RR: Niagara Marathon

Warning: This report will not be pretty. I often write out my thoughts when I’m full of emotion but unsure how to articulate them. So this is more rambling than a report. Bottom line I’m happy to say I’m a marathoner. But I’m not happy with how I achieved it. So if you’re not interested in my self-reflective rambling then my time was 6:07:28 and there’s some pics and a video for your viewing pleasure.
On to what goes on in Jenster’s head during training!!!
Ever since Nashville the marathon has been a sore subject to me. I seemed to be asked if I’ve done a full marathon more and more during this period. And out came the story of heat, humidity, rain, wind, lightning, tornadic super cells, closing the course at mile 20, and getting kicked out. I’d been full marathon training for all of 2010 and I was ready to have 26.2 no matter what. I was just ready to say I’ve done one.
So, I had little respect for the 22.47 miles I actually completed in April. To me, it didn’t count. It was little more than an expensive training run with a fraudulent medal. I didn’t try to properly recover as if I had gone the extra 3.73 miles, which seems so dumb to me now. I realize now how much I need to respect recovery…even when I think I neither need it nor deserve it.
Since I didnt respect recovery, I wasn’t ready for a new training cylce. I skipped and shortened runs. Somehow, I thought my fitness in Nashville on April 24 would translate to Niagara on June 19th and I could maintain it on just one long run of 18 miles and two half marathons. In other words, I only did 3 double digit runs in almost 2 months. However, I had no time related goals for Niagara. My only goal was to finish.
Race Week:
Thunderstorms were in the forecast. While it concerned me, the out and back nature of course told me that as long as I made it 13.1 out…I’d refuse to be kicked out if they closed the course. The race was in Canada and I’m not scared of Mounties. My finish or die attitude grew stronger.
I planned to get to Buffalo the Wednesday before the race to hang out with my super prego sister, who wasn’t due until July 19. We planned a girls’ weekend while her husband, who’s a football coach a University at Buffalo did football camps. While, driving to work on Wednesday morning, she called to say she was in labor and expected to deliver around lunch. Funny how calm and normal sounding she was, as she told to email her husband my itinerary because she obviously couldn’t pick me up anymore. Apparently women in my family are blessed with easy deliveries as my sister only pushed for 10 min (the nurses told her not to tell other mothers how easy and quick it was) and she gave birth to a healthy 35 week old baby. I was the first person in the family to hold this precious girl. So, Thursday and Friday I was at the hospital 7am – 9pm and thinking very little about my race other than how glad I was to be in Buffalo! I didn’t eat like I was supposed to. I didn’t hydrate according to plan.
Regardless of how the race went, holding Audrey Lynn made my trip!
Race Day:
My parents got to Buffalo Friday afternoon. Since my niece was still in the hospital but my sister no longer had a private room, they decided they wanted to drive me to the race (luckily they remembered their passports). I was surprisingly calm that morning and didn’t really think much of what I needed to do. It felt like a 5k or even a training run. I still wasn’t in race mode – definitely not in marathon mode. I ate a peanut butter sandwich and didn’t think to eat the granola bars I packed (which are always a pre-race meal). Border crossing into Canada, traffic, and packet pickup went smoothly and I arrived in time to see the 50k start.
It was a warm day for the area, already 75 at 7am. The humidity was a lot less than NC so I was a bit cocky when the Race Director warned us that when she ran a bit of the course earlier that it was “deceptively hot” out there. Obviously she didn’t do the Komen race in Raleigh the weekend before…now that was hot!
The start was super laid back and informal. I didn’t feel crowded. We started on grass for about 300 meters until we hit an asphalt greenway trail, which we followed for about a mile before meeting up with the Niagara River. The views were gorgeous. I couldn’t help thinking it was out of one of those Dream Run wallpaper/screen savers on Runner’s World. I saw a man with two hand held bottles and resisted the urge to yell out “Edward Bottle Hands!”
I could tell something was off in the first mile. It got worse in the second mile. I shrugged it off, thinking that I was just taking a bit to find my groove. I took some water at the 6k aid station (Darn Canada and their metric system!) and wished I had brought the hand held I packed but didnt take. The RD was right – it WAS deceptively hot.
My parents honked as they passed me on the road parallel to the trail and pulled up ahead to snap a few pictures. They went on to see the falls to fill the 5 hour void I said I’d need to finish the race.
Prettiest course ever! Niagara River on my left. Wineries on my right (and my dad looking like a tourist)
Around mile 5 I realized I didn’t bring and salt with me (it was in my purse in my parent’s car). I’m a very salty and excessive sweater and almost always end up displaying signs of hyponatremia on runs over an hour in which I dont get extra sodium. I purposely get Powerbar gels because they have 200 mg of sodium so I took one then. Close to the 10k mark I got 2 cups of gatorade and realized my mistakea few minutes later. The sugar in the gel and in the regular gatorade began to mess with my system. I was going up a long, steep hill – the only real hill in the race but it’s almost 2 miles long and a steep grade – and felt light headed. I slowed to a walk. Better, but still light headed. At the top of the hill I started to run again…but my arms felt heavy and tingly.
