New York: Mighty Niagara Half Marathon (Half #8)

My husband and I crossed New York off of our 50 states list on Saturday, September 24th with the Mighty Niagara Half Marathon. Sorry it has taken me so long to write a race report, homework consumes my life these days.

Goals and Results

  • Set a new PR (currently 1:42:20)
  • Break 1:40
  • If all else fails: make it to the finish line for free beer!

Sadly I have to say that I did not break 1:40 and I did not set a new PR. But there was free beer at the finish line AND I actually feel mostly good with this race. I finished in 1:44:18, 2 minutes slower than my PR. It took me several attempts to break 1:45 so it was a nice to find that I can blow up at the end of a half marathon and still manage to break 1:45.

Kendall’s goals for the race were to beat his time from Disney or just finish. His training for this race was, well, non-existent. He did two long runs (6.7 miles at Crater Lake and one other 6 mile run). He finished in 2:17:13, accomplishing both of his goals and somehow crossing the finish line with a smile on his face.

Pre-race

The weather turned out to be quite beautiful. Sunny with temperatures starting in the upper 50s and ending in the mid 60s. Wind was likely going to be a small factor as it was from the NW and we would be running north and then west for the entire race. Fortunately it was only predicted at 10 mph and I know that I have trained in worse.

The race is point-to-point so Kendall’s uncle dropped us off at the start line with plans to see us at mile 5 and at the finish. After a trip to the bathrooms (with a line, of course) and dropping a bag off at gear check, I had just enough time for a quick warm up. I lined up between the 1:40 and 1:45 pacers. My plan was to hang back from the 1:40 pacer for the first 5 miles, then try to slowly close the gap.

Miles 1-5

My plan to start slow was never realized. Instead of starting with a few miles in the 7:40s. I started with a 7:35, 7:29, and 7:34. Instead of relaxing into the pace, I was 100% focused on racing. Targeting people to pass and hanging out just behind the 1:40 pacer. I managed to slow down slightly for mile 4 (7:38), but the excitement of seeing Uncle Steve at mile 5 resulted in a 7:28.

Miles 6-10

I knew that I had taken the start of the race too fast and was already starting to feel it. I slowed slightly and tried to relax, but I was very aware that I still had 8+ miles remaining. I changed up my music hoping for a distraction, but it wasn’t helping. 7:44, 7:41, 7:52. Eight miles into the race and I was still on track for a 1:40 half marathon. I slowed down to eat a gu during mile 9 (8:18). Mile 10 was slightly better, but still not on pace (7:55).

Miles 11-Finish

With 10 miles completed and my pace suffering, it was time for some mental math. I hit 10 miles at 1:17ish. If I could hold sub 8 for the remaining 5k, I could still get a PR. Mile 11, 7:58. Only two miles to go! And then, somewhere in mile 11 I met the highway overpass hill climb that would be my undoing. I had nothing left. My legs felt trashed and I could not run up hill, I walked. And then I ran, and then I walked some more. 9:38. Oof. With less than a mile to go, the 1:45 pacer tried to pass me. I chatted with her for a moment and she confirmed that just ahead was the final turn in the race. I did what I could in the final stretch with an 8:37 final mile, and a surprisingly decent kick to the finish (6:23 pace for 0.15 miles).

Finish Line

After collecting my medal and a bottle of water, I met up with Uncle Steve. He congratulated me and told me I looked terrible at the finish. I felt pretty terrible too. I needed a visit to the First Aid tent to get some Vaseline on my chafed arm (how?) and grabbed some food and lemonade. Then we headed back to the finish line area to wait for Kendall. When he came through smiling and passing runners I was pretty jealous. I trained all summer and was sucking wind at the finish. He didn’t train at all at looked great.

And then we waited and waited for him to come out of the runners-only finish line area. And waited. We looked around the rest of the finish line party and couldn’t find him. I sneaked back into the runners-only area and still couldn’t find him. Finally we split up to find him. I made good use of this time by getting a cup of coffee and a beer and picking up my gear (and confirmed he was not in the food/beer tent and hadn’t picked up his bag yet). When we finally found him it turned out that he was gone straight into Lake Ontario to cool down after the race. The one spot we didn’t think to check. Reunited at last it was time to head back to the beer tent to celebrate our races.

Final Thoughts

It would be easy to be frustrated with myself for starting this race too fast and throwing away my chance at a PR, but I’m okay with it. I haven’t raced anything longer than a 5k in almost a year, and this turned into a nice reminder that I need to respect the distance. I might be able to run competitively in a 5k, but I can’t run like that in the first few miles of a half. Lesson learned.

I also feel like looking at the whole picture of the race, I am in great shape. I was probably cable of a PR, I just executed poorly. I don’t think I was quite ready for sub 1:40, but I am definitely close. My training volume suffered from the time I went on vacation in August until race day. I think if I had been a bit more consistent I would have had a very solid shot at sub 1:40. Plus having missed my goal, it is giving me some ideas of how I want to shape my spring race calendar.

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14 thoughts on “New York: Mighty Niagara Half Marathon (Half #8)

  1. YAY your recap is finally up!

    Congrats on being done with your race, and on a great time. Not many people can blow up in a half marathon and still go sub-1:45, hell, I could have a perfect race and still not get that time so kudos to you!

    I’m glad to hear you’re not disappointed or upset. It would be so easy to feel let down for not meeting your goal time, so I’m glad that you feel good about this experience. It’s almost easier when blowing up in a race is the reason we fall short of our goals because like you said, we know the fitness was there and we can just blame it on that. It’s a little harder to understand when you trained and raced well and still came up short.

    “I trained all summer and was sucking wind at the finish. He didn’t train at all at looked great.” <—-UUUUGGHHH don't you just hate these people?!?! It must be nice to have things come easily to you even when you don't train 🙂 Imagine the time he would have run had he trained as hard as you did!

    I hope you're enjoying life after training and that your load feels a little lighter without the extra stress.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Hanna! Sorry it took forever for me to write a recap. It definitely helps being able to look at my training and look at my race splits and be able to point to what went wrong (and what went right! My training before vacation was actually quite good!). It lets me know what I can try to improve on for my next race instead of guessing what needs work or feeling discouraged because maybe I’ve reached my limit in the distance.

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  2. Congrats on a solid race! You definitely have a half marathon PR in your future whenever you decide to run another one. It must be exciting and motivating to know that’s what’s waiting for you on the other side of the marathon! 😀 Whoo!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations on a great race and a great time. Your review was really honest and I agree with you on respecting the distance. Half marathons are hard and PRing is hard in ANY race. You had a lot going against you with scheduling, having to run a bit less, traveling to the race, etc. Like you, I have learned the hard way just how much those early miles matter and how easy it is to get carried away. The more you race a half marathon, the more you will be able to hone in on that pacing. I definitely see a PR in your future, though!

    Liked by 1 person

      • You can do it… all distances are hard in their own way. Not just marathons or ultras- even 5Ks are hard to master and race. I hope you will keep racing and do a few more half marathons- even if you could get another in before the winter comes, I bet you would see some improvement just based on better pacing. You definitely have a PR race in you!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow great results. If you can go sub 145 while blowing up you know that you’re in a good spot.

    I always look for the little things that could of been done differently but in the end that takes away from the accomplishment. Don’t let anyone downplay it and that includes yourself. Great race and great finish.

    Liked by 1 person

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