Race recaps.

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Six months ago when I first signed up for the Flying Pig Marathon, 26.2 miles seemed soooo long. I had no clue what to expect or what my body would feel like at mile 14 let alone mile 26.

Training had gone fairly well and the weeks leading up to taper I was feeling pretty strong. Still, going into the race I had set multiple goals. There’s my ultimate, long haul, goal of qualifying for Boston (3:35). I knew, based on the course difficulty, that was beyond aspirational. After that, I just wanted a sub 4 hour, or ultimately just finish. I had other goals too – negative split, fast finish, no walking, etc.

Driving into Cincinnati, I was deflated when I saw Mt. Adams in person. That hill was no joke.

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I mean, check out this elevation chart!

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Race morning came about an hour earlier than planned. I am like a little kid before Christmas when it comes to sleeping the night before a race. I woke up at about 2:50 and sat in bed watching a Ryan Reynolds movie, munching on bagel and sipping coffee until it was time to gear up.

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I did some quick hip openers and light foam rolling, jumped around like a kangaroo just because, well, adrenaline rush struggle is real, before leaving at 5:20 for the 6:30 start.

This was the only race I’ve been to that had a live band at the starting line (right outside my “pig pen” C).

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This year they started doing a staggered start to alleviate congestion and it worked well. I didn’t have to do my usual surging to pass people. They checked your bib to make sure you were in the correct corral. Each corral had it’s own porta potties. I’ve heard complaints from previous years that the lines in the corrals were too long but it seemed like they added some because they weren’t that bad. Also, bathrooms were open in the Bengels stadium. I totally hit up both, because, well, I have a bladder the size of a pea. I still recommend getting to the start at least 45 minutes ahead of time.

Shortly after 6:30 am my corral was off. The race starts by heading over the bridge into Kentucky. In the first four miles there are three bridges to cross. I expected them all and adjusted my pace, conserving energy on the incline and making it up in the decline and flats. The people in Kentucky were awesome. My favorite: the crowd from the senior living facility.

Miles 1 through 5 were pretty nice, winding through Kentucky and downtown Cincinnati. The rolling hills were hardly noticeable and I was able to stay about 10 seconds under goal pace (knowing I would be losing that time over Mt. Adams). Even though I started strong, I felt like I could have gone faster. It felt like a solid, conservative pace.

I kept with my hydration plan of hitting every water station, alternating Gatorade and water at each and never combining Gatorade and GU. This worked well and I never had any GI issues.

I hit up my first GU pack at mile 5 to prep me for the big incline. Mile 6 is when the incline for Mt. Adams starts. I would be lying if I said that mile 6-9 of the course wasn’t hard. It was a beast. The only relief is that it inclines in steps, incline then flat over three miles. This portion of the race left my quads on fire and my Achilles’ tendon was flaring up. Still, I was able to stay on track and was still pacing for a 3:35 race.

The top of Mt. Adams is worth the climb – a sweeping, breathtaking view of the Ohio river and Cincinnati. I wish I had stopped and taken a photo, but I had a race to finish.

Just before mile 9, the marathoners and relay racers split from the half. I was surprised at the number of spectators that came out for every inch of this race. There seemed to always be someone out there cheering.

Miles 9-13 for me were the easiest. I hit up my second GU in mile 10 to replenish my energy. There were some rolling hills but nothing major and I remained at my half marathon pace through the halfway point.

Mile 14 is when I started to get bored. There was less going on – less spectators and sights to see. And I was starting to feel my legs. They weren’t bad but I was becoming increasingly aware of them.

I had been looking forward to getting over Mt. Adams so it would be “all down hill” like some cruel signs indicated. Guess what – it’s not all down hill. Those last miles are still pretty hilly. And after mile 14, I was really feeling every incline.

Amazingly, I stayed at pace through mile 16. In mile 17 I felt my pace slipping. I hit up my third GU, but I knew I was not going to make my 3:35. I fell in with the 3:40 pace group for a couple miles. They seemed to be pacing faster than a 3:40 and after slowing for water I couldn’t stay with them. Still, without them, I’m not sure I would have done as well as I did. Just trying to stay with them reminded my legs to move faster. So thanks 3:40s!

