running

How to Travel: #BlueRidge Marathon Edition

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!


Let me get something out from the onset. This post was supposed to go live last Thursday night and I thought for sure I had hit publish late Thursday night. I did not. Boo on me. As a result, you’re now in for a treat – my pre-race travel tips…from the future…about the past. Don’t worry, I’m confused as well. Enjoy the post!


If you’ve been following me (here, Instagram, Twitter, etc), you probably know that I’m heading to Roanoke, Virginia this weekend for the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon. I won’t lie – I’m excited AND slightly terrified for this one, the reasons for which are best summed up in my OTHER preview post. However – and again, no big surprise – it really was only a matter of time before one of these race weekend preview posts inevitably focused on the travel aspects associated with such a trip. So, here are some of the tips, tricks, and best practices that put into action to make my race travel as easy as possible.

Plan Ahead

Once I’ve finally determined what race I’m going to do, I have to figure out two basic things: 1) how to get there, and 2) where to stay. Without these things sorted out in advance, the trip can get more hectic and more costly. For this particular trip – happening TOMORROW mind you – I sorted out both of these details more than a month or two ago.

First, how to get to Roanoke.could have opted to fly, but that would have involved leaving (and paying for) a car at the airport, being at the airport 2+ hours early on BOTH ends of the trip, checking a bag (I usually don’t, but depending on the trip it could happen), renting a car, and navigating from the airport to my accommodations. I’ll pass on all that, thank you very much! I’ve opted instead to drive the 6(ish) hours from my home just outside of Columbus, OH. It will allow me to travel on my terms and take breaks when I like, eat what I need/like, and so on. The obvious downside is being awake and driving for 6 hours, but I’ll take it. All it costs me is gas and a little money for the West Virginia turnpike – thank goodness my car gets pretty decent gas mileage!

So, how’d that whole driving thing go? It wasn’t too bad. The drive down felt like it went fairly quick. Minimal stops, no delays on the roads, decent weather. The trip BACK to Ohio, however, was the driving equivalent to watching a sloth – slow and not very exciting. LOTS of stops to stretch, hydrate, and walk. 

After making that decision, I have to figure out where to stay. The initial and probably more obvious option is a hotel relatively close to the center of the action. While this is great and probably offers more amenities, there’s also very likely a higher price tag that comes with it. For such a short trip and for as little as I’ll actually be in the space, I don’t need all that a hotel offers. For the Blue Ridge Marathon, I secured a really fantastic location via AirBnB. I’ve had really great success in the past – we used the service for our honeymoon in 2014 – so it was definitely worth a look. My rental is less than a mile (a 15 minute walk) from the start/finish line and for less than $90 for one night. This is HUGE for me because proximity to the start/finish, overall cost, and ease of access were paramount. Obviously, everyone’s preferences are going to vary and specific needs will dictate what type of accommodation work the best, so do your homework and find what works for you and your specific situation.

How was your AirBnB? It proved to be a GREAT decision. Perfect location in reference to the start/finish and super simple. There were the essentials and that was it – bathroom, shower, tv, bed. I was only there for a night, so that’s all I needed. Hands down, one of the best AirBnB’s I’ve ever booked.

Have a Plan? Good. Be Prepared to Throw It Out Because Things Happen

This piece of advice applies to many aspects of life – not just travel – but it does bear repeating. Whether you are a seasoned business traveler or a casual leisure traveler, being unfriendly or just plain rude can come back and bite you. If your flight is delayed or you get stuck in traffic, etc. – trust me, there are other people experiencing the same issue(s). Know your plan, but be ready to ditch it. Thankfully, I didn’t need to do this. I had things laid out in such a way that there were contingencies in place, but didn’t need them at all. The plan actually workout and I had an amazing weekend! Be patient even when your patience is tested to the max. Finally, be flexible. Sometimes the best experiences come when you have to call an audible. Keep these things in mind when traveling, because occasionally, you may find yourself being rewarded for it in the end!

Whether you are running the Blue Ridge Marathon, the Boston Marathon, or anywhere in between – here’s wishing you all a fantastic weekend of racing!

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Blue Ridge Marathon Preview

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!

Want to take on the challenge of “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” yourself? Click HERE to register and use the code BLUERIDGEBIBRAVE save 20% on registration.


In less than 2 weeks, I’m going to make the trip south/southeast to Roanoke, VA for the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon. It’ll be my first big road race of 2019 and, as a preview, I thought I’d briefly jump in and talk about the things I’m excited about for race weekend…and maybe a few things I’m less than thrilled about…so let’s go! Just a heads up: you can continue to follow my journey to Roanoke and how race weekend goes over on Instagram and/or Twitter.

