Tag Archives: Half Marathon

Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon Race Recap

“It’s just a half.” I replied somewhat flippantly, when a colleague asked if I was nervous about my upcoming race. What I wanted to say was “While I can run 13 miles in my sleep, I’ve trained painfully hard for this race for the last few months and I really want to finish strong and PR; but I’ve heard the course is super hilly and hard. So, yes, I’m crazy nervous!” However, they were not a runner and I knew they were just trying to make polite conversation. An honest answer would have likely been met with the same response I get when detailing my tempo run splits or taper angst with non-runners: the glazed eyes, furrowed brow and polite head nodding of confusion and non-interest.

When training for a marathon I check every box on my training schedule, because I have a healthy respect for the distance and I don’t want to die. Half marathons, not so much. While I always “train,” I don’t usually follow any type of schedule or speed work. However for the Cincinnati Flying Pig Half, I followed the intense Hanson’s Method training plan and while it was the hardest I had ever worked for a half, my training was far from perfect. I managed to get in most of my speed work, but only hit about half of my tempo runs, which left my type A personality a little anxious as race weekend approached.

With the race looming on Sunday, half our gang drove up to Cincinnati on Friday. My son had field day on Friday, that I had promised to attend, so Shannon and I hitched a ride with her dad on Saturday morning… in his plane. I hadn’t ridden in a small plane in years and to be honest I’m a touch claustrophobic, so I was quite nervous at the idea of being trapped enclosed. I’m so glad I pushed through my fears, because it was so much stinkin’ FUN. With all the windows in the plane you could see so much better than a commercial flight. As we flew right over downtown Nashville, the Titan’s stadium and Batman building looked like kid toys. It felt like an amusement park ride. The flight was only an hour and half and when we landed, our friends were there to pick us up and whisk us off to the Expo.

I could totally get used to traveling like this.

I love a good expo, and the Flying Pig did not disappoint. The race shirts were adorable and we also got a backpack and poster. Next we walked around downtown Cincinnati, which had a great variety of hip restaurants and shops. We decided to eat lunch at Kruger’s Tavern. They had a fabulous (heated) rooftop patio where we relaxed and enjoyed our lunch. Later we headed back to the Hyatt, which was a perfect location for the race and across the street from the expo. That afternoon I did something beyond luxurious: I took a nap. By myself. On decadent hotel sheets. With no alarm set. It was heaven.

Expo!

Kruger’s Tavern

When I finally aroused, we headed out to Nicola’s, a quaint Italian place, for an early dinner. All the pasta and sauces tasted fresh and homemade. Our table was in front of a gorgeous picture window, that sadly overlooked a trash filled alley, but otherwise we had a great experience.  I had the gnocchi and while it was probably too rich of a pre-race choice, it was divine. The bread basket was an extra dollar, but I would have paid $20. It had a variety of types and flavors of breads and rolls, all fresh and warm. It was superb.

After dinner we went back to the hotel for drinks (of water for me) and an extended debate on what to wear for the race. The weather was predicted to be 38 degrees at the 6:30 am start and 42 at the finish. Perfect running weather, but a clothing challenge. I finally decided to wear short sleeves with capris, the only downside was that I forgot to pack a short sleeve shirt. Then with a sudden awful sinking sensation, I realized that I was going to have to do something obnoxious, something that would violate all my ethics, something truly mortifying: I would have to wear my race shirt  *I can barely even type it* on race day. I am a firm believer that you should never wear a race shirt unless you have completed the race, however my poor packing skills left me with no other choice. Before bed, I embarrassingly pinned my race number to my race shirt.

The 5 am wake up call jolted me from a deep sleep. It felt obnoxiously early, as it was actually 4 am “our time”. Regardless, I rolled out of bed, started up the coffee pot and choked down my bagel. We left the hotel a little later than planned because “she who cannot be named” was unhappy with her pre-race bowel evacuation experience.

