Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Flying Pig HM oldie but goodie!

Well, as promised, here is the race recap for my first (and only) half marathon. Today is a cross-training day for no running. Enjoy!

I was at Target on January 1st when my sister called and asked if I’d be interested in running the Flying Pig half marathon with her, as a New Year’s Resolution. Now, I’d never made a real resolution before and I was taken completely off guard. I told her I’d think about it….by the time we got home from the store, my mind was made up. I was going to run the Flying Pig half marathon. Our training schedule started on January 5th. We would run 3 days a week and cross-train 3 days of the week. Sunday would be my day of “rest”. Seeing as I just started running in September, I’d never run through the winter. I wasn’t really sure if you could even safely run outside in the winter, in Ohio. I slowly began buying some decent winter running gear. I ran in snow, sleet, and cold, cold winter air. I think the coldest I ever ran in was 5 below zero, not including the wind chill! It was invigorating to get out there and get the blood pumping through my body. Running in the dead of winter is really quite peaceful. I knew if I could run hills in sub-zero temperatures, covered in snow (with the help of my YakTrax), I would do fine in May. January/February turned into March and gave way to increased mileage. Prior to starting my training, I’d never run over 6 miles before. Gina and I started running together on Saturday mornings, to help make the long runs more bearable. March 16th, I ran my first double-digit mileage: 11 miles. It was rough, but in my mind, there was no “if”….it was only “I will”. And so with about a month to spare, we reached our training goal of 12.5 miles. Those long runs were tough – physically and mentally. I was really beginning to doubt my ability to finish the half marathon strong. Even my cross-training sessions were tough. I didn’t understand it. Shouldn’t I be in better shape than ever? Training had consumed me. It was like I was in a different world. The days ticked away as I prepared everything I needed for the big day.
We left for Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon. We checked into the hotel – which was bustling with activity. We put our stuff in the room and headed over to the expo to pick up our packets. I felt like an imposter, Iike I didn’t really belong there. Me, a runner? It seemed crazy. The expo was really crowded, but we made our way through to get our timing chip, race bag/poster/t-shirt. We casually looked at all the booths and made our way out. We went to dinner that night at a family-owned Italian restaurant called, Campanellos. It was extremely busy and we ended up sitting at a table they had set up on the side walk. We joked that we hoped no one had a seizure while driving….we were that close to the road! With my GI issues, I ate only some bread and plain pasta. After dinner we walked around a bit and found the starting line. I really began to feel as though I wasn’t ready. It was all so real now! Chris finally made his way down to Cincinnati and we walked around a bit with him and then headed back to the hotel. I got everything ready for the morning. I turned in for an early night, as I knew 5:30am would be here all too soon. I didn’t sleep well that night. I wasn’t nervous or anxious, but I just kept getting woken up by different things. The morning arrived and it was raining. I was kind of bummed. I love running on beautiful, sunny days. There’s nothing better than that! In any case, I put my running hat on, applied body glide and aquaphor, took 2 immodiums, had a sip of Gatorade and we were off. The starting line area was crazy packed. We made our way back to the sign that said 10:18/mile pace and squeezed our way in. Everyone was in a fantastic, jovial mood. The countdown began and the gun sounded. Kanye’s “Stronger” began to play, and it was then that I knew this was going to be a great experience. We cross the starting line about 7 minutes off of the clock time. We make a quick pit stop for Gina to use the porta-potty, and we were off. Everyone is still pretty packed tightly together at this point. Spectators line the roads, cheering as if we were in 1st place. We head over the bridge to KY and do a quick loop around Newport/Covington. We see Beth on the sidelines there. We cross two more bridges and are back in Ohio. We head into downtown and I’m reminded of the streets of Boston. There’s lots of spectators here and we start searching for Chris. We finally see him towards the end of 7th street. The running is almost effortless at this point. At 6 miles we pass the Greyhound Bus station – and I’m wondering if I’d rather be on a bus to somewhere else or running this race?! We pass Elsinore Castle. It’s at this point that we begin an almost 2.5 mile uphill climb, that covers 280 feet. Although I know I’m still only half way there, I know the next 3 miles will be critical and after