Monday, May 5, 2014

Race recap: State #3: Ohio

Race: Flying Pig Marathon
Date: May 4th, 2014
Result: 4:59:50

Totally fitting this was my next race since I've turned myself into a bit of a porker. Instead of losing the five pounds that I wanted to since the Missouri race last month, I actually put on 5 more pounds putting me right at 190. Take into account how short I am, that's a ridiculous amount of weight to throw around town.

I never slept this well the night before a race but after chasing Mae around for her 5k in the morning, a hike to the expo that forces you to snake through every vendor booth before you can pick up your t-shirt in the afternoon, a trip to Skyline Chili for their famous three-way and taking in a ballgame in the evening, I was pretty exhausted the day before my race. The highlight of the expo was I got to wait in line for 15 minutes at the P&G booth to pick up tampons and pantyliners. Free is free, right? At least we signed up Mae for the 5k at the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis in November and got to save 5 bucks. I was also going to try to meet a couple friends of my friend Mike at the expo who were also running the full, Siva and Connie. But they were running behind schedule so we never met up. Siva recently joined my Ragnar Chicago team as a late replacement so it would have been nice to have introduced myself to him.

Great American Ball Park 518 Row A Seat 21
After the expo we also knocked another MLB Stadium off our list and enjoyed a great pitching match-up between the Reds and Brewers' two aces – Cueto and Gallardo. Not having a rooting interest in either team, we were rooting for outs, which I’m sure confused the fans around us. I proceeded to carbo-load (sort of) with a big slice of LaRosa's cheese pizza and a large cheap Rolling Rock beer.  
It was an early start time of 6:30 for the race and we had stayed at the Doubletree at the "airport" 10 miles away in Kentucky. I put airport in quotes since we didn't see a single plane takeoff and land the whole time we were there.  I was up at 5 AM (which was really 4 AM my time) and Mae dropped me off just a few blocks from the start line near Paul Brown Stadium. Still in a sleepy stupor, I wandered over to Corral E and took a few pics. Even at 6 in the morning I felt comfortable in just my shorts and shirt so I knew it was going to be a warm day. One thing I thought was a really nice touch that I hadn’t seen before was that they had port-a-potties inside the corrals. More races need to do this! SWAT team members made their presence throughout the starting area, and were also in the corrals, too.

With the race underway and my chest thumping from the bass of the start line music and a touch of nervousness I began to discover that Cincinnati is just plain gorgeous. I can’t think of a better way to see America than 26.2 miles at a time. Since I wasn't going for any time goals I spent a lot of time taking bad pictures and soaking in the atmosphere. The course encompasses urban downtown streets, beautiful neighborhood parks, three bridges and a riverfront view. The scenery at the top of Eden Park as the sun began to break through the cloud cover made up for the miles of climbing. I’m thankful I had run the St. Louis marathon in April because I was much more prepared for these hills, and actually stopped noticing them after a while. And my quads didn’t shut down like they did last month.
Fourth Street Bridge

Siva and Connie
At Mile 4 I noticed an Indian guy running with an Asian gal run by me and thought they might be Siva and Connie. I figured the odds were pretty good. I sped past who I thought was Siva and saw he was wearing the same Chicago marathon shirt I had on so I just shouted out: Siva! That would have been real awkward if it wasn't him. He pulled off his right ear bud and gave me a look of non-recognition and I was like, uh oh. But Connie pulled up next to me and asked if I was Mike's friend and we introduced ourselves. After exchanging pleasantries and fist bumps they took off and I ate their dust since I had no desire to push myself to their pace. But not before snapping this pretty cool pic of Connie.      

I missed Mae at mile 11 because I had my ear buds on and didn't hear her screaming my name – there were tons of people in this area and I was so busy high-fiving all the kids I ran right past her. I kept my eyes trained on the right side of the crowds scanning for her purple jacket but never saw her. A few minutes later I got a message saying I missed her - she was on the left side of the street -  and I texted her back with a quick “sorry.”  She snapped a few pics of me running by.  

I had held back my pace for the first half of the race and felt really good around mile 12. I posted a pic of the mile 13 marker on Facebook and mentioned my race was just underway and was going to shoot for a negative split. Sadly, the adrenaline rush only lasted for about a mile and I shortly posted a followup comment with a “Jk lololol” because any thoughts of a negative split faded as my legs started to give out on me. 

