Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Niagara Falls International Marathon Stuffs

The first two parts of My First Marathon Recap can be found here and here. This post is more about the actual race setup and weekend. Fun to learn about and especially useful for people like this sweet girl who is planning to conquer this actual marathon!

I have a dangerous habit of RRUI (Race Registering Under the Influence). The kids get tucked in bed, lunches made, dishes done ignored and it's time to settle down at the ol' PC to start scanning race calendars. More often than not, sleep deprivation, paired with an adult beverage, leads to some sketchy decisions and morning-after panic. This marathon, though, was carefully chosen and researched.

Not a tough sell with a finish line like this

The Niagara Falls International Marathon options include a 5k, 10k, half marathon, full marathon AND marathon relay. Sounds like a cluster, huh? All events are capped at reasonable numbers, though, (1,500 for the full) and it's been held, annually for many years.

The Site:
The website could be better. Info is found in odd spots and there are entire omissions (race results, for example). Beyond that, though, they do provide a ton of links for participating hotels and transportation. This was perfect for out-of-towners, like ourselves.

We went with a shuttle service that picked us up from the airport, stopped and waited for us at customs and then took us directly to our hotel. It was cheaper and way less stressful than renting a vehicle for our family of five. Every rep we spoke to, including our driver, was extremely friendly and helpful.

We checked into the hotel and went to grab a late lunch. This was when we discovered the big Niagara Falls Downer. Being the vacation spot it is, everything was waaayyy overpriced. Convenient? Yes. Restaurants, Casinos and shops were plentiful and all within walking distance. However, due to all the tourists and crazy Canadian sales taxes, a plate of pancakes at IHOP was $20.

