Thursday, May 30, 2013

The "early" morning run

Evidently we don't have spring in Michigan anymore. The weather goes from winter immediately to summer, both of which are awful for running.

The Thursday forecast was mid-80s, humid and sunny, not exactly weather that inspires me to run. Besides, even if I managed a run after work, I'd have to shower and wash my hair again before night school and it would be super easy to talk myself out of a run. I haven't run since Monday though and two runs a week won't get me ready to start training with Hal.

The other alternative would be to run before work, and when I woke up well before my alarm, it seemed like an even better idea. I made it outside at 7:40 and it was already super humid. Gross! I ran 3.2 miles, a slight improvement over Monday's 3.15, and it was hot and yucky. I was pouring sweat, which made me dehydrated and I was glad it was only a 3-miler today.

After, however, I felt great! Running first thing inspires me to eat better all day, and now I can relax between my day and night jobs, without a run hanging over my head.

The one good thing about hot weather running is that after 10 steps I'm warmed up, my muscles are warm, and my joints are loose. There's none of the creaky old woman feeling that goes with many winter runs, where I have to lurch through the first miles until my body warms up.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Barely maintaining

The first week after Cincinnati I ran zero miles.

The next week: 6

This last week: 7

So in three weeks, I've done exactly 13 miles, which is less than what I "should" do in a normal week. Whatever. I felt fine during the crazy 4 marathons in 4 weeks spree, but as soon as it was over, I was completely done, and finally realized perhaps it may have been a teensy bit too much.

Running still isn't fun, but I know I have to keep going lest I restart from zero. My lungs don't have the capacity they used to have, and I could remedy that with some cross training at the gym, but I've been insanely busy the past few weeks and have no desire to work out 5-6 days a week.

I'm still running if only to keep my legs used to the pounding. It seems counterintuitive, but when I've stopped running and tried to go back is when I've gotten hurt with stress fractures. It's easier on my legs if I never stop altogether.

The past two Saturdays have been good because I've had company. I've tried many times to find a running partner and I've done the running group thing, but it seemed everyone fell into two categories: the new runners, just starting out at 15-minute miles, or the really good runners doing 6-minute miles. Neither was a good fit for me. My Saturday friend is right with me in the 9:30 - 10:30 range, but has zero interest whatsoever in running more than 6 miles so it's good for now, but not a permanent solution :(

It's Monday and I'm strongly considering another short run. It's always weird when I run on Mondays.

Thank you veterans.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

10 days, zero miles, no withdrawl

After my success at Columbia City in November, I was flying high and wanted to keep running. I had major "post-race let-down" and just wanted to keep running forever!

Yeah, no such reaction this time. I was just over it, even before I ran the Flying Pig marathon. I texted my friend at 5:30 am that day and said I'm over it! It's not fun anymore. Going to bed at 8:30 pm, waking up at 4am and slathering my body with Vaseline, trying to force myself to ingest 1000 calories before sunrise - it all became a huge chore and no part of marathoning was worth it anymore.

Fast forward to Saturday. I haven't missed a weekend run since I had stress fractures in spring 2011. Last weekend, however, no desire whatsoever! I had been looking forward to staying home and watching tv and relaxing. It's exactly what I did and I loved it!

I let several more days go by and still no desire to run. It finally got to Thursday, eleven days after the last race and I realized I needed to get going again, or I was going to lose it, lose my cardio capacity, lose my muscle tone, gain back the weight, so I forced myself to run after work. It wasn't a great day to run - 85 degrees! Yikes! I wanted to do a quickie little run of about two miles. I did 2.15, which was quite good enough.

I had considered the Great Lakes Bay marathon for months. It's close enough, but now that it's here, I have no desire to go do it. The medal is nice, the shirt is nice, but neither is incentive enough to do another marathon. My body still feels beat up and exhausted and I don't need to abuse it again this soon.

I'm getting back together with my boyfriend Hal in June, but until then, I'm taking it easy with 1-2 midweek runs and a Saturday run of no more than 1 hour.

He says I can take one full day for every mile of the marathon. Since Cincy was 35.5, so I really get over a month of no running??? :D

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cincinnati review part 4 - Swag

I entered the Flying Pig marathon early, before any price increases. I paid $164, which was the combined cost of the three individual races. One of the more expensive races I've done, but then I look at everything I brought home, and it really wasn't that bad.

