Latest reviews by Paul Hazon

(2016)
"PB on the Seawall!"
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Chilly Chase was a nice way to start the year and show off part of Vancouver to a visiting family member. The online registration process was quick and easy and the entry fee was reasonable for a 10k race. My brother was able to sign up from the UK and I was able to collect his race package, a week before the race, on his behalf.

Package pickup was part of the Gluten Free Expo, which really didn't interest me. There were very few exhibits there that I would call 'running exhibits', so my overall expo experience was a little disappointing. I would prefer to visit a running store to collect my package, rather than have to go through the trouble of getting to Canada Place, paying for parking, lining up for an expo I'm not interested in...

Anyway, the exhibit was okay. I picked up my package, which included a pair of socks, race bib, some leaflets etc. and was all set for the race!

The event began at the Olympic Village in Vancouver. It's fairly easy to park there without paying, if you arrive early enough. We didn't, so we had to park a few streets away and walk in. No big deal!

We weren't quite sure what was happening when we got to the starting area. There was a big warmup thing going on and it wasn't immediately obvious which race distances started in which order and when. I'm sure there was probably an announcement, but we didn't hear it. Suddenly, one of the races started, but we weren't sure whether that was our distance or not. Turns out, it was the half marathoners. We had to wait a bit longer for the 10k.

Once we got away, it was a decent race. I ran a personal best, even though it was a little slower than my target. I noticed along the way that there wasn't a great deal of marshalling on the course. The route was fairly self-explanatory, but there wasn't anybody posted at the turnaround points. These were marked, fairly clearly, but if you were chatting away to somebody, they would have been easy to miss. There should have been somebody standing there yelling "10k turnaround!", or words to that effect! My 10 year old son was running his own race and I wasn't sure he'd understand that he had to turn around at 5k. It never occurred to me that there wouldn't be more assistance at these points.

We all made it back safely though and I didn't have to run the half-marathon course looking for him! The race package comes with a medal, which is always nice to receive. It wasn't the nicest of medals, but my son was really proud to receive it at the finish line.

The snacks at the end were pretty poor. There were some bagels and bananas, plus granola bars (apparently). I didn't see those, but my son got one. There wasn't much of anything else and again, there was nobody there to man the station.

But, having said all that and sounding like a real whiner, I would do the race again. I'm not a whiner, but I've done a lot of races and have come to expect a certain level of organization and race day offerings. Did this race meet expectations? Not really, but usually events like this improve a bit more each year, so hopefully this race will be one of those.

Check out my blog for more on this race! http://hills4thrills.com/blog/activities/race-report/2016-chilly-chase-race-report-10k/

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(2015)
"Wow. Just...Wow"
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Wow, what a race this was! I can remember growing up in England and learning about Mount St. Helens in my geography class. I can remember thinking "One day, I'm gonna go there". So, when I found out there was an ultramarathon that circumnavigated the great volcano, I was in.

I signed up online well in advance, but then had to wait ages to actually run it. Finally though, the time came. I was a little worried about what the conditions would be like. I just had no idea. Usually, I am familiar with what the terrain is likely to be like in a race, but on this occasion I just didn't have a clue. I'd also heard that the year before, temperatures had soared above 100 degrees!

I packed what I thought was best and crossed my fingers. It's a long drive to the start, which isn't too far from Portland. I'm coming from Vancouver, BC, so it definitely took all day. The plan was to camp the night before in a resort about 20k from the start. We planned to get there in the afternoon, but didn't end up arriving until well after dark. That was fun, putting up the tent in the pitch black!

I actually got a migraine on the way down and almost turned back home after Sandra made her required stop at Trader Joes. We decided to push on though and I'm glad we did.

I picked up my race package on the morning of the event. You had to carry a list of essential items at all times and couldn't check in until you'd proved you had them. I like that... helps keep it safe for everyone. I wish they'd asked to see my spirit 'cause I had tonnes of that on race morning! i just couldn't wait to get going.

There was no danger of dehydration on this occasion. That 100 degree weather was far away somewhere else. Instead, it was overcast and a little cold. Perfect.

The race begins with a steep climb up to the main trail, which we would follow for most of the day. There were several wasp nests on the trail and I ended up with more than a dozen stings. Very painful! The terrain varies greatly, although it's mostly exposed with little cover. It must have been awful when the temps were high. There were big boulders to run across, sandy slopes and plenty of loose lava rocks. Pretty cool.

The aid stations were great, considering everything had to be hiked in. There was plenty of water and lots of little treats to keep the spirits high.

I wasn't over the moon with my time of just under 8 hours, but some of the terrain was quite difficult to navigate. I ran 5.5 hours at Chuckanut, earlier in the year, so that should give you an idea of how much slower this course is. Plus, I stopped quite a bit for photos, which can really eat into your time!

There were no medals in this one, but we did recieve a nice drinking glass with the race logo on it. So far, it's still in one piece, so that's good!

At the end of the day, I can't recommend this race enough, especially if you do most of your racing in the Pacific Northwest. The scenery at Mount St. Helens is just so different and it really does feel like you're running on Mars at times. If you don't mind travelling, or live close by, give it a shot. I guarantee you'll love it!

For my full review, including photos, check out my blog: http://hills4thrills.com/blog/activities/race-report/2015-volcanic-50/

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(2015)
"Marathon PB Baby!"
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This was my third year running the Vancouver Marathon. Last year was a disaster. It didn't go well at all and I ended up running close to 30 minutes slower than the year before that! This year, I was determined to make a comeback.

