Thursday, May 12, 2016

Flying Pig Marathon Recap

I had heard many good and potentially concerning things about Flying Pig before I had run it. People talked about the great course and crowd support. They also talked about the hills. Given that this was day 2 of my first ever marathon double, the hills would definitely be of a concern.

We drove up to Cincinnati from Louisville, which is about 80 miles away. We got to the expo and saw that it was pretty big. After some initial confusion we found out where to get our packets, and then had to head to the opposite end of the place to get our shirts and our pretty nifty bags with yoga mat holders. The wandering around the expo was probably good for my legs as it kept the blood flowing and prevented me from getting too stiff after my marathon that morning. I also wound up buying a new pair of shoes, Hoka One One Infinity, that aren't carried by Fleet Feet in Chicago. After we went to our hotel, grabbed some dinner, and then settled in for the night.

Race morning felt like it came a little too soon. It was also raining steadily outside. This didn't bode well given that I finished Louisville looking like a drowned rat. I was smart and had a poncho with me, so I wore that down to the start line, which was about a mile away. The walk served to warm the legs up and get a little loose before the race. It started to feel a bit steamy out with the humidity and also wearing the poncho. The rain let up just before the start of the race and I ditched the poncho.

I was in Pig Pen B (aka Corral B) for the start of the race. I headed towards the back knowing I wasn't going to start out too fast and the pen was really for runners who expected to run between a 3:20 and 3:40. Totally not happening this time. The race starts and we're running along near the river and by the sports stadiums. Things feel a little stiff, but ok. We hit a long uphill on a bridge and I decide to take a walk break. I see a runner from the day before and we chat for a few minutes before he goes running off.

About 2 miles into the race I spot Meg, a fellow Marathon Maniac who I had run a couple miles with at the Garmin Marathon 2 weeks prior. We made the decision right then to stick together since it was the first double for both of us and would make things easier, and it did! The miles actually started to tick by. It helped that we had a lot of similar goals and talked about other marathons we planned to do or had already completed. She's going for 50 states at a far faster pace than I am and hopes to finish next year. I wish I had the vacation days and funds to pull that off. We also started sort of a game. We knew that the hills would eat us alive if we tried storming up all of them so we would pick a landmark such as a sign or a traffic cone and say we were going to run to that sign and then start walking. We would repeat for transitioning from walking to running.

We hit the halfway point in around 2:12. I was still feeling optimistic at this point of achieving my goal of not running my worst marathon ever which was a 4:26. I knew the 2nd half of the course was mostly downhill and the worst of it was behind us. Up to this point the crowds had been pretty awesome and people were handing out all sorts of things on the course such as twizzlers, swedish fish, orange slices, and even slices of bacon! I had a twizzler that I ate part of before I gave up on trying to chew the rest. The sun had come out during the course of the race and was beating on us in full force now.

There was a lady after the halfway point who was yelling out that it's all downhill from here. I joked to Meg that I was gonna have to cut the woman if she was lying. She was most definitely lying. Although the course was net downhill after the halfway point, there were still a lot of inclines. As the sun continued to beat down and warm things up, the walking breaks became more frequent and longer. My stomach started knotting up a bit. I grabbed a beer on the course and that seemed to help for a bit. Finally I stopped and used the facilities around mile 20 or so. Meg walked so I could catch up to her after. It was here that I realized something else scary, My thighs had chafed badly and I was bleeding. It didn't hurt, yet, so I continued on.

As the end of the race came near the crowds picked up again big time. It felt like a big city race heading through the downtown streets towards the finish. Meg and I decided to put our all into the final stretch. The final time of 4:38:35 was a new personal worse by 12 minutes, but I had completed my double with the 2nd day being the hilliest course I've ever run and on a fairly warm day with temperatures in the 70s. Meg had run only 2 minutes slower than the day before so she was pretty happy. The finisher's chute had so many goodies after we collected our medals and water. I wish I had a bag to collect all the chips, cookies, candy, etc. I soon parted ways with Meg and found Natali who immediately asked if I was ok and pointed at my legs. I had partially dried blood streaked down them. It's a wonder no one stopped me on the course or in the finisher chute since it did look pretty bad.

We made our way back to the hotel where it felt great to get out of my soaked clothes, all sweat this time, not rain. I found out my once white socks now had a nice pink hue. The shower was a bit painful to wash certain areas, but much needed. Luckily I had first aid cream and medical tape in my toiletry bag to patch myself back up.

After showering we managed to wander over a few blocks to Tom + Chee to get the most amazing grilled cheese sandwiches ever. I think that might be my ultra food. I had one at mile 36 of the DPRT 50 miler last fall and it was a godsend. After a few hours resting at the hotel we got hungry again and wandered out for dinner. I found a place called Eagle Food and Beer hall that looked good. It had an hour wait at 6PM. We put our names in and headed across the street for a drink. The wait was well worth it as I got half a fried chicken and a 5-cheese mac with garlic bread crumbles. I destroyed that dinner and then had Graeter's Ice Cream for dessert. I guess 52.4 miles made me a little hungry.

