Sunday, May 17, 2015

Piggy-isms

A random collection of Piggie memories.

The retirement community in Kentucky where many residents were outside with signs. "I thought you said bingo!" "Run fast or I'll hit you with my cane."

A group of nuns and patients watching around mile 16 or 17.

An elderly man at mile 22 sitting in a chair, clapping for runners while his wife stood behind him and danced, with "St. Elmo's Fire" playing on a speaker.

Best signs:
Don't be a Seahawk - Run!
It's not blisters. Your wings are coming in.
Dig deep and find your wings

One of the volunteers at the expo asked how many posters I wanted. Three :) Participants in the 5k, 10k and full each got one, so I paid for three with my entry fee. I'd like all of them, in case two get damaged on the way home. I haven't taken them out of the boxes yet, but someday I'll get one framed.
Top row: 4-way finisher shirt, 5k shirt, cross-body backpack, 4-way plaque.
Middle row: 10k shirt, marathon shirt, 1-mile shirt
Front row: medals

The race shirts are ok. I don't love them. The race had the sweetest little piggie logo this year wearing a baseball hat, declaring he had 26.2 reasons we're all-stars. They leaned on the baseball all-star game being hosted in Cincy for the theme, and I like the baseball piggie. Why is he not on the race shirt? It took me a while to realize they're supposed to be baseball jerseys. Once I realized that, I liked them more, although I wish the 5k and full were different colors. The full shirt is an Asics women's cut and it fits really well. The 5k and 10k are unisex, but made with a soft stretchy material so they have a flattering shape. I haven't tried on the 1-mile shirt yet.

I really like the 4-way shirt, tons nicer than in the past. Some runners have actually complained about it. They must not have seen the last two :P I like that the Skyline logo is small, I like that it's a baseball style ringer shirt. Unisex sizes, but a small fit well.

(L to R) 1-mile doubles as a bottle opener, 10k, 5k, marathon, 4-way. They're all great. The marathon and 4-way are the same size, even though they don't appear it in this pic.

4-way plaque. It gets nicer every year, although I have yet to use one. Maybe if I had an office where I could hang things.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Flying with Grace

Going into the Flying Pig marathon, I felt completely and utterly unprepared. I feel the same sense of dread and mini-panic nearly every time I toe the start line. My one comfort was that I had done every one of the prescribed pace runs, and gotten through them somewhat easily, but they only went up to 10 miles.

Cincinnati - Where pigs fly
A few weeks earlier Bill asked about doing the extra races to make up the "5-way" challenge.
"Won't it compromise your chance for a marathon PR?" he asked. It was a completely reasonable question.
"Probably," I replied.
"Then why do it?"
"Because."
"Why not focus on the marathon?"
"Because it's fun. I don't know anywhere else that I can make a total weekend of running, unless I drive from race to race. It's fun."
"It's your race."
"Duh," I muttered under my breath.

The short races could possibly/probably affect the marathon, but they're fun!! Besides, I had received my Chicago acceptance just days before and the flat course there is more conducive to a PR than the hills in Cincy.

The early forecast had been for thunderstorms, then it changed to HOT and sunny. I can handle hot, but being wet the whole time leads my poor little toes to blister, so I was thankful for the dry heat and sun. Sunday morning was humid and already 61 degrees when we parted at corral G, where Bill was starting his first half marathon in the town where he grew up. I went on to corral E, the pink "pig pen." I positioned myself roughly between the 4:30 and 4:45 pace groups, not running with either one. The 4:30 group would remain within sight for over 3 hours.

The first 6 miles I struggled to stay at pace. My body wanted to go so much faster, but I know good marathons don't happen in the early miles - they're won or lost in the late miles, so I kept trying to force myself to slow down.

After the trip through Kentucky, we passed a young kid holding a sign with two chocolate M&Ms on it, "You had one shot, one opportunity." For the first time in many seasons, it was true. Cincinnati was my only spring marathon, there was nothing else planned. One race, one shot.

It was hot.

