Flying Pig Half Marathon Recap

Yesterday I had the opportunity to my twentieth half marathon with my friend, Amy, who also ran my first half marathon with me nine years ago!

Flying Pig finishers
The Flying Pig Half Marathon has been on my race list for years. Many of my Procter & Gamble co-workers run or even pace this race each year since it takes place in Cincinnati, where our company is based.  This is the cities primary race and therefore locals passionately support the race through volunteering, spectating and running. Now that I’ve finally experienced the Flying Pig Half Marathon, I understand the hype.

Amy and I chose to run this half marathon together with no goals other than enjoying every mile. We each have a lot of pressure and demands going on outside of running these days and therefore have taken a step back from trying to set personal records during half marathons and instead focusing on the fun that can be had when two best friends spend 13.1 miles running together.

We set out our race gear Saturday night, unsure what Sunday morning would bring. The forecasters projected a wet weekend, including temps in the mid 50’s and rain during the race. We made a last minute Brooks purchase on Wednesday to ensure we’d have the necessary gear in case it rained.

Flying Pig race outfit

Race gear included: Lululemon Energy Sports Bra, Brooks Launch 3 shoes, Pro Compression Socks, Nike Tempo Shorts, Brooks Drift Jacket, Brooks Steady Short Sleeve Shirt, Brooks Sherpa hat and lots and lots of Glide

When we woke up bright and early Sunday morning we heard the rain drizzling. While we ate our typical pre-race peanut butter and banana toast we decided on a game plan for our race outfit.  Since it was raining we decided we’d play it safe and wear our rain gear, deciding we could always tie the jacket around our waist if the rain held off or we got too warm.

Flying Pig starting line views

There was no traffic heading from Madeira to downtown Cincinnati so we were able to easily find parking in a deck downtown by 5:45. As P&G employees we were able to quickly go into the downtown offices in order to use the bathroom one more time before heading down to the start. Since more than 40,000 people were signed up to run the half marathon and full marathon we knew that there would most likely be long lines for the bathrooms around the start. The walk to the starting line was about a mile, a perfect way to warm up our legs before the race.

Flying Pig pre race

We found our starting corral “Pig Pen C” and easily slid in just as the national anthem finished. Less than a minute later, at exactly 6:30 the elites crossed the starting line. I couldn’t help laughing as I looked around our corral as there were at least 50 people, men and women alike, dressed up as pigs. Lots of people ran in all pink, similar to us, but added pig tails, pig ears and even pig noses! It was such a sight to see! Due to the multiple “pens” we actually crossed just two minutes later, unheard of for a large race like this. As you can tell from the below picture, we are nerds who like to match when we run together. It makes it far easier to keep track of each other and the people cheering seem to love it too!

Flying Pig ready to run

Throughout the half marathon, there were multiple things that surprised me along the course and helped me understand why people rave about this race. The first mile brought the first delight – no bottlenecking! The entire course is very wideso there was no bottlenecking, a welcome change from many races I run back in New York.

The second mile brought the first of many delights – a water station and bathroom at EVERY single mile. I have never seen so many water and Gatorade stations in a race, even Summer races. Due to the wide course the stations never got in the way and runners could easily run to one side of the road to avoid them. The volunteers at these stations were so friendly, offering support in addition to the water.  While we never stopped to use the bathroom, we both noticed that there were never more than 2-3 people in line for the bathrooms due to their frequency – another nice change from most races.

Flying Pig half marathon elevation

The first few miles of the race were a gradual incline with the only noticeable inclines being the bridge we crossed over the Ohio River, leading us into Kentucky and then the bridge we took back into Ohio a few miles later. At the second mile marker Amy and I realized that we’d made a bad choice in wearing both a hat and waterproof running jacket as we were sweating buckets. The sun was shining and the temperature quickly rose from 55 to 69 by mile 2. We tied the jackets around our waist for the rest of the race – a first for me.  Anytime we walked through a water station I would use the opportunity to tighten the jacket since it was constantly slipping down my hips. Oh well, live and learn.