the free ice cream cones made everyone happy, though
Health & Fitness Expo/Packet Pickup:
With some free time after our mediocre-tasting, $100 lunch, (yeah for vacation!) we decided to hit up the expo. Note : For this race, go to the expo Friday. Avoid going Saturday at all costs. When my sister popped into Canada, Saturday, for her surprise visit, we went back to the expo to get the stuff for her race. The lack of lines and quiet excitement were replaced with tons of people and claustrophobia-inducing chaos. Blech.
The bib pickup was quick and painless. Find your bib # on the wall, get in the appropriate, well-marked line and get your color-coded bib, complete with name. (I love personalized bibs!!) You then walk through a little hallway to activate your chip and proceed into the expo.
If you're running in the Full Marathon, you have to show your I.D. or passport at the expo to actually get a bib. You're  rewarded with a cute, red, maple leaf stamp on your hand.
I carried my first marathon bib as though it were a precious newborn kitten as we walked around to check out the different vendors. (No! Don't put it in that bag! You might scrunch it!) There were a lot of different companies and plenty of free samples and giveaways. For the small-ish number of entrants, it was a pretty well-stocked expo. Girls were even walking around passing out tiny cookies with the race logo on them.
the boys were SO pleased when I told them these were now "souvenirs" and mustn't be eaten
Marathoners were given giant, clear goody bags (as they'd double as drop bags for the race). I believe all other distances got standard-sized bags. Each distance featured a completely different shirt, too. Mine was long-sleeved and neon yellow. My sister's 10k one is short-sleeved and black. None of the shirts have any sponsor logos on them, either. This wasn't something I'd seen before and none of the volunteers seemed to be able to explain the reason for this.
We killed at least an hour at the expo, stopped by The Falls for a few quick photos and then headed back to the hotel to see what treasures that giant bag contained.
yes, I had a ratty ponytail. No, I wasn't even running that day.
goody bag delights displayed on sensibly patterned hotel room carpet
That's my fancy shirt in the upper left. There was also a full (not sample) sized bag of whole wheat pasta and totally addicting Werther's Caramelts. It also included some tasty bars, a snack pack of almonds, liquid tea mix, biofreeze, and a ton of the standard race flyer, coupons, pens, etc.
It was a nice assortment, for sure. (my sister got all the same stuff in her 10k bag, too)
Race Weekend Extras:
Saturday morning held an opportunity for runners, and their families, to get together for a short run. This is followed by a (free!) breakfast at Planet Hollywood. I ended up skipping the run, as it was rainy and I didn't want to get my marathon shoes soggy. We did, however, walk the mile (in beautifully cold weather) to the restaurant for the group meal.
The volunteers who'd set it up were so friendly and accommodating. The race director was there, as well, and seemed more than happy to be answering all the questions runners had for him. There was a well-stocked spread of fresh bagels (assorted varieties), cream cheese, butter, peanut butter, tons of muffins, bananas, coffee, juices, waters, hot chocolate and teas.
Bonus : Planet Hollywood was *just* close enough to the US Border that our cell phones had reception!
Before we left, the volunteers insisted we load up with extra goodies. This turned out to be perfect, as the bagel I stashed in my pocket ended up being my race-day breakfast. Upon their urging, the boys each grabbed another bottle of juice and we took a leisurely, scenic walk back to the hotel to enjoy the indoor, heated pool.
Bagel in pocket: yes. Banana nestled under arm: check. Ratty ponytail: mmm hmmm
One thing lacking from the expo and/or goody bags : any sort of written instructions. Most other races I've participated in, especially half-marathons, provide you with some sort of last-minute or race day reminders. There was nothing. We had to rely on the website. With our spotty internet access, this proved to be tricky and increased my stress levels.
My advice : print as much info as you'll need before you go.
Race Day :
The marathon & marathon relay runners get bussed (from one spot) to the US starting line. All the other races actually start in Canada and every distance shares the same, scenic finish line. Of course, if you're already in the US, you can simply drive to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
I'm pretty sure there was no parking, though, so you'd have to be dropped off. I'm also sure there was no race day packet pickup, so that'd need to be done the day before, as well.
Due to the unusual setup, the buses leave between 7:00-7:45 am, but the race doesn't actually start until 10:00 am. They need to allow time to get through customs and get everyone transported on time. When it runs smoothly, though, this can mean waiting for over two hours for the race to begin. Not fun, but it could've been worse.
Plus : We were able to wait inside the art gallery (no standing outside shivering!)
Minus : We were not allowed to bring food or drinks in there
Plus: Indoor bathrooms!
Minus: Three stalls (I later learned there were also a ton of port-o-potties outdoors)
Plus: Comfy seats in the auditorium/holding area
Minus: I fell asleep, briefly
Plus: There was some really lovely artwork on display
Minus: There was also some really hideous, lewd pieces
About 15 minutes before the start, I made my way outside to the buses where you could drop your bags. There were quite a few and they were designated by bib numbers. The line was short and efficient. I was able to wear my (ugly) jacket right 'til the end, too.
The Course:
The course was well marked, but there weren't really very many opportunities to get lost, anyway. Most roads were completely closed for the runners. There were never any traffic issues, so it must've been well-controlled. A majority of the race is run on a scenic parkway, in Canada. That's also closed to traffic for the race.
The water/Cytomax stops were plentiful and well-manned. I detailed that a bit more in the 2nd part of my recap. I noticed some port-o-potties on the course, but have no idea how many or where they were, exactly. Had I needed one, at some point, I'm sure I would've paid more attention to this detail. 
There were lots of spectators in the first few miles, but that was all through downtown Buffalo. Once we got into the more nature-ish areas, it got a bit lonely.  
The Finish/After Party:
The finish line was jam-packed with excited spectators. That, combined with the loud music and announcer made it very cool. I was quickly given a medal, shiny blankie and water bottle. The advertised "bag of food" was nowhere to be found. Boo.
I didn't see anyone else walking around with them, either, so I don't think I just missed the table. I'm pretty sure I saw a table with a small number of bananas and granola bars, but nothing stood out as : Come Get Your Tasty Post-Race Food, Here!
I had no appetite, anyway, so I didn't really care, at that point. My sole focus was on finding ice for my rapidly swelling left foot.
I hobbled over to the Medic Tent and was greeted with concerned-looking paramedics. I quickly assured them that I was fine and just needed some ice.
"Are you injured?" one asked. "No, no...my foot's just sore and I wanted to put some ice on it." I responded.
They directed me to the massage tent and told me I could get ice for "that sort of thing" there.
I limped aalll the way back to that tent and repeated my request. The man directed me to some young volunteers, in the back, who were instructed to give me a "handful of ice" to wrap up in my foil blankie.
One girl proceeded to open a cooler (full of ice packs) to show me that all their ice cubes were nearly melted.
It was, at this point, that I offered to buy a handful of ice from them. I also made the (apparently crazy) suggestion that they just let me use one of their ice packs. The girls assured me that they couldn't possibly do either and watched me shuffle back out of the tent.
Eventually, my husband went back to the medic tent and used his no-nonsense tone with them. I'm way too nice, in these situations. One of the guys sneakily slipped me an ice pack (for real. it was like a behind-the-tent, shady drug deal) and told me to tell anyone that asked that I'd found it on the ground.
My advice: BYOI or don't swell. Post-race ice is just simply too risky and precious to count on as an option.
I hope I've given off the impression that this race is awesome and that I'd recommend it 100%. I'm sure I'm slightly biased, as it was such a big deal to me. Beyond that, though, it really did provide for an amazing experience and every part we encountered (not including the Ice Fiasco) ran like clockwork.
My Medal Model
Feel free to ask me any other questions I didn't cover




Sunday, October 28, 2012

(really) Short & Sweet Sunday

Final details about the actual race coming, this week. For real. This weekend was especially busy and fun-filled. Just the way I like 'em. You might even get to see some photos of that action, later in the week, too.


Regular(ish) running resumed, for me, post-marathon. It feels painless and borderline spectacular, thanks to a recent dip in temperature. I had plans to run about 25 miles, total, but scheduling kinks left me at 15. Totally okay with this.

Even better news, thanks to my dear friend, I get to cash in this beauty for a post-race massage.
thank you, Kim! Not as tasty as a margarita but probably more useful
Yep. Life is pretty darned good, right now.
Tell me something good going on with you! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

That Day I Ran To Canada


Two important notes before we begin/continue :
First : Part One of this saga can be read and enjoyed here.
Second : The oatmeal I'm eating, right now, has thirteen components. Beat that.

The Husband was kind enough to walk me to the bus that would take me to the Start Line, way back in the USA. My mom accepted the enviable task of subduing the rowdy boys in the hotel room. (thanks, mom!)
I skipped the line for the first bus, which already looked pretty full and hopped in line for the second. I'd been waiting less than a minute when a lady, about my size, picked me up by my shoulders to physically move me out of the line.

"No, no!" She exclaimed. "You can't go on this bus. This Japanese bus!"

uhhhh...ok? A bit shell-schocked, I stumbled over to the next bus and wondered what nationality it was reserved for.
A volunteer was stationed at the bus doors, verifying that every person had their passport, before stepping onto the bus. He asked me, so I patted my pocket to double-check and then nodded.