Excited #1 – New State.

About a year or so ago, I laid out a goal to run a marathon in each of the 50 states. To date, there truly has not been much traction to get this goal knocked out. However, I did get state number 2 – New York – in 2017, which will make Virginia state number 3. It should be noted that I have been to Virginia before, just haven’t run a race there of any kind. Definitely still have a long way to go on this one, but the fact that I’m no longer at one anymore is definitely a plus.

Excited #1a – Running on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Did I mention we get to run on the Blue Ridge Parkway? I’ve never even DRIVEN on that stretch of road. I’m always up for visiting another iconic American motorway – even if I’m not necessarily going to drive it!

Excited #2 – HILLS.

I know – this one seems out of place. Hear me out though. What good is a race if it doesn’t offer a challenge? This course offers some pretty tough hills that will absolutely challenge my climbing ability as well as probably make my quads feel like someone took a meat tenderizer to them when it’s all said done. It should be noted though that my current marathon PR was on one of the hilliest marathon courses in Ohio…so, here’s hoping that hill magic carries over to Blue Ridge!

Excited #3 – Bo-Berry Biscuits.

Let’s be honest, this has NOTHING to do with the race itself. Having lived in the south (North Carolina) for a few years, I fell in love with FOOD. One particular treat my wife and I thoroughly enjoy is the Bo-Berry Biscuit from Bojangles. We love them so much that we picked up 3-4 cases of them on the way back from vacation on the NC coast a few years back. So, my apologies to the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon for this last one not really anything to do with the race, but we don’t have the privilege of Bojangles locations in Ohio AND you have to know I’m going to want to eat everything I can find after the race!

Not-as-excited #1 – The inevitable BONK.

Throughout January and February, my training was pretty on point. I was diligent as far as ensuring that I got a workout in and, for the most part, stayed on schedule with the training plan. Then March arrived and the wheels came off and the plan got pushed aside. No definitive root cause here, just a lack of discipline this time around. With that in mind, I know that at some point on this course I am bound to experience a pretty gnarly BONK which does not excite me. However, I’ve run enough races at this distance to know how my body reacts and how to overcome. It’s not so much that I’m anxious about the BONK (trust me, I am) – it’s being anxious over how I’ll tackle it.

Not-as-excited #2 – HILLS.

Speaking of things to tackle at this race…HILLS. Let’s be honest here, they aren’t hills so much as they are MOUNTAINS. Look at a map of Roanoke – they’re called MOUNTAINS and there are THREE of them on this course. This race has the most elevation change of any road race in the US – 7,400 feet! I thought a certain marathon in Cincinnati was a good primer, but everyone I talk to says that’s not quite a valid comparison. If my training had gone a little more according to plan, I may not be as concerned, but it hasn’t. Now I just have to wait and let the race play out.

Not-as-excited #3 – The drive.

This one, I did to myself. I opted to drive to Roanoke, which I’ll do the day before the race after a full 8-hour shift at work. However, it didn’t make sense to fly and all the hullaballoo that goes with it would just add to my stress level. Driving, though, allows me to make my own course corrections en route if needed and allows me to travel at my own speed – not dependent on an airline schedule/delays. It’s not exactly a short drive, but far from the longest amount of time I’ve spent in a car at one time. On the brightside, it does allow me to stop and snag up some biscuits…

***

So, there you have it – my brief mid-afternoon preview of my trip to Roanoke next week. I’m looking forward to keeping you updated on prep leading up to the trip next week as well as all the happenings of said trip.

Until next time – keep striving!


Want to take on the challenge of “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” yourself? Click HERE to register and use the code BLUERIDGEBIBRAVE save 20% on registration.

REVIEW: Stunt Runner Leash from Stunt Puppy

“Disclaimer: I received a Stunt Puppy Stunt Runner Leash 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!”


Team America: World Police (Paramount Pictures, 2004)

As a runner, I’m kind of a loner. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s not always fun.

I’ll join in on the occassional group run with my hometown running club, but due to work & parenting, my ability to do so is limited. Even when I do, I am often either going further (which means starting/ending by myself) OR going at a harder/faster pace. Running alone has its benefits though – allowing me to just focus in on my running, let the stressors of the day, the week, or the month (or even your year…I’ll be there for you…) just fade away for an hour.

Back at home though, I have a very energetic 6 year old dachshund/beagle mix who LOVES to run. Our backyard is her playground, but I know she wants to get out and explore. When she’s on a traditional leash, she tends to pull a little bit more than I’d like. This is problematic when trying to maintain somewhat decent form, even on an easy run. Ultimately, that also makes running with her not enjoyable and not something we share very often (read: ever). As you may have guessed by this point, that has definitely changed!

