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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Buffalo Marathon: BQ acheived

I registered for the Buffalo Marathon as a last-minute race to check off a BQ, allowing me to register for Boston along with all of my teammates. They all BQ'd at Houston, but thanks to my stress fracture, I hadn't run a marathon since February of 2017, out of the BQ window for 2019. My extremely abbreviated training - seven weeks, only one 20 miler, nothing farther than that or longer than 2:30, and no marathon-specific workouts - was further undermined by a hamstring strain a week and a day out from the race. After skipping my last long run and taking some total rest, I managed to squeeze in a few days of tentative, easy, short miles, and then one ill-advised 5k (for God knows what reason). And then, just 35 hours later, I was on the starting line in Buffalo.

I'll do a separate race review post, but logistically, the Buffalo marathon is a breeze. Thanks to the super-convenient race-day packet pickup, I was able to walk from my hotel the morning of the race straight to the start, grab my packet in the adjacent convention center, drop my bag, and stop at one of the bajillion port-a-potties with no stress at all. I was a tad groggy, thanks to a wake-up time of what would have been 3:30 central time (the race starts at 6:30 am). I'd had some oatmeal I'd packed for breakfast, plus hotel coffee, and brought a handful of free gels that a team member had given out to the group last month, obtained from some friend who sells them? I don't know, but they don't require water, so they're rather bulky, and were hard to carry - but whatever, it all worked out. I had brought a white ball cap, but I didn't wear it, which was a bad idea in retrospect.

I crammed into the crowded corrals in time for the anthem and fireworks (!) at the start. I also got to meet Laura Anderson, whom I follow on Instagram (@losingrace), the eventual women's overall winner! We started off easily enough, and I tried to stick to my game plan of 7:30's. My goal had been 3:20 - a reasonable BQ, but not strenuous for me, and not racing - but that put me at a little under 7:40 pace, and for some reason I tend to struggle to hold that pace. It's easier to run either 7:50's or 7:30's! Plus, I was afraid of trying to run for that long. That's a long time for a girl who tends to bonk, you know? So I estimated that a 3:16 would be a perfect long run, with a good BQ cushion. Naturally, I also had to consider my hamstring, so any goals carried that caveat that I could slow down to a comfortable pace if necessary, as long as it was under 8 minute pace.

Miles 1 - 6: While it was quite muggy, we started out early, and the temperatures and sun weren't bad yet. In fact, it was overcast, and running felt quite easy. We were really crowded at first, spreading out some by mile three. I ran 2 and 3 slightly fast, but they were downhill, and I was still adjusting to any kind of elevation change since I only run flat surface. I was chatting a lot with other runners early in the race, including two women who had recently run Rock 'n Roll New Orleans - but I let them go ahead, as their pace was too aggressive for me and my race plan. Then I found myself running next to a very tall dude (6'8") and we ended up running together for several miles. He was great company, and had run the race several times before. The course was gradual, though not terrible, ups and downs, which I was trying to adjust to. I was also coming to grips with the fact that my brilliant idea to run a 5k Friday night had...left me a little sore! Especially my quads! (7:32, :19, :15, :30, :31, :21).

Miles 7 - 11: Miles one through eleven of the race contain most of the downhill, so this section contains some of my last miles that benefited from downhills. Tall dude had pulled ahead, but by eight? nine? we were running a pretty section near Lake Eerie I caught back up to him and we ran a few more miles together. But it was about then that the sun came out, strong, full-force, and immediately the race atmosphere changed. The half-marathoners were tiring out, and the marathoners were getting hot. Finally, the pack strung out a little, which made water stops a little easier: I was actually struggling to stay on top of hydration; a combination of flying the day before, warm and humid weather, and crowded/tightly bunched water stops was leaving me thirsty (one of my few complaints about the race is the water stops in the first half; they were set up with tables and volunteers too close together, making it really hard to grab water without colliding with another runner or another volunteer, so I missed several stops early on!). (7:20, :29, :31, :10, :21).

