I am now more than a month removed from the actual race, but I can still visualize parts of the race. Overall, I did not achieve the time that I was aiming for, 4:15, but rather finished in a 4:36:07, but I am not complaining (too much). Technically, I think I ran the race pretty well, I was well hydrated and it wasn’t until after the race that I realized that I had to make myself eat out on the course, because I never felt really hungry. One thing that will make this race report hard is that I can remember pockets of the race, but am not exactly sure where they were on the course. So, let’s begin.
Despite the H1N1 Virus media frenzy, that did not stop the marketing of The Pig. Nestled downtown Cincinnati, Ohio housed the convention center and where the Packet Pickup and Race Expo was held. One of the unknowns for The Flying Pig was that this was the largest event that I had ran, ever. I am quite used to and can manage running for large stretches of races with no one around… no runners, no crowd support, no race support… just me and the watch. But this race was different, there were 4,070 finishers, just for the marathon, 661 teams and over 8,000 half marathon finishers. So at race start, there were over 12,000 people there. Slightly more than the 2002 Richmond Marathon where the marathon finishers were around 2500 or so.
The Expo was well marked and with the maze setup, it was very easy to get the essentials (Bib and Chip) before being thrusted into the marketing sty of Flying Pig Marathon paraphernalia. There were a few things that I would actually have liked to purchase, but being a tight budget race, and the fact that I didn’t REALLY need any of that stuff, we passed on everything before going into the Vendor section of the race. Having experience with vendor’s both from MK and other marathons, while the Expo had more people than what I thought was comfortable, it was fairly manageable even with The Elder and The Younger.
Of the vendors at the marathon, I was happy to touch and feel some of the new products from Road ID. I am in need of a spare one and so I was hoping for some sort of race discount, which I got a coupon for, but am not sure that it is any good anymore. We scored a free canvas bag from the Wal-mart area, they had the space of 4 boothes filled with flowers and other silent auction items. There was even a Wii there, you could blow out a knee trying to do the downhill ski game, but it was fun. One of the more interesting things was the knowledge of the mini-Stick, a pre and post race tool… no Runner is complete without one. Actually you don’t “need” one… but they are pretty awesome, especially when you need to knead some lactic acid out of your legs, or back. My Lovely and Talented Wife actually put my name into a contest for a free race entry for the Niagra Falls International Marathon. The kids were entertained with some small Canadian Flags and then got these cool LED lapel pins that flashed lights in the race logo. Exiting the Expo, we were treated to a nice poster of the event and a messenger bag with embroidered race logo and sponsors. Definitely a nice premium for the racers, hopefully ASD Athletes will get to the point of getting super cool stuff for the athletes… but that is a different story.
So with the packet pick up going down and the bib was secure, the countdown to the race was more real… now only over-sleeping would have prevented me from getting to race start. We had plenty of time to drive around Cincinnati and found ourselves going in the wrong direction of civilization. The Elder enjoyed it because it was next to a train track, I wasn’t all that thrilled because the structures we were passing became more and more delapidated as we went… neat for historical references, BAD for personal safety. So, rerouting we finally made our way to something near civilization and had lunch at Texas Roadhouse.
Our next desination before going back to the hotel, was to find Union Station and check it out. Actually finding it wasn’t that hard, and actually getting to it wasn’t either. But when we started to park, we noticed that people in Tuxedos and Gowns were going up to the entrance. We were feeling a tad under-dressed, but that didn’t stop us from going in to see what the hours were for Sunday, providing that I was still alive.
Getting back to hotel, it wasn’t long before I went back out to get some stuff on the Walgreen’s list and Dinner list. On the way there, I was able to some of the local prostitutes hanging out on one of the corners. Thank goodness that it was daylight, because my silver minivan stuck out like a sore thumb… although I did want to roll down the window and ask “Hey, what can I get for 10 Dollars?” [ed note: reference to the movie Full Metal Jacket, made pop-culture through the rap song by 2 Live Crew]. Little did I know that just about 2 hours later, I would be lost in this neighborhood and be down by the business park where it would be dimly lit and nothing around where a nice out of town boy could be mugged or beaten or worse and no one would find out… it was like the opening scene of CSI.
