Monday, May 07, 2012

Flying Pig Marathon

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.

Huge toilet: I also opted to NOT have a photo taken while sitting on this. Call me a prude!

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.

Toothbrushes, eye cream, concealer... a woman's dream! Plus, an awesome duffel bag. Most awesome shirt EVER. 

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.

Having your name called while you're on the course is exceptionally motivating, trust me. 

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.

I parked right by Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals.

As I walked past the start line, I was grinning like a Cheshire cat! I was finally here to do THE PIG.

Here I am before the race began. My SpongeBob sweat towel fell off early on, unfortunately.

I was in the last, i.e. slowest, corral aka "Pig Pen H." The stadium is right there! It was 57 degrees at the start.

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.

How many times will I get to say I ran between two states? Probably not many.

Here is the view of Cincinnati, inaccurately known as "The City of Seven Hills"  from "my old Kentucky home."

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...)

I chuckled many, many steps past that sign during my ascent back into to the Buckeye State.

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.

Here is an exhausted, sunburned, proud woman. Check Ohio off of the list!

This is the front of the coolest medal ever. A class act, I tell ya!

And here is the rear. This medal is anatomically correct!

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!

He is telling me about how he and Chasen made it. Like me, this boy tells the whole story.

Here is the front, written so neatly that I asked Chasen if he got someone else to write it. Ha!

You'd run for over six hours to come home to this, wouldn't you? I sure as HILLS would.

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!


Petraruns said...

I really really really want to run the Pig now - it looks fabulous. But hot! And hilly! hmmm - you did SO well there Susan and ran it wisely. Of course, you've had a day now - what's next?

Barbara said...

I'm in awe! I've never attempted a marathon but stories like yours make me think I should. The leader of my half-marathon training group says that it's muchbharder to run a slow marathon because you have to stay motivated so much longee. You are clearly strong - mentally and physically.

ps I came from Sandra's Facebook link

Becky said...

Way to go!! Looks like you made the best out of the race conditions!! Good luck in your next race!

John J. Ellis said...

I still maintain that you are one of the toughest runners I know of. Congratulations, Susan! You are awesome! I would love to run one with you someday.

PLANET3RRY said...

I am glad to hear that they are still giving out great runner perks. I still use the messenger bag back from 2009. I thought it was a very well organized race and would run it again in a heart beat!

Glad that you conquered the Heat and the Pig! You Rock!

Heather said...

YOU ARE AWESOME!!!!!!! Congrats! And so cool that you are running another one so soon in Idaho!!! =)