Monday, October 27, 2008

Race Report: Niagara Falls International Marathon

I was attracted to the Niagara Falls International Marathon for a few reasons. 1) Its the only marathon that begins in one country and finishes in another. 2) It is a fabulously flat course (real PR material), and 3) It ends at the base of the Bridal Veil Falls. This race was really terrific for these highlights and others as I'll describe in this race report. Put it on your list people, its a good marathon to run.

When Hubs a I arrived in Niagara Falls Saturday afternoon, we went straight to the expo. The expo was small, but very well run. Before you could pick up your race kit you had to clear customs, and were told to bring your passport on the bus ride to the start line. We were a little disappointed that the pasta dinner was sold out, but I figured I could meet Laura in the morning since there was about an hour wait after we were bussed to Buffalo. The race kit was good and included a complimentary wine sampling coupons for a Niagara-on-the-Lake winery, a huge bag of pasta, and a complimentary art book from the museum that would host us before the race started. The shirt was one of the nicer shirts I have gotten. Hubs and I snapped a few pictures by the Falls, had a quiet dinner and were laying low by 9:00. I actually slept pretty well before the race.

The days leading up to the Niagara Falls Marathon had me worried about the weather. During the week before, it snowed, and they were calling for rain and huge wind gusts. It was also cold and wet when we arrived. When Sunday morning came, the weather gods blessed us with a nice sunny day with a high of about 12oC. The wind would be a tailwind and at our backs for most of the race (or so we were told!). In our race kits we were given a rain coat which I wore for warmth over my race clothes, and wrapped around my waist just in case it did rain at some point during the race. A very thoughtful detail.

When I boarded the bus to the start line Sunday morning, I got to meet Laura, and we hit it off right away, chatting the whole way to the start line. We had a few tense moments at the boarder when some of the clueless runners forgot their identification and the bus driver informed us we may be turned back (thankfully we weren't). Hubs snapped a photo of Laura and I on the bus.

When we arrived at the Museum (a beautiful white building with fabulous art -Picasso, Monet, etc), we were greeted by jazz music, and flushing toilets!! (Yippee, runners have such class, LOL!) We could only eat in some rooms, so Laura, Hubs and I went to the eating room and relaxed for a little while waiting for the race to begin. I was impressed on how many people approached Laura with her Maniacs singlet, there are alot of Maniacs out there! LOL! I am tempted to become one (I save the details for another post).

Outside of the Museum

Waiting inside the Museum

When the race started, I promised myself that I wouldn't go out to fast, so when the race started, I tried to stay calm when so many people shot forward. In fact we had a short out and back loop before the race headed to the boarder, and I noticed I was definitely towards the back of the pack. I kept telling myself "run your own race".

I loved how I could settle into my pace so quickly. The air was crisp and clear, and it was sunny and bright. I found myself letting out a happy sigh. I was relieved that we were finally off and that the weather was co-operating. I thought about how I love running, that this is what its all about, and this is the reward.

We toured through some beautiful old homes in Buffalo for the first few miles, before we headed towards the border. Hubs brought his camera, and documented most of the route.

Notice the "Canada, No exit" sign. Thats right all you Americans, once you enter, there's no escaping! The border crossing was awesome, and it was so much fun to run across the border, even though it was so windy on the bridge!

Here is a picture Hubs snapped, he was still on the bridge and I was off the bridge heading to Fort Erie. He yelled out so I looked up.

It was windy heading over to Fort Erie were we had a small loop before we headed due North towards the Falls. This section was windy, and a small group of runners and myself took turns drafting each other from the wind. I felt relaxed and kept wanting to pick it up but stayed calm

I passed 10K (6 miles) at 56:00 minutes, and felt relaxed and strong. I could see the 4:00 pace group ahead, but had no plans to pass them. I told myself that would happen if I felt strong after the first half of the race.

We ran through a few ghost towns, and along some large beautiful homes along the Niagara River. The first half flew by. Around the 11 mile mark I passed Laura, and we gave each other some support, and then the 4:00 group (only briefly since they were run-walking and I was steady running). I felt terrific. I reached the halfway point at 2:00:30, and I was inspired by the fact that I still felt so strong. My pace was a steady 5:40km/min the whole first half.

Kilometers 22-30 went well, I had parts where I struggled, but nothing that made me want to stop or slow down. I told myself I could take a walk after 32K if I wanted. There were very few spectators along the course, but the aid stations volunteers were terrific! They wore costumes and cheered so loudly that you could hear them from half a kilometer away!! WOW! I reached 30K at 2 hours, 51 minutes. I started to think just maybe I could hold on for four hours. I still felt relatively strong, and my pace had slowed only slightly 5:41 km/min. I did start to notice a some pain from emerging blisters but nothing to make me want to stop.

I kept going on, and reached 32K at 3:03. I felt emotion grip me, I knew it was possible to maybe make 4:00 hours. I remember *Aron's* sign. 10miles in your head, 10 miles with your legs, and 6 miles (10K) with your heart. Did I have the heart?!! 57minutes for 10K should be a piece of cake, but after 32K, was it possible?

I felt myself thrust my hips forward. I still felt strong cardiovascular wise, but my blisters were starting to hurt and my hips were tightening. As I ran by an aid station I asked them in desperation, did they have Advil?!? No they didn't! Unfortunately I forgot mine (now I know Lily you wouldn't approve, but I would only have taken one). I was a little mad at myself for forgetting to put it in my skirt pocket. I told myself I was tough, and didn't need it.

