Grain Elevators in Buffalo
The day before, I had driven the course once with my Dad after we went through the race expo. The first time through was daunting; it seemed like it took almost an hour to drive the whole thing. We weaved our way through construction sites all throughout downtown, and we weren't able to follow the path directly, as it cut through the waterfront park. We passed by the home of the Sabres, passed the massive grain elevators of the outer harbor, and looped back through a slow line of cars most likely doing the exact same thing we were doing. It was a long drive. Once home, Ellie also wanted to see the route, so she and I set out again to drive the whole thing once more. This turned out to be a good thing, as seeing the course again reminded me that it wasn't that far or that crazy, and that we had trained on the majority of the course before anyway.
Back to Sunday: We lined up between the 2:05:00 and 2:10:00 pacer. My strategy was to keep the 2:05 pacer in our sights for as long as possible and to never let the 2:10:00 pacer pass us. With my GPS tracking locked in, the gun went off, and a minute and forty-two seconds later, we crossed the start line. We started out at a decent trot, what I felt might have been a little fast, but nothing unmanageable. I believe it was at about a 9:30 pace, though unfortunately it is hard to say. Despite being locked into my GPS, I realized (much later in the race) that every time we were in between the large downtown buildings, my signal wasn't good.
The first three miles flew by; we were right with the 2:05:00 pace group. At one point along the lake about 5km in, a rather tall gentlemen looked down at us and asked, "Is Buffalo really this flat? This is wonderful! I might have to move here!" To which I confirmed and said the only hills he should be worried about were the bridges at miles 8 and 10.
Shortly after, we passed the 2:05:00 pace group and got a good thirty seconds ahead of them, enough that when we slowed down for our first Gu Chomp break, we finished eating with them a few steps ahead of us. At this point, I was feeling pretty good about where we were and how fast we were going. The race proceeded to wind its way out to the outer harbor, and we got our first 10km split time of 59:22. This was awesome, especially considering we already had our first minute-long break to eat and drink.
At mile 7, we put on our best show for my Dad and Ellie's parents, as well as my Mom, who was watching via FaceTime. We continued past the grain elevators, through Buffalo's First Ward, and then out to the outer harbor. If anyone has ever been down there, they may remember that there is an old steel bridge. The bridge does not have a solid surface, it is a gridiron of steel. This does not feel good on the feet after 8 miles of running. Coincidentally, this is about where my race started to go down hill in a hurry.