Enter the Stunt Runner from Stunt Puppy.

What is it?

The Stunt Runner is designed, as you would imagine, for those who want the freedom to run with their dog(s) without the constant struggle of a wrist-based leash.

Built for any runner – road or track (consult your local track rules first), trail or sidewalk – and their four-legged companion, the Stunt Runner is incredibly lightweight and relatively unnoticeable. It’s adjustable for any situation, providing plenty of space while on the trails or keeping you and your pup a little closer while on city sidewalks. The bungee section absorbs the action and variances in stride, speed, and direction between you and your doggo.

What I Like

What isn’t to like about the Stunt Runner leash?! I get to run…with my dog…without fear of arms/wrists getting pulled the wrong direction. It’s a win-win for everyone. On top of that…

  • Comfortable. When I put the Stunt Runner on, I don’t really notice it – aside from the fact I have a belt strapped around my waist which happens to be attached to a dog. Also, it doesn’t rub or irritate which was definitely a concern going in!
  • Flexible. I can let Ruby run well out in front and still keep up with her if we’re out at the local park. I can tighten things up and keep her closer if we’re venturing into our downtown area. Either way, she’s close and I’ve still got a sense of control on her.
  • Shalane approved. Two birds, one stone. Not only can I walk Ruby, but I can do it safely while pushing Shalane around the block. Also, she loves getting to see Ruby in a setting that isn’t our living room. Double bonus!

What I Don’t

Honestly, I’ve got nothin’! The Stunt Runner leash genuinely provides a solution to a problem I’ve been trying to figure out for a while and it hits the nail right on the head. Having the opportunity to test this out has been nothing but good!

Final Take

The anxiety I felt leading into this review was real in a lot of ways, mainly because I genuinely wasn’t sure Ruby would be open to this. I wasn’t sure that I would be open to this. I am SO GLAD I gave it a shot.

This is a no-brainer, friends. If you already run with your dog, but use a traditional leash – you need the Stunt Runner. If you don’t run with your dog, but want to (like I did) – you also need the Stunt Runner. The Stunt Runner is comfortable and flexible, meaning less pain on your arms or wrists from pulling, and it provides a hands-free (and much less stressful) solution to dog walking/running.

This has been one of my favorite products to review as a BibRave Pro and I truly cannot recommend it highly enough. I’ve always wanted to run with Ruby, but never found the right solution to make it happen – until now.

Loner, no more!


Check out what other BibRave Pros are saying about the Stunt Runner from Stunt Puppy

SamanthaAndreaJessicaVirjiniaMattChrisStephanie

REVIEW: Zwift Run (and the BibRave Virtual 5k)

Disclaimer: I received a Zwift RunPod 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!


Let me start with this statement: I. HATE. TREADMILL. RUNNING. 

The treadmill has never been something I have found to be particularly enjoyable. Honestly, treadmills bore me beyond imagination. I am one of those “weirdos” who would much rather be outside in any variety of conditions (rain, snow, wind, etc) than to be confined to staring at a boring screen let alone be in a line of others doing the same thing. With that in mind, I was not convinced at all that I would get anything beneficial or enjoyable when the opportunity came to combine a treadmill with an app called Zwift.

What is Zwift / Zwift Run?

Zwift is primarily an online platform used by cyclists for indoor training. Cyclists can pair their controllable trainer as well as their bike with the Zwift app to ride on any number of courses in realtime with other cyclists from around the world. One can ride on their own in a free mode, tackle a structured workout/workout program, or even jump in on a group ride. Upon initial account setup, a cyclist gets a 7 day free trial and then must signup for a subscription, which starts at $14.99/month.

Apply that ideology to running and you have Zwift Run. All a runner needs is a treadmill, a footpod (some work better than others), and a device – such as a laptop/tablet/or phone –  to run Zwift. Alternatively, a runner could also use a Bluetooth-enabled treadmill. Ultimately, this allows runners to run more than 100k across a variety of routes, including virtual courses inspired by central London, Richmond, VA, and New York City. Similar to our cycling counterparts, runners can run in a free mode, tackle a specific workout or workout program, or join a scheduled group run – all in realtime with runners from across the world. And of course, cyclists and runners alike can pair their Zwift account with other third-party apps, such as Strava, to keep track of distance and other stats. Oh, did I mention that Zwift Run is FREE?

