We came. We ran. We conquered The Flying Pig Marathon!
Ahhhh…. so much to share!
First and foremost, (spoiler alert!) I didn’t hit my goal of 3:55. I know. Sadness. BUT… you know what? I’m OK with that. Hell, I’m MORE than ok with that! I’m ecstatic! I ran a smart race, I never gave up mentally, and they weren’t kidding about those hills – they’re killer! I’m PROUD of this race, and I wouldn’t take any of it back.
My goal wasn’t just to hit 3:55, it was to be happy with my race performance, and I am. I crossed the finish line beaming from ear-to-ear and even shed a tear in the process. I may not have hit 3:55, but I did hit 3:56:56.
That’s a full 2 minute and 30 seconds PR on a course that pushed me pass my limits. Hell, yeah!
It wasn’t easy to fall asleep last night. My body was full of adrenaline and the idea of sleeping seemed impossible. I tossed and turned all night, thanks to the typical “OMG – I missed the race start” nightmares. Not cool. When my alarmed did go off at 5:10am, it was almost a relief to know that I didn’t really miss anything.
We lucked out with a nifty toaster in our kitchen to toast bagels (toasted bagels are 100x easier to choke down at 5:00am than non-toasted bagels)
We had saved two bagels, two packets of peanut butter, and two packets of strawberry jelly from the hotel breakfast buffet the morning before. It was the perfect grab for pre-marathon fuel.
One of my favorite freebies from the expo on Friday was the race pace tat from the pacer booth. Kelly and I both wore race pace tats in Chicago and – even though we didn’t meet our goal – I loved how convenient it was to look down at my arm to see where we were at. They didn’t have 3:55 ( it went 3:50, 4:00 and nothing in between) on Friday, so I grabbed a 4:00 and figured it would be good to know I’m at least ahead of that. The pace tat ended up being amazing. I was able to check exactly where I was at every mile marker and it helped motivate me to stay on track knowing just how close I was to my goal.
I would wear one again in a heartbeat!
At 6:00 (the race started at 6:30), we left our hotel room and met our friend Mary downstairs.
Mary was running the full too (her second!) and had an entire support crew with her, complete with fun signs.
Also, loved Mary’s shirt tail.
“Mary-Thon” too cute!
Mary, Kelly, and I geared up and started our quick journey to the start line. We had an idea of where to go, but weren’t 100% sure. Luckily there were a few thousand other runners heading the same place we were and knew exactly where they were going. We tagged along with one group and made it the start line without a problem.
We wished Mary good luck on her race!
Then headed to our “pig-pen”
Major kudos to Flying Pig volunteers for actually checking every bib that entered the corrals. I think they’re the only race (besides Disney!) that actually checked!
Kelly and I were in C with the other sub-4:00 hopefuls.
The only teeny, tiny complaint we had for The Flying Pig start (or really the whole race in general) was the placement of the porta potties IN the corrals (we couldn’t locate them anywhere else) . The idea of having them in there is good in theory, but the line was pretty ridiculous for the six porta potties in corral C. With 6 minutes to go until the start, we knew we would never make it. We ended up moving to the front of the corral and waited in line for the porta potties in corral B once the race started and the corral dividers dropped.
This meant we started the race with Corral F, but it was worth it to get everything out before we crossed the start line.
We were in and out, then immediately on our way to the start line.
Ready or not, 26.2 miles here we come!
And so it began.
Kelly and I made a pact to stick together for as long as we could during the marathon. If one of us felt the need to speed up or slow down, the other one wouldn’t hold them back. No pressure. Even with that pact, my goal was still to stick with her as long as I could. When she started to take off in the beginning, I kept after her.
I pretty much took my cues from Kelly for the first few miles. She was on a mission to get past everyone, and I let her lead. We did weave quite a bit, but we made sure not to wear our legs out. We took our time going up some of the early hills and took advantage of the downhills. Besides a bridge or two, the first few miles weren’t bad at all. We managed to keep a sub-9:00 pace, without pushing it past our limits.
We ran through Kentucky for a mile, then looped it back to Cincinnati. With each turn we inched closer and closer to the steep climb I knew would start at mile 5.
We swung into downtown Cincinnati and hit a wall of cheers from all of the supporters. I saw Mary’s support crew just past mile 5 (complete with signs) and gave them high fives as we passed. I was pumped, full of energy, and ready for I knew what was coming next.
We made a sharp turn out of downtown, then started the dreaded steep climb that would take us up to mile 9. I had studied the course enough to know to save my legs here. My goal was to take it nice and easy to the top, then ride it down to the bottom. I also knew the climb was broken up into stages, there would be a steep climb, a bit of a breather, another climb, another breather, etc. all the way to the top. Each climb would get progressively worse.
I tried to take the climb just one hill at a time. I dug in with my toes, moved my arms, and did my best to zone out in my music as much as I could. The climbs were tough, but doable. After we hit mile 6, Kelly proclaimed that we only had 2.5 miles of hills to go. Oddly enough, that was reassuring. 2.5 miles? I could do that. My legs burned, my breath shortened, but in just 2.5 miles it would be over.
Around and around we went as we climbed higher and higher. There would be flat parts with downhills that were almost cruel when you knew you had to go back up. We saw the relay exchange just before mile 7 and the mat timer shortly after that. As my foot stepped across the blue mat, I thought about all the friends and family tracking me at home. Knowing they were at home, cheering me on, encouraged me to continue on with a renewed source of energy.
Finally, around mile 8.5 we hit the top and were greeted with a breath taking view of the Ohio River. The crowd support from the top was insane and included a set of photographers and a group of singers that made me smile.
We had arrived.
The half marathoners split from us as soon as we hit the peak and we started a nice mile descend back to the bottom. The downhill was a welcomed change. Our legs flew down at an 8:15ish pace and my breath began to even out again. We caught up to the 4:00hr pace group on the downhill (they started before us), but we couldn’t keep up with them (definitely holding much faster than the 9:10 min/mi pace advertised on their balloons!). The balloons stayed more or less within my eye sight for the next 10 miles, which was comforting.
My goal from the beginning was to run a smart race and this was definitely the smartest race I’ve ever run. I had researched the marathon enough to know when to hold back, when to speed up, and when to expect the worst. After the climb from mile 5 to 9, I knew it was ok to pick up the pace. I could have easily worn my legs out in the climb, but I didn’t. I held back and they were ready to move.
Kelly and I hit the halfway mark right on target (at 1:57:35) for a sub-4:00 finish. My legs still felt great and negative splits seemed possible. Was a 3:55 finish still in reach? I told myself it was – I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel yet.
Keeping with our pact, Kelly and I stuck together as long as we could. We didn’t talk, but we took comfort in knowing that we were next to each other, pushing through this together. That began to change at mile 16, when I began to feel Kelly drifting farther and farther behind me. Pretty soon she was out of my eye sight and I knew the time had come for each of us to run our own race. I gave her one final wave and was off.
The last half of the race mainly consisted of rolling hills, which I didn’t hate. Some parts were steeper than others, but the downhill portions almost made the uphill portions worth it. I wasn’t sure my Florida legs would enjoy it, but they seemed to take every up and down with stride.
After I tossed my water bottle at mile 9, I developed a pattern with the water stations. I grabbed one gatorade and two waters at each stop. I would drink the gatorade and one water, then toss the other over my head (sometimes two!). The sun was out and it was getting hot, but nothing unbearable.
I tried taking two shot bloks every 5 or 6 miles, but I was finding it difficult to get them down – my body just did NOT want to take them. Instead, I enjoyed what I like to call the “all-you-can-eat marathon buffet.” I must have grabbed at least a dozen orange slices, a twizzler, two Jolly Ranchers, and a chocolate bar (my favorite 20+ mile treat ) on the course. Have I mentioned The Flying Pig spectators rock? Because they do!
During the climb from mile 6-9, my stomach started talking to me and I knew this marathon was going to require a porta potty pit stop. I held off until mile 18, but it was a problem that could not be ignored any longer. I passed a row of porta-potties that didn’t have a line and ran in just as another runner was running out. I timed the 30 second pitstop, which was only my second porta potty spot ever during a marathon (and my first on a course where I was trying to PR!).
Mile 20 came and went and I knew I had hit the make-it-or-beak-it portion of the course. I was 3 minutes ahead of a 4:00 finish (according to my pace tat) and 2 minutes behind my 3:55 race goal. At this point, I knew hitting 3:55 probably wasn’t going to happen, but a PR could. If I held my current pace, and didn’t give up, sub-3:59 was in the bag. Anything can happen in the last 6.2 miles of a race, but I was determined to give it all I had.
We hit Easton Ave and the crowd support thinned. I knew ahead of time this was going to happen and it honestly wasn’t as bad as I thought. The couple mile stretch came and went quickly, and at the end I was greeted by a nice surprise.
To my left I heard someone shout “Meghann!!” I looked over to see my friend Emily and her family. I knew there was a possibility of seeing her on the course, but I didn’t know where.
I was starting to hurt at this point. It felt good to see a familiar face, especially one who was cheering so enthusiastically! I picked up my tired legs and tried to prove to her that I was still in this. I was NOT giving up.
(Thank you, Emily, for the photos!)
It wasn’t long after I saw Emily, that the river appeared to my left and in the faint distance I could see the yellow bridge that marked the finish line. We only had 3 miles to go, but the bridge looked sooooooo far from that point.
The closer we got to the finish, the heavier the crowd support became and I was thankful for each and everyone of them. The Flying Pig volunteers are AMAZING and every water station I went through was filled of volunteers cheering runners on. I heard “Go Meghann” over and over again. Names on bibs = GENIUS!
