review

Recap: 2018 Flying Pig Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Flying Pig Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


Everyone has that ONE television show and/or movie that they absolutely believe their friends MUST watch right now. For example, when “The Office” was in its prime, a good chunk of my friends would ask me if I had watched the most recent episode. The answer was always no, because I hated that mentality that something was SO popular that I “had” to watch it.

I make this point because, to me, “The Office” was to television what the Flying Pig was to running. Friends and fellow runners had hyped this race so much that I wanted nothing to do with it – ever.

Obviously, that has changed. Before I recap the race, and in the spirit of full disclosure, let me bring you up to speed on how I got there…don’t worry, it’s the CliffNotes version…

***

About three weeks prior to the Flying Pig (of which I had given NO thought or attention), I noticed that a significant amount of attention was being paid to races in and around Chicago. Being from Ohio, and having some pretty decent races coming up, I was curious as to why this was the case. I reached out to the coordinators of the BibRave Pro program and they were PDQ in getting back to me. I won’t share all the details of why the Ohio races weren’t getting as much attention, but know that there are definitely opportunities for them to get love again in the future!

After a little bit of back and forth, I was extended the opportunity to jump in to help promote the Flying Pig via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. This quickly escalated to an invitation, if interested, to participate (read: RUN) in said event.

So here’s a race I’ve been avoiding for quite a while and now not only a chance to promote it, but a chance to RUN it.

To paraphrase one Don Vito Corleone – they (Team BibRave) made me an offer I could not refuse. With that said, I officially registered to run the Flying Pig Marathon on April 25th. For those of you playing at home, that was a week and a half before race day.

***

Now that the backstory is out of the way, let’s recap this thing.

On Saturday, May 5, I was running a 5k in my hometown, which is roughly 90 miles north of Cincinnati. The race went well and almost as soon as I had arrived and run, I was back in the car and on my way to Cincy. Thankfully, I had some friends from college who were signed up for the 4-Way Challenge with Extra Cheese who had generously offered to let me crash in their hotel room the night before the race. Upon my arrival in Cincy and getting settled in the room, we ventured to the expo so I could collect my bib and other race goodies.

The expo for the Flying Pig Marathon is incredibly well done and VERY well organized. The layout was very friendly and you knew exactly where you needed to go, thanks in large part to the volunteers and signage throughout the Duke Energy Convention Center. As one would expect, vendors galore with all their various wares and enticements. However, the most noticeable was the primary event sponsor – P&G – who had a massive setup where expo participants could snatch up some free samples of various P&G products, such as Tide, Olay, and so on. They also provided a nylon laundry bag to keep all the samples (and other expo purchases) in, which made navigating the expo very convenient.

OH YEAH – can’t forget about that sweet race SWAG! For this year, it included a technical race t-shirt, a poster commemorating the 20th anniversary of the race, and a premium travel blanket (think indoor/outdoor blanket). I was VERY impressed as all I expected was the race shirt to be honest!

The rest of the evening was relatively quiet as we all turned in fairly early. This proved to by a fantastic decision as far as being rested for race day. However, it also proved very difficult as I am usually a night owl when it comes to falling asleep.

Our hotel was maybe a half-mile from the start line so it was a very easy downhill walk to the Cincinnati riverfront and Paul Brown Stadium. Finding the gear check and my corral was, again, super easy due to TONS of signage and fantastic volunteers. As I got settled in my corral (D for those wondering), I was fortunate to connect with Juan, a fellow BibRave Pro who was in from Texas for the race. Sidenote: this was my first official race as a BibRave Pro, so it was fun getting to meet up with a fellow ambassador! Of course, as with most things, we had to take a photo (pics or it didn’t happen, right?).

Met up with fellow BibRave Pro, Juan! (@3dotjuan)

There was a very nice woman standing close to us who was kind enough to snap a photo for us. We then learned her name was Sarah and this was her VERY FIRST MARATHON! As with most marathons that I have run, the race organizers provide TWO bibs for first timers – the normal race bib to be worn on one’s front and a “it’s my first marathon” bib to wear on one’s back. Not wanting to draw that level of attention to herself, Sarah opted to forego the first-timer bib on her back. Of course, I had to snap a selfie with her because running a marathon is a huge accomplishment and she SHOULD get her moment in the sun!

