Monday, October 28, 2013

Niagara Race Weekend Recap (Part 2: Race Day!)

So after doing all my gear prep the night before, I was able to set my alarm clock a tad later than I would have if I wasn't confident that I was all set to go.  
CONFESSION: I was up before my alarm anyway because I kept waking up on and off throughout the night - BONUS, I still felt like I got a decent amount of sleep so I guess that can't be a bad thing.  Right before it was time to get up, I remember that I was dreaming about the race and that I had to break into someone's house (in my dream, it looked like this old triplex I used to live in when we first moved to Canada) and steal a long-sleeved shirt because it was super cold and I forgot to bring one!  Then, because I had to detour for the B&E I was late starting the 5K and it ate into the free time I had planned out to get to the 2K race. So what I did was skipped finishing the 5k to make it to the 2k except that I was late and ended up not getting ANY medals.  Yes, so in reality, I was having a nightmare!
That is one "angry bird" at 6:30 in the morning.
Top: Nike fleece-lined pullover hoodie
Shoes: Skora Forms

 So that's considered a confession because in reality, I don't care what other runners tell you their reason for taking up running is, but to me, it's still not fun and still not enjoyable and I'd rather be doing a bajillion other things besides lacing up, but I love me some bling, y'all.  It's not like I enjoy it when I'm getting dressed to go out.  It's not like I'm relishing the moments when I'm out there holding my bladder trying not to notice that my shins are on fire.  But it somehow makes it all worth it when I cross the finish and they hang something heavy and shiny around my neck.  Ergo, I'm in it for the medals.
We stayed at the Days Inn on Lundy's lane, which is about a 5 - 10 minute drive from the start line (the timing all depends on whether or not you did some research and figured out how to get to the start line beforehand instead of winging it the morning of).  It's not as convenient as staying right at the hotel with falls views, but it was $65 a night and all kinds of awesome with free parking and free wi-fi so it's really a no-brainer.  At this point, the location of the start-line had it so that even if you stayed at a super close hotel, you'd still have a trek to get to the start line anyway, so might as well save some money and drive.  The NFIM offered two parking locations - one at the finish line which was $18 paid, or a HUGE lot at the start line which was free.  I think it was pretty awesome that there was a choice.  
Clockwise from left: 1 & 2: Muuuch better spirits once we're at the start line and have made peace with the fact that it's early and cold and we now have to actually run a 5K.  3: Bonded with a few of those porta-potties throughout the day.  4: Hate out and backs because once people start looping around and you see it, it gives you this unrealistic idea that you're almost at the halfway point.  Except these mofos are fast and you're nowhere near halfway, let alone the end.
We got there at about 8-ish (the 5K run was scheduled to start at 8:30 am) and I was amped and ready to go.  So ready to go that I hopped out of the car and made my way to the start line and completely forgot to take my Vega pre-workout energizer.  I realized it by the time I got to the start line, but even then, there would have been a bit of a trek back to the car to get it and I was already in line for the porta-potties which was INSANE. IN THE MEMBRANE!  There was like, 6 porta-potties at the start line and 515 participants according to Sportstats. Dislike.

At the end of it all, we weren't able to go (perhaps our poor planning in showing up so close to race time or perhaps the fact that there were six porta-potties for 500+ people? Who knows?  But clearly, I was not shy in voicing my thoughts on the matter.
CONFESSION: As we were standing in line for the porta-potties, there was the CUTEST little 4 or 5 year old tyke beside me doing these awesome dynamic stretches.  I looked at him and watched him and totally melted because his little face was just so serious.  I had to cheer him on and tell him "you're looking really good, buddy! Way to stretch it out!"  The confession part?  Tara leaned over to me and muttered, "you're totally thinking you're gonna beat him right?" And I totally WAS.  I was looking at him all heart-melty and I was thinking, you go ahead and stretch, because I'm totally gonna smoke you at the finish line.  To a FOUR YEAR OLD.  My shame knows no bounds.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take too many photos or videos during this 5K because it was COLD.  
CONFESSION: I also had a really hard time with my shorts - or my cold little legs, who knows which.  I'd like to point out that I've never had problems running with shorts.  My legs don't usually feel cold and I can can get through a run just fine without BodyGlide.  I did remind Tara to bring it, but of course, we also forgot that in the car in our excitement to get out to the start line.  I think it was the cold that must have done it because the inside of my right thigh was on FIRE.  I have these awesome shots that Bart took of me just reaching down and grabbing handfuls of shorts and trying to pull them down to cover up my thighs.  FIRE.  I wonder if that affected my time.  I'll bet you it did.
I took quite a bit of walking breaks, I'm sad to say.  Although, at the end of the day, I shouldn't be that sad because in reality, I took less walking breaks than on our training woggles at lunch.  Probably because of the excitement and the crowd, I realized that I had gone 2.5 k without stopping.  I didn't say that I was going very fast, but there was no stopping.

Actually, on a sidenote about that, I've always wondered whether or not it's better to just keep "running" really slow.  Or to run pretty fast and then take a walking break and then go ahead and run again at a fast pace.  Hmmm...
The out and back part was 2k from the start and then another 2k back to the start.  For the last kilometer, runners by-passed the start line and kept heading down the falls on Fallsview Ave.  I've read many times that the NFIM has been voted the the best scenic route as well as one of the fastest routes because it ends DOWNHILL.  The course was pretty much on the level the entire 5K (except for that stupid bridge we had to cross which was technically like a hill.  MapMyRun elevation didn't show that *pouts*) but for the last kilometer it starts getting to a nice downhill slope until the finish line.  I had taken a few walking breaks as well as I allowed myself ONE porta-potty stop since I couldn't get in before the start of the race, but once I hit that last km mark, I started running and I told myself there was NO WAY I was going to let myself walk again until I crossed that finish line.  Although my ankles were hurting something fierce for some reason, that promise to myself was pretty easy to keep because the downhill slope was like a nice gentle "keep going" push, and as soon as you're about 500 meters away, you can hear the crowds cheering and the announcer calling in the runners and commentating and the music is blaring.  Plus, there's photographers out there.  No way they're catching me walking.  And I was also determined not to make ugly face like they caught on me three years ago!
October 24, 2010
Whatevs, still beat that couple behind me.  Hold hands all you want, folks!
*coughs* I mean, great job!

I kinda die laughing at this every time I look at it.  The pictures from this year aren't up yet and unfortunately (I don't know why I say that since I totally agree with it), they've made it SUPER hard to take any of the pictures without purchase with both static AND animated watermarks.  While I agree with it since I would never want someone to use my photographs without permission, I think $24 for a SINGLE photo download is a bit much.  I would be all about purchasing my photos if they would at least make me feel like they weren't robbing me.

And that's that.  Another official 5k time in the books - actually, I guess that one's not the "official" time - although it is to me.  My chip time, including the porta-potty break was 45 minutes. 
I was chalking up how I felt during this run while we were walking the 1k back up the hill to the 2k start line and I was saying that it was cold, I hadn't warmed up, etc.  I didn't say I was dehydrated because I knew for a fact that for the first time in a long time, I was properly hydrated for once.  I did wonder a little wistfully how I would have done and felt had I remembered to take my pre-workout energizer and I mused aloud at how odd it was that my ankles were bothering me on this run since they never seemed to before.  I have gotten used to shin splints and stiff calves, but this was the first I'd felt ankles.  And finally Tara was like, "and remember, you're PREGNANT!"
Honestly, I sometimes forget I'm pregnant and I don't really fall back on that as a reason for why my running hasn't felt as good (well, as it can be while pregnant).  I guess that would be a pretty good reason for why anything feels off during a run.
CONFESSION: A couple times throughout race day, I asked both Bart and Tara to confirm whether or not I really look pregnant or just overweight.  For some reason, in my head, while I think it's admirable to go out running while being overweight, I felt like it was more awesome to be out running while pregnant.  Honestly, sometimes I should be ashamed of how shallow I am/come across.  I guess that's why they're called confessions...

You know how I was talking about how sucky an out and back is because it makes me feel like I'm at least halfway done when I see people start to loop around and then I realize I'm nowhere close?  This is probably where you would be in regards to the blog post.  I'm almost about halfway there, but then I look at all the other pictures I want to post and things I want to talk about and realize we're not really there yet...
Proof that even with back-to-back races, there is ALWAYS time for a dance break!
Shoes: Skora Bases

Aaaand now that the 5K is done and we're pretty sufficiently warmed up (if not ready to get the heck out of the cold!), it's time for the 2K!
BOOM! And there WAS time for an outfit change!  Actually, thanks to my over-estimating, there was quite a lot of time for changing and getting warm and refueling and potty breaks as WELL as dance breaks!  It's hard not to want to bust out a move with all the fun, upbeat songs they were playing.  Without a doubt, the NFIM official theme song for the year must have been "Wake Me Up" by Avicii.  I felt like it was the only song playing whenever I heard music blaring - not that I was complaining.  I love that song!
We lined up and when the horn sounded, we were off again.  Making our way down the same route the 5K took, but this time, the loop around was MUCH closer.  I was definitely warmed up and had really made peace with the fact that we were running - AGAIN, and this time Tara stayed with me.  Actually, if I remember correctly, we had planned that everyone was going to do their own thing during the 5k to get the best times possible and we were going to make the 2k a group fun run.  After I set my watch, I looked up and was like, "Where's Bart?" We look ahead a bit and all we see is his bobbing hat and he's taken off like a racehorse out of the gates. *LOL* Tara shrugged and we figured that since he knew she was staying with me, he was going to go willy nilly and see how fast he could do it.  We slapped him some high fives when he looped around and we just chugged along.
I hate knowing that I'm holding people back, so as soon as I we got to the pylon where we loop back, I told Tara to feel free to go ahead since I felt like slowing down or stopping for a break.  Tara was pretty adamant that she was going to stay with  me (LOVES her) but she did encourage me not to stop, reminding me that my shins and calves usually hurt worse when I do stop for a walking break (p.s. anyone know why that is?)  I agreed that she was right, so I kept chugging along if not at a slightly slower pace.
I guess Tara figured I was caving because she pointed out a random person in front of us and did my little game that I usually like to play when we're out.  She said, "Okay, how about we just try to run past that person.  They're really close.  We can do that." and of course it looked reasonable so I agreed and we would hit that little mini goal.  She did that a few times and then nearer to the end, she pointed out a group quite ahead of us.  Right away I shot it down and said that I didn't think I had it in me.  I was starting to get a stitch in my side and even though I didn't want to stop to walk since we were so close, I definitely wasn't feeling like I could dig any deeper.  

So next little motivational push?  Out comes the video camera.  If you're going to do something, make it worth videotaping so you can post it.  I know it's slightly mean, but when you feel like you're about ready to quit or stop and take a break with less than a few hundred metres to go, you kind of have to just do whatever it takes, right? (P.S. Great job, ladies! No matter what you heard from that rude, preggo Asian lady!)
I'd post up the video of us crossing the finish, but as steady as I thought was holding my iPod, it definitely may make you want to puke from the jiggly-ness of it all.
In short, I was really just happy that I got to cross the finish line with Bart and Tara each.  I know some of the BEST people, I swear!  By this point, I was feeling the effects of the pre-workout energizer that I was finally able to remember to drink before the start of the 2k and the endorphins were kicking in so I was loving life pretty large.
Photo #6: Yes, that is a shot of me grabbing a handful of shorts crotch - just as I mentioned I had to do a bunch of times.  Thanks for capturing that precious moment, Bart!