My Zwift Experience

Full disclosure: I do not own a treadmill. In order to participate in this experience, I had to take a step WAY outside of my comfort zone and utilize the resources of a local fitness club – I’ll cover the pros and cons of THAT side-experience in a separate post. Spoiler alert though – the reason(s) I don’t have a gym membership were kind of confirmed as a result of this experience. More on that later…

First things first, I received my Zwift RunPod with plenty of time before the BibRave Virtual 5k. It was SUPER easy to set up. After I downloaded the Zwift app and got my account set up, I opened up the box, removed the protector plastic from the battery, and popped the pod on my shoe. At that point, I was ready to get on the treadmill and get going.

Didn’t even really realize the pod was there!

 

My view during my Zwift runs – apologies for the poor quality photo!

When I made it to the gym and hopped on the treadmill for the first time, I was a little apprehensive about it. I was going to have my phone (or my tablet) on the treadmill with what looks like a video game on the screen. Thankfully, the app itself is very easy to use and makes your forget (for a little bit, at least) that you’re actually at the gym. The Zwift Companion app also makes it very easy to engage with the other runners (& cyclists) that are on at the same time!

 

Running in Watopia – Zwift’s fictional virtual world.

The BibRave Virtual 5k

On November 29, all of the BibRave Pros participating in this Zwift opt-in were invited to jump in on a scheduled group run called the BibRave 5k. Using the Zwift Companion app, we were not only able to RSVP for the run, but could also select our desired pace group. This run got so much attention via the Zwift Companion app, a runner from the United Kingdom who records his Zwift runs on his YouTube channel joined in – despite the start time being at 11:45pm in the UK!

This run was a great way to bring so many members of our BibRave community “together” without actually being in the same physical location. BibRave and Zwift teamed up at The Running Event (an annual running industry event) in Texas to get four of our Pros on the treadmills with the rest of us across the country. Personally, I was pretty much stride-for-stride with fellow BRP Matt M. (who is also a fellow Ohioan) for the majority of our run, pushing each other quite a bit throughout – even if it wasn’t exactly intentional.

BibRave Pros running with me on Nov 29 in realtime from The Running Event in Texas!

 

Running with fellow Ohioan and Bibrave Pro, Matt M., during our BibRave 5k.

 

Even in a virtual world, I still get to run in the rain!

Takeaway

With this experience in the books, I am still not a proponent of the treadmill. HOWEVER, my experience with Zwift definitely takes some of the monotony out of the equation and opened my eyes to considering actually using one, even if only a handful of times throughout the winter months.

I still don’t own a treadmill, and am not actively seeking to add one to my basement…yet…but if YOU have a treadmill or access to one, I would encourage you to snag a footpod and give Zwift a shot.


Check out some other Zwift reviews from my fellow BibRave Pros!

LoganStaciaJennLissaMattKaty – MeganVirjinia – Stephanie

Snag a RunPod for yourself and use code BibRave15 to save 15% – but hurry, this code is only good for the first 1000 RunPods!

Review: Brilliant Reflective Safety Strips

Disclaimer: I received a Brilliant Reflective Family Pack and Stick-On Strips 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!


In May of 2017, I had been following a community of runners through a weekly conversation called #bibchat for a few months. During that time, I came across an opportunity to snag up some pretty slick running gear as part of a combo package. I received it, put the items to use, and – as one would expect – I reviewed it. One of the items I received was a pack of Brilliant Reflective Safety Strips. Let’s REFLECT (pun intended) on what I said THEN:

“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.”

Truth be told, I used those stick-on strips, but not nearly to the extent I could have. When the opportunity to give it another go came around, and especially now that our little one has arrived, I had to give it a go. Here’s what I have to say about Brilliant Reflective NOW…

My Take…

I love this product. There isn’t a thing about it that I don’t like. It takes some of the stress out of  running in the dark and/or at night. It makes me MUCH more visible to vehicles AND I can use the strips (or the family pack) to ensure my wife and I will be seen when out on an evening walk with our daughter, Shalane. I had entirely WAY too much fun plotting out where and how I could apply the family pack stickers to her stroller! 10/10 – I recommend any of Brilliant Reflective’s products to every single one of you.

Why I Love It

INCREDIBLY REFLECTIVE. Brilliant Reflective products are retroreflective material – meaning that when light that hits them, that light will bounce directly back to its source. It doesn’t even matter what angle the light comes from, the person wearing it will be seen.

ADHESION OPTIONS. Simply put, Brilliant Reflective offers up two options – stick-on and iron-on. I have some of the iron-on that I have not yet used. However, I have used nearly ALL of the stick-on strips and family pack that I have and it could not be easier to apply.