I got the P&G cooler, as a participant in the full marathon. It's always been a tote bag in the past, which I would have very much preferred. I don't need a cooler and I don't imagine I can re-gift it to anyone, or they will surely know it's a re-gift :)

Since I did 3 races, I got all three shirts. When I registered I had to specify my shirt size and I said large, to ensure the 26.2 tech shirt would fit. It does, but the cotton t-shirts are enormous. Luckily I was able to exchange them to mediums on Saturday. Smalls would have been better, but at least I'll wear the mediums outside of the house.

The theme this year was "The hero lies in all of us." Obviously Piggie is a superhero :)

I don't like the sponsor logos all over the back of the shirts. I'd pay an extra $5 to get sponsor free shirts. If all 33,000 runners did the same, that would offset the printing cost, yes? The pigtail on the back of the shirts is too cute.

All race participants got a poster. Since I did three races, yes, I got three posters. What in the world am I going to do with three posters??? Heck, what will I do with one? Each came in a box so they traveled home very well. Well, two of them did. While waiting to talk to the help desk about the extra 4-way stuff, I talked to a woman doing the relay. She didn't get a poster and was bummed about it. Naturally I offered her one of mine! I wasn't giving up anything of value to me, and it made her really happy, so it was a total no-brainer. I saw her again cheering at mile 14. My friend also wanted one of the posters, so I kept one.

My opinion of the poster ran the gamut from "What am I going to do with this?" to "It's kind of cute." to "I have birthday money and no plans for it. I'm getting Piggie dry mounted and framed." She's hanging in my kitchen :) Here's the picture from the full shirt. The only difference on the poster is that the 26.2 is a pig snout. Well and the sky is blue and has clouds, but I'm feeling too lazy to take a picture and upload it. Maybe later.

Since the 10k and 5k were back-to-back, the race organizers made the decision to withhold the 10k medallions from the 3-way and 4-way folk, so we wouldn't have to run the 5k wearing a medal. I had my fanny bag, so it would have been no problem, but it was totally ok. 

After the 5k, some volunteers had just the 5k medallions, others had both, so I went to a volunteer with both and picked up both. The ribbons are nothing special, but the medallions are adorable! They're the same design as the biggie medal - two sided :D The smaller ones are about the size of a half dollar, and they're slightly different shades of medal. Sweet little piglets! Btw I LOVE customized bibs - good incentive to register early.

After the full we got the biggie medal and it's SWEET! It's the size of a hockey puck and a solid 1/2" thick. The only thing I could possibly complain about is that the ribbon isn't pink. It has pink, but all my v-hoop medals hang facing left, so I see the black and white side on my hanger. It's a sweet medal. I would say one of my favorites, but that would be like ranking my favorite shoes, or my favorite nieces and nephew. I just can't pick because I love them all!

For the 4-way I got a shirt. At one point, the organizers said it was "a VERY cool shirt." Ummm we must have different ideas about cool shirts. I like that it's a long-sleeve tech. I like that it's women's cut, but ummm that's about it. It's too bad because the smallest change WOULD have made it a great shirt. On the front, if we deleted the Skyline logo, it would be great. Or if we switched the Pig and the logo, that would be fine too. I have no complaints about the back. 

I'll wear it to run because I like long sleeve tech shirts, but I don't run in my Free Press shirts because I don't want them to get sweaty and stretched out. I did wear this shirt to the elementary school on Friday when they had "crazy mis-matched day." I figured it's the ugliest shirt I could find on a minute's notice :(

We also got a plaque. It's nice enough - 8" x 10", but I don't see myself using it. Perhaps paint over the Skyline logo, maybe paint a bigger pig, but even aside from that, I have no real need for it. If I didn't have my medal hanger, I'd use it in a second, but my medals go on my hanger!!! Besides, I'm not sure about the ribbons. It definitely looks better to hang the medals on here without the ribbons, but I don't want to take apart my medals! Unfortunately I'll put it in the basement for now, rather than use it. It's nice, just no real use for it.

A LOT of 3-way and 4-way participants have asked for a separate medal next year, they want to make it like the Goofy or the Dopey, where we'd get the 5k, 10k, full (or half), AND a separate medal. This was the first year, so maybe they'll do it next year. The 4-way swag was nice enough, just could have been so much nicer with only the smallest changes.