We rushed to the starting line and slid into our corral as they finished up the last few bars of the national anthem. The first mile was a little crowded, but by mile two the crowds had thinned and I found my pace. My goal was 8 min/ miles. It seemed to take a few miles to warm up and the pace wasn’t as comfortable as I had hoped, but I simply concentrated on “running the mile I was in” and keeping the pace steady for the first 5 (flat) miles. I knew there were some big hills coming up, but when I actually saw the incline at mile 7, perhaps a few expletives might have escaped my lips. Mile 7 was one intense giant steep hill, but the crowd support was fantastic. A speaker half way up was blaring “eye of the tiger” and a guy with a megaphone and pink camo pants was holding a giant letter “F” and encouraging the runners to “Just F the hill”. It seemed to go on forever, but at the top we did get a little bit of recovery before the next monster hill.  The majority of the course from mile 7-10 was uphill. The view was beautiful, with green hills and glimpses of the river, but the hills were painful, physically and mentally. The real reward was that once we hit mile 10, it was all down hill, literally. You get to coast in the last 3 miles. I felt like I was flying. I finished strong and made up some time from my hilly miles. When I saw the finish line I knew I had hit my goal. I set a 3 minute PR on a difficult course. It felt amazing.

Half Marathon PR 1:45

After finishing I headed back to the hotel and jumped straight in the shower. One advantage to racing at 6:30 is that I was back to the hotel by 9 a.m. My friends also had great races, Abby set an amazing PR and Christina and Shannon had a fabulous time enjoying the race course. Once we all showered, we ate a fantastic brunch at Maplewood Kitchen and Bar, then road tripped it back to Franklin. It was a short but wonderful trip, with tons of laughs, coffee, blisters and love.

Cincinnati Flying Pig was a great race. I ran hard and hit my goal, but those hills were no joke. One of my favorite moments was as we ran across the first major bridge I looked over and saw a marine running with an American flag, with a budding sunrise reflecting off the river. It was one of those perfect running moments that makes you remember why the hell you do it. Why you get up at 4 am, deal with blisters and skip the wine. You do it for the stolen moments of gorgeousness, to feel your body pushed to its limits and to feel like a badass, running your best race at 41 years old.

 

Abby celebrating her incredible PR of 1:38

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Training

Tulips are blooming and April showers have empowered the grass to paint the landscape a vivid green. A sweet reward after all the bleak gray training runs in the early morning darkness of Winter. Spring is here and I am ready to race.

Done with using an entire load of laundry for one run!

The activities that bring me the most joy (other than being with my family) are running, travel and spending time with my friends. So this spring two destinations half marathons are on my schedule. Me and my local running group are planning to run the Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon in May and then I’ll travel to visit one of my best friends and run the Seattle half marathon in June.

Friendships +Running + Travel = Best of Times.

Long run to First Watch for breakfast.

As we thought about our race schedule for the spring, we wanted to find a fun, close destination half. Even though I broke up with the Nashville Country Music Marathon last year, I almost caved and signed up after after I saw the medal for this year (it lights up!); but I stood my ground and decided to venture to Cincinnati, OH this year for The Flying Pig half marathon. The Flying Pig is know for great crowd support and party atmosphere but also for being a hilly course. Hopefully our Tennessee hills will have our quads in good enough shape.

 

Our initial idea was not to take this race too seriously and simply enjoy a girls weekend, but then after Chicago when we all made huge improvements in our time by doing the Hanson Method, we decided to try the same strategy for a half marathon. We have consistently been doing speed work and tempo runs and alternating our long runs between 10-14 miles a week, with total mileage between 30-40 miles. This is the most structured training plan I have ever used for a half marathon. It a lot of mileage for a half. I’m hoping to finish under 1:45 ( my PR is 1:48). Life, work, weather and vacations have caused me to miss far more workouts than I would’ve liked, but I have still trained much harder for this half than any others in the past.

Catching a gorgeous sunrise on an early morning run.

The Rock and Roll Seattle Half is late June, so I will have some time to recover in between races. I’m sure it will be a crazy hilly race, so likely I will try to enjoy the scenery and experience and not push for a super quick time.

Most of our long runs have been out and backs from our neighborhood, but we were determined to do a least one long run on the Brentwood Greenway. Sadly the weekend we decided to do it, there was a wee bit of flooding. We got lost due to trail closures and got chased by wolves (well we say a coyote on the other side of a field and it defiantly made us run faster). There were times it felt like we were doing a mudrun, but it was the most memorable 14 miles of our training.

