Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Buffalo Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
Guys, I am still on cloud nine after this past weekend’s Buffalo Half Marathon. It was a wonderful experience and overall a fantastic weekend! It couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
If you didn’t see my Instagram post, the “curse” is broken – I was hoping that this would be the race where I PR’d, and my wish came true! And of course, as with any race, it came with a few surprises! I’m so excited to finally share my recap of the Buffalo Half Marathon with you! As you know, I share all the details!
This was my first time running a major race in Buffalo, New York, the city where I was born and raised. My running journey didn’t begin until I was living in Philadephia for a few years, but for the longest time, I have wanted to come back and run a race in my hometown. I was so excited to have the opportunity to run Buffalo with the BibRave team this year! The online reviews were so positive for the race so I knew that I would be in for a great time. Fortunately, I was able to convince Bret to run the race and have a nice weekend visit to Buffalo over the Memorial Day Weekend.
Bret and I drove from Philly to Buffalo early on Friday morning. Since the ride was at least 6 hours, I wore some compression socks and did my best to stay hydrated along the way. The night before, we ran the Blossom Philadelphia 5K Night Race together and dealt with a crazy amount of rain but still got in a nice run, finishing around 29 minutes (I still need to do a recap on that one!). We had a stop for lunch in Corning, NY – such a cute town! Once we made it to Buffalo we settled in then headed to my grandmother’s house to say hello to all of the family. Of course, we had to have pizza and wings for dinner…worth every bite and every penny!
On Saturday, after doing a few errands for the Memorial Day feast, Bret and I went to the Buffalo Convention Center to pick up our bibs. I completely forgot that there was also a 5K taking place on Saturday so we were able to see some people completing the race. The Convention Center was really busy considering it was only 11 am! They had lots of vendors and some great deals that I had to resist. We picked up our bibs and swag, including a really nice quarter-zip jacket. I checked out the official race swag and bought a T-shirt and a really nice frosted beer mug. I really wanted to drive the race course and downloaded the race guide, but it didn’t turn out to be as helpful as I hoped.
Once the bib pickup was done I went into tour-guide mode to show Bret around the city. We walked around downtown a bit as I shared various memories from my childhood and teen years. I also took him around my old neighborhoods where I grew up. It was fun and nice to look back on those times. Then we went back downtown to the Westin Hotel, located just a couple of blocks from the start and finish line and also near my beloved high school. The hotel room was AMAZING. Once we unpacked, we went to a local beer bar for a couple of drinks and then had dinner in Allentown at Allen Burger Venture. I got the lamb burger with truffle fries and it was delicious!
We were back at the hotel pretty early so that we could get a good night’s sleep. Of course, I didn’t get the best sleep because I was so nervous about the race! I had all of my clothes laid out and ready to go!
The race was starting at 6:30 am, so I believe I set my alarm to 4:30 or 5. Way too early! I bought some generic Nutrigrain-like bars for our pre-race breakfast and ate a couple for good measure. Bret made some coffee in our room and helped himself. We had plenty of time to grab a few things to take to bag check, which was being located in the Convention Center. When we went outside for our less than 5-minutes walk, the sun was up and the weather was great, though already a little bit warmer than I expected!
After dropping off our gear, we went for a quick warmup jog before heading to the starting line. I actually felt a bit tired from the jog! Then we heard a nice rendition of the National Anthem accompanied by fireworks! I wish I took a photo while it was happening! Bret and I then separated with a kiss for good luck and lined up for the start. This race doesn’t have “official” corrals like I’m used to in Philly or DC. Instead, there were flags for a few specific finish time goals and you had to find the right place to line up. I went between the 9:40 and 10:30 group if I remember correctly. I barely had enough time for a photo and to get my watch ready to go before we were heading off!
The race starts on Delaware Avenue, heading Northeast. There were a few small crowds cheering on the runners along the way. Soon after starting, I spotted my two aunts and cousins and I screamed and waved to them, but I’m not even sure that they heard/saw me! I knew that the race started at an incline, but it was much steeper than I anticipated! It was essentially a long climb for the first mile, but I was feeling a bit too good and ran my first mile too fast – the target was 10:15 so I was way off. So I worked on slowing down a bit.
Miles 2-4 were absolutely my favorite part of the course – running out and back down Chapin Parkway and Lincoln Parkway. We passed these beautiful, historic million dollar homes. I felt like I was in my sweet spot of running and had to calm myself down because I was getting a little bit emotional from the gravity of it all – but I still had a long way to go! We made a turn down Linwood Avenue and ran through another really nice neighborhood. It was already starting to get warm and one the neighbors had a sprinkler on to keep the runners cool. We had another long incline but I was able to keep it together! There were two women running together at a nice pace and I used them as my rabbit. I ended up running behind them most of the race until I eventually lost them!
Splits: 9:44 (oops), 9:54, 9:33, 9:47, 9:53.
After a little while on Linwood Avenue, we turned on North Street and made our way back on Delaware Avenue. This was a fun downhill section where we essentially went back to where we started on the race. I saw my cousins again waiting, so happy to see them – and they got my picture. I gave my cousin Nick a high five. That gave me a nice boost! The goal was to stay under a 10-minute pace for the entire race. I wasn’t stalking my paces but I felt pretty confident that I was where I needed to be in order to run faster than 2:10.
