Hmm, where, oh where to begin!
Fair warning: this is gonna be a long one, and I’ll most likely be back with more details on pace and reflection in a few days. Bear with me, this was a watershed race for me!
I suppose we should start with the pre-race festivities. Ian and I skedaddled down to Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon and went straight to the expo. My Mom had picked up my packet for me on Friday, but I still wanted to check it out so that we could get in proper Pig spirit.
We wandered for about an hour, Ian picked up some new Brooks, and then we headed home, where my Mom had prepared us a proper pre-marathon feast. It was really nice being at home, even if just for an evening. We headed to bed early for our 3:45am wake-up.
I actually slept fairly well and as race morning came, I felt oddly relaxed. The week before the race had not been an easy one. I had some nagging pain in my left IT band/quad that had me pretty worried, but somehow, my nerves were unrattled come race day.
I went through my usual pre-race routine – coffee, toast, peanut butter, banana, water. Then, my Mom showed me the paper – she had been reading a piece about the Pig the night before about each mile of the race, and when she got to the last one, she thought, “wow, that’s a great way to think about it.” Then she looked at the name, and lo and behold… it was me!!
The Flying Pig Facebook page had put out a request for your favorite mile last week, I responded, and I guess they liked it! After that fun little surprise, I slathered myself in sunscreen and Body Glide, and we headed out around 5:00am to make our way downtown. 30 minutes later, we were parked and ready to make our way to the starting line.
Once we got there, I split off into the participant area to find a port-o-potty. Once I arrived in my “pigpen,” I realized that the line was waaaaaaaaay too long for my very full bladder to handle, so I started to freak just a little bit. Then, I heard a few people mention that there was a whole line of port-o-potties just one street over with no line. Sold!
I made my way over, jogging a little bit to see how my left leg felt, and to be honest, it had me pretty worried. I tried to push it away and concentrate on getting back to my corral and staying positive. As soon as I got back to my corral, there were Ian & Mom! They snuck into the corral to say good luck one last time, and I’m so glad they did. We chatted until the gun went off, and they walked with me about halfway to the starting line before we said our goodbyes.
I didn’t pay close attention, but I’d say it took me about 15 minutes to cross the start line. My game plan was to take it EASY until after the hills. It was really difficult watching so many people whiz past me, but I just kept saying, “let them go, you’ll pass them later!”
We made our way over the first bridge as the sun was rising, and it was absolutely gorgeous. I just kept thinking about how incredibly lucky I was to be there in that moment. As my body warmed up, I could feel my left leg loosening up, and by mile 3, I knew it was going to be a very good day.
I knew that Ian and Mom would be somewhere between miles 5 and 6, so I focused on getting to them. Sure enough, there they were! It still amazes me how seeing your family can give you a boost, even when you already feel great.
After I left Mom & Ian, I gulped down my first GU – more accurately, my first 1/2 GU. I learned the hard way in my first marathon that my guts can’t handle a full packet of GU at a time, so the plan was to take 1/2 a pack at miles 5, 10, 15, 20, and 23. I also carried a bottle of water that I downed by mile 6. I like to carry one that I can toss so that I can skip the first few water stations, which I did until about mile 5.
Just after mile 5, the hills begin. Everyone talks about how hilly the Flying Pig course is, and if you look at the chart, it does look nasty from miles 5 – 8. But if you look more carefully, you only gain about 300 feet in those 3 miles. Hilly? Yes. Horrible? No way. I took Virginia’s advice and didn’t look up until I got to Eden Park, where the course overlooks the Ohio River. Trust me, you want to look up then – it’s beautiful!
Not too long after Eden Park, the half marathoners veer to the left to make their way back, while the full marathons keep on trucking. The crowd support dies down a little after that, but we were rewarded with some great downhill action. That’s what I love about the Pig – sure, there are some hills, but you’re always able to make up time on the downhills.
Miles 10 – 13 flew by. I was trying to still play it conservatively, but with the downhills, I couldn’t help but push the pace. Around mile 11 (I think…), there was a drum circle going on at a park. One of the ladies was waving around a rubber chicken. My Dad kind of had a thing with rubber chickens – he dressed one up in wings, called it the Sludge Fairy, and it presided over his 8th grade science classroom. As soon as I saw it on the course, I knew it was him. I fought back tears, and picked up the pace.