The spectators were great. I told my bestie it was like a drinking tour of Cincinnati. Two older women were giving mimosa to runners - best drink ever during a race!!!! The sugar from the OJ gave me a ton more energy than any "energy" beverage or gel. Delish!!!!! Later on, some college-aged guys had Dixie cups of beer. Even later, another group had Jell-O shots lol I was having FUN with the race, and enjoying all the alcohol (and bacon...) that was offered! (I was sweating so much that the minimal amounts of alcohol were immediately flushed out)

Marathon #20. I like how bleary-eyed exhausted I am :)
Some runners prefer to run different races. I prefer to find one or two good races and keep running them year and year. I don't see the boredom, but the familiarity and comfort of knowing what's coming.

Around mile 14-15, there is a monster steep hill, but at the top is the church that always posts the lyrics to Amazing Grace:

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
'Tis Grace has kept you safe thus far
and Grace will lead you home.

Very quickly after that was the relay exchange point behind the Kroger and I started to realize how close I was to done, how close I was to an epic weekend, how close I was to finishing tons faster and stronger than should have been possible. At mile 16, I was 3-4 minutes ahead of the times written on my forearms (10:30 miles), and I knew a PR was happening. If I could hold on to 12:00s the rest of the way, I had it.

Around mile 18 though, we're up on the highway with zero shade, and it's boring!!!! Then it's through a not-very-scenic area and I was bored, which was reflected by my times creeping up. I went from a 10:36 17th mile to a 12:08, 11:51, 12:16, 13:24.... It was all falling apart and I was too exhausted to care.

Then over my shoulder I saw the pink and white balloons on a stick being carried by the 4:45 pacer. Seeing that group lit a fire in me! I started a few minutes ahead of them, so even if I stayed with them and finished with them, I would still be looking at a 4:48, 4:49 finish. Despite having already raced 10 miles that weekend, and the HEAT and HUMIDITY, I somehow knew I had MORE in the tank and I was better than a 4:48 that morning.

Mile 22, I pulled it down to a 10:50. It didn't hurt nearly as much as it probably should have. I was singing out loud to distract myself. I was encouraging other runners.

Mile 23, 10:53

Mile 24, 10:57. By this point I felt like I was flying. I wasn't falling apart in the end, but maintaining within 30 seconds of goal pace! I've never felt so good so far into a race. I tried to encourage the runners I passed. "22 minutes from done!" "Hang on for 21 minutes, you've got this!" "Almost there! Don't give up!"

Cincinnati has a timing mat for the very last mile and I felt amazing. I didn't notice that it was 80+ degrees, I didn't notice that every article of clothing was drenched in sweat, I didn't notice the dried salt streaks on my arms and face.

I noticed Pharrell singing "Happy" then Eminem's "Rap God." I noticed Bill proudly wearing his half medal, and I raised both arms and said screamed cried cheered "PR baby!!!!" There was less than a quarter mile to go, I dug deep, found my wings and flew across the "Finish Swine" with a 26th mile of 9:21, the fastest mile of my entire race.

Then I cried in the finishing chute, because what else is a woman to do when she laid out all her energy and accomplished what shouldn't be possible?

4 races within 36 hours, 3 PRs.

I felt so humbled and blessed by the weekend God had given me, by the strength He gave me to not only finish, but have my best weekend ever. "I felt nothing but gratitude for every single minute of my stupid little life."

4:43:33.

It was a 10:39 PR over Chicago, which is an easy course, extremely flat and full of spectators the entire way. Compared to the same course in 2014, it was a 27:49 improvement!!!
Love this pic! PR bell :D 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Flying twice in one day (Saturday)

I ran exactly one 10k in 2014. One of my goals for the year was to break 1 hour, and I did it the first time I tried at the 2014 Flying Pig weekend. I averaged a 9:40 ish to finish in 58:something. After that I didn't "need" to run another until the 2015 Piggie.

This year, I could run a 9:39 average and PR, but I got faster this winter and my half PR was done at a 9:02 average. If I managed that - which didn't seem too unreasonable - I told Bill to look for me between 56-58 minutes.

It felt good and didn't really hurt. It was certainly easier than the 1-miler had been because it wasn't nearly as demanding aerobically. It didn't feel super agonizing, so I kept pushing it a little, over the bridges and through the humidity.

