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June 2016

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Disclosure: if you’ve read the other two #Buffalove posts, you know I got the opportunity to run and help promote the Buffalo Marathon because I am on the BibRave Pro Team. (If you haven’t read them, why not?!?) This post is a continuation of my adventures in Buffalo. This post has no sponsors or sponsored content. BibRave, Buffalo Marathon, and Spot don’t even know I’m going to write it.

Coffee and compression socks for the win
Coffee and compression socks for the win

As you may have figured out, I love a good cup of coffee. (Yes, I have a Starbucks Gold Card; when you travel for work as much as I do, it is often the only place to get coffee and/or the only place with reliable wifi…and sometimes I am not feeling adventurous.) When I travel for fun, I like to check out the local variations on the bean of life. It gives me an excuse to explore a little, and usually a place to check my email, start my race review, and otherwise kick back a little. In Buffalo, I checked out Spot Coffee. Spot has coffee and the usual coffee place menu (e.g. baked goods) but also serves real food (like breakfast, burritos/wraps, sandwiches, pizza, salads, and other things that are not just sweet little noshes to go with coffee).

 

 

 

Spot's welcome chalkboard
Spot’s welcome chalkboard

The Spot I visited was smack in the middle of downtown; I ran past it during the marathon, and made a mental note of the name so I could look it up later. (Okay so I lost that note and had to google, but hey.) There is a Starbucks literally across the street, and yet both times I was there (you know I like coffee, right?) it had plenty of customers. The chalkboard marquis distracted me from my immediate goal (get coffee inside me, pronto) and enticed me to walk past the bags of freshly roasted coffee. That turns out well for you, as there is a chance to win a bag at the end of this post!

Before I left, I saw the roasting room. I didn’t have time to beg for a tour (I had a plane to catch) but I did stop to ogle the equipment and try not to drool.

But back to the Spot experience. There is a lot of real estate that could support a line to wait to order, but on the Tuesday after a holiday weekend (and not during a rush hour) there was no wait to belly up to the coffee bar. There were more choices than I expected, and the staff were kind and friendly as I dithered about what to get.

Sorry this shot turned out so dark--next time I'll try a filter! (Yes, that was my attempt at a coffee joke.)
Sorry this shot turned out so dark–next time I’ll try a filter! (Yes, that was my attempt at a coffee joke.)

The decor was a funky mix, with unique lighting fixtures (I don’t think any two of the chandeliers over the tables matched each other), a mural covering one wall, and all sorts of seating. The main room (the part surrounding the bar, above) included tables and bar-style window seats. There were two outdoor areas, one reserved for smoking and the other non-smoking. Also, bonus, lots of places to plug in gadgets (since I started playing Ingress, my iPhone is always in need of a charge). The back room had a few bigger tables, some chairs and lamps, and a few booths. I like how there were many different types of seating; there was something suitable for every possible purpose at a cafe from study alone or read the paper to hosting a group meeting.

Chandelier and purple wall!
Chandelier and purple wall!

Aside from the mural, there were also various pieces of art hung around the cafe. I really enjoy visual art, and appreciate it when cafes support artists by hosting shows, or serving as a temporary art gallery. Another thing I like about checking out the local cafes is that there is usually a literature and brochure area. Sure, I did read The Buffalo News while in town, but I also like to read the alternative papers. It was fun to see postcards and papers out for other local races, Pride events, art shows, churches, and community groups. (Sometimes there is more than one place for these items, and sometimes there is a bulletin board as well. I find it is a way to get a different, less touristy, feel for a place I’m visiting.) Several of the fun runs sounded like I’d enjoy them, but since I live in California I knew they’d be a no-go.

 

 

 

Condiment bar with sriracha? Yes, please!
Condiment bar with sriracha? Yes, please!

