Race Reviews: Vancouver Hot Chocolate Run & West Van Run 10km!

I started my weekend even more pumped than usual after being selected as a Momentum Jewelry ambassador on Wednesday, and then registering for CIM on Friday while waiting on the results of my (unsuccessful) NYC Marathon lottery entry! (More about these things another time.) Also, this time around I didn’t need to travel six thousand kilometers through four different airports to get to my races! How nice, lol! Even so, I dealt with a flight delay in both directions…I’m so over delayed flights! The weather showed this statement for Vancouver area over the weekend and I got a bit nervous…lots of my friends suffered the disappointment of First Half being cancelled in early February!

It was a relief on Saturday when we woke up to a really nice day! Try Events’ Vancouver Hot Chocolate Run was the first of two events this weekend. Since my friend Emma is the coordinator of the Try Events volunteers, we got there early and I helped with packet pickup while she did her thing with her fifty or more volunteers! If you live in the GVRD and are looking to volunteer, this is a fun way to help out.

The start and finish area was at Lumberman’s Arch Concession in Stanley Park, which wasn’t open (too bad) but it was a good spot either way. Getting there was easy – it’s right beside the aquarium and it looked like parking was convenient and easy for those who drove. Not going to lie, the packet pickup could have been WAY more organized, but even so, I highly appreciate the option to pick up on the day of the race. I found my own bib and shoe tag and then helped out at the table as best I could. The gear check was more legit than at the Historic Half, where it was an unattended coat closet in Stanley Park Pavilion…sketchy. Never bring valuables with you to a race, and keep your ID and phone on you!

As it got closer to the 10am start, November Project Vancouver lead a fun warmup and then the 10.4km runners (250 ish participants) were sent off, and shortly after the 5km runners, which had about the number. Seriously beautiful day!! The course was well marked and the volunteers along the route did a good job making sure nobody took a wrong turn. Even though it was a simple loop of Stanley Park, there are a couple turns where a runner could easily go the wrong way. The two water stops were minimal but seemed to work fine for the size of the race, and I got to see two friends who were volunteers at the first water station! There are a few places on the route with public bathrooms, like by Second Beach Pool, which I unfortunately had to stop at but didn’t really mind since I wasn’t “racing.”

As far as I know, there were only photos taken at the start and finish of the race, and from what I saw on Facebook I didn’t end up with a finish line photo myself. Dang. These photos are just in a big album so you need to go on to the Try Events Facebook page and look through them to find yourself if you want a race pic. My friend Joe, the finish-line announcer, did a fine job shouting out to I’m pretty sure every single finisher, and once crossing the finish mat all runners received the cutest finisher’s medal. How cool is this medal? All finishers also received an event mug and hot chocolate!

I didn’t take a race shirt when getting my bib before the race because I never end up wearing them, but the shirts were actually really nice, long-sleeve tech shirts in a royal blue colour. People loved them! Stanley Park is such a wicked place to run, and the start/finish area worked well. Unlike my last Try Events race, however, there wasn’t a venue to actually go inside, so it was lucky that the weather cooperated precipitation-wise.

I totally enjoyed this event. I definitely got a fun-run feel vs. a “race” feel, which was what I was there for that day myself anyway, to warm up for the official 10km race the following morning in West Van, but I know there are people who race to win regardless of the event and in their case it probably felt more competetive. It’s what you make it, right? There was a kid’s race as well which made the whole morning very family-friendly, if that’s something you’re looking for. I’d recommend the Hot Chocolate Run for sure if you’re in the area, but I wouldn’t make my way to Vancouver just to participate in this one.

Later than night Emma (above) and I treated ourselves to a sleepover at the Four Seasons hahaha. A hot tub and lazy evening followed by the best sleep in a huge comfy bed was the best before event #2.

It snowed over night! But West Van Run was on it and I woke up early on Sunday morning to an email from the event coordinators letting runners know it was STILL ON! Highly appreciated, it really sucks to be left hanging and unsure if the event will proceed!

After my breakfast and slimroast (no time for gut problems today, no thank you!) and figuring out what to wear in a cold, slushy race that I was taking seriously, I took a cab to the West Van Community Centre because I didn’t feeling like dealing with transit on the way to the race, although it was definitely an option. It was about $20 from downtown Van.

I need to be honest here, I’m pretty dissapointed in how poorly the event theme, which was Super Heroes, was promoted. I didn’t see anything about it anywhere aside from on the West Van Run website under “info” and they were pretty good about promoting the event all over social media, just never mentioning anything about super heroes! I made a sweet batgirl costume but after waking up that morning with a bit of a sore throat, snow, and a little sad that Emma wasn’t coming with me because she’s injured, I just said forget it. I’m glad I did, because there were only two people I saw dressed up out of just about 500 participants! Anyways. Getting to the community center was easy and parking looked good for those who drove. The restrooms got pretty busy, but nothing out of control. Same day bib pickup was smooth and easy and participants got a West Van Run water bottle (pretty nice, actually) and then I got to hang out inside for an hour and stay warm and comfy. Bag check was just as easy, and the gear was transferred for us to the finish area at Dundarave Park. I did my own little warm up inside, and then five minutes or so before the 8:30 start time, I went outside and joined in with the warm-up crew. Then we walked to the start line which was just a few meters in front of the community centre on the street. It was a mass start with chip timing and there was basically zero time spent outside getting cold. Awesome!

My shwings were the extent of my costume..

The course was fast, mostly flat with a few downhill sections, and the second half was beautiful and scenic going through Ambleside Park and along the West Van Seawall. No complaints about the first half, I just wouldn’t call Park Royal beautiful or scenic haha. I actually can’t even remember if there were multiple water stops because I felt REALLY good during my entire run and was on a mission, not looking for water, but there was one place I remember volunteers handing out bottled water. I also don’t remember noticing Porta Potties, but there had to have been somewhere to go the bathroom? I hope so! The last two kilometres along the seawall were amaaaazing and it was really motivating being able to see the finish line over a kilometer in the distance!Β  I made friends with a young girl running a similar pace and we pushed each other and both finished under 50 minutes! Sallee won her division and I destroyed my 5:15/km pace goal that I set for myself…I low-balled hard, probably in fear of failing. Must stop doing this. YES! 4:59/km average pace! So proud of myself!

No participant medals or shirts included in this race, just medals for the winners, and I didn’t buy a shirt when I registered, but the post-race food was great; it was indoors, simple to exchange the tear-off part of the bib in exchange for a snack bag, and there was some good stuff in those paper bags, including this mint birch sap beverage by 52 North that deserves a mention. Check it out here. It took seriously one second to get my gear bag which I was thankful for because it was cold and my feet were soaked from the slushy course, and then I walked a block up to Marine Drive and hopped on the bus back to downtown Vancouver. It couldn’t have been easier! You don’t need a vehicle to get to this event, that is for sure!

I loved this race! Although I didn’t stick around for long after because I wanted to get back to the hotel to my friends, it was a great race experience! There was an awesome balance of competetive and fun vibes and it was extremely well organized. The slushy roads weren’t the best, obviously, but it could have been so much worse. I highly recommend this event and I would plan a Vancouver weekend to participate again in the future. There is a 5km race on the Saturday and 10km on Sunday, and next time I think I’ll register for both. Very good experience!

Overall, both of these events were great and I recommend both. The best part for me, of course, was having another breakthrough racing experience like I did in November at the Historic Half, but that’s not part of these race reviews so you can read about that sometime very soon in a separate post if you’re interested!

Peeeeace!

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