Finally! A long overdue report on the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon from last weekend (June 3).
Sadly, this post will be light on photos because as soon as we got there, I realized my camera battery was nearly dead, and I had forgot to bring the charger. I’m still pissed.
Waaaayyyyy back in January or February, I was surfing Facebook when I noticed an “ad” on the right hand side for a women’s 1/2 marathon in Niagara Falls. I assumed it was Niagara Falls in New York and posted a “Hey…ladies, looks like fun…who’s in?”
To my surprise, several were “in,” even after we found out that:
1. it was in Canada (passports everyone?)
2. it was nearly $100 to register (ouch!)
3. it was an inaugural event (read: first -time = lots of mistakes)
Despite those three strikes, I still rounded up more than 10 women to go with, including Cyndie Zahner and her daughter, Jessie; Robin Smith; Barb Filutze; Dottie Mahoney; Leann Parmenter; Laura Lewis; Teresa Wigham; Suze Carstater; Julie Roussos; and Jan Comi.
We drove up on Saturday in a little over 2 hours. Our hotel — the Marriott Gateway in Niagara Falls — was simply beautiful and the view was phenomenal! This was the view from the giant window in our hotel room. (We had two rooms, so it ended up being less than $100 per person..for this view!)
After checking in, we had an overpriced lunch/snack at TGIFridays. I ordered a GIANT dessert (Mocha ice cream, brownie, chocolate, etc.) because it was one of the cheapest things on the menu and, well, it was my cheat day & that’s just how I roll on cheat day!
lunch dessert, we went to pick up our packets at the Great Wolf Lodge which was about 3 miles from our hotel. We traveled separately from Julia, Teresa and Suze who actually WALKED there (crazy ladies), but caught a cab back home.
The swag was nice — cute pink shopping bag, makeup samples, Werther’s caramels, fruit gummies, coupons and a full bottle of wine.
The shirts? um…well….let’s just say they were disappointing…and very small. By the time we got there all they had left were gray or green (what woman wants a speckled green race shirt?). We saw the next morning at the start line that several women were wearing pink, so…there must’ve been a pink shirt, too. We were all quite jealous.
The bibs, however, were very cool — and personalized which is always fun because spectators can (and did) call out your name, as in “You’re doing great, Heather!”).
I will say that the packet pickup was VERY well organized and there were no long lines or confusion. It was wonderful. There was not an expo, per se. In fact, they really only had one retailer, but that was fine with us because we were planning to burn up the rest of the afternoon at the outlet stores in Niagara Falls!
Table for 16
I arranged a group dinner at the restaurant in our hotel (Milestones). I warned everyone it was kinda pricey, but…after seeing the TGIFriday’s menu, it looked downright reasonable!
They put us in a private room. And, we set about ordering water and various kinds of pasta all around. At one point, our server said…wow, it’s so weird, you’re ALL ordering pasta. We explained we were all doing a 1/2 marathon the next morning and were carbo loading!
I had butternut squash ravioli that was TO DIE FOR. Everyone else seemed to be very happy with their meals, too. And, to my surprise, they even split checks and let us all pay separately (normally restaurants don’t allow that for a large party).
I have to say that, in general, everyone we came into contact with during this trip (with the exception of the border guards who I think get off on their power or something), were unfailingly nice and extremely accommodating.
The weather Saturday was horrid — cold, spitting rain and very windy — and we were praying it wouldn’t be that way in the morning!
Race day morning
When I peeked out the hotel window at 7 a.m., it didn’t look good — rain & wind. But, Mother Nature was with the ladies that day because just before race time, the rain cleared out and the wind stopped and it was near perfect race conditions (cool & a little overcast).
We had scoped out the start line on Saturday and figured it would be faster for us to walk there than drive (and it was $10 to park). So, we set off about a 1/2 hour before race time. Turns out that it was MUCH farther than we thought (probably a mile), but that was OK because we were walking faster than the traffic was moving, so driving wouldn’t have helped us much.
The parking was a problem. There was quite a line of cars waiting to park — so many that they delayed the race by 15 minutes or so. I didn’t mind because it gave us time to hit the port-a-potties and get in the chute. And, honestly, that little problem (the parking) is the ONLY thing I noticed that went wrong with this race.
There were about 1,000 people in the race. Approximately 997 of them were women.
The race course
The start line was a giant inflatable arch, which I actually thought would be a pretty cool thing for the ERC to invest in. They parted the crowd at the start and a marching band marched right up the middle — that was pretty cool. They played the Canadian national anthem and we were off.
The course itself was nice as they ran us past the falls twice and then we ran up and over to the other side of the river and ran along the water for miles on end. Because the course was a loop that turned twice, we got to see (and cheer on!) each other twice. I really enjoyed that & I know the other ladies did, too.
The road we ran most of the miles on was severely cambered, and I really struggled with that. I could feel it wreaking havoc on my hip flexors and just prayed I’d get through the race without an injury. But, no, didn’t slow the pace (Do you know me?).
Miles 8 & 9 are always the worst for me in a 1/2 and this race was no exception — though the only reason I knew what mile I was at was because I had my GPS on (remember, we were in Canada, so the entire race was marked in kilometers!). It was about this point in the race that I was praying to see the front runners, knowing that once I saw them…the turn was up ahead a mile or so. It seemed to be forever until I saw the first few women come by! Once, I saw them, I had my second wind.
I’m in the purple, totally kicking Miss America’s ass. LOL.
When I came up to the finish line, I could see that the clock said under 1:50. I ran hard to keep it there and was pretty happy with that time, considering I’d just ran the Cleveland half 2 weeks before in 1:53.
Robin wasn’t far behind me and Barb wasn’t far behind her, then Laura and Cyndie and Leann….and on & on. I have to tell you that Erie represented! Everyone ran well.
The finish line was awesome. They had plenty of volunteers to put the medals on your neck and then you passed through a tent where they handed you a box with fruit, cookies and water (so, instead of juggling five items, you just had a box to carry).
An extra 5K? Oh…Why not?
Having finished first, Robin & I headed back to the hotel to hit the showers. We thought we knew a shortcut. Um, no. In fact, we ended up walking an additional 5K (at least). By then, it was raining and we were sore, tired, shuffling, wet….wearing our medals and carrying our quickly disintegrating box-o-food.
We were about 5 minutes from begging a ride from a cop when we finally found a road that would take us up toward our hotel. We were the last ones back. Everyone else had gotten a ride with Mike Vieyra and they all said, “well, that’s what you get for running so fast!” LOL.
All in all it was a great race that was remarkably well organized for a first-time event! I’m not sure we’d go back again (the International thing was a hassle…none of us could use our cell phones…and it was expensive!), but I’d recommend it to a friend. I just don’t think I’d do it again because there are so many other races & places to try!
This is just part of the group that ran. Many of the others had run off already (pun intended!)