On this part of the course, we were on what’s considered the West Side of Buffalo. We ran down a few more residential blocks and got some much-needed shade as the sun was getting brighter and the weather was getting warmer. My water with Vitalyte Electrolyte powder was working great up to this point and as usual, I was skipping the aid stations. I was really excited when we finally entered LaSalle Park to get a view of the waterfront and Lake Erie. You could also see City Hall from a distance. I really wish I could have taken a picture – it’s a beautiful building!
Splits: 9:38, 9:39, 9:50, 9:51, 9:41.
We continued to run along the waterfront, and it was great for awhile…until it wasn’t. At one point, we were set on a winding bike path that felt endless. We passed several more gorgeous homes and a few boats at the marina so it was scenic, but I felt like we were going in circles. At one point there was a nice crowd cheering and a guy giving high 5’s. Once I got to him and had my hand out, he put his away. Oh…okay. But anyway, miles 10 and 11 felt SO long – there’s another out and back section here and it took an eternity to get to that mile marker. The sun was fully out at this point and unfortunately, I started to get side stitches right under the right side of my upper ribs. I pushed through and they went away after mile 12, but it wasn’t a fun feeling.
I was anxious to finish this race and we ran under some highway bridges and the Sabres NHL stadium before making our way back to the Convention Center. Since the marathon was also taking place, they had signs to show where they continued on while the half marathoners headed to the finish. Since I kept getting confused about the course map, I thought we were supposed to run around Niagara Square past City Hall. I saw Bret as I was nearing the finish and had to ask him if I was running straight to the finish line or was there another turn. He told me to stay straight and I took off! But unfortunately, my damn water bottle flew out of my Orange Mud Hydraquiver! I had to stop briefly to grab it and another guy helped me to pick it up, meanwhile, he sort of fell in the process. Thankfully, we made the handoff, took off even faster than before, and I finished the race! As soon as I could find him, I fist bumped him and thanked him. Kind stranger, I hope I didn’t ruin your race!
Splits: 9:43, 9:43, 9:38.
My official race results were 2:07:56! My Nike+ watch read 13.19 miles in 2:08:00. At this race, I achieved a nearly 3-minute PR! I couldn’t be more proud. Did I have those perfect negative splits? Not even close! But I’m really happy that I didn’t let the heat and humidity bring me down like I usually do. I was able to start at a strong pace and maintain it – I was so worried about a crash and burn. I’m realizing how much stronger I am as a runner, even compared to a year ago. I felt like I could have given more. That’s very promising!
Once I crossed the finish line and caught my breath, I had my medal placed on me by a Buffalo Bill. Which player was it? I have no idea, haha! I took a couple of the professional photos and then saw my aunts and cousins again. I was able to tell them I broke my record and they looked so proud! I was so happy that they could see me run. They headed home and then I tried to look for Bret, which took a bit of time and a lot of frustration. But when we finally reunited he congratulated me on my PR. Bret finished in 1:45. He was battling a bad cough all week so I was glad he was still able to do so well, even if it wasn’t what he considers his best.
We picked up our gear bag at the Convention Center, I changed into my OOFOS OOmg (so comfy!) and we went up to Post-Race Party which I knew would have beer and pizza! I was also pleasantly surprised by all of the cookies available and took a few, but didn’t like so many people grabbing them with their bare hands, especially little kids! But regardless, I got my pizza and beer and it was delicious! To be finishing a half marathon before 9 am is just so weird!
Once we had enough food and drink we walked back to our hotel. I wish we could have stayed longer! I did all of my necessary stretches, showered, and took a nice nap before we had to check out of our room at noon. When we left, it was about 80 degrees and there were still marathoners running out there in the hot sun! It’s crazy how much the weather changed in one day!
Then it was time to enjoy Memorial Day festivities. We went to my grandmother’s house and had a TON of food made by my mom, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Bret was able to meet a few other family members for the first time. I was a little nervous, but all went well and he had a fun time. I laughed a ton and ate a ton of food. Special mention must go to my Uncle Charles’ baby-back ribs! They are my favorite and he even made me several slabs to take home! I only wish I had taken home more food and had more photographic evidence of the ridiculous amount of food we had…but trust me, we ate very well!
The Buffalo Half Marathon was just as wonderful as I hoped it would be. The course is great, it’s well-organized, and just the right size. If I was aiming for Boston, I’d definitely set my sights on this race! You get so much great value for this race and who knows, maybe I’ll sign up to do it again sometime!
Thanks so much to the BibRave Pros for allowing me to participate in this race! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet any of the others who were at the race, but it seemed like everyone had a good time!
Coach Laura – I still can’t believe this has happened! Thanks so much for pushing me and encouraging me! I have loved training with your guidance and I look forward to seeing how much farther I can go!
To my aunts Sharon and Denise and cousins Nick and Jalen: thanks for being there! It was great to have such a strong cheering section for the race – I honestly didn’t even consider that anyone would want to see me run! And I know it wasn’t easy to get up so early, so thank you so much!
And Bret, of course…he has been there every step of the way. We had a lot more runs together over the past month or so, and it has been a great bonding experience. I am so happy that he could see me PR the half marathon – when I started running and got that first PR, we weren’t dating yet! So it really meant a lot to have him there.
I am so thankful to everyone who has supported me on this most recent training cycle. I was really scared that I would have issues considering my recent knee, calf, and shin woes, but thankfully my body didn’t fall apart during this race! Everyone’s encouraging words really meant a lot to me. I hope I made you proud.
I don’t think the gravity of this achievement has hit me yet – when I ran the Love Run Half in 2:11 I was bawling like a baby! I guess this time around, I really believed that I could get it done. Woohoo!
How was your Memorial Day weekend? When/where did you get your half marathon PR?