Friday, August 21, 2015

2015 Sea Wheeze Half Marathon Race Weekend Recap, Part 1: Travel and Expo

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We had quite a big "team" this year and we all finished.

2015 Sea Wheeze Half Marathon Race Weekend, Part 2: The Merchandise

2015 Sea Wheeze Half Marathon Race Weekend, Part 3: The Race

2015 Sea Wheeze Half Marathon Race Weekend, Part 4: The Sunset Festival

2015 Sea Wheeze Half Marathon Race Weekend, Part 1: Travel and Expo

This was my fourth Sea Wheeze (legacy, baby!) and my third traveling alone so I have the Sea Wheeze routine down by now. This race was my second half marathon of 2015 - I did the Disneyland Star Wars Rebel Challenge in January - and my eleventh overall since I started running in 2012. I booked a later flight this year, a 10 a.m. instead of the 7 a.m. I took last year, and flew out of Orange County once again.  I connected through Seattle and arrived in Vancouver about 4:00 p.m. Unlike previous years there weren't a lot of obvious Sea Wheeze-bound ladies on my flights which kind of bummed me out since I enjoy chatting with my fellow racers on the plane. Though I'd heard the anime convention was in town again this year the line for customs, unlike last year, was super short. I exchanged money at the airport (pricey but convenient) and headed out the door to the train station across the street. There was a lululemon cheer squad on the way out which was a nice start to the weekend:

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My hotel was the Fairmont Vancouver, one of the Sea Wheeze-affiliated hotels, again. It's the "cheap" Fairmont and a ten minute walk from the Convention Center but it's conveniently located with a Starbucks across the street, a drugstore the next block up, the Robson lululemon store a block away, and a block away from the train station. This year, I had a roommate, Ms. A., who I'll be seeing again in a couple of weeks when we run the Disneyland Half. Other friends of mine, Ms. N. and Ms. C., who I hadn't seen since the 2013 Sea Wheeze, were also staying at the Fairmont so I said a sweaty hello to them, jumped in the shower, and then we headed down for a late dinner at the Tap and Barrel, on the plaza outside the convention center. My sister was arriving on an 11 pm flight so I wasn't planning on seeing her until later that night.
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I may have had an adult beverage or two.

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The Tap and Barrel pretzel is delish.
It was a very pleasant summer night for an outdoor dinner and LuluMum came to join us, along with a few other friends, Ms. J., Ms. M., and Ms. K., all of whom I hadn't seen since last year's Sea Wheeze. As we were getting ready to leave after a very leisurely dinner, we got word via Facebook that the Expo line up had already started forming, quite a few hours earlier than we planned on getting in line. The Expo store was scheduled to open at 7 a.m. for runners and 10:00 a.m. for non-runners.

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View towards the front of the line
Though we hadn't planned on it and knew it was absolutely insane, we decided to head back to the hotel to grab jackets, pillows, and other things we needed, and get into line. I'd like to say I had a blast waiting with my friends but I started the trip sleep deprived and had a couple of hard ciders at dinner so had a heck of a headache that lasted hours that night. I had trouble sleeping, too, and probably got about an hour or so total of sleep. One of the husbands up front would make a periodic count of the line and I think I heard it reached about 700 or so by 6:00 am. Around 6:00 or so lululemon started making us compact the stretched-out line and moved us forward so they could scan our access email codes and line us up on the inside of the convention center:

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Inside the convention center, looking forward

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Line behind us.
Lululemon scanned our ICQ codes at the door to the convention center, my phone was too bright for their iPad readers to pick up the code, so I used my paper back up.  I think we stood in this line about 30 minutes before they opened the door right at 7 a.m.  They had a camera crew to capture us and it was totally like Super Market Sweep as we entered. A few people in the rows behind us even ducked under the stanchions to get in, which was not cool.

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And we're off!! (credit: @lululemonlive twitter feed)


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Panoramic view of the Expo

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The balloons mark the front of the room where the cash registers were.

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Sorting through merchandise, trying to figure out which 15 items to keep.

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View of the checkout lines, looking into the Expo sales floor.


Some scenes from the Expo floor. The standard procedure is to find your size, grab what you think you want and then head to the outskirts of the room to sort through what you want to keep. Workers circle the room checking as to whether you'd like to put things back and grab them from you. One of the workers asked us if we considered ourselves "addicts,"  I'm not sure whether he knew I wrote this blog or was just reacting to the crazy all-night line up and mad dash everyone made when the doors were opened. I'm sure it was the latter, and my answer to him was, "maybe." lol. I'll have a separate post about the specific items for sale. The color palette was navy and green, and jeweled magenta and deep orange. Nearly every item had a pattern on it, which made building outfits rather tough. We entered the store right at 7 a.m. and I think we were done by 8:30 am or so.



