Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Buffalo Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
I just returned from my first race representing BibRave and I’m having a hard time putting into words the emotions I felt running 13.1 miles though a place I still call home.
Training for Buffalo was going exceptionally well until I faced a minor setback a few weeks before the race. Despite the on and off pain in my shin, I was extremely confident going into race week. I was ready to run fast.
Goal #1 was to run a PR.
I ran a 1:34:16 at the Cape Cod Half, which is 7:11 pace.
Goal #2 was to run 7:00 per mile, which is just under 1:32.
Early in the week the race director Greg Weber sent out a few emails about the predicted weather forecast being warmer than usual.
“We need to ask you to listen to your body and prepare physically by hydrating, wearing proper clothes and prepare mentally by understanding that this may not be a PR day.”
May not be a PR day? Are you kidding me? #PRorBust!
It wasn’t until we arrived in Western New York on Thursday afternoon that my mind went from “It can’t be THAT hot!” to “Holy shit! I don’t think I can do this!” Sitting on the back deck at my grandma’s house, I felt like I was ROASTING. I went for an easy shakeout run on Friday morning and it was BRUTAL, even at 8am when I started running.
Friday afternoon we received another email from the Buffalo Marathon with the heat plan. They are doing their part and they ask that we do our part as well.
· 6,000 pounds of ice distributed throughout the course
· Additional fluids distributed on the course, increased water stations to one every mile in the second half of the marathon course
· Mobile trucks with bottled water available patrolling the course
· Water supply trucks on standby to insure aid stations do not run out of water
· Additional gels and bananas distributed on the course
· Nurses at 7 aid stations
· Air conditioned vans at aid stations to provide cooling zones
· Buffalo Fire Department opening fire hydrants along the course with a fog stream, additional EMS around the course, and misters at the finish line
Side note #1: I can’t tell you how prepared the Buffalo Marathon was. Greg told the Buffalo News that he reached out to the race directors of Chicago and Miami, who have dealt with 80-degree temperatures on race day. They went above and beyond to keep participants safe. They also reported that they experienced similar numbers in the medical tent as past years meaning all their extra efforts were well worth it.
As for our part, they sent 10 tips including hydration strategies, the signs of heat exhaustion and “In the 24-hour pre-race window, stay horizontal as much as possible and soak up that A/C.” We may have taken that last line a little too seriously!
Side note #2: I was pumped to have so many friends and family running the race with me. My cousin Melissa was first to sign up and actually part of the reason I decided to run. She was running her first half marathon. Her sister Michele also signed up, making this half marathon #2. Other first time half marathoners include my childhood best friend Jamie, Melissa’s friend Ali, and Michele’s friend Katie.
With the exception of the 2 mimosas I had at Jessica’s bridal shower—champagne is my weakness!—I spent the weekend hydrating. I kept refilling my water bottles but I couldn’t stay hydrated. Saturday reached record high temperatures in Western New York so Aunt Barb and Uncle John decided to open up their pool. It was like an ice bath but I didn’t even care.
Ok so on to the race!
I spent the night on Melissa’s couch. We got up, got ready and waited for the gang to pick us up and bring us to the start. My mom, Barb and John were going to ride bikes around the city to numerous spots along the course. After a few pictures and hugs, I rounded up the gang to head to the start line. We hit up the porta potties then found a curb to hang out. This is where we ran into Jamie. So fun to see her!
With about 10 minutes to go, I left the group and made my way through the corral closer to the start line. Compared to the rest of the weekend the weather was on the cool side but it was still about 70 degrees at 6:30am and you could tell the humidity was super high. Going into the race I had 2 race strategies in mind. I would either A) go out conservative, see how I felt in the heat and try to build on my speed as the race unfolded or B) start out at goal pace and see how long I can hang on. I decided on Plan B because I knew it would only get warmer as the sun started beating down on us and the chance of negative splitting was real low.
After the national anthem fireworks went off (so cool!) and we were off…
Mile 1- 7:11
Mile 2- 7:07
Mile 2- 7:07
Mile 3- 6:59
The race started near City Hall in front of the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. We headed north on Delaware Ave for 3 miles until we reached Delaware Park. I knew within the first mile that it was not going to be my day. From about 0.5 to 1.5 I could feel my right shin but that went away. I first saw my mom, Barb and John just past the 2-mile mark at Gates Circle. I saw them from what felt like a mile away but they weren’t even looking my direction! I’m yelling, waving my arms, and they finally looked up! Apparently the Buffalo Marathon tracking app wasn’t working so they didn’t even know we started.
