Ohh Bluenose how do I love you and to think it took me so long to find you! Officially I’ve done Bluenose three (or 4 if you count this year’s 5k separately) times now. This year I opted for the 5k and the half marathon option for the 15 year anniversary. Mostly I run cheaper, charitable and smaller races but I do love me a big shiny race too and that’s what Bluenose is. This is definitely the biggest sports event staged in Eastern Canada and my non-running sister’s perspective is that it’s the biggest thing Halifax puts on every year. I’m not sure if that’s true by the numbers (of people or cost) but that’s the perspective out there. Interesting fact Bluenose Marathon race fees don’t pay for the race and it costs over a million dollars each year. About half comes from fees and sponsorships mainly Scotiabank. Bluenose 15 years on it is a well oiled and pretty glitzy affair full of scenic sites. If you’re on the east coast it is something for the bucket list and overall it’s worth travelling for but doesn’t make or warrant a world-wide you have to run it status. So how did it all shake down after at least three months of training. Ya’ll are about to find out.
A bit about the race: Bluenose started 15 years ago with barer bones and there seems to be a tradition of bad weather on Sunday and lovely weather on Saturday but as any Nova Scotian knows that could change at any time. The race itself isn’t a fundraiser but you can opt into a great number of causes and fundraise as part of the charity challenge. About 13 000 people take part over two days and it’s broken down into a family friendly day with the 4k kids run and the 5k on Saturday. The ‘more serious’ runners show up on Sunday and I can officially tell you there’s a different, though still lovely vibe on Sunday. As I have in the past I’ve fundraised for the brain tumour foundation of Canada and raised almost $1800 for the cause. It’s pretty shiny and glitzy and very well run.
Parking and weather: I mentioned that there is a bit of a tradition of bad weather on Bluenose Sunday and apparently the first year it snowed! This year it was 12 degrees Celsius and raining very hard at points, that is what always happens when I run half. Which is to say it happened twice. I brought my watch in a zippy in my bra and I actually put it on twice for a total of about 45 minutes so we did have some rain brakes. Also it was blowing 40 km/hr with gusts of 60, nice. Once again my mom drove me like last year, which is amazing and we ducked right into Scotia square no problem. I’ve noticed that the Sunday at bluenose parking isn’t really an issue and we only got there half an hour before. This year I got an email saying scotia square lowered their day rate for the occasion but I’m not sure if it was drastic after all I wasn’t paying! Either way it’s such a convenient little hop over to the Scotiabank centre it’s totally worth it!
Course: The last couple of years the Buenose courses have all changed to avoid Dartmouth since the big lift had the bridge closed. That all changed this year and a lot of the races headed back to Dartmouth. Not the half though, it wound through point pleasant park than deep into the North End and the back. I find that if I’m on my way to a PR I don’t notice the scenery though this one is beautiful and about half of it features ocean views. There are a few doozies in terms of hills though. This year giver crew (volunteers) ran up those hills with you shouting encouragement and that rocks!
Cheer Squad: I don’t know if ya’ll know this but I’m pretty important, ha ha no! But I did have quite the cheer squad here for me this time. My chauffeur (mom) drove me in and Honey came with me at the start too as my official photographer, just like the president, only different. They decided to go for breakfast and wait for me I suggested they also had time to take in a movie! My Stepdad any my sister’s whole family were going to meet me at the finish line. I love me a cheer squad at races and I think that next to all of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (yes I watch that) I have the best one out there! Check out this post to decide whether or not you want to bring a squad or skip it because it’s a pretty important decision.
Logistics and support: This race is established and runs very smoothly. For the 15th anniversary they added a 15 km option. As such they started each race one at a time rather than basically all at once as in years past. We were last and held back in a chute while the other races started. Since people were going all over the place and we were the only ones staying in Halifax and in the North end I feel like they were a little short on aid stations (5) and pace bunnies the longest was 2:30. It didn’t end up being a problem for me but I struggled with whether I should start with the 2:20 pace bunny or the 2:30. I get that I’m slow but not last pace bunny slow right? Each station has water first then gatorade (lemon lime) and starting at the casino gels (I’m sorry I don’t know what type).
My mom picked up my bib and stuff early and just in case the give’r twice option persists you’re bib is to be worn BOTH days and is colour coded to you’re Sunday race. Halifax is usually lined with cheerers but the weather and the fact the halfers were all on their own made the crowds sparse. A few groups were out there and I really appreciated the dedication and cheers. If you’ve never done a race before there are lots of people directing you where to go so don’t worry even though it’s big it’s manageable for a first timer.
Race goals: I feel like last year every race was to have fun since I was taking some time to heal my knee that season. This time I had a goal and it was publicly to PR, risky right? Well I was feeling good early on, noticing my speed work was going well and I had followed an intermediate plan. My longest run was 24 km this time and only done 20 last time. I would have been happy (outwardly not inwardly) to shave a second or two off my last time given the weather. I figured on a time of about 2:24 which had a nice ring to it plus it was three whole minuets off. In my mind though I had picked sub 2:20 as my ultimate, sort of, don’t think I can really do it goal. My last 5k speed workout was lighting fast and felt great but 5km and 21km are pretty far from each other. My goal was to hold back for the first two, do about 6:30 for the next downhill 9, slow to 7 for the next uphill 5km and then start passing people in the last 5. With that plan a sub 2:20 was possible, but tight.
