So, remember when I said I was going to keep you updated re: marathon training? And when I said I would be posting a marathon recap soon? Oops. Better late than never! Things have been so busy around here that I totally forgot about my race recap. I think I need to set a goal to do one blog post per week – I personally find writing about running to be therapeutic!
We went to the race expo to pick up our race kits and go through customs two days before the race. This was so well organized. When we arrived at the expo, we were directed to go straight to customs, which was quick and easy (tip #1: go on the Friday before the race to get your race kit!). We got our bibs scanned, picked up our shirts and browsed around for a little bit.
The day before the race, we had a late Thanksgiving dinner at my mother-in-law’s place. My sister-in-law is pregnant, so it was a way to celebrate that as well. It was nice to spend time with everyone – it really helped to calm some of the pre-race day jitters. While everyone else enjoyed all of the Thanksgiving fixings, myself and Paul enjoyed our plain and boring veggie pasta. I followed that with all of the pretzels later that evening. Then it was off to bed!
For breakfast I ate oatmeal with PB and a banana. This was not a wise move, as I have never fueled with this during any of my long runs. I thought it was pretty plain, and that it wouldn’t bother my stomach, and luckily it didn’t. But, I won’t be doing that again (tip #2, as I’m sure you’ve heard before, don’t fuel with fuel that is new to you the day of your race)! I also had half of a cup of coffee and about 250mL of water or so. This was all about 2.5 hours before the race was due to start.
My mother-in-law and her husband brought us across the border and to the race start in Buffalo (tip #3, DO NOT forget your passport! Even if you are taking the shuttle offered by the race – apparently it has happened in the past).
Leading up to the race, I knew that achieving my goal time was going to be difficult. The marathon didn’t start until 10am, and at that point it was already going to be approximately 23 degrees Celsius, but feeling like 30 with the humidity. The winds were also going to be gusting to 80km/hr and steady at 55km/hr. I know people say that you shouldn’t set goal times for your first race (that’s probably even more true when you’re dealing with those types of weather conditions for a fall marathon), but I decided on a couple of goals so that I would walk away happy. My A goal was to finish in 3 hours and 30 minutes; my B goal was to finish in under 4 hours; and my C goal was to finish. I knew I could finish, even if I had to roll myself to the finish line, so I decided that those were appropriate goals for me.
Paul and I decided to run together, and for the first 5 miles, we were running at our goal pace. However, after mile 5, I started to feel dehydrated and could feel myself having to work harder to stay at our goal pace. I slowed down to about an 8:20 min/mile pace after mile 5, and knew by mile 8 or so that my A goal was not going to be achievable. I decided to voluntarily decrease my pace to 8:20-8:30. But, but mile 12, things started to feel harder – I started to experience mild muscle cramping and slowed down a lot. Paul decided that he needed to take a break and walk for a bit, and I continued on at about a 8:40-8:45 pace.
Then, at mile 21, my IT band flared. This left me with no choice but to run/walk the rest of the race. I knew I could still finish in under four hours if I continued to walk/run, so I decided to be ok with my IT band’s decision to get angry at me. At about mile 23, I asked a random fellow runner if I could try running with him, because he seemed to be going at a pace I thought I could run, even with my knee pain, and he said yes. He was so incredibly nice to me, talking to me here and there, but my knee just wouldn’t let me keep going at his pace. I was about 1.5 miles from the finish at that point, and continued to walk/run while being passed by so many runners. I was emotionally and physically hurting a lot, but everyone who passed me clapped and gave me a thumbs up or said words of encouragement, which really turned what could’ve been a lonely and discouraging last mile into one filled with hope that I could still finish the race in under 4 hours.
I was able to finish in 3:54:26, and am very happy with that. I ended up coming in 89th overall (out of 809 finishers), 22nd woman overall (out of 409 female finishers) and 6th in my division (out of 60 finishers).
(I apologize for my blurry finish photo – I haven’t had a chance to buy any of my favourites yet)
For my first race, I thought I had picked a good course. It was flat, and after you cross the Peace Bridge into Canada, it is only a mile or so until you are on a gradual downhill most of the way. Unfortunately, I had not run in those conditions since the summer, so the humidity was a little bit too much for me. However, with favourable weather conditions, I think the NFIM would be a great course for a PR. It’s also a relatively easy course for family members to come and cheer you on along the way (lots of places to park along the race route). We were lucky to have my in-laws cheering us on at several points along the course, which was incredibly motivating. I was incredibly happy with the number of water stations that were available as well – there were electrolyte drinks and plain water available at each water station. They also had gels at about every 2nd or 3rd water station, which was good if you didn’t bring any of your own fuel (I fuel with dates and had those stuffed in my pockets). Overall, this was a beautiful and incredibly well organized race. It was fun to be able to run across an international border and finish at the Canadian side of the Falls. This race gets an A+ from me! The race organizers can’t control the weather ha.
OH! One last thing. I was asked by many people about the whole crossing back over into Canada without going through customs thing. When you go through customs at the race expo, they link your bib number to your passport. When you cross back over into Canada, there are a bunch of customs officials who look at your race bib as you run by them to make sure you cleared customs at the race expo.
I’ve decided to not share Paul’s experience, with the hope that he might decide to write a blog post and share it with you instead. 🙂
Happy week-end, everyone!
And, because it’s Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in the U.S., Lest We Forget.