Race Recap: Niagara Falls International Marathon

On Sunday, October 15, we did the Niagara Falls International Marathon. This was our second, and final, marathon of 2017 (and our second total).

Registration Cost: We were on the fence about registering for this race, due to having completed our first marathon in the end of May. Once we decided to enter, the race registration was about $100 (USD) by the time we were done (tax and processing fees), though we did have a $10 coupon code.

Packet Pick-Up: We went to the expo on the afternoon before the race, located at a convention center in Niagara Falls. Getting there was pretty quick and easy, even with crossing the border. It cost $5 to park for the event, but they did make change (in Canadian coins) for the currency exchange, which was unexpected.

For the marathon, we needed to show our passports to border crossing guards before picking up our numbers. This allowed us to cross the Peace Bridge from Buffalo, NY to Fort Erie, Ontario during the race. The process was very quick and easy, with the guards just checking the passports.

The numbers also needed to be scanned to verify our information and (maybe?) activate the timing chips. Shirt pick-ups were done at a separate table, but that also went easily. An exchange table was available if needed for a different size.

We browsed some in the expo, which included trying some shoes. We ended up leaving without any purchases.

Pre-Race: We had a friend pick us up and take us to the race start location, near the Albright-Knox Art Museum. This was because we had left a car on the NY side of Niagara Falls on our way to packet pick-up. Getting dropped off made it so we only needed to retrieve one car 🙂

The museum had a lobby open for people to enter, but they couldn’t get further into the building. Porta-potties on the lawn were the only option for restroom facilities. The pre-race area had bottled water, bananas, and some donut holes available. There was also a lot of room to wander as this is near the Delaware Park area in Buffalo, with some pond-side seating.

Course: The course was pretty well-marked, with volunteers and/or police officers at most of the intersections. The roads were mostly closed throughout, as well. The highlight was getting to run across the Peace Bridge, therefore crossing an international border en route. This was probably the only time we will do that–especially with the border guards out applauding for us as we crossed.

Charcoal’s big excitement on the Peace Bridge was seeing a tractor-trailer full of celery! She wanted to chase that with peanut butter 😀 (Violet didn’t have as exciting of a time there… just ran across, even though it was time for a walk-break! It seemed fitting to run across and not walk until getting to the other side!)

Once we were in Canada, the course went mostly along the Niagara River and Parkway. This provided a scenic route that was relatively flat, too. The roads were a bit slanted in the earlier portions of the race, which we felt in our knees and ankles for a while. Overall, it was a good course that offered some scenic areas in both Buffalo and the Niagara-Fort Erie region of Ontario.

The aid stations had several volunteers. The offerings included water, Nuun, and Clif Blocks (at some); toward the end of the race, some of the water stations had run out of water. The stations’ spacing was about every 2km. Near the end, one of the stations had bananas and oranges available. At the half-way point, one of the stations had baby wipes available.

Porta-potties were available along the way. There were also some musical performers along the way and some crowd support, but not as many spectators as there are at some other races.

Finish Line: There was an announcer at the finish line and crowd support for the final turn. The announcer left at 6 hours on the dot. There were mylar-type blankets handed out right after crossing the finish line, along with the medals. Water and cartons of chocolate milk were also given in the finishers’ chute.

Post-Race: There were bagels, Nuun, and more bottled water near the finishing area. A tent with results, awards, and beer was nearby. Tim Horton’s was one of the race’s sponsors and was giving away coffee and hot chocolate near the finish line as well.

At the end, they were trying to clear out some of the extras so we ended up with a couple spare bags of bagels and a case of water. We were offered bananas, but declined due to having to cross the border with them (U.S. customs is fussy with produce)!

Weather: This was a challenging element! In the week leading up to the race, the weather reports had been forecasting a warm, windy day with an 80% chance of rain! By last night, the forecasts were predicting temperatures in the upper 70s with a wind advisory from 2-11pm. The rain was supposed to roll through with a thunderstorm in the late afternoon. This made deciding what to wear a tough call.

Apparel: Charcoal wore a pair of C9 compression shorts with Nike running shorts and a tank top, with an Old Navy 1/4-zip shirt for the first 4ish-km (after that she rolled it up and tied it around her waist). For shoes, she wore Saucony iSO Triumphs with Balega socks. She also used her Nathan Trail Mix water belt, her Roo Sports pocket, and a running cap.