My first go at Spot, I had a (hot) mocha. I’m pretty sure the barista thought I was insane for ordering a hot drink on a hot day; if he saw the marathon medal that should have confirmed my insanity right there. It was made with a strong, dark espresso and wasn’t overly sweet. Tuesday I tried a variation, adding a shot of hazelnut (because as soon as I saw they had it, I had a major jones for hazelnut syrup). Yes, that made my drink taste more like a candy bar, but I loved every sip of it!

For a list of locations in Buffalo and elsewhere, try the Spot Coffee website. It also lists contact information and hours for each cafe.

 

 

Now the part you’ve been waiting for: win some coffee! This giveaway has two prizes. Prize #1 is Spot Coffee Company’s “House” coffee. The label identifies notes of milk chocolate, nougat, and cream. Prize #2 is Spot Coffee Company’s “Espresso” coffee. The label says it has notes of dark chocolate, stonefruit, and “syrupy” (which I believe refers to the consistency or mouth-feel after brewing). These are both 12 oz., sealed packages of whole-bean coffee roasted by Spot in Buffalo, NY.

Win this coffee!
Win this coffee!

Enter using the Rafflecopter below. Please note this contest is void where prohibited by law. I will happily ship prizes to addresses in the U.S. and Canada. Winners will be notified and must respond within 7 days or forfeit. There is only one of each prize, and the first winner drawn will get to choose which prize they would prefer.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Disclosure: I received a free entry to the Buffalo Marathon because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like.

I had a PLAN. (Then I had another plan.)

Leading up to the Buffalo Marathon, I had BIG plans. The universe pointed and laughed.

Buffalo Theatre District
Buffalo Theatre District

When I first heard that the BibRave Pro Team members would have the opportunity to run Buffalo, I figured I would run the half marathon. The half marathon is my “safe” spot, a distance I have done many times (like 80), and knew I could finish at around 3:00 even if the conditions are less than perfect, faster if I pushed myself. Then we had our first team call with race director Greg Weber. After enough jokes that the rest of the BibRave Pros were convinced I was going to get a pony, I was positive that I was going to run the full. I had a full already on calendar (Dopey Challenge) and plenty of time to train. Game. On.

I didn’t exactly run the marathon I’d planned at Disney World, in part due to my inability to plan ahead (read: failure to submit proof of time so I got placed in the last corral). Sure, I got to take plenty of pictures and I finished, but the “balloon ladies” got MUCH closer than I’d planned on. Whatever, I was tired, and by then I had signed up to run the Sedona Marathon for the BibRave Pro Team.

As you may have read–or can go read now–the Sedona Marathon didn’t go as planned either. (Something about how I live at about 10′ above sea level.) I took a little time off to rest my poor lungs, made a training plan on the ASICS running website, and endeavoured to plow forward. If I just followed that plan, I could break 6:00 (my goal, since the finish line deconstruction happened then). Onward!

This time, the universe cackled.

The Universe? Had a different plan.

After Sedona, every long run left with me really sore hips. Both sides. Work took me to places where running was a questionable idea. Eventually I was back to running, mostly well, just with somewhat sore hips after long runs, and I thought that a flat course might be reasonably do-able. After running Revel Mt. Charleston I developed a crazy knot in the spot at my glute-hamstring tie-in. (Turns out I needed my chiropractor to reset my pelvis; it had canted such that my left hip–the one that was trying to kill me–was pressed forward and higher than the right one. Trust me, it was super muy no bueno, and I was kicking myself for not finding a way to get to the chiropractor earlier.) Not much running happened. I looked into dropping down to the half–the glute-hamstring tie-in was quite painful still–but I’d missed the deadline and actually not been injured until a few days afterwards.

Team RWB raises the flags at the starting line
Team RWB raises the flags at the starting line

The Race had a plan!

Then the pre-race emails started coming: Buffalo was expecting a heat wave. Since I’m a delicate little flower who comes from two long lines of pasty white people from very northern climes, this did not bode well for me. I packed more than one option–Mother Nature is fickle and loves to see runners arrived over/under dressed. I packed my Orange Mud single barrel hydraquiver so I could carry Nuun on the course (for a supplement to the race-provided hydration options), as well as an extra Buff (to dunk in water to assist with cooling by evaporation).

