Little Miami River in Ohio
Time to reflect on the races I completed for 2012. This year, I limited my self to five races. So it was important to make them count. The decision was made to run the full gamut of long distance races, excluding the elusive ultramarathon. Those races include 5k, 10k, half marathon (13.1 miles), full marathon (26.2 miles), and a relay for good measure.
First race of the year was the Kentucky Derby Mini-Marathon that took place in beautiful Louisville, Kentucky. I was really ready for this race. A mild winter allowed me to get in some extra training and I was feeling fast. Goal for this race was a finish time of 1 hour 45 minutes. We (I mean, my family and myself) arrived in Louisville the night before the race and picked up my registration at the expo. We had a quick bite and headed to the hotel to get some adequate rest for the race the next morning. Rest I did not get. Our hotel was located next to the Hard Rock Cafe which had an outdoor concert of some sort going on late into the night. A loud refrigerator in the room and Lauren talking in her sleep added to the frustration. I got three hours of sleep. Despite the lack of sleep I was still amped up for the race. The race started without any problems. Weather was great and the runners were friendly. Everything was going right until mile 8 when I "bonked". Tiredness set in. The night caught up to me and I just wanted to lie down and take a nap. I relented, I finished, and got my very nice half marathon medal. I did not achieve my goal. Instead I finished 1 hour and 49 minutes. Running lesson learned: sleep in essential for performance, even a 5hour energy drink won't get you through.
Second race of the year was the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon 10k. "The Pig", as it is affectionately referred to, is a tradition around here. We've participated in the 5k portion before, but this year I decided to do the 10k. After bonking on my half marathon in Louisville, I wanted to take my revenge out on the 10k. Goal for this race was under 50 minutes. The race took place on an overcast Saturday in downtown Cincinnati. I've run a number of races in downtown before, so the course was familiar. There was very mild rain at the beginning of the race and I was worried a downpour would come. Fortunately it didn't. Running the bridges was no problem and I enjoyed running past landmarks such as Great American Ballpark and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. At the finish, I easily beat my goal with a time of 47 minutes and 39 seconds. I placed 6th in my division. One of the great things about the Pig is that every year they have one of the most creative finishers medals. Running lesson learned: Revenge can motivate (in a positive way).
Third race of the year was the Sawtooth Relay in Stanley, Idaho. This race goes down as the race I had the most fun with for the year. There really was no pressure to achieve a goal time, only a goal experience. The race takes place in the stunningly beautiful Sawtooth mountains in central Idaho. Our race started at 1am at a small school in who-knows-where. On my team was my wife, Amber, my sister and her husband, and our great friends the Dickinsons. I was assigned two legs of about 5 miles each. I kept my pace at a nearly exact 8 minutes on each leg. The course varied between 6500 and 8500 ft elevation. However, I fortunately didn't feel any ill effects of the elevation since I live in Ohio (elevation 950ft). The temperature was pretty darn cold. It varied little between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit... in June. We encountered wind, rain, fog, sleet, snow, thunder, lightning, hail, and a wee bit of sunshine. But, we had the best time. Everyone ran well. I particularly liked running in the dense fog only being able to see ten feet in front of me and hearing the Salmon river on my right. At the finish line we had brats and huckleberry soda pop. A great great experience in a gorgeous location. Running lesson learned: running with close friends and family can make crazy circumstances an exciting adventure.
Fourth race of the year was the Mudathlon in Hamilton, Ohio. For my 5k race of the year, I decided to take part in one of those popular muddy obstacle course races. This meant that I won't achieve any sort of time goal. My goal was to finish uninjured. I was in mid-marathon training at this point and was admittedly nervous about breaking an ankle or something. I ran it with a friend from anesthesia school, Ami, and her husband Jim. They're practically pros at running obstacle course races, so I simply followed their lead. There was a lot of climbing up things, climbing down things, climbing across things, and mud mud mud. It took a couple of days for me to get de-mudded. Not a race I would do competitively, but for indulging the little kid in me. It was fun to horse around and I can see why people are addicted to these kind of races. Running lesson learned: sometimes doing a non-traditional race can be healthy in breaking up the seriousness of marathon training.
Fifth race of the year was the Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio. The year before I had a successful half marathon with this event and I decided I wanted to do the full this year. I got good sleep the night before the race, tapered properly, and stuck to my diet. When I arrived on Saturday morning I was so happy that the temperature was 50 degrees. All summer, I trained for this race in the hot humid weather of southwest Ohio. The cooler weather was a relief. Right before the race gun sounded, a B2 bomber flew low over the crowd. A stealth bomber, all you could hear was the wind going over the wings. What an honor to run with military veterans and active duty service men and women. My time goal was 3 hours 45 minutes. I felt this was reasonable since I was doing my 20+ mile training runs at a pace of 8:40 to 8:20 minute miles. The first 2-ish miles was uphill, but with all the pre-race adrenaline going, you would never notice. The next 18 miles were either mildly downhill or flat. At the celebrated "Mile 10" I saw my family cheer me on. That gave me an added boost. I loosely stuck with the 3:45 pace group so that I didn't start out too fast. All went as planned until about mile 16 or 17. This is where I started to "bonk". It felt as if someone had hit me in the back of the legs with a baseball bat. I stopped to stretch out the cramps and let out a small yell. One of the runners asked if I needed a medic. I laughed and fibbed that's what I do when I stretch. A medic wasn't necessary, but looking back proper hydration strategy was needed. Because the race wasn't as hot as when I was training, I made the very poor decision to start hydrating at about the 10k mark. Bad, bad, bad. When I noticed I wasn't sweating anymore, I knew I was in trouble. I wasn't tired. I wasn't exhausted. Yet the muscles in my legs turned to immovable stone. How discouraging it all suddenly became. I wasn't going to make my time. I thought I was going to lose my mind. All I could do was try to save face. In the end I finished in 4 hours and 5 minutes. I was disappointed, especially while running one of my favorite events. On a positive note, I learned much about marathon running. Marathons aren't races you simply run and hope you do well. They require proper training, planning, and strategy. I think I trained right, planned right, but strategy was wrong. Next year, I'll have my revenge... Running lesson learned: HYDRATE! Even when you don't thing you need it, because you do. Hydrate early and listen to signals from you body.
One of the best part about running these races is training for them. I live about ten minutes from the Loveland trail here in Ohio. I spend nearly every Saturday morning on that trail at sun up. It's quiet, beautiful, and peaceful. The Little Miami river lazily runs next to the trail and I always see cardinals, deer, wild turkey, blue jays, and other critters while I run. These training runs have been good for my soul after a week of work. I will continue utilize this trail for my races in 2013.
Most of all I'm grateful for the support of my wife, Amber. Not once has she called me crazy for running all these races. She has always be ultra supportive.
Next year's races will be the Ragnar Relay Florida Keys, Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio, the GoOTR 5k in Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Reds Redlegs Run 10k, the Air Force Marathon, and Monumental Indianapolis Marathon. Feel free to join me!