2014 Niagara Falls InternationalMarathon recap

Greetings faithful readers! Thanks so much for taking the time following my long journey (again) to run the Niagara Falls marathon in memory of my uncle, Brian the great. It is almost a week later and after some rest, recovery and reflection (the best three R’s for runners), I would love to share with you my marathon experience.

I live about a three hour car ride from Niagara Falls, which is my hometown where I was born and raised. My wife and I made the trip as my children spent the weekend with their grandparents as we learned from the marathon experience from last year that this weekend is long for everyone, not just the person running the marathon! We made great time in the car, made a few pit stops before arriving and picking up my race kit at Niagara Square. Wow have hard times hit that mall. It is an old mall that has a lot of empty stores and many new stand alone stores attached to the exterior of the mall. Sad for my sentimental memories but even sadder is that the mall isn’t replaced by a vibrant downtown. Nope. Other malls have been built that consumers find superior…but that isn’t what we should be reflecting about!

I was elated to pick up my race kit because Brian the Great Was an inductee of the Niagara Wall of Fame a few years ago, which happens to be located in Niagara Squate. Before I left, we took a pic.

From picking up the race kit, I visited with some family members, went and saw a good friend the day before his 40th birthday and then checked into a hotel. I chose to stay in the hotel so I didn’t bother any of my family members with my ‘game day routine’ of getting up early, eating and getting ready for the day. My family weren’t very happy with that decision đŸ™‚ however, I knew I needed the space and the time without the worries of doing what I needed to do.

We had our pre race meal at Strada West again this year in Niagara Falls. It is a fabulous restaurant that is run by the Roberto family. I went to high school and played hockey with Tommy and I love to support people I know. That is much easier when the food is so damn delicious. Try the gnocchi. So memorable….My wife and I enjoyed our meal with my sister and Deb the great (that would be Brian’s wife) who both were tackling the 10k the next morning, and my mom. After some frozen yoghurt for dessert (I was smart enough to pass), we headed back to the hotel and got ready for bed. Lights out by ten. Alarm set for 6.

I didn’t sleep great but better than most pre race sleeps. Was awoken by loud people in the hall who obviously indulged in a bit too much alcohol, but either than that, I felt good. A bit tired but good. Had a pre race breakfast of oatmeal (instant) with blueberries, Greek yoghurt with chia seeds and hemp hearts, and a glass of juice. I packed a cliff bar and a banana to munch Later on which I did when I was on the bus to the startling.

The weather that morning was cold. I determined I would be running in shorts, socks, a short sleeve shirt and either a long sleeve shirt or a jacket. I added a toque, sweater and jogging pants to wear to stay warm and packed up to grab the bus to take all marathon participants to the starting line. The bus drove all of us from Niagara Falls to the Knox Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo. Of course with a stop off at customs to ensure that our passports were checked! The bus I chose was a great modern bus that was designed with the leg room of a 4 or 5 year old in mind! It was tight. I sat beside a guy from Tokyo who was running the race with his wife. Not much conversation but there was a level of excitement on the bus as I out on my headphones and listened to some music before the big race to relax me (Jake Bugg, the Skatalites) and pump me up (The Venisons, Face to Face, Rancid).

We got off of the bus with 45 minutes to the start time. After waiting in an extensive line up to use the port a potties, I went into the museum and got dressed and ready for the race where it was warm. I decided to wear a jacket and short sleeve shirt (no mitts) because of the wind. I was worried about being too cold. I put my running bag on the bus and joined the masses at the starting line while the national anthems of both countries were being played. I said a quick prayer and then proceeded to be overwhelmed with emotion. I have trained for a long time to run this race but running it for a loved one who you miss made it even more emotional. So, while I cried, I calmed myself as the gun when off to start the race. A walking rolling start to my second marathon!

I set off reminding myself to run my pace and not get caught upon the energy of others. I tried to run 5:55 to 5:50 km’s. No faster even though my body and mind tried to run my training pace which was a lot faster. I really had to consciously work at getting my mind and body aligned. I didn’t want to go out to fast and wanted to be more conservative with my pacing.