Miles 12 - 15: The race wove through a windy walking path, where I lost all control of tangents. I was getting hot by now. It got up close to or at 80 during the race, but that doesn't faze me; the sun, however, was quite bright and glaring, and already I was feeling it. I said farewell to the half-marathoners at mile 13, and then, like usual, the course got lonely right away. And at mile 14 I saw my first walker, yikes. I had lost tall dude when he dropped back at the lakefront, and from the half marathon point on, I did nothing but pass people. Every single one in my line of sight. So - no company for me, unless it was a minute or two, but at least I could make catching people a game for entertainment purposes! I would think, "Next up - green singlet. Now, guy in orange" etc. (7:16, :33, :29, :32).

Miles 16 - 21: I took advantage of some downhills here to roll on down, although I was starting to wonder if that was a good idea, as my quads were already feeling very sore. In this section, my hamstring finally started to make its presence known, with some nagging stiffness and a pulling sensation. I tried to adjust my stride a little to accommodate it, and luckily it never got too bad.  I hadn't seen another woman since the half broke off, but here I did; I passed two around 18 and 20 who were both slowing significantly. (7:15, :15, :26, :38, :24, :26)

Miles 22 - 25: Miles 22 though 25 is one gradual uphill, which I ground up, gritting my teeth. Starting at mile 20, my muscles had gotten progressively more painful, probably from a combination of under-training and the Friday 5k. By now the race was pretty strung out, but if I ever did see anyone, I passed them. I had slowed, though: I laughed at myself that, despite running a so-called "easy" race, I was still slowing for the final miles! By now the sun had baked me into a nice bright red, but the warm and humid weather still didn't seem bad to me, coming from NOLA, so I had a huge advantage over local runners. I continued to pass people. We got back into the downtown area, and there were more spectators, and that was fun. The race did well handling the somewhat warmer weather than expected, with ice and sponges at the aid stations. I didn't grab any of those, but I did pour some water on my head in the sunniest spots. The last uphill is mile 25, and for the first time, I started to really struggle to run the incline - mile 25 was my slowest mile. (7:38, :38, :37, :49).

Yet why so much pain face?! Also, I'm losing my hair stick, which would have
been a disaster. So glad it hung on for the last few feet (this is the finishing chute,
with some blessed shade from downtown buildings)

Mile 26 - finish. When mile 25 beeped, I realized how much I'd slowed down and hit the gas, a little ashamed! Now there were even more people about, and they were an encouraging crowd, which was nice, and I was ready to be through and out of the sun. I ran mile 26 as my fastest mile of the day at 7:06 - which did make me wonder if I didn't just slow down out of habit in the later miles?! After navigating a very weird hairpin-turn out-and-back section right at mile 26, I crossed the finish line in just under 3:16.

It's strange to run, but not race, a marathon. The weird part was that overall - mentally, energetically - I felt comfortable the whole race, but my muscles still got very sore! And at the finish line I just kind of jogged across, grabbed a medal, and headed out. Not a very exciting finish. I quickly picked up my dropped bag and headed to the post-race party, conveniently held in the convention center out of the heat. After a beer, I walked back to my hotel, attempted an ice bath (ha! I lasted two seconds, how do people do that?), checked out, and by noon I was sitting at a restaurant on the race course, watching the final runners as I ate lunch. By two pm I was boarding my flight home, BQ in hand!


  1. See you in Boston! :) glad your nice low-key BQ-marathon plan worked out! (What possessed you to do the barathon and then the 5K?!)

    1. Stupidity, mostly ;) also was already registered for them before I registered for the marathon!

  2. Way to go!!!! To this day I just can't imagine running 26.2 but I registered for my first half in 2 years this past Friday.

  3. Congratulations on your BQ! You did a great job, I agree on no need to push it because you were clearly capable of the BQ and why risk going super fast on the hamstring? Sometimes a not-so-exciting finish is the best, you got what you came for and that's what counts :).

  4. I cheated and looked up your time before this post as I had to know how you did after reading about your 5k on Friday! Congrats on BQ’ing. It’s a testimate to the kind of elite runner you are! Not many could have such an abbreviated training cycle and run such a strong race. You are amazing!!

  5. Congratulations! That's a nice safe BQ. And a solid time given all the training hiccups and the weather and the fact that you weren't racing it all out.

  6. That's amazing. Huge congratulations to you for running really consistently the entire time. I know you say you didn't race it- but still, a 3:16 is SUPER speedy and will give you good placement in Boston.