Violet wore Marika compression shorts with Asics pocket shorts over them (with the pockets full of nutrition), a mesh-backed tank top, with another C9 tank top over it. She had a zip-up long-sleeved shirt that she got from the Salvation Army to wear and toss when it got too warm–this morning, that was at the first mile! Her footwear included injinji 2.0 women’s toesocks and Saucony Guide 10 shoes. She also carried her Nathan ExoShot bottle.


Race Recap: Queen City Women’s Half Marathon

On Sunday, October 1, we did the Queen City Women’s Half Marathon. This was our final half marathon of 2017 (we think!).

Registration Cost: The race registration was about $65 and we had a coupon code that gave us $10 off (which was about the cost of the online processing fee so that evened out quickly!). For early entries, the cheapest registration cost was about $50.

Packet Pick-Up: This was held the afternoon before the race at a local Cabela’s store, which was an unexpected location for this type of event. The pick-up times went from 3-5pm and there were no lines when we arrived (at about 4:30pm). The pick-up process didn’t require ID or any paperwork, just telling the person running the table our names. From there, things became a bit more disappointing as they had run out of shirts in the size that Violet had specified at registration.

We were assured they would have the shirts at the pre-race pick-up. There were some shirts in the next size up and Violet would have been happy to take one of those (because these shirts seem to run rather small, even for women’s cut shirts), but was told that was not an option.

Also, the race website and information stated that participants would receive a “high tech t-shirt” for completing the race. When we were registering, the sizing options included only women’s-specific Small, Medium, and Large. We heard several comments about how small the shirts were, along with the discrepancy in shirt materials. Specifically, the shirts that were given out are 100% cotton and white (not our favorite shirt color!). The shirt and numbers were the only items included in the packet.

Pre-Race: Parking was close and free, and there was plenty of room in the parking garage–that was a nice bonus! It was also nice that the parking was close to the start and finish lines.

We went to the pre-race packet pick-up area and were able to get a shirt for Violet. We were also able to switch sizes without a problem. There wasn’t a bag check for this race so thankfully we were early and close enough to take the shirt to the car. We decided to go back to the building with the pick-up area to use the restroom. The lines were moving slowly and we ended up not having enough time for that.

Course: The course was probably the best part of this race–it went through the harbor areas in downtown Buffalo, including near Canalside, the Erie Basin Marina, and also went to the outer harbor area. This gave some variety in Buffalo’s scenery as it went through some parts of the area that aren’t covered during the Buffalo half-/full marathon.

One downside was that the mile markers seemed a bit off, probably by about half a mile. This threw us off a bit, especially during the first few miles. There were water stations at about every two miles and course support from police officers and other race officials at intersections and road crossings.

Finish Line: There was an announcer at the finish line and lots of crowd support for the final turn. Upon crossing the finish line, we received our medals and there were bottles of water/energy drinks and some fruit. The medals can double as a wine bottle stopper.

Post-Race: Based on the race’s publicity, we were expecting a big post-race party… but we were wrong! There were apples and oranges at the finish line, along with some gluten-free nut crackers (that tasted better than they sound). There had been bagels and bananas earlier in the day, but we didn’t get there in time for those.

As promised, there were finishers’ wine glasses, which could be filled with red or white wine. Beer and water were also options, although we were told they ran out of beer at some point. There were picnic tables and shaded areas for eating, but no food! Haha!

Weather: It started out with frost on the windshield and temperatures in the 40s this morning. By the time we started, it was sunny and probably close to 50 degrees. By the time we finished, it was likely approaching 60 or slightly above. Altogether, the weather was pretty nice, especially considering the heatwave we could’ve been running in last week!

Apparel: Charcoal wore a pair of capri running tights, a tech t-shirt, and a quarter-zip long-sleeve shirt (though she took that off at about mile 5). For shoes, she wore Saucony iSO Triumphs. She also carried her Nathan quickshot insultated handheld water bottle and used her Roo Sports pocket, and running cap.

Violet wore running tights, a tech t-shirt from a prior race, a quarter-zip long-sleeve shirt, and a running cap. In the morning, she also wore “sock gloves,” that she made from old, holey socks… those stayed on until about mile 6 and then ended up balled up in the sleeve of her Nathan ExoShot bottle. Her footwear included injinji 2.0 women’s toesocks and Saucony Guide 10(!) shoes.

