2015 Banff Half Marathon!

Province1AB

Floodwaters washed away the inaugural run.  Bears forced a major course change in year two.  Year three, though, was a successful run of the Banff Marathon!

Hello friends!  On Sunday, June 21st, I completed my first Banff Half Marathon race – and my 12th half marathon overall!  The hubby completed Half #7!  Due to some last minute schedule changes, we decided to not stay the weekend in Banff, but instead drive up on race day.  As the race didn’t start until 9:30 am, we realized that we could still get up at “normal race wake-up time” and make the 1.5 hour drive with at least a full hour to spare.  The forecast wavered between partly cloudy and rain…but ultimately the rain won out, and we spent the majority of our race day cold and wet!  I’m really, really glad we spent the last two weekends doing our long runs in Banff, because we were lucky enough to experience the beautiful scenery and the experience of running in the shadows of the mountains; those who only experienced the town on race day could not even see the top of the mountains due to fog and cloud cover.  Needless to say, our pictures are not very “picturesque” – but this race was one that we both wanted to experience before we leave Canada!

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{ Race Goals } 

This course is at a high elevation…and has some pretty substantial “rolling” hills, therefore I was not aiming for a PR, but for a really strong long run!

Goal A: Sub 2 hours.  This was my stretch goal, a strong 9:09/mile pace.

Goal B: 2 hours, 4 minutes.  This was my realistic goal – a “more comfortable” 9:27/mile pace, allowing me to appropriately tackle the elevation and the steady uphill of the entire first half!

Goal C: 2 hours, 8 minutes.  This was my “it’s not my best running day – but I just ran 13.1 miles in the mountains”goal.  If I could maintain a solid 9:45/mile, then I could reach this!

{ Packet Pick-up }

Packet pick-was offered on Saturday in Central Park, from 12 pm – 5 pm.  There was also an “emergency pick-up” option for race morning, should anyone not be able to pick-up on Saturday (although this was discouraged).  As the hubby had to work on Saturday, I went ahead and drove up the 1.5 hours to Banff for the pick-up.  There were no issues with picking up bib and tee for me and the hubby – I just had to sign a waiver that I was picking up on his behalf.  There were plenty of places to park in the downtown Banff area, and I found a free 3-hour parking spot just a few blocks up the road.  It was cloudy and dreary, so I unfortunately did not take any pics.  Although it was a larger expo than I expected, it was still pretty small overall, with probably 4 or 5 vendors.  There was one large tent for pick-up, separated into three lines – 10K, Half/Full, and VIP.  The longest line was the Half/Full – so I waited about 15 minutes to get my gear.  We were handed our bibs and shirts – white shirts for males, and black shirts for females.  There were no other goodies offered.  And no clear, plastic gear-check bag, as they offered gear-check bags on race day.  There was a “mandatory” meeting at 4pm, but as I had a 1.5 hour drive back to the city, I read the announcement board and headed out.  All in all, I was probably on location about 25 minutes.  I then walked over to Banff Ave in search of pizza for a late lunch (pizza’s a superstition/tradition!) – and found Boston Pizza to go.  I chowed down on a personal pizza in the car, gulped down a Gatorade, and was back on the road.

{ Race Day }

We set our alarms for 5 am on Sunday morning with the goal to leave the condo no later than 6:30 AM.  We showered, ate our waffle breakfast, put on our running gear, packed our additional gear, and were out the door by 6:20 AM.  We made a brief stop in Canmore, and arrived in Banff before 8 AM.  Free bus service was offered to those who needed to get around the town, but there were also a couple of parking lots and streets that were recommended for those who drove in.  We chose to park at the Fenland Recreation Centre and walk down to the start area.  The race trail was already being coned-off, and race marshals were out along the course.  There was a light drizzle, so we wore our rain jackets and stretched at the gazebo.  We walked around, stretched, and took multiple potty breaks for the next hour.  The main facilities were closed, but there were 22 port-a-potties lined up in the park.  As there were only 1,500 runners (+ spectators), this seemed to be an ample amount.  Wait times were not usually longer than 10 minutes, and the TP was kept fully stocked.  Once they did the final call for the full marathon group at 9 AM, we dropped our things off at gear check, took one last bathroom break, and walked over to the start.  The drizzle was on and off during this time, and I really had NO CLUE what I should wear!  Some of the locals said it wouldn’t rain…others were fully decked out in rain gear.  As I tend to get really, really hot when running, I opted for just the t-shirt (note to self to pack a throw-away long-sleeve shirt for future races, as I was terribly cold for the last 30 minutes before the start!!!)  The hubby opted for his long-sleeve t-shirt.  With 10 minutes to go, we made our way to the start line, and were happy to discover that the line-up was pretty thin – people were spaced out with more than an arms length between each of us.  The 1:45 and under group was the first wave, then those under 2:00, then 2:15, etc., each starting one minute apart.  We opted to run with the sub-2 hour wave so that we wouldn’t be weaving in and out of people when the trail narrowed.

