Flying Pig Marathon Race Report

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Flying Pig Marathon – Training in winter for the 

Flying Pig MarathonThe Flying Pig Marathon is in May so I started training in January and invariably my long sessions were immediately preceded by some sort of snow fall.  I seriously think I had to run twelve of my long runs on snow and ice.  I fell twice during all of this and one time even had to have my wife “rescue” me as I started my long run just as a storm was starting and by mile fourteen was running in six inches of snow.   Fortunately I purchased a treadmill and this came in very handy for my interval and tempo run workouts.
Many times I had to run in zero to ten degree weather.  See my blog “Frosty Paws” for my perspective.
On several runs my water bottles froze up.  I learned to fill them with hot water, but given the length of my runs, this only delayed my water slushing up or freezing solid.
Since the Flying Pig marathon is hilly, I made an effort to work what hills my area affords into my run.  Of course, my concept of hilly, and those who live in the Ohio River Valley are on entirely different scales!  In retrospect, I should have placed even greater emphasis on hill running.
Compared to last year’s training for the Traverse City Bay Shore ½ Marathon I found the training for the Flying Pig Marathon to be much more difficult.  I attribute most of my difficulty to the fact the Flying Pig Marathon is one month earlier than the Bay Shore.  I don’t remember having to struggle though my long runs last year as I did this year’s – though I admit, they were shorter!

Pre Event

My family and I left for Cincinnati on Friday evening.  We live in the Detroit area and stopped in Lima, Ohio for the night,  that ensured we made it bright and early to the Cincinnati area on Saturday and gave me time to go and pickup my Flying Pig Marathon race packet at the expo and the family time to swim at the Great Wolf Lodge.
Flying Pig Marathon
I made it down to the Flying Pig Marathon Expo picked up my package and cruised through the expo.  I wanted to buy a bunch of stuff, but to be honest; I already have enough running accessories!  Oh well, it was fun “window shopping.”  BTW – do people really purchase shoes at expos and race in them the next day?
After the expo I went to Hathaway’s Dinner for a club sandwich.
Flying Pig Marathon

Race Day At Flying Pig Marathon

I got up at 3:00 AM to get ready for the race.  I figured this would give me an hour to mess around the hotel room, get ready without being stressed, and leave plenty of time to drive from Mason, Ohio to downtown Cincinnati.
The drive downtown took thirty minutes and I was in the fountain place parking garage by 5:00 AM.  With plenty of time to spare I headed for the Flying Pig Marathon start near Bengal’s Stadium.  This by the way was a real bonus.  It was nice to have the stadium and its restroom open for the event.  I appreciated that!
Flying Pig Marathon
Ready to Race
That morning the weather was warm with rain in the forecast.  As if on schedule, and planned, it started raining heavily several minutes before the Flying Pig Marathon start, but it was a warm rain, and no one complained.  I figured, by mile four, I’d be hot anyways, so I wasn’t going to be put out by it all.  In fact, isn’t that why we train in all the elements?  So we aren’t fazed by Mother Nature’s race day tricks?
I dropped off my race bag, jumped in the porta potty line, twice, then headed over to my corral, jumped back in the line, and struck up a conversation with some of my over-hydrated fellow runners.
Once the Flying Pig Marathon  started it took us about eight minutes or so to get to the start.  For the most part we just walked, it was all very orderly.  Once I crossed the mat I started running.  It was somewhat crowded, but not too much.  For that first mile I kept a 10:30 pace.
Flying Pig Marathon
Crossing into Kentucky
I mentally divided the course into four sections:  Kentucky, The Hill, The Neighborhoods, and The Homestretch.  Overall the Kentucky section was the easiest.  It covered the first six miles and was relatively flat and visually interesting.  I named the second section after the two mile ascent which occurred at the beginning of this section.  To be honest, the whole course is just one large set of hills, especially from where I come from, but for some reason I was really worried about the first large ascent and mentally blocked out miles 7, 8, and 9 as the hills.  Though not all neighborhoods, I considered miles 10 through 20 as the neighborhood section.  If I knew Cincinnati better than I do, I could do the course more justice and do a better job here, like Brian Nash’s course tour does, but really all I cared about was getting past that large hill, cruise through the neighborhoods, and make it to mile twenty – The homestretch.  I figured if I could get to mile twenty, I could will myself home; piece of cake.
Flying Pig Marathon
Blurry Downtown.  The streets were lined with  a crowd!

Over the first mile we crossed the Ohio River into Newport, Kentucky, through Covington, and back to Cincinnati.   The Flying Pig Marathon has great crowd support, and nowhere was it greatest than between miles 4 through 6 as we course found its way back through downtown Cincinnati.  I maintained a relatively steady pace through this section.  They ranged anywhere from 10:01 to 10:36 minutes per mile.  I was running slower than I trained for, but I wasn’t stressed.  In theory I was supposed to finish in four hours and twenty minutes, but I figured, given the hills, I would set four hours and thirty minutes as my goal.

Once we left the downtown area the Flying Pig Marathon transitioned into the part of the race I call “The Hill.”  From mile six through mile eight the course goes steady climb.  It’s not too steep, but it does wear on you.  Actually, not that I’ve run that part of the course; I see that it isn’t too bad.  Though I consciously tried to run a slower pace, so as not to blow up, I now see I ran the same pace through this section as I had in the first section of the race.  In retrospect, the hill wasn’t as bad as I thought.  It did trick me though, as I thought the hill would be the worst of the race, thus I discounted the little dips and rises the course took as it settled back to the Ohio River.  These numerous dips and rolls occurring though the neighborhood section of the course killed me.