As I headed into Mariemont around mile 15, I nabbed another bottle of water from a church group and kept up the pace. The crowd in Mariemont was awesome, and I spent a fair amount of time there back in high school, so it was fun to revisit it.
Heading into mile 18, I couldn’t believe how freakin’ amazing I felt. I realized that if I kept up the pace, I could finish in 4:45, so I made that my goal. I waited to hit the wall, but it didn’t seem to be happening.
Mile 19 came, and I had heard that it was a rough mile. Turns out that mile 19 has you running on the freeway, and while it was boring, hot, and difficult, it didn’t break me. I was glad to get off the highway around mile 20 and for the real race to begin.
Before the race, the farthest I had gone without walking was 20 miles. As I approached mile 20, I was starting to feel it a little, but I told myself that I couldn’t walk until at least the mile 21 marker, which came and passed. I slowed down a bit during mile 21, but didn’t walk until mile 22. Miles 21 – 25 were brutal – fewer crowds (although the people that were out there were AMAZING!), no shade, and temps in the 80s. I had been sucking down water like it was my job – at this point, I’d had 2 full water bottles and at least 12 cups of water. Some aid stations were handing out ice, which I promptly shoved up my bra with no shame whatsoever, and I grabbed a wet towel and rocked it cape-style for about half a mile.
Mile 23 hit, and I finally felt like I was running a marathon – exhausted, sore, hungry, and ready for it be over already. I pushed through as much as I could, but started to feel just the tiniest bit lightheaded and walked more than I would have liked to in miles 23 and 24. I knew that 4:45 was out of reach, but I also knew that barring catastrophe, I’d come in under my original goal of 5 hours. I wanted a marathon time with a 4 in front of, heat and humidity be damned!
At one of the last medical tents, I grabbed a 3rd bottle of water. I slurped it up, hit the mile 25 marker, and dug deep. It was hot as hell, but I was only 1.2 miles from rocking my second marathon, and there was NO WAY I was going to be caught walking.
That last 1.2 miles seemed longer, but as I entered the final chute for the last .2 miles, I thought about not just the last 18 weeks, but how different this race was from my first marathon, and how far I’ve come in the 8 months since then.
As I raced passed the roaring crowds, I turned it up, stoked the fire, and choked back tears. I frantically searched for Ian and my Mom, but didn’t see them, so I focused on flying – before I knew it, it was over.
I was a marathoner two times over.
I was definitely emotional, but tried as hard as I could to avoid the ugly cry. I got a medal from a volunteer, and made my way through the finish are. They made a few changes from last year, and I thought it was much better organized! They had port-o-potties right at the finish, and I was grateful… I swear, I’d had to pee since mile 10. Oops.
Right after I got out of the port-o-potty, I could have sworn I heard my name, but I looked around and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Finally, I looked up and there were Ian & Mom! I shouted to them that I was gonna go raid the food tables while they made their way down.
I grabbed some goodies – banana, water, fruit cup, granola bar, and potato chips, got my photo taken, and hobbled over to the reunion areas. Ian & Mom showed up a few minutes later, and we found a bench under some shade where I told them all about the race, traded my shoes and socks for flip flops and compression sleeves, and tried to scarf down some food. I wasn’t hungry at all, but I forced down some banana and potato chips before we started to hobble toward the car. I swear it felt like a whole ‘nother marathon.
Unfortunately, Ian and I had to make the drive back to Columbus, so we didn’t get to spend as much time with my Mom as we wanted to, but I’m soooooo glad she came down to see me run! It helps so much to know that your loved ones are out there rooting for you, but I always worry that Ian & Mom will get bored. Thankfully, they had fun walking around downtown, getting lunch, and cheering me on.
I’ll be back later this week with more on the details of my pace and whatnot so that I can really think through this experience and learn from it. I’m beyond proud of the race I ran yesterday – I was out for redemption, and despite a cranky leg, hills, heat, and humidity, I got it!