Heat so nice, they warned us twice
Heat so nice, they warned us twice

One of the pre-race emails was “Racing When It’s Warm/Hot” by Steve Gonser from runsmartonline. (Steve also gave the course preview, including course-specific tips on heat, during the pasta party.) On the 27th, all participants received an email with details on what the Buffalo Marathon heat plan included, again with tips specific to running in the heat. The heat plan included:

  • Contact with the weather service monitoring the predicted temperature pre-race
  • 6000 pounds of ice distributed throughout the course (in two formats: bags of ice intended for runners to take away in cups, and tubs of ice and water with washcloths to take away for cooling/evaporation)
  • Additional fluids distributed on the course, including an aid station every mile after the half marathon split
  • Mobile water delivery, including both trucks with bottled water and bicycle course monitors carrying bottled water.
  • Putting water supply trucks on standby to insure aid stations do not run out of water (because we’ve all been to a race where that happened, right?)
  • Adding gel and bananas to more locations on the course
  • Nurses at 7 aid stations
  • Cooling vans (air conditioned vans/buses for runners to take a little break and cool down, or sag out, if necessary)
  • Buffalo Fire Department opened some fire hydrants along the course, added more than the originally planned number of EMS stationed around the course, and added misters at the finish line
  • Rural Metro (the ambulance service) added more ambulance stations
  • Pre-race, Buffalo Marathon used the media to ask residents and businesses on the course turn on their sprinklers (so runners could use them to cool off)
  • The Buffalo Convention Center lowered the temperature inside the building to provide a post-race cooling zone.

Since running the 5k had given me a taste of what the heat was going to be like on the back half of the course, I was a little bit worried, but between the Buffalo Marathon’s preparations and my own experience with heat, hydration, and electrolyte balance, I crossed my fingers. Yes, I was injured and had a great “excuse” to drop out at any time, but I’m a little stubborn and didn’t want a DNF. (Besides, the medals were awesome.) Recommendations for runners, applicable to any hot race, included:

• Slow down. (Listen to your body, run conservatively.)
• Start the race well-hydrated. (Drink before the race, take fluids early and often during the race).
• Consider carrying a bottle. (Option to toss it at an aid station if it turns out you don’t need it.)
• Wear a hat. (Keeps sun off face/head; soak in water and add ice beneath at aid stations to cool.)
• Sunblock. (Sunburn taxes your body’s resources.)
• Chill out pre-race. (Stay horizontal and soak up the AC.)
• Know the warning signs. As the email said, “Heat exhaustion can be dangerous. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded or disoriented, stop running. Ask for help from a race volunteer who will help you to a medical tent.” (This communication included a link to signs of heat-related illness, which you may recalls I once wrote about on this blog.)
• Carry salt packets and/or drink Gatorade. (Sweat depletes electrolytes.)
• Stay positive. Visualize success.

As a side note, what constitutes a “heat wave” for running purposes depends on the location of the run and the typical experience of a high percentage of the pool of runners. Several races in the Northeastern states were black-flagged or cancelled pre-race due to the heat. These are tough decisions made by race directors in consultation with local EMS, water, and other authorities. What is normal for one location may be a potential disaster for another. I was really disappointed after the weekend to see runners talking smack about the choices some races made. Sure, maybe YOU are used to running in 90+ degree temperatures in full sun, maybe that wouldn’t be cause to shut down a race in Atlanta, or Houston, or Phoenix, but it’s not normal for most of the rest of the country.

Any idea how this flat runner thing got started?
Any idea how this flat runner thing got started?

A woman, The Universe, The Race, and the plan.