The third thing that impressed me with this race was the level of crowd support. In many half marathons, there are clumps of crowds but rarely are the crowds throughout the entire race course. Whether it was the outskirts of Cincinnati or through the Kentucky miles, there were people everywhere! My favorite group of supporters were the elderly who cheered outside of their nursing home. Their signs were hilarious!

nursing home cheer squad

After crossing back into Ohio and downtown Cincinnati, mile five was filled with spectators as well as the anticipation leading into the arduous climb that would meet us beginning at mile 5.5.  During the mile 5 water station I took the opportunity to stretch my left hamstring and glute in preparation for the hills.

Flying pig downtown

The next few miles were the prettiest of the course as we climbed through Mt. Adams towards the Cincinnati Art Museum and Eden Park. I knew that we would be rewarded at the top with gorgeous views so instead of focusing on the incline we just chatted our way to the top enjoying the spectators and reminding each other how lucky we are to have each other as running partners who have run multiple races together in different states over the years. up the hill

Flying half marathon views

gorgeous views

The rest of the race is downhill as the course leads you back down towards Cincinnati. There were constant spectators and high school bands including a fun balloon arch across the course with the local football players and cheerleaders cheering. There were also a few groups giving out orange slices and Twizzlers! During the final few miles I definitely started to slow the pace a little bit due to some nagging in my left glute and hamstring. Unfortunately the constant foam rolling, stretching and deep tissue massage didn’t solve the issue so the last thing I wanted to do was injure myself during the race.  We both were also feeling a bit of fatigue in our legs since neither of us logged very many long runs over the past few weeks so miles 10-13 included jamming to our Spotify playlist and high fiving all the kids.

Flying Pig medal

Finally, we turned back to towards the waterfront area for the final dash to the finish line. We crossed the finish line in 2:15:17. While this is 15 minutes off my PR time, it is around what we expected since we ran for fun, conquered some crazy hills, enjoyed the sights, and talked throughout the race. It was a very different experience, and great reminder about the joy of running. Many other races, where I’ve targeted a specific goal, are a blur as I’m so focused on pace and conserving energy.  If you are looking for a new Spring half marathon to add to your schedule next year, the Flying Pig Marathon race weekend includes a race for everyone – 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon distances. Even though it is a hilly race, if you can spend the winter months focusing on hill training, this is definitely a race where many of my co-workers have PR’d or even BQ’d during this race!

Your turn: What race is on your wish list for 2016 and beyond? 

Thank you to the Flying Pig Marathon for providing a complimentary bib to this race. While I was provided a complimentary bib, the reviews are entirely my own.

 

 

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Running Into Spring With Brooks

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Guys I have a thing for neon this season and I’m 100% okay with it. Every workout and running outfit I’ve worn lately has had at least a few pops of neon. When the 5:15 alarm goes off each morning there are only two things that help me wake up – coffee and neon. Bright pops of color make me smile as I trudge out the door for a workout and luckily the gang at Brooks fully support my plan to wear at least one piece of neon gear for every workout!

Two months ago, the team at Brooks Running reached out to me, inviting me to join their Brooks Run Happy Ambassador program. Since I actually wore brooks from 2008-2011, I was already familiar with the brand but before agreeing to join, I asked for a few samples of their latest gear to ensure that their gear and shoes would be something I could feel confident wearing for training runs and races alike.

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As soon as I slid my foot into the new shoes, it was love! I’m still in shock that Brooks is interested in having me, a 2-hour half marathon runner, as part of their ten person Run Happy Ambassador program but I couldn’t be more excited! The other ambassadors are familiar faces you may recognize – Meghann, Tina, Anne, Emily, Janae, Jessica, Dorothy, Kristen, and Lora. The other night I joined the other ladies for my first official event, a gear gab chatting all things running gear!

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Today I wanted to share with you my four favorite pieces of gear I’ve tried this Spring. If you follow me on Instagram, they won’t be a surprise as they’ve been in almost every running or workout picture recently.

I’ve worn the Brooks Women’s LSD Running Jacket for races and training runs alike over the past few weeks and have fallen in love with this lightweight running jacket. It is windproof and water-resistant but the two features I really love is the fact that it’s reflective for those early or late runs and it packs into itself so if you get to hot you can easily carry it! Many running jackets cost over $100 but this one is on sale for $47!

