Wednesday, May 6, 2015
So many people asked me over the weekend, "why did you pick the Flying Pig Marathon?" The short answer is I'm addicted to marathons and hadn't done this one yet. The longer answer is I was looking for a spring marathon after I finished NYC last year and I had a short list of races I was considering and at the same time I was trying to convince my friend Lisa to run her first marathon. We had done many shorter races together and she trained to run Boston as a bandit in 2012 and bailed at the halfway mark because of the heat (wise decision). I knew she had it in her and I knew she really wanted to run one. We could have done a local race, but I told Lisa that her first marathon should be a big deal (or as it turns out a "pig deal"). Many of the local races were smaller in size, capped at 5000 runners tops. Would have been fine for me, sometimes smaller races have a lot of charm and really cool swag. But for her first marathon I told her she should run a race with 20,000 other runners and go to a giant expo and get a finishers jacket and have tons of crowd support along the course and see a new city that she had never been to. So, at some point in December I finally registered and then forwarded my confirmation email to Lisa with the words "YOUR TURN" typed at the top of the email. She hesitated and it took a little more convincing, but she finally registered too.
So, we were all signed up and now we needed to train. I planned it all out. We had 16 weeks from the time I got back from doing the Dopey Challenge in Disney and I designed a training schedule with a few micro-cycles of building mileage and then recovering. While I was in Disney running 48.6 miles I gave Lisa a homework assignment to ease her into the training and ensure she was ready to get going when I got back - run 6 miles, nice and easy, we'd done it a million times before. I did Dopey and came back and asked her how the 6 miles went....she skipped it. She said life got in the way, she was too busy. I told her training for a marathon is a big commitment and life has to sometimes take a back seat for a bit. I sort of wondered if she was really up for the challenge and if she really knew what she signed up for. It's not just a race, it's months of preparing for that race.
So, the next weekend we did 8 miles on the Newton Hills in sub-zero temperatures with a ridiculous wind chill that froze my water bottles and my face. It was tough but we got it done. Lisa worried about the time it took us to drive to Newton and then run and drive back and wanted to run closer to home the following weekend to save some time. I figured an hour travel time total for a safe place to run was not too bad and our long runs were only going to get longer and take more time. All part of training for a marathon in my book. Saturdays are not for running errands and getting things done, they are reserved for long runs, followed by a nap and maybe some food and beverages.
Anyway, the next weekend began the most epic winter of snow dumping on New England EVER and we didn't get to run at all so travel time wasn't an issue. For the next three weeks in a row, we got over a foot of snow and no end in sight. Roads were not clear and snowbanks were like mountains. Lisa began to worry about the training and I started to worry a little too, but I just revised our plan and removed a few recovery weeks and reassured her that we would be fine. We still had plenty of time. If we needed to we could even take out one of the two 20 milers and still be ready for the race in time.
It didn't really stop snowing, but it stopped snowing in huge ridiculous total accumulation amounts so we were able to get out and start our training over again. We did a continuous build with no recovery weeks 10-12-14-16-18-20. In those 6 weeks of training we ran in every type of precipitation possible. Snow, sleet, rain, torrential down pours and blizzard conditions. It was brutal. We got one recovery week and one more 20 miler in before the taper and then we were ready to race. We got one really beautiful day to do our last double digit run. 14 miles of hills. I told Lisa to use the taper to start to mentally prepare for the race. Practice visualization and mentally plan out the race, break it into small manageable chunks and think about a positive experience and a strong finish.
As the race got closer, the taper madness set in. It was sort of fun to watch it happen in someone else. I'm kind of used to it by now and don't get that nervous. I get more excited than anything. Lisa started to panic about what to wear, what to pack, what to eat. All normal things. Training her and talking her through all of it was like re-living my first marathon. It was so fun. Race weekend finally arrived and it was time to go. The forecast was less than ideal, 75 and mostly sunny, but we kept telling ourselves that the race started at 6:30am and we should be almost done before it gets real hot.
We explored a little of Cincinnati and the surrounding area, met some other runners and went to the Expo and got Lisa her official finishers jacket (not to be worn until after she finished). We had our pre-race dinner and got to bed early and planned to meet in the morning to walk to the start. I met Lisa in the lobby of her hotel at 5:15 to walk to the start area, she was checking and double checking that she had everything and hadn't forgotten anything. I said, "do you have sneakers on? Clothes on? A positive attitude? yes? there's nothing else you need."
We walked to the start and found our corral (or "Pig Pen") and used the port-o-potty one more time and then talked with some of the other runners in our pig pen. There was a cute older woman there running the half marathon from St. Petersburg, FL. She said she had done the full marathon before and the course was nice. Then she pointed to a tattoo on her calf and said she did the Ironman in Kona too. She was AMAZING. I love all the people you meet at races. It is so fun to hear everyone's story and to share your own. I tried to make the whole weekend all about Lisa. It was her day. Her first marathon and I was determined to make it awesome. I told everyone that would listen, "It's her first marathon today!" She must have felt like a celebrity.
Before we knew it, we were moving....it was time to run. We got to the start line, right at the front of our pig pen and then fireworks went off and we were running. My 20th marathon and Lisa's first. I told her not to get sucked into the excitement and bolt out of the start, just hold back and settle in. It was just another long run. The sunrise was amazing and the miles flew by. We crossed into Kentucky and then back into Ohio in a flash.
The only way I can describe it is it felt like someone magically switched on a heat lamp right at that point. I knew the last 10K would be tough, but when it got hot and the sun was almost directly above us and there was no shade to be found, it was beyond tough. I had to stop and walk and pour water over my head at each water stop. I put ice in my armpits. I did everything i could to keep my core temperature down and it would spike right back up as soon as we started running. The water stops were not close enough together and I felt like I was cooking form the inside out. At one point they handed out wet towels and I draped it over my shoulders. That helped a lot, but it quickly evaporated and was a dry crusty towel.
We kept moving forward and I kept telling Lisa to go on without me if she felt strong. She insisted we started together and we would finish together. I tried to put the miles into perspective for her and give her landmarks from home and all our training runs to remind her how far we had gone and how little was left. We could do it. She reminded me of other races I had done in the heat and completed and tougher challenges I had faced. We were an unstoppable pep talking pair. One at a time we checked off mile by mile. And finally, I could see the "FIN.." of the Finish line banner. I told Lisa to dig deep we were almost there and almost done. I could see some shade that we could get into immediately and I pushed a little harder. One step at a time, we made it! We crossed the "Finish SWINE".
I completed my 20th marathon and Lisa completed her first marathon in 5:44. (which given the weather, was exactly where I expected us to be, somewhere between 5:30 and 5:45). It was not easy, the last few miles were a struggle, but the struggle makes the accomplishment that much more amazing and gratifying. All the months of training in snow and wind and rain, finally rewarded with an impressively heavy medal placed over my head and around my neck. We DID IT!