The Flying Pig Half Marathon 2023

It has been 15 years since I have run the Flying Pig half marathon back home in Cincinnati. I registered for the race after our youngest son, Tommy, was born in May 2007. I needed something to get me motivated and active again after a long hiatus from athletic movement. My long break from activity was not planned but became a reality when we started our family. We had our three sons in a period of five years so I was not only busy as a mom but I was also on forced bedrest with each pregnancy in that timeframe. By the time we had grown to a family of five in a short span of time, I had also lost almost all of my endurance and strength. I needed a goal and a focus to help jumpstart my journey back to a stronger me after Tommy’s birth. So, I gave myself 12 months to prepare for the Flying Pig half marathon back in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. It fell on the weekend of Tommy’s 1st birthday in May, 2008. I ran 13.1 miles that day in just under 2 hours. Then, we had a birthday party for Tommy! It was my first endurance event as a mom.

So, after 15 years, it seemed only fitting that I come back to visit my mom in Cincinnati and plan  for a weekend when I could use the Flying Pig as a training race for Ironman Boulder 70.3 and an early lead in for training for Ironman World Championship in Kona. Coach Kathy had a long run on my training plan for May 5 regardless so I could either run it at the Flying Pig or on the trails of Colorado. I chose to make a weekend of it back in Ohio so I could see my mom and add the race in for training as a bonus. Most of you know by now that I have had some injuries in the past few years. Not only have they slowed me down physically on the run but they have also toyed with my self-confidence on the run from a mental standpoint.  Once I healed from my plantar fascia rupture injury, I came back slowly to running and it felt fine, but I found myself holding back out of fear. The thought of reinjury is a scary one. You hold back enough that you start thinking you will never be able to accomplish what you once could. Even for a coach who knows the rationality behind recovery, the mind is powerful and very subjective.  My run coach Trish and my triathlon coach Kathy both had whisper goals for me.  I had a whisper goal for myself. But, I was never going to put it out there to the public. I was really afraid I would fall short and if I did, I wanted to feel that privately.  So, in my mind, this was a training day and one where I would see where my fitness fell in the lead up to my ironman races.

I rarely run stand alone running races. Sometimes, I add in a 5K or a 10K for some fun speed work in local events here in Colorado. But, those are few and far between. I train for triathlons. I do not run on consecutive days due to my history of injury. We factor in a lower run mileage to protect my foot and pelvic floor post surgery. We make up for lower run mileage by increasing my cycling time. Some weeks, Kathy and I plan to substitute my long runs with an hour on the bike followed by a run off the bike on tired legs. It’s still a “longer” run but not as long as a long run alone would be. Or, we break up my long run into two shorter runs to give me a break between.  We play around with how we can accomplish my run endurance training in a safer way for me- less speed, more run/walk, more hill work at a slower pace. But, my run training is always designed to fit into the bigger picture of long course triathlon.  How can we make me the strongest I can be on the swim and bike so that I can also feel most efficient on the run to hit that finish line safely and as quickly as possible.  As Kathy would tell you all, I am not “just a runner”.  I am a swimmer, a cyclist and a runner. So, anytime I do a stand alone run race, I know that I am running against some of the most inspiring RUNNERS in my age group. The amazing women who dedicate themselves in their training to racing solely on the run course- the gals who put in significant hours on the road, on the trails, on the track.  It is incredible to embrace their enthusiasm on race day.

I could write a novella about my adventure on the racecourse on Sunday in Cincinnati. I will try to keep it brief so that those who read this looking for a succinct race recap can enjoy 😉 There has been controversy over how the race organizers of the Flying Pig handled the adverse weather conditions leading into the start of the race. There were over 20,000 participants in Sunday’s half marathon and full marathon events. Saturday had been beautiful but there were forecasts for severe weather for Sunday morning. That was a known fact and could be seen on radar the 30 minutes before the race started. My sister dropped me off on 2nd Street at Paycor Stadium at 5:30 am and there was significant thunder at that time. It was obvious that the storm was brewing and that it would be hitting us at some point in the near future. I have learned from many years of racing that I have no control over the weather, so I do not overly focus on it nor do I allow it to derail me much. The temperature was pretty warm at 60-65 degrees so whether there was rain or not, I was not worried about getting cold on course- especially while running. I prepared the best I could for the forecast and left it at that. I was more worried about the little bit of tummy upset I was having going into the National Anthem before the gun went off. On reflection, yes, there probably should have been a start delay to allow the bad weather to pass before putting us out on course.  There was not. There was extreme weather for the first 45-75 minutes of the race with lightning and a severe downpour which flooded streets and created adverse conditions for all involved. It was challenging. I like challenges 😉 I kept running through it all. Some people chose to shelter in place.

