Monday, October 17, 2011

13.1: Baltimore Half Marathon Race Recap

I crushed that two hour goal on Saturday morning and I have a hell of a lot to say about it. The basics are: I ran my second half marathon under my goal time; it was really hilly, windy and sunny; and I'm happy and proud. Read on for the full story.


I woke up at 5:45 AM and it felt like Christmas morning. I quickly dressed, ate my usual oatmeal with honey and peanut butter, and went to the bathroom. I re-read the recap I wrote about my first half marathon for some final inspiration. We eventually got six people (Mom, Dad, Josh, Sarah, Hadley, Me) out the door and into the Prius. We drove to Glen Burnie, MD to ditch our car and get on the light rail into Baltimore. With my nerves in full-force, I popped a squat between two cars and peed on the pavement.

The ride flew by and I got off with Josh, Hadley and Sarah at Camden Yards. My parents stayed on and headed two miles north to my brother's apartment in Charles Village. They were planning to hang out with him for a few hours and then cheer me on at mile 10.

It was just after 8 am and I didn't know if I could wait an hour and a half to start running. So I thought about Nikki and wondered where she was on her 26.2 mile course. With my crew, I followed the hash marks on the street leading the half marathon start line.

I was feeling so many things: nervous, anxious, thirsty happy, scared, cold, hot, pumped and hungry. But, most of all, I was feeling excited. 

We met up with Eric, Nikki's boyfriend, went to get coffee (not for me!), waited and waited, and I made two trips to the porta-potties. I ran in place for practice.

It was suddenly 9:30 and there were only fifteen minutes till gun time. I hadn't seen Nikki run by (mile 9 of the marathon ran right by the start of the half so I was hoping to see her before I started) but I had to go group together with the other runners. Josh and I debated where he should go to take pictures. I wanted him standing next to me until the very last second but I also wanted him to watch me start. There was a pedestrian bridge over the street right where the race started so we decided he should climb up there and see me off.

I roamed around unsure where exactly to start. I found a spot around the middle of wave two, way behind everyone in these photos.


The gun went off and wave one started. After a few minutes, the people around me started moving and so did I. I was running and I felt a little bit like I was going to cry- there was so much emotion in me. I approached the bridge and looked for Josh. I saw him and I screamed his name three times before he saw me. Maybe I shouldn't have wasted that energy but I needed him to see me off, to smile at me, and to take pictures as I crossed the start line. He did all three!

I crossed the start line and started my watch. The race with the clock was on.

I was checking my pace only ten feet in. And my average pace in that ten feet was close to 11 minutes per mile. So, clearly, I had to pick it up and start passing people.

There were a lot of bodies to pass and I wasn't going to pass them all but I was going to dodge whoever I needed to in order to keep my goal speed. I was following many others running on the curb or the sidewalk for a few seconds to avoid the masses. It was madness.

Right before I kissed Josh goodbye, I told him my makeshift race plan. I had never had a race plan before so I wasn't sure what I was talking about but this was it: run the first five miles at 9:15-9:30 min/mile, run second five miles at 8:45-9:00 mins/mile, run final 5k as fast as humanly (carriely) possible. But those first three miles, I was cruising at an 8:40-9:00 pace and I felt fine. I thought about slowing myself down in an effort to save energy for the end of the race. But I also knew that I should take advantage of any speediness I had in me because I had a feeling that every second was going to matter in my effort to crush two hours. So I just kept running, and kept checking my watch. I was having fun.

At mile three, the half met up with the full, at their mile 16. We were running by a park and it was gorgeous. I have neglected to mention that the weather was seemingly perfect. It was in the low 60's and sunny. Soon I would realize that it was incredibly windy and that low 60s and sunny was far from perfect on this race day.

It was apparent pretty early on that this course was, as anticipated, a hilly one. But for the first three miles, the hills were small and rolling. I had studied the elevation chart and thought I was ready for the long, slow incline between miles 3 and 7. But I was wrong about that incline being slow. Very much of it was steep. And it was hard.

Around mile 3.5, I started to really feel the sun and I worried about my water situation. I was carrying my 20 oz. bottle but knew that was not going to be enough. I passed a water station and grabbed a cup without slowing at all. I ran and drank from it, sloshing half all over my face and shirt. But I knew that was the way to go. I did the same at every subsequent water stop for the rest of the race, sometimes pouring the last bit of cold liquid on my head or down my back.

At mile 4, I became worried about all of the hills for the first time. I had trained on so many hills in DC but something was different on Saturday. These were steeper or longer or more aggressive and mean. Bottom line was, they didn't want to be my friend and were determined to make my life harder so I would fight them. I slowed on my way up but every time I felt the slightest or steepest downhill, I ran fast, letting the momentum carry me when it would.

Around mile 5, I thought about the Gus in my sports bra. The energy, and caffeine especially, were much needed but I was worried about messing with my stomach. It was sensitive that morning from my nerves and I didn't want to mess with irritating it. But I went for it. I was on an incline and decided I'd rip one open on the next downhill. As soon as I took one swallow, I started to feel nauseous. I took a little more but then knew I should stop. I dropped it on the ground and hoped nobody would step on it and get junk and their shoe.

The nausea lasted. I wasn't halfway done and the weight of a sub-two hour half marathon really hit me. It was easy to want to finish that quickly and to dream about it but now that I was really trying to do it, it was f***ing hard. I was nauseous from pushing myself. But I didn't slow down.

I got to mile 6.5, stomped on the tracking strip and thought about all the people receiving a text message about my location and pace. I was running around a lake and felt the sun and 30 mph winds more than ever. But I was halfway done and my watch read 58 minutes. I was on track for sub-two. Go go go. Just keep running (fast).

