Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon - Race Recap

Sorry for the late race report. I've gotten super lazy and busy, so here goes....

I signed up for the Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon during their early bird registration last year with a number of my girlfriends who had been wanting to run a "destination" race. Some of the ladies that signed up had been running for years, others were new runners and for one lady, it was going to be her first.

I had read another review from a fellow runner who's wife had run it the previous year and it sounded like a fantastic race. Katherine Switzer was going to be there for the weekend and the swag included a bottle of wine.... what more could I ask for???

By the time race weekend came, there were only 4 of us that raced. We decided to get a room in Niagara Falls the day before the race so that we could have a girl's weekend.

View from Our Room
We checked into our fabulous hotel with the fantastic view and headed straight out for packet pickup. Packet pickup was located at a local mall and we got there close to the end of the day and the lineup was RIDICULOUS!!!
Runners waiting for bib pickup, it looped around the mall

I have been to many packet pickups and this was by far the worst. There wasn't really an expo, just a few vendors and the stores that were located in the mall. We waited for over a hour to get our bibs. Thank goodness for the good company of good friends and fellow runners. When it was finally our turn, I figured out why it had taken us so long.  Each runner had to give a their bib number to a volunteer to get their bib and continue to move around the room to each station to pick up the swag each item individually.

The swag was pretty good. The wine was the best part. There are 9 items in my photo plus the shirt, which meant I had to go to 10 different people plus the first person gave me my bib, so total 11 people. It seemed very disorganized to me and sloppy. At the end of all the swag item pick up, Katherine Switzer was there with her books. All the ladies ahead of us had stopped to take photos with her which was the main reason to why the line was so long and not moving. By the time we got to her, she was instructed that no photos were allowed and that if we were to purchase her book, she would sign it. BOO!!

When we finally got our goodies, we hightailed out of there for some retail therapy. After spending some quality time at some of our favourite stores, we headed to stuff our faces and celebrate with a pre race beverage. 

Group shot before the race

We got a good night's rest and was excited to get racing the next morning. We decided to take a cab to the start, but was dropped off about 2km from the start because the traffic into the start area was back up and the cab driver told us it would be faster if we walked. The start and finish line was in a really nice park, but only had one lane going into the parking lot, which made the wait even longer. We saw a lot of runners doing the same thing as we were.

We made it to the start line with 2 minutes to spare, the announcer told us that they were going to delay the start due to the back up of cars trying to get into the parking lot. 

Flowers in the port-o-potty

Funny Sign by the start/finish line

I wished my girlfriends a great race and placed myself with the 1:50 pacer. I know it was a bit ambitious of me, but I wanted to push myself and see how I would do. I had taken a look at the course map and it seemed fairly flat with water stations spread out quite evenly. I decided to not carry water and relay on the water stations. 

I tried to keep up with the pacer but she was going much faster than I had anticipated. She had said that she was taking advantage of the slight downhill at the beginning of the race and was going to eventually slow down the pace. I kept up with her for the first 5 km at a 5:13 pace, then gave up and decided to keep on my comfortable race pace. The course was right along Niagara Falls. The views were beautiful. The mist off the falls was very refreshing as the sun was starting to get pretty intense. The course took you past the falls twice as you had to go out and back to pass the start/finish line. I was able to position myself in a pretty good corral, so there were not many runners crowding the roads. There were only a total of 1995 runners that took part in the race. There were a few of us that stayed together for a good part of the race trying to keep a good pace. I was able to see my friends at the turnaround points. After the 7 km mark, it got a bit lonely as the course took you right along the Niagara River. There was no shade and the sun just beat down on us. I grabbed water at every water station as I had decided to not carry water this race. The water stations were plentiful and always had great volunteers cheering us on.

Still smiling
I was running alone for most of the race and ended up running a few kilometres with a fellow runner at my pace. It was nice to chat with someone to kill some time. I had run my first few half marathons with my best friend and we would always chat. But, for the past few races, I've raced alone and it's been lonely to say the least. We chatted about where we were from and kept each other going. I eventually looked down at my Garmin and knew that I needed to pick up my pace. I bid her a good race and ran on.

The second turnaround point was around the 14km mark. I was so relived to be finally turning back and heading back to the finish line. I knew that I still have a lot more distance to cover, but at least I was close to finishing. I knew at this point, I was not going to get my 1:50 finish. I had slowed down to a 5:30 pace.  It's true when they say running is a mental sport, because all I could think about was how in the world was I going run the San Francisco marathon in a month. I was starting to doubt myself, but when I saw my friends again, I knew that I could do it.  I was headed to San Francisco the next day for a layover and was going to try to run part of the marathon course. I knew that I needed to shake off the negative thoughts and plod on.

As I came down the final stretch I saw the finish line in sight. It seemed like the longest 500 metres I had ever seen. The crowds were cheering and I knew that I was almost there. I tried to pick up my feet and chased down whoever was running  in front of me. I closed my eyes and ran as fast as my legs would carry me. I crossed with Katherine Switzer giving me a high five and got my one of a kind medal. There was a nice snack from from Tim Hortons with cookies and fruit as I was exiting the finish corral. I was able to get a nice massage. There were tables were set up with table cloths and bowls of candies for runners and friends to sit and enjoy some food and water.

Katherine Switzer is on my medal
It was a great weekend with my girlfriends. There were some very nice touches to this race. If you're looking for a fun and nice small race, this one is for you.

Fun Group shot


Time 1:54:42 (PB)
Pace 5:27
Category Place 28/372
Gender Place 138/1979 (yes, men are allowed to run)

Where have you raced lately?

How do you deal with the mental part of running? 

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