I really wish I wrote this in October, back when my emotions were fresh and memories vivid. But after watching the video recap I posted about Monday for the 2015 Baltimore Marathon, all those warm fuzzies came flooding back.
For years, whenever I walked down Ravens Way before a game and saw the painted finish line on the concrete, my dream to run the marathon grew larger and larger. I had signed up in 2014, but after a stressful summer and poor training, I downgraded to running just the half. (Which ended up being a good thing thanks to the urinary tract infection that popped up the day before.) 2015 was my time, though, the year I would finally conquer this huge goal.
So. About my training. Where I’m from, we have hills a-plenty, and you best believe I was hitting them hard, seeing as how the Baltimore Marathon course is a challenging one. My favorite running trail did a good job at kicking my butt so I was feeling pretty confident about four weeks before the race.
Notice the weird elevation peaks that looks like the Bat sign? It always cracks me up.
But then somewhere mid-September, I started slacking, first by going on quick YOLO Disney trip with girlfriends which was too much fun to regret but resulted in one week of no running. Then I was sick for my 20-miler and ran it on my treadmill instead of outside. Add in a few more missed runs and a lack of cross training and my confidence level wasn’t feeling all that confident.
But whatever, carry on, because soon, Friday, October 16th rolled around and it was time for the expo! This year, they held it at M&T Bank Stadium and since we’re season ticket holders, we felt more comfortable driving there and finding a parking space. The expo was very organized with plenty of signs showing you where to go. Bob and I had planned on being in and out of there in an hour, but yeah, that didn’t happen.
I ended up chatting with these guys at the PlowOn Gum tent who gave both Bob and me some samples. According to their website, it gives you “Hours of Energy and Focus Instantly. Each piece of energy gum has same value as one can of energy drink or one large cup of coffee.” Trying something new at a big race isn’t exactly smart, but I still packed a piece in my race belt on a “take in emergency basis.” (In other words, I totally tried it.)
At their tent, I also got to chat with Maria “Nica” Shields, a fantastic ultra-marathoner who has broken American records in her age group, (60 – 64) at the Ulmstead 100-Mile Trail Run with a time of 21 hours, 31 minutes, and 47 seconds. Wow. She ran her very first marathon at the age of 45 and has qualified for Boston many times, which is very motivating to this 46yr old who hopes for a BQ by the time I’m 50! Btw, I came thisclose to asking if she’d do an interview here, but I totally chickened out. #bloggerfail
I really appreciated how organized the expo was–very well-marked with clear directions on where to get your bib, shirts, etc. There was plenty of merchandise there that sparked my fancy, but I only ended up buying some more Gu and Sports Beans. Bob was happy about this.
We left soon afterwards with a view of the parking lot where the running festival will be. Things were getting real, folks, really real!
After laying out my clothes, (which involved lots of obsessing over the weather, wondering if I’d really need a long-sleeve liner, etc.,) I conked out at around 8:00. Thank you God, thank you melatonin.
In the morning, I woke with panic attacks. Did I train enough? Eat enough yesterday? Hydrate enough? Is my goal time of 04:30 realistic? And will I need that liner or not?
Unlike last year, we left in plenty of time with me having a very hearty breakfast of a double serving of oatmeal and a bagel with peanut butter. (This gal needs lots of calories–I learned that lesson at the Disney marathon.) We parked in the same lot as the day before and my husband … Lord, I love that man … had put together a nifty port-o-pot in the backseat for us with a paint bucket, blanket, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. Yeah, maybe that’s TMI, but you know what? I was seriously thankful for his ingenuity at 7:00 am when there were no bathrooms in sight.
My nerves doubled when we walked to the festival area with me wrapped in a runDisney mylar because of the chill. I had no clue where the starting line was so I was feeling pretty anxious and worried. After some wandering, we found our way to Russell and Camden Street with me having pleasant conversation with a gal named Danielle who was running the first leg for her relay team. She joined me near the 04:30 pace group while Bob hung around the start line to take some video. Speaking of video, besides my PR goal, I also wanted to take lots and lots of video of the course, thanks to portable charger and 8″ cord stored in my belt.
That didn’t exactly happen.
