door to Glory Juice, I'm obsessed with their Cold Brew and their homemade almond milk.
- Nuba - My mom is part Lebanese and I've always been obsessed with the flavors of MIddle Eastern food. Kibbeh, falafel, hummus, dolmas, you name it. Baklava? I DIE. After we got back from Whistler we popped into Nuba's Gastown location for falafel, hummus, lentil soup, crispy cauliflower - the WORKS.
- Baru Latino - Most all my recommendations come courtesy of one of my favorite former Lululemon colleagues Teri. She lives in Kitsilano and knows EVERYTHING. While Brianna and I hit Nuba, the rest of the group went for Tapas in Kits. And loved it.
- Nook - "Teri where do we go for post-race brunch in Kits?" "NOOK." Done. Something for everyone - breakfast sandwiches with homemade ciabatta rolls, salads, baked eggs, lots of avocado, cocktails and coffee.
I mean, obviously.
- The race is beautifully executed - everything is beyond organized.
- The Expo is quick and painless - pick up your bag, shoe tags, some swag and you're on your way.
- Contrary to popular belief you do not need to line up for the Runner Shop at like 10am the day before it opens. They had just about everything you could want at 6pm Friday night.
- The course is stunning - a lot of it is run along the Seawall on the water and its breath-taking. There's ample aide stations and the finish line includes an Olympic worthy medal, SmartWater (SO on brand), snacks, etc.
- The crowd support and cheer stands are on par with New York, Chicago and Boston. So many people, so many funny signs. Lululemon does a fantastic job.
- The Sunset Festival is a great way to end race day/weekend. Food trucks, beautiful weather and views, transportation to/from, live performances from a few bands including Chromeo, and yoga with a Lululemon Global Yoga Ambassador, Stephanie Snyder. Wonderful.
- The course ran a bit long this year (I knew it wasn't just me willing it to be over!)
- The finish line "swag bags filling stations" were a huge cluster and took about 25 minutes and felt like we were cattle being herded. Let's pre-fill the bags. The Lululemon branded hats were an excellent touch for the hot sun and the later Sunset Festival.
- The "post race brunch" was breakfast sandwiches, grapes and muffins. Can we get a vegan or paleo option? Maybe some Vega shakes? They were there and handing out samples. I downed 3.
- YOGA MATS. Lululemon is a yoga company and they have 10,000 runners in town (a large majority in from out of town). There's a Sunset Festival with a yoga class and they don't provide mats or yoga towels. Seems like a disconnect.
- More food (quantity) and options (quality) at the Sunset Festival please. Lines got so, so long.
Proof I did in fact cross the finish line and was in fact still smiling.
- YYoga - Monday morning we all needed a sweat. The group opted for a spin class and I hauled myself to Y Yoga for a Vinyasa flow before breakfast. Y Yoga reminds me a bit of CorePower - they've got heated, power, sculpt, etc type classes in a beautiful studio space with retail, food/juice and clean/fully equipped locker rooms.
- Ride Cycle Club - Essentially the SoulCycle of Canada. Expect it to be filled with Lulus and a great 55-minute workout. Bonus points for the legit cheer station the Ride studio had on the course.
- Daytrip to Whistler - Sunday we decided to hit Whistler for the day and it was the best decision we could have made. The drive is absolutely stunning (VIEWS! WHALES! WATERFALLS!) and Whistler is beautiful. We did a 3.5 hour ziplining tour between Blackcomb and Whistler mountains and I'd go back and do it again in a heartbeat. Watching the Olympics from Olympic Plaza was also a highlight.
- Lululemon Lab - the lab is a design studio and clothing factory all rolled into one. Everything sold there is designed and manufactured right there. They only make a certain amount of each style and when it's gone... it's gone. I have so many pieces that are "Lululemon" that look like they could be Rag + Bone or Tibi. I LOVE IT.
- Grouse Grind - It's referred to as Mother Nature's Stairmaster. So if your legs aren't shot after running 13.1 miles (or 21+ km) you'll want to do this. It's a 2.9km trail up the face of Grouse Mt with gorgeous views. Really aggressive people RUN it.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge - a couple gals in our group did this gorgeous activity. Just look at it.
- Kits Beach - my fave spot to relax. It's a gorgeous beach with places to stop for food and the Kitsilano Pool which is literally ON the beach.
- Stanley Park Seawall - didn't get to run SeaWheeze and 8.8km along the Seawall? (Spoiler alert: it's stunning). Rent bikes and bike along it - amazing views.
Registration for 2017's SeaWheeze opens sometime in September and apparently it's leaving Vancouver for the first time ever. We're already planning our return.
See you there?
(Promise I may actually train. Possibly.)