Thursday, November 20, 2014

My First Marathon, A Recap

Months ago I talked myself into running a full marathon.  I scoured the interwebs and Runners World to find the perfect race, I narrowed it down the Atlanta Marathon and Niagara Falls International Marathon.  Both of these races were the same weekend but I learned just before making a decisions that the Atlanta race was cancelled so they could focus on a 10 mile race named the Atlanta 10 Miler instead.  That made the choice easy.

The marathon course
The Niagara Falls International Marathon (NFIM) starts in Buffalo, NY at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and travels through Buffalo before the cross the Peace Bridge into Canada and head along the Niagara Parkway where we finished just south of the Horseshoe Falls.  

My wife and I made it to Buffalo, NY on Friday October  24th and picked up our bags and rental car and headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada.  We quickly made our way to the Expo and picked up bibs, shirts, and other random wares.  Once that was out of the way we checked out the Falls for a few moments before getting dinner and relaxing.
Being tourists
Niagara Falls is quite touristy if you've not been there, so we indulged our inner tourist on Saturday the 25th and walked as little as possible while checking out the views.  We had nice carb filled dinner at the Sandstone Grillhouse, which was off the beaten path and perfect.

After a good nights rest my wife and I had to get up and get to the buses a few blocks from our hotel.  We said our goodbyes until we'd see each other at the finish line, she ran the half-marathon and was on a different set of buses since they started at a different location.  We had to go through customs, so picture buses with 1500 or so runners going through US customs in running gear.  They had us moving through quickly, so it went fast.  Once that was out of the way we got dropped off at the gallery to wait and try to avoid the wind and cool conditions.

Just before the race started, I had a couple of issues to deal with.  First I somehow lost one of the thin Nike running gloves I had to keep my hands somewhat warm and one full Clif Shot package.  I had to quickly rethink my nourishment routine on the fly.  After the American and Canadian national anthems we made our way through Buffalo, it went by quickly.  Once we hit the Peace bridge, the wind hit us.  It didn't seem to bad at the time, but we trudged through to Canada.  We headed south and out of the wind for a few miles and then headed north straight up the Niagara Parkway.  It was then that I realized that the last eighteen miles of the race were going to be directly into the wind.

That guy needs to shave
Running along the Niagara River was nice, but after a while it all looked the same.  The day was gray and cool, around 45-50 degrees.  By mile 20 my neck and back were tight from bracing against the wind gusts constantly buffeting me.  Miles 22 to 26.2 were torturous, but I knew the end was so close.  Then the finish line came and I was throughly exhausted from the run and fighting the wind.  It was a level tired I'd never experienced before.  I met my wife we hugged and we quickly made it to the shuttle to get back to the hotel, we both didn't want to stand around after dealing with the wind and cold all morning.  The shower I took after the race was probably the best feeling shower ever.

So fresh and clean
One thing I did tell myself to motivate myself along the run was "finish and you can shave", I had grown a beard during my entire training period and by race day I hated it.

I did enjoy the race, I was proud to finish even through the adversity of wind and lack of nourishment.  Luckily they had some Honey Maxx at the aid stations and that was a huge help.  I plan to run another marathon down the road, luckily I learned quite a bit a long the way and will be better prepared for next time.  My official chip time was 4 hours 41 minutes and 12 secs, I was actually hoping to get under 4 hours 30 minutes, but the wind and the fatigue it caused slowed me down.

Next time though, I'm sure the conditions will be perfect :)

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