Overall assessment of the swag: 9.5/10.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cincinnati review part 3 - Sunday

The Flying Pig marathon began at 6:30 am. Oh man, that was early!!! I wasn't exactly running for a PR. I always am, but at the same time, I knew it was a hilly course and my 4th in 4 weeks. I was exhausted before I even left the hotel, so I knew it was not the day to be disappointed if I failed to PR. Nevertheless I picked up a 5:00 pace band at the expo. There were pace teams, but everything helps with pace.

Driving in, there were two spotlights that I immediately connected to the Batsignal and channeled my inner Sheldon Cooper again. "I'm Batman...." Incidentally Batman was serving water at one of the tables :)

The half and full started together and stayed together for nine miles. The amount of runners was massive, but extremely well organized. Each runner was assigned a corral, and volunteers actually checked bibs as people entered the corrals. There were tons of school buses on hand for gear check. I didn't have anything, but it seemed really organized.

I was assigned corral E, the pink "pigpen" for runners expecting to finish between 4:00-4:40. Obviously I was feeling a little optimistic when I registered. I saw a man wearing a Turkey Trot shirt and we chatted before the race. He was from Dearborn. It's always great to meet fellow Michiganders :)

Before the race started, a bagpiper played Amazing Grace, then as the first waves took off, the first song was Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," a nod to Boston.

It took my group 9 minutes to get from the corral to the start line. There were hundreds and hundreds of spectators at the start and we were off! There were pacing teams, but the amount of people was so massive that I never saw them in the corral and I was on my own for controlling my time and not going out too fast. I did pretty well with it. 

The race began the same as the 10k and followed the same bridges into and from Kentucky. Like Saturday, it was insanely humid, to the point that I was drinking 3/4 my water, and dumping the remainder on my neck. The best part of the whole race was in downtown Cincinnati along 7th Street, where there were soooooo many spectators! They had some seriously funny signs:

"Don't walk. People are watching and taking pictures."

"You're almost there. That's what she said."

"I ran once. I didn't like it."

"Fly little piggies!"

People have complained tons about the hills, and yes they were bad, but no one mentioned the huge downhill stretches. They didn't make up for the inclines, but they were good. We climbed to the top of Eden Park and ran into Elvis!!!!

Despite the rain, tons of people were out watching. We ran by a retirement home in Kentucky and many of the residents came out to watch us. The nuns at a convent watched. A man was sitting in a lawn chair in his front yard, playing drums on pots and pans. There was a group of Rockettes in Kentucky doing a choreographed routine. The only thing is.... I couldn't tell if they were men or women... I think men...

I ate so often on the race it was crazy. People were in their front yards with oranges, watermelon, licorice, jelly beans, gummy bears, Gatorade, ice, bananas, pretzels, Rice Krispie treats. I've never eaten that frequently at a race and I passed by many of the food tables! The greatest thing about the on-course food is that it's not sponsored by the race, it's just regular people who want to help us. They're great!!!!

Hills are steeper than they appear!!!!
I was running smart - running tangents, and staying close to the corners, as much as possible. I know from experience that hills really hurt my hips, so I walked up the hills, knowing I wasn't losing that much time from walking versus running really slowly and painfully.

I was doing really well with my pace through 18 miles. Despite the exhausted legs and screaming hips, I was right on pace with my temporary tattoo. Then it started raining and I lost it. I wound up finishing in 5:22:17, which was 57 seconds faster than the Martian. The crazy thing is that the Martian, Toledo and Cincy were all finished within a 1:56 window. I seem to be incredibly consistent, just 25 minutes slower than I'd like. But whatever. I finished.

The finishing set-up was the same as Saturday and once I crossed the "Finish Swine" I couldn't get back on the other side of it, so my #10 finish line picture is with a pig. The medal is SWEET! the only problem was that no one knew where I had to go to pick up my extra item for the 4-way. Finally, after asking 15 people, a guy told me to go to booth 51. I found it, but after running 35.5 miles, the last thing I wanted was to go one step further. I hope next year the extra pickup will be right next to the medal pickup (10 steps off the finish line).

The food situation was the same as it had been on Saturday and I wasn't hungry. Picked up a bottle of water and a bag of Sunchips, but gave both to my friend.

