May 4th, 2014
Marathon #7-The Flying Pig Marathon-Cincinnati Ohio
Alarm was set for 3:00 am. I was up at 2:30. There is no need for me to up 4 hours before the start of a race, but I hate to be rushed. I quietly went about my routine. Double checked the starting information. Checked the weather (should be perfect). Had my coffee. Had another. Had some carbs. Got my race bib attached to my belt. Had my inhaler, GU, and a little Baggie with electrolyte tablets (my legs always cramp up by mile 18-assumed it was lack of flexibility and insufficient training-I tried these in a training run and seemed to help-this would be the test). Back pocket had a zip-lock Baggie with a drivers license, hotel key, a little money. Had my iPod nano clipped to my running hat. Ate more carbs. Applied Glide liberally and got dressed. Today would be the first marathon that I could wear the “Marathon Maniacs” shirt after earning it last year. Weather report didn’t make sense-couldn’t tell if it was in the low 40’s or mid 50’s from my weather app. Got a longer sleeve top layer and throw-away gloves just in case. I was ready to go. Went down to the lobby and went outside. Mid-fifties…a lot warmer then yesterday morning. No need for the layers of gloves…back to the room I went to drop off the extra gear. I was running early, and they were serving coffee and breakfast in the lobby. Grabbed another coffee (I had already eaten too much), sat down and made new friends. Had a Marathon Maniac group photo to get to at 6am, so I headed out. On the way, I noticed that the Starbucks was open…yep, more coffee!
The starting line was on the south side go the Bangles football stadium. Photo was on the steps on the north side. Probably 50 of us showed up (more new friends, more stories). Got our pics in and headed to the starting corals. I was in coral “E”…the middle of the pack folks.
The start was smooth. The corals just went one after the other with no time in between them. We raced right into downtown. It was crowded. The half and full marathons start together in the same corals. Lots of narrower roads and turns and a few bottlenecks early on. Skies were overcast, but no signs of rain, and no wind. Perfect!
By mile marker 1, we were crossing the bridge out of Ohio and into Kentucky. Bridges can make formidable hills and this was no exception. There was another bridge in Kentucky, and a final one to get us back into Ohio. Three bridges in 3 miles…enough to tighten up the legs early. There was a little loop around before coming back to downtown Cincinnati, then there was a good mile or more going straight down on of the main streets in the downtown core. We were still packed together at this point. The crowd support had been very good for the whole race, but this stretch was deafening! Really gave you some wings and motivated you to keep going!
That was good, since “the hill” started right after that flat mile. The whole course is rolling, but this was a 3 mile stretch straight uphill. Over 300 foot elevation gain…that trashed my already tired legs. Again, the crowds for this stretch were huge and vocal! The hill was scenic and had great views of the downtown and the River. It went through some nice parkland and we ended up in this charming little village, running down main street with thousands of screaming spectators. This is where the split occurs with the half marathoners turning left and the full marathoners taking a right. Since the half runners outnumbered the full runners by more then 2:1, the course quickly became less crowded.
By the halfway point, I had given up hope of keeping up with my pace group and just started going my own speed. There were some nice areas on the second half of the course, but a fair amount of miles for the sake of miles. Crowd support remained quite strong. Volunteers were everywhere (I don’t thing there was ever a time on the course that I could not see at least one of the volunteer’s neon yellow shirts). There were aid stations every mile, plus GU stations, plus medical station, plus fruit and candy stations, plus ice, plus water towels, plus hoses, plus entertainment…you get the idea. I have never seen a marathon with anything close to this level of support!
The sun had come out at mile 16 or so. It wasn’t that hot, but I am so used to training in the cold that I just wasn’t used to it. I was poring water over my head for the first time since the previous summer!
Mile 18… no leg cramps. Feet were hurting, but the electrolytes seemed to be working. Usually I am stopping to stretch every mile or so in an attempt to keep the legs moving…not today. Unfortunately, they weren’t moving any faster either.
Left knee started bugging me around mile 21. Kept running on it for a mile, and it seemed to get worse. Finally stopped at an aid station for a couple of minutes, and it eased off enough for me to keep going.
Kept expecting the leg cramps that never happened. The last 3 miles felt like mile 10. I was just in my happy pace and wasn’t having any of the pain that normally accompanies the end of a marathon. I felt good crossing the”Finish Swine”! Finish time 4:32:52…middle of the road showing for me, and clearly in the middle of the pack.
I collected the medal, didn’t need the Mylar blanket, had a banana and water…but none of the post race food was appealing to me. Got some finishers photos and left the finish area (lots of pics with pigs sculptures). Made my way to the Skyline Chili challenge tent to get my bonus swag for finishing the 4-way challenge (5k and 10k on Saturday, and the full marathon on Sunday). Got the long sleeve running shirt, bonus medal (Huge! Same size as the marathon finishers medal!), and display plaque.