Mile 4- 7:11
Mile 5- 7:25
Mile 5- 7:25
Mile 6- 7:09
Once we reached the park, we headed back towards the start. We could see runners behind us running on the other side of the parkway and I was focused on looking for Melissa and Michele but I never saw them. The biking cheerleaders waited at Gates Circle for the girls then reappeared on the course to see me around Mile 4. I got a little excited and at Mile 4 realized I forgot to take my first GU Chews at Mile 3. That mile I also started talking to a girl from Pittsburgh that was running alongside me. Her goal was 1:30 but she also knew right away that she needed to modify her goal. She seemed to be a little better shape than me but she stayed with me from about Mile 4-9. At Mile 5 my forearms started cramping. My forearms! I was shaking out my arms and trying to stay relaxed. I had taken water and Gatorade at every aid station. I drank the full cup of Gatorade then a sip of the water and poured the rest over my head. The 6-mile marker was right around where we started and was PACKED with spectators. It was a real motivational boost. The Pittsburgh girl seemed to be picking up the pace and I tried to stay with her.
Mile 7- 7:09
Mile 8- 7:17
Mile 8- 7:17
Mile 7 and 8 were through neighborhoods heading around towards LaSalle Park. As we approached the park and the 8-mile marker, I started to notice some signs of heat exhaustion. I had goose bumps on my skin and at times feeling a little lightheaded.
Mile 9- 9:21
There was an aid station right before we turned onto Amvets Drive to run along the water through the park. I walked through the aid station and continued to walk for a good portion of Amvets Drive. This is also where I took my second and final GU Chew packet. A couple times I ran a few steps, got a little dizzy then walked some more. There was some shade (I think?) and a nice breeze coming off the water.
Mile 10- 7:20
I got a little energy boost for the 10th mile and ran the whole mile!
Mile 11- 7:59
It was back to walk/running for Mile 11. If I wasn’t feeling right, I walked a little but then I got right back to sub-7:30 running pace. This mile was a fun little out and back by the Waterfront with more breeze.
Mile 12- 7:56
Mile 12 was a mix of walk/run/just want to be done. My Aunt Judy and Uncle Kim were at the 12-mile marker! It was the first time they’ve ever seen me run so that was nice.
One more mile to the finish! I tried to run the rest of the way but that didn’t happen! My legs had it in me but I was struggling a bit with my breathing and I was still experiencing chills and dizziness on and off. My mom was waiting a few blocks from the finish and I was able to push myself past a few people in the final straightaway. Way to be an asshole Jen! But I saw the clock and if I couldn’t break 1:34, I at least needed to stay under 1:40—Let’s note that my watch recorded the last 0.22 miles at 6:44 pace!
13.1 miles – 1:39:54Average pace – 7:38
So I didn’t get to ring the PR bell at the finish line. (Seriously, how cool is that?!)
In Houston, every walking step I was more and more pissed. In Buffalo, I realized early on that the heat was out of my control and it wasn’t going to be my day. Yeah it sucked but you have to race the race that’s presented to you on that given day. I knew I had to race smart. I did not fare well in the heat at the 2015 Falmouth Road Race and I didn’t know how my body would respond in even warmer temperatures in Buffalo. When I had to start walking, sure I was pretty disappointed, but I had to play it safe. Instead I embraced the city and vowed to take in all the sights and sounds of my favorite city. Run if I could, walk if I had to and keep smiling!
Best Decision(s) of the Day: Taking an icy towel at Mile 10 and wrapping it around my neck. Even better, taking the ice cup at Mile 11 and pouring some in the neck towel, some down my sports bra. It was wonderful.
Favorite Part of the Course: The energy of the spectators at Mile 6 was incredible. I also enjoyed the out and back from Mile 10 to 11 at the waterfront and the distraction of watching runners running in the opposite direction. The turnaround featured about a dozen sprinklers! I felt like a little kid running through them!
Favorite Sign of the Day: While I loved the old lady with her sign yelling “When your legs get tired, run with your heart!” and the “Bad Bitch Alert” girls, my favorite sign of the day had to be in the final 0.1 mile where it said 13.1 straight, 26.2 turn right.
Best Moment of the Day: Receiving my medal from Randell Johnson of the Buffalo Bills. He put the medal over my neck and gave me a little shoulder massage as he congratulated me and we talked about it being a tough run. As I watched more runners finish, I saw the players calling out the runners by the names on their bib numbers. It was a nice, personal touch.
Thank you #58, you made my day!
The girls did great. Jamie (2:07:41) was first to finish and checked a big thing off her bucket list. Melissa (2:34:50), Michele (2:38:39) and Katie (2:38:40) ran together most of the way until Michele and Katie had to stop and Melissa left them behind. Melissa looked good and very comfortable running. I went back on the course to find Michele and Katie and they were WALKING! I yelled at them because they were less than a quarter mile to the finish but I shouldn’t talk… :) Michele’s time was slower than Houston but she said she complained way less. That’s a win for Michele’s running partners! Ali (2:53:07) experienced some knee pain but made it to the finish line! Way to go!
The volunteers were amazing. Our personal cheerleaders were amazing. The course was beautiful, flat and provided the perfect opportunity to PR on the right day.
As Jay-X would say, “On to the next one!”
Runner’s World Classic
North Andover, MA
July 16-17, 2016
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ICYMI Buffalo Half Marathon Training: