Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Baltimore Marathon 2010 (and a quick blog on the B&A trail marathon 2010)

heading to the starting line
 The 2010 Baltimore Marathon was held in the windy city this year.  Wait...  not that windy city, Baltimore just borrowed the term for the day.  The series of events held on Saturday October 16th welcomed about 23,000 runners.

 I woke up early with the goal if getting into town and finding a parking spot situated between the start and finish.  I scored a nice spot right on Russell not far from the start and near the runner's finishing area. 

Close to the 8am start I made my way up Russell looking for the 3:50 pace group.  My plan was to run a consistent race as a fairly comfortable pace, yet pushing some, but easy enough to recover quickly.  My ultimate goal is to run well at the JFK 50 miler, still a few weeks out.  I have never run a marathon strictly as a training run, but I recommend it!  All pressure is lost and enjoying the race was my main goal.  Now, I would be lying that anything over 4 hours would not sit well with me, so that time was lingering in the back of my mind.

The Geico pacers, who have won praises by many, were pretty darn good.  Having had experience pacing myself, it ain't easy and even if the pace is easy for you, maintaining it is not.  They did a good job, a bit faster, but okay.  I did lose them every once in a while after water stations, but stuck with them most of the run.
As we sung the National Anthem, a sky diver landed perfectly among the tall buildings in front of the finish line.  Then a cannon sounded sending confetti on all as we crossed the starting line.  The first 4 miles, or so, are up.  We climbed about 350 feet in elevation those first 4 miles, but it bothered me little if at all thanks to all the adrenaline and excitement.  I hit the 4 mile mark clocking an 8:41 min/mile average.  A bit faster than planned, but I was feeling good. 

Around Montibello Lake
We lost all that elevation from miles 4 to 10, but in a rolling manner.  The streets are not in the best shape in Baltimore, so eyes were often down watching for pot holes and uneven pavement.  Much of the course was actually on concrete, or similar material, rather than the more forgiving tar of the roads.  This ultimately beat my knees up pretty bad. Miles 10 to about 16 were rolling but manageable.  Aid stations were placed quite consistently throughout the course and I was never thirsty for long.  I did learn that I do have a problem with over hydrating which is kind of ironic for me.  I always thought it was nearly impossible to over hydrate and quite honestly never paid that much attention to it until ultras peeked my interest earlier this year.  Then properly fueling was essential.  As a result I believe I started taking in more fluids than needed.  Once again this was the case and caused my hands to swell in the later stages.  This was confirmed with a couple pound wait gain once I was home.

The course was crowded the entire way.  Narrow, it never really allowed for much opening up.  And just when you thought perhaps you would have some breathing room the 1/2 marathoners joined us at about mile 16.  I did run into my friend who was running the half and we briefly ran together.  But mostly I felt like I was weaving through slower 1/2ers and relay runners.  I know this expended energy, but I tried to make up for it hugging corners and turns and running tangents as much as possible.  Around 16 our pace leader said to get ready for the onslaught of hills to come.  From 16 to about 23 you look to gain about 250 feet.  Not as much as those first few miles, but more painful because you already have 16 on the legs.  Plus, a few of these hills were steep.  Up and up we went.   About this time, the wind, which had be fairly calm to breezy, decided to pick up.  Some sections were down right gusty.  Wind is an enemy to the runner above all other running conditions (at least in my book). 

Spilled a little something
 We hit Montebello Lake around mile 20 for the one mile loop.  Though it was a relief not to have hills to contend with, the wide open area allowed winds to have their way with us.  I tried to focus on the positive and looked forward to seeing my neighbor who was  manning the Annapolis Striders Station at 21.  About this time I was drenched with a cup of Gatorade from a passing runner.  Don't people look before tossing their cups?

Entering mile 22 I thought the hills were pretty much done.  And if I believed the well-meaning spectators, I would have cruised downhill to the finish.  Not so!  We did have a net loss in elevation, but the hills still erupted along the way.  I no longer trusted those on the side lines yelling that this was indeed the last hill.  Yeah right!  I knew better now.

