The big weekend was finally here!  I registered for the Buffalo Marathon back in October, so this had been a long time coming.

My husband and I headed out after he got out of work on Friday.  I love that he likes to do the driving, because I like to do the sleeping.

The dogs came along with us and were exceptionally good for the ride.  Four and a half hours without a peep!

Yes, we are THOSE PEOPLE.  Our dogs travel with us.  They’re actually really, really good on trips.  And when we go to Buffalo we stay with my in-laws, so it’s not like we’re in a hotel.

We arrived in Buffalo and got to their house.  We took a while to chat and let the dogs play in the yard.  It was so nice for them to have some time to run around and enjoy the yard.  Since we’re in an apartment, they don’t get that luxury every day.  Hopefully in a year we’ll be ready to buy a house.

Such happy puppies! (PS – I love this camera.  How sweet are these pictures?)

Once the dogs had had their chance to play, we made our #1 MUST DO stop when we get out here…

DUFFS!

My husband’s best friend’s family (did you follow that?) owns Duffs, which is the best wing place in Buffalo (No, seriously.  They just won the Travel Channel “Food Wars” show versus Anchor Bar – the inventor of the wing.  They also just won the “Best of Buffalo” award for best wings.  And just recently, Obama skipped all other wing places and made a visit to Duffs on his trip to Buffalo.  They are THAT GOOD.)

Now, if you’ve read my blog for a bit, you’re probably saying… “Wait… aren’t you a vegetarian???”  Why, yes, yes I am.  And I seriously miss those wings.  But it helps when the owner is a good friend.

A couple weeks ago, I was talking with said friend (while planning his surprise trip to our neck of the woods) and told him how of all the things I could miss since going veg, the only thing I miss is Duffs wings.  So I asked if I could bring my own fake chicken for them to put in the sauce.  Which, being the totally awesome and wonderful guy he is, he said of course.

So before we went out to Buffalo, I stopped at the store and picked up a box of frozen Quorn Chik’n Nuggets.  I’d never had them before, but I’d heard they were pretty good.

My husband was so embarrassed.  But I didn’t care!  And for the record, our friend didn’t care either.

What Buffalo veggie heaven looks like.

OH. MY. GOD.  SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD!!!  (Pardon me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.)

I am now lobbying him for a permanent veggie wing on the menu.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

The rest of Friday night was pretty uneventful.  I was still in my veggie-wing-induced-happy-coma.

Saturday morning we headed downtown to the expo to pick up my race packet.

This marathon is a pretty small one, so the expo really wasn’t anything to write home about – I was actually kind of disappointed by it.  Oh well.  The only thing that was a slight bummer was that the shirt is a MEN’S small, so it’s pretty big on me.  However, I think I can fix that with a little hemming of the bottom and the sleeves when I get home.

Now, at the expo was when my aspirations started to get a little lofty…

When I was going through my race packet, I came across a sample of “Biofreeze,” which I had heard about before, but then forgotten about.  The fact that I now had some Biofreeze in my possession made me start to think about perhaps using that to get through any aches so I could run the full like I had planned in the first place.  Until then, I had been planning to do the half due to my recent knee issues.  I wasn’t happy about it, but I had pretty much accepted my fate at that point.  Now… not so much.  On the way back from the expo, I actually made a pit stop at Walgreens to pick up a larger tube of it so I would have it with me for the race the next day.

For dinner the night before the race, I was in absolute former-Buffalonian-heaven…

Oh, Wegmans, how I love you…

I would seriously move back to Buffalo just for two reasons…

  1. Houses are cheaper than where we are now
  2. Wegmans

Siiiiiiigh… I love that place so much.  I spent quite a while just wandering up and down the aisles like a kid at Christmas.

Dinner was the standard pre-race meal… spaghetti!  I didn’t take a picture because it wasn’t all that beautiful.  Just plain old spaghetti.  I didn’t want to do anything too ambitious since it was the night before a big race.  No changing up my routine at this point!  I also topped it off later that night with a TON of dried cranberries (yum!) and a Chocolate-Banana-Peanut Butter Green Monster.  Delicious!

Saturday night I got everything together and laid out all my race stuff…

It’s amazing the amount of STUFF that can be involved in running!

Pre-race checklist:

  • Clothing – can’t forget the good socks!
  • Sneakers
  • Timing chip
  • Bib and safety pins
  • Headband
  • Running sunglasses (actually my motorcycle glasses, but they double nicely for running!)
  • Garmin and heart rate monitor strap (Okay, I got it a little early.  But that was only because it was on CRAZY SALE for almost half the price and I figured it would be a good idea to get it then and pay way less.)
  • Ipod, headphones, and armband
  • Bodyglide
  • Sunscreen
  • Fuel belt – 1 pack of strawberry Gu Chomps, chap stick, small packet of Biofreeze
  • Camelback (full!) – 2 more packs of strawberry Gu Chomps, larger tube of Biofreeze, tp, cell phone

Wow!  That’s a lot of stuff!  I apparently don’t pack light when I run.  I’m like a boy scout – always prepared.