that it will be smooth sailing (or so I thought). We begin to look for my parents, and see them on the side of Gilbert Avenue. It’s still kinda drizzling, but I’ve forgotten about it by this time. I’m breathing heavy, but no wheezing! We make our way up to the top of the first hill and do a short loop around Eden Park. There is a gospel choir singing and a hydration station. My stomach has yet to bother me, but I decide not to push the issue. Although there have been porta-pottys throughout the course, they have all had long lines. After a short respite, we begin climbing back up. I begin to get a bit discouraged, because I was expecting an immediate downhill. In any case, at this point we enter Walnut Hills. This is probably my favorite entertainment spot…..Madonna’s “Holiday” is BLARING. All of the runners are singing and clapping. The atmosphere is awesome! Shortly thereafter we see the Walnut Hills football team handing out the Gatorade/water at the next hydration station. I take my first and only Gatorade break here. I walk/sip a few seconds and then start running again. I feel kinda crampy around my diaphragm, but I still feel pretty good. At mile 9 we split off from the marathoners and it couldn’t have come a minute too soon! There’s a slight uphill here (again, discouraging) and we reach the top of the elevation for the race. After that however, it was all pretty much downhill. I take some water around mile 10.5. My SPI belt had really been bothering me though, and I decide to give it to my Dad the next time we see him. I began to focus on the irritation and it feels like we’ll never see them again! We finally see my parents on Gilbert Avenue (other side of the street now) and I give my Dad the belt. I feel tons better now! We enter back into the downtown area and we see Chris again around mile 11. The crowd is still amazing and so encouraging. We turn around on Eggleston and head towards the river and ball parks. Everyone at this point is cheering and saying “you’re almost there!” but it felt like an eternity. There was no way I was going to stop running at this point, but I was sure tired. Nothing was seriously bothering me, I was just tired. Finally the “Finish Swine” comes into sight and I know I can do it. Gina and I cross the finish line together, at 2hr19 minutes. An average of 10:38 per mile.
I’ll never forget the feeling of complete accomplishment. Something I had worked so hard for and had done well (for my standards at least). Walking through the finishers area was surreal. I was definitely tired and my legs were pretty tight. We got our timing chips cut off our shoes and then on to the food. I’d never seen so much….food! Mounds of apples, bananas, oranges, bagels, cookies, and then thanks to sponsorship from P&G….cheez its, potato chips, animal crackers. You name it, they had it! But honestly none of it looked good. I started to munch on an apple (I was afraid of the after-effects of taking too much Immodium and wanted some fiber). And then I DOWNED 3-4 cups of water and Gatorade. I’d never drank quicker in my life. Not so smart! We made our way through to get our finisher medals and blankets. I had been running with goose-bumps for the majority of the race and by now I was chattering cold! Within minutes, the water/Gatorade/apple combo began to work on my belly and I just needed to find a porta-potty! You’d think they’d be pretty accessible post-race, but alas I had to walk (what seemed liked forever) to the family meeting area. I wait in line behind a child (again, for what seems like forever) and finally get some "relief". Now that my belly was better….I just wanted to sit. We people watched for awhile, and then it donned on me that we needed to be finding Chris. We had no way of contacting him and we hadn’t really told him where to meet us because we weren’t sure what the finish area would be like. I get up and stumble around for a bit, until I find the post-race store. And wouldn’t you know….there he was….buying me a shirt! It’s at this point that I know God is on my side today! So we go back and find Gina and begin the walk (uphill) back to our hotel. I just want to shower and lay down. As we’re walking, my toenails are “tender” and it feels as if one of them is trying to pull off. Ouch! Once we’re back to the hotel I inspect my feet and they’re not bad at all. No blisters (a major concern of my dad, since we were running in the rain) and all toenails intact. Success!! Little did I know that 4 weeks later my toenail WOULD fall off! I showered, rested a bit and then we packed up to leave. We had a hot date with my parents at Champps for brunch. I was hungry by now….and actually able to eat! As we walked to the car we passed some of the marathoners just coming back. And while I still felt the glory from my accomplishment, it was definitely overshadowed by the fact that there were people (just like me!) who had given more. I knew I had a marathon in me….or at least I had to try.

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