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Ready to race!

{ Course Description }

The race started right at 9:00 am for the marathoners, and right at 9:30 am for the half marathoners.  Even at this “late” start time, the temperature was quite cool as it was drizzling rain all morning.  Although rain is PERFECT for cooling you down during distance running…it’s no so perfect for when you are starting a race!  For the most part, the hubby and I did not have to weave in and out of runners – although the first couple of kilometers were pretty narrow, they started each wave one minute apart to keep the areas from getting congested.

MILES 1-3/KM 1-5: You start on Bow Avenue in downtown Banff, along the Bow River.  The path quickly narrows in the first half mile as you cross the railway tracks on Norquay Road.  Just before the first mile, you turn left onto Vermillion Lakes Drive.  The road is fairly open, with rolling hills leading up to the first and second lake (mile 2). Just past the lakes, the path becomes more wooded.  This was also the spot for the 10K turnaround.  I was feeling pretty decent for most of the first 5K…I think I started out pretty strong, wanting to make sure I didn’t get boxed in at the beginning…but felt myself slowing down a bit more each mile along the generally uphill course.  { 8:29, 8:45, 9:01 } 

MILES 4-6/KM 6-10: At about mile 3.5, you leave the road behind and enter the Heritage Trail section of the path.  There are more steep hills, leading you up to and along Highway 1, where you run the next mile.  You then cross Highway 1 and follow the Bow Valley Parkway leading up to Mile 5.  Around mile 5, you enter the scenic part of the Bow Valley Parkway, which is also the long, steady climb to the turn-around point.  I quite enjoyed miles 4 and 5, along the wooded path.  Once we crossed the highway and started the uphill climb, I was beginning to fade fast.  The hubby kept trying to push me along, going ahead for a stretch, then slowing down when he realized that I wasn’t keeping up.  He started with slight encouraging – pushing me to keep going strong, because all this uphill meant a nice downhill on the way back… { 8:55, 8:53, 9:08 }

TURNAROUND.  Quick and easy spot marked by volunteers and a sign.

MILES 7-9/KM 11-15: Even though the turnaround marked a downhill, I was fighting heavy legs and a heavy heart.  I was slowing down…and I was getting angry for it.  Just after crossing the highway and going back on the path, I ended up walking for a bit right before Mile 8, on one of the steeper hills.  My confidence was shot.  The hubby tried encouraging me again, but I was irritable, and huffing at him…telling him to just go on without me.  He persisted…he tried being nice (to no avail), he tried being stern (to no avail), and he tried running just slightly ahead of me (to no avail).  I walked for a second time during Mile 8, trying to calm myself down and get back with the program, but was even more mad at myself for stopping.  The hubby asked me what hurt…and I had no answer for him.  Nothing “technically” hurt…I just couldn’t run any faster…just didn’t WANT to run any faster.  This section was the LONGEST 5K in my mind. { 9:13, 9:33, 9:16 }

MILES 10-12/KM 16-20:  Once we got back towards the lakes, I had to walk for a third time.  The hubby kept telling me…it’s only 5K left…only 3 more miles.  But it felt like a lifetime away, and I yelled at the hubby to just go ahead…I wanted to run alone.  Once he was out of sight, I told myself that no matter what, I was going to finish this race, and try to finish the last 5K without walking.  I took a few deep breaths…a few more lingering steps…and started jogging again.  Soon I was seeing the bend to turn back onto Norquay Road, which meant I only had 2 more miles to go.  The path follows the road, crosses the railway again, and follows the river along Bow Avenue.  You run the edge of Central Park, and continue along Bow River as you reach Mile 12.   { 9:21, 9:04, 9:25 }

