Friday, May 30, 2014

Buffalo Marathon

Last weekend was the Buffalo Marathon... my sixth marathon, my third stand alone marathon (the other three were the final (7th) stage of the ENDURrun), and my second marathon for which I had actually trained (the 2nd of the 3 stand alones was a training run pre-ENDURrun in 2012). I had set my self an ambitious, yet not outside the realm of possibility goal this year and I was flip flopping between being confident and doubting myself. My goal was 3:30.

To give a bit of background, my first marathon in 2011 was the Mississauga Marathon. I had signed up for it because I had registered for the ENDURrun and figured that I should probably run a marathon before jumping into a race where, after running all week, the final stage is a marathon. I started a training plan on my own in early January of that year and had set myself an ambitious goal of 3:50 with a secondary goal of sub 4:00 for that one. I had run several half marathons, but this being my first full, I had no idea what to expect. I finished it in 3:51:28 (and sprained my ankle in the process.... whoops! Good thing adrenaline kicks in.. no real pain until after I was done!).

 OK... back to the present.

As I have mentioned in some recent posts, my races had been going well so far this year, I'd been training with Health and Performance twice a week, and I was logging more miles than ever before. For the first time in my life, my weekly mileage was over 100 km per week for multiple weeks in a row. I felt good. I felt strong. I felt confident in my abilities as a runner (most of the time). I was definitely looking forward to this race.  

As the weekend approached, the plans were becoming finalized. Myself, Doug, Erika, and Alice were going to be heading down to Buffalo in one car and staying in two different hotels, but both only about a block away from the start/finish area.  

Doug picked me up Saturday morning, then we stopped to get the others and we were on our way. The drive went smoothly with no traffic delays and, more importantly, no delay at the border. We crossed, found our hotels, and got settled. 

The Expo:
Getting our numbers at the expo was a very smooth and quick process. Although the expo was quite small, I did manage to find a good deal on two pairs of shorts and a shirt. New purchases, race number, race shirt, pasta party ticket, and other random samples, etc in hand,  I happily exited the convention centre.

Beer Shopping:
An important part of a race weekend... especially a race weekend across the border... beer!
I had checked around online a few days before the race to be sure that I knew where I could find a store with a good selection. When I came across The Village Beer Merchant, I stopped my search. It was close to the hotel (1.2 miles away) and had good reviews. I must say... I wanted to purchase many more beers, but had to think about the fact that there were 4 people and their bags in the car and also the fact that we're crossing the border which means limits and actually.. we were less than 48 hours, so we weren't really supposed to have anything. I ended up doing a 'mix a six' and then grabbing some larger singles as well.

The Pasta Party:
The pre-race pasta dinner was included in the entry fee for the race and occurred at a nearby church. This year, runners were to choose the time that they would go to the dinner so that they would avoid having too many people show up at once. It appeared to work well, as there was no wait to get food or drinks, and while the venue had quite a number of people in it, there was plenty of space to sit. 

The food itself was basic, but did the trick. Penne with marinara sauce and 3 meatballs. They didn't ask  if I did or did not want the meat, but I'm sure if I had said something, they would have just handed me a different plate without the meatballs. As you can see from the photo below, there was also plain white bread and beer (which unfortunately was Molson Canadian... I had a couple of sips, discovered what it was, and then I did not consume the rest). There was also pop, water, and maybe some juice and there were salads. For dessert. Oreo-like cookies. 
Free Pasta
After dinner, it was just time to hang out for a bit, then get some sleep. The race start was scheduled for 7am, so I set my alarm for 4:45 am (ugh) to allow some time to have a coffee, eat some oatmeal, digest.... and then heat out to the race.

Race Day:

After the above noted coffee and oatmeal, I got myself ready for the race... ran around the halls for a few minutes (I ran softly and quietly.. I wasn't waking up the whole hotel or anything), and then headed outside. It was a cool morning, but not cold. I was in shorts and a singlet and I was just fine. I think the temp was around 48-50 F.

After a very brief warm-up up and down the street between the hotel and the start, it was time to line up at the start. I was quite impressed that people seemed to actually pay attention to the pace signs posted at the sides and lined up properly according to their anticipated pace. It makes the race start so much nicer when people are lined up they way they should be. I settled in with the other 8:00/mile people and waited for the race to start. 

The start itself was pretty uneventful (which is good). We moved up slowly toward the start, walking until we pretty much got to the line. I crossed the start line after 24 seconds, but if felt like much longer.

The Race:
I started out running 8:00 pace as planned. My first mile was almost perfect.. 8:00:xx, but I was feeling crowded. I was right behind the 3:30 paces and the people who were trying to run with them were sticking right to them. I was kicked in the shins 3 times... I needed to get out of there. When I had an opportunity, I went around and settled in just in front of that group. It was great. It was myself and another girl (her name was Tracy) and nobody around us. We had a nice space in front, behind, and to each side of us. It felt so good to run like this and we started chatting. I got distracted from keeping my 8:00 pace... I looked down at my watch and.... mile 2 was 7:43... uh oh... it's WAY too early for that to happen. I needed to adjust. I thought I had, but then mile 3 went by... 7:45. Crap. I did get back to high 7:50s by mile 4, so that was good. I needed to stay there or the second half was going to be messy. 