She ended up finishing the marathon in 4:12 – well done, Sarah!!

Before I knew it, I was crossing the start line and on my way. The first few miles were relatively slow going – mainly because of how crowded in I felt, but this ended up playing to my favor in the later stages of the day. The first mile took me by one of my favorite locations in the world – Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds. GABP brings back great memories from my childhood, so this is already making this race very enjoyable. After crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky and then coming BACK across into Ohio, the remainder of the course stays in Ohio – winding its way back into downtown and then out into the easternmost points of the metro area (as most marathon courses do).

What sets the Flying Pig Marathon apart from a lot of other races, or so I’m told, are the HILLS. There is a pretty significant incline that begins at about the marker for mile 6 and then levels out just a little after mile 7.  For those wondering, this is about 250 ft of gain in the span of a mile. That may not seem like much to some, but to others this is like climbing a mountain. After this, the hills become more rollers than anything – some being worse than others. However, aside from these rollers in the second half, the course is mostly a downhill or fairly flat course from mile 12 to the end.

Throughout the course, there were plenty of sections where there were supporters and aid stations to get runners through the event. In addition to the water/Gatorade/Gu stops along the course, some of the other aid stations included the GraHAM station (graham crackers) and the SWINE & Cheese station (ham & cheese?). Before you ask – yes – there WAS a bacon station. This is the Flying Pig, after all.

As I progressed through the course, it became apparent to me exactly why this race IS as popular as it is. It’s most definitely a combination of the people involved in putting this event on (from the organizers down to the volunteers at the water stops) as well as the amenities that make the pre-race, race, and post-race absolutely enjoyable.

As I returned to the riverfront area and made my way again past Great American Ball Park, another realization came to the forefront – I was going to PR. The goal coming into this race was to FINISH and nothing more, especially having completed another marathon (and PR’d there as well) only two weeks prior! I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was still in good enough shape to not only finish the race, but to also put down another solid effort on a course that would be best described as challenging.

After crossing the FINISH SWINE (yes, that’s what the finish line is called at the Flying Pig Marathon), I met up with my friends/roommates and took in one of the best post-race celebrations/parties I’ve ever experienced. The park that they use for this post-race party is right along the river, with more than ample space for runners to walk around, stretch, grab food, grab a beer, and check out some of the local businesses who have set up shop. This is also where all runners would collect their post-race premium item – a black finisher’s jacket with a black version of the Flying Pig Marathon logo on the chest. I love the jacket…I just wish we didn’t get it on such a hot day!

Simply put, I avoided the Flying Pig for so long because of hills and the peer pressure of popularity of the event. With that said, I should have absolutely listened to that pressure, said screw the hills, and taken on this race YEARS ago. I totally understand the hype and the hills – yes, they are tough, but they could be MUCH worse. All and all, I am very glad to have accepted the gracious invitation to run the Flying Pig Marathon. A huge THANK YOU to Team BibRave for providing this opportunity and who knows…maybe I’ll get “piggy” again in the future!


In the days after the Flying Pig, I was able to jump on Athlinks.com and “claim” my race results. I say “claim” because the results from this race have not published to Athlinks as of the publishing of this post. HOWEVER, I was able to manually add my time to my account, which will become official as the race results begin to populate.

Athlinks allows me to keep all my race results in one location. Head over and check out my Athlinks stats HERE and learn more about how I claim past results as well as why I enjoy using it HERE. It’s incredibly easy to use and it’s a lot of fun to see races you might have forgotten about pop up in your results feed! So while you’re taking a look around over there, set up your own Athlinks account. That way you can start claiming your results!

Advertisements

Review: AfterShokz Trekz Air

Disclaimer: I received the AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


About a year ago, I became aware of a weekly Twitter conversation called #bibchat. As my participation in #bibchat has grown, I have met (in-person or online) some fantastic runners who have inspired me to push harder and strive for bigger goals. Additionally, I’ve been made aware of brands that are putting out great products for running – products I would probably not know anything about if not for #bibchat. One of those companies is AfterShokz and the product in question are their Trekz series headphones. In this post, I’ll be focusing on the Trekz Air headphones.

Spoiler alert: I love these headphones. 