It was in this final stretch that I also caught up with the 4:00 pace group again. I ran with the group for a mile or so. The two pacers running the group were so full of energy, that it was nice to stick with them and have a little of that rub off. Even though I had just joined the group, they treated me like I had been with them for the last 20+ miles and wouldn’t let me quit when I began to stumble.
Without even realizing it, I began to pull ahead of the pace group and eventually gained quite a bit of distance ahead of them. In my last mile, I made a new goal of not letting them pass me. This was my race and I wasn’t going to let them beat me.
I thought I knew everything about the Flying Pig, but something veterans of the race failed to mention to me (or I chose to ignore) was how brutal the last mile was. Particularly the uphill slant right before mile 26 and the uphill slant right before the finish. When I could see those two hills coming into view in the distance, I believe the words “MOTHER F*CKER* may have escaped my lips. I had just run 26 miles, I was DONE. I wanted a nice downhill ride to the finish, but noooooo they had to add those two hills of fun. I was NOT happy.
The final hills were brutal. My mantra suddenly became “It’s almost over. It’s almost over.” I dug in and scanned the crowds for any familiar faces – there were none. It was just me and the finish line. My feet hurt, my legs hurt, there was a hill that shouldn’t be there, and a finish line that seemed so far. This was where it all counted, this was where I should leave everything on the course.
I gave it a final push and… that was it. I was done.
I crossed the finish line and stopped my garmin without looking down. I knew I had earned a “3” marathon, but I wasn’t sure of the rest. When I did look down – and saw the 3:56 – I started to ugly cry. I conquered the hills, I gave it all I had, and I never gave up. I did it! I did it! I PRed! I’m not sure anything beats that feeling of accomplishment.
I knew my sister couldn’t be too far behind. I scooted to the side and waited for her to finish. Before she came through, I felt a tap on my shoulder and saw another familiar face.
Casey had crossed the finish line just a minute or so after me. He didn’t have the best race, but he stuck to it through the end and finished strong. Way to go Casey!
Casey waited a few minutes with me, then moved on to get his medal and see his family.
The clock was creeping up and I began to enter big-sister-panic mode wondering where Kelly was. I checked my phone and saw she had crossed mile 19.7 about 3 minutes after I had and was projected to finish 3 minutes after me. I kept refreshing my email (I had signed up to live track her), thinking I might have missed her come in. No dice. My mind immediately started jumping to worst-case scenarios. I was on the verge of legitimately freaking out, when I heard the announcer welcome Kelly Anderson across the finish line.
Ahhhhhh!!!!! She did it! I’m pretty sure she never wants to run another race that contains a hill again, but at 4:06:13, those hills didn’t stop her from beating her previous PR by almost 9 minutes. Go Kelly!
I brought her in for a hug, then we quickly headed down the chute to grab our medals. We earned those suckers!
We continued walking through the extremely long finisher’s chute and grabbed a few Wal-Mart sponsored goodies.
Both of our tummies were full of orange slices and gatorade. Nothing sounded appealing, but we knew we needed to eat something. I grabbed a cookie, but even that had to be forced down.
We headed to the river for a mini photo shoot.
The Flying PIg Marathon more than lived up to the hype. It was a well-run race with a beautiful course and plenty of crowd support along the way. The course isn’t easy (HILLS!), but is doable (even for this Florida girl!). If we can PR here, than anyone can.
We booked it back to our hotel to eat and shower before having to check out.
We discovered big bowls of oatmeal with nut butter were the best we could do in a pinch for a post-marathon meal. It’s all we had in our room and, honestly, the only thing our queasy tummies could handle.
We packed up, grabbed a cab, and were at the airport with plenty of time to spare for our flight.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – if you run a big race, wear your marathon medal onto the plane. Security suddenly becomes a breeze and everyone is extra friendly. It’s the best marathon perk there is!
By the time we made it to the airport, our tummies were feeling better and a burrito sounded appealing.
It wasn’t exactly the best burrito place I’ve ever eaten at (it blew!), but it was food so we ate it.
The post-lunch Starbucks Cookie Crumble Frappuchinnos made up for it.
I made the bad, bad mistake of asking for mine without whipped cream out of habit. Take my advice, do NOT skip on the chocolate whipped cream with this one. Trust me. Kelly got it on hers and I was uber-jealous. The chocolate whipped cream just added an extra layer of chocolate richness to the drink.
I had an apple and a bag of pretzels on the quick flight.
And Anthony had dinner waiting for us in Orlando.
Veggie chili with homemade cornbread.
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream for dessert.
That was a LONG day. Is it weird I’m not even tired? I think I’m still full of adrenaline from my marathon high.
When we finished, I asked Kelly if she would run another one. She looked at me and laughed. She was already planning her next one out on the course. That’s my girl! It’s not a matter of IF we’ll run another one – it’s WHEN.