We managed to barely stay up long enough to watch Game of Thrones and then had a good night's sleep before driving back to Chicago the next day.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon

Some time ago I got the bright idea of running two marathons in one weekend. Kentucky Derby and Flying Pig seemed like the perfect set up since the races were only about 80 miles apart. I soon signed up and all was well until race weekend approached. I was never able to properly train for the double, so that had me a little worried heading in.

I drove down to Louisville on Friday afternoon. It was largely uneventful except when it came time for lunch and the realization there is almost no where to eat on the drive between Chicago and Lafayette. We finally got to Louisville which featured nearly as much road construction as Chicago and headed to the convention center for the expo. I picked up my stuff which included a hat that I wasn't expected then headed out. The only route out of the expo snaked you through all the exhibits and had narrow corridors full of people gawking over stuff. Not fun. Next was over to a friend's place that we crashed at and dinner and finally bed.

The original forecast was for a wet and stormy morning. I checked the weather once again when I woke up and saw that the rain was going to hold off until later in the morning. I brought my hat in preparation, but this was much preferred to having the race potentially canceled. After parking somewhere in the vicinity of downtown Louisville we made our way to the start line. I soon found Amanda and line up in the corrals with her and Julie. The race started and sent us down the main drag past bourbon places and the Louisville Slugger museum.

It wasn't long before I left Amanda behind as she was making sure to take things slow to survive the double as well. I ran past some girls where one was explaining to the other what the different bib colors meant and that some of the people were running a marathon. I announced to them I was running two. They asked if my 2nd one was Flying Pig and I said yes. They were excited since they were from Cincinnati and love Flying Pig. They were shooting to get the girl a sub 2 hour half so I ran for them awhile to try and keep them on pace. I tried coaching the girl a bit as she was running far to tense and it showed. The miles ticked off and soon we were doing a quick lap around Churchill Downs. A bit after this the course split so I said good luck and good bye to the girls and was on my way.

There were far fewer marathoners than half runners. It didn't take long to spot some Maniacs though. I found a couple who were also trying to be 50 Staters. There was a sprinkle that started at mile 8 that was now turning into heavier rain. It was refreshing and I picked up the pace a little. At mile 11.5 we entered Iroquois Park which featured a lot of ups and downs, especially compared to Chicago. I swallowed my pride and walked a bit of the uphill portions knowing full well that even though I wasn't tired, I wasn't even 1/4 of the way through my weekend mileage yet. One of the Maniacs, Steady Eddie, saw what I was doing and joined me to conserve some energy as well. He told me about another group he's in that I should join - 50sub4.  You need 10 states at sub 4 hours to get in and the goal is to his sub 4 hours in every one, which only 84 people have completed to date. We were still on sub4 pace for KDF so that would give me my 10th state if I kept it up.

As we finally hit some downhills and left the park I also left Steady Eddie to greet his wife. Back on the streets I picked up the pace a bit. The trip through the park meant some splits closer to 10 minutes with the walking. While still on sub 4 pace, I wanted a little more cushion. Once we reached mile 18 the half and full course merged once more, but had dividers splitting the 2. The marathon side was a bit narrow and I soon found myself weaving around a lot of the marathoners who had faded. I was still running strong and enjoying myself in the rain. I cleared 20 miles in 2:56 and knew I could practically coast to the finish line under 4 hours. I finally realized how dumb I was being and slowed things down at mile 22.

I nearly made it through the entire race without using the facilities, but decided to stop during the 23rd mile because I had time and there was no need to run with discomfort for the next few miles. When I slowed down I switched to monitoring my heart rate. Once I hit the threshold from moderate effort over to hard effort I would walk myself down to and easy level heart rate and then start jogging again. The system worked out pretty well even if I did have a 10 minute and 10:30 mile doing it. I soon found myself on the home stretch and with a large group of people yelling my name. It was the girls from earlier and their friends with them out there cheering me on. That gave me a little pick up for the home stretch as I crossed the line in 3:55:59.

Don't think I've ever looked this strong at the finish (in yellow)

I soon got my medal, water, Mylar blanket, and a chocolate milk. The finish area was under an overpass so it stayed mostly dry. Unfortunately the area was sandy which was a mess to walk through. My friends found me and after a bit we decide to grab lunch at a local bbq/microbrewery. By this point the rain was a complete downpour. Lunch was good, but I wasn't very hungry. My tummy was a little out of whack still from the running. One of the girls from earlier actually came in and she ran over and hugged me. She PR'd and was happy about that but missed her sub 2 half by 33 seconds.

After lunch it was time to put on some dry clothes and head to Cincinnati for the next part of this epic journey.