Hello! As I type this, it is now 72 hours since I’ve finished the Flying Pig Half Marathon, and my legs are still sore! If there is one thing I can tell you about the Flying Pig it’s this: It’s pretty hilly.
But let’s rewind a bit. On Saturday, Zach and I woke up bright and early and hit the road for the three hour drive to Cincinnati. Our plan was to get there early and hit the zoo before checking into the hotel. The weather was sunny and warm with a slight chill to the wind, which made it perfect zoo weather. When we were waiting in line to pay for our tickets, I was regretting not bringing my jacket, but once we were walking around I was fine.
I love the Cincinnati Zoo! That was my first time there, and it was a lot better than some others I have been to. The animals seemed more relaxed. I know there is a bit of controversy about the Zoo in general, but I can’t help but love it. The tulips were beautiful!
My favorite part of the zoo was probably the gorillas, followed closely by the giraffes. Their was a baby giraffe, but the line to see her was very long and you couldn’t get a good glimpse of her because she was inside a building, but once you got beyond the line, you saw the male giraffe out in the yard.
At some points, he was so close that I felt like I could reach out and touch him! I had never seen a giraffe up close before and my friend said it best: They look like aliens! It’s so neat to see an animal that looks nothing like any other animal you’ve seen before. I also really liked the polar bear. He was a distinguished gentleman:
I was so sad when it was time to leave! But the clock was ticking. I had to head to the Expo to pick up my bib. That’s when the nerves started. I was feeling incredibly nervous about the race. This was my first “big” race. Overall for all the events, there were over 36,000 participants! Once I grabbed my bib, we headed over to the Expo. One thing I was very grateful for was having my friend Shannon by my side. As nervous as I was, I might have had a heart attack if I didn’t have a friend there that I knew would be with me every step of the way!
After the expo, we had some dinner and then Shannon and Ben headed to the hotel while Zach and I met up with some other friends at a bar called Arnold’s. This bar was voted one of the top ten bars in the country by Esquire Magazine and I could definitely see why! It is over 150 years old and has the best patio I’ve ever seen.
It was almost like we were sitting in a little French bistro or something. There was a jug band playing called the Cincinnati Flying Pigs, which seemed appropriate. However, I wasn’t able to stay long — I had to get to bed because I had an early wake up time! _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ The race started at 6:30 AM, so Shannon and I set our alarms for 5. I had no trouble getting up (I never do on race day, the anticipation is too high), but my nerves were still going strong. I had my outfit out, so I put that on and proceeded to try to prep my IT band for the run. If I haven’t mentioned it, I have IT band pain on long runs for the past few years so I was trying everything I could to keep that at bay. I rolled out a bit, rubbed some topical pain relief on it and used an IT Band strap like this:
Spoiler alert: It didn’t really help at all. After that, we left the hotel and headed toward the starting line, which was a little less than a mile from our hotel. Our plan was to grab breakfast on our walk to the starting line, which was a huge rookie mistake. That would have been fine if the race had started at 8, but with a 6:30 start time there isn’t anything open to grab breakfast. We slowly made our way to the Millennium Hotel, where we had planned to meet up with a friend from Huntington who was doing the full marathon, so we just hoped they would have something there – I was thinking a vending machine with a soda and a granola bar would have worked for me! Luckily, when we got to the hotel, there was a makeshift breakfast bar in the lobby for race participants! Score!
Once we were fueled, we used the bathroom a couple of times (nerves!) and waited for Meghan to come down (she was staying at the Millennium).
Oh, and I should mention: Meghan wasn’t just running the full marathon, she also had done the 4-Way challenge, which means she ran a 5k AND a 10k on Saturday followed by the full marathon on Sunday — yeah, she’s pretty much a rock star. After parting ways with Meghan, Shannon and I headed toward the starting line.
Once we found the starting line, we walked and walked and walked trying to get to our corral (E). I have no idea what the proper way to get to your corral was, but people were climbing over the fences. I knew I would hurt myself trying that, so luckily somebody had opened up a gate at the E corral and we slipped in. There were so many people around us!
With that many people, I thought it would take us a long, long time to get to the starting line, but the race started really quickly once we were in our corral and once the sea of people started moving, before we knew it, we were at the starting line and started running.
One really cool thing about the Flying Pig is you get to run through two states.
Not long after crossing into Kentucky, we saw Meghan again! We thought that was pretty cool, so she took a photo. Then she told us that she was keeping a slow pace, so if she caught up with us again, she would make us run faster. I was glad not to see her again! Ha!
Ok, after getting back into Ohio, I kind of lost it. My IT band strap kept slipping (Pro tip: Don’t wear one of those on your bare skin. When you sweat, it slips right off). I could feel my IT band tightening up and I had to keep adjusting my strap. Plus, I could see those famous Flying Pig hills formulating in front of my face. I had to make Shannon stop to stretch a few times, and then we started the longest climb of my life.
Not kidding, you guys, I feel like we climbed a hill for 8 miles. I’m pretty sure it was 2.5-4 miles, but it was about 85% uphill. I was in tears and shouting curse words at one point. It was definitely not my best moment. Shannon kept me going, though! She’s amazing! I found myself being consumed by negative thoughts. I could feel the nagging pain in my IT band starting to bother me and the hills just didn’t end. It was rough. I could tell Shannon wasn’t struggling nearly as much as I was, and I knew it was the difference in our attitude, so basically I got myself through it by thinking about seeing my husband after the race, getting that medal, and drinking a beer. I just kept repeating “You can do this” in my head and thinking of putting that medal around my neck. It definitely helped!
Our friend Sarah told us to stop and take a photo at the highest point in the race, and the best way to express the never-ending hills is to show you these two photos, taken 30 minutes apart. The first one is where I thought the highest point was and the second one is actually the highest point.
After all the hills, all of the sudden there was an amazing downhill portion. It was about half a mile downhill, and although I normally don’t enjoy running downhill, I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to just let gravity pull me for a while. My IT band stopped hurting and I felt exhilarated!
Once we got on flat ground again, we ran through town and I was struggling a little again. We were at mile 11 or so, and I was just ready to be done. My knee started hurting again and I was just tired, but I wouldn’t let myself stop running. Shannon and I stopped talking and I just kept saying, “I can do this” over and over again. Finally, I ripped off my IT Band strap and miraculously, my knee stopped hurting. I just ran. We were on a straight away at this point, and there were spectators everywhere so I knew we were close. I just kept my eyes peeled for the “Finish Swine” as they call it and we finally saw it! It was glorious! We held hands at the finish and raised our hands above our head and just smiled! It felt so awesome to be done!
We grabbed our medals and headed through the recovery area to the finish line party. There was all kinds of food available for us for free, but nothing looked good to me. I saw Swiss Cake Rolls, which I thought looked good but I took one bite and threw it away. At this point, my knee was hurting so badly that I was limping so we made a bee line for the medical tent and I texted Zach that we were there. A very nice medic gave me a huge bag of ice and wrapped it tightly around my knee and we met up with our husbands.
After we got to the Finish Line party, I bought a chili dog and a beer. Two things have never tasted so delicious!
After that, we had to walk to our hotel. I can’t tell you how much that hurt! My knee was throbbing and it was a long walk. But, I really think that helped cut down on my soreness (although I was pretty sore for the past couple of days).
On the way home, I checked my email for our finish time. It’s definitely the slowest half marathon that I’ve done, but with all the hills, I’m pretty proud of that time. I can’t wait to run the (flat!) Marshall Half this November!