Doing a Duathlon

On Sunday, September 10, we did something that we don’t often do–a duathlon! We started the morning with a 3km run/walk, then did a 15.5 mile bike ride, and finished off with a 5km run/walk. We did this race because we were going to be in the area that weekend.

Registration Cost: The race registration included a coupon code so it was a good deal for us. Overall, the registration price is pretty fair.

Packet Pick-Up: This was easily done the day before.

Pre-Race: There was a pre-race meeting the morning of the race in which directions were given. The course guide was posted online prior to the race, also making it easy to look at beforehand. The transition area was marked and easy to navigate.

Course: The first run section was scenic, but could be confusing if you aren’t familiar with the area. There was a lead biker to help lead the pack. The bike course was well-marked and scenic. It had some hills and was challenging, but was doable. The traffic control was also nice and helpful in the areas where there were road crossings. The second run was marked well and provided a water stop along the way.


Finish Line: There was an announcer at the finish line and volunteer support there to help with removing the ankle band timing chips.

Post-Race: There was a pavilion right by the finish line, which was nice and there was music playing to add to the atmosphere. There were subs (the big, party-sized subs) at the finish line, with several options for toppings. For beverages, there was water and soda. There were also some sandwich cookies.

Weather: It was sunny and in the 60s? Nice weather for being outside.

Apparel: Charcoal wore capris, a tech t-shirt from a previous race and a hooded long-sleeve t-shirt. She wore Saucony Guide 9 shoes for the day.

Violet wore bike capris, a tech t-shirt from a previous race and a quarter-zip long-sleeve shirt. She also wore Saucony Guide 9 shoes for the day.

Trying a Tri

This morning we did something new—a triathlon! It was on our list of things to try this summer, so when we had the opportunity to sign up for a small, local race we jumped on it. Because we don’t have much to compare with, we decided against doing a full recap. Instead, we opted for a quick overview.

Registration: This was completed online and relatively easily. Signing in at the race was also easy. There was a brief meeting before the race began in which we received directions for each of the routes.

Swim: This was in a pool, whew! Violet almost lost her swim cap and needs to practice getting out of pools without using the ladder 😉 . Charcoal was on her toes and enjoyed the swim.

Transition 1: Charcoal was crafty and ready to go with her shorts already on for the swim. Violet wasn’t that prepared and added a few minutes in the transition in order to wrangle some bike shorts.

Bike: This went smoothly. We didn’t get lost or have any accidents or flat tires. The traffic was manageable and the course was pretty well marked (even though we remembered most of the route from the meeting earlier in the day).

Transition 2: This was easy–just put our bikes back on the rack and changed headwear.

Run: This also went smoothly. The course was well-marked, although we remembered this well, too.

Finish: The finish line was casual, but still had some spectators and course support on hand.

Race Recap: Gorges Ithaca Half

On Saturday, June 17, we did the Gorges Ithaca Half Marathon. This was the second year we ran this race, making this our first repeated half marathon! (But it was a different course, so it may not fully count?)

Registration Cost: The race registration was $70, regardless of when you registered. We did have a coupon code for $5 off and there was an incentivized date cut-off for registering with a t-shirt guaranteed.

Packet Pick-Up: This was easy and done on the day before the race, with packet pick-up being held at the Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company Store in downtown Ithaca, NY. The packets came as reusable drawstring bags, Gorges Ithaca Half magnets, some promos/coupons, t-shirts (there were three design options to choose from), and wristbands for the after party.

We ended up opting for tech t-shirts with the race logo on the front and sponsors on the back; the shirts are comfy, made from 100% recycled materials, and made in the USA–so pretty fancy for race shirts. The other options included 50-50 cotton-polyester shirts with either the race logo or “13.1” on the front. These were also made in the USA.

Pre-Race: The course featured a point-to-point format. There was an option of purchasing a $10 ticket for a (school) bus ride to the starting line, or you could get dropped off. We got dropped off at the nearest intersection at about 7:15 a.m. for the 7:30 a.m. start. We saw about four school buses, and many other people getting dropped off. The course started on the road, with open fields nearby and some porta potties there, too.

