Monday, November 2, 2015

Niagara Falls Race Recap

It's tough to decide where to begin with this one. I think a few weeks before the race is actually the best starting point. After completing the Mountain Goat series I didn't slow down or take any breaks. The following weekend I had the BAA Half marathon. Physically I was ready and able to run, but mentally I was as checked out as one can be. Only days before I had to put one of my cats to sleep unexpectedly. To say I was devastated would be a huge understatement. I hadn't really eaten anything in about 3 days and hadn't slept much either, but I was determined to get out of the house and do the best I could. I'm so glad I went.

Just like last year, I met up with my friend Marcy and we ran together for the first 10 miles (then she took off like a rocket and finished a few minutes before me). We chatted and the miles went by ridiculously fast and I felt really good. I finished exactly where I wanted to be 2 weeks out from the marathon and figured I could expect to do a 5:15 if the weather was good and no issues came up.

The next weekend was the Boston Firefighters 10K, one of my all time favorite races all year, because obviously....firefighters, duh. Oh and they have unlimited free beer at the finish. Again I ran really solid and felt amazing. My friends Lisa and Antonio ran together and a little ahead of me, but I settled into my own groove and just focused on my pace and trying to run negative splits. I nailed it. And in the last half mile I passed Lisa (she has a tendency to go out a little too fast). Another awesome run before the marathon and I was ready.

The week went by really fast and before I knew it, my mom and I were driving to Boston to fly to Buffalo, NY and then drive across the border to Niagara Falls. As far as stressful trips can go this one was pretty high anxiety with all the little pieces that needed to fit together perfectly to get us to our destination. AND an international border crossing too. Right from the start I was on edge and uneasy, worrying about every possible hiccup and a little worried too about sleeping in the same hotel room with my mom, we hadn't done that since Big Sur and that did not go well. I packed my ear plugs and was trying my hardest to stay calm knowing it was only a few days and I could get through it.

Anyway, we made it to Buffalo and after a little confusion about the rental car we finally got it and drove across the border and about 45 minutes north to Niagara Falls Ontario. Our hotel was directly across from the falls and it was the race sponsored hotel where the shuttles would be picking runners up on race morning so at least that part was taken care of. We checked in and then decided to do a little exploring. I had pre-purchased "adventure passes" for both of us to do all of the touristy things like the boat ride and the platform behind the falls. Upon walking across the street and seeing the falls for the first time, my mom said "That's it!?!" (looking at the American Falls). I couldn't stop laughing, it still makes me laugh. She wasn't impressed. "It's just a big waterfall" she said. Yeah, not sure what she thought it would be.

Friday, I booked us a wine tasting tour of the Niagara region. Four different vineyards/wineries and a chacuterie plate and lunch at Niagara on the Lake. It was a small van maybe 14 people total. We had a blast. It was a long day, but at the end of the tour the guide even dropped us off at the expo so I could get my bib number so it was perfect! The race is really small, only 1500 runners in the marathon, so the expo was also pretty small. Not a lot of vendors or free stuff. The coolest part was getting my bib because I had to go through a customs and border patrol person first. After the expo we headed back to the hotel and got some dinner and called it a night.

Saturday it was sort of rainy and overcast and we had already done most of the touristy things so we kind of took it easy. There were two more attractions we wanted to check out so we ventured out and hopped on the 'WEGO' bus and did the Whirlpool aerocar and Butterfly conservatory, plus the white water walk along the river. We did an early dinner at our hotel and got back to the room nice and early. I was asleep by about 8:00.

Race morning, I got up and got ready. Buses left our hotel at 7:30am for a 10:00am start (sort of similar to Boston). The ride itself wasn't very long, it was the stop at the border and unloading the buses and everyone going through customs and getting back onto the buses that took some time. Oh and I learned that you cannot take a selfie inside the Customs and Border Patrol terminal. Outside is ok, inside is not. We arrived at the start area around 9:00am. It was sunny and cool. Kind of perfect conditions. I was a little nervous, but mostly excited.

The race organizers made a few announcements, they played the Canadian National Anthem, and then we were off. No waves or corrals, just a small group of runners, ready-set-GO! The first 4 miles were weaved through the streets of Buffalo, NY and then we made our way across the Peace Bridge into Canada.

The next 10 miles felt amazing. It was cool and overcast and I was right on pace to finish somewhere around 5:15. I actually crossed the halfway point at 2:32ish so I was feeling very confident and comfortable. Then somewhere around mile 15 or so the winds picked up and of course they were in your face relentless headwinds. My pace slowed, but I still felt good. The last 10K was rough. I felt like I was running through wet cement. I wanted to go faster, but the winds made it so difficult. I ended up finishing in 5:50 and the finish area was just as cool as advertised. It is right at the Canadian Falls and the sun had come out so there was a huge rainbow. The medal is really cool too.

Aside from finishing a little slower than I wanted to I felt really good and since the race was really small they even announced me coming into the finish line, "From Lowell, Massachusetts.....ALICIA LEEMAN!" It would have been really cool for my mom to see and hear, and there was a super easy shuttle from our hotel to the finish area and she knew the window of time I would be finishing, BUT she decided to stay in the hotel and watch the Patriots football game instead. Kind of disappointing, but not totally surprising. 

Marathon #21 in the books, not fast, but not painful and a lot of fun plus checked off Niagara Falls from my 'To-do' list. I've seen it, probably won't go back, but it was cool and I'm glad I went.

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