"Good. First marathon, eh?"

Whaaa? How did he know? Dangit! That Japanese Bus Incident must've been a total giveaway.

The trip from Canada, to the US start, was pretty uneventful.
hi, USA!!

Oh, unless you count the part about where the idiot on our bus lied about having his passport and our entire bus had to wait at Customs for the issue to get resolved. Other than that it was a breeze.

Despite the frustrating setback, we arrived at the art gallery/holding station with plenty of time to spare. I relaxed, ate my bagel, sipped some electrolytes and felt surprisingly calm. Not as calm as this guy, mind you...
not dead, just napping (?)
Finally, I went outside, stuffed my jacket in my drop bag, hooked up my ipod, hitched up my arm warmers and found a little niche in the starting area. There were around 1,300 people registered for the full. There was also a Marathon Relay, though, so half of those people started with us, too. (the others were waiting at mile 13.1, where the Half Marathon also started)  They played both the Canadian and US National Anthems, pumped up the music and we were off.
The tears I'd been expecting never came. Instead, I thought my face was going to split from the smile I couldn't shake.
The temperature was just below 50F, it was sunny and cloudless with a very light breeze. This was exactly what I'd hoped for when I registered for a Northeastern, Fall race to reward myself for training all Summer, in Florida.
Miles 1-3 : We ran through a really pretty part of Buffalo. I kept my music off, as there was plenty of chatter, spectators and traffic to keep me occupied. I waved at all the families with their noisemakers and signs and thanked all the law enforcement and volunteers I could. I was carrying my big handheld bottle, filled with water and GU brew. It's what I trained with and felt no need to change this procedure. The cool air and earlier stomach troubles left me feeling a bit dehydrated, so I just sipped whenever I needed to.
Mile 1 Goal : 9:11 Actual : 9:10 I actually said "whoo-ha!" or something like that, when I saw the # on my garmin. The couple beside me looked at me like I was a nutjob.
Mile 2 Goal: 8:41 Actual: 8:42 For real? This whole pacing thing is a breeze!
Mile 3 Goal: 8:11 Actual: 8:25 After analysis, I think I know what happened here. I was still in a pretty large pack of people, who were keeping more of a steady 9ish mm, pace. All the weaving and acceleration I'd avoided in the 1st two miles needed to happen now. There was just too much traffic to do so.
Miles 4-6: No fatigue, whatsoever. I know the adrenaline and change (for me) in conditions made a huge difference, but everything felt absolutely perfect.
Mile 4 Goal : 8:06 Actual: 8:18 The end of this mile involved crossing the Peace River Bridge. I'd totally psyched myself out for it, having experienced other races with bridges o'death. By the time I was on the decline I  had to turn around to make sure I'd actually gone up the thing. It slowed my pace the teensiest bit, but was a total non-issue.
Mile 5 Goal: 8:01 Actual : 8:09 As planned, I had my 1st GU (complete with caffeine & inspiration from my sissy) after the 5th mile. I had a few seconds of nausea, trying to digest, but that's pretty common for me.
Mile 6 Goal : 8:01 Actual: 8:26 Bye-Bye NY, Hello Canada (eh)! The rest of the race would wind around the shores and parks of little rivers from Lake Erie. Near the 10k point, I got a little panicky, realizing I had 20 miles left.
It was, at that moment, that I decided to stop thinking, stop looking at my Garmin and enjoy this gorgeous course and amazing opportunity.
Also worth noting, while marvelling at the view of Ontario, across the expanse of sparkly water, I encountered World's Biggest Downer. The runnerguy (appropriately dressed in black from head to toe) saw my relaxed smile and said " We still have SUCH a LOOONNNG way to go!"
Coincidentally, that's when I first turned on my ipod. Loudly.
Miles 7-10 I really didn't look at my Garmin during this stretch. I was running at a comfortable pace, fearful of my inevitable freakout I tend to get during races. The spectators were few and far between, as there weren't many places to park and wait during this stretch.
Mile 7: 8:37
Mile 8: 8:24
Mile 9: 8:29 The bottom of my left foot started aching and burning, at this point. It's been a troublesome spot, before, so I didn't pay too much attention. Other than that, everything felt dandy
Mile 10: 8:55 I took another GU (minus caffeine) at the 10th mile and noticed I was getting low on water. I jogged through the water stop to grab a cup and try to just pour the whole thing in my bottle. That was a fumbling mess, naturally.
Near the water, there were some pretty windy spots. I kept trying to get behind bigger people, but no one was really forming any sort of pack. I'd also hoped to try to latch onto someone at a similar pace, as I would've been able to talk and run at the speed I was going. No such luck.
beautiful...and windy
Miles 11-15 Somewhere in here, water stops started appearing every mile. Since there was only scattered spots of other cheering sections, I really welcomed this. Most were run by schools or organizations and they were very loud and encouraging. I started walking, through every other one. I wasn't feeling the need for walk breaks, but I needed to take the top off my bottle, pour in the cups and stockpile liquid.
Once I got my bottle full, I added my extra GU tab & enjoyed the fizzy, lemon-lime electrolytes. The little slow-downs were also, obviously, helpful in staving off overall pain and fatigue.
Bonus : the on-course photographer snapped away while I walked through one of the stops. I was not thinking pleasant words to him.  
Mile 11: 8:37
Mile 12: 9:09
I knew my pace was getting slower and was totally okay with it. At that point, I came to the realization that I just wanted to be able to tell The Husband, upon finishing, that I had done my best.
The strangest? coolest thing occured, about 10 seconds later. I came to a neighborhood where one of the families had written, in four-foot high chalk letters, "YOU'RE DOING YOUR BEST" in the middle of the street.
Mile 13:9:03 At 13.1, there was a huge station where the relay runners met and it had been the start line for the halfers. I kinda felt like stopping, and calling it a day...
Mile 14: 9:01 Officially farther than I have ever raced!
I was feeling good, physically, but a bit lonely. There was a good chance none of my family would actually be able to get transportation to spots on the course, and would only be at the Finish Line. I bided my time by pretending other families were mine, and waving wildly at them while they looked past me for their loved one. Running a marathon = free pass to act like a lunatic.
