Marathon #7 is in the books! And every single thing about my trip to Cincinnati was "rush, rush, rush" except for the race itself. This marathon is top notch: from the expo to the volunteers and aid stations, it was a first class affair. Here's my story.
I took a direct flight from Memphis to gorgeous and historic Cincinnati. After getting my rental car, I immediately headed to the race expo in downtown Cinci. It was incredibly well organized. There were painted flying pigs all over the place!
Pigippedes welcomed us all to the expo. I opted to not have a photo taken while sitting on him.
Proctor & Gamble was a presenting sponsor of this exquisite event, and we were given handfuls of freebies.
This may very well have been the race with the best loot I've ever seen. Like I said, P&G was there in full force. I racked up! And this doesn't even show it all.
A college friend gave me strict orders as to which Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky dining institutions to sample. So after the expo I headed "back over the river" to Covington, Kentucky. I made a beeline for Skyline Chili and had a delicious lunch. Then I had some Graeter's Ice Cream before heading to my hotel.
As I mentioned, this was a "fast and furious" trip because of the timing of my return flights. So of course I got everything taken care of on Saturday night, like pinning on my race bib and "cheer for me by name" cloth.
We all also received a race poster. This race has the best theme ever!
I had two slices from LaRosa's Pizzeria for dinner. I definitely could have had more, but my stomach was a bit out of whack after drinking some EVIL coconut water on the recommendation of my chiropractor. I'll spare you the outcome of that... it's definitely TMI. Let's just say I'm glad I had it early on Saturday rather than Saturday night like he recommended!
I got less than five hours of sleep that night. You'd think on my one night away from my family I'd sleep like a log. No such luck.
I was quite worried about early morning traffic and finding parking on race day, so I left the hotel at 5:18 AM for the 6:30 AM start. I got there and found parking rather quickly. Oh well - better safe than sorry. The start and finish are approximately just under one mile apart, so I tried to park in the middle.
This gorgeous, historic bridge was just across the way. Cincinnati is a city of many unique, beautiful bridges.
Due to the impending heat, I made the decision to use the Galloway 30:30 method for this race. I knew I was looking at a 6+ hour marathon this way, but I also knew that I needed to survive that heat and those hills. So off I went.
We started to much fanfare in downtown Cinci. Another huge plus for this well-organized event is all of the crowd support, which included lots of performers. I didn't even turn on my iPod until after several miles.
Soon enough we ran over a bridge into Covington, Kentucky, which is also gorgeous and historic. I only took a few photos out there, most of which during the OH/KY traverse.
Just before heading back over another bridge back into Cinci, I saw the funniest sign of the whole race. It said "You trained longer than Kim Kardashian's marriage lasted." Ha ha ha! (poor Kim...)
This was by far the hilliest race I have ever encountered. There are way more than seven hills in Cincinnati! We ran through some historic neighborhoods, amazing park areas, and even along the river (albeit a block or so off of it) and ALL of it was hilly. Is there no flat land in Cinci? I wondered that as the miles drudged on by. The one thing as prominent as the hills was indeed the course support. You couldn't sling a dead cat without someone cheering you on! There were cheer squads, parrot heads, civic groups, neighborhood residents, football players, boy scouts... you name it. And everyone called me by name! Cinci ought to be called the "City of High Fives" because at one point I honestly wished I was wearing gloves due to all of the hand smacking! Even the medics (which seemed to be stationed every mile out there, plus the ones on bikes all over the place) were very motivating.
That said, the heat was climbing, and it was miserable. At around mile 20 I had to pack in my 30:30 method and go into "survival mode." I knew I darn well couldn't quit, but man it was hot and hilly! I felt spent. I dreaded that last 10k, because when I have too little energy to run, somehow it always hurts more to walk... yet I can hardly run. It's a vicious cycle!
At the same time, I was happy to be where I was along the course. Obviously the vast majority was done, and I KNEW I'd finish, it was just a matter of when. I wasn't out to set a land speed record; I just wanted my piggy medal. While I was mostly ticked off about the conditions, I also had a glimmer of excitement that I could soon check off another state on my quest to run 50 marathons in 50 states. (yes, I'm nuts)
Finally, after a whole lot of aches and pains and exasperated breathing, it --the coveted finish swine-- was in sight. I mustered up the energy to actually run to it and got my medal in 6:46:48 (slower than expected, but before the course time limit). It was 85 degrees.
After a quick (as my tired legs would take me, that is) trip through the food line, I convinced a couple of volunteers to drive me back to my rental car. I had arranged to come back to my hotel very late for a much needed ice bath and shower. Rush, rush, rush... back to the airport. Cincinnati to Atlanta, then home to Memphis. That's when the best part of the whole trip happened. There was my sweet Isaac waiting for me holding up a sign to welcome me home!
Was it fun? At times, but mostly just at the finish line.
Was it worth it? YES.
Do I love it? YES, from the training to the medal, I love it all. Bring on #8!