The run through Buffalo was nice. Some very nice mature trees and large century homes. This is the Buffalo that many people don’t see. They just see what they drive through on the interstate and that isn’t a fair assessment for the people of Buffalo.

It was a windy day and it picked up the km before the peace bridge and then the wind was strong as we ran up over the peace bridge. By this point we were running pretty consistently with the same people around one another and because I determined to run my pace, I found others running my pace. I stayed with them while and focussing on having my legs run like I was running a bike. Keep turning those legs over in a cyclical fashion. Over and over. I felt great and my mind and body wanted to go faster but I really tried to hold back to ensure that I was well paced.

After running out of Fort Erie, we ran the long path to Chippawa and then on to the Falls. This stretch, known as the Niagara Parkway, was pretty windy. On your right was the Niagara River and on your left was some pretty prime real estate with houses that showed just how prime the real estate was!

I continued to run with a few people but I kept my pace and at that pace, I started to pass or pull away from my early pace setters. I was making great time all at the same time as battling a very strong and cold head wind. I am glad I wore my coat at that moment, but was regretting wearing in in Buffalo where the wind was pretty limited. Now, with no protection from the wind, my coat was an excellent choice.

I hit the half way point and felt great. I had a good fuel strategy, was drinking my preferred electrolyte beverage and only drinking water through the rest stations (and walking through the rest stations at the urging of my wife/coach). I picked up my pace a little from 5:55 – 5;50 to run 5:45 – 5:50.

I ran by the spot where I hit the wall last year where my injury affected me. It felt great to run by that spot feeling great and not hurting. I then ran by friends and family. I stopped for some high fives, a smooch and some hugs and then kept going. They really energized me even more. I really tried to push myself but battling a string head wind and walking through water stations affected my overall time. My legs really were aching and caused me to slow with about 4 km left, but I picked it up with two km away. I was again surprised by my family in Chippawa and then made my way down the parkway for the last two km. What a great feeling to tun the corner to fun down hill…or so I thought. The headwind was brutal. So brutal that most of the runners beside me were walking. It was so brutal that it reduced my km time by 45 seconds. But I persevered and came across the finish line at 4:11:25. That was almost 19 minutes faster than last year!

I was happy and proud of my race. No emotions at the end. They were all gone at the start of the race! I collected my medal, ate some of the brutal food they provided, got my bag, collected my family, got a pic and left.


My thanks and love to my sister and aunt that were inspired to do the 10k and collect pledges for the Children’s Museum. Thanks to my sister and my kids for putting up with my training schedule and spending time away from them to prepare for the race and of course to all my friends and family that have opened up their wallets to support the Niagara Children’s Museum and continuing to promote the legacy of Brian the Great. Glad it’s over but a little part of my can’t wait to do it again. Shhhhhhhhhhhh. Don’t tell my wife just yet…….
————————————————————————————————————–For more information on Andy running the Niagara Falls Marathon in October 2014 in memory of his uncle, Brian the Great, or to make a donation, please see the link on the homepage of the museum website at http://www.niagarachildrensmuseum.ca/. Help Andy keep Brian the Great’s legacy alive!


Ready, set, one week to go

Well, here we go again.

Less than one week till I run the Niagara Falls International Marathon.
Ever since early March, in some form or another, I have been training for this. Whether it was to train for a half iron distance duathlon or the marathon, it has been a long time since I started training. The end is near and I look forward to it.

As many of you who have trained for a distance event like a marathon or a triathlon know, you tend to give up many of life’s finer moments. There are many things that I will indulge in that I haven t been able to for a long time.
For instance:
Laying on the couch
Drinking beer
Eating chips
Not running with a head lamp
Being able to go out during the work week
Eat dessert
Wine with dinner

For the past two years, at this time of the year, I don’t enjoy running. I actually loathe it. I don’t like it. I would rather not do it. But….I made a commitment to run the marathon in memory of my Uncle, known to my children as ‘Brian the Great’.