The trail was a little damp.

 

Hoping that Cincinnati turns out to be a memorable race for all the right reasons. I plan to start out slow to save some energy for the hills. Hoping to run was my best half marathon, but even if I don’t, I’ve already had enough laughs in the the training to make the race a personal success.

 

 

 

Route 66 Tulsa Half Marathon: A Run Down Memory Lane

In addition to being the city where I went to high school, college and med school; Tulsa is also the city where I learned to love running. Though I haven’t lived in T-town for nearly 15 years, it is home. My parents still live here and each corner of the geometrically laid out city holds a little note of nostalgia.

Nearly 20 years ago I Iived in a duplex near Riverside drive and the adjacent river parks trail system. I figured it was a waste to live so close to such a beautiful trail and not run on it. Before I knew it, I was pounding out 3-4 miles a day, and a year later I signed up for my first “long race” The Tulsa Run, a 15 k that’s put on every October.

I ran the Tulsa Run, a simple out and back course down Riverside drive, for the next 4 years. I loved the crowds, costumes, race T-shirts and adrenaline. Those were days before Garmins and I never worried about my splits. I ran to be healthy and because I liked to run (and eat cake). I didn’t worry about my time, I was simply thrilled that I had manged to run such a very long way.

Each year since I moved away, I have searched for a way to make it back for the Tulsa Run, but it never pans out. This year I realized I once again would miss my favorite race, but I would be in town for Thanksgiving–and with a little creative travel plans, I could make it for the Route 66 (Half) Marathon.

Since signing up for the race,  I have been excited about the chance to run through one of my favorite cities. While I was able to stick pretty closely to my training schedule over the last few months, my race week preparations read like a list of what absolutely not to do the week before a race:

  • Worked 70+ hours (including delivering 10 babies in 1 week…. hello ice storm of 2/2015, nice to see you again)
  • Didn’t get enough sleep
  • “carb loading” was mainly ice cream and wine
  • Day before race, drove 12 hours solo with my children and ate mainly fast food

About half way through my drive from Nashville to Tulsa,  I realized that despite frequent breaks to stretch and attempt to keep my children from beating each other, my glutes were cramped and achy. I wasn’t sure how this would effect the race, but I doubted I would be hitting sub 1:50. I readjusted my goal to finishing strong and decided to put my goal pace at 8:40. I would try not to obsess about my time, but instead focus on enjoying the experience of racing past my favorite landmarks.

Thankfully my awesome sister picked up my packet for me and had it waiting for me once I finally made it to my parents house.

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Laying out my gear the night before. With a starting temp of 25 and and ending temp of 40, picking the right clothing combo was a challenge.

 

The race started at 8 am, so I was able to sleep in until 6 which was fabulous. As an added bonus my (step)dad drove me to the race so I didn’t have to fumble around for parking and wait in the cold. Instead I cozied up in the car with him until about 15 minutes before race time. Despite my absolute spoiling of sitting in the balmy car while all the other losers were freezing in the the 25 degree weather, my toes still went numb in the 15 minutes I waited in the corral.

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Excited to start my 7th half marathon and my first race in Tulsa in 15 years.

Like most big races, the crowds were thick for the first few miles. I was in corral A (first of four starts) so there wasn’t too much weaving. I was hoping to enjoy the art deco architecture of the many familiar Tulsa skyscrapers, but instead I was too busy trying to avoid snapping my ankle in the many pot holes that have infested the streets of Tulsa. The state of Tulsa’s streets are embarrassingly terrible, I mean third world country bad. I love you Tulsa, but you need to work on those pot holes.

At about mile 3 I had found my pace. I felt good running about 8:40 and I could finally feel my toes. The new trouble was as soon as I could feel my toes, my core was too hot. I realized that I no longer needed my jacket and I had made the mistake of pinning my bib to my jacket instead of my under shirt. I should have worn a throw away outer layer, instead of a jacket. It was a rookie mistake.

