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Posts Tagged ‘baltimore half-marathon’

Baltimore Half-Marathon

pigtails flying in baltimoreThere’s nothing quite like the comfort of the pre-race rituals. Oatmeal. Coffee. Dressing, putting up the pigtails, applying a little mascara. Pocket pat-down (gels, got ‘em!). Bag check. Use the port-a-potty. Get in line and use it again. Find my corral. Something new for this race—I was bringing my Blackberry, so I could tweet updates and take a picture or two if I so desired. 

7 minutes from the start… I am in the first wave! Eep, who do they think I am? (9:38 AM) 

I knew I was in Baltimore when, during the National Anthem, the crowd sent up a shout of “OH!” when Miss Maryland USA sang, “O say can you see…” With a crack we were off. Run easy, I thought, run easy girl. 

Mile 1: 8:46
Mile 2: 9:02 

Just ran by Apex thtr—adult movies! Ha! (10:01 AM) 

The first few miles went by easy enough, as we ran away from the Inner Harbor and over to Little Italy, Fells Point and around Patterson Park. I was happy to be running through my old college town. (I wasn’t a runner in college. Actually, I went for a run once my freshman year. I was listening to Fugazi on my Walkman and was running so fast I nearly puked after 10 minutes. That was the end of that experiment.) My thoughts turned to HK and TW, friends from the Green Mountain Relay who were running the full marathon and had already been on the course for nearly two  hours. I also thought of Dan, and how I couldn’t wait to get to him and give him a big hug—he would be waiting for me somewhere between Miles 9 and 10 with his wife and CB. I passed a group that had clearly formed a party around the marathon going by their front door—they had a table set on the sidewalk with pitchers of Mimosas and Bloody Marys. I shouted, Can I have a Bloody Mary? and the whole party raised their glasses and shouted back in unison, “Yes!” 

Mile 3 in 8:36?? Yikes! Funny sign—run like u stole it (10:14 AM) 

Mile 3: 8:34
Mile 4: 8:49
Mile 5: 8:56 

This course didn’t have any steep hills, just a lot of gradual inclines that seemed to never end. I definitely watched my effort levels and tried to distract myself with the sights on the side of the road. Everything I ran past felt like Baltimore—it was definitely a case of Dorothy not being in Kansas any more—the storefronts, the homes, the spectators. Baltimore row houses are a trademark of the city’s architectural style, and part and parcel with those rows of homes are the stoops upon which everyone sits. One of my favorite sights was a whole family–four kids, a mom, and her man—spilling out the door, all crammed onto three narrow steps, and hooting and hollering for all of us runners. They’d cheer, but only from the stoop!

Downhill! Finally! Mile 5.5! (10:36 AM)

Mile 6: 9:19 

Well, downhill for a little but I knew there were plenty of hills coming up all the way until the 10-mile marker. I seemed that they had stationed someone from the neighborhood watch at each incline to tell the runners, “Just two more blocks to the top of the hill!” It was helpful information to have, actually—not demoralizing at all. At around six and a half miles, I texted CB my location and pace so they’d have enough time to get from the apartment to 33rd and Guilford Avenue, where they would wait for me to run by. 

More than halfway! (10:45 AM)

Mile 7: 8:50
Mile 8: 9:01
Mile 9: 9:08

At a certain point we ran around Lake Montebello; that was pretty flat and was a chance for me to recoup some of my energy.  A news helicopter hovered over the lake (local TV was broadcasting the entire marathon—pretty cool!), so of course I waved and smiled as if it was the Roosevelt Island tram, hoping I’d end up on TV in my pigtails and Team Fox singlet. Nah…The weather, I should have mentioned earlier, was utterly cooperative—though it was a little warm and humid at the start, the temperature seemed to drop as the race progressed, it remained slightly overcast and we even had a refreshing misty rain fall upon us at about 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through the course. The race organizers couldn’t have planned it better themselves. I was amused by the squeaky noise hundreds of sneakers made running over the damp roads. 

I just saw dan! @teamfox this race is for him!! (11:11 AM)

Mile 10: 10:07 

Soon after Little G chirped my split for Mile 9 (ah, Mile 9!), I started looking to the left for my trio of cheerers. And there they were, all huddled together under a big golf umbrella. I called and waved to them, and CB rushed over and gave me a great big hug. Then I kissed Dan and his wife, and stood there panting and grinning while CB took a picture and then I said, Well I better get going! I ran off but turned to catch another glimpse of my friends. For the next three miles, the image of the three of them waving me goodbye pushed me forward. 