Not long after I got involved with #bibchat, I had an opportunity to get a pair of headphones from AfterShokz. The pair I purchased was the Trekz Titanium – which I reference HERE – and they have served me very well. Naturally, when the opportunity was presented THIS year to test and review the latest & greatest version (Trekz Air), I jumped at the chance.

My approach with the majority of my running gear is that it must fit and work well before I give a second thought to how it looks. Well, I try to employ that mindset at least! So that’s how I’ll layout this review – function before looks. Luckily for me, AfterShokz makes this very easy. But first, some background…

Background and Technical Info

The Trekz Air is the newest addition to the AfterShokz family. They are about 20% lighter than the previous Trekz Titanium model and have a much more comfortable fit. They have a run-time of approximately 6 hours and are water/sweat resistant. The OpenFit™ design ensures maximum situational awareness – which is absolutely essential when running in any environment, be it urban, suburban, or rural. They are wireless and connect via Bluetooth to your device of choice and have dual noice cancelling microphones which make picking up a call while on the run a seamless action. The Trekz Air come with a hassle free 2-year warranty.

So what’s my take on them? 

Fit

The Trekz Air fit perfectly – almost TOO perfect because it I barely even know I have them on. They are much lighter than their big brother (Trekz Titanium) and the piece that wraps around the back of the head is just right. It’s not too big, not too small, and it doesn’t bounce or rub against my neck.

Sound Quality & Battery Life

The sound quality with the Trekz Air is great as well. When synced, the volume control (behind the RIGHT ear) actually takes over the volume control on your device rather than having two independent volume controls. This is a great upgrade from previous wireless headphones I have tried! Podcasts are still a little quiet and are often drowned out by a strong gust of wind or a passing truck, but that’s to be expected. Aside from that, music and other content come through strong and sound amazing.

The great sound quality will just keep going and going thanks to the battery life that is packed in. These headphones can go quite a bit without having to be recharged. This is great especially when someone like me takes them off and tosses them in the car and doesn’t remember to A) turn them off of B) bring them in the house to recharge them. Either way, in the month or so that I’ve had these, I think I’ve only had to charge them fully ONCE. Coincidentally, that is happening now!

Looks

Well, they fit amazingly, they sound great, and they hold a damn good charge. So, how do they LOOK? If you look at the picture above this and the one below, you can see that they honestly blend in and are almost not noticeable at all. The side profile photo a little bit further up shows a little bit different look, but again, they look like they are supposed to be there and they’re out of the way. I think the most common questions I’ve gotten when other runners see me wearing them are:

  • “Aren’t they supposed to go IN your ears?” NO. 
  • “Those look weird to me. Do they feel weird sitting over your ears?” Nope. *at this point, I usually take them off and hand them to the person asking, insisting they try them on.* 
  • “Do they still sound like normal headphones?”YEP. *as they try them on, I’ll usually play something fun…like The Humpty Dance.*

Caution: side effects when wearing AfterShokz Trekz Air include answering all kinds of questions, making new friends, and advocating for your fellow runner’s safety.

Like I said at the beginning of the review, I’ve been using Aftershokz headphones for my running for about a year now and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. My first pair sold me on the idea and my Trekz Air has set the bar massively high for anything to dethrone it. The Trekz Air fit like they almost aren’t even there, the sound quality is fantastic, and they hold their charge for a WHILE. Plus, they look great no matter which color you go with.

So, if you want to run safely AND still want to be able to enjoy your content while running through some comfortable and powerful headphones, then you’ve got to get yourself the AfterShokz Trekz Air!

I’m not the only one who thinks so – check out what some of my fellow BibRave Pros are saying!

Danielle – Lindsey – Amy P – Barb S – Amanda L

SamanthaLoganAmyLisaBrad – Dodie


Convinced? Want to get a pair for yourself? Of course you do. Especially when you have three awesome color choices – Slate Grey, Forest Green, or (my personal favorite) Midnight Blue. Head over to bibrave.aftershokz.com and use the code BIBRAVE30 to save $30. 

Review: 2017 Akron Marathon

Originally shared over at BibRave.com, the following is my review of the 2017 Akron Marathon – with some slight alterations here and there. Enjoy!

***

OVERALL: First and foremost, this race – nay, the entire Akron Marathon Race Series – is incredibly well organized. I can not express how amazing the organizers were at communicating information, updating their web presence, ensuring that the race series app was ready to go – the list goes on and on. It seemed like every little thing you could think of was thought of and planned for.

