Buffalo Half Marathon 2013 Race Recap

A couple of weeks ago, running this half marathon was seriously in question. After an ordinary 3 mile run, I started having shooting pains on the side of my knee. After visiting my pcp and the PT, I learned it was IT band syndrome. The PT visits helped immensely and the Friday before, I decided things were going well enough to go ahead with the run.
My daughters and I made the 5.5 hour drive from PA early Saturday morning and got checked into the Embassy Suites. This hotel was only 2 blocks from the race start/finish so it was perfectly located. We walked down to the convention center to pick up my race packet and check out the expo. The expo was very small but I picked up a few nice goodies and some great socks at a discount.
Outside of the foot traffic in/out of the convention center, Downtown Buffalo on a holiday weekend was kind of eerie, with mostly shuttered businesses and deserted streets. There was an indoor mall that was also half empty, and only a couple customers.
That evening, we walked down to the pasta dinner,which was free for racers and only $5 for guests. It was a bit of a disappointment, with just some basic penne pasta, a slice of white bread and iceberg lettuce salad. Two Oreo cookies were the dessert. After that ‘feast’ there was plenty of time to retreat to the hotel pool and jacuzzi for a good soak before bedtime.
The hotel was very accommodating for racers and opened up extra early for breakfast at 5 am. In the morning I was able to eat a small yogurt and a bit of fruit and didn’t even need to leave the hotel until 20 minutes before gun time. No need to line up for the porta potties at the start,which was a huge plus to staying so close by.
I walked the two blocks around to the start and they were funneling racers into the start area, checking for race bibs. There weren’t truly corrals but I did see large signs along the edges of the street, with various pace times. Not sure how many people actually adhered to those times. As a slower runner, I stayed toward the back of the pack anyway. The gun went off right at 7 am and the crowd started moving forward. It took me about 4 minutes to cross the start line after the gun went off,which wasn’t too bad.
I quickly located the pacer for the 2.5 hour finish time and stuck to him for the first mile. This first mile looped around through the downtown area and there was plenty of crowd support here. The first water stop was at the 1 mile mark but I skipped that one. I did have a moment of regret when I realized it would be 2 miles until the next one. The 2nd mile, I was still with the pacer but gradually pulled ahead of him. I was hoping to bank some time to allow for future water stops. Miles 2-3 were on closed-off, wide streets with a mix of commercial and residential. Right after the mile 3 marker, we were running along Lake Erie for about a mile, which was awesome. At mile 4, we headed slightly inland and then into the marina. The course narrowed quite a bit here, and for the first time became part of an out and back, so I could see just how many faster runners were ahead (lots!).
The mile 5 water stop was right at the end of this little loop, and just before I got there, I started feeling the familiar twinges of pain in my knee. Uh oh. After getting my water, I stopped for a sec to readjust the IT strap I was wearing just above my knee. I cinched that thing tightly, hoping it would help. It did somewhat, the pain was still there but not as sharp.
I started running again, taking a couple pictures on the way.

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Up until this point, I was still ahead of the 2hr30 pacer, but now my pace dropped significantly and at about mile 5.5, he passed me and I never saw him again. Still, I hoped to at least get a PR, even if I was going to run a sub 2.5 hour like I had hoped.

Other than my brief stop to adjust the strap, I had been running continuously and feeling pretty good. The knee pain was annoying but not debilitating. At the next water stop, I took the ibuprofen I had brought along. The next few miles were not particularly scenic, a few uphills on overpasses but otherwise the terrain was pretty flat. One overpass was a metal grate and my shoes kept catching on the metal. On the way back, I made sure to run on the cement sidewalk alongside the road, and avoid the metal part.

There were several bands playing along the race route which added a nice touch. Most of the middle part of the race otherwise didn’t have many spectators. At about the 9.5 mile point, I made it to the roundabout that meant the course was now heading back downtown. The knee pain was coming and going but I just tried to tough it out. I did slow to a walk during the last uphill overpass but picked it up again once I hit the summit.

At 11.5 miles I texted my daughter that I would be getting to the finish soon. I was still on track for a PR, but that window was getting smaller and smaller. I think my pace was all the way down to a 13 minute mile. I took another brief walk break at 12 miles but then was re-energized for a strong finish. I could see the finish line way up ahead and so I gave it all I had to get this thing done. I crossed the finish line with a 2 minute PR, certainly not what I was hoping for, but better than I feared when the knee started acting up.

I got my medal and space blanket, then chowed down on the orange slices at the finish. I also took a banana and water bottle. I saw a small box of chips so I grabbed one of those as well. That seemed to be it as far as post race refreshments, which really surprised me. Even the local no frills 5k series I ran had a much better spread of food. The race ended next to the convention center so we wandered in there to see if something else was going on other than the awards ceremony. I think they were giving beer out, but since I’m not a beer drinker,that didn’t interest me.
So my girls and I headed back to the hotel. Again, it was lovely to be within 2 blocks. Breakfast was still being served so I had a delicious cooked to order omelette which really hit the spot. There was even time to hit the pool/jacuzzi again before checkout.

Overall, I really enjoyed this race. I think the food could have been greatly improved, both the pasta dinner and the post-race items, but otherwise I have zero complaints. The water stops were well run and course marshals did a good job of organizing and directing people. It’s probably not one I would run again, but I’m glad I did it this one time. Oh yeah, and if you’re into bling, the medal is pretty cool, shaped after the buffalo nickel!