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At 9 a.m. the line for the Expo wrapped three-quarters of the way around the building.
The line for the runner packet pickup was kind of long so we decided to go to breakfast nearby and then come back. This was about 9 am and we walked the outside of the convention center and checked out the line - it was wrapped three quarters around the building. My niece got in line at this time, my sister had a number of early conference calls to take and wasn't able to wait in line with us overnight so I did the shopping for us both - and said she waited two hours before she got into the Expo. As we walked by the line with our bags from the Expo I felt a lot of hard stares.

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Runner packet pickup line
After breakfast we got in line for the runner packet pickup. It was about fifteen-twenty minutes long and seemed to be consistently this long for most of the day.

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Our runner packets were a briefcase-style bag and a water bottle, similar to last year. There were three different sayings on the water bottles. We also had a timing chip with Chip Wilson's face again (I think lululemon must have ordered a million of these, lol), a coffee coupon, and a wristband which was our ticket for the post-race brunch and the Sunset Festival. The outside plaza once again had stations for manicures, runner tattoos, various freebies but after getting our packets we headed back to our rooms for a long nap.

After a too-short nap, I headed out to dinner with my sister and nieces and nephew. We ended up at the Cactus Club near the convention center. While we were waiting for our table, we checked out what was left at the Expo:

2015 Sea Wheeze Half Marathon Race Weekend Recap, Part 1: Travel and Expo


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Given the crowds, there was a surprising amount of stuff left at 7:30 p.m., one half hour before the 8:00 p.m. close of the Expo. There were Cool Racerbacks in every size, crops in every size, lots of the gray gym bags, lots of hats, quite a few shorts, and lots of swiftly tops. I think everyone who wanted to was able to get something cute. I read that the expo sold through $1.8M of merchandise.


New and returning fellow Sea Wheezers, what did you think of this year's expo experience? Were you happy with how the line up was handled? Did you like the merchandise?





17 comments:

Andrea said...

I'm a Seawheeze newbie and lined up for the shop around 6 or so. I saw the early birds when I left my volunteer shift the night before and heard about it via facebook so wasn't surprised when I arrived.

Gotta say that other than the massive line to get in, the shopping experience wasn't nearly as crazy as I was expecting. Once I got in (which was around 9 - one of my new line friends was pulled up to the front because this was her 4th Seawheeze and she took me with her), I grabbed whatever caught my eye, sorted through it, put back what I didn't want. I circled around some more hoping to find the green CRB (didn't happen) but picked up a tuck n flow from someone's reject pile so was happy with that. I was prepped with my sizes and okay with stripping down to my sports bra. I almost bought some stuff cause I got caught up in the excitement, but took some time to reconsider my pile before heading to the cash.

Gotta say that I think years of reading your blog and lulumum's blog really prepped me for the store experience. I wasn't blown away by most of the merchandise and I still don't understand why anyone wants to wear the bug print but I'm happy with what I purchased.

Anonymous said...

Wow, sounds exhausting! It's kind nuts that everyone has to try to line up so early just to get a chance at getting something! There must be a better way to do this? Maybe offer runners (I'm not a runner, but I think it's only fair they get first dibs) a chance at purchasing things first, but maybe by a special online time only runners have access to, maybe ahead of the event? I don't know, the whole experience standing in line all night and morning just to get a chance at something just sounds so stressful and exhausting to me. But then again maybe others would look at it and prefer it as 'part of the experience'.

Anonymous said...

Lol, love the privacy bubbles provided in the showcase store. I was amazed at how people stripped down to almost nothing in public, but hey I guess you do what you gotta do, right?
The expo was fun, but not as fun as last year I think because of the gloomy weather and intermittent rain. I thought the briefcase bag was really nice and better quality compared to last year.
The line-up process was easy and I appreciated how quickly the line moved once the clock hit 7 am. I didn't notice anyone cut around me, but I heard that happened. The fact that they made the store only for runners for the first part of the morning was awesome. Waiting in line with fellow runners made the experience really fun and motivated me for the long run the next day.
The check-out line also moved much more efficiently this year IMO. I spent almost an hour in line waiting to pay last year and the whole process was very hectic and obnoxious. For some reason the process this year appeared streamline and quick.
Yes, I waited for ~3 hours to enter the store, but looking back it wasn't that painful of an ordeal. We were surrounded by fun and energetic people and there was great entertainment along the way: the curiosity critters, mad science people, Ivivva cheerleaders, etc. My poor husband waited the entire time with me and complained many two times at max - that's saying a lot;).