Somehow my clothing all coordinated. Wow! That doesn't happen very often! As I was leaving, I saw the greatest race costume!!! The little piggies had a ton of costumes and it was fun. 

Overall I'd give Sunday 9/10. My only complaint was having to search for my 4-way stuff. Well, that and the rain, but that's obviously out of their control. Otherwise it was a great race, one that I'll definitely do again.

Thanks to Dan for the raceday memo he texted on Thursday. It was so funny and so offensive I HAD to use it. A few people laughed, one guy said I must have misunderstood the 4-way challenge :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cincinnati review part 2 - Saturday

Saturday began bright and early with a 5:15 wake-up. The first race didn't start until 8:00, but I wasn't sure about how close the parking would be, how much I would have to walk to the start, etc., so I left the hotel at 6:30. It might have been a tad bit early, seeing as I reached the starting line at 7:05. Oh well, I sometimes have a tiny problem getting places on time, but not that day!!!

Saw a beautiful sunrise driving in.

Took another piggie picture for my collection. 

A friend had come with me, and since I hadn't run Cincy before, I didn't know the situation at the end, so we agreed to meet at Joey Votto if we didn't meet up after the race ended.

The 10k was first and started right next to the Great American Ballpark (tied for 1st among the stadiums I've visited). There were maybe 25 potties, which wasn't nearly enough, but I was there super early so waiting for a few minutes wasn't a problem. Something really really nice that I haven't seen before were the tables and tables of water and Gatorade before the race. Great touch for all the runners (like me) who left their Nalgene bottles in the car, but could stand to drink a little more.

I'd never run a 10k before and arbitrarily set a 60-minute goal. It would average out to slightly under 10-minute miles, which seemed appropriate, especially considering it would be my first run post-Toledo. There might have been some pre-race speeches - I don't remember. I was more focused on Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady" getting me in the mood to run.

Almost immediately we ran into Kentucky. This was the Taylor-Southgate bridge, which is too perfect, considering I grew up in Southgate and student taught in Taylor :) Managed to take both bridge pics while I was running. Sweet! Picture taking wasn't going to slow down my pace!!!!

We crossed three bridges - one into Kentucky, one while in Kentucky, and one back into Ohio. The weather was partly sunny and mid 50s, but while in Kentucky, it was insanely humid. Holy humidity Batman! Somehow as soon as we crossed back into Ohio the humidity dissipated.

Ran parallel to the river, turned left, doubled back and the "Finish Swine" was in sight! I had 0.3 miles to go and my watch was still under an hour, with just enough time to break 1 hour. 

I got a massive burst of speed and I was flying!!!! Pun very much intended... By the time my friend recognized me I had run past.

My watch said 59:54. Yes!!!!! The big clock was 62:00, but I didn't start at the gun.

"Doin' it 4 ways in Cincy"
Post-race was really well organized. We finished right at one of the three stadiums, and runners passed the "Finish Swine" and picked up their medallions, space blankets and food all under the stadium overpass! We were dry and shielded from the elements. The amount of food - wow!!! Water, Gatorade, bananas, bagels, 5-6 choices of chips, cookies, Ho-hos, 4-5 types of candy, trail mix, gummy fruits, oranges. I grabbed a small handful and went off to meet "Joey Votto."
The 5K started at 10:00, so with my finishing time, I had one hour to get to the start (same location as the 10k), stretch a little, eat a little, and do it all over again!

It's been at least nine years since I've run a 5k and I remembered why. The vast majority of runners in marathons, and even in the 10k, know to line up by approximate pace, but the 5k people didn't seem to have received that memo. I spent the first mile weaving through people walking extremely slowly and 4-5 abreast, and dodging kids. Frustration!

My watch had me end at 30:18. I was thisclose!!!!! Ach!!!!! Had I been able to take one turn tighter, or had I had to weave ten fewer people I would have gotten under 30 :(

Picked up a bowl of pear pieces, another bag of SunChips and went back to Joey Votto, where my friend was waiting with the sign I saw on the 5k, but totally missed during the 10k dash to the finish. 

It was a little weird wearing 2 numbers, but it was ok. I wore my Toledo shirt and saw a man I recognized from the marathon both this year and last. He'd also been at the Martian both years.

Stopped for coffee and checked my times online. The website had my 10k time at 1:00:33. I was disappointed, but I could accept that perhaps my watch and their clock had a 39 second discrepancy, and their time is the official time.