On race morning I suited up and headed out to the starting line. There were exactly zero people complaining that the race started at 6:30 a.m., and I was actually wishing we started an hour earlier since there was no pre-race chill. First we covered some of the same road as the 5k, which was partially shaded by trees and dotted with old brick buildings. The next section was through a gorgeous neighborhood with a lush green boulevard/park in the center of the street. There were a ton of families out, some with their sprinklers on and turned towards the streets. It was only mile 3ish at that point, but the sprinklers felt good. Despite the abundance of cute dogs, I knew I was going to slow down substantially on the back half of the course so I didn’t stop. I stuck as strictly as possible to 1-1 run-walk intervals and tried to cover as much ground as possible.

Running through one of the beautiful Buffalo neighborhoods in the first half of the half
Running through one of the beautiful Buffalo neighborhoods in the first half of the half

The course headed back through the downtown area, and then west through another residential area. I think it was around mile 6 or 7  when I was offered my first cup of ice, which I split 50-50 between my mouth and my sports bra. Just before we headed down to Lake Erie we passed by what I assume was a condo association or planned community, where they had recently laid down cedar shavings/bark on the landscaping. It was exceptionally stinky, and I could feel the heat and wet coming off of the adjacent lawns.

Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park
Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park

Running along Lake Erie let me see the Buffalo waterfront from a different perspective than canalside (at least until we ran up to that point). As we ran through the marina area, various landscaping sprinklers had been adjusted to mist up and out away from the lawns and onto the runners. At this point I was still feeling pretty good and pacing a 6:00ish marathon.

This ones not a bison, but a Buffalove!
This ones not a bison, but a Buffalove!

After passing through canalside, I got to say hi to Mr. Horton again on my way to the hockey arena. Dad had gotten up and taking the trolley down to that area to say hello as I ran through. By that point I had passed mile 11, it was past 8:00ish so the sun was up and shining, and the next stretch had no shade. A small section of the pavement was a bit torn up, so I proceeded carefully around that block, past The Buffalo News, and back over to say hi to Dad again before aiming for central downtown once more.

The real Tim Horton. Thanks for the coffee and donuts!

The mile 13 marker was mentally challenging. The vast majority of the people around me turned to take the half marathon finish, and I could hear all the cheering and crowds as I ran through. Crowds of folks with finisher medals were heading back to their hotels as I ran around the back side of the Convention Center and headed up to Linwood Avenue. I started to encounter the soft-re-opening of the course, and at one point was the only runner in my sight for at least three blocks. I could feel my pace starting to slow and while mentally I was pushing to keep the run intervals as fast as possible I was trying to balance that with the desire to not burn out before mile 16. I stopped briefly at every aid station to drink something, grab ice, splash water on my body, and refill my Nuun (the tube fits neatly into the slim pockets on the back of the Orange Mud).

I plodded onward along the Forest Lawn Cemetery boundary, and kinda wished the race ran through it. (I love cemeteries. They are some amazing green spaces and hold a crazy amount of history.) As I turned into Delaware park I stopped to pet the first dog of the day before tackling the loop around the golf course. About a half mile in, I saw a few other runners. Aha! Future road kill! I was going to pass someone!

Wherein one of us abandons the plan.

I pulled up alongside this runner and determined she was in the marathon. (There were some extraneous walkers/runners in the park as well.) She seemed overheated, so I gave her the rest of my ice, and then some tips on where to put it/how to use it (since thirst was not the issue). I pulled ahead a little bit for a short time, and then hit the back side of the park where there was a mini-aid station with bottled water and snacks where she caught up with me again. We started away from the aid station together. I’m going to call this runner “Vanessa” (that is not her name). She asked if she could “try to keep up” with me and as soon as I learned this was her very first marathon and she was by herself, any plan I had for my finish time evaporated. I thought about my Marathon Maniac angel Dexter, who pushed me through the last lap of the New Year’s Double Marathon in the cold and wet, and there was pretty much no choice but to pay it forward.

