Race Recap: Bluenose 2021 Medavie Blue Cross half marathon

This year the half at Bluenose was actually my bonus post training season race. Even though that sounds like a humble brag it’s not, it’s just been a crazy running year. My mom has been sorta kinda toying with the idea of a half for a while now and then you know, Covid happened. Lucky for us in this part of the world when that all unfolded the weather was too terrible to have really started training for a race before May. So my mom registered me for it AND THEN called me to talk about it. So I was signed up to run it with her which was super duper amazing! Here’s how that all shook down. This time the breakdown of how it went is written by my mom since this is the culmination of her dream!

A bit about the race: So you can read a bit more about Bluenose events here, here, and here under normal times. So lets talk about how that shook down in a pandemic as the biggest race in eastern Canada. First of all it got moved to November from May long weekend and by the time it all shook down there was a vaccine mandate. I think they also keep the numbers lower than in previous years. Usually the full, half and 10k start all together but this time they split that up into two groups. Water, fuel and medal stations were all self serve and we were asked to throw our mostly full water bottles directly into the waiting bins. We had to start and finish with a mask (we forgot to re-mask at the end), and we were asked to social distance more than we did at the start line. Personally while I didn’t love the extra waste it was a necessary evil for the day and I appreciated that everyone was vaxed this time. If might have just been the fact that it was the first one back but the popsicle run kinda freaked me out in that way. 

Parking and weather: It really was perfect racing weather ranging from 3 c (37f) to 10c (50f) by the time we were done. So ideally you would have had an outfit to change into part way. Given the date it could have been rain, cold, snow or pretty much anything else so we got pretty lucky. It seems my mom’s good weather luck is stronger than my 1/2 rain day energy. My stepdad drove is in so we didn’t really have to park legally. We did though and really close to the start line but we did so once again the downtown parking area on a Sunday morning which was easier than you might think it would be. When he came back to pick us up he parked in Scotia Square which does cost a few bucks but is always a good option.

Course: This year the course was a little different than it has been in years past but not dramatically so. This year we headed for the north end first largely down Agricola, then around Fort Needham Park and through Point Pleasant Park and finally back to the start line after that last loop around Citadel Hill. It’s a great route to really see all of the city if you’re traveling here with lots of historic buildings, ocean views and beautiful park too. Most of it is on the streets however the park is packed crusher dust. The course is closed around the start and finish lines however there are cars on some of the streets you are on and in the cross streets. But… every single intersection is controlled by HRM police. I’ve run the 10k here three times and the half twice. In all those years I have never even been so much as aware of a car on the course so don’t let that stop you. This year we were a little slower and there still wasn’t a feeling that there were more cars than runners. You never have to wait for a light either!

Cheer squad: The Bluenose is pretty awesome for having residents come out and cheer. There was families from the north end to the south end out cheering. Even though it was at the ‘wrong’ time of the year, even though it was cold and even though we were not passing certain points with the crowd. There were lots of little cheerers along the way and they are always my favorite! I also had a reader recognize me along the way which is super duper cool!!! Sorry I could’t stop to say hello! At the finish line my sister’s family all came out to cheer their Baba (grandmother) on dressed as the Paw Patrol. The oldest my niece even made a sign for her! When we were pushing to the finish I let my mom know that all the littles were waiting for her and that really pushed her on. My stepdad was the lucky holder of the bum bag this year which proved its use once again as the mat holder for transition also worked wonderfully for the sign.

Logistics and support: Bluenose never disappoints on logistics and support on the course even in a pandemic. There was plenty of water, gatorade and gels at all of the aid stations which were roughly 4 km apart, maybe even a bit less. Every second one had a porta-potty bank and the volunteers this year were especially off the chain. Here’s something I’ve noticed about Bluenose which I’m going to take a bit of credit for even though it’s probably not due. I get the sense that they actually take to heart the things we are writing on those exit surveys. I complained/noted about the shirts is the distant past and they fixed that three years ago. The last half I did I wrote in the space provided that there could have been more bathrooms along the way and this time there was a surplus. This was the first time I’ve done an event here when I couldn’t always see other runners and there was no real time where I didn’t know exactly where to go. That sounds trivial but it’s actually a really big deal. I always suggest Bluenose for those doing their first race because it just so well organized even if the size can be intimidating. 

This was the first in-person Bluenose weekend since the start of the pandemic.  All participants were required to provide proof of vaccination at race kit pick-up, and masking was required while waiting for the race to begin. While there were fewer participants overall this race weekend than in past years, we were grateful that the Bluenose Marathon weekend was on the road again!