I  was feeling a little rough but no rougher than any other longer run.  I started passing people left and right.  That always feels good.  The problem was the amount of people.  Weaving in and out of the ever present crowds became a mission.  I was scoping out a bit ahead for the shortest path to the next hole in the crowds. 
I took mile 25 a bit easier with the intent of pushing it in that last mile a bit faster than what I had been running.  Finish strong so to speak.  At the top of what eventually was the last hill, was a guy standing on his car, dressed as a tiger, with "Eye of the Tiger" blaring from his car stereo.  Good stuff.

Approaching mile 21

I ran that last mile, cruising past quite a few runners, in about an 8 min/mile pace.  Good for me for the 26th mile.  I intently checked my watch as we neared 26 miles.  My watched read "26" but I saw no mile marker.  Maybe they didn't put out a 26?  Then I saw it, way ahead.  My watch read almost 26.2 when I got to that sign.  Bummer!  Still .2 to go.  My watch officially clocked 26.31 miles, which is to be expected.  It's almost impossible to run a course exactly as measured.  And given all the weaving I was doing, I wasn't that far off.  Nonetheless, the garmin watch has added a new element to these longer races.  I often think back to my dad's marathoning days and wonder how far he actually ran and how fast in those pre-chip days.  I am sure he could take a couple minutes off his 2:59 Marine Corps Marathon PR.

I came across the line and needed a drink!  My lips were painfully chapped from the wind.  But Mylar blankets and the enormous medal were handed out first.  The crowd moved slowly and eventually I had a bottle of water in my hand.  I headed into the finishers area and briefly looked around.  The winds had seriously picked up (almost knocked me sideways that last stretch into Camden Yards) and I was getting cold in my wet clothes. 

The lines for food (general fare:  chips, fruit) was long. I snuck in line and grabbed a banana.  The beer line was long too as was the soup line (which was what I most wanted at that point).  I am just not one to wait in line.  Call it lack of patience, but getting home was suddenly more appealing then shivering in the wind, beer and soup in hand. 

I ended up walking about a mile, looking for my car I had so carefully parked before the race.  I wandered off in the opposite direction quite a ways before realizing that nothing looked familiar.  Good grief!  I turned around and ambled back eventually spotting my car.  A quick clean up and change and I was headed home.  Running the marathon without my family was a bummer, but each of my kids had activities planned for the day that I was not going to ask them to give up.  The JFK 50 will be for that!
Almost done!

So, all on all, I think Baltimore did a good job.  It was well organized.  They have a ton of races going on and it seemed to all run pretty smoothly.  The course itself is quite challenging.  Probably the toughest road marathon I have ever run.  Really beat up my joints (knees, hips) because of the bad street conditions and concrete surfaces.  It was super crowded.  I know some runners enjoy the energy from a larger group.  Not me so much. I don't mind running with others, but I enjoy finding my own space, not having to have a strategic plan to pass someone and just room to get in a groove.  That said, I did get to run and meet some neat people.

And if I am being picky, the shirts are a bit loud.  They are made of a wonderful recycled material that is butter soft but the color!  Good Lord.  Remember the neon yellow of the 80s?  Yeah, that loud.

Today, the first day post race, I feel good expect for my knees and a few other sore spots.  I am very happy with the effort as it puts me in a good place for the upcoming ultra.

Here are the stats according to my Garmin watch:
26.31 miles in 3:49:25 (8:43 min/mile average).
Official time was 3:51.  I believe my watch.  :)
I placed 26 out of 185 in the 35-39 age group (top 14%) and 174 out of 1,234 women (top 14%).  Out of the 3,353 marathoners, I came in 782 (top 23%).

B&A Trail
2010 B&A Trail Marathon March 7, 2010
I never blogged about my marathon earlier this year, mostly because it was fairly uneventful.  I was running it as a way to ensure my readiness to pace a runner during the last 40 miles of the famed Western States 100 during the summer.

I enjoyed the marathon a lot and this will be one of the few I would consider running more than once.  It's a smaller event, and cold conditions prevail, but the weather was nice that day (despite a snow storm the week before).  I started way to slow with the halfers, my fault.  But ended up with the following stats:
26.33 miles in 3:50:32 (8:45 avg pace)

No comments: