RACE RECAP: A Half Marathon PR In Buffalo

I’m writing this from my hotel room bed, where I have been laying/sitting for approximately 5 hours – rotating between answering emails, eating snacks, accidentally dozing off and consistently cursing when I need to get up to go to the bathroom because I have never felt post-race soreness like I am currently experiencing.

What a run-on sentence. What a race.

Let’s back track.

Buffalo Half Marathon Race Recap

To February of this year, when my friends and I ran 10 miles from Manhattan to Brooklyn because I really wanted to run with the Mikkeller Run Club. People who like craft beer and running are kind of my people. It was a great, sunny day in February and we had a really good time. My IT band was super tight by the end, but I successfully ran my longest run since last October’s half Ironman and I was stoked.

Mikkeller Run Club NYC

After that long run, I started running consistent “long” runs every Saturday or Sunday in preparation for Aprils’ Cherry Blossom 10-miler in Washington D.C.

They were going well. I was feeling good. And that led me to start thinking, “maybe I can run a PR in DC.” And I did! It was my first race PR in 4 years and I was over the moon. Granted, it was a very doable PR seeing as I had only run one or two other 10 milers.

Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

But after that PR, a flip was switched – I let myself start seeing myself as a runner again. A runner who can’t run high mileage, but a runner who could compete with herself again. A runner who could stop comparing herself to who she was 4 years ago and feel strong and content with how she was running right now.

But I’m also a runner who has had a fair share of injuries and setbacks and has lost a lot of money signing up for races that I couldn’t end up racing.

I’m also a runner who, in the past, has put it all out there – Instagram posts on the daily with my splits and goals and race sign-ups. And that has always pushed me and kept me motivated and held me accountable.

But for whatever reason, this time I didn’t want that added pressure. I couldn’t have handled the disappointment if the race didn’t happen and my body didn’t hold up and get me to the starting line.

So I kept the Buffalo Half Marathon page opened on a tab on my laptop for a solid 7 weeks. I continued to run long (6-10 miles) on Sundays (I became a Sunday long run person, it’s still weird…) with one, maybe two short mid-week runs thrown in.

My runs between the Cherry Blossom race and the half marathon looked like this:

April 14 – 8.5 Miles
April 16 – 3.5 Miles
April 18 – 6 Miles
April 25 – 3 Miles
April 27 – 10 Miles
May 6 – 10 Miles
May 12 – 6 Miles
May 15 – 6 Miles
May 18 – 3 Miles
May 22 – 5 Miles

That’s it. 7 weeks. 61 miles. 10 runs.

And a LOT of F45 circuit training (16 sessions to be exact). 

I went to Michigan, Las Vegas, Long Island, Idaho and Stockholm in those 7 weeks.

Stockholm Running

And I was surprised to find that I was feeling like this half marathon was totally doable. That it was going to happen.

I didn’t sign up until the day registration closed, which was Monday, May 20 – 6 days before the race. Clicking the confirm button felt so exciting and scary. Exciting because I was pumped to run 13.1 miles for the first time since the 2015 Brooklyn Half Marathon and scary because I knew I wanted to not only run it but to race it.

I thought this was how it was going to go down –

·         Race the Buffalo Half Marathon

·         Finish around 1:45

·         Feel really really happy that I was soo close to my 2015 half marathon shape 

·         Get hungry for a half marathon PR

·         Train harder for another half marathon

But, I’ve learned that the next start line isn’t guaranteed. Why wait until after the Buffalo half marathon to get hungry for a PR? If I knew that was the end goal, why not just go big right now while I’m feeling strong?

On Friday I played around on Excel with paces and tried to map out a realistic plan to a PR. And it seemed like a stretch. I wanted to be realistic and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. I like giving myself some leeway at the start, and the chance to relax into a fast pace. But in order to run under a 1:40:34 (my 2015 PR) I would pretty much have to start with a pace under 8:00. And that was really, ridiculously scary to me.

After the 2015 Brooklyn Half Marathon - where I ran a 1:40:34.

After the 2015 Brooklyn Half Marathon - where I ran a 1:40:34.

GETTING THERE

Despite it being a holiday weekend, the airport was empty and my trip to Buffalo was incredibly easy. I had my normal breakfast of yogurt, banana and granola and wore my CEP compression socks on the flight. We took off on time and landed early. The reason I had picked the Buffalo half marathon wasn’t because of the course or anything – it was because I had to be in Buffalo for the week for work regardless. So why not? Right?

LUNCH

As I walked over to the expo I got a salad from my favorite place in Buffalo – The Healthy Scratch. I had a salad with spinach, pesto, poached egg, avocado, quinoa and cherry tomatoes. Perfectly balanced meal.

Buffalo Healthy Scratch

THE EXPO

The Expo had a solid number of vendors and was pretty empty – I waited behind one person to get my bib.

I bought myself some Sport Shield because I am a BIG convert. We tried it at the Cherry Blossom expo and I used it for the race and it’s AWESOME. I like it a lot better than Body Glide – it’s more slick than sticky and I can confirm that there was zero chafing during both the 10 miler and the half marathon. Plus – the regular vs “for her” version ACTUALLY has different ingredients (added aloe and shea butter I believe). Next time, I need to remember to put some on my feet though because I’ve got some gnarly blisters.