Overall, a great event with great crowds and volunteer support! Ideal weather didn’t hurt either. The expo and swag were great! Would recommend this for anyone looking for a good spring marathon!
Overall, I am pleased with my performance. I am becoming an “average” middle of the pack marathon runner…which is amazing since I wasn’t a runner 2 years ago. But, my strength is clearly the shorter events…placing in the top 4% of the 10k finishers and top 6% of the 5k finishers (right after running a 10k) is crazy! I still love marathons…they are big events with a lot of pageantry to them, but I think I need to do more of these sprint events…and get some speed work training on a regular basis. Who knows…I might be able to hit the podium in my age group for these short courses if I put in the time and effort. Maybe someday…
The 3-way and the 4-way challenge mini-review.
Flying Pig really doesn’t post a lot of info about this challenge and I felt in the dark most of the time. So I thought I should give a critique so runners considering this for next year have some info.
The challenges are sponsored by “Skyline Chili”, a local restaurant chain. Their signature dish is the “3-way” chili…their chili served over spaghetti and topped with shredded cheese. They also serve it as a “4-way” by adding beans or onions. The 5-way has all five ingredients. So they called the 5k/10k/HM the 3-way and it makes perfect sense…3-way/3 races. But, they called the 5k/10k/FM the 4-way for 3 races (which makes no sense at all…but I get it).
By signing up for either challenge, you are automatically registered for all three runs. The price is the same as signing up for all 3 races individually, but you only get the perks by signing up for the challenges.
Packet pick up was great. They had all the bibs together at a special 3-way/4-way challenge table. One stop and you were set for the bibs and timing chips. The e-mails noted that you would have the same number for all 3 events, but that wasn’t the case. 3 races, 3 separate bib numbers. The bibs had a gold/brown stripe to indicate that you were a challenge participant. I still had to go across the street to get my shirts. Nothing special set up for us there. Separate lines for the 5k shirt, 10 k shirt, marathon shirt, poster (I got 3…one for each race…that was overkill…it’s a nice poster, but I will never use 3 of them), and a special backpack. The challenge premiums would only be available after the challenge was completed.
The day of the 5k/10k, we had a separate bag drop tent (bag drop was not available that day for the other participants). We received multiple conflicting e-mails about what to do with the bibs…half said to wear them both for both races, the others said to swipe them out. Final verdict was to swap them (but you could do it either way). The bag drop was at the finish line party area…a few blocks from the starting line, and took some effort to find (one of the volunteers told me it was “kind of hidden”. When we got there, the volunteers were very nice, but the tent was very small, and they admitted that they didn’t have a system…so retrieving the bags was a lengthy process.
The first race was the 10k, followed 2 hours later by the 5k. At least one participant was a walker and was concerned that she would not have time to finish the 10k, make a trip to the tent, wait for them to find the bag, swap bibs, recheck the bag, and go the back to the start in time. I could understand her cause for concern. But, overall, the drop tent was great to have, and it gave the chance for other challenge members to meet and talk.
On Sunday, the only trip to the tent was after the race. You were identified at the tent by your bib and they could look up your previous day’s times to confirm that the challenge was complete. You got 3 special items…a shirt, and wall plaque, and (new this year) a medal.
The shirt was just horrible. There is a huge logo for “Skyline Chili” on the front with a little pig and 4-way challenge. The back is a little better. Long sleeve gray shirt. The logo is big enough that I think I would be mistaken for an employee in the restaurant. Wish it were more like the regular shirt design and not blatant advertising. It should be a badass shirt…instead, it’s just plain…bad.
The plaque is OK, I guess. There is still a pretty good “Skyline Chili” logo on it, with the 4-way challenge info. The hooks look pretty small for the ribbons, and I doubt many will use it. Runners that do this kind of thing either already have nice medal displays, or could care less about medals and throw them into a box…
The (new) medal is easily the best premium (although, again, they got the fairly large logo going in the middle of the medal…sensing a theme here?). But it has the flying pig (oddly, it’s last years design…but the variety is fine) with the name of the challenge, the details, and the date. Very nice ribbon as well. The 4-way medal is huge…the size of the Marathon medal. The 3-way is smaller…size of the half-marathon medal. Very nice bonus overall.
Could the challenge be better? Sure. But it was fun and a nice premium for no extra money. Suggestions that I have for next year.
Make the tent a little bigger, better organized, and easier to find.
Give us the same bib number for all 3 events.
Use the same bib for the 10k/5k (no more bib swapping)
Get us the medal in the finishers area, so we can have finishers photos taken with the extra medal (we could not return to the finish area with our extra medal to get to the finishers official photo area)
Redesign the shirt to get rid of the massive “Skyline Chili” advertisement. Make it a similar design to the other official shirts.
Overall, a great fun event? Thanks!