Monday, May 6, 2013

#450: 2013 Flying Pig Marathon, Part 1

At Mile 8, I knew that the worst of the hills was over. By Mile 9, I knew that I needed to improve my skills in reading an elevation chart.

This little piggy went to Cinci
The Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati OH is an urban race. You go through lots of neighborhoods, the canyons downtown, and a truly beautiful city park. You also spend a lot of time looking up hills saying "Oh shit, not another one..." This was my second Marathon, and I profited mightily from my experience running in Pittsburgh last spring, but it was also my second time taking on 26.2 while woefully under-prepared to do the climbing that the course required. That's a mistake I don't want to make again.

My race weekend started on Friday with a few loads of laundry and an early lights out. The 90 minute drive to a 6:30 start was going to knock my sleep rhythm way out of whack, and I wanted to be prepared. I also got the heart-breaking news that my bosses at the Y want me to take May off   to recover from my recent breakdown. I know that they are probably right, but I was feeling very good and really hoped I would be able to get back into the swing of things this week when LIVESTRONG at the YMCA starts its summer session. Instead, I'll spend the month healing, reflecting, and dropping the weight that I gained while fueling up for this race. My weight is still the biggest obstacle to my speed, and I'm determined that by September I'm going to get down to my target of 220. I'm at 266 this morning. The trick is going to be getting my mood stabilized so I'm not medicating myself with emotional eating. If I'm not careful, I could be back over 300 in a matter of weeks.

Saturday, Mrs P and I drove up to the Queen City to pick up my packet and swag, and to cruise the Expo. It was a big one, like the race itself.  I understand there were around 30,000 runners registered for the weekend's events, which makes The Pig about 3/4 the size of the Pittsburgh which was run at the same time, just a few hours up the Ohio River. Cinci is so much like The 'Burgh, in culture, in history, and in geography. Both are river valley towns with heavy industrial roots that have evolved as the information age has developed. It's skyline blends classic American skyscrapers with some post-modern monstrosities that rival the amazingly weird gothic glass edifice of the PPG building back home. The strangest of them appears to be capped by a gigantic football shoved point first, halfway through the roof. Still, there is life and friendly hospitality to be found in these old streets, and in spite of it's proximity to Kentucky, Cincinnati is definitely a Northern City.

I managed to get out of the expo having spent very little money... mostly because I left my wallet in the car. It was lucky for me that we have such a strange, hyphenated last name, because otherwise I don't think that the conscientious volunteer would have given me my bib. Security was very present and very visible throughout the event. Fallout from Boston. I wonder if racing will ever be the same again now that the world feels the need to protect us from the crazies.

Traveling light
Mrs P did all the driving this weekend. My screwed up sleep, my hard-cycling emotions, and my lousy driving combined to make us both more comfortable with her more steady hand at the tiller.
For Becky
Back in Lexington, I finished the laundry, packed up all my gear, and laid out my race clothes. I planned to dress light. I already had enough extra weight on my body. I didn't want to add any with a potentially rain-soaked outfit. I selected my spandex compression shorts, my Y tank, and a pair of toe socks to go inside my amazingly green NikeFrees. A SPI belt full of energy chews would be all I would carry, unless the weather called for my hydration pack. I intended to go for broke on this one. By 8:00, I was showered, in bed, my 2:30 AM alarm was set, and my relaxation app was droning softly from my iPad. Sleep was deep and easy, if interrupted by several trips to the can. I had been drinking gallons of liquids all week to get myself hydrated. While this tactic proved to be very successful on race day, I did wear a path to every lavatory in sight starting around Wednesday afternoon.

Race day morning, I didn't make it to the 2:30 beep. By 2:00 I was lying in the dark, staring at the slowly changing red numbers on the clock. Might as well get up. And now, I have to be honest with you, dearest reader. My memories of race day are always a little foggy. This race came along with my head in such a strange space that I'm not sure what I remember and what I've made up. So enjoy the ride, but I won't be testifying to any of the following time-line under oath.

Breakfast was coffee with fat-free half and half, and an apple fritter. This leaden, sugary treat is probably about the worst thing you could eat before a race, but it was my breakfast on my last long run, the 28 miler, and I didn't want to screw with the routine. I checked my computer and found two deeply moving messages. The first was the news that an old college buddy had donated an amazing amount of money to Living Strong at the Y: enough to carry us all the way to our very ambitious goal. I sent him a thank you as soon as I saw his donation come in. I also received a carefully written and inspiring message from our nephew the preacher. He reminded me of God's role in my life. How my salvation not just from cancer, but from sin came from my creator and redeemer. He reminded me that the people who came and went in my life were gifts from God. He also exhorted me to remember that while people might leave, God's faithfulness would always remain and my first duty must always be to obeying God, not to earning the approval of people. It was just what I needed to hear. I blogged about his words, and carried them along with me through out the race.

It was raining when we left Lexington, about 15 minutes later than I had hoped we would. Mrs P drove through the misty darkness while I drank water, sipped apple, carrot, ginger juice, and napped. We were behind schedule when crossed the Ohio into town, but that was not my biggest problem. Coffee. Half and half. Water. Juice. Guess what I had to do? Guess what there was no sign of anywhere on the traffic packed streets of Cincinnati at 5:45 in the morning? When I could hold it no longer, I had to resort to desperate measures. I was wearing my racing shorts, and couldn't afford a slip and drip. I searched through the trash can in the car. It says on their website that a large McDonalds Mango Pineapple smoothie comes in a 22 oz cup. I shucked down my drawers, surrounded by traffic, suddenly grateful for the pre-dawn darkness. Little Pennsy and I filled that 22 oz cup with ease. I quickly opened my door and dumped the contents out onto the street. Then we made some more. I was not aware that such volume was even possible. Mrs P and I were both a little queasy after the moment had passed. Finally, we found a parking garage and she slipped the Honda into a spot where I could finish dressing. I opened the hatch and changed into my shirt and shoes. Heart rate monitor. Sweat bands. Tape with my pacing plan written on it. Sunglasses for later. I considered the rain, the temperature, and the four cups of water i had just made, and decided to leave the hydration pack in my race bag. I knew it would be empty by about mile 12 anyway, and the thought of carrying an empty, mildly sloshing pack on my back just made me want to pee again. I checked to make sure that the baggie protecting my energy chews was zipped shut and rolled up inside my SPI belt, kissed Mrs P, posed for some pictures in the creepy sodium light, and I was off. She went back in the car to sleep. We would meet up at the finish line.


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