The race start was casual. We were near the back of the starting corral and heard an announcement, but couldn’t hear what they said. Shortly after, people started running so we did, too… except the people who were still in line for the porta potties, but we assumed they got their start, too.

In terms of pre-race communication, there were a few emails leading up to the race, but not many. We had received the info for packet pick-up immediately after registering and didn’t receive other reminders with that file.

Course: The first mile was on the road. For the people in the porta potties, it may have been difficult to make the first couple of turns because there weren’t many officials along the first mile or so.

The next five miles were held on the newly finished Black Diamond Trail, which is a fine crushed gravel trail that connects Taughannock Falls State Park with the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. There were many small waterfalls along the sides of this trail, along with a bison farm. This was a shaded area as well.

The final portion of the course went along the Cayuga Waterfront Trail along the Cayuga Lake inlet and lake itself. The last mile went by Ithaca Falls and ended just shy of the Ithaca Commons.

Overall, this course was downhill and/or flat–which was a big difference from last year’s course that went up a big hill! There were five or six water stops along the way that also offered Gatorade and/or Tailwind or Gu. Two also had strawberries. We both carried a handheld bottle with us and the water stops were all great with refilling the bottles when needed.

For on-course entertainment, there were two bagpipers at about mile 8 (they could be heard for parts of earlier miles depending on traffic and wind). There was also MegsRadio at about mile 11.

In terms of spectators, there were some but mostly looking for specific people. This was also a bit different from last year, but probably due to the change in the course (last year’s went through more of the city).

Finish Line: There was an announcer at the finish line. Immediately after crossing the finish line we were given our reusable Gorges Ithaca Half water bottles that were filled, along with the finisher’s medal, and coupons for an entry for a Saucony giveaway. The finisher’s medals are pretty cool–they look like they could be used as coasters as they are that size, printed(?) with a local scene, and sealed(?) on some type of light wood.

Post-Race: Right across the street from the finish line there was a walk-up food tent that had water to refill your bottles with, along with freezer pops, Ithaca Yogurt (many flavors to choose from!), and two kinds of really tasty cookie bars–one had cranberries and white chocolate chips and the other had chocolate chips.

The rest of the post-race party included pulled pork, salt potatoes, scrambled eggs, and fruit. The wristbands had two tickets attached for Ithaca Beer Co., which we used for ginger beer (yum!). There were also post-race massages, kettlebells and foam rolling, live music, and a Saucony tent with shoes to try on and the giveaway raffle.

This was one of the best post-race events (again this year–we thought the same last year).

Weather: It was sunny and in the 70s to 80s, we think. By the time we were at the post-race event, it was in the mid-80s and getting a bit humid.

Apparel: Charcoal wore one of our special race tank tops, compression shorts, running shorts, Roo Sports pocket, and a running cap. She also carried a Nathan QuickDraw insulated bottle. Her footwear for the day included Balega socks and Saucony iSO Triumph 2 shoes.

Violet wore one of our special race tank tops, compression shorts, running shorts (with a lot of pockets–even though they weren’t as full as they were a few weeks ago!), a Roo Sports pocket, and a running cap. She also carried a Nathan ExoShot bottle. Her footwear included injinji 2.0 women’s toesocks and Asics GT-1000 4 shoes.

Run Recap: The Big Run

On Wednesday, June 7, Violet did The Big Run, hosted by Buffalo’s Fleet Feet (Charcoal had to work late that night. Boo!). The recap is included below!

Registration Cost: This run cost $10, so it was quite affordable. Nice for a mid-week run!

Packet Pick-Up: The run was held in Buffalo’s outer harbor area. Parking can be a bit tricky, so by the time I got there (rush-hour traffic can also be a bit tricky!) and parked, I was jogging up to the check-in tent to get signed in before the run. I got there with a tiny amount of time to spare and got my wristband without any problems.

Pre-Race: I’ll admit that I was late on registering for this–deciding whether I wanted to go by myself (yes, but it would’ve been more fun with a driving/running buddy!), especially after the marathon was a tough call. As it turned out, I decided to go because who doesn’t want to run on Global Running Day? So since I had no reason not to, I went ahead and signed up. That said, I didn’t get any info about it until the day before. I’m not sure if this is because I was slow on registering or if the info didn’t come until then!

Course: The run started at Wilkeson Pointe and went around the Independent Health trail. It was a lovely run with one water stop at the turn-around.