MILE 13.1/KM 21.1:  You then cross the bridge, over to Birch Avenue, and loop around Birch Drive to Cave Avenue.  You head across the Banff Avenue Bridge, and then only have a short distance to the finisher’s chute, which curves around and allows for a sprint to end!  Or rather…if you were a runner who was feeling awesome, you would sprint!!!  I pretty much was more elated just to be finishing!!!  { 9:45 }

View ahead of me and behind me...and hey...that's us!

View ahead of me and behind me at the start line…and hey…that’s us on the right!

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Photos via: MarathonPhotos.com

Photos via: Marathon-Photos.com

I love the pic on the left above, which is right around the Vermillion Lakes area!  And I so, so, so, wish it was a clear day…because I was ready to buy the finisher’s pics for both of us.  You can barely see the outline of the mountain (shrouded in clouds) under the second clock in the pic on the right.Can you imagine how stunning the pic would be with a clear view of Mt. Rundle as the backdrop???

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{ How did I do? }

Time: 1:56:53 (8:58/mile, 5:34/km)
Overall: 279 / 820
Gender: 127 / 532
Female 30-34: 26 / 79

I know…amazing, right?!  Although, my RunKeeper app did clock the course at 12.83 miles, not 13.1. (by my calculations, this is equal to a 9:06/mile pace…in which I would have ended up around 1:59ish…so add another 2 minutes to my time…but it’s still my A goal!)

{ How did the hubby do? }

Time: 1:54:14
Overall: 232 / 820
Gender: 134 / 287
Male 30-34: 24 / 40

The hubby shaved off almost 3 minutes just in the last 5K but not running with me.  I am sure he would have had a STELLAR finishing time if he had run his race instead of mine 😛  But that’s why I love him…he stayed at my pace and encouraged me for as long as I would let him.  At least he finished strong and got a kick out of passing lots of people for the last 5K!

Overall, there were 820 Half Marathoners, 232 Full marathoners, and 408 10Kers!  Pretty good numbers, considering Banff National Park limits the entries to 1,500 participants!

{ Best Moments }

They offered water, Gatorade, and power gels at each aid station!  There were waste disposal bins at each location, and for the most part, runners kept the course clean!  There were KM markers at each kilometer of the route for both the Half Marathon and the Full Marathon.

There was an eighty year-old ultra runner from California known as “Ultra Granny” who has completed over 200 events in the past 30 years (she has completed 100k, 50 mile, and 24 hour runs)!

Other things to note about this race:

  • The Banff Marathon is the only marathon in North America that is fully contained within the boundaries of a National Park!
  • Banff Marathon bills itself as the greenest marathon in North America.
  • The marathon course has ten interpretative stewardship stations where athletes learn about unique Banff National Park wilderness and wildlife. Using their race bib like a passport, marathon runners can complete the race with stamps from each station.
  • Furthering the educational component, the race partnered with Banff Park Museum to provide free entries to the community on race day.
  • There is a fun kids race during the expo the day before the race!

{ Post Race }

The hubby was waiting for me at the finish line, just as glad to be done as I was.  We were wet and cold, but happy to have this Half under our belts.  The medal is amazing…and it was truly a beautiful course.

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Done!

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{ Post-Post Race  }

As the rain subsided, we walked back to the car, did some additional stretches, changed into a dry pair of clothes, and settled in for the 1.5 hour drive back to Calgary.  Once we got home, we took a hot shower, ate a late lunch, pulled on some compression socks, watched an episode of TV, took a very hot epsom salt bath, rolled out the muscles, and then relaxed for the rest of the day.

{ Additional Race Resources }

Website

Want a quick (4-minute) feel good moment?  Check out the video below of a son who taped his father’s journey along the 2015 Banff Marathon…”Steve Johnson finished third in the marathon, men’s 65-69 age group. It was cold, wet, hilly…..and BEAUTIFUL!”

I hope you have enjoyed my race recap!

Until the next race…

Jen

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2 thoughts on “2015 Banff Half Marathon!

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