A scheduled 5k at the end of the highest mileage week in over two years, on the third consecutive day of running, after a day of walking and eating the City of Buffalo is bound to leave anyone feeling exhausted. The amount of energy it is taking to do something other than drink Nuun and watch the Shark Week finale is astounding, though. If I hadn’t already planned to take a rest/recovery day, tomorrow would certainly have one penciled in!
About three months ago I signed J and I up for this race because it seemed to be a perfect one for the two of us. For the $30 race fee, you got everything typically included (race fee, post race party, t-shirt) plus a ticket to a Buffalo Bisons game. In addition, all money raised stays local and directly to the Alzheimer’s Association of WNY, which is important to me. With the amount of available road races in the area, I’m definitely going to choose something for charity over profit.
The packet pick-up was on Thursday at Flying Bison Brewery where you also got to enjoy a free beer. Their beers are becoming a staple at every local sports venue and an easy favorite of mine. I opted to try the “Down by the River”, a Belgian style IPA. I know Heather is proud of me for branching out from my stouts and into the land of IPAs! Each packet consisted of a simple, white tech t-shirt (another to add to my “will make into a quilt” pile), a print of the ballpark made up of different kid’s paintings, the baseball ticket, and miscellaneous race flyers.
Race Day Logistics/Post Race:
The website indicated that we could park for free in a ramp near Coca-Cola Field by letting the attendant know we were there for the race. We had no issues parking and it was a short walk (maybe quarter of a mile) to the start. There was Tim Horton’s coffee at the start/race day packet pick-up (7:30am – 9:30am) for anyone who wanted some (not this girl). We stood around waiting before some volunteers began herding people down a little further because the course had to be altered due to the Taste of Buffalo. There were way too many announcements and dedications for my liking before the horn and judging by the talking, everyone else was in agreement. It was difficult to hear the directions and the horn went off very abruptly!
On the course there were enough volunteers helping with traffic and they all cheered as people passed. The course is an out and back looping from Coca-Cola Field out to the marina — if you’ve run the Buffalo Half Marathon, you’re familiar with this stretch. There was a quick water stop at the half way point with people on either side so you could grab on the “out” or the “back”.
The finish was a short sprint, but long enough where you could out-kick somebody who was coming up on your sides. Once you ran through the finish, water and bananas were there. They had the field actually open to walk around (not on the grass, of course) and a photographer with volunteer at home plate so you could take a picture with the field behind you. It was really neat! I appreciated that you could get a professional photo, but also hand the volunteer your phone for your own instant photo.
Most importantly, there was Flying Bison beer along with hot dogs, hamburgers, and salad ready to eat in the pavilion for us, too. The awards were three deep in each age group, as per usual. They started the awards about 90 minutes after the start of the race and again, there was a long introduction with dedications. The top overall male and female received a gift card to Tony Walker Co. and the first Mom/Kid team to cross received a day at the spa (for Mom). The woman who won that passed me just after the first mile cruising with a stroller, complete with toddler! Age group awards were a giant beer mug.
The seats for the game were in a group just past first base — perfect for catching a ball and interacting with the players during warm-ups. Our tickets were somehow for seats 14 and 16 but there were plenty of empty spots for us to move around, if needed. In all honesty, we probably could have gone from our 5th row seats to 1st or 2nd row without a problem… but I’d rather be able to put my feet all over the row in front of me.
Before heading to the race, I ran an easy 15 minutes around my apartment to warm-up rather than dragging J to the race at 9am. It was already humid during my run and I was nervous that I wasn’t hydrated enough from all the adult drinking I’ve done this weekend but there wasn’t much I could do at that point.
When we got to the race, I lined myself up towards the front with maybe 2-3 “rows” of people ahead of me. The gun went off and I made sure I didn’t waste any energy dodging people in front of me. For me, I have a little advantage in this race — it’s all over roads I walk on lunch or run after work. I know the tangents, I know the dips, and I know the climbs.