He is the reason I run. He is the reason I put on the headlamp after the kids are in bed. He is the reason why my Sunday’s are spent running instead of spending time with my family. But, after this upcoming Sunday, I will run in honour and memory of my uncle. Help me continue his legacy. Make a donation or plan a visit to the Niagara Children’s Musuem. See the link below.
————————————————————————————————————–For more information on Andy running the Niagara Falls Marathon in October 2014 in memory of his uncle, Brian the Great, or to make a donation, please see the link on the homepage of the museum website at http://www.niagarachildrensmuseum.ca/. Help Andy keep Brian the Great’s legacy alive!

The last long run and it didn’t go so well….

Today was my last long run. It didn’t go down in my running history as a textbook run…
Here is a quick run down of what went down:
*It was pouring rain when I was originally scheduled to run, so after checking the weather, my run was postponed by two hours
*I forgot to eat another meal before I went on my run as I was busy making pasta sauce and lunch for my family (but not me)
*It was the longest run I had to go one which meant I couldn’t do my ‘normal route’
*I didn’t have any chews left. Just gels. And jelly beans. So, I was starving at km 12.
*It was hot and humid out and I ran out of liquids at 21k. I couldn’t get a refill to 28k.
*I got stung by a bee above my left ankle at km 23 and that took the wind out of my sail. It affected my gait. It was painful and hard to focus on my form, running etc. I have concluded I am part baby…..
*my avg. pace reduced from 5:50 to 6:30 after that as I had no more gas in the tank
*I had to cut the run short (by 4 km)
* I was nauseous for about 90 minutes after my run. I felt better after eating some chips and having some sugary juice

So, here is what I know and learned:
I don’t get any runners high out of running long distances
I don’t enjoy running for four hours
I do have to continue to refine my long run fuel plan
I need to eat lunch regularly (some days I don’t get to it till dinner time)
I love chips
I hate foam rolling
I need to plant liquids on long runs to ensure I don’t run out of fluids
The only reason I am doing this is not because I love it or even like running this distance. It is out of love and respect for my Uncle, Brian the great, to help continue his vision and legacy with the Niagara Children’s Museum. That is the lonely reason why I am doing this. Love. Not for running, but for a person….
————————————————————————————————————–For more information on Andy running the Niagara Falls Marathon in October 2014 in memory of his uncle, Brian the Great, or to make a donation, please see the link on the homepage of the museum website at http://www.niagarachildrensmuseum.ca/. Help Andy keep Brian the Great’s legacy alive!

Why Am I Running The Niagara Falls Marathon (Again)

Hey everybody,

As we head into the middle of September, I am full on neck deep into the big distance of my training as I prepare to run the Niagara Falls International Marathon at the end of October. For those new to reading this blog, these posts all started out of documenting my journey of running my first marathon, in my hometown, in memory of my Uncle, Brian Smylski, formerly the curator and artistic director of the Niagara Falls Children’s Museum, who succumbed to Non Hodgkins Lymphoma in March 2011. That took place in October of 2013.

The intention was to run in his name and memory and raise some much needed money to support educational programming at the Niagara Falls Children’s Musuem. The response was overwhelming. Thanks to the generous donations from my family and friends, we were able to raise much needed funds to support the innovative and creative programs at the Niagara Falls Children’s Museum, but also to continue Brian the greats legacy.

Last October, when I crossed the finishing line by clicking my heels together (there is no place like ‘home’ – the finishing line), there was no second marathon. I was done. Painfully done. I had run a marathon with a post tib tendon injury. It wasn’t fun. It was painful and I hurt. But I accomplished the goal that I set I out to do. Run a marathon and do it in memory of someone that that meant a tremendous amount to me and the community that I call my hometown (Niagara Falls).

I returned home, took a ton of time off from running (a good four months), healed my wounds, spent time with my family, rediscovered what a television and a couch where and enjoyed eating chips (in moderation) and beer (sometimes in moderation).

I then determined that I would train for an half iron distance (run 2km, bike 90km, run 21.1 km) duathlon to compete in locally and maybe a few smaller distance triathlons/duathlons. Nothing serious. Just something to give me a goal towards training for. That all changed when I got this in the mail.

