This is a long time coming; I was originally scheduled to run the Flying Pig in May 2020. I was training when everything shut down in March 2020. We all pivoted. It felt good to finally run this race, and perform well at it — which was my original goal. The RDs at Flying Pig were so flexible, and allowed multiple deferral options – which including deferring your race to 2021, 2022, or 2023.
Let’s start at Fall 2021. I was focused on trails. I ran a trail marathon, a 50K, and then attempted a 50 miler at Lookout Mountain, but DNFed. Coming off that DNF, I wanted to do something a little different. I have been working with a coach, and we decided to focus on getting faster at a road marathon. My fall 10k time trial to set my training paces had been a PR, and I thought I had more speed in me.
So, I had a dedicated road marathon training cycle. I haven’t done this kind of work since 2013 – when I set a PR in Philly. And I was excited to do something different. After a brief rest in December, I started building my mileage. I was running speed work consistently and hitting all my paces. I was running 5 days a week, with one full rest day. Because I was also still fitting in the gym for strength twice a week. The graph below shows a respectable growth in mileage (until it doesn’t).
So, starting in March 2022, my shin started to feel a bit off. I thought it was old shoes. I swapped them out for newer ones, but I fear it was too late. I’m now learning that I suffer from Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, and that I always have low level shin splints. I had a flare up in 2017 – that led to a stress fracture in my left leg. I had a flare up at the end of GVRAT in 2020 in my right leg that sidelined me. And I had a flare up during this training cycle, which also sidelined me. It sidelines me because it presents just like my stress fracture presented in 2017, and I do not want to go through that again. I’m still figuring out how to manage this. But it appears my triggers are speed work on road and hitting 45+ mpw on road.
So, my training was cut short. I skipped my last 20 miler heading into the taper, and then took pretty much a week and a half completely off from running while awaiting an MRI (which came back clean). I biked during this time, but didn’t run. I did get a few runs in in the last week leading up to the race. But clearly, I was not in the shape I had hoped I would be in for this race.
And what kind of shape was in before stopping – Damn, I was ready to PR. I had been hitting GMP in my long runs of 8:35-8:45, which would have brought my in sub 3:50 — and my previous PR is 3:56.
What about this race?
Let’s shift gears, from me to the race. So, I registered for the Flying Pig back in 2019, planning to run May 2020. I was going to run with my cousin. We’ve run about 5 marathons together. He lives in the NYC metro – and we meet up and run and hang out. It’s a nice way to stay connected and to share running. We decided to use our registration credit and make 2022 our race. I reserved us an Airbnb in Cincinnati (in OTR), we planned a long weekend. I drove up from Blacksburg (about 6 hours), and he flew in. So, we started our weekend on Friday.
The Flying Pig is an entire weekend event. They have a 10k and 5k on Saturday along with some kids races, and some pet races. Then on Sunday they host the marathon and half marathon. You can sign up for multiple combinations of these races. We were only there for the marathon. On Saturday, we walked around the city, spectated a bit at the 10k finish line, grabbed brunch, and then hit the expo at the convention center. The expo was what you expect mid size marathon expos to be. Had all the vendors, snaked you through a line of merchandise. I fell victim and bought a cute, pink top. We had dinner out that night, and headed back to the Airbnb for an early night.
Race day morning, I woke up at 5:15am. The race was scheduled to start at 6:30am. I checked the weather one last time: 60s, humid, and overcast; opted for a short sleeve and shorts, and headed out the door. We were staying about a mile and a half from the start, and opted to take an Uber out there. Honestly, we had plenty of time! Our Uber picked us up at 5:45, and I was in the corral by 6am! The corrals snaked around the football stadium, my cousin and I said a quick goodbye, and good race (we’re in different corrals). One perk, each corral had their own set of port-o-potties (yay!).
What was my plan for this race? Honestly, I felt like it could go one of two ways:
(A) Start at 9:05-9:15 pace, and just try to hold it for the entire race. Maybe bring it down after mile 20.
(B) If my leg/shin felt weird, just run my aerobic base, maybe a 9:30-9:45 pace and coast.
No matter what, I was going to finish this marathon. Alright, so some chatting in the corrals, the national anthem, and the waves start moving. From corral D, it took about 7-8 minutes to get to my start. So, we all moved pretty quickly. And then we didn’t move quickly. Let’s talk about the corrals. I don’t think the Flying Pig team informs or enforces paces at all. So, my corral should have been people targeting a 4-4:10 Full, or a 2-2:05 half. We had a lot of walkers at the start, a lot. AND I continued to pass people for at least the first two miles – meaning there were a fair number of people in corrals A, B, and C that were also not placed well. It was just a cluster trying to get around everyone. Because of the navigation, I don’t remember a whole lot of the race these first couple miles. Miles 1-3 took us over a bridge into Covington KY, and then back on a bridge into OH.
