I’ve never truly been a spectator at a race. In fact, I’ll go as far to say I’ve never spectated a race, period. I don’t have many running friends that live locally and those I do have aren’t avid racers where I’d really have the opportunity.
Last weekend was the Buffalo Marathon/Half Marathon and I knew Heather and Laura were planning to run it. Coincidentally I live about a mile and half from the starting (and finish line). When Laura mentioned they might be staying in a hotel, I offered up my apartment since I have a futon and it while it might not be as comfortable as a hotel bed, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper. It’s funny because when most people (outside anyone that will probably read this blog — runners) think about meeting people on the internet, and especially staying overnight with, it’s kind of a big no-no because you can never fully trust somebody. Runners I’ve met via twitter, though? Not weird or questionable at all. We’re all a different breed!
Due to a bib fiasco, they came a few hours earlirer than anticipated and we headed off to the “expo”. One thing that really disappoints me about the expo is how short it is. Race pick-up is only 9am-4pm Saturday and it was also impossible to locate hours on the website; it was printed on the homepage in a super tiny font under the heading of “race timeline” or something along those lines. It wasn’t even on the expo page! I don’t think it’s a good sell for a race when you only get 7 hours the day before to pick up your packet — if you can’t do it that day, you’re screwed. Who wants to rush before a 7am race start? I hate rushing before 5ks, let alone something I put a lot more time and effort to train for. Rant aside — we got there with 15 minutes to spare and were in and out, complete with a couple purchases as well.
The rest of the night was spent gossiping (we may be in our 20s, but we’re still girls!), eating wine cream (red raspberry chardonnay) and carbo loading at a restaurant up the street (yes, I needed to load up for my spectating!) And after about 10 minutes fighting with the futon (after 30 minutes or so on my own prior to their arrival), we finally got it into the bed position. Who wouldn’t think that you have to push it together to get it apart?
Morning came far too quickly and after getting ready, we headed to the start with me on the bike. The course was new this year (and set some records, though I’m not sure we can consider it a course record if it’s a new course… right, Buffalo?) and it allowed for a much easier transition between points for spectating. I positioned myself at around mile 2 where I saw Laura looking strong, but finding where to settle. I missed Heather, but the crowd hadn’t thinned much at all. When I saw the guys start making their way back down the road parallel, I knew I should head over to see them again. At the first woman, I started counting how many were in front of Laura knowing where she wanted to be. The field was pretty fast this year and around mile 4, it was starting to thin out for the top 50 runners. At this point Laura was settling around the 1:30 mark and when I cheered for her, I heard the people next to me mumbling about how I was cheering for somebody so fast (yes — I was!). I saw Heather and told her she looked good (she did!) but she shouted back something about not feeling that great… funny how deceiving looks could be because I was convinced she was having a great race!
The third time I went to see them on the course was around mile 8.5, just before they go right along the waterfront. This portion of the race used to be the 2nd mile, but I kind of like that it’s later in the course. I love running along this part of the lake (though I’ve only done it in the winter) and I think it would be a great pick-me-up when I’m tired and dreading the final push for the last 8k or so. This is where I realized I was terrible at taking race photos and I needed to get my camera out!
I saw Laura turn the corner with a hoard of men, almost like they were her running secret service body guards. I later found out they were helping push her along, so the pictures make much more sense now! She was sticking with the 1:30 pace group and I knew if she could hold it and push to the finish she would PR. Then I saw a coworker holding her own and was able to give her a quick cheer, as well. When Heather came through, she was somehow still smiling. I wish I looked like those two when I was running half marathons.
I jetted out to the finish, hoping to snag a good spot. People lined the sidewalk so it involved some dodging, but some people were so rude. I literally had a family of four walking in a horizontal line while looking at me on the bike. Poles were on both sides of the sidewalk so I couldn’t dodge and go onto the street or grasss… are you kidding me? There was a guy behind me who yelled out “HELLO!” and reluctantly, they moved a few inches. After that, the chain popped on my bike and I was convinced something exploded. The guy behind me asked if I was okay (yes, just my heart beating out of my chest) and a guy who ran the relay came over and just grabbed my bike and fixed it. I don’t know what I would have done if it didn’t work since it wasn’t even my bike! Phew.
I managed to get a spot near the finish where I could see Bart Yasso (why didn’t I snap a picture then?) and if I bent down, the clock and finish line. I was able to see every finisher, which was pretty awesome. I just kept my eye on the clock once the first woman came through. It’s getting closer, is Laura coming up yet? Still PR city, is she almost there? Of course, she PR’d like a bad ass. Not too long after, Heather came through. The main complaint of the race seemed to be the humidity, which I somewhat love running in (I’m weird) but they both did awesome.
Since I also rode back to J’s house with his bike almost 6 miles away, I think I was probably at 13 or 14 miles for the day. It doesn’t seem like a lot for people who ride road bikes and race but this was on a mountain bike which takes a heck of a lot more effort when you’re trying to go fast since it caps out at like 10mph. It just reinforced my need for a road bike if I want to get to/from work with it and get out more.
After Saturday’s crossfit experience, by Sunday night I was exhausted. I didn’t want to do anything at the Memorial Day party J and I were at and I’m pretty sure I was asleep by 10pm even with intermittent naps in the car. So yes, spectating is actually more difficult than I ever anticipated but I can’t wait to do it again. September 21st should be the next date, but this time I’ll be the one heading out to Rochester!