Mile 15: 9:13 Took a GU Roctane, here, as they generally stick with me a bit longer. My tummy still felt great. I contemplated switching my music off, and turning on my audiobook. My poor ipod's been sweat-bathed so many times, though, the buttons are a bit iffy. I was nervous that if I messed with it, it'd rebel and turn off for the day. Music it was, then.
Miles 16-22 If it weren't for the constant, confusing signs (miles and kilometers markings were showing up for the marathon, half-marathon AND 10k by this point) and frequent water stops, these miles would've been pretty desolate. Yes, the surrounding scenery was breathtaking. Yes, the people stopping to vomit and/or otherwise relieve themselves in the woods was entertaining. Other than that, though, this was totally new territory for me.
Mile 16: 9:22
Mile 17: 9:26 Finally saw my loudly cheering husband, boys AND Canadian sister-in-law with her husband and sons! They were probably bursting with pride when they saw me walking through the water stop, pouring liquid everywhere.
the "action" shot The Husband got
The oldest ran out to hand me a handful of gummy bears. See, I'd told my other sis-in-law a tale of woe about another half-marathon I'd run. We'd been promised a Gummy Bear station, at mile 10 and I was devastated when none were to be found. Having heard my whiny story, she asked my family to be sure to give me the gooey treats when they saw me.
Aren't my people awesome?!
I felt so bad that my Canadian family had driven all that way to see me walk/jog by for 10 seconds. Spectating is a thankless job, for sure.
Mile 18: 9:29 Seeing some of my family had given me a huge mental boost. I was still so nervous about the seemingly inevitable wall , though. It seemed so much safer to just maintain, at this point, and hope for the best. I had sneaked a peek at my watch, though, and was suddenly focused on how do-able it'd be to finish with a sub-4. That became my sole thought and focus.
Mile 19: 9:21
Mile 20: 9:19 Knowing I only had 10k to go made me feel cautiously giddy. I kept evaluating and was amazed to discover how great I felt. Granted, I was tired and sore but nothing alarming or out of the ordinary, at all. The left foot was becoming more of an issue, but I consoled myself with the thought of shoving it in a bucket of ice, at the finish.
Mile 21: 9:34 Officially farther than I'd ever run, before. This thought was met with panic, but quickly squelched.
Mile 22: 9:28 Taking my fourth, and final GU was thrilling. We had moved out of the more scenic area, and into the city, though. I was having a bit of trouble zoning out and was starting to notice so many other marathoners walking.
Miles 23-26.2 (or .45, if you ask my Garmin) I'd hoped to speed up for the final 5k, but was still pretty much gripped by fear. Since I hadn't hit any sort of wall, it had to be coming any moment, right? I was terrified to increase my effort, for fear of totally crashing.
Mile 23: 9:45 My slowest mile. I'd done some spotty math and knew I'd only have to maintain a 10 mm pace to get in under 4 hours. This suddenly didn't seem so easy.
Mile 24: 9:44 Seriously?! I finally come up with a goal I'm totally hungry for and I'm not going to make it?! Then, I saw a familiar form running towards me. As per usual, my dad knew where and when to be. I was surprised that I was able to converse with him and was oh-so grateful for the distraction and comfort he offered. I turned off my ipod and most of my brain.
Mile 25: 9:21 This goal was NOT going to slip away, now. I'd wanted it for over a whole hour! The husband had been able to get to this part of the course, as well, (regular Houdini, eh?!) and joined my dad and I.
Another plus to a smallish marathon : No one minded my bandit pacers.
My dad took my sweaty water bottle and made his way back off the course to try to make his way over to the finish line. The poor husband, in jeans and long-sleeved shirt, was doing his best to encourage me and try to decipher my ever-so-attractive grunts and babbles.
Me: "Sub 4. (grunt) Just wanna (grunt) under 4 hours"
Him: "Not sure what you're saying but you sure look pretty" (or something like that)
I was so freaking tired at this point and so upset that they'd actually made the final mile another 14 miles long. (seriously. that thing seemed to go on forever!!)
He told me he was so proud of me. I, in the final mile of my first marathon, insisted on starting an argument.
"You're not allowed to say that 'til I finish!"
At that point, he told me I "had this" and made his way back off the course.
I knew, in that moment, that he was right.
I was about to finish a marathon. In under four hours.
this being the finishing view didn't hurt
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mom, sister and niece. They were shaking cowbells and yelling wildly. I couldn't even smile or wave, though. All I could focus on was that finish line.
Mile 26: 9:03
.45: 8:17
When I came through the finisher's chute, the announcer yelled out my full name, city and state. That warranted my first-ever Hands In the Air, dorky-feeling finish.
Gun Time : 3:58:50
Chip Time : 3:58: 24
16/74 F35-39
72/476 F
I took a couple steps forward to get my medal and the gasping sobs began. Granted, they were happy convulsions, but pretty nasty, nonetheless. I hobbled around, looking for faces I knew so I could tell them I was going to grab some ice. We all reunited, hugged and I was able to congratulate my sissy on her awesome, first-ever 10k, too.
  • I didn't run into any, dreaded, race-day disasters. No wall, no potty breaks, no hunger, no dehydration, no vomiting, no debilitating pain. I had a fueling plan, executed it pefectly and felt amazing.
  • Could I have made it hurt more, in the middle, and ended up with a better result? Who knows. I found a groove, stayed in it and avoided any crashes. For that, I am grateful and can look back on this race with nothing but joy.
  • My one regret : not being able to find someone to run and chat with. That would've been a great boost
  • I am totally and completely addicted to the marathon. Next one's in 8 weeks. Stay tuned for that action.
  • My family & friends/support system is the best. Hands-down.
 The next post will break down the actual race structure and weekend, if anyone's interested. Teaser for Part Three :
Niagara Falls International Marathon : Where ice cubes are more precious than gold
Thank you all for reading (or skimming) about my race. I love other people's recaps and hope there's some useful tidbit in here. Since I already posted the post-finish pic, I'll leave you with the goofy one leading up to that one. Enjoy :
luckily, The Husband decided to take another shot after this