EXPO: The expo was a streamlined event for sure. Runners collected their bibs and “swag bag” in the first of two large convention halls, before moving on to take the obligatory photo with their bib & the race backdrop. After this, participants moved on to the vendor side of the expo. SO MANY VENDORS! Great showing from a TON of upcoming races, local universities, non-profit organizations, and so on. Near the end of the serpentine path that wound through the expo was where runners collected their official race gear, which included a 1/4 zip finisher pullover and lightweight running hat for the marathoners. Just being honest, I’ve worn my pullover every chance I had since race day!

BONUS: Three words: KARAFREAKIN‘ – GOUCHER. I had the opportunity to meet and chat with one of my favorite runners of all time. She’s incredibly humble and does so much for the sport. Hands down, one of the absolute highlights of the weekend!

RACE DAY: 
Parking – There’s a fair amount of parking, set up by which event you are running (full, half, or relay). My wife and I drove past the first marathon-specific garage (a block from my corral) and had no problem accessing the next one, only two blocks from the start line. Easy in, easy out.

Start Line Area – Unlike the two prior events in the race series, the Akron Marathon holds to a strict corral system. This ensures that runners start where their ability level dictates! Minus some minor bottlenecking getting INTO the corrals, moving around the start area was very easy. Lots of music and (thankfully) an abundance of porta-potties! Race started on time without incident and we headed out!

The Course – thriving with spectators at all points, offering boundless encouragement, cheers, smiles, and hi-fives! However, the course is also a challenging one, with varying elevation changes throughout – especially in the second half. There are definitely more significant hills on this course than what I am used to in the relative flatness that is the Columbus, OH metro area. This fact alone had me quite nervous about how this marathon was going to pan out! Thankfully, coming around a corner at just before mile 24, I realized that the 16-weeks of training had put me in unfamiliar territory – coming VERY close to cracking 4 hours. Ultimately, I finished in 4:06 – setting a nearly 40 minute PR. I think it’s safe to say I was ZIPPING (nod to the Univ. of Akron there) through Akron!

The Finish – First off, you finish the race on the home field of the Akron Rubber Ducks – a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians – which is pretty darn awesome.

Canal Park in Akron, OH on race day

Echoing my previous statements about the crowd support – there is an AMAZING crowd to cheer you in at the end! Always makes for a great feeling. Navigate away from the finish line, snag up your medal, and head over to the post-race party – or Finisher’s Festival – which was AWESOME. Live music on stage, beer, pizza & other food all out on the outfield. Can’t ask for too much more than that. On your way OFF the field, you can snag your SERIES FINISHER medal (and medal hanger) if you’ve completed all three events (1-National Interstate 8k & 1 Mile, 2-Goodyear Half Marathon & 10K, 3-Akron Marathon, Half Marathon, & Team Relay).

Walking away from the finish with my wife, I was racking my brain to identify anything I could critique about this race – and I couldn’t! Almost two weeks removed from the race, I still can’t. If you’re looking for a well-organized, friendly, and challenging event – come check out the Akron Marathon. I truly believe that you will NOT be disappointed. Thank you, Akron Marathon, for a great event and an even better race series!

 

Review: Spring ShokzBox

It feels as if it was just yesterday that I began participating in #bibchat – a weekly Twitter-based discussion group focused on running, hosted by the folks over at BibRave.com. Over the course of my interaction, I’ve had the opportunity to converse with some really awesome runners, learn about new running opportunities, and become aware of some amazing running gear I knew nothing about.

One particular piece of gear (er, brand) that had been popping up on accounts I’ve followed recently is something called AfterShokz. This company makes a different take on the wireless headphone, sitting the main sound output OUTSIDE of the ear – rather than in it – enabling the user to still hear what is going on around them. I got a chance to see a few pairs of these headphones in person a few weeks back when I ran into a few of the BibRave Pros (@daddydidyouwin and @mmaynard551) before the start of the Glass City Marathon in Toledo. Their positive take on these only helped fuel my curiosity.

Naturally, when it was announced that AfterShokz was going to put out their Spring ShokzBox, I was interested. This box is essentially a grouping of some very popular running gear at a very good price. So, I jumped at the opportunity and splurged on a box for myself.

