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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Cherry Blossom 10 Miler 2016 Race Recap

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After having the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on my race list for years, I was finally able to run it on Sunday with my friend and running buddy, Theodora!

This race is one of Washington’s most popular races with thousands entering the lottery each year. This year, thanks to Anne and the team at Cabot Cheese, I was able to run as part of their race team. Since they are one of the race’s sponsors they were able to provide Anne with 10 bibs for her friends, readers and fellow bloggers.  I had a wonderful time getting to meet these women and spend time with them on Saturday and Sunday.
Team Cabot

These ladies were so much fun! From left to right, Kathleen, Mary, Theodora, me, Sokphal, Rose, Turner, Mary, Anne, Sarah!

team cabot group pic

meb

After enjoying a delicious dinner with the rest of Team Cabot at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler Pre-Race dinner, I woke up at 6 AM Sunday morning excited to run. Room service came to the rescue with pre-race breakfast of coffee and a banana which I paired with a KIND bar from our Cabot friends.

breakfast 10 miler

Sunday’s race weather wasn’t exactly ideal with wind chills of 25 degrees and 40 mile per hour wind gusts forcing the race organizers to remove all course signage. They sent an email to all participants on Saturday evening, warning them of the changes.

high wind modifications

source

Based on this note and the weather forecast, I decided to wear every layer of running gear I brought with my to Washington, DC resulting in an unusual, unfashionable look that luckily kept me warm.  When we arrived at the start area around 7 AM, just 30 minutes before the race start, the area was still eerily quiet due to the cancellation of all pre-race activities. You could tell that people were either hiding in coffee shops, their cars or decided not to run.  After using the bathroom, Theodora and I headed over to the corrals where we proceeded to hug each other for warmth and laugh about the conditions. The prior day it was sunny and 70 degrees while suddenly on race morning it was frigid. Don’t mind my tired eyes or our very odd race attire. Theodora was lucky enough to have fleece lined attire since her amazing friend, Meg, brought all the athleisure gear for spectating. Me, on the other hand, I opted to wear purple Pro Compression socks paired with my Lululemon crops as well as my new Brooks running jacket, the Drift Shell.

cold 10 miler

Right around 7:30 the corrals started to move forward and we prepared to run. After my half marathon disaster two weeks ago, I went into this race with two goals: treat it like a long run and have fun. It’d been more than two years since Theodora and I ran a race together so I figured I’d tag along with her for as long as possible since her pace goals were pretty close to my half marathon goal pace.  I don’t have any pictures from the actual race as I decided to keep my phone tucked safely inside my Spibelt after cracking the screen during the NYC half marathon.

The first mile was packed with people who were jogging or walking, forcing us to weave a bit before we found our groove in the middle of the pack. Theodora, who used to live in DC, served as my tour guide during the race pointing out bridges, monuments and other important sites. Most of the cherry blossoms were long gone after Friday’s rain and Sunday’s wind, but the few that remained were gorgeous!  I let Theodora set the pace for the race, since she hasn’t been training or running long distances during the frigid, Winter months. In fact, Sunday’s race was her first double digit race since the marathon!  The pace felt great the entire race, and was comfortable enough that I could make conversation without feeling winded or tired. I even had the opportunity to high five a few friends and readers who shouted hello as we passed each other. I couldn’t believe what a beautiful day it was, sans the wind chills and lack of appropriate clothing. Miles three through six were the most enjoyable, as we were warm and relaxed during these sunshine miles, before we were met with the horrid wind gusts of Hains Point.  Our only focus during the Hains Point miles were to keep moving and not let the wind deter us. It was definitely blustery and I felt every mile of the 40 mph gusts during this waterfront section in Potomac Park.