The moment I finished reading this, I called out to my wife and told her, ‘well, it looks like I am running the Niagara Falls marathon again this year!’ I had inspired others by doing what I did. Because of that, the team of one participating in running in memory of Brian the great grew. My sister is doing the 10k. She isn’t a runner but will be walking it. As well, museum staff and Deb the great will also be participating in some aspect, either running or walking! I have also a few friends that have expressed interest in running 5k, 10k or the full marathon. I am thrilled that people would consider doing that with me, for me, for our community, for the legacy of Brian the great and to financially support the Niagara Falls Children’s Museum!

I honestly don’t know if I can commit to training every year for a fall marathon. September is one of my ‘busy seasons’ at work and my training volume is down this year (but I have also been riding my bike to work). This is also the time of the year I do the core chunk of my long runs to accumulate mileage. It takes a big toll on my family when I have to run 3-4 hours on the weekend because that is time I could be doing something with them. They are understanding, but I know my wife will be happy at the end of October when I again resume my rest and relaxation in the off season.

There will be more to come. Stay tuned and please don’t be shy about sharing this blog with anyone to help spread the word about our run and to inform people of the legacy of Brian the great!
————————————————————————————————————–For more information on Andy running the Niagara Falls Marathon in October 2014 in memory of his uncle, Brian the Great, or to make a donation, please see the link on the homepage of the museum website at http://www.niagarachildrensmuseum.ca/. Help Andy keep Brian the Great’s legacy alive!

A long Summer recapped

Greetings everyone!
My apologies for the lack of communication. It was one long busy Summer filled with training, racing, vacations, training, moving to a new work site and more training. Did I mention the training?

I was blessed this Summer with a season free from major injuries. I trained smart and followed a great training plan that helped me become faster when running, stronger in my core (and legs) and more confident in my abilities.

At the beginning of the Summer, I competed in a local race with my brother in law and sister in law. I raced a half ‘iron’ distance duathlon (while my brother and sister in law competed in a sprint triathlon relay). I ran 2km to start, biked for 90 km and then ran a half marathon. Our duathlon race also intertwined with the half iron distance triathlon that was running at the same time.

The duathlon field was small. About 25 competitors in the duathlon. The run start went very quick for me. A little too quick but I got into a rhythm of running a pace to keep up with the field. I am not the fastest runner and that was evident in the 2k start! I hopped on my bike. This is where it got a bit odd. In many of my previous races, I am used to doing most of my rides at the back of the field where I am the one whisking by people. But this race, I was at the front of the pack and I was being passed by a lot of strong cyclists. It was a bit of a head game for me. I was going my desired pace, but I was being passed and not doing the passing. I had to use some self talk early on when I was on the bike to remind myself that I needed to focus on my race and not the riding of others.

It was a 45 km ride out and then back. The ride out was great. It was a lot of rolling hills. I got a lot faster and faster as the ride went and my legs felt great. At the turnaround, I figured out why. The headwind! The ride back was much more difficult, especially into the wind. I persevered but used a lot of energy on the rolling climbs on the way back. That took its toll on my legs and the legs of my competitors.

Once I got to transition, I took my time, ate, and got ready for the run. I rolled out for the run but my legs were heavy and slow for the first 5 km. And then I got my rhythm. I got faster and faster and started to reel people in. I had a great run , especially in the second half and finished my run in 2:06, which I was happy with considering my first 6 km were ridiculously slow.

The great news was that I finished third in my age category and got a giant ass medal. It was a great day. I was happy with my performance and felt in great shape.

The race was in early July. So I took two days off to enjoy some chips and beer and then jumped right into marathon training. I took two different training plans, combined them and started to train. I reduced the distance after the race and really concentrated on trying to do three things. 1. Run faster. 2. Cross train. 3. Not overtrain.

So for the month of July, I spent time riding my bike 25-35 km while working on fartleks and running shorter distances at a faster pace as well as not feeling terribly bad if I missed a run. By not running 6 days a week, I was hopeful I could stay injury free. But there was on issue. The issue came on slow long runs. I really had to consciously slow down the long runs to make sure I was actually benefitting from a slow long run. That is hard because my natural pace was a lot quicker than last year and had to consciously run a lot slower. That gave me time to work on my form, breathing and my thoughts.