This year we didn’t have high fives or hill runners but a local radio station was really pumping out the jams on the biggest hill. One thing that did sorta suck was actually on the runners. After each aid station there were a few garbage bins set up for us to toss our bottles into. But… runners didn’t overall do a great job of that. Obviously they didn’t want their volunteers picking up water bottles that were just in our mouths but too many threw them on the ground anyway. Yes the last bin could have been a bit farther away from the aid station. But… this year we should have all prioritized the safety of volunteers over our times. At most stations they still handed us the bottles. 

Nail polish rational: I broke a promise to myself in this one. I have repeatedly sworn that I won’t buy any more nail polish until I use some up but… I was at the drugstore and the perfect Bluenose blue was in the clearance bin from one of my favorite brands. So I caved. I had a yellow accent nail and my perfect Bluenose blue on the others. I’m not even upset that I caved and if we’re being honest I’ll probably do it again soon!

Race goals: For this section of the recap and the results I’m going to focus on my mom since she was the reason for the day. For me I just wanted to support her as much as I could and help her meet her goals. I think I did a pretty good job. I did let her get a bit ahead of her pace early and I was responsible for one bathroom break so maybe B/B+. My mom really wanted to just finished but the goal of under 8 minuets per km loomed large for her. There was no real discussion of any other time. But really I think crossing something off the bucket list that day for her.

Swag: Bluenose usually isn’t one for a lot of swag but their medals are always really nice. Usually it’s a shirt, medal, some bib clips and maybe some coupons. This year we got a snack of something healthy roasted which you would not usually roast. I already ate mine and now I know why we don’t roast that, a hat, gloves and a buff from oasis, clips and a long sleeved shirt all of which were really nice. The branding on the blue warm weather gear was actually pretty subtle and I think most people would actually wear it. The shirt was great and so was the medal but it might have been a little less fancy than in years past. All in all it was pretty great.

Results:

Time: 2:52:48

Overall: 805/825

Category (F 60 -69): 6/7

How it broke down: (Jeane’s perspective)

I felt a surge of emotion as my daughter Allison and I joined the line of runners waiting to start the marathon and half marathon races. The last in-person Bluenose marathon weekend had been in June, 2019. It seemed like a very long time since I had waited for my husband and daughter to finish the 10 km run at that event.

Allison and I had discussed a race strategy in advance of the race and had decided that we were going to treat the race as four 5 km segments.  The plan was to pace slower at the start and move incrementally as we progressed throughout each 5 km segment. That is not what happened.  Perhaps it was the excitement of actually being at an in-person race, combined with the realization that I was actually attempting to run a half marathon at age 68.  With Allison by my side, I felt very confident and strong, and we started off at a faster pace than intended for the first 10 km. Interestingly, my Apple Watch ceased functioning at the 3 km mark, so I had to rely on Allison to provide the metrics of our progress.  This may have been the best thing, as I was not constantly looking at my wrist and overthinking what adjustments I should be making. I just ran and checked in with Allison periodically on our timing and pace. Allison was the perfect running mate and coach. She shared our progress as we hit each kilometre milestone and would supplement with updates like, “you only have to run a  third more of what you already have completed” or, “in 12 minutes you will be at the finish line.”  She reminded my to eat my raisins, and we picked up water at each of the well-spaced water stations. And of course, regularly asking how was I feeling and whether we needed to adjust anything. 

Halifax is a hilly city and I was beginning to feel the effects in the third 5 km segment. Most of the last 5 km segment was through Point Pleasant Park. The park trails are hilly and running on loose gravel slowed my pace, but what a beautiful spot to be running on a sunny fall morning! Once we left the park I knew we were only a few kilometres from the finish line.

We definitely did “Give’er” in the last couple of kilometres! As we ran toward the finish line, we spotted our cheering squad.  My husband ( holding the famous bum bag), daughter, son in law and three grandchildren were waiting for us.  

Looking back: I certainly felt that running a half marathon was a bit of bucket list item for me.  For someone who had only completed my first 5 km at the Bluenose Marathon weekend in 2018, successfully finishing a half marathon a few years later was a major achievement. My analytical and self-critical personality took over in the first few hours after the race. I should have trained harder, not skipped some runs, done more hill work etc, etc!  It took about 24 hours to sink in just what this has meant for me. This is much more than just running a long distance race.  It has been a journey of self-awareness, healing, sharing, gratitude, and love. As always thank you to all the officials and volunteers for making this possible for both of us. 

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