At the 10 Mile marker, I turned to a runner next to me and asked, Is it all downhill from here? He laughed, and I said, No, that was a serious question. 

Mile 11: 8:01
Mile 12: 8:30
Mile 13: 7:52
+0.21 miles: 1:29 (7:15 pace) 

My only tentative strategy coming into this race was that after Dan, and after the hills, it was Go time. There was no reason to hold back, since the last three miles of the course are pretty much all downhill. So, I kicked it! It felt good; it was difficult. I passed a guy who I overheard saying to his buddy, “Man, I don’t remember getting passed by this many girls last year.” Spectators haed started cheering for me, “Go Team Fox!” By Mile 12 I felt like I was working just as hard as I had been at Mile 25 in the New York City Marathon last year. I could feel my tank getting low; I knew it would take me to the finish line and no further. 

Finished! 1:56! @baltrunfest @teamfox feel super (11:46 AM) 

CRAB MEDALOfficial time: 1:56:33 to be exact, an 8:50 pace, which is faster than I honestly thought I could go. It’s startling for me to think about what a journey this year has been for me. This is far off my PR, and it’s only my fourth-best time for the distance, but yet I am pleased with the effort; I realize I couldn’t have done any better. It’s a night-and-day experience from the Bronx Half I ran in February; symbolically, that race’s tee was the one I threw away at the start in Baltimore. This time there were no tears at the end; it’s possible I’d wrung out all possible race-related emotion during my freak-out the night before. My left and right hamstrings took turns making me uncomfortable throughout, but if I popped my posture back into proper form the pain immediately subsided. I love my medal; it depicts a crab breaking the tape. After I’d stretched, showered, and changed I cabbed it back up North Charles Street for a late lunch with Dan, his wife, CB and RL (another dear friend of Dan’s and an old college buddy). It was the perfect capstone to the day—sharing a meal with close friends, toasting the quietly heroic efforts we each make to get ourselves and our families through the day, the week, the year.

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I am so excited—I am traveling overseas and my plane leaves today! My bag is packed, and I am on the shuttle bus in the airport heading to my airline for check-in. Finally the bus drops me off, and I head down several sets of outdoor escalators to get to international check-in. It has been raining, and the sidewalks are wet. As I descend, I realize I left my bag with my gear, my wallet, and my laptop on this shuttle! I will have to sprint after the bus to maybe catch up and flag it down. I am wearing my running shoes and jeans. I see the bus up ahead turning towards the next terminal, so I start running but am immediately confronted with a hill as steep as a flight of steps. I churn up the hill, my legs are heavy and can barely pull my body forward. At this point I also realize check-in has probably closed for my flight, and that I left my passport on the dresser in my bedroom. I continue to try and ascend the hill–I still need my bag since I can’t even get home without it–but it’s as if the sidewalks are being stretched even as I try and close the gap, my legs simply won’t move as fast as I need them to,  and the bus gets farther and farther away…

I always have these dreams, where I urgently must run but cannot get my body to comply, before a big race. Tuesday night, this is the dream I had. The airport is a new aspect–usually it’s just me, sluggish, in a race. Around 3:30 AM I woke up, my heart pounding, gripped with the awful feeling that something terrible was about to turn my life inside out. 

I was reawakened at 5:15 by my Blackberry alarm for my last workout before Saturday’s race. I had planned on 3.5 miles (so, a Sunnyside loop and a half), but I was so zoned out that I missed the turn at 41st Street and ended up going 3.84 miles in an easy 36:18. I take both the pace and the fact that I could be in the middle of my fourth mile and not even realize it as good signs. My body just assumed it should keep motoring, and so it did without complaint.

Tuesday’s morning run was slower, but that was because I plowed through 5 over the bridge. The 4.92 miles took me 49:42, the omphalos mile of the New York City Marathon taking its usual toll on my splits.

I don’t mind running in the darkness; after all it’s never truly pitch dark here in Sunnyside, with streetlights,  shop lights, and the ambient glow from Manhattan that cast their wan and sparkly illumination at my feet as I run over the 59th Street Bridge, or around and around my Sunnyside Loop. 

But what I prefer is running west into darkness, with the knowledge that the world at my shoulders is only half-dormant, that it’s stretching, blinking and yawning a rosy glow. So that by the time I hit the crest of the bridge, already trotting east and towards home (shower, coffee, breakfast, dog) I can see the sun rising with such a demure, peachy blush that you would think her a virgin bride tiptoeing out to meet her groom on their wedding night, rather than the brazen, full-bodied and wizened woman she is.