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marathon One, Part One

To preserve space and my sanity, I'm going to have to break down this recap into separate posts. This one will be more about my experience. In a day or two, I'll type one up about the actual Niagara Falls International Marathon., itself. It was definitely deserving of it's own post.

I registered for this marathon so early (read: cheap-o) that I still had quite a few weeks before I'd actually need to start training for it. However, I was already running 40+ mpw (miles per week), so I just kept it up and lengthened a couple weekend runs. By the time I started my training plan, I already had a couple double-digit long, slow runs under my belt. (foreshadowing: I also had nagging ankle pain)

The giddyhappyparty feeling I had after easily completing my first 20-miler, at an 8:53mm average pace made me SO optimistic about my upcoming marathon.

what could go wrong?
All of my recent finishing times in races, and my training runs were pointing to a frightening (but exciting!) prediction of a 3:24xx full marathon. McMillan AND Mr. Daniels AND smartcoach can't all be wrong, right? (hopefully this admission makes some of you who predicted way faster finishing times for me feel vindicated)
And then this happened :
The very smart decision would have been to skip the marathon, wait until a better training cycle and tackle my first full, then.
I hope, by this point, no one is still thinking of me as smart.
With each injured, non-running day that passed, my lofty marathon goals slipped further and further away. Eventually, I had to suck it up and accept that it would be a blessed miracle if I were to be healthy enough to even toe that start line. Beyond that, all other aspirations would have to wait. Building back distance and speed was hard, humbling work. My fitness is still not where it was, before the injury.  I am, however, without a doubt, injury-free. For me, that's all I needed.
Fast-Forward to Friday, October 19th. The Husband, all 3 boys and I flew from Florida, to Buffalo, NY and took a shuttle, over the border, to Canada.
In retrospect, I think the stress of travel, hotels, packing and every other non-race detail helped keep the "holy cow. I'm really healed and strong enough to run a stinking marathon!" thoughts at bay.
what? You guys don't wear green, plastic fangs on planes?!
I'll save most of the the expo and race weekend details for the race post. I will share, however, that I teared up when I picked up my bib AND when The Husband took this picture :
first marathon bib!!
Due to both International and spotty wi-fi issues, we had extremely limited phone and internet service, all weekend. My parents would be flying to meet us, the next day, so I found a decent spot, near the US and sent that photo to my sister's phone.
Back at the hotel, after the expo, my guys settled into Full Relaxation Mode, so I tried to do the same. Still almost 2 days before the actual race. No reason to freak out, yet!
we can all take tapering lessons from this bunch
I opened the gift my sister had sent with me and had a lovely laugh/cry session. She had made her own labels, and affixed them to my favorite GU flavors. Each one had inspirational quotes we both knew and loved. Some were famous only to us (mainly because they'd been said only to each other) some may or may not have been from "Anchorman"...I stashed them with my race day stuff and got just a little bit more excited.
Speaking of other undeserved gifts my sis-in-law had also put together a whole gift bag of goodies for me. Luna Bars, Ghiardelli chocolates, calming teas, gummy candies, CDs with happy music...etc.
My mother-in-law had secretly had my husband stash her gift in his suitcase. She thought a ridiculously soft, furry, warm, running jacket would be the next best thing to a hug from her. (she was right)
My parents were coming, from Florida, for goodness' sake! It was a complete love-fest and it was making me feel stronger and happier by the second.
The next morning I skipped an outdoor run (it was rainy and I didn't want to soak my shoes) and suffered through a four-mile shakeout on the dreadmill. I threw in a few, 30-second strides and felt great. All running systems were still functional.
At lunch, the aforementioned sister showed up, in Canada, to surprise me. She'd been planning it since July! I had no idea she was coming, but realized I would've actually been more surprised had she not been there. Have I mentioned how rad it is to try to surprise me?
Anyway, once she and my parents were there, I was so, SO relaxed and happy, I really never had any of the nervous moments I'd been dreading.
We did some sightseeing, on foot  (not necessarily the best idea the day before the marathon, turns out) had a mediocre pasta dinner together (the food was blah, not the company) and settled in our hotel rooms.
I went back and forth a hundred times about what to wear. The weather was supposed to be sunny and right around 50 degrees for most of the morning. However, the days leading up had been drizzly and very windy. I finally settled on a short-sleeved shirt, light gloves, arm warmers, running skirt (mostly just for the handy pocket), compression socks and my Pure Flows. I'd also be carrying my big, hand-held water bottle (more pockets!).
My ipod and Garmin were charged, The Husband and Oldest headed out for their traditional Pre-Race Dessert Fest and the younger two were tucked into bed.
crazy Brownie Popcorn Sundae they enjoyed whilst the littlers and I went to bed
I laid down with The Littlest to try to get some sleep. This must have been successful, on and off, because I had some crazy dreams. I was awake before my alarm went off, but felt pretty well-rested.
(ps : If you can force yourself to get 8+ hours of sleep, per night, the week before a marathon, it's totally worth it!)
I had my typical race-day stomach issues (surprise!) so I had some calming tea, along with my coffee. I'd planned to have a small snack, but couldn't stomach anything. I spread PB on a bagel, sprinkled on some Chia, slathered it with honey, laid some banana slices on top and wrapped the whole thing up to take with me.
(ps #2: If you can travel with your favorite pre-race food , do it. I stashed the tea, peanut butter, honey packets and chia in my suitcase. The rest I was able to pick up in Niagara Falls)
The race didn't start until 10:00 am, but I had to be on a bus between 7:00-7:45. (more on that, later)This made for some tricky scheduling. It also meant that I would be traveling to the starting line, in Buffalo, NY, without my loved ones. They were planning to somehow station themselves along the course, on the Canada side.
I smothered everyone awake with hugs and kisses and walked the mile, with The Husband, from our room to the bus. Still no debilitating nerves...mostly just calm excitement. (does that make sense?)
Insert Pre-Race Picture, here.
Someday I'll be better at this!
Okay. As much as I'd love to have this recap be short and simple, it's just not gonna happen that way, apparently. I hope you don't feel tricked, but the actual race is going to have to be a whole 'nother post. I simply didn't realize how many details and stories I am feeling compelled to include.
If you've made it this far, here's a reward/teaser for tomorrow's post :
(ps #3 When running a race that crosses an International Border, Always Bring Your Passport)