For the 5k, however, they had me at 34:11. There was no way I ran 11-minute miles during the 5k. I'm very familiar with 11-minute miles, and they weren't happening that morning!!! I was running hard! I know the race's time is my official time, but there's no possible way we had a 4 minute discrepancy. I felt like Sheldon Cooper during the physics bowl.

"Formal protest?"
"Informal protest?"

An hour later, they adjusted the time, so it was the chip time, not the gun time. They had me finishing at 30:29. Argh!!! Sooooooo close to my goal on both races.

I wanted to stop by the expo while downtown because my marathon shirt fit, but the 5k and 10k shirts were enormous!!!!! I was able to swap both, and took a picture of a piggie I had missed on Friday.

Hal always stresses consistency and I was extremely consistent on the 10k and 5k races. The 10 I averaged a 9:46 pace and finished 89/375 in my division. For the 5, I averaged 9:50 and finished 48/385 in my division. The really crazy consistency is my placement overall. I was 432/2184 for the 10 and 427/3130 for the 5.

The Saturday races were extremely well organized. 10/10. I was bummed by my time, but that was all on me, not on the race :(

I had gotten a gift card to Skyline Chili in my marathon packet and there was one right next to the hotel, so I had dinner there and learned the etymology of the 3-way and 4-way challenge names. Skyline sponsored the 3-way and 4-way, so they can name the races anything they want. Well they serve dishes called 3-way, 4-way, and 5-way. Much less interesting than the interpretation my friends and I took haha Maybe next year Cincy can have a 5-way challenge to include the 1-mile on Friday night?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cincinnati review part 1 - The expo

The Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon weekend was so massive it's going to get four posts, for the expo, the Saturday events, the Sunday race, and the swag because I got a ton!!!!

It's a huge series of five races with 33,000+ participants this year. The expo was at the Duke Energy Center and the organization left plenty to be desired. You could enter the hall anywhere, but the numbers and shirts were on opposite sides with the vendors in between. If you had been forced to enter at the number area, that would be ok, but I entered in the middle and wound up walking through 3 or 4 times trying to find what I needed.

By the time I found the numbers, Mr. Clean was waiting for me. Proctor and Gamble was the major sponsor of the race and they were great, except for running out of free samples!!! I got there at 5:30 so it's not like I arrived last minute, but everything was gone.

The number pick up was easy. It was separated by race categories and the 3-way and 4-way participants had a separate line with all three numbers together. Each was in an envelope with instructions, which was really nice. The problem was that the shirts were on the opposite side of the gym. It would have made so much more sense to get ONE bag with all my numbers and shirts pre-packaged. Once I finally got to the shirt pick up area, I had to wait in three separate lines because I got shirts for the 5k, 10k and marathon. Then a separate line for my cooler, which was supposed to be a tote bag, and yet another line for my poster. It was a perfect example of "hurry up and wait."

This was the first year for the 3-way and 4-way challenges and none of the participants knew what we were getting. The organizers said we would get all the 5k, 10k and marathon stuff, plus something extra. At one point they said it was a "really cool shirt," but that was months ago and nothing else had been said. I asked at the help desk to see if there was something I needed to pick up at the expo, but no one at the help area knew what I meant, and I probably asked 10-12 official volunteers.

 On the way out, I stopped at an information booth. I didn't know if it was race information or city information. It was both, and thankfully the man there knew what the 4-way event was, and said I would get my extra stuff after the marathon.

They really made a big to-do of the Flying Pig theme and that was fun! I made a point of taking a picture of every little piggie I saw.

I'm not normally one for buying things at the expo, especially not commemorative items, but they had pint glasses and I already have one from the Free Press, and I wanted another, even though I'll never use it. Besides, it was cheap :) I also picked up a small pin with the flying pig on it for my backpack. I have a pin on the front pocket of my backpack, from every place I've visited with it. This was the first time I've seen a pin at a race, so that was nice.

Overall I'd give the expo 3 points out of 10. I don't enjoy expos and I'd gladly pay any race $10 to mail me my stuff and save me the trip and hassle. This one seemed particularly disorganized with having to run back and forth, waiting in multiple lines, and no one at the help desk knowing what was going on.  Fortunately the expo was the worst part of the weekend and it wasn't altogether wretched. I mean, I did get to see the piggies!!!!