It’s not a foreign feeling, but I’ve only experienced it one other time while running. I’m really sensitive to sugar. When I ingest too much too fast, I tend to get light headed and my limbs feel like they are falling asleep. Its happened at work, bars, weddings (mixed drinks and desserts are the worst)…and its usually my cue to drink some water and lay down. During the race, it translated to drink some water and a zombie-like walk. Looking back I think I would have been fine without salt if I hadn’t have paniced and overloaded on sugar.
I did a walk/run from mile 7 to the 13.1 turn around. It was more walking than running. It took me 2:47 to reach 13.1 – more than 30 min longer than my last half marathon less than a month ago and almost 20 min longer than it took me to reach the half at Nashville. Even though I had no time goals, it was still rather demoralizing to feel so horrible with so much left.
The light headed feelings started to subside around mile 14 and the sun was playing peekaboo behind clouds, which cooled things off. Even though I was feeling better, I still walked about another mile until I reached an aid station. Most of the Marathoners were long gone so it was mostly me and the 50k people on their way back. It’s funny how different people act in an Ultra vs a Marathon. The Ultra people stopped at the stations, chatted with the volunteers and each other as they filled their water bottles and ate Fritos. I decided to follow their leisurely attitude and drank a few cups of water. Another marathoner heard me asking for salt and gave me a salt tablet. Oh, thank you, St. Patty!!!
The sweet lady and I ran/walked together from the aid station. It was so much more enjoyable with her. She was from Ottawa and the mother of 5 kids. Her husband had been driving the kids in a mini van following the course, allowing a portable cheer squad for her. It was great seeing such a close and supportive family.
I started feeling better and was able to run again for the downhill at mile 18. The mini van of kids recognized me and cheered for me even when I wasn’t with their mom. Patty caught up with me at the mile 20 aid station, since I took the time to suck salt off some pretzels. It’s weird to think that I felt better in the final 10k than I did the whole race but I did. Patty’s oldest daughter, who was a cross country runner, got out to run the last 10k with her so it was almost like a group run. They stopped at the 6k station and I left them. My claves and back were seriously cramping by that point, but I welcomed it compared to how I felt the past few hours. I was shuffle running like my shoes were tied together but it was the best I felt physically in a long time.
The turns were marked with pink flags and, being alone, I happened to miss one (CRAP!) but luckily right around the time I realized I was lost I came out on the road and saw where I was supposed to be. Only .1 added. Finally back on the grassy field I was passing finished racers laying in the grass drinking beer. The uneven surface of the grass almost made me fall a few times. My legs were basically Jell-O after 26 miles on asphalt and the divits in the ground were trying to kill me!
I’m repeating “dont fall” over and over in my head
It was an emotional finish for me. My parents were there and everyone cheered as I crossed the finish completely alone. Oh, how I love the race community!!  A little girl ran up and gave me a flower, which I think was more awesome than my medal. My legs started to lock up almost immediately and I stretched as I waited for Patty to cross. She came through a few min later and I screamed her name, which the other people picked up on and also started to cheer her on by name (once again, these people were awesome!)

Post Race:
Many have told me that I toughed it out, didn’t give up, and they are proud of me. The fact is I’m not proud about how this race went down. In hindsight I think I should have pulled out. When you feel like you’re going to pass out at mile 7, 19 more miles isn’t a good idea. I’m lucky it worked out but I dont think I was smart and I think I set a horrible example for anyone looking to do their first marathon. To me, I showed how stubborn I am, not that I’m tough or BA.
The good news:
  • With all the walking I wasn’t too sore and was able to see my niece and sample some of Buffalo’s finest wings without needing a post race nap
  • Even though I told my parents no more marathons right after the race, I’m thinking with proper training I can do the 50k next summer
  • I’m officially a marathoner !! Now that I have a real Marathon medal, I’ll be donating my CMM medal to Medals 4 Mettle, which will give the medal to someone who really deserves it. 
  • If that race didn’t break my love for running, I think might be a lifer
  • There’s really no where to go but PR so look out MCM!!
I spent most of the race inside my head. Probably the biggest mistake of all because there really was so much to enjoy during this race. Since I didn’t describe the beautiful course very well, I’ll share this video made of pics taken by one of the 50k people. Except for the pics by the Falls (the marathon turned around before the falls), this shows the course I ran and the laid back atmosphere of the race perfectly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: