My second marathon in 21 days. I frequently wondered what I was thinking when I made that goal. There has to, somewhere, be a more realistic goal for a 50 year old woman who has only been running since 2007. Evidently, if there is, I am unaware of it and just “keep chuggin’ along” towards this goal.
I started obsessing over the weather about Tuesday. While Buffalo is on one of the Great Lakes and a bit further north of home, I was watching forecasts get rather warm. 70F would be okay, especially if it happens to be overcast. 76F would be ugly. 86F (seen at one point in time) would be impossible with the humidity that the lakes cause. Thunderstorms, almost consistently in the forecast, would reek havoc on the race. Finally, I just had to leave the weather to the weather. I was going to run as long as the race would let me run.
Then, there was a miscommunication between me and my daughter who was traveling with me. I thought she said we could leave after she let the dog she was watching out on Friday evening. She had meant Saturday morning. This, indeed, was a minor blimp. I could manage with leaving Saturday morning. She showed up at home about 7 am and we were on our way to Buffalo well before 9 am. We took a very scenic route after getting off I-390 near Geneseo.
While I knew that the marathon event – a full marathon, a half marathon and a marathon relay – was smaller than Pittsburgh had been earlier in the month, I was expecting a bit more of an expo. When I see an expo is at a convention center, I begin to anticipate a lot of booths. I was disappointed with the number of items at the expo. It reminded me of Wineglass expo from last year. Basically, we were in and out of the convention center – including my registration and packet pick up – in less than 15 minutes.
Good news is that the weather forecasts were all off. The race may have started warm, in the 60’s, but temperatures did not rise much above 70F, even for a slow runner like myself who finished over 5 hours.
Prior to the start, I was wandering around. Andy had dropped me about a block from the start. I had walked towards the start, thinking I would find porta-potties by the start line. I missed – as people were gathered in front of it – a sign that said the bathrooms were a block away on Chippewa. I headed towards the convention center, figuring the race organization has a relationship with that site so maybe that is where the porta-potties would be. I do remember mentioning on Saturday how I thought it was odd that I didn’t see the porta-potties already being put up like in Pittsburgh.
The night before the race I had set up tweets for 5, 10, 15 and 20 miles. My family, and some friends, had really liked the updates on Facebook and through Twitter that Pittsburgh had had via Verizon Wireless. Since Buffalo did not have that, I was figuring I could do it for them. I was not going to post on Facebook but was going to tweet. These were in my drafts so I shouldn’t have a problem.
Imagine my surprise to find a person with a Steel City running club shirt on along the sidewalk prior to the race. He was running the half with his girlfriend. He had run the full in Pittsburgh three weeks prior. Buffalo was his girlfriend’s first half but she had tales of triathlons to share with us as we waited. We both marveled at the lack of people. I was standing there talking when Rick Bray – a local teacher and friend of my kids – walked past. This was going to be his first half also. I didn’t think I would find him. He and I ran a lot of the St Pat’s 4 miler together in March. We hugged, talked. I wished him luck as he went to find his local friends.
I’m definitely a social runner. That time in corrals or at start lines, prior to the race finds me talking to anyone and everyone. I am always trying to find someone who may be my pace. Running a full race with someone else would be fantastic. Once the start line started to fill in, I saw a pacer holding a sign that said 3:00/6:00. I was truly surprised as the official information said there would be pacers every ten minutes from three hours to five hours. I knew that I should not start off with the five hour group after the experience in Pittsburgh. I was disappointed that there would not be slower pace groups. I spoke at length with several Team in Training people running the half that were staying with this pacer. I knew that he might be a bit slow for me so I worked my way forward a bit.
The first five miles of the race were both urban and beautiful. After a quick time in downtown Buffalo, the race headed out to LaSalle Park. At mile 3, I stopped, stepping up on the sidewalk, to take a photo of Lake Erie. While the sky appeared overcast, the lake was placid and calming. When I hit five miles, I had only been running 57 minutes and 32 seconds. That, while not fast, is pretty close to my best five mile time in a while. I was really not sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.
The second five miles were not too bad. I finished these first ten miles in 1:59:06. Under two hours. I am still not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I just know that I did it and these included an out and back to the Outer Harbor and going by HSBC Arena twice. I also saw some half marathoners that were gearing up for a strong finish as those of us who are slower were heading out to Ohio St and they were hitting mile 12.
Somewhere between mile 9 and mile 10, I saw the 3 hour/6 hour pacer again for the first time. I was truly surprised as there were other out and backs but I had missed him prior to this. There was still a good crowd of people around me but I was beginning to notice why Diane had warned me about after the half broke off. Most of those I was running with right now were either wearing a relay bib or a half bib.
After the half marathoners broke off from the marathoners, there were volunteers with watermelon and orange slices. I took to a walk as I went through this area and ate a slice of watermelon and an orange slice. While it was not overly hot out, I have found I am more a real food eater than a gel/chew type eater. If my stomach can digest it, I am going to eat it while I run.
I had also been pretty good about taking a Clif Shot every 4.5 miles. Because at this point another Clif Shot was due, I held off until 14.5 miles or so as I was enjoying the watermelon.
Miles 14, 15 and 16 were basically in residential areas. I did, somewhere in there, grab a tongue depressor with Vaseline on it. I sat down and took off my right shoe. It seems it is always my right foot that gives me issues. I slathered on the Vaseline, even though there was no sign of impending blisters or other issues, and rubbed my foot. Back up and at them. I finished my first 15 miles – including the foot stop and a bathroom stop and the walking for watermelon – in 3:02:16. I was definitely slowing down.
Andy, Lydia and Elise were going to be waiting for me somewhere along Hertel Ave since this was close to Andy’s work and they could park and walk, avoiding the problem of streets being closed. I kept thinking that I was sending tweets so they should have some idea. I just didn’t know if they were getting the tweets or remembering to check. I saw them somewhere around 18.5 miles and finished up the first 20 miles in 4:08:42. Slower for those five miles. There was only 10K left and, in my mind, I thought I could still possibly – especially if I got a second wind and sped up a bit – manage to hit my A goal of 5:28. It would be hard but I just kept thinking this is just a 10K run. In bad conditions at home I can do that distance in 1:20.
Of course, even with bad weather conditions and nowhere near flat running routes, that 10K at home is done on fresh legs – something I didn’t have going for me in Buffalo. My legs where getting more and more tired each bit I ran.
I have to be honest, the last 6.2 miles of the marathon is a blur. I know that I passed and then was passed by a young man who had told me at the start this was his first marathon. I went back and forth with a Marathon Maniac prior to her passing me for good also. I kept thinking I was going to be stuck finishing the race on the sidewalk. Even though – in anticipation of hot weather that did not really show up – race officials had said they would hold the course open an additional hour, they were still encouraging, at least pre-race, runners after 5 hours to run on sidewalks. Never once was I told by a race official or police officer to run on the sidewalk so I was very happy!
I managed to come upon a woman also struggling with finish about mile 25. She said it was her first marathon. We managed to run and walk the rest of the way together. I told her that if we got close, while I may not have the strength left to carry her over the finish line, I would drag her across it. She was going to finish the race!!
Her children came out and ran about a quarter of a mile right near the finish with us. When they got back up on the sidewalk, I told her to go ahead of me and finish first. Off she went with me trying as hard as I could to sprint to the finish.
Would I run Buffalo again? Possibly. I think I would be more inclined to run the half as most people do run that.