Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Flying Pig Marathon - The Hero Lies In All Of Us

My Dad, Mike Hoyes, sporting the Flying Pig Marathon medal - without a doubt, the toughest guy I know.
When I registered for May 5th's Flying Pig Marathon back in February, I hoped that it would be a good weather day and that my dad would be able to come out and see me run.  Cinco de Mayo finally got here and unfortunately dad had been hospitalized for the last week.  He has been battling cancer and a failing liver since November.  While I have avoided including too much personal stuff on my blog, this race had a lot to do with my dad.

First of all, it's hard to not be conflicted when considering how to spend my time.  While a loved one is fighting for their life, training can seem frivolous.  And racing, well, down right self-indulgent.  But, I know my dad wants me to race, wants me to move forward, wants me to push myself hard, and likes hearing the race reports.  So I have continued on, training when I can, making frequent trips back to Cincinnati, teaching, and navigating an upstart track team through our first competitive season (we have Regional Championships tomorrow!).

I got to the race expo Saturday afternoon after spending the day with my dad and saw this year's slogan on the t-shirt and poster - "The hero lies in all of us."  Didn't think much too much about it.  Looked like the strain of coming up with clever things to put on shirts for 15 consecutive years had taken its toll.  That's not fair.  The Pig gives tons of money to tons of charities.  While my race was far from heroic, I spent a lot of time thinking about the fact that my less than three hours of suffering paled in comparison to what people are going through all of the time.

Moments of silence have been more meaningful lately.

The race itself started at 6:30 and was proceeded by a moment of silence for Boston Marathon victims.  We ran east into a fire-orange sunrise and I tried to settle in to a sane pace that was in the 6:10/mile range, which was tough to do with the electrifying crowds and depth of this year's field dropping sub-6 miles.

We rolled through Newport and Covington,  came back over the bridge that we had walked over earlier that morning to get to the start and kept knocking off miles awaiting the big climbs into Mt. Adams.  Finally popping out of the East side of downtown, we started up.  And up.  And up.  Pretty much three miles of climbing in all.  I heeded the warnings and allowed my younger compatriots to roll away and my pace to creep up for those few miles.  Knowing this course would dole out many more challenges, I tried to play it smart.  Through Eden park and on out the East side we ran.

Crossing back into Ohio with  Brooks runner and Cincinnati favorite TJ Lentz.

It was evident early on that my goal of a PR would be the loftiest one that I had a shot at.  The legs felt increasingly tight and the strides shortened.  Got through the 1/2 mark in 1:20:28 - where I needed to be to break that 2:43, but the sub 2:40 would have to wait for a fall effort.  Jeremy Burtel's advice from our conversation on the side of the course at the Derby Festival Marathon last weekend rang in my ears.  "Quick turnover.  That is something you have control over", he told me.  My energy levels felt ok, nutrition was good, hamstrings and back felt like macrame - stride rate and smarts - that's what I had to work with.  

So, I simply tried to walk the tightrope.  I'd hit a good patch and roll off a mile or two a little too fast.  Hit a bad patch, and I'd have to fight gravity, clawing my way across the asphalt.  Within 10 miles of the finish I started doing the math again.  I'd see what 70 minutes plus my current time would give me shortly after passing the 16 mile marker, 63 minutes at the 17, etc.  That way I knew, if I fell apart and had to back off and run 7's, exactly what I'd make it in.  Push hard, drink, don't cramp, go faster, slow down, don't crack, don't be a b!+@%!  Mile by mile my legs got a little worse, but the goal appeared within reach and I was picking up spots one at a time.

By the final 5k, I was toast and just trying to hang on.  Ran by another guy - that felt good.  I thought about my dad a lot.  It puts it in perspective when you consider whether or not you can withstand the pain for twenty more minutes.  He's been fighting for 24 hours a day for months.  Marathoning is not that bad.  I managed a 6:22 last mile (they actually track that) and wound up with a 1:21:51 second half.  The finish couldn't come soon enough, but I got there.  PR'd by about 90 seconds with a 2:42:18, 6:12/mile pace good for 10th. 

It was an experience, this my first Flying Pig.  The city does an amazing job showing its support, and the organization is top notch.  The course is hard but not as bad as rumored.  My months of preparation were a little trying, and my taper was far from restful.  But, I had a lot to run for.  The idea of the hero lying in all of us stuck with me throughout the day.  Not that I felt at all like a hero, but that I wanted to make my hero proud of me as he fights one of his last battles.

Dad, you are the toughest guy I have ever known.