Monday, May 4, 2009

flying pig marathon: 3:42.18

pre-race: friday

the 11th annual "flying pig marathon" was the focus of my training since last november. i returned to running the fall of 2008 with the intention of marthoning. a few weeks into the reshaping i had a conversation with my friend scott griffith about marathoning in the spring. it was scott that suggested the "flying pig". he had heard that it was a great event for first timers. knowing i had family in cincinnati and that my boys would love a day at "king's island", i was quick to commit to the "flying pig" as the goal event for the marathoning debut.

scott and i trained together for months until we both got slowed down by injuries. i was able to come back from my injury. scott was informed by a doctor that he has tarsal coalition in his right foot and that this condition is not compatible with him running long distances. he has been having difficulties with his achilles and the doctor informed him that running long distances will likely continue to aggravate his achilles. so coming into this event, scott was committed to completing the marathon primarily employing walking with a few segments of running sprinkled in.

the family and i departed for cincinnati on friday morning. i drove the entire way, attempting to beat the time that google had estimated for our trip.  our first gas stop was surprisingly at a "marathon" gas station.

we made it into cincinnati 30 minutes ahead of the google estimation :) but it is possible that google was accounting for the time it would take us to find a parking spot, because that task seemed to take close to half an hour. once we got into the expo i was greeted at the entry by my friend chris bean. chris and i have been relating via blogs, forums, and online networks for over two years - but had never actually met in person. it was awesome to finally connect in that manner. chris had already made the rounds through the expo so we walked and visited a bit as i went about gathering all my schwag.  

following the expo, the family and i made our way to my aunt and uncle's abode in liberty township.  my aunt gayle had generously offered to host us for the weekend.  after we got acclimated to our lodging we departed to meet my cousin garrick and his family at "larosa's pizzeria".  enjoyable conversation and excellent food.

pre-race: saturday

saturday morning we headed to king's island to experience the rides and spend time with horton family.  the weather was ideal.  i attempted to be conservative regarding my partaking of the rides, hoping not to mess up my stomach the day before a marathon.  it was great to visit with family and the rides rocked.  after we all ate at the buffet, we headed towards king's island's newest ride: "diamondback".  while in line my son jake's stomach was causing him some issues.  i take responsibility for putting pressure on my boys to get my money's worth at the buffet.  when we finally got ready to get onto the "diamondback" train, jake opted to sit the ride out to let his stomach settle.

the train took off and it was amazing.  very smooth.  very fast.  we were about three fourths through the ride when it came to a jolting hault.  other riders who had formerly ridden the "diamondback" communicated to us that this was not normal.   via a speaker we were informed that the ride was experiencing a "minor technical difficulty" and that someone would be up to visit with us.  after around 45 minutes of being up there, the staff opted to release us from our seats and escort us down a staircase that is connected to this portion of the ride.  i managed to get my camera out of my pocket and snap some shots.  i was very proud of my wife for overcoming the stress the situation caused her and making it down those stairs.

for our time we were compensated with t-shirts that "king's island" had leftover from the 2009 opening weekend.  believe it or not, just prior to getting onto this ride i had commented to my uncle rich and my cousin garrick that it was a shame we didn't do some kind of t-shirt for the horton gathering at "king's island".  

thus far it appears that me traveling for running events includes a variety of first time experiences (such as: a hotel surrounded by a swat team (little rock) and getting stuck on a roller coaster for an hour).

just prior to "king's island" closing for the day, they got "diamondback" operating again.  the boys and i jumped off of "the beast" and ran a few hundred yards to get in line.  we managed to get on the ride before the park closed, and we managed to make it all the way through the ride without it stopping :)

after extending farewells to my cousins we drove to the hotel that scott and susan had booked.  robin dropped me off and picked susan up.  a few minutes after robin had dropped me off i discovered that i managed to leave my "carbopro 1200" in the cooler that was in the van.  i considered attempting to race without it, but concluded i didn't want to do that.  i got robin on the phone and communicated to her that i needed her to comeback with my racing fuel.  my aunt graciously drove robin and my fuel back to the hotel.  when they arrived i thanked them and then proceeded to forget to hand them our family camera and jake's camera that i still had in my pocket from our "king's island" trip.

just before midnight i entered dreamland.

pre-race: sunday

i woke up to my watch alarm at 4:30 am.  i was aware that scott's alarm was set to let him sleep a bit longer so i tried not to wake him up during my race morning preparation.  we had hoped to get down to the starting area by 5:30 am, but it quickly became apparent to us that we were behind schedule for that goal.  we faced some challenges finding a place to park and by the time we had parked and walked all the way to the starting area it was close to 6:15 am.  the race was scheduled to start at 6:30 am.  i was stressing out a bit because i had not successfully completed my bathroom goals for the morning.  i parted ways with scott while he was in line to use one of the bathrooms, and i headed to find an appropriate place at the start.  the first area i got into i quickly realized was for those who intended to run at a 10:30 per-mile pace.  i attempted to work my way up towards the 8:30 per-mile area.  it was very difficult to find access in through the fence, but i did find a place i could squeeze through and get lined up.  i pulled off my donation shirt and wrapped it around the fence just as i heard the starting countdown.  

