October 17, 2011

Baltimore Half Marathon 2011

Charm City, what can I say about you? Baltimore won me over this weekend, when I previously thought I disliked the entire city (other than that wing place Jake and Helen showed me, yum yum).

We arrived in Baltimore Friday afternoon, with my ankle already a slight bit pissy at me for who knows what this time. We headed to the hotel to check in, picked up our packets and bibs and AWESOME race shirt (thanks Under Armour!), and then decided to tour the city on foot to kill some time. We headed to Federal Hill and took in some great views, and eventually found ourselves at a cute little italian restaurant for some carbs and relaxation...and a 32 oz beer :)

After a not so restful night in the hotel, we woke up and started preparing for the late 9:45am start of the half marathon. The guys headed to their corral at the front of the pack and I headed to mine, alone, in the back of the pack. The cool part of the Baltimore Running Festival is that while you wait for the half marathon to start, you get the privilege of watching the full marathoners run past, including the elites. I love watching the elites....they make it all seem so effortless.

The race finally started, and almost immediately you are confronted with a hill. About a mile into the race, my newfound friends, the shin splints, came back in a roaring fury. I pulled over to stretch it out, tried to walk it off, and had a small little teary moment where I thought my race was over only 1.5 miles in. I decided to suck it up, as usual, and eventually the pain eased enough for me to resume running.

This is the elevation chart that was provided. I would like the record to show that this elevation chart was a complete lie. The baby hills seemed bigger in person, and the large hills seemed to never end. Along the route, the people of Baltimore were great at providing their own music for us to hear and cheering out of their houses (Shoutout to the sketchies that kept cat calling). These people also lied. Almost every other person would say, LAST HILL and then it's ALL down from here! BS, people of Baltimore, BS. The chart does tell the truth about miles 4-7 being completely uphill, without much of a downhill to enjoy after the climb. As if the hills weren't enough of a challenge, it was stupid windy on Saturday. At first the wind was helpful, pushing at our backs...til about halfway when you turn around a little lake/pond and begin running into the wind. Running into the wind AND on large hills does not make for a good time for me. A few cuss words escaped my mouth when I would gratefully hit a downhill...just to have the wind SLAM in your face and make it feel like work.

Eventually I did cross the finish line, unhappy with my time but glad to be finished. I think that course was hard on everyone and I vow to never run the Baltimore full marathon unless I truly want a challenging uphill course. The medal we received is awesome, the best one I've gotten thus far.

Celebrating after the race made everything worth the effort as well. Ohio State and LSU both won their football games, so everyone was in a good mood when we hit the town for some partying, making for a really great weekend.

The best part of this race had to be later that day and also on Sunday...my legs felt/feel fine. This is the first time running over 10 miles and not feeling sore after. Hopefully a good sign for 13 days from now :) I feel better prepared now having to deal with more than one long run that didn't start out the way I had hoped. I know I can rely on myself mentally to get through whatever happens during the 26.2, and that's a really great feeling.

Bonus: A few weeks ago I consulted with a coworker about my desire to run the JFK 50. He told me I was crazy. I got an email from him today stating that at the Baltimore Marathon Expo, a friend of his actually talked him into doing the JFK 50. He said, 'I have no idea how that happened, but I look forward to seeing you out there with us.'

My dear coworker, I know exactly how that happened...it's always the same reason for why I join a race. All you have to do is ask me and there's a rare chance I'll say no.

I keep getting asked why I started running, continue to run, continue to desire higher mileage when I frequently mention my ailments, how difficult 20 miles felt, etc. It's extremely difficult to explain the draw of an ultra marathon to someone who doesn't run at all, and even to those who have done 26.2. It's especially hard when I haven't quite completed 26.2 yet myself! Last week a different coworker heard my story of the 20m and then prompted me why I continue to do it when it doesn't always feel good. I always have a hard time answering this because I think it's something only fellow runners understand. You go through the pain, but once it's over, you only remember the accomplishment.

As Dean Karnazes said in his book Ultramarathon Man: "To those who asked me 'Why?' I would frequently offer up some shallow explanation like 'I enjoy running.' What I guess I should have said is 'Go out and run fifty miles, then you'll have your answer.'"

Because only until you experience it can you really know what it's all about.

Next stop, Marine Corps Marathon. Oorah!

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