Niagara Falls International Marathon Weekend: Pre-Race

After a week of obsessively checking and re-checking the weather report for Niagara Falls, it was time to face the music. The cold, cold music. The weather report seemed to drop a few degrees every day, and as a precaution, I tossed my compression tights and my lululemon neck cowl into my duffel bag.

Friday morning came early, and Rachael and I hopped in a cab and made our way to Union Station to catch our train to Niagara Falls. I forgot how much I enjoy taking the train: nice big seats, lots of leg room, a snack car, what’s not to like? As we watched the fall foliage click by, we chatted about race strategy.

Our chariot awaits.
Our chariot awaits.

Rachael said she’d try to keep up as best she could, and that if I needed to run on ahead, so be it. I said not to worry. After missing at least 6 weeks of training, she’d probably out-pace me.

We got to Niagara Falls and checked into our hotel, Marriot Gateway. I explained as we checked in that we’d be running the race on Sunday, and asked what they could do about a late checkout  up to 1PM. We’d still be running at 1PM – what else you got? $100 could extend that time to 3PM, later than that would incur a whole night’s charge. Or, the gal offered, we could shower at the pool. We figured we’d think about it, but the free pool shower seemed like a good solution.

After a quick breakfast at IHOP, we wandered down to the falls for a visit.

Rachael, DON'T!
Rachael, DON’T!
Rachael gets to have ALL the FUN.
Rachael gets to have ALL the FUN.
Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls

After we finished goofing off at the falls, we made our way to the Skylon Tower for the Expo.


We joined a line that extended down the stairs and waited. I’ve worked bridal shows and other expos, so it was no surprise to me that the expo was a few minutes late opening. Once we got to the top of the stairs, we noticed that people were lined up to get their bib numbers. We knew ours already, so we slipped past the line and went right to bib pickup. We got our bibs and our bag-check bags (our numbers were hand-written on the bag as we picked it up) and made our way into the expo. In order to activate your chip and pick up your race shirt, you needed to wind your way through the booths and exhibitors.

The Swag
The Swag

It was a fairly dark space, made darker by the black curtain-walls, so it wasn’t necessarily the cheeriest expo I’ve ever attended, but they had all the “hits”, Running Room, Brooks Running, Bondi Band, KT Tape and lots of races to sign up for. I asked at the KT Tape booth if they were taping people. Yes, with purchase. I kicked myself for buying tape the week before at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon expo, but made a mental note to buy another roll the next day so I could get a pro to tape up my foot.

I picked up a hat and some gloves at Brooks, a wax warmer at Scentsy (totally running un-related but a welcome addition to our hotel room, as it would turn out).

We went back to our room to rest (aka nap and warm up) before we attended the VIP party to which I had been invited as a featured blogger. We were excited to catch up with our friends, and excited about the prospect of special fireworks. The VIP party was nice, they had a lovely spread of hot and cold food to nosh on, and Rachael and I caught up with Jodi and Laural while drinking our water. It seemed as though most of the attendees were exhibitors and race sponsors.

Rolling like VIPs
Rolling like VIPs

Before the presentations began, Jodi and Laural stole away to be with their families when the fireworks started – a wise choice!

John Stanton (author and owner of Running Room) was the MC for the presentations, which included speeches from the volunteer co-ordinator, a special thanks to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery which would open it’s doors to marathon runners on race day so they could keep warm and relaxed in an inspiring environment (lovely idea). Words were spoken on behalf of the mayor, proudly welcoming all and celebrating Niagara Falls as an ideal location for this world renown event.

The Rainbow Award was given to race advocate and “multitasked extraordinaire” John Henning who shared some fun stories about his time with the organization.

As he was wrapping up, I noticed that it was after 9pm, the time the fireworks were scheduled to begin. Uh-oh. So we missed those. Rachael and I grabbed a conciliatory glass of wine and made our way back to the hotel. We agreed that the party was nice, and we were grateful to have been invited, but in the end, we would have loved to have caught the fireworks.

The next morning we woke up ready to face the day. That it, until I started feeling a familiar pain. Ladies… you know what I’m talking about. Once or twice a year, though, I’ll end up curled up in a fetal position for a good hour, waiting for pain-killers to kick in. That day was today. I sent Rachael on ahead to breakfast so she wouldn’t miss our included breakfast buffet (which was served in Milestones in the hotel, and which was wonderful). By the time I was able to get up and move around, we realized we were behind the 8 ball on getting a tour in, so we decided to hit the expo and get taped up, then head over to Target to pick up a bathing suit (I’d neglected to pack mine).

It was raining sideways. SIDEWAYS.

By the time we found the right bus stop to make our way out to Target, we were so cold and I was so miserable, we just opted to go rest again and wait for our 4pm Pasta Dinner reservations.

That’s right. Dinner at 4pm. Like old, old ladies. What can I say, when we signed up for the dinner, there wasn’t an option on our registration page to chose from the 3 times available and by the time I figured out that we needed to let them know in advance, all that was left was 4pm. Glitchy.

We got ready to head out, and I started to feel unwell again. Like, fluish. I brushed it off as just being affected by the cold and the rain, and we went to dinner.

The Pasta Dinner was held in the Skylon Tower, in the non-revolving dining room. It was very nice, and the buffet items were pretty good. Along with the meal, there was a speaker, in our case it was Joe Muldowney.

He was a very engaging speaker and the author of Running Shorts. He started by reminding us that our Personal Best should aways be relative to our day, and that keeping a log book with details is a great tool to keep things in perspective. He encouraged us runners to remember that progression is not necessarily linear, that we need to keep it fun. After all, what other sport can you compete in the same race as an Olympian?

He was also inclusive and encouraging to those of us who may not meet his sub 2:30 marathon times. His thinking is: we all cover the same number of miles, we all suffer the same. Perhaps even more so, those of use who take longer. That’s to be admired.

He signed off with a very positive: Your best running days are ahead of you.

I had a bite of a sub-standard cupcake, and we made our way back to the hotel to tuck in early for the night.

My stomach started to take a turn. A very bad turn. Suddenly, tomorrow’s race was in jeopardy.

Up Next: Do I Run?