NPY’s first 10K: Vancouver Sun Run 2011; wherein we relied on magic

We did not train for this one. In the days leading up to the race, I started feeling sick to my stomach. It was not dissimilar to a few races in the past where race day approached and I knew I wasn’t prepared. How not prepared? We hadn’t run more than 30 minutes and my original goal was 70 minutes, more than double the time. How on earth did I let this happen?! Well, first off, I didn’t make a schedule–how could that have happened?! I’ve been dealing with other issues that seemed to take priority. And even if we had a schedule, we had to avoid NPY’s intermittently scheduled hockey games, particularly the playoff ones. And there was that incessant Vancouver rain. About a month ago, I actually went out for a 9.18K run with no breaks, just like that. So I thought I was okay and he was almost okay.

We have friends who just show up without training and while NPY insists that neither of us are tall like them and while they aren’t lithe gazelle build, we are even less so. They hammer out a 10K with good to fair finish times. So, could we? It’s been over a year since the last race, the 8K.

We’ll put in our all just to be off the course as soon as possible but I’m also counting on some magic:

  • a sunny or slightly overcast day; any kind of precipitation is the opposite of magic given NPY is not acclimatized to rainy running and there’s that blasted long drawn out wait at the beginning
  • adrenaline, especially from the first event of this scale (of people)
  • the timing: it is first thing in the morning, and not at the end of a long workday (or work week)
  • carb-loading the night before
  • Gu Vanilla Bean gels, overkill but also magic for 10K
  • caffeine from Starbucks mocha before the race

So… was it magical?

NPY and me at the Vancouver Sun Run 2011 start line–click image for Flickr photo+notes

Saying we “trained” for 30 minutes just 4 times before the big run is still painting the picture nicely; in our 30 minute runs, we were running just 3.5-4 kilometers. With such disappointing preparation, I was resigned that perhaps it would be a 5K run followed by a 5K walk today! I wasn’t going to let on to NPY exactly which magical elements would be at play–he is wont to disagree. So I just told him to be at my place at 8, quite the accomplishment, and I was really relieved that he was so cheerful even though it was three or more hours before his usual wake-up time. I only woke up at 8 a.m. because I’ve learned over the years the absolutely unnecessary measure of arriving before 9 a.m.

We headed in no great rush shortly before 9 a.m. towards the closest Canada Line station and picked up a Starbucks coffee along the way, for its magical effect. The weather was brilliant, a little chilly in the shade but in the sunlight, it was bearable and only getting warmer. It was cute how NPY was not aware of schedules and worried that we’d miss our wave’s start because he was in the port-a-potty queue. We didn’t and slipped into the end of the Green wave that goes before our White wave. It was only going to be frustrating to wait another 5/10/15 minutes for the White wave to start. So, as the Sun Run usually goes, there’s not a lot of fanfare by the time our wave crosses the start line but at least we had started the light jog.

Because our “training runs” were so sporadic, I hadn’t charted progressive steps to follow so NPY made the executive decision that we would run 7 minute intervals and then we’d walk for one minute. That 7 minutes of running was longer than any interval during “training”.  So I was wildly impressed when we ran longer than seven minutes, 10 minutes, fifteen minutes, and then we finally had to stop for a break at 20:30 to guzzle some water and take that Gu gel I brought. We ended up sharing the yummy Vanilla Bean gel which NPY learned did not taste vile at all. It was clear during our second interval (only about 7 minutes long) that my breathing was ragged and I couldn’t fix it quickly at all. You could say that I barely rested and caught my breath during the first break, retrieving water and gel from my pack and our pace was significantly faster than anything we “trained” at.

We did the first kilometer in 6 minutes and hit 5K around 32 minutes. There was a fire in a West End apartment along the race route which drew several firetrucks to the area: “Someone went for the Sun Run and forgot to turn his stove off,” someone joked. I warned NPY as we approached the Hornby hill that would lead to the uphill section of Burrard Street Bridge but it turned out I was the one who needed warning. I’ve run up that blasted short deadly steep hill so many times during training in past years; sometimes I bomb up that hill but I’ve also tanked and those failures hang over my head and gained another member today–I stopped to walk. I watched with immense pride as NPY’s big head bobbed amongst the crowd going up the hill and worried for a moment when a burly man suddenly clamped his hands on NPY’s shoulders. It turns out there was branches and roots all over the sidewalk and NPY stopped suddenly to not trip over it, startling the man on his heels.

I caught up with NPY at the foot of the Burrard Street Bridge and we did the bridge together, revelling in the long downhill. I wanted to share with him how much I hated the last stretch on 4th/6th Avenue, but what’s the point of making him fret, of sharing my own hang-ups? My mind was screaming for a break and blisters were popping up on my arches as soon as we were beyond the bridge’s downhill and we were one corner and turn away from the 4th/6th Avenue stretch. I waved at NPY to keep going and I took breaks galore starting at the 7km sign. The sun shining from the east beat down on the thousands of Sun Runners on that 9-block stretch and it looks and feels like you aren’t getting anywhere. I thought of it a bit like a cat and mouse game; if I was really competitive, I would want to triumphantly catch up. At some point, I figured the mouse had already exited the maze and I walked a lot during that stretch. I hit the 8K mark around 52 minutes.

NPY and I did not have a contingency plan for if we split up–we have run our other two races together but he was feeling in/explicably energetic so I wouldn’t hold him back. I thought, “I can’t stop on the [Cambie] bridge,” but I did not run up the on-ramp and did not run the entire last kilometer. With about 750meters to go, the end was close enough and a light run would go by faster, was tolerably on my blistered feet and one cramped glute. I crossed the finish line smiling more because NPY finished a 10K in better than my goal time for him!

BC Place is closed for construction to get a hard-top roof so Concord Pacific’s lot on north False Creek was the site of post-race activities. They are so lucky it was a brilliant day. I picked up 250mL cartons of Island Farms chocolate milk–perfect recovery drink–before we head to Cafe Medina with six others and enjoy that well-deserved post-Sun Run brunch experience.

I can’t stop chuckling about how NPY outdid himself. He barely got tired and was amazingly focused under the circumstances. He didn’t want anyone to know he was doing the Sun Run and just needed to do it to know what it’s all about. The first time he “joined” me a vew years ago was very spontaneously–he was not dressed–and jogged lightly for a few blocks before turning off, getting a Tim Hortons coffee, and meeting me at the finish line. He had some pretty high standards of the caliber of fellow 10Kers but he was surrounded by truly average participants and not discouragingly lithe gazelle natural-born runners–thus his competitive spirit emerged and I was counting on that. Although his time beat my time, I’m glad we had a race together and also raced separately. He says, “No more!” to adding distance but he knows the next goal is finishing in under an hour.

Our results (from

Age Group: 1,054/2,651
Overall: 16,955
Official Time (rounded): 1:06:36 (Net Time: 1:06:35.8)
Age Graded (higher is better): 44.92%

Age Group: 1,424/2,117
Overall: 16,325/
Official Time (rounded): 1:05:53 (Net Time: 1:05:52.8)
Age Graded: 40.93%

On this day..