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


  1. great post! I cried :) So proud of you and your accomplishment! I am on week 2 of training for my first marathon - you are my inspiration!

    1. go you!! I can't wait to hear about your progress.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting wiht such kind words. :)

  2. Yay! You are one funny girl;-) Entertaining race recap fo' sho'! 8 weeks...go get 'em! I would have loved to find someone my pace to run a whole race with (or the majority)...I'm working on converting my friend's to become runner's;-)

    1. Thanks!
      Good luck with that conversion. I generally just stick with bribes when trying to get my friends & family to run with me.

  3. I am so proud of what you accomplished! Great post!

    1. thanks! You kinda outdid yourself, too, you know...

  4. Great job on your first marathon! Congrats and a sub 4 finish! Our first marathon times are so similar. I couldn't help but sob when I crossed the line too, such a great moment. I havent been tempted by number two yet. still recovering from injuries from number one~, good luck with your number two!

    1. thank you! You seem to be moving back towards th comeback trail. Won't be a bit surprised to see you training (soon!) for another big race.

  5. Congratulations!!! Sub-4, that is awesome! I need to figure out my fueling as well as you have, it's always a guess for me. How exciting!

    1. thanks!! I have been blessed with an iron stomach, though. (knock on wood)
      Keep at it. You'll stumble on fueling that works. Lord knows there are enough options, these days!

  6. Have I mentioned how proud I am of you - and your sister - and how happy I am for both of you?

    1. numerous times.
      For some reason it hasn't gotten old, though...
      (and thanks)

  7. Thanks for stopping by today! I LOVE your blog and following you now! (and I also read your About Me that you're not a Facebooker or twitter-er, me neither!!)

    Anyway, I very recently wrote a post about wanting to do my first marathon in 2013 and that the Niagara falls marathon would be a DREAM for me!!

    So, you can't even imagine how happy I am for you! CONGRATS!! what an absolutely AMAZING time(sub 4!!!) and I hope you go around bragging and telling everyone your accomplishment!

    1. Ha! I can't believe I've found another Social Media rebel!
      I am so excited that you're doing that race. I'll be happy to fill you in on all the glorious details.
      And, thanks very much!

  8. Wow! I loved it! And ditto on hating the guy at mile 6. Nothing is worse when you are running than someone who talks about how hard it is while you're doing it. Thanks, captain obvious, now shut it while I think about rainbows. I love your idea of running with your fluid. I need to try that one of these days. And was that really a Japanese bus?

  9. Thank you for reading it. I almost talked myself out of relying on water stops, only, but I've trained with the handheld so I stuck with it.
    I'm not sure what the deal was with the bus. I know there was a huge group of Japanese tourists at the expo. Maybe they stayed together for the transportation & race, too?

  10. Congratulations on your great race and a sub-4!! Amazing! I agree, it's interesting how we both had similar experiences, not enjoying the half as much as a well-paced full! I'm looking forward to hearing how you like your next marathon. I'm plotting my second as we speak. Your 8 weeks is making me wonder if I should just go for the Feb. marathon I had my eye on. Maybe May for me though.

    1. Thank you!!
      I didn't give everything I had, for my 1st, so I felt great enough to jump right back into training.
      So glad you had a good enough experience to already be planning another. :)