The top of Edens Park around mile 7
My wall came at around mile 21. Once my Garmin had reset its lap after completing 21 miles and I had a fresh pace to work with, I started running at a BQ pace of 7:40 like a maniac to see how it would feel. I heard one spectator say, "whoa, that guy's sprinting!"  But this lasted for about a block though because I got a charlie horse in my left calf and I had to go back to a zombie walk until my left leg loosened up again. As I started running again I whipsered to myself the word "easy" over and over again to stop from overstriding and to keep the calves from cramping up again. I was the calf whipserer.

I finally saw Mae at mile 22, until I had almost passed her. Got a huge hug and quick kiss and told her my phone had died so I would have to see her at the family reunion area and would finish in under five hours. I had assumed I wouldn't be running any slower than I already was, and all of a sudden I had a time I was racing against. Quickly doing the math in my head I would have to average 12.5 minute miles the rest of the way, which sounds really slow, but when you have to do a 5k with both your legs cramped up it was quite a challenge. Plus with temperatures having gone north of 70 it was easily my warmest run of the year. I would run until my calves cramped, then walked it off until my pace dropped to 13 minutes, then ran until my pace went up to 12 or cramped up again.  I was starving at this point, too.  At mile 24 I ran past a table with some candy and spotted a tin full of gummy bears in it.  I ran back to the table and asked if I could have some and before she even answered I grabbed a fistful and stuffed my face.  I almost took a free tequila shot too from some college looking d-bags but thought better of it.   

Finally with the finish line, er, finish swine in plain sight underneath the Great American Ballpark I adopted this strange running gait in front of hundreds of spectators with both of my calves seized and about 100 yards left with 30 seconds to go – I ran straight legged and knees locked through the finish like if Frankenstein had peed himself.  I looked down at my watch and saw I had crossed in 4:59:50 and threw a fist in the air after I crossed. I got my medal, grabbed a few snacks and luckily found Mae right at the runner's exit saving me a half mile walk to the family reunion area.

I grabbed a Flying Pig Cream Ale after the race at the Moerlein Lager House for a celebratory drink. Not typically what I would order as I prefer hoppier ales but the combination of sitting down for the first time and drinking something besides Gatorade or water was so refreshing. When I sat  down on the barstool I let out an "aaaaah" which gave the bartender a chuckle. Yet, energy wise I felt so good throughout the whole race. It was the opposite of St. Louis when I started feeling horrible by mile 10. I was upset that my calves gave out on me again, but I knew it was from having to work more because of the weight I gained, and the lack of training during the winter.  

I LOVED this race. The crowds and volunteers were so supportive. The whole town really gets behind this race and there was so much live music almost always within earshot of the whole course which I'm sure I would have enjoyed if I weren't wearing ear buds. Mile 18 had a stretch of road running completely devoid of shade and there was a long line of volunteers fanning us as we ran by with their signs. Throughout the whole race I heard "Let's go Chicago!" thanks to my Chicago Marathon shirt and that was cool to hear. Also, I think the quality of Elvis improves as you get closer to Memphis because this one particular Elvis I ran past destroys the one in the Chicago Marathon. Oh, and one thing that made me laugh was at mile 25 there was a volunteer shouting out to us at the last water station that the Gatorade was in the Gatorade cups and the water was in the white cups. Having run through 24 previous water stations, I think it was fair to assume we would have figured it out by now.
Crazy swing near mile 24

On the 5 hour drive home I think I started a tradition - An Arby's Roast Beef Max sandwich to get protein into my system for recovery and start the rebuilding process in my leg muscles. I did this last month too so I may have a thing now. And normally I walk around everywhere with my medal all day but this one was so heavy it was actually straining my neck on the car ride back so I had to take it off. And other than a sore neck from carrying around this heavy ass medal, I came out of this race unscathed.

I guess it’s time to get back on myfitnesspal and start tracking my calories again so I can get back down to a more comfortable racing weight. With a summer of training in front of me and two Ragnar relays (Chicago & Napa) there's no reason I can't shed 25 pounds and get back down towards running a marathon in the low four hour time or better. Indianapolis is a fast and flat course, and I will employ the following advanced strategy to go for a new PR:

Strategy 1) Run faster

Flight: N/A
Hotel: Doubletree Cincinnati Airport

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