Monday, October 22, 2012


So, the whole "Marathon Goals" post I typed up never ended up posting. I'll have to go back to see if I can figure out why, but I really did plan to share all that nonsense very important info.

The Big Fabulous Recap (BFR) is in the works, but all of your kind comments and widely varied predictions need to be rewarded asap.

First, thank you all for your well-wishes. I loved reading them throughout the weekend. It was awesome and encouraging, during the race, too, to know I had old AND new friends to report back to.

According to this cool tool, the winner of the $10 Starbucks gift card is...Kasey! If you email me an address to send your prize to (runningmovesmeATgmailDOTcom), I'll send it your way.

The closest prediction of my marathon finishing time was...Robyne! Her guess of  3:58:10 was only 14 seconds off my chip time. (nice job, Robyne!) Email me an address to send the Target gift card to and I'll put it in the mail.

Congrats, ladies, and thank you all, again, for your entries and support. Come back soon to hear all about the scary-happy smile below!

thank you. for real. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Unexpected, Undeserved, Under There

Under Where? (hahahahaha!) Sorry...it sends boys aged 5-14 into hysterics.

Have you heard of Niagara Falls? If so, consider yourself lucky, as the internet has not yet discovered this fine city.
With limited access, I only have a few minutes to update, but will bore bless you with a full recap as soon as we return home to Florida (aka, land of cell phone and internet coverage).

Unexpected : How much I loved, loved, loved every second of this marathon. I've never been much of a Distance Running Fan. I was also not expecting the gulping, hideous, happy sobs over my happy finishing time. (Neither were the frightened volunteers, for that matter)

Undeserved: The family and friend support that made this weekend both possible and 1,000,000,000 happier. The recap will contain endless gushing about this but I'll share one spoiler, for now : My sister flew herself (with infant daughter in tow) up here, to surprise me.
No single person deserves the amount of love and well-wishes I've been given.

In case you're just joining, and/or need an annoying reminder :

I raced 26.2 miles, today. I ran a marathon. I am officially a marathoner.

Oh, did I mention it was sub-4?

Be back soon with more...and pictures!!

Thank you all for caring, or at least being decent at pretending to do so.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


...It's my First Giveaway!!

ps : The "first" part of both of those could end up being totally useless additions...

I'll do my best to keep this both fair and simple as possible. There are multiple prizes and multiple ways to win them. I think it will be painless for all involved, though.

Prize Number One : $25 Target Gift Card I was originally going to offer a Running Warehouse one, but I would like for this to be appealing to any non-running readers, as well. If you don't have a Target store, nearby, fear not. The card can be used for online purchases, as well.

fine print: I am in no way affiliated with or sponsored by this store. This prize will be purchased by me and awarded to the winner from the goodness of my kind and loving heart.