Without any more races to rush back to the start line for, we were able to hang out, grab some awesome food at the finish and just walk around and cool off.
Bart kept disappearing on us and finally we found him at the results tent which we thought was odd.  I mean, why would anyone care about what they finished in a 2k?  It's a 2k.  Right?
Well, as it turns out, Bart felt like he had done pretty good (he better have, he totally ditched his pregnant wife at the start line *LOL*) and when the results were posted, he won first place in his age division.  Whaaat?!  That is all kinds of amazeballs!  Being short and pushy,  I was able to get to the results chart and look him up and once I announced his results, I turned around to get going and at the last second figured that since I was already standing there and there was a line-up, I might as well check what our results were.  There we were, and seriously. WHAAAAAT?!  Tara and I both placed third in our age groups.  We were like, oh that's neat.  We head over with Bart to the age group prize tent and the lady is explaining to him that as a first place finisher in his age group, he gets a separate GOLD medal to commemorate that.  
Instantly, mine and Tara's ears kind of perk up like puppies who have totally heard the crackle of a treat bag.  First place gets a medal?  Like, another one?!  So right away, after my neck has completed it's Exorcist twist to the lady Bart is talking to, I was like, "So, do THIRD place finishers get medals too!?"  She was only working on the male category list and directed us over to the right side of the tent to check with the other volunteers and we made a direct beeline.  I can't even tell you if we cut in front of people, I was so focused.  I really hope not, but SORRY! if we did!
I ask the girl with a listing and she goes to check and right away, my eyes do this like, zooming focus on the longest name on the list.  "THERE'S ME.  I'M RIGHT THERE. THAT'S ME. SEE IT MATCHES MY NUMBER HERE ON MY BELLY."
I have an idea what this is all meaning, but I don't want to get my hopes up just yet in case she hands me a paper certificate or with my luck, a good hearty handshake or something, but she gives my category win to the guy behind her and he turns around and he holds out a medal to me.  To me.  A medal. ANOTHER one.  As other than the two I know I paid for with my registration. in real life, this is like a REAL medal (not that the others weren't and not that they weren't well earned) but still...this was a medal I never planned on.  And they're giving it to me.  And it says stuff on the back and the front of it says AGE GROUP AWARD WINNER.  It says WINNER.

CHEESE ON A CRACKER!  I'm a WINNER, y'all!  I had to change my standard photo taking peace sign to a THREE at the last minute to accommodate this change, but it turned out a bit wonky because I was holding too many things.

But there you have it.  All of a sudden it's not just a 2k race like we told Bart earlier on when we were bitter that he was holding us back from getting in the warm car and stuffing our faces with breakfast!  And the awesome thing I totally couldn't get over was the happiness at the fact that ALL of us placed.  It was a pretty darn good day already, this added bonus was just totally icing on the cake!  I was over the moon at all of it!
And then the craziness took over and I was able to focus on one thing.  Third place.  In my third trimester.  
Me: "Bart, what was your time again?"
Bart: "Just a little over ten minutes."
Me: "Next year, I'm gonna do it in EIGHT!"
Oh, brother. I'm such a jerk sometimes.
Meh, at least I have a goal!  Continuous improvement needs goal setting!  Right!?
After we had ascertained that there was no other surprise awards to be gotten (from not even expecting anything to making sure there weren't secret categories that they were handing out medals for LOL), we finally made it to breakfast so that we could relax, refuel and totally rehash the entire morning!
Yes, I totally wore them ALL to breakfast!

What's that noise?  Oh, just my medals from this morning.  #nobigdeal 
After that, it was a well-earned treat afternoon with massage appointments booked at my favourite spa at Niagara-on-the-Lake and then swimming and hanging out in their outdoor hotsprings and indoor saltwater pool.  As much as I normally do most of the time, I don't think it's an exaggeration this time when I say I think we earned it!

Left: October 24, 2010 | Right: October 27, 2013 (28 weeks pregnant)

P.S. Just for fun and because I already have the album open, I thought I'd do a before and after of myself at Niagara 2010 and Niagara 2013

 P.P.S. I would just like to thank the organizers of the Niagara Falls International Marathon for their hardwork and organization in putting this whole event together year after year.  Because year after year it seems to be getting better and better!  I'd also like to thank all the volunteers that came out - because no matter what kind of organizers you have, all of the races from 2k to the marathon could not have been done without you!  As well as all the schools and other teams and organizations that came out and set up shop in different parts of the route to cheer people on!  Even though I was in relatively short races, seeing the enthusiasm and support and encouragement still did a lot for me!

Disclaimer: I was provided bibs for the 5K and the 2K by Niagara Falls International Marathon in exchange for money that I had to give them to secure my registration.  I also missed the first early bird registration so my registration fee was higher than than the people who remembered to sign up earlier than me.  Therefore, this post is sponsored by myself and the fact that I like to drone on and on about my own thoughts and feelings and post an indecent amount of photographs of myself - preferably getting medals.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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