As the miles went by, I was feeling good. The temp was still good. The sun was quite warm, but a lot of the first half of the course was in the shade, which was very nice. I passed the half point at 1:44:xx, which sounds just about perfect for what I wanted to do, but the race was far from over. 

The first half of this course is run completely with the half marathon, which then veers off to the left and marathon to the right, to complete the second (different) loop. I did not enjoy the second half of the course as much as the first (and not just because it was the second half). There just wasn't as much to look at, and although it appeared that running around a park might be enjoyable, I actually found that it felt like the longest mile in the whole race. It didn't help that I thought I was actually a mile further than I actually was. I was running along and saw mile 18. I could have SWORN I was at mile 19. Mind you, my watch agreed with the sign. So, mentally, that did not help. Pace wise, I was still OK at this point. 

The rough patch for me mostly happened from mile 20/21 to 24. At this point, my thoughts turned to doing the math to tell myself that I could slow down and as long as I kept it under 9:00, that I'd still have a good finish time. I started walking through a few water stops. This was something I did not need to do, but for some reason told myself it was OK to take these breaks... breaks which caused my pace to slow (I had one mile right at 9:00). It took until mile 24 before I told myself to snap out of it and started picking it up, and by the start of mile 25, I was back at 8:00 pace. I stayed there until I crossed the finish.

I crossed the line at 3:32:43. It wasn't quite what I was aiming for, but I was definitely happy with it. 
Official Results (splits). Chip time was 3:32:19 (not shown on here).
My finish time was just over a 19 minute PR. That was something to celebrate. There were lessons to be learned in this race (I definitely need to not let myself get distracted while running early in the race... those quick early miles were not supposed to happen!) and hopefully that 3:30 (or less) will come soon. 

3:32:18, post race beer (from my purchases), and finisher's medal

Overall, I enjoyed this race. It's a good sized race (not tiny, but not huge either) and it is well organized. 

My only real complaint was the placement of the small out and back to add on the necessary distance on the marathon course. It was a tenth of a mile from the finish. I feel that this little add-on could have been anywhere in the second half of the race, preferably at the beginning of the second loop. I know that the course had been changed this year from previous years, so perhaps they were still working out some of the kinks. 

The short drive and fairly low entry fee (compared to races in Southwestern Ontario) makes this race a good option for a spring marathon. I may be back. We will see.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Last Weekend: The Double

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a double race weekend coming up. Well, it has now been and gone (a week ago) and I realized that I didn't write anything about it yet.

ENDURrace 8K
The first of the two races was on Saturday at 6pm. It was a chilly and windy evening, but at least it wasn't raining (or snowing). I made sure I didn't go out as ridiculously as I had done for the 5K and the race felt way better as a whole. Conditions were quite good for this race, except for the headwind for maybe a 1/4 of the course total. My goal for this race was sub-36 and I did just that. I finished in 35:53, which was a PB by 16 seconds (previous best was the Re-Fridgee-Eighter in February of this year).
H+P Team post-race - Photo by Julie Schmidt

H+P's ENDURrace Results

Waterloo Half Marathon
After being home for maybe 10 hours, I was out of the house again, on my way to my next race. I wanted to work the half into a big mileage day, and that I did.

I left my house at 6:30am to run to Bechtel Park. I wanted to arrive by 7am so that I'd have plenty of time to get my number, etc. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find absolutely no line. I walked straight up to the registration table and was done. I hung out with some other runners, watched the start of the marathon, chatted with my Health and Performance teammates for a bit, and then headed back out to line up for the half.

I had hoped to run 7:40 pace (4:46/km) for this race which would result in a finish time of 1:40:30. I wanted to give myself some more confidence for the upcoming marathon, but I didn't really know what to expect having run the 8K race the night before. I feel like at spots in the race, I used the previous night's race as a built in excuse to not achieve the goal. I actually remember at one point thinking that I was fine with anything under 1:45. I did get back into race head space near the end of the race, but not quite early enough. I finished in 1:41:56.

After the race, I ran a short cool down around the park, then hung out to eat some food and watch others finish. When there was a lull in finishers, I decided to head back out onto the course and find some friends who were running the full. I had fun running back to the park with the group and enjoyed being able to witness Sandra's new PB!

To wrap up my running for the day, I ran home from the park.
Total mileage for the day was 22.2 miles (35.7 km).

H+P's Waterloo Marathon and Half Results

All in all, it was a good weekend of racing, with a Personal Best time in both races. I couldn't ask for a much better double race weekend than that!