Registration was easy, as it always is and can be done online in just a few minutes. It's a pricey event, at more than $100, but I had a decent discount because I ran it the year before. This price does include a really good quality Brooks running shirt and the most awesome running gloves I've ever owned. Seriously, they're these cheap crappy cotton promotional gloves, but I run in them ALL YEAR ROUND. I always grab several pairs at the expo.

Speaking of which, the expo for the Vancouver Marathon is great. It's held at the Vancouver Convention Centre and is packed with running exhibitors offering awesome deals and plenty of freebies.

Parking for the marathon is not the best, so I usually get dropped off by a shuttle or a friend. You get a free bus ticket at the expo, so that definitely helps you get home afterwards.

There are literally thousands of runners waiting at the start and in past years, the toilet situation hasn't been all that great. Long line-ups and not enough time made it difficult. I don't know about you, but I always need to go several times in the leadup to the race. This year though, the organizers nailed it, so kudos to them. There were a lot more porta-potties and they were arranged in a configuration that made much more sense.

The race itself was great. I can't say enough about the supporters that line many of the streets along the way. It's just fantastic. If you start to feel tired and slow down, there'll be another bunch of spectators around the next corner to cheer you on and lift your spirits.

I was much stronger this year and ran a new PB of 3:24:00. I was hoping for closer to 3:10:00, but that would have been the dream outcome. As long as I was under 3:30:00, I was happy.

The finish area was great, as usual. A huge crowd on the finishing straight brought me home. They make you feel like you're the one that's about to win. I suppose in our own ways, we really are all winners!

It was a nice medal this year, which is typical and there was a decent amount of food and drink to chow down on while we cooled down. There's also some street entertainment if you're so inclined, but to be honest, that was the last thing on my mind after running hard for three and a half hours.

If you are thinking about running this race for the first time, please do so. You won't regret it! This is one of the best marathon experiences out there and I can't wait to see how many toilets they have at the start in 2016!

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(2014)
"2000 Calorie Concert"
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The Vancouver Rock 'n Roll half-marathon was a really fun event to run in. More often than not, half-marathons tend to start in one place and then in a completely different place altogether. This can be a bit of a hassle, trying to get back to your car, when you're tired and just want to go home! Not the case here, though. The race starts downtown and then ends in Stanley Park, right on the edge of downtown. There are plenty of parkades and strett parking about half-way between the two, so you can park your car in the morning and then return to it easily after the race.

The expo was good too. Not quite as large as the Vancouver Marathon's, but still worth visiting. It's a two day event at the Vancouver Convention Centre. While collecting your race bib and t-shirt (which was very nice), you can take in all the exhibitors and pick up a few freebies along the way. If you need to stock up on gels or running socks etc, this is also a good place to do is, as most exhibitors offer fairly deep discounts as an expo special.

The race is part of the Rock 'n Roll series, so the idea is that there are lots of bands playing on the way around. The year I did this race, 2014, I wasn't particularly impressed with the bands. There weren't as many as I thought there would be and the overall quality seemed to be a bit lacking. The Vancouver Marathon is not a Rock 'n Roll event, yet it also has a good number of bands playing, so I think Rock 'n Roll could do a bit more.

The route is fairly decent and takes in some nice scenery along the way, particularly around False Creek and Stanley Park. The route kinda cuts through a road in Stanley Park, rather than taking in the more scenic seawall, which I would have preferred. Less in the Gastown and the Powell Street area and more on the Seawall would be a big improvement IMO. The aid stations were good. Plenty of volunteers and no difficulty getting water when I wanted it.

The medal at the end was awesome. The Rock 'n Roll medals are usually super nice and this one was no exception. There wasn't a great deal in the way of food at the end and everything was kind of spread out. It was difficult to see where everything was, especially with so many people hanging around. A bit better organization could go into the finisher's area I think, but overall I had a good experience here and would do it again. I'd also recommend it if you're into road running and looking for something in Vancouver later in the year!

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(2014)
"Feeding Frenzy!"
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I'm not usually into road races, but signed up for this one on a bit of a whim. I'm glad I did. This was an enjoyable race. My mum and dad were over from England, so it was nice to show them the local running scene and introduce them to what it is I'm doing when I "never answer the bloody phone".

The expo was held at the Vancouver Convention Centre, but was much smaller than that of the BMO Vancouver Marathon. Feels like a battle of the banks, doesn't it? Still, there were a few exhibitors I was interested in and I came away with a few samples.

The race itself began out at UBC. I remember there wasn't a whole lot of free parking, so I was dropped off while the family drove off to find a spot somewhere. It was a beautiful day and quite warm, considering the early hour. The pre-race banter from the MC was pretty good and I remember feeling pumped when the starting gun fired.

I had a decent race, aiming for a sub-1:30. I didn't get it. I can never get that one. I ran 1:32, which still sits as my personal best over that distance. One of these days I'll have another go, although I tend to do a lot more trail running now.

The course was well marked with plenty of volunteers and spectators to keep the mood light and the energy pumped. The aid stations were well stocked with water and the volunteers understood how to hand it out and still keep out of the way. That's very important in a race like this!

The finish area was also pretty great. There was an ex-Canuck there signing autographs and tonnes of food. I mean tonnes. We came away with so much stuff, it was kinda ridiculous! We had mountains of Uncle Ben's rice, bagels, cookies, bananas, fruit bars, chips, juice... Filled our entire dining room table.

The medal was pretty nice and looks good among my collection. This is a truly terrific race and one of the very best in vancouver, I would say. The scenery is great and the atmosphere is epic. If I was going to pick a half-marathon to do again, this might well be it!

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