By the time the five-minute mark hit, my stomach was in knots and Phantom Pee Syndrome hit me full force. Having Danielle to chat with helped, though, as did my pace group guys in their gray shirts. Even before the race, Randy, Roger, and Paul became my security blanket. (There was a fourth guy, but I forgot his name! My apologies, whoever you are!) After an amazing singing of the National Anthem, we were off and running!
Anyone who is familiar with this course knows that the first few miles offers some challenging hills. I had decided to pull ahead of my pace group, giving me some buffer room for bathroom breaks. Danielle’s pace matched mine so we settled into a nice grove where we’d answer a new question at every mile marker. Stuff like what our favorite movie was, dream reward meal, best vacation ever, that sort of thing. Passing the Botanical Gardens and running through the Baltimore Zoo gave a welcome reprieve. The penguins! Oh my gosh, we had to stop for a photo!!
There was a real bathroom at around the 4.5 mile mark but we skipped it. (Mistake.) We soon parted ways at the Mile 6 relay exchange after noticing a guy running the full in a business suit … complete with dress shoes. Wow. That’s dedication. After saying goodbye to Danielle, I analyzed my pace wristband that I had highlighted with times to take in a Gu. So far, I was on schedule with my fuel, but I realized that my pace group might have passed me. No worries (for now,) I soon caught up to them and pulled ahead a bit, now chatting with a girl wearing a 2014 Wine & Dine shirt.
Then my decision to not hit the bathrooms came back to haunt me.
There were some port-o’s on the right … only two, so the line was rather large … but I stopped anyway. Bad choice. The wait took forever and a guy butted in front of me–seriously regret not calling out for it–so once again, my pace group passed and was long gone by the time I finished.
Shoot. Lost my security blanket again. Time to kick it in gear.
Thankfully, the course leveled out around the mile 7 mark as we headed toward and through Downtown Baltimore. I wanted to take more video of the Inner Harbor, but my mom called … the first of four times. While she’s not exactly a fan of running, she’s a fan of me, so she was watching marathon coverage live on TV and gave me updates on who was leading. It was exciting for both of us but catching up with my pace group soon became priority #1.
Good thing the course loops between miles 9 and 13, with the Under Armor Headquarters as the turn around point. I kept my eyes glued to the runners coming toward me on the other side of the road, searching for gray shirts. Finally seeing Randy, Roger, and Paul as we rounded the bend darn near brought tears to my eyes and I resolved to never, ever leave them again … that is, until the sun came out full blast somewhere around the 14 mile mark and I decided to take off my liner. Yep, here it comes, another unwise choice. I stepped to the side, stripped my belt, short sleeve shirt, and liner, totally getting it caught on my Garmin and pace wristband. Cussing ensued. Garmin almost fell in a gutter. Pace group long gone.
I took off after tying my liner around my waist but the Garmin? My fingers just couldn’t work. A spectator noticed me struggling, so she offered to put it on for me. Gotta say. Baltimore has some seriously amazing spectators with all their cheering, signs, and offers of food, wine, or beer! There was even a guy wearing a red Speedo handing out shots of Natty Boh … man, I really regret not getting a picture of that, but the awesome couple dancing in the back of their truck wearing animal costumes with Eye of the Tiger blaring?
Totally stopped for them.
Okay, so after my little strip error, I had to catch up with my pace group once again while taking another phone call from my mom. “Peetie, the guy who’s leading had legs like a gazelle’s, you should see him!” (Yes, my nickname is Peetie.) While busting another move, I gave my phone a much-needed charge. (Lesson learned–never have Runkeeper on if I want to take lots of video.)
It was charged and ready to go near the 20 mile mark as we made a big loop around Lake Montebello, one of my favorite parts of the course. By then, I had caught up with my pace group again but my energy level was low and my legs ached from pushing too hard. Time to break out my “take in emergency” PlowOn gum sample. They warned me it’d be bitter as a way to keep kids from chewing it, and holy cow, it was! Plus I’m a mouth breather, so chomping on gum with my mouth open surely wasn’t attractive. It did the trick, though, by the time I reached the 22 mile mark, I could feel the caffeine kicking in. Could it have been more of a placebo? Maybe, but I didn’t care. Whatever worked.
So. Four miles left to go and things were looking good. I was with my pace group, stuck to Randy, Roger and Paul like glue. Then it happened again.
I had to pee.
Crap. Damn my piss-poor bladder. Another row of port-o-pots came into view. Should I stop or keep running? Stop or keep running?
