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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!

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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: Athlinks

Disclaimer: I am promoting Athlinks as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


I am a stats nerd. I’m not even a little shy about that.

This is incredibly evident when watching the registrations roll in for my collegiate alma mater’s annual alumni band at Homecoming. Where are people from? How far do they have to travel to come home? What instrument are they playing? How many times have they been back? These questions and more are usually answered through an elaborate spreadsheet, detailing the event. Naturally when I got serious about my running again in 2014, this system made sense to track my progress, specifically my races. However, in 2017 – after listening to a handful of episodes of the BibRave Podcast – I found Athlinks.

What is Athlinks?

Simply put, Athlinks is a massive online database for athletes all over the world. Notice I said “athletes” and not just “runners”. This is because Athlinks pulls results from triathlon, swimming, cycling, mountain biking, and many other events. If they can find results lingering out in the online world, they’ll add it to their database. Athlinks is all about results.

But it’s more than just that – Athlinks is about sharing and connecting with other athletes (for the rest of this post, we’ll focus on runners). Through their site/app, runners can track their progress, share their results, compete with other runners simply by typing their name into a search box.

What does this mean for ME? Ultimately, it means I don’t necessarily need to track my races on a spreadsheet anymore!

How does it work?

Athlinks makes it VERY easy to get started and one can have their account completely set up in roughly 5 minutes (or less!). Personally, I was sitting at a bar, scrolling through Twitter when I made the decision to download the Athlinks app. It took no time at all to set up and before I knew it I was searching for races. That’s pretty much all you have to do: sign-up, set-up, search, and claim your results.

Regardless if you use the app or the website, you’ll find that – as with any online based service – you have a landing or profile page. Here’s mine:

As you can see, Athlinks will show ME, where I’m from, my age – which comes into play if you’re focusing on age group competition, any upcoming races (usually shown on the “timeline” tab), and then the bread and butter – past race results.

The other tabs along the top include Statistics (all-time), Following (think like Twitter or Facebook), and Rivals. As you probably guessed, the Statistics tab is definitely where I live and is my 2nd favorite feature in the entire app. Why? It shows me the overall result of all the running I’ve done through mileage and personal records (PRs). I don’t have to rely on my spreadsheet or even my medal rack (which has spots to log PR’s) for this information. But I said this was my 2nd favorite part of the whole app…what is my favorite?

RIVALS. So not only can you follow your fellow runners, you can also see how you stack up against them in the races you both have run. For example, in the photos below you can see that I follow Jessica on Athlinks and we are listed as rivals because we both ran the 2017 New York City Marathon. The reason I am 1-0 against her is because I finished the race before she did. 🙂 This takes tracking results to another level because it adds the spirit of friendly competition to the mix. Speaking of competition, coming up short by 18 seconds isn’t something I’m okay with – I’m comin’ for you, Matt! 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limitations

Like with anything, there are limitations when it comes to Athlinks. The most glaring is missing results. Right now, Athlinks believes my half marathon PR to be 1:56:30 from a race I ran in August of 2017. Since then, I’ve run TWO faster times (currently a 1:45:23 as of this post!), but because those results have not been posted online by the race director OR not made accessible to Athlinks, my 1:56 stands.

The second limitation, which falls mainly on the user, is racing. If you have not participated in a race and only run for personal fitness, then this is not the app for you. But why not take the next step and tackle that local 5k? Who knows – maybe you’ll like it! 🙂

Overall

Honestly, I really like Athlinks and the simplicity of the service they provide a stats nerd like me. I can find my past results, declare what races I intend on running, see all my records, follow fellow runners and compete with them all in one place. The ability to search for results could not be easier and the overall user experience is very friendly. You can get started with Athlinks by downloading the app via Google Play or the App Store, or by visiting athlinks.com.

As always, keep striving.


Check out Athlinks on Social:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/athlinks/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/athlinks
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Athlinks/

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Facebook: @presramsey
Twitter: @presramsey
Instagram: @presramsey

Don’t forget to hop on Twitter for #bibchat every Tuesday evening at 9pm EST. Chat with me and my fellow BibRave Pros about upcoming races, running gear, running in general, and more!