November 1, 2013

Niagara Falls Half-Marathon Race Report

Close enough. Those are the words I would to describe my race last weekend at the Niagara Falls Half-Marathon. It’s certainly a different experience from Toronto.

As I mentioned in this post, this was to be the penultimate race of this rather lackluster season. I wasn’t feeling 100% so I didn’t set the bar too high.

Date Event Goal Time Chip Time Gun Time
2013/10/27 Niagara Falls Half-Marathon 2:30:00 2:30:54.3 2:33:18.3

Expo and Pre-Race in Niagara Falls

I organized this as a little mini-vacation with mom to Niagara Falls. She enjoys the casino and it’s associated venues.

We drove up Saturday morning. On our way we stopped in Grimsby for a pit stop at a tourist information centre. The lady at the information booth didn’t know about the marathon this weekend…

After arriving in Niagara Falls my mom and I had a little lunch and split up for the afternoon. I walked to the expo which was at the base of the Skylon Tower. Our hotel was fortunately very close to the expo, but even 5 minutes outside in the cold, windy and rainy weather was pretty lousy.

The Skylon Tower didn’t impress me. It’s like it hadn’t been updated in decades, and it showed. A lot of Niagara Falls struck me as lacking in investment. I guess the Casino’s changed the tourists from families to gamblers who don’t frequent little tourist traps like the Skylon Tower and Clifton Hill.

After finally finding the expo area, I was pretty underwhelmed. It was small, dark, and felt like an abandoned underground warehouse they tried to dress up. I did buy a yellow Bondi Band that said “Eat Hard, Run Hard.”

With Brenda at the expo
With Brenda at the expo

I met with Brenda who I planned to run together with to a time of 2:30. She was there with her friend Mark. We saw Reid Coolsaet at the expo. Reid said he was too busy for a photo, but Brenda insisted.

Before dinner I saw a show at Fallsview Casino with mom called “Ricky Nelson Remembered”. I had never heard of Ricky Nelson. His sons performed the tribute show and shared video clips and family stories. I thought the highlight was when they explained their father’s song “Garden Party” and the profound meaning of the line “you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself”.

And it turns out I traveled with a lot of electronics…

Evidently, I travel with a lot of electronics that need charging: Nintendo 3DS,  Garmin Forerunner 410, BlackBerry Torch 9800, 6th Generation iPod Nano, and Kobo mini eReader
Evidently, I travel with a lot of electronics that need charging: Nintendo 3DS, Garmin Forerunner 410, BlackBerry Torch 9800, 6th Generation iPod Nano, and Kobo mini eReader

Adventure Getting to the Start

The shuttle buses to the starting line leave from the Crown Plaza Hotel, which was about 2km from where I was staying. Normally a 20 minute walk is a nice warm-up, but it was really cold and windy and I didn’t want to wear extra layers just for the walk. Fortunately, I overheard someone at breakfast talking about taking a cab so I joined them. $5 well spent!

Runners in the fancy Crown Plaza lobby
Runners in the fancy Crown Plaza lobby

I met up with Brenda in the lobby of the Crown Plaza. It was kinda funny seeing people in run gear all over this opulent lobby.

Brenda and I eventually went to line up for the shuttle buses. After we were seated on our bus, we saw Olympian Reid Coolsaet board our bus and sit down a couple rows in front of us. Brenda and I were being crazy fans, but it seemed no one else recognized him. Brenda took a picture which I posted to twitter. It got a lot of re-tweets.

My famous tweet
My famous tweet

Reid eventually went on to win the race in 63:11 and set a new course record!

When we got to the start, our bus had to wait for a while, but we didn’t mind since it was so cold outside. A nice highlight was that a volunteer brought a young schoolkid onto our bus. The kid read some really great instructions like where to find bag check, porta-potties, and not to trample the neighbour’s lawns.

First 5k

Now finally to the actually running part of the race report!

Brenda and I started together a little bit back from the 2:30 pacer. I was very glad to start at a comfortable 6:50 min/km pace. It felt great.

The weather forecast called for a 20km/h west wind. I thought that meant that the wind was going to the west. No, it means that it’s COMING from the west. Turned into quite a headwind for almost all of the course!

We took a little washroom break about 2km in, which Brenda needed, but I was surprised I needed it too. We took off again after and got back on pace.

However, Brenda was struggling not long into the race. I was surprised because she talked about how she planned to leave me in the dust around 10km. Around 4km we stopped for an extra walk break. She told me to leave her. When we stopped unexpectedly again around 5km I listened to her and took off by myself. I felt bad leaving her, but she asked twice and I thought she felt bad for slowing me down.

I later found out that Brenda stubbed her toe in the morning and probably broke it. She’s a trooper and did finish the race. You read that correctly: Brenda ran a half-marathon with a broken toe! Any other argument is now invalid!

