It’s done. The hardest race I’ve ever ran, and it’s complete. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved that a race and training cycle is over. I really stressed about this race, the hills, and the weekend. I wasn’t really prepared, and even though I was injury free, I knew I’d be hurting. I should have done more long runs, and probably hiked some mountains in preparation. As I made my 3.5 hour drive home after the race Sunday, I had a long time to reflect on the race and the weekend. It wasn’t my prettiest, but I finished, and sometimes that’s all that matters.
I drove down to Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon. I was road tripping solo, so I wanted to make the trip as quick as possible, hence such a late start in the drive. Luckily I was able to break up my drive by the 30 minute pit stops, thank you over hydration, and by visiting a friend who PR’d at the Cap City Half that morning. After that, I made my way to Cincinnati and got to the expo around 6:00. I picked up my number and walked through the entire expo just to get my shirt. It was a little odd to have things spread out, and a lot of walking back and forth to do. I took a quick look through the merch and picked up two Flip Belts and a top and jacket from Asics. Not too harmful on my wallet.
I finished up my expo experience and headed towards the hotel. I booked a room in Kentucky, because it was the only place close enough or semi reasonable on price. To keep it short, I had a horrible hotel experience. The AC didn’t work, there were people knocking on doors and partying in the hallways until 3:30am and when runners came back after the race, the hotel was trying to hurry them out, telling us that we didn’t have time to shower. So if you run Flying Pig, book your hotel early and don’t stay at the Comfort Suites in Newport. Dinner wasn’t that good either. I went to the restaurant next door and they never put in my order so dinner was delayed an hour, it also made me feel sick throughout the night. I didn’t think you could make bad pasta, but apparently you can.
Sunday morning I woke up at 4am. I was exhausted, I hadn’t slept much and I was really nervous. I had my normal Clif bar, water and stretched while I was getting ready. I didn’t hear any rain, but took a garbage bag just in case. I wanted to park close to the start and finish, but not being familiar with the area, I ended up following a car with a 26.2 sticker on the back. Usually a good idea, but not this time, because once I parked, I realized we were still in Kentucky and had to cross the Ohio River to get to the start. I already had a feeling that this wouldn’t be my best race.
The start line was divided into “Pig Pens” and they were blocked off pretty well, sad, but understood. There was a ton of security all over, including local police, K-9 units and from pictures I saw on Saturday, some heavy artillery. Needless to say, I felt safe. Each pig pen had someone checking your number and corral to make sure that you were where you needed to be. They also had port a potties in each corral, which definitely helped cut down the lines inside. I stretched, stood in line for the restroom and was ready to go by the time we had our moment of silence for Boston.
We started, and just like always I stumbled with my Garmin, so I knew I’d be off by a few second. I made a note to remember this throughout the race, and I’m glad I did. The course was actually a little long, even on my delayed Garmin. I tried to find an easy pace that would last me through the race. I knew that the second half would be hard, so I wanted to make sure the first half was solid. The first couple miles weren’t much to look at, we headed through an industrial area and made our way across the first big bridge. This was neat, but not too welcoming on the legs. I noticed the humidity was creeping up and tried to focus on staying cool. We headed into Kentucky and my pace was right around 10:00.
I honestly don’t remember much from this part of the race. I know we ran along some trains and would be heavy traffic roads, but it was pretty much the same for the next couple of miles. I made sure to drink from my handheld at every water stop and I took some Sport Beans at mile 4, with the plan to take them every 40 minutes. I remember I went from being hot to cold and started regretting wearing long sleeves. Right around mile 5 it started to cool off, so I felt somewhat back to normal. Physically, my legs were feeling ok. They were a little sore from the rolling hills, but I tried to ignore it, knowing that my worst hills would be coming at mile 6.
Right around mile 5, I noticed a big hill, and it came as a bit of a surprise, I couldn’t remember it from the elevation chart and thought maybe I had missed a mile marker. Nope. I didn’t have a set plan for the hills, I just knew that they would be hard and on going. I decided that I would attempt each hill as much as I could and if I had to walk up it, then ok. I would run once I got to the top and take advantage of the downhill. I ran about half way up the hill and started to “speed” walk up to the top. Once I got there I felt exhausted and worn down. I started to feel a little nauseous and lightheaded. Ok, maybe I went too hard on the hill, just try to keep an easy pace and you’ll be ready for the next one. But I just couldn’t shake it. I walked some more and took some Poweraid/Gatorade from the water stop. Luckily it was Lime, my favorite, so I didn’t expect anymore issues.
I started to perk up and continued to run. The next few miles had hills and and plateaus, running through downtown and neighborhoods. The feeling of either throwing up or passing out kept coming and going, and I relied on the crowd support to keep me going. I hit mile 6 at 1:03, and was surprised with how close I was sticking to the 10:00 pace. Between mile 6 and 7 we entered a park and it was a great distraction from the rest of the race. The grass was so green and fountains were flowing, it felt like an ordinary run, I felt good for about a half mile. And then I got to the top of the hill. I stopped at a porta potty and struggled to stand, I knew the awful feeling I had for the last two miles wasn’t going away. I felt weak, but I knew I couldn’t stop. I had seen so many posters to run for Boston, that I couldn’t just give up. After a 5 minute stop waiting at the bathroom, I started going again. I came around a turn and saw the beautiful views of Kentucky from the hill. I remember someone telling me to take it in and wished that I had my phone. The only time I left it in my car for fear of rain, and I would have given anything to take a picture of the view.
I kept trotting along, jogging and walking, at this point I wasn’t sure which was quicker. I followed the same plan on each of the hills, run half, walk to the top and take advantage of the downhill. I took another handful of Sport Beans at mile 8 and hoped I’d see a water stop with Gu so I could get something into my body. At one mile volunteers handed out bananas and orange slices, but I was too afraid that it would upset my stomach more so I passed. Looking back, I should have taken it anyway, it probably would have helped a lot.
Somewhere on course, sums up exactly how I felt
I made it to mile 10 and knew that I had a little over a half hour left of running. My pace and time were all over the place. I no longer focused on getting in under a certain time, I just focused on finishing. I was relieved to know that for the most part the hills were done, and that I had a nice 3 mile decline coming up. I saw people sprinting down the hills and knew better. I had to be careful if I didn’t want to destroy my legs. These next three miles went by slow, and almost as a blur. My legs felt ok, surprisingly, but the rest of my body was done. I continued to walk/jog these miles to make it to the finish. I think I ran most of mile 12, but only to get me to the finish line quicker. I came around the last turn and finished up the absolute worst race of my life.
My little flying pig
This race was hard. Even if I had my best training cycle, the course would have still eaten me alive. The hills are tough and can definitely put a damper on anyone’s race, but that wasn’t what got me. My legs for the most part felt ok. I had some hip pains, but my legs never held me back. I felt like passing out or throwing up from mile 5 on. I could never shake the feeling and I think that’s what really held me back from running harder than I did. Yes, my heart and mind weren’t 100% in this race, but I did expect a better race out. I’m disappointed in myself, but I know I’ll come back from this. One thing I’ve definitely learned from this training cycle is that I need to focus more on keeping mid race energy levels up. This hit me hard on Sunday. But of course, those hills didn’t help either….
Check out those hills
Overall, I’m glad to be done. I have about a month off of official training so that I can actually enjoy runs and do what my legs want to do. Even though this training clycle was tough, I’m looking forward to my next big race. Number 12 may have been my toughest, but I certainly won’t let it keep me down.
Half Marathon Number 12
Overall Place: 7637/11046
Female Overall: 4250/6951
Age Group 25-29: 858/1164