On Sunday, June 1st I ran the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon. To give you a better idea of how I ended up registering for this race, I need to back up to October 2013. That was when I had more than one person tell me that I should consider running this particular race. As a new race on the scene, it was smaller, therefore the odds of placing well were on my side. So, of course, I signed up right away.
Now here we are on race day. I was with my husband, our little man had a sleepover with Grandma & Grandpa while Mommy & Daddy had a “getaway” in Niagara Falls. My husband drove me close to the start and then I was on my own. This would be the first time since 2008 that I was on my own at a start line. I started to get a little emotional and shed a few tears. I felt alone even though there were a couple thousand people around me. Everyone else had a friend or a group of friends they were with. I recognized a twitter and instagram friend (@lacesandlattes) at the start, so I introduced myself and we chatted until the start of the race. This actually calmed my usual pre race nerves and was very thankful for it!
This was the first time I felt like an elite runner. I was actually one of the women toeing the start line, with one hand on my Garmin ready to hit the button. Then the race started and boy did it start with a bang! I quickly realized that I was not the only one who decided to run this race to place well, the women this year came to win. For the first km or so I was up there pushing my legs at a 3:15/km pace. I very soon realized that I would not be able to keep that up for longer than 5km, let alone 21km, so I pulled back and settled into a comfortable, yet speedy pace. Since I am not familiar with the Niagara Falls area –other than the Falls themselves– studying the map the night before didn’t really help me during the race. Since I got out to a speedy start, I only had a few women around me and we were well spaced out. It was an experience I have never had in a race and I started to feel like I was just out for a training run. That is, until we started the out and back part of the route when I would see all the other women cheering for those of us up front, and I am not going to lie – that felt amazing!
It was a hot morning and with little shade I used the water stations to take micro sips and then poured the rest on my head to cool down. I have always had an issue with fueling during longer races, mostly because I can’t handle the taste of gels, in fact I gag when I try to use them. I am not a big fan of things like gummies or jelly beans either. My usual pre race food is bread with almond butter & a banana and while enroute to the race, I enjoy half a power bar. This routine has served me well…until this race. I don’t know if it’s because I stepped up my game and was pushing my body faster for longer than it usually goes, but when I got to about 15 or 16km my body literally started to shake because I was more than hungry, I was starving! In non-race situations, when I get hungry like this I get real hangry (hungry + angry = hangry) and everything gets put on hold until I get something to eat (my husband can attest to this). Obviously while racing this is not an option, so I had to dig deep, but I felt myself slowing down even as I fought to keep my speed up. I felt my form go to hell and I knew that if my coach could see me, he would not be impressed! I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to race while shaking with hunger, but I can tell you that I was not in a good place. I didn’t stop though. No way was I going to stop! I thought of my little guy and how I needed to set an example of never giving up. Then, around 19km I saw another runner friend who was there to support his wife, (Thanks Andrew Chak for the cheering!) and it was the boost I needed for the last 2 km’s. I crossed the finish line a little slower than my 1:40 PB, I crossed just drained and exhausted. The first person I saw was Kathrine Switzer who was there with a hug and congratulations, then a fireman who gave me my medal. Side note, the whole fireman thing doesn’t get me excited (I’m more into accountants…for those that don’t know, my husband is one), so this was certainly not the highlight for me! I enjoyed the cold wet washcloth they handed out, downed a bottle of water and a carton of chocolate milk. I saw my husband and fell into his arms. He was smiling and was so proud of me, but I was too upset at the time to be proud of myself. We found a place for me to inhale a couple of cookies, and checked out my stats. I came 27/1998 overall and 7/372 in my age category. With a few days behind me, I can now appreciate that these were great results, but I wanted that top 10 so bad. The competition was stiff this year and I tip my hat to those women and I thank them at the same time for making me put all my training with my coach to the test. My husband and I checked out of the hotel and headed straight to the closest Five Guys Burger! A greasy cheeseburger has never tasted so good!
Now for the Pros and Cons breakdown:
-Gorgeous route going past the falls twice, pretty cool and that mist felt amazing…even if it fogged up my Sunskis
-Swag bag: wine, make up, lip balm and more?! Awesome
-All women: while there were some men, it was nice to not worry about all that testosterone
-8am start, already it was too hot at the start with that blazing hot sun, a 7:30 or a 7:00am start would be amazing!
-Packet pick up was too long of a wait. I have never waited longer than 5 mins to pick up my kit, but it took me 60 min! A huge part of that was having Kathrine Switzer at the end of the line for pictures and autographs, which while amazing I think should have been separate from the actual pick up.
Will I be back next year? Quite possibly, and I will be back even stronger and faster!
Have you ever run an all women race? What was it like?