Flying Pig Marathon
View of the Ohio River from the bluff


Soon after we made the ascent the half Marathon course splits from the full.    Its split is picturesque, as at the split lays a large cathedral.  The half marathoners split to the left of the church and the full to the right.  I’m always sad to see the half marathoners finish, as that means there are fewer people on the course.  My legs were in good shape at this point and I was clocking 10:32 minutes per mile.  I felt strong and was confident I would make my times.  It’s in this area that the course transitions from the Hills to the Neighborhood portion of the course.
Flying Pig Marathon
Near the course split
Near mile eleven the course flattens out and my pace showed it.  I’m now run the next two miles at 10:01 and 10:05 respectively.  The flat section doesn’t last too long and soon I’m back to a 10:30 minute per mile.  Well by mile fourteen, I’m running 10:43, and then I run a 10:53 in mile fifteen.  I didn’t know it at the time, but perhaps I ran the flat section too fast and it caught up to me.  Anyways, it’s no long flat.  The course undulates, sometimes not so gently, as we run along its route.  There is always a crowd and people rooting us on.  Funny thing though, sometime you can whiff smoke.  Yep, some people in the crowd were smoking!
Flying Pig Marathon
Self portrait


Around mile sixteen the Flying Pig Marathon course runs along a boulevard.  The course must double back on itself, as I see running on the other side of the road running in the opposite direction.  I get a little illogical, and muse to myself how it isn’t fair they have less to go than I do.  My pace starts to slow and I hit 11:57 on sixteen.  Upon seeing my split time, I pick it up, and run 11:07 the next mile.  I’ve now run a total of seventeen miles, have nine to go, and my left knee starts to ache.
Earlier in my training I ran a twenty mile run in some light snow.  After I got home and took a shower, I warmed up the car so the family and I could go to breakfast.  While doing so, I cleared off a bit of the driveway.  While shoveling the snow I twisted my kneed.  I think, because of the long run, my ligaments were a little loose and I stretched them a bit.  Anyways, I slightly injured it, and had to hobble on it for several days.  I was able to do my interval run that Wednesday, and the knee stopped hurting after the first mile.  Over the next several weeks it got better, but always during my long runs it would start aching sometime past mile fifteen.  I also seemed to get sorer running downhill than up.  The injury always nagged me, and I was worried it would keep me out of the marathon, but once I completed a twenty mile run, I knew I could run it out.
My little knee tweak became a source of stress.  I knew I could run a marathon, as I did one before, but for some reason past mile fifteen or so my injury would popup.  Sometime the pain would diminish other times during the long runs the pain would become sharp!  Then I would stop, walk a bit, and continue.  Of course by then I would have wrecked my target pace, and a great workout became satisfactory at best.  I kept training, and my knee did feel better.  I got to the point where it wouldn’t hurt at all the next day.  I became optimistic that it wouldn’t hamper my marathon goals, but that wasn’t so.
As the Flying Pig Marathon continued I stopped and walked on the knee a bit to take some stress out. It seemed to work and the pain went away.  Of course, now that I stopped and was walking my rhythm was thrown and being so far into the race other parts of my legs started to tighten!   Who can win?  Anyways, after minute of two I continue to run.  And then I see water and I drink too much.
So now I have an achy knee, and just too much water in my gut.  Darn…  I keep pushing myself to run by really my time continues to suffer.  It becomes clearer as I pass mile markers and the Flying Pig Marathon officials rattle off our “pace.”  Oh, one neat thing about the Flying pig is that the official time is show at each mile marker.  That is a nice touch.  Anyway, hearing my time disheartens me and I’m less motivated to push.
At one point I think about dropping out, but to be honest, so many people knew I was racing and I didn’t want to have to tell them I quit.  I continue to run, stumble, shuffle, and walk.  My slowest pace slows down to 15:09 minutes per mile between at mile twenty two.  Mentally I’m in a real low state.  I’m really questioning why I entered this dam race, why I run at all, and the hell with it all!   It really doesn’t get better until I pass mile marker twenty five, and then I just go for it and manage to finish the last 1.2 miles at a 12:00 minute per mile pace with out walking.
After crossing the finish I got a picture, had a lady help me take of my running tag, and I sat down for a couple of minutes.  Then I got up and walked through the recovery area.  There was a lot of great food, but my stomach was up for it.  I felt glad to be finished, to finish the race, but also a little disappointed in my results.  I guess had had mixed feeling about the whole thing.
Flying Pig Marathon
Once the aches subsided, I walked back to my car and made the drive back to the hotel.  I showered, ate a couple slices of pizza and crashed.  I slept for about four hours, woke up feeling like road kill.  Dinner helped, but being tired I crashed again.  I felt much better the next day!

Post Script

Now that I look back I’m very glad I ran the Flying Pig marathon.  Though I could have done better, I’m looking to see how I can improve.  Here are a couple of areas I want to focus on for next Fall’s Detroit Marathon:
·         Lose weight
·         Build core
·         Manage water intake – I drank too much water
·         Run more hills if I’m going to run a hilly course
·         Get left knee in better shape
·         Overcome boredom of mile 17 and on.
·         Chase away negative thoughts
The journey continues.
For the curious here were my Flying Pig Marathon splits…
Wow, what a great crowd.
Here come the hills, slow down!
Keep chugging
The hill is done, made it!
The crowd thins, half marathoner have split off
We run past some smokers.. WTF!
The course doubles backs on itself.  It’s somewhat disorienting.
My knee hurts, I’m worried
I drink too much water, I walk
I see an aid station and walk.
I walk again!  Looser!
My knee really hurts, in fact my legs really hurt.  Why did I sign up for this?  I should have done the half.
Stop walking!
The end is near, run.
Don’t get too emotional, you still have .2 miles to go!

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