The course wound through many of the older gorgeous neighborhoods of midtown Tulsa. A few streets had a spectacular golden and crimson leaves left on their trees. Half frozen spectators shivered as they rang their cowbells and held their signs like “Go Random Stranger” and my new favorite “Run like someone called you a jogger.”

The jaunt through Cascia Hall private school was great in that there were lots of spectators, water and music. It was not so great in that there were 200 speed bumps.

Next came Woodward park, which is slightly less awesome, but still gorgeous, without its azaleas in bloom. The race was well organized with frequent  water stops, including a festive one at Woodward hosted by blue cross employees.

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Favorite sign outside the Philbrook Museum of Art. (photo credit Route 66 marathon)

The jaunt down Brookside (Peoria) was rowdy. The staff from Lulu Lemon were out in full force with hilarious signs and crazy loud music. Running through Brookside was literally a “run down memory lane” with fond flashbacks of my college days of drinking heavily flavored coffee at Java Dave’s and seeing wannabe grunge bands at the IKON.

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Everyone loves a good gynecology joke. Thanks Amber.

Up ahead, I saw my own cheering station where my dad and sister were holding up signs. It is so encouraging to see familiar faces along the route, between their hugs and the GU and water at mile 7, I was supercharged for the next few miles down Riverside drive.

The course then twisted back through the neighborhoods. At mile 9 there was an unofficial block party. Residents had set up a balloon bridge over the road, Journey was blasting “Don’t stop believing'” and tables were set up with Jello shots and beer.  I was still running about an 8:30 pace and the thought of alcohol made me want to spew, but several of my comrades were partaking in the festivities and continued to pass me.

Over the next several miles I was glad I had kept a conservative pace because there was an obnoxious number of hills. Luckily I have “athletic quads”according to the skinny sales lady at Lulu Lemon, so hills don’t scare me, but they also don’t allow for a speedy finish either.

As the course headed back to downtown we ran partially across Southwest Boulevard and under the cool “Route 66 bridge”. A guy was dressed as Gandolf at the bridge holding out his staff to each runner announcing “You may pass!” He was great. I geekily laughed for half a mile.

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Photo via Route 66 Marathon

One particularly sad moment was seeing a poor lady running without shoes. She had the rest of her gear on, just no shoes. I’m not sure if she couldn’t afford shoes or if perhaps her luggage got lost. Regardless, I slipped her a $20.

The course finally flattened out around mile 12. I was tired from the hills but still felt I could finish strong. I was particularly inspired by one of the wheel chair racers who was encouraging us runners. She was so positive and inspiring, I felt like I was inside a motivational meme. As positive thinking inspired adrenaline began to surge through my veins, I picked up my pace. My positive thoughts were then quickly interrupted by searing pain in my hands and a jarring pain in my knee as I suddenly found myself kissing the pavement in what had to be quite an ugly fall. My choice phrases to describe Tulsa streets are not repeatable, but needless to say I was quite irritated. Several runners kindly stopped to help me, but it was my pride that was injured more than anything. No blood was dripping, so I got up and finished.

Between the pot holes, speed bumps and hills I think this course could officially be considered an obstacle race. All kidding aside, I really did

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Loved the zip up jacket and medal.

enjoy the race course and the scenery. I hope to do the race again next year, maybe it will be my new Thanksgiving tradition. Not sure I would want to ever do the full marathon here, but it would be particularly cool to run through the “Center of the Universe” section of the course. (This is where my husband proposed to me).

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Quick Trip is the best place to “refuel” after a race in Tulsa

 

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Celebrating with my sister at the finish line

I regretted not having more rest time before the race, but it was unexpectedly pleasant to have some downtime after the event. Also, I’m not feeling nearly as guilty about indulging in all my Tulsa favorites like Braum’s, Hideaway and Taco Bueno.

I always imagined when I grew up that I would live in midtown Tulsa, work at St. Francis, buy all my gas at Quick Trip* and run everyday on the Rivertrails.  I love my life and job in Tennessee and realize that is where I belong, but this year I’m thankful for the chance to run through the beautiful city of Tulsa.

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*I’m a little obsessed with Quciktrip