Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Buffalo Marathon Race Report: "Gun"ning for the Run

Phew.  Long weekend, done.  How is it that 3 days off can be so exhausting?  Yes, I know...lame.  But true :-P  But in the interest of dragging it out as long as possible...(plus I know you're all on the edge of your seats)...let's go back to the weekend and talk about the race half marathon...Buffalo time!
Way back in the day (okay, about a month ago) I was trying to PR in this race.  Sub 1:50.  I knew I could do it.  The course is flat, fast, and held in May, so it was probably gonna be cooler.
Then...foot intervened.  No, it's not sea urchin foot, I swear.  The nettles dissolved and I was good to go...until two weeks ago, when I began to have a throbbing pain in the ball of my foot.  I iced, rested, and cut back on those runs.  Race wee-massive foot pain.  I considered not even running it, but talked with the hubster and we decided to make it a game day decision.  Either way, i scrubbed my PR goal-no sense asking for failure.  My primary goal was to finish the race!
Fine.  I can see I can't get away with lying to you.
I would have been happy finishing.
But I wanted a sub 2:00.  I'm an elitist jerk, what can I say.  Every half I've done has been between 1:50 and 1:59...and I like seeing the number "1" in front of my half time.
Whew.  I knew you would understand.
Race morning, I felt okay enough to start.  Some pain, not too much.  So I loaded up on Ibuprofin (so classy), rolled, and let r rip.  One switch-I thought it might be my shoes causing the problem, so I switched back to my trusty dusty old Asics.  Not ideal, as they are well over their 500 miles, but I started having momre severe issues when I switched shoes, so why borrow trouble?
Did my pre-race thang.  Ready to rock.  Tummy, on.  Legs, on.  Foot?  We'll see.
The start line was a friggin mess.  They had the streets fenced off at least a quarter of a mile back, so it was super hard to get lined up.  I ended up lining up with the 2:20 pacers because I physically could not get up any further.  (I would have ideally lined up with 1:50's...I tend to go out a bit harder in mile 1 and then settle in).  I didn't have a problem with this, as the race officials told us our chip time would count, not gun time.  So until we crossed the start line, "time" did not start.  (This was not the case.  More on that later).
Needless to say, the start was a cluster...ahem.  I crossed the start line almost 3 minutes after the gun went off amidst people WALKING.  Guys, this is a race!  Let's go!  So I started weaving around people like it was my job.  For 3 miles.  Potholes.  Sidewalks.  Dodging trees.  Lame.  (I would have loved to wear the Garmin, I'm sure this did a number on my "tangent running".)  It was a mess.  I think the race director should seriously consider corrals or a staggered half/full start.
Anyways.  I hit my pace about mile 3 (25:00) and was holding a steady 8:20-8:30 mile pace.  The course would through downtown Buffalo, by Lake Erie, then did a nice out and back through town.
There were no hills.  Slight inclines at a few causeways (some people called these hills.  I laughed). 
The weather held.  It was 68 degrees and cloudy.  Humid, but no 90.
The crowds were awesome (go see my last post for the poop sign.  Hilarious).
The water stops were staffed well (they weren't where they said they would be but...you can't have it all, right?)
There were too many effin turns.  They changed the course this year and it was a pain in the butt.  Super hard to run tangents.
There were 3 turn arounds...and no timing mats at the turn arounds.  You know what that means.  Super lame course cutters.  I did get to see the hubster twice, though!
The Pacer shirts were the same color as the marathon shirts.  For people that race in the race shirt (which is surprisingly common) that made seeing the pacers pretty rough.  I wasn't relying on them, so it wasn't an issue, but worth nothing
My race went pretty well until about mile 9.  My foot hurt, but manageable hurt.  It actually hurt more to walk then run, which kept me going.  I wish I could say I saw the course, but I was focused on three things:  1.  My foot.  Reassess after every step.  2.  My watch.  Ticking off splits not too fast, not too slow.  3.  My music.  Kept me sane and not snippy at the crazy amount of people who have no clue about run etiquette.
