As with all great races, here is the obligatory post-race recap!
On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, Ellie and I woke up bright an early for a 7:00 a.m. race start time. This was by far the earliest start time I've ever been a part of, and although I was grumpy about it, it turned out to be no big deal. Honestly, it turned out to be a blessing because the air was still cool and crisp, and the morning sunshine just took the edge off the colder temperatures.
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.
Ellie and I on the left, Me in Orange and Ellie waving! She was really excited to see her parents.
Dad being artistic.
I realized that my GPS was way, way off. Nearly by three-tenths of a mile. It might not seem like much, but when you think you are doing way better in time and distance and then realize that you are, in fact, not, it is completely deflating. We pressed our way out to the turn-around point, and headed back. My IT band was really acting up, and I was definitely feeling it. Ellie kept up the encouragement, and miles 9, 10 and 11 fell. We again tried to put on a good show for our parents and set our way through the final few kilometers. Our 20km split time was 1:05:00, so our pace had dropped off quite a bit.
With the final mile in our grasps, I looked over my shoulder to see the 2:10:00 pace runner. I shouted at Ellie to stay ahead of her no matter what. We took off as fast as we could, crossing the finish twenty feet or so ahead of her. That was a good feeling. I looked at my GPS, and it read 13.6 miles—what a piece of crap. It was off by half a mile and by about 20 seconds per mile pace. Pretty deflating, but lessons learned.
Ellie and I at mile 10.5. She was blowing kisses to her Dad while he shook his head at her antics.
We had an amazing run, despite the issues. We finished in a time of 2:11:18/19 (I beat her by crossing the start line a second after she did!). This was an improvement of exactly 8 minutes over our B.A.A. half-marathon time in October. That's about a minute per month of training, so it is paying off! The days to follow weren't bad either. There is no residual soreness or lasting injuries (though one nice blood blister that Ellie is willing to show anyone who asks!). Seeing improvements is encouraging, and we are eager to get back into training and continue to bring our half-marathon time down.
One of the nicer medals . . . though I wish it said Half-Marathon Finisher instead of Marathon Finisher. That being said, it says what we ran on the neckband anyway! Maybe it means we might have to run the full marathon next year!