DURABLE & WASHABLE. The shirt in the above photo is in the washer as I type this post. It’s gone through the wash two times already with the stick-on strips with no issue whatsoever. Every strip I applied to this shirt has remained exactly where I put it. Knowing I can take them off and use them elsewhere is great, but knowing I can leave them right where they are and the functionality doesn’t diminish is even better.

AFFORDABLE. Getting a pack…or two…or three…of Brilliant Reflective will not break the bank. The iron-on versions and the Family Pack start at $14.95 and the stick-on version starts at $10. A small price to pay for enhanced low-light visibility and peace of mind.

WhyYOU Need It NOW

1. If a driver can’t SEE you, you’re at risk. The quicker you get a driver’s attention, the better off you’ll be – especially if they’re a distracted driver.

2. Wearing light or fluorescent colors aren’t the answer. These are great when the sun is up, but do next to nothing once the sun goes away. Add in a headlamp and/or knuckle lights AND Brilliant Reflective – THEN you’ll be more visible.

3. The odds of being struck and/or killed increases by nearly 1000% after dark. (National Safety Council)

4. 75% of pedestrian fatalities occur at night. (GHSA Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State, 2017) Think about it – it’s dark. Drivers aren’t expecting to see runners, cyclists, etc once the sun goes down and when they do, it’s last second and reactions vary. Also, cars take longer to slow/slop than you might think. Toss adverse weather (rain, storm, snow, etc) into the mix and the stopping distance DOUBLES. And that’s just for cars going 30 MPH! How fast are people driving in your neighborhood or where you normally run?

REFLECTIONS on a Theme

Simplified, I put stickers on my running gear and on my daughter’s stroller, but in reality I did a lot more than that. Using Brilliant Reflective is a proven method to increase the safety of those who are out there running, walking, cycling, etc after dark. I’m definitely looking forward to getting some more!

Be seen. Be safe. Be BRILLIANT.

Head over to Brilliant Reflective and save 30% off your entire order by using discount code BRP30.


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Review: Gatorade Endurance

Disclaimer: I received Gatorade Endurance products 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!


Let me say this going into this review: I’ve not always been the biggest fan of Gatorade at home for workouts. On race days though, I’m always happy to have it as it helps to keep me going. So, over the last couple weeks, I’ve incorporated the new Watermelon version of Gatorade Endurance Formula Thirst Quencher Powder into my workouts. With that in mind, my view on Gatorade in my workouts might have changed!

Gatorade Endurance Formula Thirst Quencher Powder 

For this review, I received Gatorade Endurance Formula Thirst Quencher Powder in Watermelon flavor. In addition to the fairly sizable container, they also sent a water bottle in which to use said powder. During the summer, I try to avoid running in the extreme heat of the day, but sometimes my run will still get good and hot. Prepping a bottle (or 2) of G Endurance beforehand  is always helpful to keep me hydrated – regardless of whether I down it before the run, put it in my handheld, or chug it after the run.

To mix, I added three scoops of powder in with approximately 24 ounces of water. Yes, three – because I, too, like to live dangerously. 🙂 In past experiences with Gatorade products, I’ve felt like the flavor is there, but it is always too syrupy and that the product coats the throat. They got it ALL right with this Gatorade Endurance though.

It isn’t syrupy.

The flavor (in this case, watermelon) is fantastic.

I’ve used it before runs, during runs, after runs. I’ve filled up a bottle (or two) to take with me to work, just to have something as an alternative to hitting up the vending machine. Did I mention that I LOVE THE WATERMELON FLAVOR? 

Gatorade Endurance Formula Energy Gel

In addition to the watermelon powder mix, I also got the chance to check out Gatorade Endurance Formula Energy Gel in the mango flavor. Despite the fact that mango isn’t my favorite flavor in ANY product, I actually really enjoyed this! Gatorade Endurance Formula Energy Gels are designed help athletes hydrate and get the nutrients they need during training or racing in a convenient on-the-go package.

Much like the powder, the biggest thing I noticed and give big props for is the thickness of the gel itself. I was pleasantly surprised as it didn’t seem as thick or syrupy compared to other brands. I didn’t feel like I was “chewing” it! The gel went down easy and also didn’t feel heavy. In addition, the size of the pouch is pretty comparable to others out there, but where the Gatorade Endurance wins is the opening. The package tapers to a very functional opening, making it easy to consume during a run. ALSO, and very important, the edge of the pouch doesn’t feel like shredded glass cutting into my mouth!

Overall

I’m definitely much more open now to incorporating Gatorade Endurance into my workouts going forward after this! Try it for yourself – head over to Gatorade Endurance and get free shipping on orders over $50.

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!