Niagara Falls Marathon 2014 Pre-Race Report

on Monday, November 3, 2014 at 10:59 PM

To quickly summarize, I finished in 3:25:48.  I knew within the first 3 miles that 3:14 was going to be doable as the pace felt a bit too hard.

Going into the race, I still had some hesitation about my goal time.  While I had picked 3:14, I wasn't sure with the wind if it was going to be possible.  Added to that, I wasn't sure the speed was going to be there.  I've basically been doing my long runs a bit faster than 9 min/miles, but reading back through my blog, I noticed that in years past that towards the end of training, I was doing them closer to 8 min/miles so during the taper, the two long runs I did, I tried to do at 8 min/miles to see how it felt.  The first one was an 18 miler on a hilly course and the second one was as the 1:45 pacer for a half, the week before the marathon. Both times, my legs were a bit sore after. Looking back, maybe I should have done my long runs at a bit of a faster pace. 

Arrived in Niagara Falls and went to pick up my bib.  They had moved the expo. It used to be at the Skylon centre, but I think there were a lot of complaints about having to pay for parking so they moved it to a Shopping Mall about 9km away from the hotel.  Though the free parking was nice, I'm not sure it really worked.  You had to pick up your bib and clear immigration at one point of the mall, where they gave you a bag, you then had to go to another section of the mall to pickup your shirt and then you had to go to another section of the mall to pick up the "swag".  Of course no one mentioned the shirt or swag to me when I picked up my bib and I only stumbled across it as I was wandering around looking at the vendors who were are crammed into the aisles of the shopping centre, kinda like a sidewalk sale of running related stuff.

Going into the race, I spent a lot of time reading my previous race report from the last time I ran the Niagara Falls marathon and had hoped to repeat everything down to a tee. I stayed at the same hotel, and partook in the race pasta dinner.  A few things were different though. I think last time I was upgraded to a "Falls view" room which faces the falls. No such luck this time, I got a room on the third floor that faced a wall. No natural light whatsoever. Whatever, not too important for me and what I was expecting based on the booking. Last time, the pasta dinner was at the Crown plaza which was the hotel next to where I was staying, but this time they moved it to a dinner theatre place about a 5 minute walk away.  They had an inspirational speaker who talked about Rick and Dick Hoyt and they even played the "I Can Only Imagine" video.  I've probably watched that thing over 100 times over the years, but it still makes me feel emotional when I see it. There were quite a few people reaching for napkins to wipe their eyes after the video played.  They also had a U2 cover band play, but I kinda felt bad for them. Dinner started at 6:30 and they started playing at 8pm.  By then half the people had left. I stuck around for about 7 or 8 songs or so and by the time I left there were only a spattering of people remaining. Went to bed about 10:30 and prepared my stuff for the following morning.

Race morning gear, including passport

So race morning comes and I follow the pre-race ritual I did last time.  Heading down to the busses for the trip to Buffalo and tried to avoid the buses with Japanese tourists since my comments the last time about US immigration taking longer with such busses. In hindsight this was a mistake. At least with the Japanese tour group, you know that the tourists are going to have the right paper work because the tour group organizer makes sure of it. Normally, what happens, is the US immgration guy gets on the bus, collects everyones passport verifying that the passport matches your face, goes off to have them scanned and then returns and gives them back to us. For the japanese tourists, before the collect the passport, they take a bit longer to flip through the passport to make sure all the paper work is there, but it will be there. As it turns out, I ended up on a bus with a single Australian runner who did not have the right paperwork which meant the whole bus was held up as she was taken inside to be processed with the right forms.  The marathon website make this clear that you should get this paperwork done the day before the race. They should require non-NA runners to acknowledge this when they register.  We ended up being the 3rd last bus to arrive, but that was only because one other bus had a person with a similar issue and the last bus was the late late late bus which picked up any stragglers.
So by the time we arrive at the race start, there was only about 35 minutes to race time which basically means that my pre-race routine that I wanted to follow that I did last time wasn't going to happen.  Didn't even have time to go into the art gallery as I immediately had to start lining up for the portapotties since I'd been sitting in a bus for almost 2 hours by that time.  By the time I got out of the portapotties, there was about 20 minutes to start time and I needed to do a bunch of things, like find water for my HR monitor strap, load up on the nutrition, get a satellite lock for the GPS watch as well as change out of my warm up gear and drop the stuff off at the bag check.  The satellite lock took a loong time. Even standing still out in the open, it took a while.  I guess when you're located in a place that's over 150 km away from the last time you used it, it takes a while.

As for gear, even with the supposed wind, it was predicted be around 7-10C which meant sleeveless T weather.  A lot of people were wearing long sleeves and pants and I knew that it was going to be too warm for that stuff.  I should probably mention that while reading my previous blog posts, I realized that I wore the same sleeveless T for my two previous BQ's so I ended up wearing this time too. Superstitious, I guess. So after getting a satellite lock and changing out of my warm up gear and taking some time to collect my thoughts, there's about 10 minutes to start and I didn't have really do much of a warmup.  Basically my warmup consisted of about a 60 second jog to some bushes to answer nature's call one last time.  I really wanted to do a proper warmup like last time including trying to get my HR to spike, but there really wasn't time. Headed into the corrals where there was a moment of silence for the solider killed in Ottawa, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. I looked around and the fastest pacer they had was a 3:30 so I was going to have to do this on my own.  I had a 3:14 self made pace band that contained mile splits and 5k splits. I picked up a 3:20 one at the pace expo, but that was in km and not miles.  The course was marked in miles with 5 km splits so the 3:20 band which only has odd numbered km splits (1,3,5, etc) wasn't going to be too useful.  Plus, in my haste, I ended up leaving it in my bag anyways so I didn't have it. 

So I line-up trying to get my nerves and hoping to hell that my HR wont start racing and I wait for the gun to go off...