Swag: Bluenose shirts are defiantly that fancy synthetic fabric but they seem to hold sweat and heat in. So I wore a cute girl power outfit from Joe Fresh Kids (I know right), with a last minute long sleeve addition instead. You got a little reusable Scotiabank bag, themed race day bib clips (yeah no more holes) and for the two race option a (double double) a Tim Horton’s gift card. But the medals for this one always kick butt. Since I did the two races I got two medals. In case you’re wondering yes I did wear them all day Sunday!
Time: 2:18:56 (app) my chip malfunctioned and I didn’t get a chip time just gun
Overall: 850/ 1277
Gender: 391/ 681
Category (F 30 -39): 123/ 211
Shoes: Asics Gel Cumulus 19
So here’s how that broke down:
Kilometres 1-5: I wanted to start slow and ignore all the super fast people passing me which I did a pretty good job at logging my first km at 7:02, right on target. Once I had settled in I wanted to establish a fast pace on the downhill until km 11 which I did pretty good at. I realized pretty dang fast that I had to pee again. I thought that once my nerves settled it might go away, by km 5 I knew that this was the real deal. I started strong, as fast as I wanted to be and it was raining at this point so I was only getting pace information every km through my ear buds.
Kilometres 6- 10: This might have been the low point for me in the race for me specifically km 8. A lot of people are surprised to find out that almost every serious (and some less serious) race I do at some point I think about quitting. At least for a moment I think why the hell are you doing this, you should just stop and it’s the embarrassment of telling people that keeps me going in that moment. Usually right after that I think I’m an literally never doing this again, just finish and this is the last one. I’m not sure why this was the crappy one for me this time, maybe it was the first hill but that km was significantly slower than those around it. It also might have been that it was right before I took in my first handful of raisins and I was running out of steam or that it started raining again but either way it sucked. I also went in for the potra-potty around km 7 and that was the right choice at the right time! Shortly after that I got a notification of good wishes from a getwifed subscriber on my watch and that turned my mood around instantly. By km 10 I was calculating how I was doing time wise double it and add a km, and I realized that a sub 2:20 was in sight. At the very least I hadn’t f-ed it up yet…
Kilometres 11- 15: These were going to be the tough ones where were were climbing the hills of Halifax and headed into the North End. My plan included a slower time for these kilometres and they were slower but not as slow as I had allowed for. I figured 7 per km but the first 2 were a lot faster and only one was a lot slower at 7:26. I was nervous about heading into the North End for some reason feeling like it was a long way away from where I needed to be at the end. I knew that once we turned around and headed back toward the finish line it was time to turn it up again. I walked up two of the steeper hills and ate and drank again. This is were I was going to make or break my time. I had taken my watch of again and put it back on at some point and opted for the gatorade option at every aid station.
Kilometres 16- 20: I knew lots of people were waiting for me at the finish line and I texted Richard that there was less than 5 km left when I hit km 16. These km were fast with the exception of number 19 when it started to POUR and I stashed my watch once again, ate some raisins and put my hat back on. I gave myself a talking to, reminded myself it was all going to be over in half an hour or so and this is where that sub 2:20 time was going to happen. Then I just started picking people in front of me and passing them. At km 19 we were right next to the finish line and then it was like nope, we’re going to make you run around the commons first and now it’s going to down pour so that kinda sucked. But at that point are you really going to quit?
Kilometre 21: This one is the reward for 50 plus hours of training, you’re almost there some of it was even downhill and you EARNED ALL OF IT! I was running with reckless abandon and it was my fastest km of the race at 5:40. About 600m from the finish line a girl was tiered and walking and I slowed down to tell her she’s almost there and she could do it! She looked really tiered but she started running with me and as I turned the last corner to the finish line she kept running up the hill to the finish line. I remember feeling like wouldn’t it be great if the arch was moving towards me as fast as I was moving towards it. Then I realized that this time I had left it all on the course and there was nothing left in the tank. This was literally the best that I could have done. The Nike lady came on and told me I had run my fastest half marathon ever and I got all sorts of emotional for a second but there was still a hill so that did not last long. I saw my mom and Richard cheering me on, gave them a wave and blew a kiss with energy I had been storing in the far corner of my left pinky toe and did my best to finish strong. I was thrilled but also happy it was over!
Looking back: Looking back I wouldn’t have done much differently which is always how you feel when you PR, I took about 7 minutes off a previous time. I did learn a few second half lessons in training but look for those in an upcoming post. Over the last three years this year in particular Bluenose has given me a lot of great lifelong experiences and really helped me grow as a person. I think for next time it’s time to volunteer and give smoothing little back.