As we wound through the neighborhood behind the park, Vanessa and I got to know each other. This was her first marathon and she had trained for it, but heat wasn’t her jam either. She had finished multiple other races, including some half marathons. Vanessa raised two fine kids as a mostly single mom after growing her self-esteem and booting her now-ex-husband. (I know they are fine kids because Vanessa bragged on them a little, but also because she was a great human and so she must have pretty fine kids too.) Neighbors left sprinklers out for us to run through, and one guy was outside of his house with a table of oranges and other snacks, as well as a hose to spray us down. We grabbed ice at every opportunity. I poked Vanessa to carry a bottle and sip from it every now and then even though she didn’t “feel thirsty.”

Buffalo is filled with interesting details
Buffalo is filled with interesting details

After we exited the park, there was a tricky stretch towards Buffalo State College and down to mile 22. Every half mile or so, I’d convince Vanessa to take a “run break” (which is like a “walk break” but running). While she had definitely put in the miles and stuck to her training plan MUCH more faithfully than I had, there were many things she didn’t know about running that I had learned as much by trial-and-error as by exercising my extremely nerdy streak. Vanessa encouraged me to keep yapping to distract her from the pain–if you’ve made it as far as mile 20, you know what we were feeling there. When I ran out of running topics, I told her all about my cat. (Yes, I’m THAT runner.)

By this point the trucks had come to sweep the course, take down the aid stations, and re-open the roads to traffic. Multiple vehicles–including an ambulance–slow-followed us and called out to make sure we were okay, ask if we needed more water, and make sure we understood we were being officially moved to the sidewalks. It was pretty awesome course support, since at that point the race organization was 100% within rights to sweep us to a DNF. Vanessa was starting to dog it a little bit and I as my own dogs were barking (the sprinklers felt great on my body, but had soaked my shoes and socks) and hatching blisters. I promised her that she was crossing that finish line if I had to drag, pull, or push her over it. Vanessa steeled her nerves and dug deep, and we pressed forward.

Wherein the three of us hatch a New Plan.

Down Bidwell, onto Richmond, we started to pass some outdoor parties (it was, after all, Memorial Day weekend). Each time we passed a party people would clap and say encouraging things, and I’d bust out with “FIRST TIME MARATHONER! KICKING BUTT!!” and point to Vanessa. While she got a little shy whenever I did that, she also got a little more confident in her forward strides, so I hammed it up big time. Our running breaks got shorter but more frequent.

By this point there were zero directional signs left (though there were some cups of water left on tables at what was left of the aid station, and we had plenty of fluids with us). I whipped out my iPhone, low on battery from streaming Rock My Run tunes but still alive, to check the course. A few more blocks, and then to North. I may have lied slightly about how much course was left to go…and I didn’t stop at the Humane Society picnic in the park even though it was chock full o’ cute doggies. Around this point we came across another runner. Her name was not Jennifer. Vanessa and I introduced ourselves and the three of us continued to inch towards the finish line.

Jennifer was also running her first marathon. Unlike Vanessa, she hadn’t run a full training plan. As Jennifer explained it, the whole thing was her boyfriend’s idea. He read about the Buffalo Marathon, decided to do it, and enlisted Jennifer to help. (Note: said boyfriend was NOWHERE to be seen until after we crossed the finish line!) The way she tells it, they went out and ran 15 miles and that felt pretty good, so they showed up at the starting line. The three of us brainstormed what Jennifer should ask the boyfriend to do as payback and continued to take run-breaks.

Brick construction, showing evidence of past additions and deletions
Brick construction, showing evidence of past additions and deletions

Around mile 25.5ish, Vanessa’s triathlete friends appeared on a corner. Vanessa hadn’t wanted to “ruin” any of their races, and encouraged them to go forth and kill it, which I suspect they all did because they were wearing medals. They offered to carry all of her gear, handed her a cold water bottle, and otherwise did all the good things.

I knew we were close, and I started to push the trio faster and closer to that finish line. Jennifer started to wonder if there would even BE a finish line, as official course time was 6 hours and we were well into the seventh hour. She was honestly a little worried that there wouldn’t be anyone there to give her a medal. Since I knew how much Greg Weber, the Race Director, was invested in making this race a runner’s race, I promised both Jennifer and Vanessa that if we got to the end and there were no medals, I would personally call up Greg and ask to get them medals.

