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.
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!