Talk about motivation! It is times like that why guys don’t ask for directions… EVER! About 45 min later, I made it back to the hotel room, safe and secure. I had a salad with tuna, some almonds, raspberry vinagrette and after a couple of bowls, I was full and content. Next was to get some prerace rituals underway and make sure that I didn’t oversleep.
Race Day, Finally
The hotel that I was staying in was actually in Kentucky, so I had to leave with plenty of time to get to the early start. Thankfully when there are many THOUSANDS of people heading to the race start, it’s pretty obvious where you need to go. A light rain was falling, making it cool, though a little humid. I was just hoping that it would stay overcast.
It was about a mile walk from my room to the race start, so when I got there, I had a little warm-up and seeing that there was quite a number of people, I really was not expecting to take off in a hurry. My personal goal for this race was a 4:15 or better, so I made sure that I found the 4:15 pace group and lined up somewhere in front of them.
The magic of race day is just as exciting and powerful whethere there are 48 people at race start or 4,800. There is so much unknown, each race is different and that is one of the mysteries of the marathon. You never run the same race twice, and although you “plan” to peak at Race Day, you never really know until you are well into the race. And it’s the firing of the gun that sets you free!
Most of the race, now, has faded into obscurity except for a few things that have stuck and so it’s these things that I will share:
It’s doesn’t take Rocket Science (and techincally, I have a nuclear engineering degree anyway) to know that People cheering on the course makes a difference. What I found was there was a long stretch were there were people 1-2 people deep for what seemed like a short time. I noticed that this time passed quickly because there was always something to see, people to look at AND because I wanted people to see my shirt and headband, just in case there was a fellow Dump Runner there, the crowd of people actually made me correct my form… and run more upright. However, the crowd, because it does get exciting makes it seem that you are running a faster pace then planned. It might just be a placebo effect… I’ll have to run more marathons to collect the appropriate data (it’s the Statistician in me).
Despite the positive effect of the large crowds, having run many marathon in near isolation was, tactfully a good thing. Apart from the super-MEGA-MONDO marathons where there are 1.2 million people around (or something like that), in most long distances races there are long stretches where it is YOU and THE COURSE. Having to go through this multiple times, it really makes things easier, when all of a sudden you are by yourself, or are in between pockets of runners. Right after the long stretch of people mentioned above, there was virtually nothing for a stretch… and if you were relying on the crowd for supplemental motivation, good luck! There was also another stretch coming back that was very similar, between water stations, there were some scattered runners and if you were alone at the start, more than likely you’d be that way for most of that stretch.
I could not believe how well I was on food during the race. It wasn’t until a week or so later after the race that I realized that I barely ate any of my own food on the course. In fact, I had to force myself to eat in the beginning. I wasn’t remotely hungry but experience has taught me that during a marathon, you don’t eat whenever, you have a plan and STICK TO IT! My standard plan for eating is eat something every 4 miles, plus take the energy gels on the course and alternate between carb-drink (gatorade, powerade, etc) and water. And not only was I not all that hungry, but I was well hydrated. It did help that it was overcast and slightly misting, although this (in my opinion) hurt me in the end… details to follow. When there are TONS of runners and people in the crowd, it is hard to find a place to ditch for a little tinkle. So, I just did what the professionals do. I went. I went while running. Now, I am sure that I wasn’t prettiest smelling person out on the course, but I wasn’t distrupting my time to stop and use the bathroom. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the most comfortable thing to do, but after a few times, I had a method to the madness. What a time saver!