We hit Niagara Square and the 26 mile point. I was hot and disgustingly sweaty and tired, but I was so incredibly proud of how hard Vanessa was pushing herself to finish, and the dedication Jennifer had to persevere even though the boyfriend was MIA.  We navigated around the roundabout (Niagara “Square” isn’t very square) and turned on to Court Street. I knew there was just one more turn to go.

Just before we came to Franklin Street I yelled to Jennifer and Vanessa that there was just half a block left to go, and they’d better run the instant we turned that corner. As the three of us turned on to Franklin I dropped back and yelled, “Go! Go! You’ve got this! Run! Finish strong!” and chased them to the finish line. Or rather where the finish line used to be. The last portion of the barricades were still up, though the finish line itself had been disassembled for about an hour.

Eyes on this prize!
Eyes on this prize!

Volunteers were waiting with medals and bottled water. Jennifer’s boyfriend appeared and I laughed a little inside as I thought about our semi-delirious race-brain suggestions for how she should exact her revenge. Vanessa’s friends were waiting for her, cheering up a storm and patting her on the back. Due to some minor glitch in the tracking program, Dad wasn’t at the finish line yet, but John (my Runner of a Certain Age co-host) was headed in my direction. I turned around in time to see Vanessa burst into tears, and I was so happy for her that I had to choke back a few myself. She ran over to give me a big hug. “Thank you,” cry hug cry, “thank you SO much!” Aw shucks. I didn’t even do half as good a job as Dexter did when he pushed me to that finish line. “YOU did it,” I whispered, “it was ALL. YOU.” I gave her a big squeeze, hoping that through a hug she could feel how proud I was that she kept on going and finished what she started.

(Almost) The End.

Vanessa’s friends spirited her away, and I’m really hoping Jennifer was chewing out her boyfriend for his incredibly stupid idea. Dad, who had sensibly only run the 5k (I say that because one, he wasn’t trained up to run even a half, and two, his wife Ellen would have killed me if I’d let him join me for the marathon, which thankfully was sold out when he went to register) was running down the street to meet up with me.

I chugged water. I hugged Dad, who is my hero, always. I admired the beautiful Buffalo Marathon finisher medal. Note that at that point, the finisher party was still raging on inside the Convention Center (which I know because I watched video of the final finishers an hour or so behind us), but I looked around and saw nothing outside, and just wanted to hang out with my Dad.  It wasn’t until I saw the videos several hours later that I was like, wait, I missed the party?

I earned this one. Is it ironic that it is long-sleeved?
I earned this one. Is it ironic that it is long-sleeved?

(The final night and day in #Buffalove Part 3. Also, free coffee.)

 

 

 

Disclosure: I received a free entry to the Buffalo Marathon because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like.

Flying to Buffalo from California takes ALL DAY. I finally landed in Buffalo at 4ish, met Dad at the airport, and the adventure began! I wish I’d taken a picture of the injured butterfly I attempted to help (by moving it from laying in the middle of the sidewalk to resting in a patch of tall grass). We headed to the Hyatt, the host hotel for the Buffalo Marathon races, and I promptly took a nap. Side note, the Hyatt was pretty great! They were totally ready for the deluge of runners, and really friendly.

VIP Reception. When I woke up, Dad and I went down to the VIP reception, where I finally met race director Greg Weber in person. I also got to meet Liam, who was one of the race team members that facilitated the interview with Meb. I was otherwise a little too exhausted–why does flying make me soooo tired??–to be social, and since so many of the guests seemed to be catching up with each other, I didn’t want to intrude. (Translation: rats! Missed a selfie with Bart Yasso!) Dad enjoyed the Mile 27, a beer brewed only for the Buffalo Marathon, and I had a glass of wine, before we headed out to dinner. (There were snacks at the reception, but nothing grabbed me as dinner.)