Finish Line: Getting to the finish line was a little confusing–we had to go an extra loop around a circle to finish, rather than getting to go straight there (that’s what it looked like we should do!). That said, there were lots of people around who were also cheering at the end so that was fun.

Post-Race: There was water by the finish line and a line to get the event shirt and (giant!) medal. The concessions stand had some specials for people with the event wristband, with bottled water for $2 and pizza for $3. I didn’t pay attention to the other prices, but I think beer was $5 and soda $3-ish? Fleet Feet also had a special going where if you went in the store with your medal by the end of the week (Saturday’s the last day), you could get 25% off Brooks apparel.

Weather: It was sunny and in the 70s, I think. Great evening for a run–especially by the water!

Apparel: I wore shorts and a tech t-shirt from a previous race. I also had my Roo Sports pocket for cash and keys. For my feet, I had Darn Tough socks and Saucony Guide 9 shoes (I had trouble deciding what to wear for shoes, but had to say when I registered because the form asked for that info… so I went with my trusty Guides!).

Race Recap: Buffalo Marathon

With an early wake-up at 4am, on Sunday, May 28, we ran our first marathon! As we write this, Charcoal is curled up on a couch and Violet is sitting in a living room chair with her feet soaking in epsom salts. We both have watermelon and strawberry seltzer. Yum!

Registration Cost: We registered early and don’t remember what we paid. But it was worth it!

Packet Pick-Up: We went to packet pick-up late in the morning on Saturday. We picked up our packets without trouble and enjoyed the expo. At the expo, we did a little extra shopping and sampling, which is practically a requirement. We also appreciate that there was nearby free parking in one of the garages in downtown Buffalo.

When registering, one of us checked the box saying that it was our first full marathon. The one of us who checked that box thought it was just for statistical purposes. As it turned out, the personalized bibs said “1st Timer” on the ones that had checked that box. That was an unexpected surprise, but nothing that a little White-Out couldn’t handle! Luckily one of us has a pretty good stash of office supplies 😉

Pre-Race: We arrived at the convention center between 5:30-5:45am for the 6:30am race start. We again appreciated the free parking in the garage, with easy access to I-190 for both arriving and departing. When we got to the convention center, we checked our gear bags and waited in a restroom line. We were pointed to a different restroom location with a shorter line by one of the convention center employees. That line took about 8 minutes to get through, so not bad!

We headed out to the starting area at about 6:20am and got in our pace area. We appreciated that there were several pacers for the course. We also enjoyed the pre-race fireworks. When else are you going to see them before 6:30am?!

Course: The course goes through much of the Buffalo city area, including Delaware Park. There are many nice homes and other notable architecture around the course. The course is also well-supported with many volunteers, police officers, and other officials. For the first half, there were water stops at every two miles. After that, the water stops were at each mile. They had lemon-lime Gatorade and water at every stop, and gels at some. Every stop had many volunteers and they were all great!

The support along the course was also helpful. There were also medical aide stations throughout the course stocked with Vaseline and we aren’t sure what else (thankfully we didn’t need these!).

Finish Line: There was an announcer and many volunteers at the finish line. Along with water, there were finisher metals, finisher keychains, apples, chips, and pizza. They also had the warming blanket/sheets and a bell to ring if you got a PR or Boston qualifier.

Post-Race: The after party had lots of bananas, oranges (cut into sections), water, beer,  and pizza. It looked like earlier in the day there may have been chocolate milk.

Weather: After having the possibility of rain earlier in the week, it ended up being sunny with some clouds and in the 70s. It was 55 degrees when we were driving by a thermometer at about 5:30am.

Apparel: Charcoal wore a race tank top, Old Navy capris, a running cap, Balega socks, Saucony iSO Triumph 2 shoes. She also wore a “throw-away” long-sleeve tech shirt that was on its way to being donated (this made it until about mile 5). For fuel, she used a Nathan Trail Mix water belt with a Roo Sports magnetic pocket.

Violet wore two tank tops, compression shorts, Asics shorts with a lot of pockets on the back (well-stuffed!), injinji Women’s 2.0 toe socks, Asics GT-1000 4 shoes, and a running cap. In the morning, she wore a zip-up sweatshirt to toss when it warmed up (mile 2). She carried a bottle of water that could be recycled when she got tired of carrying it (around mile 22).