Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Flying Pig 2011 Race Report

Well, I finished another full marathon on Sunday.  It was my fourth one to be exact.  And, you know what?  It was a personal best time for me, 4:45:30!  I should be super excited, right?  You should have seen me jumping for joy as I crossed the "Finish Swine".  It didn't exactly happen  that way today.  My race report below will expound on why it was a good day for me as a runner but definitely not a great day.

I felt like my training for this race was impeccable.  I have been working with a personal trainer and I really felt like I had "fixed" all of the issues from my previous races by doing so.  In my training runs I was pacing a 3:57 marathon and was absolutely confident that I would finish no less than a Sub 4:30.  That didn't happen for sure.

The start of the race was at 6:30 AM which I found to be something that I enjoyed.  I don't mind running early, especially when I get little sleep the night before a race.  The culprit last night was the Fireworks being shot as the Reds won their game at 11:15 PM!  Congrats, but I sure did need some sleep.  After that little episode I dozed off and on but never really got any deep sleep.

Mike and me in Piggy Pen C

My hotel was about a mile from the start so I decided to walk over instead of fighting for a parking spot.  It was a good decision because I walked over with a runner from North Carolina at a quick pace while we talked strategy.  During the walk over the the Pig Pens, it began to mist.  I had never run a marathon in the rain so I didn't know quite what to expect.  Everyone told me that it would be no different as long as it was just rain.  I was skeptical for sure.  Amazingly though, the rain was refreshing most of the time.  The only negative to it was wet socks.  The socks resulted in a blister at about mile 12 but it didn't really effect me at all.

I got my bag checked in about 5:40 and headed over to the Pig Pen C to meet Michael (@bama26point2).  When he got there the rain was coming down pretty good.  We both hit the obligatory head and got ready to run.  By the time we crossed the start line a steady rain was falling and I resigned mself to the fact that I was going to get soaked during this race.

According to the last count that I saw, there were over 30,000 particpants combined in all of the different races including the relay.  It took us about seven minutes to get to the start because of all of the people.  The first few miles was a bit crowded but it was manageable.  Actually, it never really thinned out completely for the entire marathon.  As we started, I really felt good.  I felt like my body was peaking at the right time.  I had a good bit of energy and felt like running forever.  Before the race I decided that I was going to be conservative and hold back to a slower pace.  I stayed with that strategy for the most part and cruised through the first few miles.

As many of you have seen. one guy decided to run the race witout any "baggage".  Apparently, his birthday suit was a bit more comfortable than his running shorts.  If I remember the mile marker correctly, I saw him being arrested just before mile 4.  There was quite a scene with several police cars and fire trucks involved.  The guy must have wanted to run the race really bad because he would not stop when the police tried to arrest him.  As a result, they used a taser on him.  Ouch!  I read in an article online that he didn't see the issue with running naked since there were people urinating in several different places.  What's the difference,  right?  Funny stuff.

Pigs were obviously a main attraction!

As I moved through the miles I continued to feel like I was going to be in good shape.  As I crossed the timer at around mile 7 I was holding a 9:30 pace which would have equated to a 4:15 marathon.  The Flying Pig is known for its hills from mile 4 through 9.  At mile 7 I was almost done with them and the rest of it was going to be "downhill" from there.  At mile 9 the half marathoners split off and to be honest, it was the first full marathon that I had done that in my mind I didn't have any desire to take the easier road.  At this point in the race, the course literally went downhill.  I felt good as I cruised along and made the half turn at 2:04 which still had me at the 4:15 full pace.

Earlier in the race, Michael had made the right decison and slowed his pace down.  He conserved his energy as I sped up and went out alone.  At about mile 14 Michael passed me.  I had just started feeling a twinge in my calves and quads.  I remember thinking to myself as it started, "Oh no, not today!"  I didn't cramp at all on my training runs and I had not expected to do so on race day.  I was though, and it wasn't fun.  As Michael moved on I remember thinking that I was going to work through it and still salvage my sub 4:30 marthon.  The cramping was just slowing me down at this point so I really wasn't that concerned.

Anybody that has run a marathon before knows that miles 15 through 20 can be brutal.  To me, those miles are like no man's land.  It's just the space between the first half and the last 10K.  Well, at about mile 18 the cramps hit me hard.  Both of my legs completely seized up.  I barely made it to the side of the bridge that I was on to stretch them out.  These were the kind of cramps that make you think that you're not going to be able to finish.  I spent a good bit of time working on getting my legs to just move.  As the cramps eased a bit, I was able to walk at a really slow pace. I was losing precious minutes and I could feel my sub 4:30 marathon slipping from my fingers. 

