Today was my latest travel race -- the Buffalo Half Marathon. Saw the sights of a city and region I'd never been before.
There was a 7am start, not too bad. Everyone made their way through the center of town to Pearl Street, a few blocks away from Niagara Square the familiar art-deco sight of Buffalo City Hall. I had my fuel belt carrying two flasks of red Gatorade -- I would have preferred the blue, which my father affectionately called "Romulan ale," but the red always does in a pinch. Fruit punch flavor is the best by default.
For the pre-race ceremonies, an honor guard stood at attention as we were treated to the inventive stylings of a female vocalist who sang O Canada (we are right near the Peace Bridge, of course) and The Star Spangled Banner. To keep us on our toes, she would shift octaves and keys when least expected. My thing is to hum the bass harmony to our national anthem whenever it is sung at a live event, but this one got me a little distracted. Now that I think about it, she kind of did her own bass harmony! :)
And then the race began! It took us down Pearl Street, through Niagara Square, up Niagara Street, then hang a left towards the water, and we began a grand tour of some choice lakeside real estate. Everyone came out of their condos and duplexes to cheer us on, giving me that old Brooklyn Fourth Avenue feeling. Always magical!
We then headed towards a turnaround at the Erie Basin Marina. Somewhere between Mile 5 and Mile 6, I caught sight of one of my blue-camouflaged teammates running the other way. We high-fived, shouted encouragements, and kept on going. The other side of my brain then woke me up and said:
"Hey Allweiss, you know she's going faster than you, right?"
Yeah, obviously. That's why she's on that side of the road.
"You're not gonna let that phase you, are you? You know I'm just saying, that's all."
Of course. Didn't I just preach the gospel of pacing oneself last night?
"K. Just keep it going dude."
And so I did. The timer at the 5K mark read 55 minutes and since the starting gun. Although I was running without my less-than-trust Garmin, I did my own math and decided that I was running slightly faster than a 9-minute pace.
I would eventually see them all on the course at one point or another. The face-to-face opposite-direction sightings would increase as we headed down Ohio Street, over some unexpectedly steep bridges and overpasses, onto Outer Harbor Drive. The race became decidedly uncomfortable at this point, yet we all persevered. Although it became somewhat more difficult to stick to, I forced myself to hydrate from my Gatorade flasks once every two miles, no matter what.
As luck would have it, I did have just enough left in the tank. At Mile 12, I unconsciously put up the "1" sign, since there was only one mile left. At the 20K mark (12.4 miles), the timer read 1:44 since the starting gun -- just had to muscle my way through.
Ahhh, the finish line! I felt that sense of relief that can only come with ceasing running after an extended period of time -- downed a bottle of water and finished the Gatorade, and shuffled over to the sidelines to engage in what some would consider an even more important part of the race -- cheering for all teammates who would cross the finish line afterwards. One by one, two by two, they all made it in. As they approached the finish line, they all had that look of sheer determination that baffles non-runners, but is only too familiar to and expected from our people.
I then took a gander at the post-race jam happening upstairs in the convention center. Pizza and beer were available -- you know, real runner's food! :) Hey hell, we all burned so many calories today, why not? While there, I saw what appeared to be every one's gun and chip times, and brought down a few beers for the team.
And then it was time to say good bye to the Queen City and return to Queens. It feels like a big city and a small town at the same time, and that's not bad. I'd like to return to this place again, and make it a longer stay. Since I'm doing NYC this year, this was a good way to shake off whatever cobwebs had materialized in the past few months and get ready for what I hope to be a sub-4 hour time.
DISCLAIMER: I earlier misquoted my time to my people -- in my slightly-buzzed state, I reported what was actually my age-graded time, and not my chip time. My chip time was actually 1:53:23, averaging an 8:39 pace.
FURTHER DISCLAIMER: I'm still not sure if she finished ahead of me. The times speak for themselves, but it doesn't matter who was faster than the other. That's the beauty of running - the only opponent you really compete with is yourself.
Good night all -- a Memorial Day post for the troops is coming your way tomorrow!