This Sunday was my second attempt at the Buffalo Marathon.  I was going to run it last year, but ended up with some runners knee issues and only ran the half due to the injury.  So I was ready to get this one done and have a good race day.  Chelsea and I have been training since January and were feeling really good.  No injuries had popped up, our 20 miler was great, and we felt ready.  I was really excited for Chelsea since this was her first marathon.  I couldn’t wait to congratulate her after she crossed the finish line.

Saturday afternoon we headed down to the expo to pick up our packets and later that night I got everything set up.  I had a horrible time falling asleep Saturday night and ended up only getting about two hours worth.  It was extremely frustrating.

Sunday morning we got up at 4:30 (ouch) and made our way down to the start.  Chelsea and her family were staying at the hotel right on the starting line, which made it really convenient.  It was nice to be able to wait in a comfortable hotel room instead of constantly waiting in the port-a-potty lines.  Around 6:30 we headed down to the starting line with all the other runners.  We got our pre-race hugs in with our respective families, and then headed into the crowd at the start.  I tried to get us near the 4:40 pacer, but we weren’t able to get back that far, and instead started somewhere around the 3:40 pacer.

Ready to go! (I’m glowing!)

Packed in with the crowd at the starting line

At 7 am the national anthem was sung, the gun went off, and we were on our merry way!

And we’re off!  Can you see us?

We did the first couple miles a little faster than I thought we would (adrenaline), but settled into a nice 10:30-ish pace by about mile 4.  My husband and Chelsea’s family found us a few times along the way during the first half (miles 4.5, 6, and 13.1).  The course is very spectator-friendly for the first half (very walkable), but not so much for the second half.  We were really glad that they were willing to drive around the second half of the course for us, because we really needed it that day (I’ll get to that).

So the gun went off and we were feeling good.  The first 2 or 3 miles were fine, but then we started the feel the heat.  It was a beautiful, BUT HOT, day.  It was sunny, humid, and in the low 80s.  The biggest issue was that there was absolutely NO SHADE anywhere.  By two or three miles in, everybody was already extremely hot.  When we got down to the waterfront at mile 3, you could actually feel a difference in temperature – but the relief was short-lived.

Somewhere around mile 4.5.  Hot but still smiling!

Around mile 6.  So hot I ditched the shirt already.

Our biggest issue for this race was the heat.  It was hot and humid and the sun was just beating down on us.  There was no relief.  It didn’t take long to start feeling overheated.  Everybody running along with us was feeling the same way.  By a few miles in, we were all starting to feel tingly and lightheaded.  It was rough.  As we got closer to the halfway point and the finish line for the half, I definitely had some fleeting thoughts about finishing there and cutting my losses for the day.  But we pushed on.

We split off from the half marathoners just before their finish line and continued around the corner where we saw our little cheering section waiting at the 13.1 marker.

Halfway there!

This was the worst part of the race, by far (for me at least).  It was hot, and there was almost no shade.  We were already overheated and dehydrated from the first half, and there was no break in the sun beating down on us.  Miles 13 through 17 were completely miserable.  We had to stop and walk often just to keep from overheating and passing out.  But we pushed on and made slow progress.  By this point, our pace had slowed down considerably (12:00 – 13:00/mile).  Everyone we met along the way had the same mindset – the time and pace had been thrown out the window and we were all just going for a finish.  It was a relief to know we weren’t alone in our overheated state.

Just before mile 17 we had a pleasant surprise when our cheering section drove by us (twice, apparently) on Delaware Avenue.  It was a nice little perk.

The real turning point came just after mile 17, when a wonderful angel of a man had a bag of ice out for us.  We took handfuls and stuffed them into our bras.  It was amazing.  And that was where things started to turn around for us.  The ice made a world of difference and brought our core temperatures down just enough to make things bearable.  At this point in the race we started to get into more residential areas too, which also helped.  All the people living along the course were sitting in their driveways with hoses, so every quarter of a mile or so, we would get hosed down.  And by hosed down, I mean REALLY hosed down – I was sopping wet and it was incredible.  Around mile 19 was when the clouds started to move in as well.  So things were looking up.

I have a new-found love of fire hoses.  BEST.THING.EVER.

Unfortunately, there was only so much we could do at this point.  We had cooled off a bit, but the damage had already been done.  We were dehydrated and exhausted and cramping up.  Chelsea’s hamstring was giving her trouble and my groin was giving me problems.  So we continued at a very slow pace, but at least now we weren’t feeling like we were going to pass out at any second.  That was an improvement.

At mile 22-ish, our cheering section (my husband, chelsea’s parents, and her fiance) found us again.  It was great to see them out on the course.

Chelsea’s family with their group shirts – waiting for us near mile 22.

Mile 22, here we come!  No shade to be seen!

We continued to push on, feeling better as we went – although most of that was probably due to the excitement and relief that the finish line was getting close.  Everybody running along with us was feeling pretty awful, but we all just wanted to finish, in spite of the heat.  It was just a matter of will at that point.  We never “hit the wall”  (I have yet to do that, actually), and never thought we wouldn’t make it.  We just knew it would be slower that we planned.  After we accepted that the heat was going to win the battle over pace, we had a really great day.

Everyone on the course (runners and spectators) was absolutely fantastic.  Especially in the last few miles.  Every time we passed a group, Chelsea would yell that it was her first marathon, and she would get lots of cheers.  And all of the runners around us were encouraging each other.  Near mile 23.5, we met up with another runner, Paul, who we had seen around mile 14 or so.  He was cramping up pretty bad and having a really rough time.  We decided to stick with him and help each other along to the finish.  It was nice to have company along the course, and I can’t imagine pushing through heat exhaustion and dehydration like that by myself.

As we got closer to the finish line, our energy picked up.  We kept encouraging each other on, and ran our way into downtown Buffalo.  As we got closer, we could hear the crowd at the finish line, which is always a great feeling.  We rounded the corner, and saw the finish line…

We did it!

Yay Chelsea!  And go Paul!

Officially a marathoner!  Way to go Chelsea!

Chelsea, Paul, and me – with our hard-earned medals.

So even though it was a ridiculously hot day and very, very tough run, we had a great time.  I am super proud of Chelsea.  This was her first marathon and she did a great job.  She trained hard and stayed positive the whole way through, even with the heat.  And I’m happy to report that she now has the marathon bug!  Maybe I can even get her to do a blog.  🙂