At about mile 20 the 4:30 pace group passed me.  At that point, I felt totally dejected.  I literally had tears in my eyes as they passed.  When I saw the guy come up beside me, I thought I was going to be able to keep up with them.  I tried.  I pushed with everything I had but my legs would not cooperate.  It's at these times as a runner that you really struggle with what you are doing.  So many questions were going through my head.  I wanted to quit.  My goal was literally running by me and everything I had worked so hard to accomplish was slipping away.  Why go on?  Why even try?  I trained hard and at that moment, I felt like I had wasted my time.  It was one of the toughest times for me as a runner yet.

Somehow I continued on.  I made it through the last 10K at a brutally slow pace.  It was painful, boring, and uneventful.  As a matter of fact, it was a blur and I couldn't give you many details if you asked me.  One thing that did stick out in my mind was a lady that was talking on her bluetooth as she ran.  Very interesting.

A pretty cool medal.

As with any race, when you see the finish line you get a boost of energy.  I saw the "Finish Swine" and got a bit of energy but not much.  I struggled in with a final mile at 11:03 pace.  The Flying Pig was done at a 4:45:30.

As a runner, you always have a goal and you want to hit it.  Many times it is simply to set a personal best time but at other times you want to beat a time goal.  You train for it and you try to hit it.  On this particular day, I did set a personal best time by 23 minutes but I missed my ever elusive goal of a sub 4:30 marathon.  I want to be considered by others as a "real" runner.  Don't get me wrong, I know I'm a runner.  I live it.  But by some craziness in my mind I want that sub 4:30 to legitimize myself as a runner in my own mind. 

I sat on a concrete bench after the race contemplating my finish.  I was alone and really had no one to discuss it with.  I remember telling my buddy Sam (@alum98) the day before to not be upset about not reaching his time goal.  Could I do the same? 

As I sit here now, I can.  I finished my fourth marathon.  Two years ago I couldn't have run a mile without dying.  I finished under five hours and I had never done that before.  I beat myself.  By that, I mean that at mile 18 it would have been easy to quit.  My legs were not working and I could have just given up.  I didn't.  As much as I hurt, I perservered.  I finished!

Another reason the Flying Pig was a success for me was that it was another great opportunity for me to raise money to beat cancer.  At this point, we have raised right at $1400 dollars for Relay for Life!  I'm not going to spend a bunch of time trying to raise money in this post but here is the link if you want to help:  http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLFY11MS?px=20094224&pg=personal&fr_id=28603

Tomorrow, I move to a different phase of training.  I want to really improve my times on shorter races.  I would like to do a few things before I start training for Chicago in July.  I want to run a sub 22:00 5K,  I would like to run a few trail races, and I would like to start doing some sprint triathalons.  I am thankful that I am physically able to attempt these things and I look forward to seeing if I can pull it off.

Thanks to so many people for allowing me to be a runner.  If it weren't for so many of you, I couldn't run.  First of all, my wife Torie allows me to train.  If she wasn't understanding, I couldn't run.  All three of my kids enjoy the fact that I run, I believe.  My boss is understanding and gives me the time off to travel and run races.  Finally, thanks to all of my twitter friends who are so encouraging.  You guys hold me accountable and and encourage me to keep going!

Hope to see you all on the road soon!


  1. Yep. Had similar thoughts as the pace groups passed me on Saturday. I finished my first marathon, and I'm proud. However, it wasn't the goal that I set. We'll get it next time!

  2. It sucks when a pace group passes. I know that feeling. But look at you! Another great finish. And everyone that finishes is a winner! Great job and good luck with your next training phase.

  3. Great recap, Chris. I'm glad you were able to find the positive when you were clearly disappointed in your finish. You know I'm proud of you, my friend. Love ya!

  4. Hi Chris, just came across your blog while scanning through Flying Pig tweets. I just started getting into running about 18 months ago, and ran my first 1/2 marathon last weekend. I hope to run my first full in Chicago this October.

    I fell a few minutes short of my goal as well, though I was lucky not to cramp up or anything.

    Sometimes the little victories and unexpected accomplishments are the most powerful... You didnt hit your goal of 4:30. But you will... Instead though, you learned how to persevere and push yourself even at the bleakest moments. Courage is measured when we move forward without fear and inspite of failure.


  5. Thank you, and congratulations on finishing your marathon in under five hours -- an elusive goal for many marathoners. This has to be one of the best articles written on what it feels like to complete a marathon!

    Kirk (SpryFeet.com)