It had been a long time since we'd been to Cincinnati (since before the advent of digital cameras, if you can believe that!), so we were looking forward to this trip.
Probably the most famous Cincinnati marathon is the Flying Pig in the springtime, but I had just found out about this autumnal offering, a fairly recent addition compared to the Pig. It looked like a nice, small-to-mid-sized event (about 1200 runners and 73 walkers for the half) with a great course and the added bonus of a separate walking division...and it was only a half marathon and a 5K - no full. I registered many, many months before the race was to take place and began my training under the watchful and expert eye of my coach, Sherry Watts - she's amazing! Things went very, very well until I had an unfortunate experience during one of my LSD workouts three weeks before the race, consisting of a hip cramp causing a knee problem. Although I had pinpointed the problem and took immediate action, I was justifiably worried about the race as I've never been injured like that before. I seemed to bounce back well, but the nagging worry continued.
We decided to head for Cincy on Friday October 19th (the race was to be on Saturday) and had a good drive until we hit horrendous traffic nearing the city. I had to get downtown to pick up my race packet, then we had a couple of other downtown stops to make. I did make it in plenty of time and headed down to the start/finish area at Sawyer Point in the pouring rain to get my bib, etc. Yes; pouring rain: correction: cold pouring rain. I received a really nice cloth bag with the 13.1 logo and "Cincinnati Half Marathon" on it, a sticker with the same, my bib, chip and a performance T that I had purchased separately (this was promoted as a "no-frills" race - you didn't get a T automatically with your registration), but it was only $10 and a really nice shirt.
|C'mon, admit it - this is really why we do the races!|
We then headed over to Newport, Kentucky (literally 5 minutes away) to Bob Roncker's Running Spot so I could try on a pair or two of Altra Intuitions. I had been researching these shoes for several weeks and really wanted to try them as the concept is exactly what I would have come up with if I had designed racewalking shoes; they aren't yet prevalent in Canada, of course. I had emailed them the day before that I was coming and they were extremely efficient and accommodating (thank you store manager Matthew Frondorf!) and made sure they set aside the sizes I needed. He knew about racewalking as the stores not only offer running clinics, but also walking clinics and training programs, and he agreed that these shoes would be excellent for that. The Running Spot stores have been named #1 specialty running store in the USA and I believe it: unfortunately for many of us, they are only in the Cincinnati area. I walked out of there a little poorer in cash but richer in shoes and a good experience. [I will blog about the shoes at a later time]. On to a brew at Rockbottom in downtown Cincy and dinner (Tree Hugger pizza with vegan cheese) at Mac's up in Clifton. Quality Inn in Norwood was our last stop for some zzzzzs. We were both worried about the weather.
We had set the alarm for 6:45 but I was up earlier than that as is typical for me on a race day; I had also had little sleep which is also usual for Race Day Eve. I did my breakfast/dressing routine and we were off by 7:15. The rain had stopped overnight but it was quite chilly. We parked downtown and headed to the start by 7:30. [As usual, my incredible "support staff" and spouse, Mike, got me there safe, sound and on time]. I had to wait quite a bit for the port-a-potties, but had time for all of my warmups, drills, etc. I had really thought a lot about my strategy for this race to prevent injury. I was hoping to be in the top ten of walkers, but was okay with it if I wasn't. I knew that there would be many fast walkers in this race from the local (very active) clubs. I went out on the pace I had planned and hit every single mark enroute (thanks to Races2Remember for their excellent pace bands - they really work!). The route was quite nice (after the initial industrial stuff by the river) and we looped through downtown, past Fountain Square (where Mike was waiting to snap some pics),
|-that's me in orange|
It started spitting at around the 12-mile mark but had stopped again by the time I came in....and when did I come in? 2:35:36 - a personal best by 3 minutes, 4th in the walkers and first for my division!!!! Mike was waiting at the finish line for me and got this picture of a very happy me.
Mike also gave me one of his jackets (it was cold!) and we waited around for the award ceremony while I did a lot of stretching and loosening up and got some food (bananas, bagels and some kind of snacky-chippy-thingy). It then started to rain again, so we huddled under one of the smallish event tents. The awards were given out and I got a nice little round marble plaque with an engraved plate on it. I think I had a grin on my face for the next two hours and thirty-five minutes! Back to Beorn for some coconut water and then on with the day!
Post-race we went back to Rockbottom for lunch. I had packed clothes and other necessaries in a tote bag and promptly went to the restroom to change back to my alter-ego. Then of course, we had to have the celebratory pint (it was an amazing cask ale):
|"These are a few of my favourite things....."|
Now it was time for some sightseeing, so we went up the Carew Tower to get a great view of the whole city:
We both had one of the daily specials - me the Lucky Kelp raw dish (absolutely incredible recovery food!) and Mike a quinoa burger. We also shared some vegan Mac n' Cheese and a "drumstick" (fake meat thingy).
Later, to bed. Needless to say, I slept really well!
One of my favourite post-race recovery rituals is to do a slow walk outdoors on dirt trails, so we headed out the next morning to wind our way back home, stopping at Taylorsville Metro Park near Dayton. It was one of those amazingly crisp, clear, bright October Ohio days, with a slight breeze causing leaves to drift down whisperingly around us. We walked for about 3.5 miles and it felt wonderful!
We drove home through Bowling Green, one of our favourite Ohio haunts. Home by about six. All was well.
It was a great trip, and I would actually consider doing that race again! It was very, very walker-friendly and of a size that one wouldn't get completely lost in the crowd, but always had other racers around you. The people were very supportive and I had a great time.
Highly recommended! See you in Cincy next year?