Sunday, October 14, 2012

Just Roll With It: Baltimore Marathon Recap

I'm still in shock at how the Baltimore Marathon went down this weekend. Before I talk about race day, however, let's back up a bit.

Last week I wrote up a quick summary of all of my October "training" races. The goal was not to really race any of these, but use them as long runs for JFK prep. Regardless of this point, going into Saturday's marathon I wouldn't have had high hopes for a PR anyway. I ran my first marathon last November after what I felt like was a solid training season. After my injury this past spring I've felt endlessly slow, far slower than I was last fall. So my thoughts for Saturday were that I wasn't in PR shape anyway and I should just roll with a comfortable pace and readily accept a 4:15 or a 4:20 or wherever the time fell.

I owe this race to a lot of things coming all together at once: perfect weather, perfect fueling, perfect outfit choice, and a perfect attitude and race plan.

We left work early on Friday and drove straight to Baltimore and hit up the expo first to pick up our packets.

Nice Under Armour tech shirts for the win!
Afterwards we checked into the Baltimore Hilton. The hotel was super convenient to the race. The next morning we literally stepped outside and were at the start line. I was not expecting it to be so fancy!

We went in search of dinner and found a deli a few blocks away where we carbed up.

Better than bottled sparking water? Sparkling water in a can - how did I not know of this before?!
We finally got up to the room and I started laying out things for the race:

Shorts, shirt, bra, Pro Compression socks, SPIbelt, salt tablets, fuel, bib
The next morning, after a decent enough night of sleep, I woke up at 6 am, stretched, ate a granola bar and banana, got dressed, and got my fuel together.

I've been experimenting with non-traditional running fuel for awhile. Swedish Fish = tastier than a GU, but difficult to carry. The fish kept trying to flee my SPIbelt every time I unzipped it!
At 7:30 am we made our way across the street to gear check and then the start line.

I mentioned at the beginning that we had perfect weather. It was about 44 at the start and in shorts and a thin long sleeve I was frigid, but of course several hours later everyone who wore pants and jackets was drowning in sweat and was still cruising.

So cold!

Mike and I settled into the crowd behind the 4 hour pacer. I had no intention of attempting the sub-4 that I had coveted so much last fall, but I wanted to hang out with my husband until the gun went off and he was hoping to finish around 4 hours.

At 8 am sharp the crowd started moving and we were off! Mike sped off right away and I wished him luck on his first 26.2. I knew the first 3 miles were going to be straight uphill. I settled into a comfortable pace and paid attention to my breath. Anytime I started to feel like it was becoming strained I scaled back a little. When we passed the first mile marker I looked down at my watch (I didn't wear a Garmin) to see where I was at. I was shocked to see an 8:53 because the pace felt so easy. I was a little concerned I would bonk early if I kept up that pace (considering 90% of my training runs have been10 minute miles), but since it felt good I kept going.

When I got to the top of the hill I was still hitting sub-9 paces. I flew on the downhills. I kept thinking of my boxing instructor when he tells us to "refuel your gas tank" in between rounds. I let gravity take over and let my lungs and heart recover on the downhills.

The miles flew by and before I knew it I was at mile 11 and was passing the 3:50 pacer. That's right, 3:50, not even the 4:00 pacer. My mind went a little "WTF!?," but I still felt like I was running easy so I kept it up.

I passed the 13.1 mile marker at 1:51:58. Coincidentally this would have been a half marathon PR. Still, I didn't let myself think of possible finish times, because as I learned at my first marathon anything can happen in 26.2 miles. In my opinion, nothing is really in the bag until after you hit mile 25. So, while I started having dreams of crossing the finish line in not only a sub-4, but a sub-3:50, I refused to do any revised goal setting and kept to my original race plan of "just roll with it."

Unlike my first marathon, where we started the race with the half marathoners and then lost them at the 13.1 mile marker, at this race they started at our 13.1 mile marker and ran with us to the finish. I liked this setup a lot better. While the course did get a lot more crowded the second half, they brought a renewed sense of energy. It was also encouraging for me as I passed not only fellow marathon runners, but many half marathon runners also.

The second half of the race had another hill climb. It wasn't as static as the first climb, however, and felt more like rolling hills. And even though it wasn't as high the first, I was feeling more fatigued and was having a harder time getting myself up the inclines. At mile 17 I turned on my music to try and perk myself up.

At mile 20 I reached the top and had to run a one mile loop around a lake before heading back downtown to the finish. Mile 20-21 was the last "feel good" mile for me and I think I was running around an 8 minute mile.

Miles 21-26.2 were just pure hell. Everything hurt and I was slowing down. At this point I had calculated, however, that even if I ran 10 minute miles I would come in under 4 hours. I decided that I should keep trying to push the pace through the finish even though initially I had no time goals for this race. I mean if I didn't try to race the last hour wouldn't that make the previous three a total waste??

There were a few more little uphills between miles 21 and 24 and I cursed under my breath during every single one. My "ride the downhills"  strategy was becoming harder to do because my legs were so sore already. The crowds were really good the last miles and I turned my music off to let them spur me on.

I was still clocking 9:xx minute miles and realized I would likely finished under 3:50 and it was just a matter of how much under. Finally, after what seemed like forever, mile 25 came around. At mile 26 I gave a full out sprint with my last bits of energy. When Mike later described his final miles of this race, his first marathon, he said he was surprised because he had never felt such a full depletion of energy before. It's true, you give it all and have practically nothing left by mile 26.

Final stats: 3:46:05, average 8:37 pace

I found Mike at our pre-arranged meeting place. He had a great race and came in a 3:39:58! Super job for his first marathon! (He is totally hooked now by the way and is already talking about attempting a sub-3:30 next time)

In case anyone is curious, I took four Swedish Fish at miles 5.5, 11, and 16.5 repsectively. I walked through 2-3 water stops during the first half of the race and walked through 3-4 stops during the second half of the race and had some gatorade a few of those times.

Post-race we met up with Baltimore friends and found a delicious grilled cheese shop:

The perfect ending to a perfect race
I cannot believe I am a sub-3:50 marathoner! It is such an unexpected thing to happen. I will have a goofy smile on my face the rest of the week!


  1. Love this! Congrats to you, seems like the greatest things happen when you are least expecting it but you've certainly put in the work and deserve it!

  2. Awesome PR and RR. You make it sound so easy! What you hit is what I'm aiming for at MCM (or Philly if I can't do it at MCM). Way to go!

  3. WOW! Great race for you both!! Way to crush your record. Congrats!

  4. Such an AWESOME RACE!!!!!!!! Good job to you and congrats for crushing your goal time :-)

  5. Wow, congratulations!!! What an incredible time, especially with all those hills, geez!


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