It arrived about two weeks ago. Having now had an opportunity to put the items inside to use, here’s my review of the Spring ShokzBox.

Overall

The biggest and overarching big win of this box, without a doubt, is the value. Anyone who says that running is an inexpensive experience is a liar. Adding up the approximate retail prices of the products reviewed below, the total cost to buy these products individually (before any taxes & shipping) comes to right around $280. The Spring ShokzBox itself with all these items inside is $199.95 – with no shipping cost. Even someone who got an F in Algebra can figure out that the ShokzBox this is a great deal.

Products

AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Headphones (retail $129.95)

I genuinely cannot say enough good things about these headphones. After finally getting to see them in person in Toledo before the GCM, I was sold on the idea. They sit VERY comfortably over the ears and they stay in place – no bouncing, no movement of any kind.The sound output is fantastic and I really can hear everything going on around me. I run primarily outdoors, so being aware of what is going on around me is crucial. An added bonus with these headphones is that I don’t feel as I’m yelling when I still have them on – as is the case with most in-ear or over-ear configurations. If you don’t already have these, get them NOW.

AfterShokz Buff (retail ~$18)

This one I’ve been skeptical about for a while, but was also very eager to see what all the fuss is about. Turns out, it’s pretty darn handy. First off, it’s made from moisture-managing microfiber fabric – the closest thing I can compare it to would be a DriFit-esque type material – which means it is very lightweight and keeps you dry. It is also wind resistant which can keep you protected from windburns during your workouts. The big takeaway here is that it can be worn more than 12 different ways, making it very easy to create your own look while still being comfortable. I prefer the traditional headband look, but I’m sure that will evolve. The only downside to THIS particular Buff (if there actually is one at all) is that it is not available for individual purchase and is just part of this ShokzBox. However, there are PLENTY of traditional Buffs in a variety of designs over at Buff’s website.

BibRave Trucker Hat (retail $22.95)

I’m not one for hats on a daily basis, nor when I run, so this is actually the one thing in the box that I can honestly say I have not used when running. However, if I did wear it while running, I’m pretty sure that I’d comfortable. This trucker style hat boasts a wicking headband on the inside and generous mesh panels around the side and back, which would keep me both cool and shaded. If I’m being completely honest, I like it because it’s orange – sue me. Perhaps it’ll make it out on one of my runs in the future, just not yet.

Orange Mud Transition Seat Wrap (retail $39.95)

Since I drove to my running location today, I actually put this one to use (finally!). There really isn’t a whole lot of fanfare to this one besides the fact that it is multifunction – it can be used as a car seat cover, a towel, and/or as a cover/wrap for an impromptu wardrobe change. If you are using it for the latter, it does have a built-in “belt” of sorts to keep it in place. Comes in a variety of colors (mine is blue) and is fairly soft to the touch. Sure beats a regular beach towel for the driver’s seat and it fits better too.

Brilliant Reflective Safety Strips (retail $9.95)

No fanfare here. Simply put, these are removable and reusable reflective strips, designed to enhance visibility of the wearer in lower-light conditions. Incredibly smart idea and I wish EVERYONE who goes for a run/bike ride/etc after the sun goes down had these.

Knuckle Lights (retail $59.99)

On that same note about nighttime safety, carrying some kind of light source during a night run is essential. Using a traditional flashlight or even the light on a smartphone isn’t very efficient for one’s activity, as one would have to hold the light source at an uncomfortable angle. A headlamp is a great solution, but the down side is an often itchy or uncomfortable headband. Solution? Knuckle Lights. These handheld lights wrap around the base of the fingers with a flexible strap. This ultimately utilizes the natural way the hands close when we run to A) hold the lights and B) put the light exactly where it is needed. The lights themselves are INCREDIBLY bright and has three modes (high beam, low beam, and strobe). If you’re running at night and you don’t have these yet – GET THEM.

***

When looking at the items in this particular ShokzBox, I’m hit with a trifecta of themes: comfortable, convenient, and safe. Everything in this box has value and will absolutely have a place in my plethora of running gear (well, maybe not the hat right away, but it’s still cool). Thank you AfterShokz for putting together such a great deal!


Get your ShokzBox while they are still available over at AfterShokz.