I kept ticking the miles off steadily, and held with the 1:55 pace group until about mile 10.  I had no clue what time they actually started, so I had no clue what time I was paced for (remember, I started 3 minutes late).
About mile 10, my foot started to throb, so I pulled off, took off my shoe, and stretched.  I decided that a 1:55 wasn't going to happen, and I was okay with that.  I took the last 5k slowly...ran 5 minutes, stretched.  Ran 5 minutes, stretched.  My legs and lungs felt awesome.  My foot....was ready to be done.
Before I know it, I saw the 12 mile mark and looked down at my watch...1:48.  I knew I could do a 1:56 or 1:57, which was fine by me!  I took one last stretch break and let r rip.  My foot had other ideas.  I gave it a stern talking to, gritted my teeth, and gunned those last 9 minutes to the finish.
Official finish time:  1:57:16
Official Distance (hubster wore his garmin) 13.36 miles
Pace:  8:47/mile
Nowhere near the PR I hoped for, but I was happy as hell.  I hobbled over to the med tent, grabbed some ice, and started the rehab process.
Overall, a decent course.  And I have no doubt I could have nailed it out of the park if I was healthy....next time, right?
We'll see.  After the race, we all convened and headed back to Brennan's (our friend in Buffalo who kindly let us stay with him), showered and drove home.  Later that evening, the results were posted.  I checked out my placing and time....1:59:51?  I was confused.  That was my "gun time" (the time from when the gun went off)...what about my chip time?  I sent the organizer a message and they told me that the results were posted via gun time and that chip times would be out later.
True to form, my chip time came out (1:57:16), but the results stayed with gun time.  I came in in the top 20% of my AG and gender, and the top 25% overall, which was awesome...but....there were dozens of women slower than I that came out "ahead" of me because they were able to get up closer to the start line.  And out of the 2500 half marathoners, almost 100 that came in "ahead" of me but actually had a slower time.
What the??
Now, let me be clear.  I wasn't going for a placement.  I came in 70th out of 350 people in my AG, so no cash money was coming to me.  But there's something off about results being posted that way, I think. I checked out a bunch of local races and it's usually the other way around....to record both gun time and chip time (which I have NO issue with) but post results off chip time.  I'm sorry to say, but this reinforces the idea that one should shove their way up as close as possible to the start line even if they have no business being there to start ASAP. 
Think about it.  person A starts out one minute post gun time and finishes the half marathon in 1:58.  I start out 3 minutes post gun time and finish in 1:57.  She beats me?  What?
Hmm.  I'm a little annoyed about this, but, like I said, this was not an "A" race.  I am super happy I just was able to run.  But I won't kid with you, it gives me pause to run it again.  Or, if I did, I would line up at 6:15 (race started at 7, we tried to line up at 6:40ish) and just park my butt at the front and be "that guy".  So there :-P
Thoughts on this?  Have you ever been to a race where they based placement off of gun time?


  1. I'm glad your foot held out and you were able to race. That said, I don't see the point of chip timing a race if they're going to go by gun time. I don't blame you a bit being irritated. If I had that experience, I'd also have to take serious pause before considering running that race again!

  2. The two things that jumped out at me about the course were...

    1) I was somehow .16 miles long after one mile, even when getting close to running the tangents.

    2) The overwhelming gas smell at 8 & 10.5. It was so bad I could taste it. I don't know if it was the empty building by the road, or if it was the junk yard we had to run by. Either way I'm sure it didn't help me when it came to "losing my breakfast" on the course.

  3. Congratulations on finishing the race with injury and all. I ran the Buffalo marathon years and years ago and have horrific memories of the race course and organization. It was one of those marathons, I said never again - and I stuck to my guns about that!
    I think all races need to be consistent about recording official race chip times. That is the purpose of electronic timing so I would be extremely annoyed if they posted gun times. Hope all is well in Rachacha!