My goal of a 4:15 became further and further attainable and finally succumbed to the almightly lactic acid, late in the race. It was some point after mile 20-21, where I went from my Marathon Racing Mode to Marathon Survival Mode. I wasn’t going to let the build up of lactic acid keep me from having, at the very least, a good technical race. I saw My Lovely and Talented Wife and the Dynamic Duo, I think, somewhere around mile 19ish. So after that, I knew that I wouldn’t see anyone (I knew) until the end of the race. I don’t think that I actually stopped running and shifted to walking exclusively. I might have, but I have blocked that from my memory. I would walk when I was either slowing down to, or starting back up from stretching my legs. I set visual goals for myself as I started up each time… making to a particular destination before allowing myself to stretch again.
Another, “We don’t need no stinkin’ Rocket Science” is that Practice Makes Perfect What You’ll Probably Do Naturally In That Situation. I had taken Matt’s 3-2-1 BLAST OFF workout and had made a hybrid of taking that format of 3-2-1 BLAST OFF and converting it specifically for ending a long distance race. For the last segment of the race, the first increment of the plan, I did a self-analysis of what shape I was in for landing (Finishing the Race). My legs were shot, heavy tree trunks just about short of falling over, but mentally I was still On-Point: Engaged and still in The Race. The second increment of the plan, is a race-analysis. Where was I relative to the finish? I knew my energy levels… so, who could I overtake?
The third increment of the plan would be what I associate with the actual launch (of the Space Shuttle). This is the point on the course, where you don’t hold back anymore and go for about 80% of what you have left in the tank. “Usually” this point for me is when I see the clock at the end of the race and can read the numbers.
In the case of the Space Shuttle, there is point where the Space Shuttle has reached a certain speed and the procedure is to go faster to help break Earth’s Gravity. For those who biggest News event (Pre 9/11) was the Space Shuttle Challenger, this is the point that 72 seconds into the mission, that the O-ring failed. This is Throttle up. And my executive function (i.e. Houston) and I have communication on this point on the course.
“Go for throttle up.”
“Roger that, Going for throttle up.”
I am not sure how many people I passed in that last little bit… I was hurting. I felt like I was running a 6 minute mile. I am sure it was closer to a 8 minute mile, but when I got to the end, I was exhausted. At the very end, the Mayor of Cincinnati was there shaking finisher’s hand. My next goal, after crossing the finishing mat was to shake his hand. And breathless, I did.
“Are you going to be okay?” was the Mayor’s words to me. I kinda nodded and moved along. The next guy at the finisher’s line asked, “Are you with us now?” I was at least functioning, but still not that coherent. I wandered around the finish line a little bit with my mylar blanket (BEST THING EVER!) trying to gain some clarity. I was hoping to meet Kevin from The Extra Mile podcast, but I had been running late and missed him, plus I wouldn’t have said anything that made sense… Bumblebee Tuna.
I continued to wander out to the food area. Being a middle of the packer sucks, but not “as” bad as a back of the pack runner because of the scarcity of food. It doesn’t help that being on Gluten Free nixes many of the snacks at the end of the race. I think Oranges was the only thing they had left that I could eat, oh, and potato chips.
My family found me, at some point, and we did make it back to the car (eventually). Now that I had finished the marathon, it was time to go over to the Union Station and visit the Children’s Science Museum. It’s a fine day when you can run a marathon AND have fun with SCIENCE!
So, not a PR race, but I had (what I thought) was a good technical race for myself. Not “only” as a guy, I can pee standing up… but now I know how to do it running. I think what held me back was the lack of miles during training. Looking back at my average weekly mileage during the previous 12 weeks, it was an average of around 27-28 miles per week, with a peak of 32-33 miles one week. So, I know that with “proper training regiment” that I can break that 4 hour barrier, no problem.
Oh, and remember that drawing that My Lovely and Talented Wife entered me in at The Expo? Well, I won… I won a free entry to the Niagra Falls INTERNATIONAL marathon! Seeing that I want to run the Flying Monkey Marathon again, and that’s not very PR friendly, this will be my Fall marathon Race. At the end of June, I will start officially training for it. I am thinking that I am going to make a mash up of Ryan Hall’s Half-Marathon plan with one the Hanson’s Brother’s plans, plans on that later.
I’ll have pictures up… eventually.