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The Brooks Women’s Neuro Running Shoe doesn’t necessarily look like a running shoe made for speed, with the wide size and crazy pods on the bottom but this shoe helped me achieve some great speeds during NYRR speed workouts last month. The performance-enhancing shoes have a neutral fit but the pods help give you energy back every time your heel and foot hit the ground. They only weigh 7.9 ounces, making them lightweight versus my other running shoes but the sole still provides enough support for my high arches. I will say, after the first run in these shoes I wasn’t sold as they felt so different than my other running shoes. But, by the third wear I was a fan and have now worn them for at least two runs each week, typically five miles or less.

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As my travels have taken me to warmer weather, I’ve fallen in love with the lightweight Brooks Ghost Racerback Running ShirtThis ultra-lightweight tank is so light I barely feel it when running or working out. The loose cut allows me to move freely through yoga poses or runs.  It is available in five colors including the one I’m wearing below and hot pink, which I just ordered. Even during last week’s hot yoga class the material wicked the sweat away so I stayed cool and comfortable! I can already tell that I’ll be living in this tank during this Summer!
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Last but not least, the Brooks Launch 3 have become my mid to long distance running shoes over the past two months. This neutral running shoe provides the perfect combination of comfort and support for those longer runs while also having a unique midfoot transition zone, which looks like an X, allowing for faster heel-to-toe transition during runs. Available in eight colors, I personally love the hot pink and blue pair which I’m wearing in the pictures.

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So there you have it guys – these are my four favorite pieces of Brooks running gear this season. As always, I’ll keep my reviews honest with you all as I know that not everything I order or receive as part of this partnership will be a perfect fit.

What is your favorite piece of running gear right now? 

I received this gear either at a discount or complimentary as part of my Brooks Run Happy ambassador partnership. 

The top images were shot by the lovely and talented Lydia Hudgens.

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Four Days in Paradise at Half Moon Resort Jamaica

Half Moon Bay Jamaica

After four days of rest and relaxation, today is my first day back to work and the real world which included a 5:30 AM alarm. The good news is that our quick trip down to Half Moon in Jamaica left me rested and energized. This trip was unlike any trip I’ve taken before. There were no husbands, no large group of friends, no excursions or even dinner reservations. Instead, the relaxing girls trip for two included lots of sleep, long conversations during beach walks, reading by the pool and making last minute dinner decisions based on the recommendations we received that day from the staff or guests. We chose to stay at an all-inclusive property for this trip as it allowed us to minimize expenses and relax more. While I realize many people would say that staying at an all-inclusive resort doesn’t allow you to get the true taste of the island, for this trip we prioritized rest and relaxation over culture.

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In case you all are planning a tropical trip anytime soon, I highly recommend using Expedia to search for resort specials. We changed resorts just weeks before our trip as we received a price drop email informing us that the top resort on the island, Half Moon Bay, had cut their price in half. The zika virus has limited the number of people traveling to the Caribbean and therefore many resorts are offering unheard of discounts. If you’re curious whether it’s safe for you travel to Jamaica or other Caribbean countries, I recommend you consult the CDC website as well as your doctor, which is what both Amy and I did before this trip.

Half Moon Jamaica Bikes

So while I dream of yoga overlooking the ocean and the delicious rum drinks, sit back and enjoy a glimpse into my long weekend trip to Jamaica.

Our Room

Steps away from the beach, our junior suite included two queen beds, a deep sinking tub, large living room and a balcony perfect for watching the sunset. Decorated in traditional, Jamaican colonial style the space was very comfortable. We were greeted with a local delicacy, rum cake, as well as a full mini-bar which was included in our all-inclusive plan. While we didn’t spend any time in the living room, we did spend a few hours reading on the balcony during the afternoon rain storms and each enjoyed hour-long bubble baths in the evening.

