Thursday, May 23, 2013

Race Recap: Maine Coast Marathon

Running in the Maine Coast Marathon definitely solidified my feelings about small town races...I love them! Runners seem more friendly, the locals are excited to have you in their town, you're not jockeying for room on the course, and the race logistics are much less complicated than the big city races. Held just south of Portland, the Maine Coast Marathon course was a point-to-point (my personal favorite). The race started in the quaint community of Kennebunk and finished on the University of New England's campus in Biddeford, but not before winding me and my fellow runners around the twisty, surprising hilly roads, that lead us to the gorgeous Maine coastline.

Temperatures were in the high 50s and a fine mist was falling at the beginning of the race that turned into a steady light rain as the race wore on. Ideal racing conditions, rain and all, in my opinion. There was quite a bit of fog along the coastline that robbed some of the views that I was hoping to see, but I was still able to appreciate its beauty.

I was secretly hoping to PR and felt that if things went my way, it was possible. I had run in the Flying Pig Marathon the week prior, but I'd treated it as a training run and I felt fully recovered going into Maine Coast. I settled into an 8:30 pace and maintained that for the first 13.1. Kennebunk was a really cool seaside town to run through and I was surprised to see a lot of locals out (in the rain) cheering us on. Many parts of the course were on rural roads which made this marathon feel more like a weekend long run (just the way I like it!).

After crossing the halfway point, I dropped my pace down to about an 8:20. By mile 18, I was averaging an 8:10. My legs were definitely feeling it, but I still felt like I had enough in the tank to push on. Crossing mile 20, I was right on target to PR, which excited and encouraged me to keep pushing. Then, mile 23 happened. I hit a MASSIVE wall. I've hit plenty of walls, but this was like no wall I'd ever experienced before. Typically, my body gives me a good warning that I'm about to max out. However, I got no warning at all. One second I'm running strong, the next my legs feel like jelly and 10 pounds heavier. From that point on, I was in complete survival mode. It was a pretty helpless feeling.


3 hours, 47 minutes and 22 seconds after I started, I crossed the finish and missed out on my PR by about two minutes. Yet, I had no disappointment about not PRing. I left everything I had out on the course and it wasn't enough this day. But hey, that's running. I don't look at falling short as a failure. Instead, I see it as a motivator to keep pushing and testing my limits. Running a marathon isn't suppose to be easy and that's one of the main reasons why I love this distance.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Race Recap: Flying Pig Marathon

Once and awhile you run in a marathon that sucks. The organization is poor. The course isn't well thought out. The volunteers are cold and leave you wondering why they even came out to help. Locals find the race to be disruptive and an inconvenience.

Let me tell you, the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati was none of these. From the moment I was greeted at the Flying Pig Welcome Center at the airport till the time I crossed the finish line, I was thoroughly impressed. The folks that organized this event knew how it should be done.

I had heard good things about Flying Pig. Then again, I'd heard good things about other races only to be let down when I ran in them. So, I didn't set my expectations too high. However, the expectations I did have were quickly knocked out of the park.

I decided to sign up for "The Pig" rather late. My good friend, Drew, lives in Cincinnati and he and his wife just had their first baby, Cole. I was anxious to meet the little guy and Drew mentioned to me that I should come out and run in the race. It doesn't take much persuasion to get me to do things like this, so I was in!

I landed in Cincinnati Friday afternoon and Drew met me at the airport. Later that evening, Drew, his wife, the little one and I walked down to Hyde Park for some ice cream (yes, I fuel my runs with ice cream). A section of the course goes through Hyde Park and when we got down there, I noticed a nice touch by the Flying Pig staff, official course marker signs. I thought that was really cool and something I had never seen done at a race before.
Flag lining the course in Hyde Park
Huge toilet at the expo
After a relaxing Saturday at the expo and walking around downtown Cincinnati, it was time to get some rest. The marathon started at 6:30AM, so I was up and at it early. Drew dropped me off at the start with plenty of time to kill before I needed to get into my pig pen (corral). The course started behind the Bengals football stadium and wrapped itself around downtown and even part of Kentucky before it sent you up into the hills. While some are not the biggest fan of hills, I like them. So, I found this part of the course to be pretty enjoyable. Besides, the view you got of the city at mile 7 makes the climbing well worth it.
Start line
Miles 14 through about 17 were without a doubt my favorite part of the course. It was here that the course went through the community of Mariemont and their residents were out in full! Many people were having little block parties throughout this section and it was awesome to run through it all!

Things got a little quiet from miles 19 to 25.  However, the volunteers at the aid stations during this part were lively and full of energy, which helped make up for it. In fact, the volunteers were awesome throughout the entire race. My thanks to all of you!

The stretch to the finish was electric. Cheering and enthusiastic spectators lined the course and you couldn't help but move your legs faster. As I neared the finish swine (aka finish line) my mind wandered to the events that took place at Boston. The whole race weekend was full of Boston love and support and crossing the finish line was pretty special.

What happened in Boston didn't deter anyone from running. In fact, the outpour of support was so big after Boston that both the marathon and half-marathon ended up selling out. I love my running family and I'm very proud to be a part of it. I will continue to run this year with Boston in my heart and on my wrist, thanks to these awesome, pig-inspired, Boston Strong wristbands! I would recommend running the Flying Pig Marathon to anyone. Absolute first-class event from start to finish!