At the expo I also picked up my first pair of Goodr sunglasses – which I’ve been eyeing for a while. I got the Nessy’s Midnight Orgy and I love them! Race day was really gloomy, so I didn’t need to wear them, but excited to see what they’re like on the run.

I also got myself some RX nut butter and protein bar samples because I <3 RX.

AND picked myself up some Picky Bars and wowow the Chai and Catch Me was amazing!

Plus, the race shirt was a long sleeve hoodie and it’s pretty legit. The race itself was pretty expensive at $120 + fees (though I did register at the highest price point since I waited until the last day) but the shirts and medals made it seem worth it.

On the way out, I stopped by the table that said, “Ask about pacers” and asked about pacers. When I found out they had pacers for the half, including a 1:40 pacer – my mind started up again on the PR train.

HOW MY BODY WAS FEELING

Sore.  Last week was my first week back at F45 in a couple of weeks, and while I only went to class two days (Tuesday and Thursday for strength sessions) I was definitely feeling it. Then again, the day before a race, I usually convince myself that everything hurts, my legs are broken, etc. etc.

DINNER

While I almost always have Greek food the night before a race, I was feeling like I wanted to go to dinner with coworkers instead of ordering take out and sitting around feeling nervous alone in my room.

So, after some rolling around on a lacrosse ball, I joined them at the hotel restaurant and got some eggplant dip with naan (basically Mediterranean) and a giant Turkey BLAT. I ate every last bite and felt slightly ill but sufficiently carbed up.

SLEEP

I got ready for bed which included snapping a picture of my bib and outfit for the morning – finally announcing to the important world of social media that I was running a half the next morning. I slept fine – yay for comfortable hotel beds! Obviously wore my CW-X compression tights to bed.

Buffalo Half Marathon Race Recap

PRE-RACE

I woke up at around 5:15 and had some coffee that I had made the night before and put in the hotel room fridge. Hot coffee would have been much better at getting me to…ya know, but the lounge wasn’t open yet.

I had packed my own multigrain bread, RX nut butter packet and banana and used the coffee stirrer as a knife to make myself a little PB banana sandwich – the real reason I wake up to run races.

Got dressed -

  • Adidas Sports Bra

  • Lululemon Muscle Tank

  • Old Navy Shorts

  • Feetures Socks

  • Saucony Ride

  • Remembered to take my ring off - nothing worse than swelling fingers during a race when you’re wearing a ring

  • November Project buff

Slathered on some Sport Shield, did a grand total of 15 glute bridges and decided it was warm enough to not wear a throw away long sleeve.

I wore my Spibelt for the race – hotel room key, debit card, phone and headphones and tucked my gel into my shorts pocket (it worked surprisingly well and didn’t irritate me at all while running).

outfit.jpg

I jogged the .8ish miles to the start line, did some A steps, hip openers, high knees, butt kicks and some strides and hopped in the porto potty line. Somewhat of a success, but at this point my stomach was filled with a LOT of butterflies.

I don’t remember ever feeling so nervous at a start line.

The 1:40 pacer wasn’t there yet, so I stood just ahead of the 1:45 pacer and eventually, 1:40 showed up. I was really going to try this. And I knew it was really going to hurt. But I also knew that at the end of the day I would be happy I was back out running a half marathon and would be disappointed if I didn’t try.

I started to tear up BEFORE the race started. I closed my eyes and imagined myself ringing the PR bell after crossing the finish line. It sounds cheesy, but I think I knew that a big part of this was going to be mentally willing myself to a PR. So doing some classic visualization seemed like it could help.  

The last thing I said to myself before the start was: “is everyone in Buffalo cool with fireworks going off at 6:30 am on a Sunday?”

And then I also made sure to tell myself my favorite mantra, “You can do hard things.”

THE RACE

The race is a blur, I’m not going to lie. My race recaps are usually garbage because I swear I black out.

Mile 1 – 7:30

A lot of weaving, a lot of trying to keep the pacer in sight. Things opened up fairly quickly though. This is technically a “hill” – but it was really a slight incline. Compared to Central Park, it felt flat.

Mile 2 – 7:22

Uhhh, fast. Scary fast. Getting in my head, “this is in no way sustainable.” I also remember thinking, “Damn, my shoulders really hurt from Moon Hopper at F45 this week, maybe that will distract me from my legs hurting!”

Mile 3 – 7:27

This is still so fast! I already really want to slow down! I tried looking around and enjoying the view. But it was really foggy out and I was too in the zone to notice much of anything going on around me.

Mile 4 – 7:36

My mantra throughout the race actually didn’t end up being “You can do hard things.” It was “Run the mile you’re in.” I couldn’t get my head around 13 miles at this pace. But “one more mile here” I could swallow.

Mile 5- 7:40

Miles 1 – 5 felt hard. Too hard. I started telling myself that it probably wasn’t going to happen. I felt like I was going at an all out effort from the first step and I’ve never really raced that hard from the get go before.

It felt a little reckless and dumb and scary.