So, the weather did change my pacing plan up a bit from the start. I had a game plan which went out the window once the downpour started and I was soaked from the first mile. My shoes were drenched and heavier from the beginning. Luckily, I used some anti-blister gel in my socks so that prevented any blisters from forming during the run. That was probably the best decision I made on race morning.  I had a great playlist planned to keep my cadence and leg turnover up at my goal of 180 spm- but alas, the weather distracted me from getting Spotify up and going correctly and I ended up somehow on a general playlist which included some random Michael Buble. That was a total running buzzkill. I had a rhythm going so I did not want to stop and fuss with my phone in my race belt so I listened to that for a bit……not motivating for run speed. My Infinit custom blend was in my soft flask and that worked out perfectly for me. I sipped that along the way and then took water at the aid stations. My goal within the first 4 miles as we ran up and over the bridges from Ohio into Newport to Covington and then back to Cincinnati was to find my comfort zone and keep my heart rate controlled- that is more up and down than one would think. You come off the bridges and have a flat on 7th street before hitting the 3 miles of uphill into Eden Park and walnut Hills. Normally, that would have been the perfect time to settle in a bit more after the ascent of the CW Bailey bridge but this is when the most dramatic of the downpour hit us. Several runners actually lost their footing and fell on this stretch of road. I accidentally ran into a pothole I could not see since it was covered with muddy water. It got pretty treacherous and I had to slow considerably to make sure all was safe. At the end of 7th St, we start the climb over to Reading Road and then up up up to Eden Park. Huge lightning strikes blasted across the sky in front of me as I looked at Mt Adams on the hill in front of me and I do remember thinking at that moment- “Are they going to pull us off this course?” but I kept running because I honestly did not know what else to do at that moment. There was really no place for me to safely shelter in place.  Running up Reading Road and into Eden Park at mile 5-6 was the worst of the weather for me. The flooding water was rushing down the hill as I was trying to run up the hill. I stopped to wrap my phone in a plastic bag because Spotify was starting to glitch and I was afraid it was getting water damaged. I made the right hand turn into Eden park and I walked a bit up the first incline not because I was tired but because I was trying to avoid the rushing water and flooded street. That was not possible so I just decided to pick up my pace and run through it all and embrace the suck of it all 😉 This was my slowest mile of the race- I was running up the steepest part of the course, dodging flooding waters, trying to save my phone- it was borderline comical in that moment. By the time I ran past Elvis singing at the Krohn Conservatory and reached the overlook, I was back to my cruising pace and feeling pretty great. I knew my friend Tina was waiting for me at the corner of Woodburn and Madison at mile 8.5, so I picked up my pace so I could hug her and then she could get out of the rain. 

The intersection at Madison Road and Woodburn Road is where the half and full marathons split. The half continues left onto Martin Luther King Blvd and then back down towards the finish line in downtown Cincinnati. The full goes right on Madison Road and continues on through Hyde Park which is where I grew up. Next time, I am going to run the full marathon so I can run past my Mom’s house. But, I was happy to take that left turn on Sunday and know that I was only about 4 miles from the finish and that most of those miles would be flat or downhill and what I hoped would be fast.  And, they were for the most part!  It was a speedy run down Gilbert Ave., although with the wet roads, I had to be very careful not to slip on the pavement and avoid any of the painted road lines which would be especially slick.  I did have to take a quick detour to a porta potty at one point but that could not be avoided. So, I lost a little time there. Legs were still feeling very strong so I picked up my pace and decided that I would push hard to the finish. The out and back on Central Parkway seemed longer than I wanted it to be but once we made that right hand turn on Eggleston, I knew that the finish line would be coming up within 15 minutes if I kept pushing my pace.  I was amazed at all the spectators on the roadsides who had come out and braved the elements to cheer us on!  It was incredible! That last mile seemed to go on forever. I knew at that moment that the race course must be a bit long because my watch was already reading 13.2 miles and I had not reached that “Finish Swine” banner yet. But, as I hit the first timing mat and saw the finish line, I was thrilled to see the official gun time as registering at 1:45 as I ran down to the finish line. I knew that even in the worst of conditions I had run a strong race and had a personal best at the distance and on the Flying Pig course.  I walked around and made sure to thank as many volunteers as I could find at the finish. This is a big race and it takes the commitment of the community and all of the volunteers to make the day as successful as it is for those of us who race. 

I would also like to send a special shout out to all of the incredible aid station groups and cheer area groups who were out on course supporting us in those weather conditions!!  I am biased but my favorite was the Walnut Hills High School football team who were at mile 10 handing out water and cheering in their jerseys!  They had formed a big tunnel with balloons and bodies. I was like, “Way to go guys!!!  I went to Walnut Hills!!  You are awesome!!”  They were probably thinking, “Okay, old lady. Keep running, keep it going.” LOL. But, it was such an emotional boost for me to see them all out there.  GO EAGLES!

Thank you all so much for taking the time to read this and for all of the enthusiasm and well wishes you have shown me! Final time by the official clock was 1:45:32.

Final results: 

2nd out of 623 women age 50-54

101st out of 7980 women

533rd out of 13185 overall