There is a huge steep hill toward the end, so I walked up it, then kept motoring toward the finish. My 6th mile was the fastest.

In the last little bit, when the end was in sight, a kid was in front of me, so I HAD to pass her. Then a group of 5-6 was right there, and the finish was RIGHT THERE! If not at that moment, when? Why was I saving ANY energy? Time to lay it out and get it done!!! So I blew past them as well and several others and cruised to the finish with a 7:32 pace for the last two-tenths.

55:28 baby :D

My legs were SHOT but there was still a 5k to be done an hour later. It got significantly hotter in that hour, and my plan all along had been merely to not fall apart. A PR was never planned - good enough was breaking 30 minutes, which I did handily. It felt so easy to run "slowly" after the speedier 1-mile and 10k races. I wound up averaging a 9:20 or something, as an "easy" run. Funny how perception changes. Last year a 9:20 would have been a difficult speed to maintain, especially given the circumstances :)

2015 PR count:
1 1-mile race, 1 PR
4 5K races, 2 PRs (one not expected or planned)
3 half marathons, 3 PRs

After the first few PRs, the most perfect plan was to PR every race until the Piggie 5k. Aside from the stupid Twinkie 5k meltdown, everything was progressing right how I wished.
Then we went back to the expo. My 5k and 10k shirts fit, but were a little too loose and I preferred a smaller size. For whatever reason, the race shirts didn't have a flying pig on them - wth???? There was a screen printer at the expo making custom shirts, so I spent a few dollars to add a piglet outline to my 10k and full shirts. Lame that I had to pay extra to improve the shirts, but it greatly improved them and made me happier.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Piggies flew in on Friday

At the expo
The Flying Pig marathon is an entire weekend of events, including a big variety of race distances, a kids race, a little kids race, one for developmentally disabled adults, another for dogs (with owners), even one that combines weight-lifting with running. I always figure if I'm driving that far, and dealing with the construction on I-75 in Dayton (seriously, how does it never ever ever get done???), I'm going to run as many races as I can. In my case, that's 1 mile, 10k, 5k and a marathon, which combine to form the "5-way" challenge.

Friday is always a little stressful because after the construction and rush hour traffic in Cincinnati, I have to go to the expo and make six separate stops - for my numbers, shirts, backpack, and posters. This year, one of the vendors was collecting used shoes to be donated to shoe-less children, or to be dismantled and the rubber used to build tracks. In either case, I took four pairs for him, but that was another stop to make. Then I wanted to buy a pig themed headband. Another stop.

Little Mr. Piggly-Wiggly
All this had to be done in a timely fashion, because I still had to go across town to the 1-mile race where I picked up my shirt and number, then rode the bus to the start. Yikes! Somehow it all got done.

Last year the 1-mile race was on an amazing course. It was a straight mile with zero turns and a pretty significant downhill at the end. The course was different this year, and not nearly as fun. It was a closed course, so no spectators until the very very end. It had two turns, and an unexpected uphill at the end.

I finished in 7:22. I don't know if it's a PR. I guess? I ran a 7:10 in July, but my watch registered significantly short on the distance. I know my watch isn't an official measure for race standards, but it wasn't even close. So I guess? At any rate, it was an improvement over the 7:51 I ran in 2014 Piggie on the good course.

I just didn't have it in me to go below 7 that night, but I can't say what I didn't have. My legs felt fine, lungs were working hard, but I could breathe the whole way. I don't know. Even though my time wasn't what I wanted, my placement was a lot better than anticipated. I thought maybe top 20 in my age group. Bill ran the QR code and I was 6th!!!!!!! 6th out of 106!!!! Wow! I'm still amazed when things like that happen :D

After, we watched the elites run, then used my coupons for free beer and a coney dog, because nothing is better for pre-race fuel than beer and coneys.... It was warm so we relaxed on the lawn and had a pleasant night before the Piggest raffle. Sadly, I didn't win.
Bill doesn't want to be on my blog lol

Monday, May 4, 2015

An epic weekend

1 mile - PR

10k - big PR
5k - about what I expected
Marathon - massive PR
3 days
36.5 miles
4 races
3 PRs....
EPIC

(more detailed stories later. Can't stop eating and drinking!!!!!)