I played off my adrenaline at the start with the uphill instead of holding anything back. With my past two 5ks this year I tried to hold back on my first mile so I didn’t die towards the end but wound up slightly disappointed with my finishing times. Today I decided to forego staring at the Garmin and just do whatever I wanted. My breathing was comfortable and I increased my pace on the first two downhills, passing a few girls and finding a good pace. I glanced at my Garmin in the middle of one of the downhills and saw 6:50, but kept rolling with it. The first mile clocked in at 7:05.
The start of mile two was directly uphill heading towards the marina, which is right outside my work. It’s short and small, but you can visually see it and if you don’t know about it, mentally it kind of sucks. I run it at least 2-3 times each month and it’s the perfect place for me to surge on easy runs, so I followed suit and pushed harder. This was the first time my breathing started to get out of whack and I knew that’s when things were going to start going downhill. [Once my breathing starts to get labored, I cannot calm it down and it totally affects my pace, unless it’s a sprint to the finish.]
I never lost my place after the first mile. The same girl in lime green was a few strides ahead of me. Each time I tried to catch her, she picked up her pace when I came to her side. I could see the girl ahead of her as well and they both looked young but I couldn’t tell if they were my age group or one higher. As I continued out on the marina, I could feel my pace slow. Finally, the lead runners started to turn and run back at us and it was the perfect time to count females. I was in 11th and all I knew was the first place girl was not in my age group — later I found out she was 18. I thought if I could push a little harder, I could catch Lime Green Girl but my energy was wavering — there finished mile 2 in 7:22.
In the middle of mile 3, I saw J cruising along with a decent crowd still around him. I was so proud because I knew he was exhausted — after starting a new job a couple weeks ago as a USPS mail carrier, he’s walked more in the past week than he has in the past few months — but he still came to the race and ran for me! I hoped seeing him would give me some energy, but I was just trying to hang on at that point as Lime Green Girl distanced herself from me and I realized I had nobody on my tail or to chase after anymore.
I kept glancing at my Garmin and the distance was barely ticking away. There were plenty of grumbles and expletives coming from my mouth along with some coughs and a lot of spit. But I’m considerate — there was never anybody in the line of fire. As we started to approach the turn around, volunteers were cheering us on, “You’re almost there!” which feels much better during a 5k than a half marathon, let me tell you. It sounds a little backwards I’m sure, but 3 miles hurts when you’re trying to pick up the pace on an uphill at the end of the third mile while simultaneously trying not to hurl. I saw Lime Green Girl overtake the girl in front of her and the distance was starting to decrease but I was struggling to keep down everything inching up my throat. I thought I might be able to catch one if they didn’t have any kick but it would be a stretch. Finally, mile 3 clicked and it wasn’t pretty – 7:49.
It was here when somebody was yelling that as soon as we turned the corner, there was the finish. I started to pick it up a little and heard some heavy breathing behind me — the first person to come near me in over a mile. I could tell it wasn’t a woman, but I still didn’t want them to pass me. He got even with me on the left side and I stayed with him, somehow he found another gear and I did, too. Appropriately, my last .13 was 6:35 pace with a 5:00 pace sprint.
With both of us doubled over at the finish, we gave a quick high-five to each other and went on our way. According to the race results, we finished in the same time but for a 56 year-old man, he definitely out-kicked me!
Unfortunately I missed age grouping by one place. I was 11th female overall out of 180, 4th in my age group out of 20, and 47th overall. The girls in my sights throughout the race were the age group above me so had I passed them, it wouldn’t have affected the awards which makes things feel a little better. I finished in 23:08 so it appears the elusive sub 22 is farther away than I expected since I’m struggling to break 23 right now!
Overall, I’m happy that I’m still dropping my times even if it isn’t as quickly as I had hoped. It was disappointing to still see 23:xx on the clock but I ran on very tired legs, for me. The positive is for the first time ever in my running life I have run over 20 mile weeks multiple times in the past two months so I’ll take the trade off of being a little slower if it means I’m injury free.