 It’s a perfect vantage point, my Queensboro Bridge, for the sunrise. It can be so beautiful that even the factories and warehouses of Long Island City look in possession of architectural merit when bathed in dawn’s soft light. But then I run down, off the bridge: the N train rattles overhead, busses, trucks and cars rumble to my left, and a snarled intersection ignores me as I try to pick my way through to get on with the last mile and a half of my workout. I wave at the traffic cop and get nothing back. 

No matter, dawn shoved its way through what night had padlocked and the day–my day–has begun. Soon I will turn westward again back toward Manhattan for my commute to work, and the sky will still be bright, the darkness already banished halfway across the continent, a favor from the sun just for me.

Even though this week has been a compressed, strange sort of microtaper, I have actually fit in all the key elements. Rest (Thursday and Friday no running). Recovery (PT Monday and Wednesday). Mental Preparation (Nightmares). 

After all these months of rehab, my fits and starts of training, my nearly daily recalibration of goals and plans, I can finally say: I am excited to race! I realize I won’t be setting any land-speed records for myself on the distance, but even without the prospect of a PR I am still jazzed for this event. It feels, on the one hand, strangely anticlimactic–I was supposed to run London and BQ this April, but now I’ll be pleasure cruising a half in Bal’more. But on the other hand, it is a magnificent culmination of perseverance, building strength, and love (for running, for Dan). I keep thinking back to January 2007, when I ran my first marathon. Not since then have I raced just for the feel-good sake of running, wishing only to finish without insult or injury. I want to remember every moment as it pans by me at 6.7 miles per hour. 

queensboro bridgeOn Monday I ran home from work (I need to do this more often; I like it eversomuch). Little G was being petulant, he would not grab a signal and when I resigned myself to running with just the stopwatch, he spastically flashed from display to display. There I had it: a watchless run. After several moments of agitation, I gave myself over to it and realized I could just mosey on home without having to race the clock. Tension actually eased from my shoulders! No need to murder myself on the hills; instead I stopped a few times to take pictures. No need to bolt up Skillman Avenue; instead I waved at the guys in the service station and enjoyed the sight of the 7 Local slipping between buildings like a flying eel. I may have even put my arms out and winged my way around a corner or two. Sounds like the perfect preparation for Saturday’s race to me.

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Charm City

It’s settled then. I’ve decided (with help from my PT Danielle) that my body can handle the Baltimore Half-Marathon. So, on October 10th at 9:45 (the latest race start in history) I will head out with thousands of others and race around the city of my alma mater, the city of John Waters, The Wire, and the O’s.

I told myself to stay calm in case of an emergency change of plans (since that seems to be my M.O. this year), but I can’t help myself. I love being part of the throng, I love getting gritty, I love zeroing in on the finish. I booked my hotel, my train, and have sorted out when I’ll go to the expo and to visit DM and IM (Friday afternoon and Saturday late lunch). CB will be down for the event, too; if Dan can make it, they will come and cheer for me somewhere between miles 10 and 11, which is when I get closest to their apartment building. 

There’s a lump in my throat when I think about it: running with my Team Fox singlet on (finally), and seeing Dan, IM and CB on the side of the road as I go by. I have raised about $8,000 so far, but am hoping to get to $10,000 by October 10th. Towards that end, I emailed all my colleagues in my publishing group asking for donations. I am always bowled over by their immediate and generous responses. 

Obviously I won’t be PRing, so I am approaching this race with a whole different mindset. No doubt I will still be nervous and jittery the eve and morning of, switching back and forth between being a chatterbox and a clam (EN I will miss you in the corral). But I want to try and run this half-marathon the way I ran my first marathon, and the way I celebrated at my wedding reception–unhurried, soaking it all in so as to remember every step, every vignette, every turn and image that I may catch from the corner of my eye. If Dan can indeed make it to the sidewalk to give me a cheer, I will stop and greet him. I may even run with my blackberry, so I can tweet and take photos. I will put my name on my singlet, I will wave at the crowd, I will crack jokes and spur on the other racers. My half-marathon will be about exalting that my body can do it, and about dedicating each mile to Dan. 

I am really excited!

Learn more about Dan, and why I am running for this extraordinary man.

Help me get to $10,000.

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