July was great. August was a different story. Training was sporadic and inconsistent because my family was in Huntsville visiting friends at the end of July, in Disney in early August, and the. in Mont Tremblant in mid August as well as changing work sites, so my ability to run in the day at an optimal time was compromised forcing me to either delay runs, miss runs or run at night.

Now that September is here, I am hoping for more consistency as I build up the core base of my big distance as I prepare to run the Niagara Falls International Marathon at the end of October.

I look forward to again running the marathon in memory of my uncle, Brian the Great, who succumbed to his battle with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma and to raise money for the Niagara Falls Children’s museum, which was his passion in life.

Stay tuned. I promise to give you more updates, some advice and my perspective on 8 months of training and preparation!
————————————————————————————————————–For more information on Andy running the Niagara Falls Marathon in October 2013 (and now October 2014) in memory of his uncle, Brian the Great, or to make a donation, please see the link on the homepage of the museum website at http://www.niagarachildrensmuseum.ca/. Help Andy keep Brian the Great’s legacy alive!

Getting back on the horse

Exercising can be daunting for some people. Some of my friends love to have exercise as part of their daily regimes. Others feel like they need to add it to part of their daily routine. But for me, I love to exercise when I have a plan and a goal in kind. That is the motivation that gets me off of the couch. It is the motivation that keeps my hands out of a family bag of plain rippled chips. It is the motivation to get me on the bike on the trainer in the basement or running when the wind chill is cold!

So, it is this goal and plan that will help me as I say, ‘get back on the horse’. As most of you know, I have committed to compete in a 70.3 half ironman duathlon in early July and then the Niagara Falls International Marathon for the second time (to raise funds for the Niagara Children’s Museum in honour of my uncle, Brian the Great) in late October. So, looking at the calendar, getting back on the horse is what I need to do!

This week was getting my legs used to running again, a great week to do it considering it was our Spring break where I live and had time to dedicate to getting my legs used to running again. The bad news, if you can call it that, was that my family was on vacation in the White Mountains of New Hampahire where we skied and skied and skied. So, in reflection, I didn’t run as much as I would have liked, but did downhill ski, skate or run six of the seven days.

After returning home, I am currently nursing either a bruised shin or am suffering from what could be a shin splint, not necessarily from running, but from downhill skiing. We shall see tomorrow when I get out for a run!

Stay tuned for more info as this week, I attempt to get back on the horse!!!

————————————————————————————————————–For more information on Andy running the Niagara Falls Marathon in October 2013 in memory of his uncle, Brian the Great, or to make a donation, please see the link on the homepage of the museum website at http://www.niagarachildrensmuseum.ca/. Help Andy keep Brian the Great’s legacy alive!

And so it begins…again

Hi everyone,
Hope all of you are well and you are all happy and healthy since the last time I have blogged. As most of you know by now, my journey to completing the Niagara Falls International Marathon is over. After an injury plagued final few weeks, I painfully completed one of the hardest things I have ever physically done in completing a marathon. It was emotionally and physically demanding and exhausting, and due to injuries, I took some time off over the off season to recuperate…and recuperate I did. I took up some new hobbies, like watching television, eating chips and drinking beer!

I have run only three times since October. The first one was a painful 4 k, which led to new shoes. The second and third were getting me back on the running wagon and that takes where I am today. I have cross country skied and enjoyed regular rides on my bake on the trainer in the basement, but am nowhere near any physical condition to run longer than 5k!

Last week at this time, I was preparing myself for March Break and then starting my training schedule to complete a half iron duathlon in early July in my current hometown of Peterborough Ontario. I run 2k,bike for 90k and then run a half marathon (21.1k) A big challenge, but I am ready to get back on my bike and ride the roads and toss in some 1/2 marathon training as well.

That was my plan. Then this came in the mail.



So, my mind started to run (at least something is) and decided that if friends and family of Brian the Great are going to keep the traditional alive and make this an annual event and run (a variety of distances) at the Niagara Falls marathon, then I am in…and if I am in, I want a better experience than last year!

So, I hereby declare that in October 2014, I will be running the Niagara Falls International marathon again in honour and memory of Brian the Great (as well as to raise money in his name for the Niagara Children’s Museum). Let the pain begin, but that is a story for next time!

Stay tuned for more!