Then it was time for some relaxing before bed…

Hmm… Not really sure where I’m supposed to fit on there…

Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep too well (or much) that night.  I kept running through “race emergency scenario X” and “race emergency scenario Y” – most of which involved bathrooms (the small number of port-a-potties on the course was making me nervous).  You don’t know it until you become one, but a good plan, and well managed restroom stops are two of the most important things to most distance runners – myself included.  I managed to fall asleep around 1:15am or so, but then had to wake up at 4:30am to get ready and out the door in time.  Yuck.

The race started at 7am, so I wanted to get there around 6am or so.  We found an AWESOME parking spot about 50 feet from the finish line (score!) and headed over to the start.

The area filled up quickly, and I also quickly realized there were more people running than I had expected.  I believe there were around 5,000 people running the half alone!  There were also at least 1,500 running the full, and many, many four person relay teams.  All in all, I’d guess around 9,000 or 10,000 people.  It was a good crowd!  (Whoops – I found out later it was only 6,400 people total.  So apparently their bib numbering system had nothing to do with it.  Whatever!)

One thing I really liked about this race was that they had pacers and pace flags at the start to give everyone a good idea of about where to line up.  Since I didn’t have any big pacing plans for this race, I hung near the back(ish), around the 10:40/mile pace flag.  This was a GREAT method for the race organizers to use because there was absolutely no jostling for open space once we got going.

7am rolled around, and we were off!

The race started in downtown Buffalo outside the Convention Center.  We worked our way down toward the waterfront in the first three miles.  It was a beautiful day!

How about that weather?  66 degrees and BEAUTIFUL!

My knee was feeling alright for the first couple miles.  Around mile two or three it started to get a little sore, but nothing that wasn’t manageable.  So I kept on going.  At this point I was feeling good and ended up striking up a conversation with a guy running next to me.  That made the next couple miles go pretty quickly.

The crowd cheering at mile 4.

At mile four, I was really happy to see that my husband had ventured out on to the course and was waiting there to cheer me on!  (He took all these pictures – I wasn’t carrying a camera with me.)

Me saying “Hey!  There he is!”

Mile four – continuing on our way

I also found my husband waiting for me at mile six.  He was busy running around that course!

Mile six – feeling good so far!  That Biofreeze helped take the edge off for sure.

Once we made it past the waterfront, we started to work our way into one of the not-so-nice areas of Buffalo.  To be honest, it’s a little skeevy, and I would never go down there if I wasn’t doing an organized event like this.  But still, the running was fun, it was a beautiful day, and I was still feeling good.  So smiles all around!

Running under the Skyway, past HSBC arena (where the Sabres play) – this was just before heading into the seedy area.

While I was running from mile 7 to the halfway point, my husband amused himself by taking pictures of downtown.  He loves photography, so he was having a good time…

The city center

Oh!  Is THAT what I was supposed to be doing???  Whoops!

I stopped for a quick bathroom break at 7.7 miles and was really excited that my knee was still bearable.  Thoughts of completing the full marathon were running through my head, and continued to do so for quite a while (miles 7 through 9.5 or so).

However, at mile 10, my knee was getting to the point that I wouldn’t be able to push through the discomfort for another 13.1 miles.  At 10.2 miles I called my husband to let him know I would be ending at the half.  He was there waiting for me along with his best friend (Duff’s guy), his wife, and their son.

Hanging out at the finish line

I had decided to just do the half because even though I could have gone further, my knee was getting progressively worse as I went on, and I didn’t want to end up at 17 miles (or the like) and not being able to finish.  I wanted a finisher’s medal, darn it.  At this point, I just wanted to finish SOMETHING.

One unsettling thing was when I passed a collapsed runner at about mile 10.4.  There were lots of people there helping them already, and EMTs were on their way.  They must have been down for at least a couple minutes before I had passed.  I hope they’re okay!

When I got to mile 11 I started to pick my pace back up.  Now that I knew I didn’t have to conserve my energy for another 13.1 miles, I figured I could go a little faster.  My knee was hurting, but it was still okay enough that I could get through it.

The miles were ticking off quickly and I was feeling good, considering the circumstances.  Energy-wise, I felt great.  I definitely had the conditioning to do the full.  The only thing that was holding me back was the pain in my knee.

At mile 13, I could hear the noise from the finish line.  I took out my headphones and just enjoyed the crowd.

Just before the finish line for the half, the full marathon splits off.  Since I was still registered for the full marathon, I was wearing a full marathon bib (blue number instead of a red – half – or green – relay – number).  So the volunteers kept telling me I needed to turn.  Every time, I just smiled and said, “I’d love to!  But my knees have decided I’m done for the day!” and continued on my way.  People were very nice and encouraging, and I was happy with my decision to end at the half.

Crossing the finish line for the half.  Hooray!  I finished in 2:33:00.  Right around where I figured I’d be.

I got my finisher’s medal!

Me and my hubby, post-race

We headed back to the in-laws house to rest and so I could ice the heck out of my knee.

Ahhhh…

Pretty!

Now we have headed back across the state and are home safe and sound.  Everybody is tired and passed out on the couch (dogs included).  So I think it’s time for me to join them in the napping!

Overall, this race was really fun.  It was well run and (other than that one section) a pretty course.  The spectators and volunteers were great.  I’m looking forward to running it again next year – and this time doing the full!

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