I took my first walk break (rather suddenly) at 32.5Km. It was then that I realized how stiff and sore I was. In retrospect, I wish I had never walked. I think it made it worse. Next time no promised walk breaks until I am finished! I began run/walking, not wanting to let my chance of a PR slip away.

Laura gave me the boost I needed when she ran by me at 36.5K. She told me I was going to kill my PR! I wanted so desperately to pick it up and run with her, but it did help me get going and I pushed as much as I could to to get to the finish line. She looked strong and effortless in her race!

It was weird to be not tired, my feet felt raw with each step, and my hips were so tight. The wind was out in full force, but I was determined to keep going. I was going to win the mental game today.

Eventually the gentle flowing river turned into angry rapids and then the mist of the Falls emerged. I was so thankful to see that mist!! The last few kilometers were downhill, and I pushed hard to get in under 4:16, and I did it. I felt so proud that I pushed through, and had such a strong race. It turns out those last 10K(6 miles) took me 1 hour, 12 minutes. I need to work on those last miles, but it gives me hope that I can improve in Philly.

Stats for my 9th marathon:
Time: 4:15:20
Gender Place: 121/307
Age Place: 20/38

I love running marathons! Between Laura and Hubs I am inspired to become a Marathon Maniac. More details on that to follow. Thanks for reading!


Marcy said...

You guys started at the Albright Knox Mueseum? Right across the street from my alma mater *sniff sniff*

Fabulous job chica! A most excellent race report! Love the pics! How did that all work crossing the border? You guys have to take care of citizenship business before the race?

Anonymous said...

Good read.
Wouldn't that have been something if we had to show our citizenship AS we ran into Canada?

Denise said...

Great race report and congrats again on the PR!!

Maybe I'll see you at Philly!

ncrunner12 said...

Nice race report, and great run. That really sounds like a great race, when you first started talking about crossing over into Canada I really thought everyone was going to end up having to show their passport during the race... that would've been a mess.

Good luck in Philly, I look forward to that race report.

Laura said...

Awww, I wish I had known you needed Advil! I carry aspirin with me when I run (well, aspirin or ibuprofen - I forget which it is) and I would have totally given it to you.

I e-mailed the Philly race director but they have tons of stuff everywhere saying no more entries, so I'm not too hopeful. Will let you know though.


Ali said...

Great report! This brought back so many memories. I remember that park just after the bridge, we were bent over from the wind, I kept thinking if it is like this for the next 20 miles I am doomed. Then the wind disappear.

I loved seeing the mist, it gave me something to focus on for those last couple of mile.

Well done and congrats

Erik said...

What an inspiration!!

Your race reports are always so good...

Big Congratulation!!


Saface Macdonald said...

What an amazing race report. You should be so proud of your newest hardware and a well fought run!

Blisters are the worst though......

tfh said...

Beautiful pictures! You definitely make it look like a great race. And your lessons (Advil, walking) learned are so helpful! Congratulations again on a great run!

Kim said...

Awesome report! Thanks for sharing. Again...great job on your race!

*aron* said...

awesome awesome job marci!!! congrats on such a great race. i loved every word of this report too :) glad you were able to pull from the sign!! loved all the pics too. congrats again on an amazing race!!!

Nitmos said...

Great job! You guys are hard to keep up with! Looks like a beautiful race.

Julianne said...

The NF Marathon sounds really awesome! How exciting is that to run across the border and it be totally legal?? LOL. Great race report Marci and fantastic job on your 9th marathon!! Wow!

And, keep me posted on the Marathon Maniacs thing. I'm interested, too!! :-)

BeachRunner said...

Great race and race report. The pics are awesome. Congratulations on pushing through and finishing strong. What a great job. Well done!!

Marlene said...

A+++ Race Report! (Kudos to your hubs for snapping pics along the way; I don't think I could EVER carry a camera for 42K!)

I am officially putting this race on my list. Sounds like quite the experience and who can resist when it's so close to home?

You ran such a strong race. Congratulations!!!!

Marlene said...

PS. I totally love the Marathon Maniacs idea. Welll, not for me, but for you. LOL!

Runner Leana said...

Awesome job on your race!

Vava said...

Terrific race report, and I love the pictures from on the course! A friend of mine ran the marathon and nearly got blown into the guardrail on the Peace Bridge, so I suspect the wind was pretty strong even if you didn't mention it too much in your report.

In any case, a great race and a fantastic time in those conditions. Well done!

yumke said...

Congrats. You are a machine, and another a month later? And I hear you about the urge to walk during a marathon. If you're not doing hte run/walk method, it's the kiss of death. Has happened to me just about every time I resorted to one.

RoadBunner said...

Awesome job! Congratulations! I've definitely added this one to my list of marathons I'd like to do. Too bad I hadn't heard of it when I was still living in NY.

How hard was it to sit pre-race in the running skirt?! This is the one thing I dislike about running skirts. I feel like I can't gracefully or modestly sit down on the ground!

Jenny said...

Hey- I just found your blog through googling this race. I ran the half, and my husband ran the full. I love your race report! And I love your photos that your husband took. I never think to bring a camera, and if I did, I don't think I would take the energy to use it!!!

Melanie said...

Yay - congrats! I was just at Niagra in Sept. and it's GORGEOUS! I'd love to run that race sometime. Way to go!

M*J*C said...

AWESOME REPORT!!!! You did fabulous!!! How are your blisters now???? So exciting that you are already planning to do Philly!!! Good for you!!!!

Marathon Maritza said...

Congratulations on your marathon!!!

Loved the report and your pictures are awesome! Good luck in Philly!!

Nat said...

Congrats on your run!
I think this may be on my list for next year... we will see. Sounds wonderful.

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