The paces below are from my GPS watch and include any water or walking breaks we took during the race.

cucb race resultsMile 1: 9:33 Mile 2: 9:13 Mile 3: 9:15 Mile 4: 8:57 Mile 5: 9:13 Mile 6: 9:27 Mile 7: 9:19 Mile 8: 9:36 Mile 9: 9:20 Mile 10: 9:16

post race 10 miler

Overall, I loved this race and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a flat, fast, scenic course. Even with all the crazy weather, the race experience was wonderful and the volunteers and race organizers were responsive and supportive. They even had volunteers standing at the mile marker spots calling out the miles as you ran by them! If I lived in DC this would definitely be an annual race and I’m tempted to come back again next year, when the weather will hopefully be a little less breezy or I’ll just pack more clothes!

Thank you again to Anne and Cabot Cheese for making this race possible and to the spectators who cheered along the course, the volunteers who made it all possible and our friend Meg who cheered for us at the finish line!

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2016 NYC Half Marathon Race Recap

Before Sunday’s half marathon, I spent Saturday evening focusing on getting everything prepared and organized for the race. I put post-race gear such as comfortable shoes, sweatpants and a hoodie in the clear bag provided for bag check, I checked the weather no less than 20 times and consulted other running buddies to figure out the next morning’s layering tactics, I ate a simple pasta dinner, laid out all my gear and relaxed on the couch before going to sleep around 9 pm. Regardless of Sunday’s results, there is nothing I’d change with my Saturday night ritual.

NYC Half Marathon Gear

At 5:30 I woke up to quickly have a cup of coffee, make a pre-race breakfast of two pieces of toast with almond butter, honey and banana before heading to the subway. While it typically only takes 25 minutes to get from our apartment to Central Park, I didn’t want to risk missing the 6:45 bag check closure ahead of my corral’s 7:45 AM start time. Due to the cold temperatures, I decided to start the race wearing a cold weather running jacket that has rarely been worn due to it’s large size. But, on Saturday morning, I decided the fleece lining and warmth was more important than bulky fit and appearance.

I wasn’t the only one who had this idea as my subway car was packed with fellow runners and the area around 57th street was packed with runners, supporters and volunteers. I dropped my gear off at bag check and then headed to Starbucks where I hoped to use the bathroom and stay warm since it was a brisk and windy 34 degrees. Unfortunately, Starbucks decided to shut down their restroom so after getting warm for a few minutes, I decided to head through security and head towards the porta-potties.

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The security line moved far faster than I expected, even though I was surrounded by both Wave 1 and Wave 2 runners due to my early arrival. The police, staff and volunteers were all very friendly and did their best to expedite the security lines while also answering questions.  I followed the other runners in through the park enjoying the beautiful sunrise. The porta-potty line I thought I’d have to wait in was non-existent as there was a line of at least thirty lined up for runners.

2016 NYC Half Marathon 1

Suddenly I found myself ready to run even though it was only 7 AM.  I heard a woman near me mention that the bathrooms near the Bathesda Terrace were open and heated. Within minutes, I joined a crowd of over 50 women who were laughing, encouraging and supporting each other. Experienced runners were answering questions of first time runners, strategies were shared, we commiserated over cold weather and laughed at the fact that we were choosing to hang out in a bathroom.

At 7:35 I exited the bathroom and joined the corral for some last minute dynamic stretching before the race. I was a bundle of nerves but excited and thankful for the cool weather since my body tends to perform better in cool weather versus the Summer heat. At 7:47, just two minutes after Wave 2 started, I crossed the starting line.

The first two miles were a complete blur. I felt strong, was running by feel and was telling myself what a great day it would be. The first hill of the course, Cat Hill, felt like a breeze and I smiled as I watched spectators cheer from atop the cat and greeting people at the top.  I sipped water at the end of the second mile and saw that we were about to exit the park, a change in the course since I ran it back in 2013. The exit took us down a half mile out and back during which time I saw both Gia and Meggie, who looked strong and happy. As we turned back towards the park, passing the 5k marker (28:21/9:08 pace) I mentally prepared myself for Harlem Hill. I told myself to just put one foot in front of the other, focus on breathing and remember all the hills I’d run over the past few months.

