Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Race Report: Flying Pig Half Marathon

Me and the ladies, upon our arrival
in Cincinnati!
When we last left off, we were in Indianapolis, having just finished the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, known as one of the largest (if not, the largest) half marathon in the U.S.  Hours after finishing, I took Buford, my rental SUV for the weekend, containing myself and three wonderful ladies - Shelita, Dana, and Lilian - on the hour and a half trip down to Cincinnati to pick up our bibs for the famed Flying Pig Half Marathon.

The drive down was very quick - and about half an hour before getting into the Cincinnati metropolitan area, the terrain definitely started to change.  There were actually hills around us - lots of them.  We made our way into downtown Cincinnati and parked at a parking structure near the Duke Energy Convention Center, Cincinnati's humongous two-block encompassing convention center, which housed the expo for the race.

MASSIVE expo!
The hall that the expo was in was GINORMOUS.  We took several escalators to get to the hall, in addition to taking a "catwalk" style mezzanine that looked over the expo hall.  Upon arriving, we quickly picked up our bibs, and I made my way to the Pump 'n' Run registration table, and lifting area onsite at the expo.  For the last several months, I have been in the gym, training for this moment.  The Flying Pig Marathon is unique as it has partnered with The Lord's Gym, a 501(c)3 faith-based organization, whose focus is to provide a daily refuge to many "at-risk" folks in the Cincinnati area who struggle with addictions; who have been incarcerated and can't find work; who struggle with living a destructive lifestyle; and who are recovering from a destructive lifestyle, through a weight-lifting, work out, and long-term discipleship program.  The Pump 'n' Run, in its eighth year, is a unique combination of weight lifting and running, offered to all racers. Participants bench press a percentage of their body weight, based upon an Age and Gender handicap, and earn a two-minute time reduction for each repetition they are able to complete.

10 reps at 115 pounds... and a medal!
For this year, I have been kind of stuck in a weight rut, stuck in the 145-150 pound range, having struggled to dip below my goal of returning back to the 135-140 range.  With this weight and my age, I'd be required to benchpress 115 pounds - no small feat, as I have been comfortable, yet still challenged, with lifting above 95 pounds - and only had gotten to about 105 in the couple weeks prior.  Having seen the technique of previous runners/lifters, I gingerly approached the weight bench and took my place, with one of the spotters there ready to help me take the weight if I couldn't handle anymore reps.  Off I went... 1... 2... 3... 4... 5... then struggle starting at 6... damn this is really hard... 7... I am really pushing myself to the limit... 8... come on Jim, two more... 9... and with a scream... 10!   I benched ten reps at 115!  This was my ultimate goal, just to get ten in.  It guaranteed me a "bronze" medal, joining the 10-pump club, and twenty minutes off of my half time (to compete against other Pump 'n' Run participants)

Ugh, don't wake me yet... it's 4am.
After making our way through the huge expo, and collecting as much free stuff as we could, I dropped off Lilian at her hotel, while Shelita, Dana, and I headed off to our hotel, at the Courtyard Covington - just across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky.  After checking in, we took our time getting a little rest, as we decided to wait for Donna, who was driving in from Kenosha, Wisconsin, having finished the Wisconsin Half Marathon earlier that day, and was taking the five-hour drive down to Cincinnati to do the Flying Pig Full on Sunday.  While watching tv, we found a local commercial for an Italian restaurant, Pompilio's, in the next town over, Newport, where we could assemble for a small dinner.  We headed that way at 8pm, and had a nice time catching up before our tiredness started to catch up to us, and my hip flexors started to make me wince in pain when simply walking around...

YAAAAAAASSSSS!
We woke up incredibly early since the race start was at 6:30, and were out the door hoping to catch the trolley to get to the startline, but ended up just getting a cab, as we were needing to assemble for a photo with the Fifty States Half Marathon Club members running the race at... 5:45 in the morning.  Thankfully, I was moving quickly as the Aleve I took the night before (thanks Dana) worked its magic and got my leg muscles and hips back in check. As early as that was, it was actually perfect when managing my time before the race start - including getting stuff to gear check and doing a last minute bathroom trip.


Dressed as an actual Flying Pig.

Before I flew out on Friday, I made a trip to Party City and purchased a couple items to help complete my look, specifically for the Flying Pig race.  I got a hot pink tech t-shirt in Indianapolis to finish the look off.  I dressed... like a flying pig.  Complete with wings.  The outfit was a hit - though, I was not looking forward to the amount of sweat I'd be building up in the piglet hat, as well as how much the sunglasses (with attached moustache) might bother me.