D. D. Ramsell said...

thank you soo much for the pictures and recap. it seems like an amazing experience.. I really liked the green/blue stripe combo stuff. I just wanted to make an observation, I work in fitness and every so often I hear someone saying its ridiculous to buy lulu, but that same person will compliment my outfit and say I look so cute all the time...hence I ONLY wear LULU. its so obvious that lulu is a building above any other clothing brand, there is no way that UA, Nike, Lucy, Athleta, Fabletics (ugg) would ever be able to get a line even 12 people deep awaiting the annual warehouse sale. no one stays up till 12:01 am to see the after Christmas clearance for any other brand in the world..only LULU. I love lulu, and proudly proclaim being an addict...XOXO to all of you seawheeze finishers, you are amazing.

Anonymous said...

Are there good deals at the expo?

How was the run??

Anonymous said...

This was my second year (2014 my first) and I was not impressed with the merchandise. I prefer last year (the eye theme). This years theme (bugs) just didn't translate at all for me. I ran the race and I felt that there was less cheering squads than last year. Does anyone else think so? I had a great time and will be back next year!

Anonymous said...

Do the prices of the items at the expo get cheaper as the day goes by? And if so, how much cheaper?

LuluAddict said...

@ anon 5:37 pm - the prices do not go down as the days goes on. You're thinking of the Warehouse sale.

Anonymous said...

Last year was my first year at SeaWheeze and I felt that the line for the store was much more ridiculous this year. Last year we got to Vancouver (we're from the Seattle area)on Friday morning around 6am and got straight in line, we were probably a few hundred people back in line. This year we decided to get into town Thursday night. We walked down to the convention center at 5:30am and the line was ALL the way around the building and by the harbor in front of the sea planes. Last year we were in the store within 45 minutes of it opening but this year we waited FOUR HOURS to get in. I definitely felt there was more product available this year which was good but not as many options. I am already dreading the line up for next year....

Anonymous said...

Wow! What time were people starting to line up?
It's like Black Friday without the cold and snow!

Anonymous said...

I've never run SeaWheeze but it's been on my list for years. I think I'll try for 2016 as I see the registration opens up soon. No time like the present. Your posts have helped sway me.

Question for anyone who knows- what size do the race shorts go up to? The ones you usually get when you register. And what size does the race merchandise at the expo go up to?

sylvs said...

I got to the line about 6:08am. Took 7 minutes to walk to the back of the line. It just kept going and going. I figured it would take hours to get in and I would rather spend it with my family so I went back to the hotel. When I came back after lunch to get my race packet, I was pleasantly surprised to see there were lots of items left. Yeah!

LuluAddict said...

I would really love it if the Convention Center/lululemon figured out a better way to get Expo merch rather than an all night camp out. The last of sleep hit me hard on race day but it was my choice to do that to myself, so I fully recognize that.

People did cut in front of us, so I'd like to see some sort of wristband system go into play. At the Disneyland Star Wars expo line you got a colored wristband and a certain arrival time period got, say, pink, the next time period got orange, etc. It was a nice way to maintain line integrity. I've heard that Comic Con in San Diego does not let people use tents, cots, hammocks, air mattresses, only you and a pillow/blanket so that wouldn't be a bad thing for the lululemon line, either, since all those items were in use at Sea Wheeze.

@ anon 7:49am - everything goes to a size 12

@ anon 9:00 pm - the line up situation was totally ridiculous and what most annoyed me is that it was the same people first in line this year as last year. Last year they got into line about 1 am and this year quite a few hours earlier than that. They're only moving their own bar backwards for some nutbag reason.

@ anon 3:49 pm - definitely fewer cheer squads made of "Voluncheers". It felt like a lonely race, for me, since I'm at the back but then I looked back at my photos and there were quite a few entertainment stations after all.

@ anon 8:48 am - it would be great if they offered runners a chance to order a jacket or shirt when we registered. Disney does this for some races and the jackets are not offered later the expo, either. That way you could have a "special" commemorative item without having to endure a camp out.

@Andrea - I don't get the bug print, either. Most people I talked to at Sea Wheeze did not love the science/bug theme but I guess you wouldn't know it from the amount sold. I was a little bummed there were no plaid items this year. A plaid print has been a staple for the three previous races.

Anonymous said...

As a guy, I'd like to see more men's merchandise. I stood in line for just over three hours and it only took a couple of minutes to shop the one rack of men's stuff. There was a shirt in either blue or green as a singlet, t-shirt or long sleeve. There was only one pattern of shorts left and the Pack It Jacket in one size left. Then it took about 40 minutes in line to pay for one shirt.

LuluAddict said...

@ anon 5:42 pm - I was disappointed in the men's stuff this year, too. It definitely seemed less than last year.

Anonymous said...

I consider myself an addict, but I don't think I could wait in a line like that to buy lulu stuff, even though some of it is really cool.
I also would never pay the ebay prices no matter how badly I wanted the stuff.


M

LuluAddict said...

@M - I agree. It really sucked. I could have shown up 4 hours later and probably still came home with what I ended up buying. However, I don't think I could have slept knowing the line had already started. I hope they come up with a better solution next year.