Where to start?! I want to be sure to cover the race in an objective way so that people searching for information on the race will get a good idea about the race. However, I fear I may not be all that objective about somethings. So screw the objective part. This is all totally my own experience and take on the race.
First off, it was the most expensive race we have ever done. Of course I am chalking this up to being a newbie and not knowing any better. If we choose to do this race again we totally know what to look for in saving some dollars. Let me break it down:
Registration: $50 each
Bus Tickets: $10 each
Pasta Party: $15 each
HOST HOTEL COST - Crown Plaza of Niagara Falls
Hotel: $179 (not including taxes)
Late Check-out fee: $75
Parking at hotel: $20
(TOTAL for ONE night stay: 300.00)
TOTAL for 2 people for the race: $450.00! Crazy right?! I know.
There are a couple things that chap my ass. The biggest is the fact that the HOST hotel of the race charged a late check-out fee of $75 and you didn't know it until you arrived at the front desk. I called on FRIDAY to confirm our reservations and to ask about the amenities in the room. I also asked them about late check-out and they failed to mention the fee at that time. The only thing they told me was I had to ask if it was POSSIBLE to check out late. Not that we could and it would cost us. Imagine my surprise when I get to the front desk and they tell me that little tid-bit of information.
Check-out is at noon. Race starts at 10 a.m. The Crown Plaza damn well KNEW people were not going to be back by noon! Especially the marathon runners! Did they think no one would want to take a shower? Anyway, I tell the woman that I wouldn't even be crossing the finish line until after 12 p.m. She said, well, that is how the race organizers had it in the contract. By this time, Bill and I were so pissed! We had no choice. We bent over.
2nd thing that chapped my ass were the bus tickets. I say this because we bought the damn things and when we were picking up the race packet they made a big deal about us checking our envelope to see if they were in there. We did. They were. No one asked for them at the bus. I realize they have to cover the cost of the buses so why not include this in the price of the registration?
Now onto some of the positive. The race was extremely well organized. Kudos to the race committee for having a seamless event and for recruiting volunteers that were exceptional. It was a great feeling to see smiling and upbeat volunteers from start to finish. Grade: A+
The weather was definitely iffy the entire weekend. We weren't sure if it was going to hold out or if we were in for 13.1 miles of pure hell. The morning started off cloudy, but it looked like the rain was going to hold off. There were even moments of sun! However, the wind was kicking up a lot. If you run this race, wind will be a factor and has been for years past. Grade: C
The course was FANTASTIC. Let me repeat this. The course was awesome. If you want a fast, flat half then this is perfect. We ran the parkway all the way into Niagara Falls. Straight out along the water. No hills. Just straight and flat. Then downhill at the end baby. Oh, and at every mile mark there was a water/Gatorade station with screaming, cheering volunteers. You could hear them a half mile away and it was music to our ears. Very motivational. BUT do consider that this is not a spectator friendly course only because it follows along the parkway so there isn't a lot of places to park and watch. But I give it an A++
The best part of the day (besides finishing) was a surprise visit from Trac! I was at the start line with Kris and Shannon when I heard them screaming. I turn around and there stands Tracy and Cosmo!!! We were stunned. She got up at 5:30 a.m. drove 3 hours to watch us for 2 hours. But the truly amazing part was how she found us along the course with only a map to guide her. This is not a spectator friendly course. We would look for Coz because he was easy to spot in his Techno colored coat and there they were, like a beacon of light in the fog. On a side note, Cosmo was quite the star for the day. He had his picture taken more times than a drunken Lindsey Lohan.
Kris, Shannon and I started out with about 1500 runners up our ass for about the first 3 miles. Finally we found our groove and stayed with it. The groove was an average between 9:30-9:50 mile. We were pissing our pants thinking we were going to fast, but decided to go with it and see how we felt at each mile. The wind was hitting us sideways for the majority of the course. There were a couple glorious moments of it at our backs pushing us along. That didn't last long. Then. Then it was hitting us full force in the face. It was like pushing up against a brick wall. Hats were flying everywhere, people tucked in as tight as they could and just shuffled. Trac has a nice little clip of us hitting that wind tunnel along the course. We look like we are going soooooo slow.
Finally we reached the last mile. I looked at the Garmin and realized that we are going to beat our goal. It was such an amazing feeling that I damn near almost lost it a couple times. The emotion. We are going to do it. We are going to do it. That is all I kept repeating over and over in my head. And we did it. This is what running is about. Reaching those goals you never ever thought possible.