If you haven’t guessed already… I like saving money. I also like spending money on fun things like shoes and clothes, but I will go out of my way to spend as little as possible on everything (I sincerely hope that no one in my life would think of me as “cheap”, I just believe in getting the best deal possible and being responsible about money). This was kind of hard for me when I started racing because racing is EXPENSIVE. I love racing, so I’ve figured out a way to make it work in my budget… but I’ve got my eye out at races to make sure I’m getting my moneys worth. FOR example, you pay $40 for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington DC in the spring and you get no race medal and a crappy cotton t-shirt. I paid $25 to run the Charlottesville 10 Miler and I got a finishers medal and a Nike Dri-Fit technical tee. These are the kinds of things that jump out at me.
So here are my thoughts on the Baltimore Half Marathon including value for the money and logistics. (DISCLAIMER: I recognize how difficult putting races on is, so these comments are more meant to be constructive feedback as opposed to whiny criticism)
PRICE: $90 (plus $7 transaction fee to register online… get you every time!) I registered in August. If I had registered before April 1st it would have been $80
– Crowd Support: People of Baltimore… you rock. Much of the race was through neighborhoods around the city, which is my favorite (nothing worse than running on a freaking highway). There were SO many people out with signs, kids giving out candy, people playing music from the porches. Some favorites included the group of people in a neighborhood playing “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray, the two guys dancing on their car in tiger suits playing “Eye of the Tiger”, and the kids giving out candy corn on the longest hill of the race. Some of my favorites signed included: “If the marathon was easy, it would be called your mom” “Run a Marathon Today, Law & Order Marathon Tomorrow” and “JANICE – You forgot to sort the laundry” (<– that guy gets 10 points in my book for being hilarious). The crowds and the people are WHY I run races in different cities. Go Baltimore… you guys get an A+ on this one.
– Course Support: This was a big race but the volunteers / coordinators were on point the whole race. Plenty, plenty, plenty of water and Gatorade at every stop. I know most serious runners don’t drink as much as I do while racing, but dehydration is my #1 migraine trigger. After my first 10K, I got such a headache I took medicine and slept for 18 hours straight. I want to run a good race, but I always want to enjoy my life after. So I get water and gatorade at every station. The best part though was the HUGE fuel station they had set up at Lake Montebello. In addition to liquids they had mini Lara Bars, Power Bar Energy Bites, bananas, everything! I had my margarita shot blocks, so I just grabbed a mini Lara Bar for later. It was awesome. A+ for fuel.
– Swag: The shirt is a semi-fitted Under Armour short sleeve and it rocks. I got a women’s medium and it fits perfectly. That style shirt retails for about $47.99. The shirts are also different for marathon, half marathon, and team relay, which I like (different colors and the race distance was printed on the back). When I ran my marathon in the spring, it was the same shirt for the full and half and I felt kind of jipped. I wanted a MARATHON shirt so everyone would know how awesome I am when I wore it. The medals were also really sweet. There was a very cool crab cartoon printed on them. A+ for swag.
– Post Race Support: After runners finished they were funneled into a line to get space blankets, medals, water and Gatorade. I would’ve liked to have the water / Gatorade first because it took several minutes to get through the line (space blankets can be really difficult to pull off the roll quickly so that really clogged up the line). While they had bottled water available, the only Gatorade I saw was in cups. I took one cup but would’ve loved to have bottle Gatorade available to take with me. The food was pretty standard. No major complaints there. B for post race support.
– Expo Setup: The expo was at the M&T Bank Center and I literally felt like I walked around the entire concourse to get all my stuff. You got your bag when you walked in the stadium, then you went upstairs and all the way to the left to get your number, then you walked all the way back to the right to get your shirt. Just felt like the critical stuff could have been closer together. The vendors were ok but not the best selection I’ve ever seen (granted I did get there later on Friday evening so maybe there was more earlier). I didn’t see my favorite… Hippie Runner 😦 B- for expo setup.