By mile 20 my legs were on fire and my feet felt heavy. At this point, I wasn’t sure I could pull out a sub 4 hour race. I was still pacing about an 8:30, but it was becoming increasingly difficult. Still, I was proud I had only walked once – to climb a horribly short and steep hill in mile 17.

Miles 20-25 were also the most boring – the spectators were still great, but it was just a long stretch of road. There weren’t as many hills here, but the ones that were there were enough to deaden the spirit. I hit up my last GU in mile 21, more for something to do and a last cry for help to my legs.  At mile 24 I wasn’t sure I had anything left in my legs. Mile 25 was by far my slowest since I had to walk one hill.

Once I saw the mile 25 sign and I knew I only had 1.2 miles left, I felt a bit of renewed energy. I was even able to muster up a smile and wave as I passed my family and friends in that last “sprint” to the finish:

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My finish time was 3:49:05 at an 8:45 pace. I was so happy to have finished in under 4 hours on that course and on my first marathon.

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This was such a well organized and fun race. With snacks at every mile, “hog washes”, great on course entertainment… This is a perfect race for wanting a fun time – just probably not if you’re looking for a PR.

And thanks to everyone who was cheering me on at the race and from home. I was definitely feeling the love!

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

[Blogged from a very long and boring highway in Kentucky]  

So, choosing an incredibly hilly course for my first marathon was probably not the smartest decision, but as far as fun racing experiences, Cincinnati wins hands down. 

The weekend wasn’t without its kinks – that’s for sure – but there is absolutely nothing better than experiencing a city through a huge race. At least, to me. But relaxation and low key is not something I do well.

 I was a bit stressed on Thursday when we hit the road for Cincinnati. Every spring I inevitably get a sinus infection and I could feel it’s tell-tale signs coming on starting Wednesday. 

The “hotel” we crashed at Thursday night in West Virginia didn’t help with the distinct smell of cigarettes. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have left. But, I’ve never been high maintenance when it comes to sleeping locale, so we crashed and I dragged everyone up at 3 am to hit the road again (yes, it was that bad). So, that whole getting sufficient sleep was already out the window. 

We arrived in Cincinnati before the expo opened so we hit the aquarium.   

   Penguins and otters. Two of my favorite things in the world. 

  
Lunch was awesome – a grilled cheese Italian from Tom + Chee. I used to put salt and vinegar chips on my sandwiches all the time so this sandwich reminded me of childhood. 

We hit up the expo as it opened. This was by far the biggest expo I’ve ever been to. There was everything running you could think of. Surprisingly I escaped without spending a million dollars. That’s pretty good for me. 

   
   I was feeling a bit depressed as I quickly saw first hand how hilly Cincinnati really is in person. I mean, I was supposed to climb this “hill”. What?  

It looks much worse in person. Trust me.

After having a mild break down in my car thinking I had lost my room key (only to realize later Chris had inadvertently taken both with him up to the room), I cheered myself up with some Graeters ice cream. Black rasberry and chocolate chip. The best ice cream I’ve ever had. 

  
We headed out of the city to meet a friend and her family for dinner at the Cabana. Outside seating overlooking the river, beer and apps were exactly what I need to relax and get my mind off of 26.2.

  
 As usual, I rose earlier than the guys on Saturday and threw on my Newtons and headed out for a 20 minute shake out run. I talked to a couple of older ladies doing their own pre-marathon shakeout run and they offered me some advice: enjoy it, it’s the funnest run out there. Specifically, “how can you not love a race with pig pens and hog washes?!” I love that even when you’re 60+ years old, you can love every minute of a marathon. It makes me less scared of aging. 

Then I ran over and watched the start of the 10k. It occurred to me that I had never spectated a race before. I’m always running. Not cool. And the 10k didn’t have much fanfare. So I made sure to chear as loud as I could.

   
 Saturday I broke as many pre-marathon rules as possible. Not intentionally – I just don’t do sitting still very well. 