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Beach

There are two large beach areas at Half Moon Bay, one closer to the main property and another one about a mile walk from the main area.  Due to the proximity, we spent our time on the main beach which allowed us to enjoy lounging in the beach chairs, swimming in the clear water and sandy walks from our villa. This main beach, Sunset Beach, is the swimming beach and also where all non-motorized water sports are rented. Snorkeling, kayaks, pedal boats and beach floats are included in the resort rate. While we didn’t rent any of these due to the choppy waters, watching others navigate in a kayak for the first time or try and stay on their float provided hours of entertainment. Since this beach is also near the main bar, you are able to easily bring both food and drink to your beach chair. The other beach, Sunrise Beach, is strictly for walking, lounging and motorized water sports. There is no swimming at this beach nor chair attendants.

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Half Moon Jamaica beach

Pools

There are three pools on property, each with their own character. The pool we frequented, the Hibiscus Pool, is popular due to the swim-up bar. This pool also has a staff who will bring you water, towels and even freshly chopped and cracked coconuts throughout the day. The pool is quite large and naturally has an adult section towards the bar and a children’s section near the fountains and shallow end. The other two pools are the nearby 50 meter Olympic lap pool which features five lanes and the smaller Oleander Pool which is on a terrace near Sunrise Beach. While the pool wasn’t heated, it was warm enough to enjoy in the Jamaica weather which was 85-90 degrees each day.

Half Moon Jamaica swim up bar

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Spa & Gym

As soon as you walk through the gate to Fern Tree Spa you are transported to an oasis of relaxation. The 68,000 foot space includes multiple relaxation rooms, over water bungalows, lush gardens, sauna and steam rooms as well as a full gym. We avoided the rain showers on Friday afternoon with three hours in the spa, including an hour of reading in the large relaxation room and time in both the steam and sauna rooms. While the spa is not included in the all-inclusive package, we both decided to add a 60-minute signature Swedish Massage which included lemon grass tea and a foot bath before the massage even started. An added bonus, ff you choose to have a massage, this allows you access to the spa area for the rest of your stay.  The gym was modern and well appointed offering a cardio room, weight room as well as two studios where 4-8 group fitness classes take place daily. We enjoyed over water sunrise yoga on our first morning which was breath taking and one of the most memorable of yoga experiences. The 60-minute Vinyasa flow style yoga was taught in a three-walled bungalow over the ocean, allowing the view and sounds of the water to merge with our practice. The teachers strong Jamaican accent was also a relaxing touch as she guided us through the poses.
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Half Moon Jamaica Spa 2

half moon jamaica yoga

Food & Alcohol 

As part of our all-inclusive plan we truly had everything included whether that was a meal, beverage, snack or mini-bar treat. The highlights included the breakfast buffet which included freshly cut fruit, omelet station, made to order smoothies, mimosa and bloody mary bar and all the breakfast options anyone could imagine. Each morning we dined a la carte while sipping coffee and chatting. For lunch, we walked to the beach shake, Monchies, to enjoy freshly grilled Jamaican specialties like jerk chicken and fish. Paired with a Red Stripe, this was our favorite meal at Half Moon Bay. The dinners were only okay compared to the breakfast and lunch. While the new Sugar Mill Restaurant is beautiful and highly recommended, our meal wasn’t the best. Our final meal at Il Giardino, the Italian restaurant was by far our favorite dinner. In regards to the alcohol, this all-inclusive resort does not skimp when it comes to the liquor drinks. The liquors used were all considered mid to top-shelf choices and many of the fruity drinks included fresh fruit.  The wine by the glass options weren’t to our liking though their wine by the bottle offerings were far better and included in the all-inclusive.

Half Moon Jamaica restaurant

Half Moon Jamaica breakfast

Half Moon Jamaica Food

Staff

The staff at Half Moon Bay took the resort to the next level. From the moment we were greeted at the airport to our wave goodbye when we left, everyone greeted us with a smile as well as asking if there was anything they could do or anything we needed. Bartenders offered specialty cocktails made based on our tastes and you could tell that everyone on site was passionate about their role in making the resort experience enjoyable for guests!

Half Moon Jamaica bartender

Is it too early to plan our next trip to Half Moon Bay?

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