– Transportation: Parking at the expo was no problem, but the way the races were set up (Marathon started at 8 am, Half at 9:45 am) meant if you were running the half, you needed to either drive in before the start of the marathon, or use public transportation. Not a HUGE deal, but Light Rail stations outside Baltimore are really not equipped to handle this number of people. The parking lots were full by 8 am and the only parking available was metered spots (there really isn’t a way to use a metered spot when you’re going into Baltimore to run a race). We ended up parking on the street several blocks from the Light Rail. We then waited in a long line to get tickets from the ticket machine (of COURSE a train came while we were in line… and then no one checked our tickets once on board BAH!). The trains were packed to say the least. At the end of the day, we got there and it was fine, but it wasn’t the best situation ever. B- for transportation.
Hey all!! So on Saturday I ran my first race of the Fall 2012 season! Today I’m going to give you a recap of my race and then tomorrow I’ll write a race review about logistics etc.
Friday after work I met up with my friend Sarah, picked up her car at the White House (that is SO DC right?), and got on the road to Baltimore. We stopped in Greenbelt MD for a pre-race dinner at Hard Times Cafe. Not EXACTLY the typical pre-race fuel, but for a half I don’t really get into “carb loading”. I think it’s more important for the marathon. I also have a really easy stomach so I don’t typically worry too much. I had vegetarian chili on a salad. There were some tortilla chips for a little carby-goodness. Quick stop at the expo for our numbers, swag bags, and sweet Under Armour race shirts. This year the half was a really gorgeous deep purple (everything was either purple or orange… i personally prefer purple). Then we headed to Sarah’s husband’s grandparent’s house (haha yeah I’m a big old freeloader) and went to bed around 10:45 pm.
The half marathon didn’t start until 9:45 am (the latest race start I’ve EVER had) so we got up around 6:30 am and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast graciously provided by Grandma. She made up some scrambled eggs, english muffins, and vegan sausage patties… the royal treatment! We arrived at the Light Rail station at 8 am but this took us a while (more on that tomorrow), we arrived at M&T Bank stadium at 9:15 with 30 minutes to go over to the finish line, check our bags, pee, and get to the start. It was a little tight but we made it to the start line right as the gun went off. I said goodbye to Sarah and lined up with my group.
Miles 0 – 5 : I got started at a pretty decent pace. I realized walking over to the start that I wasn’t wearing my Garmin. Where was it? In my bag… checked at the finish line. Super duper. I figured since I was trying to run a smart race, I would go based purely on feel. My goal was to feel good the first 5 miles. The first five were lots of rolling hills. Nothing horribly long or horribly difficult, but definitely enough to notice. I was able to hold a steady pace throughout. I am definitely not the kind of runner who goes slow up hill and then fast downhill. I started off a little stiff too, but I loosened up a lot by the end of three miles.
Miles 5-7: I anticipated these to be the hardest miles of the race. However, the “big hill between mile 6 – 7” didn’t really end up being that big. It was longer than the other hills, which is why I thought it looked more challenging on the chart. In reality, the longer hill made the incline grade really manageable. There was a bigger than expected downhill section after the “big hill” too which was very nice. At this point I was starting to notice that my right hip flexor and left calf muscle were getting tight. This is when I started paying for my lack of training. I held on to my pace, but kept checking back in to see how I was feeling. I wanted to run a good race, but I didn’t want to get injured. I took opened my pack of Margarita Cliff Shot Blocks and ate my first block. These have 3 times more sodium and are supposed to help with muscle cramping. Luckily, the pain in my hip and calf dissipated as I reached mile marker 7 at Lake Montebello.
Miles 7 – 8: Nice and easy and FLAT around Lake Montebello. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Lots of race photographers, so I made sure to smile real big (even though I probably won’t buy any photos… they’re stupid expensive).
Miles 8 – 10: I really underestimated this part of the course. I was able to maintain but there was a hill between between 8.5 – about 9.5 that was a tough one. I think at this point I was also getting fatigued so that contributed. However, at this point, I was running with a bunch of marathoners. I thought to myself… these people are running this hill with 21 miles on their legs. I only have 8 on mine… SUCK.IT.UP. I took another margarita shot block hoping the extra sodium would help my legs.