The startline, and the sun still
hasn't risen!
I made my way into my corral after trying to search for some other friends with no luck (so many people!) and found another Fifty Stater, Dee, chatted her up moments before starting, and soon, we were off.  Gingerly, I took my first steps past the starting line and down Mehring Way toward the "Great American Ballpark," where the Cincinnati Reds play.  Somewhere along here someone actually had a real live pig with them, cheering the runners on with its high pitched squeals as we ran by.  We curved around the park and then passed through an underpass with ribbons of highway overhead.  The first mile came upon us as we began to cross the Taylor-Southgate Bridge into Newport, Kentucky, as just under two miles of the course was through the northern Kentucky suburbs of Newport and Covington, before returning to Cincinnati.

Squealing and cheering on the course,
it's a pig... named "Bacon." I mean...
why not? (Photo by Donna Dullys)
As we ran down 4th Street westward, I began to notice how problematic my hot pink shorts were getting.  I chose an awfully hot weekend to be doing two races with really short shorts, and I was struggling with the fabric hitting a sweet spot between my thighs, causing some very uncomfortable chafing issues.  As we passed a few fun spectators (someone offering strips of bacon out of a steel pot, and a bunch of smiling geriatrics cheering us on from the senior living facility along the route), I seemed to remember a medical station somewhere prior to the 3 mile mark as we ran back over a bridge into Cincinnati.  Turns out - the medical station was two people wearing race apparel along the side of the road that had a makeshift first aid kit.  I asked them if they had any vaseline - which they didn't - but luckily they did have a special anti-chafing towelette that helped for a bit, and they gave me an extra which I was able to use a little later.

Crossing over into Kentucky for about
10-15 minutes...
As we crossed the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge back into Cincinnati, this was where the route began to get higher and higher in elevation.  It was very gradual, as the elevation change of nearly 400 feet would happen over the course of miles 3 to about 8.5.  We took West 3rd Street through a rather industrial looking area west of the central business district, then around to the 7th Street viaduct, which took us right through the middle of downtown Cincinnati heading eastward and into the rising sun, perfect time to get my shades+moustache on.  This part of the route was well supported on both sides by people cheering the runners on, remind me of the long stretch of downtown Philly I ran at the Philadelphia Half Marathon back in November.  At the mile 6 mark, we began a steeper climb for about one mile up Gilbert Avenue, until we reached the entrance to Eden Park.

What a view of the Ohio River!
This would be the toughest part of the race, climbing further up through Eden Park.  We climbed more and more, and then finally to the most amazing view from the race course, from the top of the park, just before the mile 8 mark.  I stopped to take a picture of this gorgeous view of the Ohio River, as a gospel choir entertained us alongside the course route.  I continued on my way further up onto Victory Parkway, past a spectator cheer zone staffed by residents of the Edgecliff condominium, who blew bubbles as we passed their area.  We continued through this cute residential neighborhood of East Walnut Hills, passing through their little neighborhood center at Woodburn Avenue and Madison Road.  We turned onto MLK Drive, passing another group of feisty spectators in front of a Baptist church.  We had one more tiny little hill to climb, before turning back onto Gilbert Avenue, passing a water station manned by a high school football team, and luckily some wise spectators handing out sticks with swabs of vaseline on them, which I was quick to use.

The Finish "Swine!"
Then, at mile 10, it was cruise control.  The last 5k of the race was all downhill, and I used that to my advantage, clocking some of my faster miles in this race.  We continued back down Gilbert Avenue, eventually coming to where we had first entered Eden Park, and even saw some folks who were gradually making their way up Gilbert Avenue in the other direction.  We turned onto Elsinore Drive, an overpass over the busy I-71, and onto Reading Road, continuing downhill, as we returned into the downtown area.  We made our way on a small out-and-back, passing the Hamilton County Courthouse at around the mile 12 mark, then turning onto Eggleston Avenue for the long stretch before the last turn onto Pete Rose Way.  I hoped that the finish line was right there when we turned, but no, it was still further down the road.  So I took all my energy I had within me to take me to the end of the "Finish Swine," and I completed my 31st lifetime half and 24th state in 2:26:54.

Showing off the wings and "tail"

Done!
Cozette, Lilian, and I for one quick
photo at the Dayton Airport before
parting ways...
After the race, I met up with my partners in crime for the weekend, for some post race amenities (namely, BEER), and then of course did my Victory Headstand, one of them on the really cool completely closed off and empty Taylor-Southgate Bridge, as we returned back to the Kentucky side to get back to our hotel.  After the race, I took myself and two others up to the Dayton airport (stopping for lunch at a Red Robin....yum), where we had flights out to get back to our respective hometowns.  Another awesome double weekend, check!




Cozette and I, pretty in pink

Victory Headstand on the empty bridge... and the first one actually on part of the course!

Victory Headstand overlooking the Ohio River...

Bringing home some more booty!

Essential post race fluids!


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