How to win it: Predict my marathon finishing time. You'll need to submit an email (one per person) to runningmovesmeATgmailDOTcom, with your prediction. Please include hours:minutes:seconds to (hopefully) avoid too many duplicates. There won't be any need to comment on the blog for this entry, as your emailed prediction will be your entry. Should you choose "DNF" (did not finish) as your prediction, I will accept it as an entry. It will, however, hurt my heart a little. 
I have purposely not stated any concrete goals, for this race, so don't despair if you have no stinking idea when I'll cross that line. I've pre-written a "marathon goals" post, but it won't post until Sunday, 10/21/2012. This means your prediction must be submitted, via email, before 12:00, midnight, EST Sunday 10/21/12. Any entries received after that point will be disqualified.

fine print: in the event of two guesses being equally close to the actual finishing time, the lower number will ultimately be chosen. For obvious reasons. See time restrictions above, too.

Prize Number Two: $10 Starbucks Gift Card Don't like coffee, tea, hot chocolate, breakfast sandwiches, baked goods or (slightly overpriced mugs)? Give it to a friend. :)

fine print : I am also in no way affiliated with or sponsored by this store. I like you. I'd like to give you a present. The end.

How to win it: This one involves commenting. I don't have a Facebook or Twitter account, so I can't rightfully expect you to use yours to gain extra entries. Should you decide to blog or tweet about the giveaway or post it to your Facebook, that would be cool. The more friends the merrier, right?
  • If you do this, please tell me so in a comment.
  • If you already follow me, or decide to do so (only because you like me, no forced internet friendship, here!) you can leave another comment about that
  • Gina and Meggan are both running marathons on 10/21/2012, also. Go visit their blogs, wish them luck (you can tell 'em I sent you if you're nervous) and then comment back here, telling me you did so. (one entry/comment for each well-wish, if you visit both of them)
  • If you aren't comfortable pimping this giveaway, or being my friend, simply because I'm offering you prizes, a simple "good luck! Hope you don't die during your race!" comment will also count as an entry
fine print: Like the email predictions, all comments/entries must be submitted before 12:00, midnight, EST Sunday 10/21/12

If you win, you must be able to provide an address, within the United States, for me to send the gift card(s) (yes...you can win both!).

this double rainbow wishes you lots of luck

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pink Feet 10k/5k Recap

Aka : Weekend, Part Two. In case you've just joined us, the previous weekend wasn't that exciting. I just got tired of typing it all out, yesterday.

Mysterious Miles :  Ideally, I would like to have used a local half-marathon as a tune-up race for my Full. Unfortunately, those are few and far between, this time of year, in Florida. Having no desire to tack on travel expenses to races fees, for a glorified training run, I set my sights on using a 10k, instead. (Obviously, the distance is less than 13.1 miles, but the overall concept remains.) It just so happened that an inaugural 5k/10k event was being planned for the Sunday right before my marathon.

Bonus :  Some of the Pink Feet 10k/5k/s proceeds would also be donated to the local hospital group (Florida Hospital) for Breast Cancer research. Our family participates in some sort of event, every October, specifically for this purpose. This way I could kill two birds with two pink feet!

It's easiest to say that I wasn't going into this race with PR (personal record) expectations. However, that's not necessarily the most truthful statement. In reality, all of the miles I've put in for marathon training, (minus that whole injury hiatus) should enable me to run shorter races, faster. When I raced my fastest 10k, last November, the conditions were near-perfect, all around. That aside, I felt very strong and confident this past Sunday morning, too. I was shooting for a sub 46 finish and would not have been surprised to see a 45:xx on the clock at the end.


I'm still trying to come to terms with what went wrong.

My first mile was an easy-feeling 7:22. The second and third were slightly slower, on purpose. I was suddenly starving (a new and unpleasant feeling, for me, mid-race) and didn't want to burn out too early. The whole experience, though, was nothing like last month's icky 5k, so I was still feeling cautiously optimistic.

I turned on my music at the 5k split and felt like I was coasting on auto-pilot. After an extensive "status check", I happily realized nothing hurt. There was a male and female in front of me, but I had no desire to pass. Using them as pacers seemed a much better plan.

There were a couple of issues, towards the end of the race.
1. The enormous hill, right at the end of mile 5, sputtered out my slowest split (8:04)

2. The guy in front of me walked off course, apparently finished for the day, right before mile 6. (wth?) I stopped, thinking there was a problem. Still not sure if he never intended to actually race, was my own, little hallucination or was a secret plant to mess with my head. Either way, it was weird.

3. Lack of signage/direction coming around the final turn. I couldn't find the finish line, or the race leader. The lady with the megaphone was lovely and encouraging but would not, for the life of her, just point a finger in the right direction. I had to (again) stop to say "which way?!". Her ever-so-helpful response : "Girl! You lookin' GOOD!"

