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.