We walked to the Over the Rhine district and walked around Findlays market. So much good stuff! I grabbed a vegetarian crepe (melted goat cheese is my happy place) and an Americano for breakfast, then topped it off with gelato because every healthy choice should be chased by and equally unhealthy one.

   
   Then we headed up to the Carew Tower observation deck to get a good view of all those darn hills I would be running.

   
   We walked back to the hotel and relaxed for a little while before heading back out to walk the John A. Roebling suspension bridge into Kentucky, then coming back to the Ohio side and walking the river front. 

   
 We sat down for dinner before 5 pm because there are two categories of early eaters: senior citizens and marathoners. This pork belly and Brussels sprouts was amazing! I had some pesto pasta as the “smart” pre-marathon choice. Then we devoured the tiramisu, dark chocolate creme brûlée and this caramel number with bourbon maple syrup. Not exactly the best pre-marathon choice but life is too short to skip a good dessert. 

   
   Then I went back to the hotel and panicked, realizing I had walked a total of 8.5 miles. Not. Smart. So I tortured myself with an ice bath, foam rolling, stretching, and ice packs on the ankles to insure my legs wouldn’t be sore Sunday. I was in bed by 8.

I’ll post a full race recap later, but let’s suffice to say I only got about 4 full hours of sleep. I was up before 3 am drinking my coffee and choking down my bagel, and heading to the starting line by 5:20 am.

After the race we chilled at the post race party for a couple hours (mainly because I couldn’t bring myself to walk the mile back to the hotel). And I had my eye on my free post-race beer and a hot dog with skyline chili. That stuff was amazing. The perfect combination of sweet and spicy. I don’t usually do hot dogs. And now I’m not sure I’ll be able to without skyline. 

   
   I finally was able to waddle back to the hotel (think Aflec duck) after a free 15 minute massage from Massage Envy. 

After a quick nap and shower, I forced myself back out of the room to waddle down to Fountain Square to check out a Cinco de Mayo party where we learned to Salsa and do the Meringue. 

We grabbed a pre-dinner app and beers at Rock Bottom restaurant and brewery. 

   
 Then we walked back to the river. I’m not sure how I managed another 3 miles of walking, but it wasn’t horrible. Just slow and ugly. It was the standing after sitting that was the worst!

   
   Dinner at Nada was awesome. Sangria, shrimp tacos and a chocolate torte with rum gelato and caramel sauce. Perfect ending to a fun trip. 

I was in bed by 8 and slept about 10 hours – first full nights sleep in weeks. Cincinnati, you’ll forever hold a special place in my heart! Stay awesome!

Training., Uncategorized

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Every runner knows the term. Any friend/family/significant other of a runner knows the term. Taper crazies – that period between the height of training and the actual event where your running person seems to fly completely off the deep end.

I expected to be a bit stressed a week out from my first marathon. It’s totally normal to be nervous when embarking on a new distance – especially one that’s twice the distance your used to, right? But 9 days out and my stress level is off the charts.

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Training., Uncategorized

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Week 17 in an 18 week training program. That’s ten weeks further than I made it last time I tried to train for a marathon (and ended up injured). I’ve logged a lot more miles than I’m used to,  gone through a lot more shoes, and spent a lot more time alone than is probably good for my psyche. But it’s been fun.

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Training.

Marathon training week 15.

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Hello Spring! Hello drinking my morning coffee on the porch! Hello grilling every meal! Hello summery cocktails, short dresses, sandals, and trying to get some color on my pale legs! Yeah, I’ve been waiting for warm weather. A lot.

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Race recaps.

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It’s totally fine to publish a race recap two weeks after the race, right? Well, since this little blog is essentially my way of keeping up with my running strides, I’m letting the time lapse slide and posting it anyway. Plus, there’s nothing I enjoy more than reminiscing about a great race (and by great I mean fun great, not performance great – trust me).

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Uncategorized

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Not dead yet. Though not for lack of trying. Seriously, I hit a training wall a couple of weeks ago and have been fighting to break through since. Hence my decision to stop blogging and lose myself in a bottle of wine lack of desire to talk about it.

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