Dinner. I fixated on the idea of getting a burrito, and Dad and I set out to walk over to the burrito joint. I somehow missed the turn, and we ended up walking through the historic theatre district where just a few of Buffalo’s gorgeous building live. Once I realized my mistake we circled back, and as soon as I saw Prima Pizza Pasta I wanted pizza. I had a more than sufficiently large calzone. Dad ordered “two tacos” which was really like “two burritos.” Basically we weren’t carb-loading, we were everything-loading.

Crashing. After the somewhat obligatory “flat me” photo and otherwise setting out race stuff, Dad and I were both asleep at record speed. This is what happens when I get up for a 6:20 a.m. flight on the west coast.

Morning came to early, as it always does on race day. We aimed to be picking up bibs before 7, so we would have plenty of time to walk back to the hotel, stash our shirts, and eat a little (and drink another bottle of Nuun) before the race. It was already heating up, and I started to sweat on the barely-two-blocks walk to the convention center. The pre-race emails had warned that Buffalo was expecting unusually hot weather for race weekend, and since heat knocks me down pretty quickly, I was worried about overheating and dehydration.

Pre-race. There was a single corral, with runners self-seeding into what seemed to be the appropriate areas. I saw a lot of kids, which made me happy–not only do I love the idea that a kid could find out they love running early in life, but pretty much all the kids running were there with their parents. There seemed to be a good mix of newer runners, walkers, Team RWB, marathon and half-marathon runners doing a shake-out run, families, and charity teams.

Race! The race started at 8:30. While the lack of corrals meant we all started in a clump, because the runners were pretty good at self-seeding, there wasn’t a lot of shuffling or down time after crossing the starting line.

For those familiar with Buffalo, the course started on the Pearl Street side of the Convention Center, eventually crossed to Franklin Street, went to Barker St., and turned down Delaware, eventually cutting through Niagara Square and finishing on the Franklin Street side of the Convention Center. There were plenty of people out cheering, and a crowd of volunteers directing traffic and doing the usual race day things.

For those NOT familiar with Buffalo, the course makes a big ol’ box around a portion of downtown. The course runs by a bunch of the beautiful buildings in Buffalo, the kind that make you look at the architecture and think, “Wow, they do not build buildings like this anymore.” The trees are lush and green, too!

There was very little elevation. Basically there was a low-grade up-hill on the way out, and a low-grade downhill on the way back. The course was suitable for even the most non-technical runner. The 5k also provided a nice preview of the marathon finish, as the downhill piece leading to the finish line was the same for both races.

Like most 5k races, there was one aid station. Given the unusually hot weather, it would have been nice to have two, but it was only a 5k so it wasn’t a big deal. When I finished the race, everything I was wearing was drenched, and it wasn’t from dumping water on myself!

Breakfast/Brunch at the Hyatt. A shower was NOT optional prior to eating. (Seriously, I could smell the other runners at the finish line. It was gross hot.) My room rate included breakfast (though not all do), which was either from the  menu or the buffet. The buffet had the usual buffet-type breakfast foods–cold cereal, yogurt and Greek yogurt with toppings, pastries and bread, fruit, cheese, eggs, potatoes, bacon, waffles, sausage–and also included cooked-to-order omelets, pancakes, and hot oatmeal (with toppings!). Despite having only run 5k I was really, really hungry and made full use of the buffet, plus an omelet!

Expo. Packet pickup was a breeze. The layout had bibs and shirts behind one set of registration tables, with several stations (sorted by bib number) staffed by volunteers. I love that each race has a different shirt, and that the half marathon shirt says “half marathon” on it. (As a mostly half-marathoner, I love it when the race treats the half marathon as its own event. Most of the time the shirts say “race series” or “marathon and half marathon” or sometimes just “marathon.”) Race bibs had attached timing chips, and the ID sticker indicated whether the volunteer should hand over a wooden nickel which served as the pasta party ticket.