Miles 4 – 6 took us back through downtown Cincinnati, lots of crowds, and then inched us towards some residential and the biggest hill of the marathon (still not that big). Most of mile 6 and 7 had us climbing, and then we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the Ohio River. Just after this climb, the half-marathoners split off from us, and we were on our way! I chatted with a couple runners, one guy in an Oklahoma running club shirt: The Landrunners, and a local Cincinnati runner that was running his first marathon! I’ll note, my shin felt okay. I think I felt it a tiny bit in the beginning, but I also wonder right now how much I’m looking to feel it?
Miles 8 – 14 took us through some cool residential neighborhoods. I remember thinking during this time to keep my pace steady. I was talking to that first time marathoner around mile 8 or 9, and I noticed my speed was picking up, so I fell back a bit. Keeping my average mile hovering around 9:05. At mile 15, we got to a cool little downtownish area that reminded me of Manayunk at the Philly Marathon – awesome crowds, bands, people handing out random food. I just had wished this was later in the race – because I would really need this enthusiasm at mile 20!! I made the mistake of taking some bacon here. I mean, I love bacon, and I often eat bacon at trail races – here was the difference, I wasn’t stopping running at this marathon. It’s a bad idea to try eat bacon while you’re running. I ended up with bacon dust in my mouth, I was trying to chew, swallow, breath, and not inhale bacon dust. It didn’t work. I choked a little, and then also, my mouth felt greasy. So, note to self, no bacon while road running.
While obsessed with the bacon, I also noticed my left IT band was not happy. I was concerned about this. We were only about mile 16, and my IT band was starting to go downhill. Luckily, it stayed at a low level of annoyance, and I was able to push through. Now it was also around mile 14ish that I started playing those math games with myself. At 14 – 2 x 10ks left. I can run a 10k. At each mile marker I was calculating and re-calculating distances into consumable sizes. I was like – only think about getting to mile 20 – that’s all you have to do.
At mile 17, we left the populated little turnaround area and started our (mostly) downhill trek back to the riverfront and the finish. Mostly downhill, yes, but also with soft and easy rollers that were tricky on tired legs. Honestly, after mile 18, I think I was just pushing myself mile by mile, making deals to keep pushing to the next mile marker. Trying to keep my pace, stay in a good mood, and enjoy the aid stations. There were abundant aid stations for the race. I think they said 19 over the marathon. I relearned the pinch and sip. On our way back we ran through some more neighborhoods, along the Ohio River, on a highway for a bit, and then back into downtown Cincinnati. I had a moment in mile 24. The sun had come out, we were running up a slight uphill, I was bargaining with myself to keep running, and then, I was walking. So, I gave myself some time, I thought about what I wanted the outcome to be. I mean, honestly I could have walked it in from mile 24, but no. I got my shit together and I started running again. I blew through the last of the aid stations. I was just super hungry to finish the dang marathon.
I came in and crossed the finish line with a chip time of 4:00:55. My second fastest marathon! (right between my two Philly finishes at 3:56 and 4:08). Dang. I could have been sub 4 if I hadn’t had that moment in mile 24, but this is still a great race. And who knows, if temps had been cooler, if there had been less humidity, if the sun didn’t come out at mile 23?
I lingered around the finish line for a bit, and then I walked back the one and half miles to my Airbnb. Along the way, I stopped for empanadas. And then took it easy the rest of the day.
For those of you that like the details: here is my strava entry for this race. One little brag — according to my chip timing, even with my stop in mile 24, I ran a 2:01 first half, and a 1:59 second half – and wow! I love that consistency and that ever so slight negative split. (happy dance).
Overall review of Flying Pig
I can see why this race has a big reputation. Cincinnati is a warm and welcoming city; it’s got a great energy and is extremely walkable. We had great meals and beer. The race itself has great production quality, the course is moderately challenging for a road marathon, there are so many dang volunteers! and they are so enthusiastic. The race itself had about 2500 marathoners, so I think this race definitely does target the half, but still, plenty of support for the full marathon. Overall, I recommend. At the same time, I don’t need to run it again.
What’s next for me?
I need to figure out my damn leg. So, still need a plan to manage MTSS. Otherwise, I have a few more spring races to finish out the Roanoke Non-Ultra Trail Series (RNUTS). And I’m currently number 2 on the waitlist for my first 100k, Mines of Spain in Iowa this October.