To start: this is not the kind of race recap I wanted to be writing. I wanted to be telling you how I smashed my PR and had a great time and floated on clouds and gave a million high-fives throughout the race. However, that’s not what actually happened. This was the hardest race I’ve finished to date, but the most important thing is that I finished.
It was a really great weekend to race – my mom and I drove up to Buffalo on Saturday morning, packet pickup was a breeze in the convention center, and it was small enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed or crowded. We tried to go to Niagara Falls but it was absolutely crazy up there, my anxiety kicked into overdrive, and I almost had a panic attack in the car. We decided to go back to our hotel, where both my mom and I took some nice naps. We had Panera Bread for my carb-loading meal (gotta love that mac and cheese in a bread bowl), played a round of Ticket to Ride, and watched the Pirates play the Mets on TV. Showered, and off to bed.
Race morning dawned a little warmer than are my ideal racing conditions, but it was okay. I was ready to go, Vaselined everything up pretty well and was feeling optimistic for the morning. I taped on my pace band that I had printed out for my miracle goal of 4:55, but I at least knew it would keep me on pace for a sub-5 finish if I stayed close. My mom and I headed out, and there was plenty of parking near the line by the time we got there. We parked in a nearby garage, walked to the convention center, and then I went to get a picture taken with the Sub-30 crew who were running Buffalo.
I met back up with my mom, then we walked over a block to the starting line. I found myself towards the back of the pack, which was to be expected. I could at least see the pace sign for the 2:30/5:00 pacer, which was a good sign. It was pretty cool to be in the crowd of people, as everyone was sporting some really patriotic garb and there were a lot of runners for Team RWB. The race started with fireworks! And we were off.
I stuck with the pacer for the first 4 miles or so, and it felt great. 11:26, 11:02, 11:28, and 11:34 were my times up until I took my first GU. I haven’t yet mastered taking GU while I run, so my fifth mile was a little bit slower because of my walk break. I got back into running and felt really good up until mile eight. At that point, I realized that the bottoms of my feet were burning. The only thing I could think at that point were a bunch of swear words on a highlight reel in my mind. It was like Cumberland all over again.
I pushed on, waiting and waiting to pass a med tent. The course was beautiful and fun and flat, so that at least gave me something to look at while the miles passed by slower and slower. I finally came across a med tent in mile 10, where I took off my socks and put more Vaseline all over my feet. I texted my mom to let her know that I was slowing down and for her not to worry. I headed off again, able to run for a little while.
My mom was waiting a bit before mile 13, and we both walked as I talked to her. She let me know that it was entirely my decision about what I did because she could tell I was in a lot of pain. “To be honest,” I said. “It’s going to kill me for the rest of forever to see a silver Buffalo medal on my rack instead of a gold one.”
She encouraged me to go for, so off I went.
The course thinned out incredibly in the second half. I was still technically ahead of the 6:00 pacer, yet I could barely see anyone in front of or behind me. I definitely started slowing down and walking a bit more, but I was trying to walk as fast as I could. My arms were pumping, I was sweating up a storm, and yet I was still losing time as every mile went by.
As I entered the park that marked mile 17, and I wanted to cry both out of relief and worry – single-digit miles left, but I was already in a lot of pain. There was another girl near me who was doing her first marathon, and she stayed in my sights for a fair amount of the park loop. When we went into residential neighborhoods, I was encouraged by the amount of people out in their yards who were still cheering, impromptu water stops and sprinklers, and just the overall vibe.
The closest I came to breaking down was at the art gallery right near the 22-mile mark. There was one of the lead volunteers there, and I basically gasped out, “Are they going to pull me? Am I last?”
He almost started laughing and told me there were still several people behind me and that he hadn’t even closed off the park loop yet. He just encouraged me to get on my way and that they would let me finish at the pace I was going. When I tried to explain that I was slowing down, he said he knew I had it in me to finish.
Some of the roads started reopening at that point, so the police asked me to move to the sidewalks. That was hard, as some of them were uneven and the surfaces were starting to really hurt my feet. I kept plodding along, and a few people passed me in those last few miles. A man and woman who had apparently been watching me for a while passed me around mile 25 and encouraged me with cheers of “ONE MILE LEFT!”
It was nice to come back into the downtown area, as the streets were still closed off and gated. I imagined the roar of the crowd in my head that had probably been there three hours prior, as they were starting to take down fencing as I shuffled past. It didn’t matter though, because when I did the loop around to where I could see the entrance to the finish line, I could see my mom standing there. She was clapping and talking to the guy next to her (who I found out later was also waiting for his daughter to come in), and she moved closer to the actual finish when I got to the opening of the chute. The announcer read my name and hometown as I came across the line, and I was so completely exhausted that I could’ve passed out right there.
I finished in 6:32:34. It’s my worst marathon time to date, but it’s also the one I had to fight hardest for. I was out longer than almost anyone on the course, and I pushed myself beyond what I thought I could. I was sick and nauseous the whole drive home, and I didn’t start feeling much better until at least Tuesday. My legs felt pretty okay, but it was just the massive blisters on my feet that did me in. There were larger than half dollars on the balls of my feet, which made every step hurt like hell.
Still not really sure why the blisters keep happening, but I know that I need to get my feet and shoes checked out. I’ve put on a little weight, so I’m not sure if that has anything to do with it. I just want to get it figured out so I can run again…