I zoned out so much during these miles that I didn’t even see the four or five mile marker. As I was cruising past the theater, I decided it was time to lose the jacket.  Trying not to lose any time, I quickly unzipped it and flung it out towards the grass. Unfortunately, I forgot that my iPhone armband was on my OUTER layer so as I flung the jacket I saw my iPhone fling through the air. As I pivoted back I collided with another runner and over into the grass. Startled and embarrassed, it took me a few minutes to find my iPhone which had conveniently shattered as the iPhone case was one fit for an iPhone 4.  Once I put it back on I realized that Spotify and my phone refused to cooperate. I spent four minutes trying to get my iPhone, getting it to restart and then after it restarted, trying to get Spotify to cooperate. As I look back on this I have no idea what I was thinking. Why didn’t I just put it away and run? I’m not perfect and we all make mistakes. But as soon as I saw the four minutes, I knew I had to sprint if I was going to still hit a PR.  I decided to sprint towards the park exit knowing that I’d soon reach the flat stretch of Times Square and the West Side Highway. Between the lack of music, my mile sprint to make up time and some muscle soreness, I just couldn’t find my groove.  I crossed the 10k marker in 58:24/9:24 pace, a time that I knew was off target from the 9:09 average pace need to PR.

By the time I hit mile 7 in Times Square, where I saw Beth, Leticia and the rest of the amazing cheer squad, I was in tears. There was no way that today was going to be my day for a sub-2 hour race. If we’re going to be honest, which I always am on this blog, I yelled at myself internally for a good few minutes.

Why did you share your PR attempt on the blog or social media? 

Why didn’t you invest in a running arm band for an iPhone 6?

Why didn’t you put the armband inside the jacket instead of outside the jacket?

Why’d you try to make up the time in one mile versus slowly across all the miles?

By the time I hit mile 8 I knew that there was no way I could survive beating myself up for five more miles. I saw a Team Achilles runner near me and realized that I needed to focus on the important aspects of the day. I needed to freaking RUN HAPPY. Here I was, lucky enough to have a bib for the NYC Half marathon and run through my city with 20,000 other runners. The weather was perfect, the spectators were amazing and the excitement was contagious. As soon as I made this mental change, the next five miles improved drastically. My pace didn’t improve but I enjoyed the miles. I gave just about child spectating a high five, I hugged friends who I saw along the course, I shared my fuel with runners who needed it more and even let a woman who was crying on the sidelines use my phone.

2016 NYC Half Marathon West Side Highway Views

After running through the downtown tunnel and up the small incline, I finally crossed the finish line in 2:11:23. This time is a far cry from my half marathon PR and recent races. My legs are stronger but yesterday proved that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to racing. In hindsight, the only two things I’d change are having a few long training runs beyond the 10 mile distance to build stamina and invest either an iPod shuffle or use a waistband or armband intended for an iPhone 6.

nyc half marathon picture
Yesterday reminded me that running is something I love. Ten years ago when I started running, I did it solely for weight loss and now I’ve come to realize that it is so much more than that.  I am not a professional runner nor am I an accomplished runner. I am someone who runs for the camaraderie and friendships it has allowed me to developed over the years. I run for my health and for the sanity those solo runs bring on the worst of days. Any day that my body is able to run 13.1 miles is a good day.

There are people out there that will say this was just another failed sub-2 hour attempt by me and you know what, they are right. But guess what? I’ll never stop trying and I’ll never stop learning. The haters are going to hate but yesterday, the supporters far outweighed the haters. If my failed attempts can help inspire or teach just one person a lesson, then I’ve succeeded. Thank you to each and every person who commented, supported, tracked and messaged me yesterday! Your vibes mean the world and inspire me to keep going and keep sharing!

Huge congratulations to EVERYONE who ran whether you completed your first half marathon, set a PR or ran for fun. Keep on moving and hopefully you guys will stick around for the running adventures because they aren’t going to stop anytime soon. But, what I can promise you, is that running will remain fun for me. It isn’t my career and therefore I can’t put too much pressure on myself. I have four races in the next few months – Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Flying Pig Half Marathon, Japan Run 4 Miler and Brooklyn Half Marathon. While I will train for each of those, my primary goal is to run happy and run strong. What happens along the way will be up to my body and mind.

Your turn: Why do you keep running? 

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