Miles 10 – 13.1: Suck it up I did… and I emptied my tank. I dug deep and by the time I crossed the finish line I had nothing left. At this point, I kept thinking to myself, “You’re this close. And you’ve run every step of the way. Keep moving, keep running,” I ran every step of this race, including every.single.stinkin.hill. My normal “sprint to the finish” was not as sprinty as usual but I think that was a sign of running a smart race. I pushed myself to my edge, left it all on the pavement… insert other sports related cliche here.
I crossed the finish line and literally felt drunk. I could barely walk straight (I ran into another person like 3 times) and I vaguely felt like I was going to puke (I did not). I grabbed some ice for my hip flexor and stretched out for a solid 10 minutes. I drank two bottles of water and did finally manage to get a 1/4 of a bagel down. I ended up taking one final margarita block because my foot totally cramped up while changing from my sneakers to my flip flops.
Then I found my friends and got my post-race party on!!! I missed you racing. I’m so glad we’re back together. Let’s never fight again. I literally had no clue what my time was when I finished. I only saw the marathon clock, which said 4:07. According to my official timing, I finished in 2:13. That is my third fastest half marathon (my best is 2:08 and I did another at 2:11). Not too shabby for not training! It was really a good confidence boost for me… I’M BACK BABY!!
Sarah and I post race
I thought this cartoon crab was pretty adorable.
There are few things in the world I love more than a race medal 🙂
I’m running the Baltimore Half Marathon on Saturday. I’m not going to sugar coat this… I am not as trained as I normally am for a race. I’ve taken my running really seriously since I started, but after finishing the marathon at the end of April, I just haven’t been as motivated.
There are a variety of factors in play here. Running in the summer is just harder, and I got really discouraged. I also battled a lot with my migraines this summer. I haven’t really written on the blog about migraines yet but I’ve been getting them since I was about 10. They run in my family and they are hell on earth. I went through a period this summer where I woke up every single day for 2 months with a headache. Not the worst ones I’ve ever had (I had a couple of those too… in bed all day, can’t move, throwing up… it’s really a dream), but enough to throw me totally off for two months. I felt horrible. I gained about 5 lbs too, which sent me into a veritable tailspin. Basically, things were not all that peachy in the land of POTR, and my running took a major hit.
BUT I have mercifully gotten my migraines under control again (although I did get a blistering migraine the first night in the new apartment… no fun), I’m no longer eating tons of crap food, and I’m finally getting my groove back. On Sunday, I set out to do 10 miles. I figured if I was gonna run this race, I really needed to see where I was fitness wise to set a realistic plan. Shockingly enough, I did 10 miles in 1 hour 33 minutes. That’s a really decent pace for me and I felt really good. So maybe Baltimore isn’t going to be a total wash for me. I don’t at all expect this to be a PR race, but I think it’s going to be really fun.
Since I’m not going for a PR, I thought this was a good race to try running a “smart race”. I didn’t think I ran the smartest race possible in my marathon, and I want to do better this spring at Rock’n’Roll USA. I just read Monica’s post about her Long Beach Marathon PR and it gave me some really great ideas. First, I did what I do best: I researched!!
I’ve been studying the course map and elevation chart pretty carefully, which was a major downfall for me in Nashville. I’ve heard from others that Baltimore is a decently hilly course. My legs aren’t in tip top shape, so I’ll need to conserve some energy for the hills. The hill between mile 6 and 7 is clearly going to be the most challenging. Here’s my thinking, keep the pace reasonable for the first five miles (10 min / mile goal) to save my legs for the hill at 6. There are some rolling hills in the first few miles, but I actually do best on rolling hills. They keep me entertained.
Then I’ll take the hill in stride. Looking at the elevation gain, I feel like this is a hill I can manage. I run similar sized hills in training often, and while it’s not going to be “easy” it’s doable. Then after I get to the top of the hill, I’m going to pull up a little bit between 7 and 8 to shake out / recover a bit. Once I hit 8, I’m going to empty the tank for the last 5 miles. There will be a slight incline again around mile 9 but it won’t be as bad as the last hill. With all the downhill at the end of the race, I’m going to just try and push as intelligently as possible. I’ve been pushing myself a lot recently in my runs to that “comfortably hard” place, and I know I can absolutely do that for 5 miles.
Thoughts?? Anyone run Baltimore before??