Mile 6 – 7:32

But then mile 6 hit and mile 6 is always when I find my groove. This race was no different. At mile 6, any negative doubts went away (momentarily) and instead I started saying - this is possible.

Mile 7 – 7:39

At this point we started sticking to the actual pace of 7:38 required to run a 1:40 - but we had given ourselves about a :30 cushion. While I hated this strategy in the beginning, I also trusted our pacer and told myself the back half was my half. I had hung on through the pain of miles 1-6 and I could hang on for 7 more.

Mile 8 – 7:41

Just a note that I was good throughout the race about drinking water. Its always hard kicking things back up after the inevitable pace slow down of a water station, but I knew I needed to do it and having the pacer as a point of reference for where I needed to be was such a huge help.

I had put off taking my gel up until this point because my stomach didn’t feel 100% and I had visions of eating the gel and immediately needing a portopotty.

But I also knew that I needed the energy boost at this point, so I sucked it up and slowwwwwly over the course of mile 8 had my gel.

Cliff Double Expresso is always my go-to!

Mile 9 – 7:36

Wish I could tell you more about the course – I know at some point the pot holes got pretty bad. And I also recognized where we were running from some previous Buffalo runs. It was weird – at certain points I remembered exactly which Ali on the Run podcast episode I was listening to the last time I was in town!

Mile 10 – 7:40

I kept catching myself thinking ahead to the moment I PR’d or crossed the finish line and had to keep dragging myself back and reminding myself I had to stay in the moment because we were not home free yet. At the same time, every step I believed a little more that it might happen.

Mile 11 – 7:35

At this point a girl joined the group and when she said she was running the full I started realizing there were a bunch of ladies in the group running the full marathon. My jaw dropped – I cannot fathom that pace for 26.2 miles (though that’s pretty much what’s necessary to BQ now!)

Mile 12 – 7:35

I told myself that 11-12 was the hardest mile. Once I got through that, I had it!

Mile 13 – 7:31

Of course, there was a final incline and the last mile felt like it lasted forever. But while my legs felt like they were dying, the rest of me felt like it was flying. I started tearing up, and remembering my first marathon when I woman I passed during the last 3 miles told me, “Don’t run with your legs, run with your heart.”

I honestly feel like that’s what I did this entire race. I don’t even know why I thought I had any business running a PR based on 10 training runs.

Mile .1 – 7:05

The last tenth of a mile we could barely see the finish line through the fog and it was honestly a very scary final straight away because my left quad and left calf took turns spasming and seizing up on and off. I was mentally screaming at my muscles “NOT YET” and I finally understood people who literally crawl across the finish line because if I had gone down in those final moments you better believe I would have been crawling.

Luckily, my legs stayed under me and I even distinctly heard the announcers say my name. Official results was 1:39:41 - 53 seconds faster than my 2015 Brooklyn Half.

Buffalo Half Marathon Results

As soon as I crossed the finish line my eyes welled up with tears and someone asked if I was OK. All I could do was nod.

I thanked my pacer and asked his name – JASON. I wanted to babble on and on about how much it meant to me and how I never would have even come close to a PR without him but instead I just said thank you again and walked off to get my medal.

I rang the PR bell, signed my name, and headed straight for the massage tent. I had three people massaging my legs at one time – 6 HANDS it was amazing. But I could tell they could see the giant knot bulging out of my calf.

Buffalo Half Marathon Race Recap

POST RACE PARTY

I headed back into the Convention Center where they had a big spread of food and BEER even though it was 8:15 AM and it definitely would have been a fun place to hang out for awhile had I had friends with me. They had $10 medal engraving which I was tempted to do but, eh. They also had a huuuuuge area set up with foam rollers and looking back, not going there was a big mistake.

I spent some time in the bathroom, because, post race intestinal distress is always an issue for me. Yay.

I cannot believe how sore I am. I am 100% more sore than after either of my marathons and I’m trying not to panic that I hurt something but just tell myself it’s because I’ve never run so hard in my life.

Double fisting at 8 AM encouraged - gotta love runners.

Double fisting at 8 AM encouraged - gotta love runners.

MORAL OF THE STORY

My dad called me and asked, “What made you think you could go out and run that fast?!” To which I responded – I really don’t know. I really don’t think I had any business running with that pace group but I also didn’t know when I’d have the chance again.

I had multiple friends who seemed to think I could PR and at a certain point I had a moment of wondering why I should be the one who didn’t think it was possible if other people had confidence in me.

Looking back at the race, I still think a lot of it was mental. Obviously my body needed to cooperate to make it possible – you can’t wish yourself to a PR – but I do think I mentally willed my body into doing what it needed to it.  

And like my previous post explained, I’ve been feeling a little stuck and uninspired. Chasing scary goals shakes out that uninspired feeling like nothing else!

I’m so glad I went for it. I’m so beyond happy that I beat a PR I had assumed would stand forever. And it felt so hard and so at my limit that I think if this is the half marathon PR I die with, I’ll be content with that.

(But…check in with me when the soreness has faded and I might tell you something else…)

PS: There are a lot of links in here to some of my favorite running related products, but it’s not sponsored in any way :)

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