5-15k Fun Run

I knew I was a little behind pace for a 2:30 half-marathon at this point. I resisted looking down at my watch and ran on feel. And I felt good. The “slow” warm-up made me feel fantastic. The partly cloudy, cool temperature was almost ideal for me. I was having a really good day.

Running the Niagara Falls Half-Marathon (photo by Mark Young)
Running the Niagara Falls Half-Marathon (photo by Mark Young)

I saw Brenda’s friend Mark on the course 3 or 4 times. He was cheering and taking pictures. I was really glad to see him!

I had so much fun at this point. I think I was cruising along near 6:20min/km. I didn’t have a care in the world. I was passing people right and left. According to my pace band I actually got back to pace, and a little bit ahead by 15km.

All I could think about around the 10km point was how hungry I was. It was around 11am at the time, so I could imagine myself getting a bit peckish. I had Honey Stingers but it’s not the same as a steak.

I remember seeing one young lady taking pictures with her camera. So I offered to take pictures of her with her camera. I think I got some great shots. That’s the kind of racer I am.

Around the 7th Kilometer of the Niagara Falls Half-Marathon. I thought I could see my hotel, and thus the finish line in the distance.
Around the 7th Kilometer of the Niagara Falls Half-Marathon. I thought I could see my hotel, and thus the finish line in the distance.

I even stopped around 7km when I could see my hotel and the Niagara Falls skyline across the Niagara River.

Brenda says she could see my yellow shirt until about the 10km mark. She said she was glad she could see me as a guide or reference.

Unfortunately, my stomach had not fully recovered from the strange sickness that plagued me earlier in the week. I considered holding it, but I didn’t want to risk any accidents, so I stopped at a porta-potty around the 15km mark for about 2 minutes.

Hard last 5k

I knew I had to make up time in the last 5k to make the 2:30 goal, so I pushed pretty hard. I passed a lot of the same people again. However, my virtual partner on my watch seemed off. I went with a temporary tattoo pace band for this race, but since my shirt covered it sometimes the last few numbers rubbed off. Doing math at the 17th kilometer of a race doesn’t work well. So I just went as fast as I thought I could for the last 5km.

That didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. I knew my biggest weakness from having a lousy training season was that I wouldn’t have great muscular endurance. It really came into play here. My legs hurt. I prayed for a runner’s high to make it go away, but I was awash in pain. I was glad to be able to stay at 6:30 min/km for most of the last 5k, so I knew I was making up time, but I didn’t think it would be enough.

Who cares how tired I am: Running is awesome!
Who cares how tired I am: Running is awesome!

The last kilometer was downhill and pretty awesome. I really enjoyed the finish. There were lots of people. I was happy to hear the announcer say my name as I crossed the finish line.

I was 55 seconds over my goal. As far as I was concerned, that was close enough.

Brenda wound up finishing in just under 3 hours WITH A BROKEN TOE!

Post-Race Celebration

I really liked the jacket-like things they gave all the finishers at the finish line. It was still chilly so I was really glad to get one.

I was also surprised and glad to see my mom at the finish line. She walked the over 2km from the hotel to the finish area in the cold! My biggest fan!!

After getting out of the chute, mom and I hailed a cab to get back to the hotel. Warm and no more walking!

Posing with medal back in the hotel room after the Niagara Half-Marathon
Posing with medal back in the hotel room after the Niagara Half-Marathon

Getting back to the hotel room, I was hungry. We had saved some super-greasy food from breakfast. I don’t know if it was the hunger or the 5 hours it had saturated in its Styrofoam container, but it tasted super-delicious!

I felt like I earned it...
I felt like I earned it…

Later that evening we had a fancy buffet dinner at a Brazilian Steakhouse. The ribeye was divine and the baked pineapple was delicious.

A couple days after the race, I ordered myself a whole pizza as I promised myself in this post. Unfortunately, the pizza won 🙁

Little Caesar's Deep! Deep! Dish Pizza: Before
Little Caesar’s Deep! Deep! Dish Pizza: Before
Little Caesar's Deep! Deep! Dish Pizza: After. The pizza won... close enough
Little Caesar’s Deep! Deep! Dish Pizza: After. The pizza won… close enough

More than anything else, I’m just happy the season is over. I’m ready for my next challenges!


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4 Comments »

  1. Andrea says:

    Nice job on the half marathon! I want to run Niagara at some point. Here’s to the end of the 2013 running season and onto great things in 2014.

  2. macnic says:

    Congrats Paul! Great recap and I’m really glad you enjoyed this race! That is amazing that Brenda did it with a broken toe! Just awesome. Glad you and your mum had a good mini holiday as well.