Sunday, May 27, 2007

05/27/07 Buffalo Marathon

Because I made such a big deal of this in my Bayshore report, let's start with the weather. It was 60 and muggy for most of this race. I was ok in "only" 2 shirts (one would have been fine)... BUT... all the forecasts predicted gloom-and-doom badass thunderstorms starting at the 3 hour mark of the race. I decided to take a light raincoat. Now, coats are a weird idea in most races because you are gonna be wet from sweat anyway. But thunderstorms can mean cold rain and wind... and I just didn't want to be miserable in the last 6 miles. And so, I went out with a coat wrapped around my waist. It looked dorky, and it was very clunky. I don't think I'll do that again. Didn't need it anyway. Aside from light rain for a few minutes, the weather just stayed overcast. Bottom line, the weather was great all weekend. I'd rather have that result and be wrong than to be right.

The course. Buffalo's course is apparently new this year. The first half is the half marathon course... although they started on a different street, we merged quickly (UGH UGH UGH) and stayed with them until they peeled off at M13. This part of the course was the touted waterfront section. It involved lots of little loops and out-and-backs next to the water. It was alright... but, hey, we're talking about Buffalo and Lake Erie. Bayshore or Grandmas it ain't. It was clear that this bit was new to the organizers... many of the mile markers in the first 7 miles were really wacky... and around M1.5, we were dumped onto a bike path. Mind you, we were packed in like sardines while out on the wide road... the bike path was super tricky.

In fact, it was even extra tricky for the gal who ran into a 3ft wooden post at full speed. She stopped and dropped. Most of her stuff continued. Yipe! We helped her up and she went back to running. Not sure how she did. Why did she hit the post? Well, for one, she had on headphones and didn't hear people saying "pole". But just as importantly, the gal in front of her waited until the last possible second to matador the post... so biff, oof, pow.

After we bid adieu to the half marathoners ("please save us some fooood!"), the second part of the course made a loop through some nice neighborhoods on the north side of downtown. We passed an old cemetery and skirted a golf course. I later found out that we were near the zoo too... but like in Tacoma, I never actually saw the zoo. As I recall, Memphis is like this as well.

The Buffalo course is far and away the flattest course I've run in awhile. There are a few rises and there must have been a little elevation gain in the second half because the last 2-3 miles are a nice downhill to the finish. But I never really noticed the gain.

As for the race itself, I got to the starting area about 15 minutes before the start. There was some discussion about which direction we were supposed to go, and I picked poorly. So like a doofus, about 5 minutes before the start, I had to cross over and face the other way . I met a maniac (Don) and a couple of the big kahuna 50-staters (Steve and Paula). Then Oh Canada and the SSB. 3, 2, 1, go. We were off.

I've already mentioned the wacky mile markers and the gal kapow into the post. Those were the highlights of the waterfront section. It was in here that I revisited my goals for the day... well, while I was trying dodge a couple thousand flailing limbs all around me. The first goal, as mentioned in the Bayshore report, reads "finish Buffalo in a good mood". I could tell that unless I hurt myself, I'd finish ok, but what with the mile markers and the sardines and Lake Erie, good mood might be debatable. I tried to pump myself up, but I really wasn't in a talkative social mood. The second goal and more aggressive goal was "beat 4". Hmmm. I felt alright, but I knew that if I tried to run even 9:00-9:10s for 26 very flat miles... after being remarkably even for 26 miles yesterday... I'd be bored out of my mind. So I decided to run by feel and play "guess my pace" each mile. Alas, the screwy mile markers made this difficult... but not impossible.

Turns out that I was running lots of 8:40-8:45s. I usually guessed right. Woooo. We sometimes find pleasure in odd things.

At M6.5, the half and full leaders (coming up on M12) headed the other way. At M7.5, we went across a drawbridge where the running surface was slick, painful metal grates. Ouch, ouch.

In addition to a full and a half, this race had a relay. It was, shall we say, loose in organization. And the organizers decided that the only portapotties on the course (besides the start and M13) would be at the relay exchanges. This is a problem. At the first exchange, the potties had lines. Of people not "on the clock". So when I saw the real potty at the harbor around M9, off I went. No line. The payment, unfortunately, was that I had to run a little bit extra to get to it. Lost a minute there.

Rain at M10. The runners behind me were playing some kind of game about state capitals. When I heard "Tampa" for the capital of Florida, I finally had to turn around and correct them. It's Ocala, of course (no, no. It's Tallahassee. That's what I said). The guy's response? "I thought it was Disneyland".

Didn't have the heart to tell him that this was in California.

Back across the drawbridge just before M11. Goodbye to the half marathoners at M13.

At M14, I could feel my body shift into the next lower gear. Goodbye 8:45s, hello 9:05s.

It's funny. As advertised, I think I was supposed to really enjoy the first half of the course. I didn't... though it was as much due to org as it was the blah of Lake Erie. But I enjoyed the second half quite a bit. The neighborhoods were cool, and they had spectators.

The cemetery was around M16. The golf course was M17-M18. Only golf course I've ever seen where a hole has a backstop behind it. Like baseball. Heh. I felt fairly cruddy through these miles, though I did notice that my foot... yesterday's issue... wasn't bothering me. Somewhere in here, though, my body shifted again. Hello, 9:20s. Uh oh.

It seemed like forever before we hit M20... which I did hit at 2:58. It's usually pretty certain that if I hit M20 before 3 hours, I'll beat 4. However, I wasn't feeling it... and constantly retying the silly coat around my waist reminded me that hour 3 was supposed to involve thunderstorms of Biblical proportions. Time to psyche myself up again.

At M23, a spectator or course marshal said "all downhill from here!" You know as well as I do that 95% of the time, this is a complete fabrication. Today it wasn't; the guy was right on. We started a very gentle downhill. We also went through a couple traffic circles... the traffic control was fine, but they were still a little scary.

I was speeding up. I was back to 8:45s.

I'm gonna beat 4.

I will beat 4.

I ran M26 in 7:51. This was my fastest mile not only of today's marathon, but also of yesterday's marathon.

As I neared the finish line, I heard the announcer guy asking his spotters, "Where's he from? Where's he from?" So I just told him - SEATTLE!

Robert Lopez, from SEATTLE!

3:54. Ok, officially 3:53:59.

I beat 4. And I set a new double PR of 7:33.

After the race, they gave me a bottle of water and a single apple. Dude. I looked around and couldn't find anything else. So I came back to my hotel, ate an energy bar and took a bath. Afterwards, I wandered back to the finish area and learned the truth. In the building, up the secret stairs behind the secret wall in the secret place... was the party. Seriously... no signs or people directing folks up to the party. Not that this seemed to trick the local folks. There had been tons of food and free beer. By the time I got there, all that was left was oreos and free beer. Not a winning combo. Believe it or not, I went with the oreos and left the beer alone.

No matter. I beat four on both ends of a double. I celebrated by eating an entire pizza.

Next up: Not a double! Next week is the San Juan Island Marathon. No, this isn't a fun trip to Puerto Rico. The San Juan Islands are in the Puget Sound near Seattle.

I'll see you there. But you have to take a ferry or a seaplane.

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