March 22, 2020

Baltimore Half Marathon Recap – The 13 Minute PR

I had such a great time at the Baltimore Half Marathon.  Everything just seemed to fall into place and I’m still sitting around and smiling like crazy because I’m so happy with how everything went. This will be long so bear with me!

Pre-Race:

Early Friday afternoon, I headed up to Baltimore with Suze and our friend Suzanne to get our shop on.  I threw caution to the wind and broke the “no new stuff” on race day and got a new Under Armour shirt and sports bra and a really cute new SweatyBand. I run in a lot of Under Amour so I just took a leap of faith that I’d love the sports bra just as much as I love my other gear.

Carbs loaded!

Laid out the night before so I won't forget anything!

Surprisingly, for the first time ever, I managed to put my race anxiety out of my mind and sleep well.  I guess for the first time ever I was also calm enough to eat my whole dinner! I kept my fingers crossed that I could keep my nerves in check during race day too.

Race Day:

Suze and I headed up to Baltimore far before the race’s 9:45 start time.  The race had a strange set up, where the full marathon started at 8:00 and the half started almost 2 hours later  at the full’s 13.1 mark.  Of course that complicates things for the half runners a bit – due race road closures we had to get to Baltimore at around 7:30 and had an awful lot of time to kill pre-race.

Dressed and ready at 5:40 a.m.

But it ended up being a pretty good thing.  I had time to eat breakfast and not worry about not having enough time to digest.  I had a whole cinnamon raisin bagel with a little cream cheese and some coffee at 6:15 and was confident I was going to feel great during the race.

At around 8:30 we went to meet up with Sarah who was running the half with her husband. It was his first half marathon!

Ready for 13.1 miles of awesomeness!

Before I knew it, the race was starting! I was still really excited and not at all nervous.  Sarah and her husband took off ahead of us, since they were aiming for a faster finish time, and Suze and I started our race plan.  I am so happy I decided to set my Garmin display to not display time and pace.  All I had to look at were intervals and I had absolutely no idea what pace I was running at so I wasn’t stressed and I could really enjoy the crowds and energy and there was plenty to pump me up at the start!

Miles 1-3 were a lot of up and down hills but I was honestly expecting much worse.  I stuck with the plan and let the adrenaline take me through mile 1 and then implemented my 4 run:1 walk policy.  I made sure to be smart with the walk intervals – if I was on a downhill I skipped the walk interval. I also made sure to walk through the water stops when I drank Gatorade to minimize stomach problems.

At Mile 3 I almost lost Suze at the water stop.  I grabbed my Gatorade and she was gone. I stopped and waited for her for a little until a spectator gave me a great piece of advice that stuck with me for the rest of the race: It’s not what behind you, it’s what’s in front of you. Keep going! I told him what Suze looked like and asked him if he saw her to tell her I was a little ahead of her. It turned out she had passed me and I saw her a bit ahead of me and sprinted a good bit to catch up with her.  I was so happy to find her!

Miles 4 and 5 were not terribly memorable.  I know from Suze’s watch that we were pretty much dead on with distance at the mile markers, we were running the course smart but I wouldn’t let her tell me our pace. I didn’t want to know where I was until I hit the lake at mile 7.  I lost Suze for good after the water stop at mile 5.  I turned around when I was going to start my next run interval and she was right behind me but then she just vanished.  I tried to find her but remembered my advice from my favorite race spectator and just kept going.

Mile 6 showed the biggest hill on the elevation chart and I spent a lot of time dreading it and worrying about it.  It turns out it was not nearly as bad as I was expecting. Not even close.  I met an older woman on the way up the hill and I told her she was doing great and this was the worst hill and once we were done we’d have smooth sailing until the end of the race.  We made it up the hill and I felt so relieved! If that was the worst then I could kill the rest of this race.

Miles 7 and 8 were around a lake and I hit a major second wind after finishing the big hill.  Mile 7 was the first point that I looked at my watch and I was pleasantly surprised to see 1:22. I was ahead of a 12 minute pace!!  I saw a few race photographers and hammed it up for them. I jumped in front of one and airplaned. He was not entertained.  I took Halloween candy from spectators.  I ate a Reeses Peanut Butter cup at mile 8! It was delicious but it made me so thirsty! I don’t think I took a single walk break on the lake.

Miles 9 and 10 had awesome crowd support but the miles weren’t terribly memorable. I stopped at the water stop at mile 9 to drink some more Gatorade and refill my water bottle because I had drained most of it after eating the Reeses.  I grabbed a handful of gummy worms and candy corn from spectators (who the heck am I? Seriously? I never eat this much running!).  I wasn’t planning to look at my watch time again until mile 12 but I had a feeling I was going to set at 10 mile PR so I looked and I did! A 2:30 10 Mile PR!

Mile 11 is where I guess I hit my wall.  I was suddenly so tired.  I ate more of my Honey Stingers chews to try to get a last little energy rush.  Funny enough when I look at my Garmin data mile 11 was fine. I ran it in 11:42 so I guess my perceived exhaustion was a lot worse than my actual exhaustion.  I switched my Garmin’s display to show my pace/time at this point.  It was a mile early but seeing 2:09 on the clock at mile 11 was such motivation. I knew I could hit my time goal of 2:36 and maybe even beat it!

Mile 12 my hips were killing me. I had to stop and stretch twice.  Part of me thought it was stupid to hop off the course and do some downward dogs this late in the race but I wanted to finish with a smile on my face.  I didn’t want to cross the finish line looking unhappy after such a fun race.

Mile 13 was so crowded that walk breaks were no longer an option. I could see the stadiums in the distance and I took off.  I put my pump up run jam on repeat and let Flo Rida carry me into Camden Yards, past the photographers (I jumped up and down and cheered wildly when passing the guy going into Camden Yards. I hope he caught me on camera!).

Related Article: RnR USA: A Personal Worst Time with a Personal Best in Karma

There was a cop right at the marathon’s 26 mile sign and I must have looked so happy because he shouted “THAT’S HOW YOU FINISH A RACE! LOOK AT THAT SMILE!” and I just kept going as fast as I could. My last .14 was at a 9:46 pace! My official finish time was 2:34:48, 13 minutes faster than I ran Virginia Beach last month.  

You might also find the following blog post interesting: 9 Minutes and 34 Seconds Faster – My B&A Trail Half PR Story

 I know this was the longest race recap ever but I’m so proud and wanted to make sure I’m able to remember everything.  I definitely found a plan that works well for me and I’m excited to see what I can do on a course that’s not constant hills.  I can finally say that I’ve been bit by the half marathon distance.  Thank goodness I gave it another try after Virginia Beach.  My main goal for this race was to finish happy and I definitely did.  My reach goal was to finish in 2:36 and I met that too.  I just can’t stop smiling! Oh and if anyone is wondering, the new shoes worked out perfectly!

Have you ever had a race where you exceeded your goals? Tell me about it!

You might also find the following blog post interesting - Blue Ridge Half Marathon: Must Have Been the Socks