At mile 7.5, my watch read 1:06. I was still running around the lake and it was brutal but I thought about my parents at mile 10 and Josh at mile 13.1. I told myself I had to run for 24 minutes to reach my parents and then 27 more to reach Josh. I could do that, I knew I could.

After the lake, everything is kind of a blur. At one point I thought about how hard this was and wondered if it was worth it. I considered how upset I'd be if I failed to make the two hours, and then how painful it would be for me to write it down on my blog. I thought that maybe I'd rather have an injury or accident and finish way over two hours than barely miss it because I just wasn't capable. But then I slapped myself for even thinking such a thing. Then, for the splittest second I thought about stopping and I knew how absurdly ridiculous that was. I knew that wasn't me at all. I pictured the inspiration blog that I posted on Thursday and I said to myself, "Would I rather be sore tomorrow or sorry tomorrow?" I would rather be sore, a million times over. And, believe me, I'm sore. But I'm not sorry.

I ran until my watch read mile ten and I didn't see my parents. I was exerting no extra effort to look for them but was scanning the sidelines with my eyes. I thought maybe my watch was wrong but I got to mile 11 and knew that I had either missed them, they had ditched the ten mile idea and gone to the finish, or there had been an emergency. I told myself there wasn't an emergency and then kept running. Turns out, I had missed them and they had missed me, which was a huge bummer because they had been so nice in driving us all up and spending their day in Baltimore for me. But knowing that they'd be there really kept me going from miles 7-10 and that meant so much to me.

And then knowing that the finish line would be there reeeeally kept me going from miles 10-13.1 which were incredibly tough. For months, I'd been thinking those would be the easy miles- that they would be all downhill. They absolutely were not. But I ran them and I didn't slow down. I passed the Starbucks that served my carbo-load lunch on Friday and knew that I was so close. I saw camden yards and thought I was inches from the end. I ran through camden yards and the finish line stretch seemed to just go on and on forever. Then I heard people cheering my name. It was Hadley, Sarah and Eric at mile 13. I was sooo close and still, I needed the adrenaline from those cheers. They got a few photos of me.

Somehow, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and at mile 13.099, I heard my name screamed again and I was sure it was Josh. I was fighting hard and I think the GRRRR on my face below makes that clear.

I gave a half-ass wave and then crossed the finish line!

The gun time said 2:05:59 but my watch had it at 1:58:43. I had done it but I didn't have the energy to feel excited.

I was so lightheaded that I couldn't stand or walk. I went to a guardrail and leaned my head on it for about ten minutes. I don't really remember much from that ten minutes but I think that if I had tried to walk, I would have fainted. I believe that I literally gave everything I had to cross that finish line in the time I did and I am so proud of myself. I didn't have the energy to be proud right then, but I am now.


I mustered up the energy to get my medal and space blanket. I spent a lot of time in the runner's recovery station and drank two water bottles, two cups of gatorade, chocolate re-gen drink, ate half a bagel, a banana, an orange, and a bag of salty pretzels. My stomach was taking it all, no problem. I considered lying there on the pavement for hours but I really wanted a hug as soon as possible.

I borrowed a nice girl's phone and called Josh. He was still by the finish line and gave me a landmark to find him. When I did, I started to cry. I was feeling so much emotion and it was so good to hug him and hear him congratulate me. He had gone to the tracking tent and got a print out of my time which was officially 1:58:43. Nailed it.

I called my mom and tried to figure out how we could have missed each other. We figured out the timing and they were definitely standing along the course when I ran by. It was a bummer but they still had fun and were heading to the finish as we spoke.

Josh and I hung out and watched Nikki cross the finish line.

Then we wandered and eventually met up with her and everyone else. It all felt so good.

Our cheerleaders brought presents. Seriously, they are the best.

They also brought hugs, which I could not get enough of.

And they made some sweet ass signs.

My parents made it to the finish festival and we headed to the train soon after. It was a long morning for all involved.

I started to feel really nauseous on the way home and did for a few hours. So I curled up in my sweaty clothes to sleep for 30 minutes and then ate pizza and took advil.

I rallied and made my way to Nikki's to celebrate her birthday and her HUGE 26.2 mile accomplishment. We made her a crab medal cake.


The excitement of this race has not entirely worn off and I am still having fun analyzing the official race results and the details according to my Garmin. The most interesting thing, to me, is the comparison of the Baltimore Running Festival's elevation chart and the one on my watch. I have to say, I think my watch tells a much truer story.

According to the race website
According to the garmin

The distances are also slightly different. The GPS on my wrist said I ran 13.18 miles. But who's counting really? HA! 

Here are the deets according to the official T-Mobile tracking system which, by the way, failed to send text updates to anyone.

And here are the deets according to my Garmin friend. Somehow I managed to positive split this race, despite the pain I was feeling at the end. You can also see how much I truly struggled during that mile around the lake (mile 6).

But enough with the analyzing. It's time to just be happy. To be honest, I didn't have very much fun during the majority of the actual race. It was incredibly hard and most of the time I was just dying to drink water after crossing the finish line. But looking back, it seems like more fun than it actually was in the moment. And I would not change a single thing about what I did. Every mile of training for the past three months, every bite of turkey meat pasta on Friday night, and every grueling uphill step I took in Baltimore on Saturday morning led me to that 1:58:43 finish time and I really could not be happier with any of it.


  1. Congratulations!! I can feel your happiness and excitement through the computer!

  2. AWESOME!! What a great recap. You really did nail it! Congrats on getting a sub-2 hour half! Seriously awesome. I love that before picture of you. You look so so so HAPPY!

  3. Great job pushing yourself to the very end! Congrats on getting a sub 2 - very exciting!