first ten miles

the start of the "flying pig" did not go well for me.    i patiently proceeded to the start line, started my watches and was off.  off into a mass of slow moving people.  i even took note of some people that appeared to be walkers-of-a-mall-walking-pace plugging away apparently having no concern for the fact that they were slowing down those who had trained to run at faster paces.  it quickly sunk in that i was not going to be able to get into my target 8:30 pace during the first mile.  the plan for the first twenty miles was to run the first 95% of each mile at about 8:29 pace and then walk the last 5% of each mile.  i decided that i would skip my first walk segment to compensate for the slow pace.  i hit the first mile split in 8:56.  as i started the second mile, i noticed that i was on my target pace and things had comfortably spread out.  it was tempting to run faster than 8:29 pace, but i was committed to resisting the temptation.  i was able to insert my walk segment during the end of mile two and hit the mile split in 8:39.  at this point i was having a good time.  it was fun running down the roads and crossing the bridges.  it was cool to start in ohio and run into kentucky and then run back into ohio.  the spectator encouragement was amazing.  with things spread out i was able to relax and run my own race.  mile three: 8:47.  mile four: 8:39 (a bit down hill).  mile five came through an area of high-rise buildings and i noticed that my garmin was having some difficulty measuring my pace.  i opted to just keep my effort even and trust that i could keep myself on pace.  i think it was just before the four mile marker that i became a bit sensitive to the perceptions of the spectators during my walk intervals.  i found that i was deliberately keeping my eyes mostly on my watch while walking in an attempt to communicate that this is a planned walk interval, i.e., i am not in pain, i.e., i did not go out too fast, i.e., i am no where near throwing in the towel for the day.  this seemed to work for the first few miles but later in the race when others were struggling i got a lot of spectator feedback during the walk intervals along the lines of "fight through the pain" and "just pace yourself honey".

just prior to the mile five marker i observed two young lady runners get into a bit of a scuffle.  one of the young ladies commented to the other about another friend of theirs being up ahead a few yards and the other just snapped.  something along the lines of "you f****** go ahead an catch up with her, i can't run any faster than this!"  the fact that they both were wearing headphones contributed to the volume of their conversation.  i refrained from making any smart a** comments.  mile five: 8:23.

the next four miles were the climbing miles.  mile six: 8:43.  mile seven: 8:53.  mile eight: 8:52.  mile nine: 8:29.  mile nine included an awesome view and a barber shop quartet - very cool - i was having a blast.

around this portion of the course the over 8,000 half-marathoners parted ways from the over 4,000 marathoners.  mile ten split: 8:53.

second ten miles

i appreciated that at this point just about all the runners around me were going 26.2 miles (the exception being the relay runners).  i noticed a more mature runner with a very cool mustache who seemed very familiar to me.  finally, i enquired where he was from.  "springfield, missouri."  no way!  i introduced myself and let him know that maybe we had met at the "frisco fifty".  it turns out that his name was gary buckley and we had run within seconds of one another for the first ten miles of the "frisco fifty".  he informed me that his goal was to run a sub-4.  i communicated that i too was on a similar mission but that i was going to stay patient for the first twenty miles.  i let him go during one of my walk intervals and did not see him again until i passed him around mile eighteen.

mile eleven split: 8:08 (day dreaming a bit and missed my walk interval).  mile twelve split: 8:30.  mile thirteen split: 8:51.  

first half-marathon: 1:53:41 (mile split average: 8:40).  

mile fourteen split: 8:43.  mile fifteen split: 8:35.  

just after mile fifteen, i got to see my family and receive their encouragement.  it was a really cool portion of the course that permitted me to pass them twice (the second time around sixteen and a half miles).

mile sixteen split: 8:36.  for the next few miles i was feeling great and was itching to drop the hammer.  i continued to stay patient and enjoy the journey.  mile seventeen split: 8:26.  mile eighteen split: 8:38.  mile nineteen split: 8:39.  mile twenty split: 8:37.

the final 10k

this was the moment i had waited for.  during my last walk interval i put on my mp3 player and prepared to race.  it was helpful that this last 10k had a downhill feel to it.  i was done with the walk intervals and i started do a lot of passing.  i am guessing that i passed a hundred to two hundred runners during the last 10k.  mile twenty-one split: 7:49.  mile twenty-two split: 7:56.  mile twenty-three split: 7:51.  after the three miles of picking up the pace i started to feel it a bit in my legs.  this was really the first moment of discomfort i experienced during the "flying pig".  the battle in the mind started.  i was aware that i could totally slow down and still sub-4 for the event.  i battled those thoughts.  the weather was perfect.  i had no excuses to not keep working it.  this tough mile twenty-four split was: 8:22.  with two miles to go i opted to remove the mp3 player and lean into the support of the spectators to help me finish strong.  mile twenty-five split: 8:12.  mile twenty-six split: 7:38.  and the last 386 yards: 1:26.

second half-marathon: 1:48:37 (mile split average: 8:17).

official finishing time: 3:42:18 (mile split average: 8:29).


that 26.2 mile performance felt like a masterpiece.  in relation to my present running fitness, it felt like perfection.  

when i landed on the other side of the "finish swine" i felt like i had left it all out there.  i stayed patient when i need to be patient.  i battled through the challenges during mile twenty-four when the legs started to go and things got uncomfortable.  i finished very pleased.

i am convinced that this performance would not have happened without my experience during the "frisco fifty".  i would not have been able to stay patient without that experience and i would have been one of those runners who was fading hard during the last 10k of the course.

i was thrilled to see my training partner scott come in sub-5.  with all the walking he intend to do i thought he would be coming in close to 6 hours.  i will be sure to link up his race-report when it gets posted.

regarding my aunt's hospitality: awesome!  regarding time with my cousins: loved it.  regarding participating in this event: no regrets.  regarding my race strategy: no regrets.  regarding my fueling strategy with carbopro 1200, thermolyte capsules, and water: perfect.  regarding my drymax maximum protection socks (with the addition of a little petroleum jelly on my toes):   BLISTER FREE!

regarding my goal of joining the "marathon maniacs": mission accomplished - i am member 1495.

[unblogged: my experience between the time i finished the marathon and i was reunited with scott and my family - that part of the day was a bit lame - maybe i will tell the story some other day]

a highlight for robin and susan was meeting and conversing with "biggest loser" ali vincent.
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