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Philly Broad Street 10 Mile Run Race Recap

I had been really looking forward to this race for a while. Characterized as the largest 10 mile race in the US, this was the first year the race organizers went to a lottery system for registration and fortunately I got in. Originally, my husband and I were going to run the race together but he hurt his foot a couple of weeks ago and had to pass.
The day prior, the kids and I went down to Lincoln Financial Field (home of the Eagles) for the expo and to pick up the race packets. I was hoping to find a pair of red socks as it was being urged to wear red socks in support of Boston, however I struck out. Several vendors had brought red socks to sell but all were sold out. The Scholls booth was doing a free photo of people that would show them on the Runners World cover and so my 12 yr old and I posed for one.

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The next day, I got up at 4:30 and left the house by 5 to drive to the Sports Complex area. I was worried about how to know where to park but it turned out to be a non-issue. I even got a spot very close to the Pattinson subway station. The Broad Street line was free for all runners and I just followed the crowd of people. From there, it was a 30 minute subway ride to the start of the race. Upon emerging from the subway, I still had about 1.5 hours to kill before the start o the race so I hung out in a Dunkin Donuts for a little bit and downed some coffee. It was still pretty chilly outside but I had to get my sweatshirt checked before 8 am so reluctantly I gave it up at one of the gear check busses. Due to security concerns, no bags were allowed in gear check except for the clear plastic bags they had provided at packet pickup. I was given both a sticker to put on my race bib and a wristband that listed the bus number and my bag number.
With about 30 minutes before the start of the race, I headed toward the porta potties. And wow. I can’t remember how many porta potties they had, but the (many!) lines were still insane. It took almost the full 30 minutes to get through the line. After that I took a few moments to take some pictures and video of the crowds. From my vantage point, I couldn’t see either the start or the end of the crowds of people in the street. While surveying the crowds, I heard the distant sound of the starting gun and the crowd cheered. From there, we slowly shuffled forward for about 30 minutes until my corral made it to the start line. Sweet Caroline was playing over the loudspeaker in honor of Boston and we finally were off and moving!

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I really didn’t have a specific plan for how I was planning to run the race. I just figured I would take it easy and finish comfortably. I hadn’t run a longer run than 6 miles since my 1/2 marathon last month so I felt a little undertrained. Although billed as a flat race, it wasn’t truly flat but the uphills were pretty easy and gentle. Crowd support from the start was truly awesome. Tons of people lining the road and cheering, bands and orchestras every mile or so.
Before I knew it, the first mile was done and I was feeling great. Only 9 more to go. Approaching mile 2, we passed the Shriners Hospital and I remember seeing a young patient in a wheelchair, shaved head and head fixed in a metal halo, but smiling and waving an American flag. We all cheered and waved back at him.
Shortly after the mile 2 marker was the first water stop. The crowd was still relatively packed so I didn’t even see the water tables until I was passing them. Fortunately they had many tables for a good stretch and I was able to maneuver over and grab a cup. I’m still not good at drinking and running, so I managed a double fail when I not only spilled water on myself but also splashed a fellow runner when tossing my cup. Oops.
At some point after mile 3, I started thinking about taking a short walk break. I had never run more than 4 miles without doing some walking up until then. However, no one around me was walking and I certainly didn’t want to be the only one so I kept running. Mile 4, same thing. Now I was heading into uncharted territory. People with funny signs made me smile, including the solemn boy holding the sign ‘Run like you have diarrhea’.
The next mile,we could see City Hall getting closer and closer. Hi Ben! (Franklin, in case you don’t know his statue is on the top of City Hall).

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Between miles 5-6 we were running around it. And yes, I was still running! I was trying to think in mile increments, e.g. Ok, I’ll take a walk break at mile 5. But then I would get to that mile marker and revise my internal goal.

Once around City Hall, the crowds definitely got a bit thicker and the spectators equally got more numerous. I kept seeing supporters of the Black Girls Run group, what an awesome running group that seems like.
There were 2 water stops between mile 6 and 7, it almost seemed like too much. I skipped the 2nd one. Still running. I thought for sure I would take a walk break at mile 8.
Now I was seeing signs for the Sports Complex, kind of exciting to know I was getting so close to the end. My pace was definitely slowing. Runkeeper had my overall pace at 11:30 for the first half of the race, but now I was approaching 12 minute miles. My legs were feeling heavy but I forced them to keep moving. It was all mental at this point.
Mile 9! Still running. I wanted to walk so badly but I kept thinking of how awesome it would be to say I ran the whole thing and somehow the legs kept plugging away.
Mile 9.5, I see the Naval Yard Sign! Almost there, 6 more minutes. Surely I can run 6 minutes. There was a slight downgrade and I tried to pick up the pace but my legs felt like they were on someone else’s body. I saw the photographer and raised my arms in a victory gesture. Hopefully I’ll have a decent race photo but if so, it will be a first. 🙂
Finally, finally I see the finish line. I manage to keep moving until well past it and in the line for the medals. OMG, I did it. I just ran 10 straight miles without stopping. A day later and I still can’t believe it.

Official time is 2:03:14. Slower than I had hoped, I really wanted a sub 2 hour finish but attaining a different milestone is definitely exciting too.
The volunteers handed me a cold water, and then a bag full of refreshments and I made my way out to the lawn to stretch out my already sore legs.
Bag pickup was super easy and I boarded a shuttle bus to head back to the Sports Complex. This is where things broke down a little. Due to the afternoon Phillies game, and several accidents, traffic in the general area was a mess. It took over an hour to drive the couple miles on the shuttle. I finally got home about 2:30 pm, hugged my kids, and immediately took a long nap.

This was such a fun race, I loved almost every minute of it and hope I make it in next years lottery!

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A decent race photo, except don’t ask me why my fuel belt is hiked way up above my waist!

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