I agreed, took a gamble and turned the blind corner. I knew, long before this point, that my overall time wasn't great, but I was very happy with how well I was feeling. Little did I know, the way I was feeling on the inside, was definitely not reflecting outwardly :
Holy Geez. What am I even doing there? At least this explains why my right hip hurt, afterwards.
After uglying up the Finisher's Chute, I saw my guys, got some amazing news about some 5kers, took a few sips of water and headed out to finish my run. If I'd waited any longer, I would've definitely talked myself out of those last, hotter (but slower) six miles. My lovely sister-in-law kept me company for most of them, so it wasn't all bad. 
The Good News :
1. I felt really strong and happy and ended up winning 2nd, overall.
treat for them : they got to put the medal around my neck after I ran an additional 6 miles!
It was a small race. Just a little over 250 participants and most were walkers or people who chose the 5k. First overall was actually a female, too!
when I grow up, I want to look like that when I finish a race
2. For an inaugural race, there were very few hiccups. The parking area was over a mile from the start line. Not ideal, but we knew in advance and the directors did everything they could to make it more pleasant.
Packet pickup was IN the parking lot, so you could stash your stuff before making the trek to the start.
They also semi-lit the super-dark, in-the-woods, paved trail so we'd be able to see the bear/bobcat coming to eat us, long before it pounced.
It was supposed to be chip-timed, at the start, but didn't end up being so. Don't know why.
I'm not real sure about the post-race amenities as I was out running while others were enjoying them. I do know they had a kids' race, very cute medals and lots of pink.
3. Hot on the heels of my medal-winning sister, our partners-in-crime/running, destroyed their former 5k PRs on this fine, Sunday morning.
beat her best time by TWO minutes!!
Kristi-Anne's time was good enough for third female, overall, in the 5k and Kim's (above) medal was for placing first in her division!
To paraphrase my new, directionally-challenged volunteer friend  : "Girls, you lookin' GOOD!"
I'll have plenty of time to figure out how to make those great-feeling race miles faster. I've done it before and am confident I'll do it again. For now, I can ride high on the happiness of this past weekend with family and friends and enjoy this low-maintenance, high-stress taper-time!!
Giveaway coming soon!! 




Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Weekend Recap

The photo teasers and brag-worthy race results, from this past weekend, deserve a blog post.

Also, it gives my frazzled brain something other than packing, itinerary and/or First Marathon to freak out about.

Saturday Swiping : a little over six months ago, my sister was generous enough to produce a baby girl, for the first time in decades, for our family.

someday Ella will hate us for this picture
Unfortunately, my sister's body did not cooperate to allow her to run through her pregnancy. While definitely worth the time off, it was a looonnnggg wait. When she finally got the green light to run, again, she charged back into it with a hunger and determination I've never seen. She is currently training for her first Half-Marathon and is excited to throw in a couple 5ks & 10ks along the way. She registered for a local race and I was looking forward to running it with her. My current 5ks are just enough faster that I hoped to be useful as a "pacer"
Her ultimate goal was to PR. She has only run a few 5ks, though, so anything close to her best time would be amazing, as well. Our 1st mile ended up being about 7 seconds faster than I was planning for, but it evened out by the end of the 2nd. The course was hillier than I'd remembered, the sun started beating down on us and I saw her fading. fast.
I knew that look on her face, very well. It was the one that was fighting the urge to just. freaking. walk. We'd been able to keep up pleasant, distracting conversation up 'til the point where she threatened to vomit. Then I resorted to stupid jokes, constant reminders about running form, lies about how small the next hill was...anything encouraging I could think of came flying out of my mouth. I'm sure the other racers were ready to strangle me.
While I was loving every second of this awesome opportunity (ps : I think this is how I'll race from now on), she was looking like I'd felt at the end of my last 5k.
Although I hated doing it, the time had come to switch to Nasty Big Sister Mode.
"Quit being a sissy!"
"As soon as you cross that finish line, you can stop moving for the rest of your life, if you want. Until then, RUN FASTER!"
"Puke when you're done!"
"This is YOUR race. Not mine. You have to pass me. Pass me! Pass me! Dooooo it!"
(It was, at that point, that two frightened-looking gentlemen did, indeed pass me)
The combination of her perseverance and my incessant yelling flipped that switch. We came around the corner, to the promised downhill finish, and she did, indeed, pass me.
I thought my smile was going to rip my face.
Had there been any other women near the finish, I would have stepped aside to let them cross in front of me. This truly was not my race, and I didn't want to ruin anyone else's chance for a medal. Seeing only men, I hopped over the mat, right after her. This turned out to be an "oops".
There was a new (fun!) timing system to play with once she caught her breath and reveled in the congrats from our proud, spectating family. We were able to type her bib number into a laptop, and pull up instant stats. The only thing I saw, for her #, was "1 of...". I shreiked the news to her and we both gulped back tears.
The way they broke down the age group, though, meant that we were actually grouped together, and I'd managed to snag second place.
thus the "oops"

I found out, that night, that the third and fourth place finishers,  were only 1 second apart. This means, I totally "stole" that division placing for the fourth place chick. (sorry lady!) I tell myself she was probably pacing the 3rd place lady, anyway, and didn't want a medal, either!
Delusion : helping people sleep peacefully for thousands of years
That aside, we thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the morning. My sis was, deservedly, on cloud nine. I couldn't get over how fun the pacing had been and was, obviously, ridiculously proud of how hard she fought for that medal. She didn't PR, but it was just close enough to fuel her even more. On a cooler day, with a flatter course (and maybe a less bossy pacer?) she will blow her current best away.
We scarfed down the free pancake breakfast with our kidlets, spouses and parents, snapped happy (her) and sheepish (me) photos of the awards ceremony, and split up to enjoy the rest of our Saturday.
my speedy snis, on the way to get her very first medal
her oldest, complete with fake mustache, celebrating her victory
Well, now this turned out to be way too long so Sunday's recap will be a whole 'nother post. I also have a really fun giveaway planned and way more marathon talk than you ever hoped to read about.
Stay tuned!
...is the suspense totally killing you, yet? 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Short -n- Sweet Sunday

Next week, at this time, I WILL be a marathoner!!

Cool and busy weekend, lots of recaps to follow. I love getting back into racing, soccer, Fall...such a great time of year!!

the "oops" award
the result of a five year old with a camera
apparently, me running twelve miles had this effect on him
Tell me something about your weekend!