Given the size of the race and the venue, the expo was a decent size. I’d estimate there were 40 booths covering race sponsors, other races, and running-related products. There were also multiple tables with information on upcoming races in the area which made me a little jealous since I can’t exactly fly across the country for races all the time–plus there were multiple races over the border in Canada! I’m sure the opportunities dry up in winter, but I could easily have planned an entire summer and fall of races based just on the booths and flyers.

While I always look at the shoes (you never know when you might score a deal on your favorites), sadly there were no Brooks waiting for me to find them. I picked up an extra tube of Nuun, since I had started slurping it on Friday and only had a few tablets left. I was glad to find HB Tune, as I was well on the way to wearing out my second HB Tune, plus my new iPhone was a tight fit. Turns out there is an updated design that can switch between right and left hands AND has a quick release so you can whip out your phone and snap pictures. Win! New to me is the TreadBand, a non-slip sweatwicking headband that ties (kind of like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle headband, only not intended to go on your eyes). TreadBands have a strip of yoga-mat-like material firmly attached, positioned so you tie that piece on your forehead before you tie the band. Since I always run with a hat and a half-Buff this won’t be a running accessory for me, but I’m excited to see if that strip also helps keep sweat out of my eyes during hot yoga!

Oh, and the Expo also had a stellar speakers line-up! Appearing live at the expo were Bart Yasso (Chief Running Officer, Runners’ World); DeAnna Bennett (an MMA fighter!), Misy Diaz (a Spartan Race runner whose cause is spina bifida), Molly Barker (Founder of Girls on the Run), and Lisa Howard (an ultra runner who is also a coach with Team RWB). The one and only Meb Keflezighi also appeared by livestream, complete with Q&A! If you have any doubt this was a world-class event, that should banish it!

Tour. One of the neat things the Buffalo Marathon has to offer is an open-bus tour of the course. I had hoped to do this but it didn’t work out–in part because I didn’t figure out how to get tickets until the day of, and in part because they only had one bus so it sold out! I’m hoping that next year there will either be two buses or two time options. One of the things that is so cool about Buffalo is that all sorts of history happened there–the War of 1812 (which, it turns out, was really fought in 1813), the assassination of president McKinley–and there are monuments and historic sites everywhere. That’s in addition to the magnificent architecture in every style (a little Victorian here, a little Beaux-Arts there, some Art Deco here, classic brick work over there). Next year, I’m on that bus.

In lieu of the bus tour, Dad and I took the streetcar down to Canalside, along with John (co-host of the Runner of a Certain Age podcast). Canalside is a newer development in the Buffalo scene, and includes the Liberty Hound brew pub and restaurant, a military museum, and three museum ships. There is a place to rent pedal-boats and remote controlled model boats, and a large park that was filled with a carnival while we were there. It was super hot, as I think I’ve mentioned, so we took a quick look around and then headed back.

Pasta Dinner. For most races I skip the pasta dinner. I’m really glad I didn’t skip this one! Dinner was at the convention center and consisted of food service catered salad mix, pasta, meatballs or chicken, rolls, and cookies. The pasta sauce had a nice zing to it without being overly spicy, and since I don’t eat meat I was able to talk them into a slightly bigger pasta serving. The meal also included beverages (various soft drinks, ice water with citrus slices, and Mile 27 beer). There were 600 seats, and Team RWB was out in full force.

The evening also included a welcome by race director Greg Weber (one of our guests on the Runner of a Certain Age), a raffle to win a Buffalo Bills jersey signed by Meb (proceeds to Meb’s charitable foundation), and a course preview.

The course preview was reason alone to attend. Steve Gonser, physical therapist and founder of RunSmartOnline.com, gave the presentation. (If you tuned in for any of the pre-race webinars on training and injury prevention, Steve hosted those too.) Most course previews are just a quick-speed film of the course with a few comments on the elevation. Not this one. While Steve did show video, he really focused on giving