I finished the 2010 Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon in 2:18:38. A new (post-knee surgery) PR.
I’ll start this race report with a simple statement: I hate running in the rain. Never liked it. Generally avoid it. I even postpone long runs to run on better weather days. So the prospect of strong storms during the race was a little stressful for me.
Paul and I got moving at about 5 am Sunday morning… it was pouring. According to the National Weather Service, about 0.75 inches of rain fell in Downtown Cincinnati between 6 and 8 — which encompasses the time we spent waiting for the start until about Mile 8 of the race. Most of that fell before we made it to Mile 4.
So we took every precaution we could. We wore the standard garbage bag poncho and held the cheap Wal-Mart umbrellas we bought in Lexington, KY on our way up.
We also wrapped our shoes in disposable umbrella bags we got from Wal-Mart — which were key.
We wandered over to the start line at about 5:30, delaying it about as long as we could since we didn’t know exactly how long it would take us to walk across the bridge and over to Paul Brown Stadium. It was raining. Hard. And thundering, too. Paul and I hid under cover at the stadium until about 6:15, when we headed into the rain and down to the starting line — still with our ponchos and still with our umbrellas.
The race began at 6:30, and the first mile or so was like any other marathon… slow running with thousands of runners jockeying for position and trying to find their pace. The only thing that really mattered to me at that moment was that my shoes were dry from the plastic bags.
Miles 2-4 include three bridges, two over the Ohio River and one over the Licking River. I charged up those hills without any real problem. We made jokes about making the short right turn back to the hotel at one point, and Paul asked me (very loudly) if I “had taken care of all those outstanding warrants I had in Kentucky” to the amusement of the folks running near us. I kept with my race plan and walked for 30 seconds to a minute through the two water stops. We were doing about 11 minute miles at this point, and crossed Mile 3 at about 32 minutes.
Between Mile 4 and 5, Paul and I stopped and tore the plastic off our shoes. The rain had largely changed to a drizzle, so we really didn’t need the coverage from the top anymore. And there were holes in the bottom of the plastic, so they didn’t provide any protection from the puddles. The bags served their purpose quite well.
Mile 5 is back through Downtown Cincinnati and then start the hills.
The big challenge of the Flying Pig half or full marathon is that Miles 5-9 are basically up hill. With a brief exception around Mile 7 (and the first relay change) there isn’t much of a respite. It’s really straight up hill. Now, I hadn’t done too much hill training with my knee, so I was a little concerned. The grades aren’t that steep, but you do climb more than 300 feet in about three miles.
This is where my weight loss and cross training kicked in.
Last time I ran the Pig, back in 2006, I weighed 200 pounds. At the start of the race Sunday, I weighed 183 pounds. That’s a huge difference when you’re schlepping your way up some pretty steep hills. There are three water stops, and I walked through those, but generally kept up a good pace along here. Somewhere on this hill is where I lost Paul.
My cross-training kicked in when I remembered the 2-mile ride straight up Paris Mountain on my bike a few weeks ago. I couldn’t stop. Just had to keep going. I thought about that over and over as I ran up the hill.
There was really good crowd support along here, especially considering the weather. As we ran through the neighborhoods near the half/full split, there were crowds cheering us on. I felt really strong and tried to pick up the pace. I hit mile 9 at 1:38, so still about 11 minute miles. I knew I wouldn’t make up that much time.
Hikers who thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (the real Appalachian Trail, not the one Mark Sanford “hiked”) speak of Trail Angels — acts of kindness and other fortune that seemingly materialize out of nowhere. That hit me between Mile 9 and 10.
That’s when I somehow — in a crowd of almost 18,000 runners — happened upon DisneyRunner, BamaRunner and SweetDaddyD. I had the great fortune of meeting them all the day before at the Expo (see previous post). Their encouragement really helped carry me through the final three miles.
Miles 9 through 11 are downhill. REALLY downhill. One short stint on Nassau Street was a very steep grade. This didn’t do anything for my knee. I stopped for a couple of short walk breaks (mostly through the water stops), and I noticed that I was getting a lot of “chatter” back from my knee. Lots of popping and a general feeling like there was gravel in there. It didn’t bother me when I was running, only when I was walking. (My therapist has told me he thinks most of that is leftover scar tissue that I need to tear up, so it’s really not a big deal. That doesn’t make the feeling any less disconcerting.)
We turned on to Eggleston Ave. and Pete Rose Way, and the three guys asked me if I wanted to join them in raising arms over the finish line. I politely declined, since this was their “man weekend” and in 5 years, they wouldn’t want my mug in their shot… so I ran a little faster and cleared out of the way before they crossed.
I crossed the finish line in 2:18:38. I was very happy with the finish. The post-race throng was wild. There were too many runners and not nearly enough space to herd them past the water, the medals, the chip collectors, etc. All I wanted to do was find the medical tent so I could get some ice for my knee.
This was the only complaint I had with the race: The first aid tent could only give me a little bit of ice in a surgical glove. That did nothing for my sore knee.
I’ll write about this in a separate post, but this marathon medal is going up right next to my other “accomplishment” medals — 2005 Palm Beach Half, 2006 Kiawah Marathon, and 2009 Goofy Challenge. I actually, and spontaneously, kissed the medal when I got it around my neck. Don’t know why. I’ve never done that before. I think I was really that emotional about finishing a half marathon again after the last 12 months.
So how did I do in respect to the goals I set for myself?
GOAL 1: Finish the race.: Done. Finished strong and actually felt pretty good after the race.
GOAL 2: Finish the race faster than my first half marathon in 2005.: I beat that time by about 8 minutes.
GOAL 3: Finish the Pig faster than the last time I ran it. Well, not quite. My 2006 Flying Pig time was 2:10, so I missed that one by 8 minutes on the wrong side. Not sure if I could have achieved this, given the weather. I ran the first 4-5 miles really slow, so that put me way behind my normal pace.
So that’s the long and longer of it. Paul cruised in at 2:28, but I think he hurt himself and I urged him to go see a doctor on the drive home. We’ll see if he listens to me.
As a post-script, I want to say just how cool it was to put names with faces with DisneyRunner, Ed Marathon and SweetDaddyD69. And it was great to meet BamaRunner and Just_Finish for the first time. I have some other thoughts on these guys that I’ll post in the next few days…