Can’t say I regretted it, though, because I felt much better afterwards and might not have made it otherwise. Soon I came upon the Howard Street Bridge near Mile 24 which was amazing – hilly, but amazing. Once we started to run down Eutaw Street toward Camden Yards … oh my gosh … I was overwhelmed and teary and beyond joyous over the realization that I was actually going to be a Baltimore Marathon Finisher.
In my excitement of finally running through Camden Yards, I had lost my pace guys, but who should happen to pass me as we neared Lee Street? Randy, Roger, and Paul. Oh my gosh. Couldn’t have been happier.
I called out, “I’m on your tail, guys,” and on their tail I stayed with this glorious sight up ahead:
I finally did it, I finished the Baltimore Full Marathon! Did I hit my 04:30 goal? Didn’t know and didn’t care, I was too happy to worry about time at that moment. Instead, I worried about something else that hit me soon after taking the above picture:
Total leg lockdown.
Between the sudden chill and pushing my pace way too hard to catch up, my muscles stiffened and walking was torture as I hobbled to collect my medal. Images of runners collapsing on weak spaghetti legs flashed in my mind and for the first time ever, I worried someone would have to carry me to the medical tent. They did have volunteers handing out mylar blankets, but they did nothing to ease my deep chill and stretching was impossible. I was too sore to sit, too sore to walk, too sore to stretch, too sore to do anything but call Bob.
He had been enjoying a marathon of a different kind – a Blue Bloods binge-watching one on Netflix in our car. Before the race, I told him to only bring my small backpack, but to my joyous relief, he brought my bag of spare clothes as well in case I need them. God bless the man. He was also the one who waited in the huge line for those who did the Maryland Double and King Crab Challenge while I layered up in cold gear leggings, yoga pants, and two jackets.
Have I mentioned how much I love my husband?
It took a long, LONG time to finally get my Maryland Double medal and King Crab medal rack. Had I been smart, I would have bought chicken strips or other kind of protein to eat while waiting, but I was too tired and too cold to function or worry about proper recovery, something that would bite me in the rear big time later.
Instead, I asked Bob, “Did you get my official time?”
He cringed and got this funny look on his face.
I didn’t not like this look.
“Don’t be upset,” he said, “But you finished in 04:30:02.”
I must admit that my heart sunk to my sore knees.
I missed my goal by two seconds. Two seconds. A thousand what ifs flashed through my mind. What if I ran a little faster? What if I didn’t let that guy butt in front of me at the port-o-pots? What if I didn’t take that third bathroom break? What if I pushed harder through Camden Yards??? These thoughts kept brewing until we reached the front of the line for my gorgeous, gorgeous Maryland Double medal and King Crab Challenge rack. I did do an amazing job, one to be proud of, so I shoved all those negative thoughts in my back pocket … for now … and headed over to a banner for a picture with my new medals, plus ones from the Frederick Half and Baltimore 10-miler:
We then went over to the beer truck for my two free Bud Lights which made everything right in my world.
We didn’t hang out long since Bob had to drive to Manassas, VA for a Lions Club charity event and I was getting hungry.
Now, about my reward meal.
There were many times throughout the race when I contemplated the perfect reward meal. Fried chicken? Quick Fire stir fry with its zillion grams of fat? In the end, I went old school with a Big Mac. And fries. And a shake. I felt like barfing ten minutes after cramming all this in, but good God, it was good!
Btw, look at all that salt on my visor! Gross, huh??
Our plan had been for me to crash on the sofa while Bob made the two-hour drive to Manassas, but he had been so wonderful and supportive of all my running nonsense that I decided to go with him. Dressing up was out, though. The best I could manage was yoga pants and a runDisney long sleeve. The drive did a number on my sore legs, but it was great seeing my brother and sister-in-law … and there was more Bud Light to ease the pain.
All in all, I had a total blast running the Baltimore Full Marathon and doing all three races for the King Crab Challenge. Unfortunately, I’m not able to do the challenge this year since I’ll be in Disneyland for the Tink Half Marathon the same weekend as the Frederick Half. I’m also thinking about entering for the lottery for the Chicago Marathon and doing the Dallas one in December, but I don’t know … after writing this up, I really want to give 2016 another shot!
I have to get rid of those two seconds. 😉
Speaking of which, after my initial competitive disappointment passed, I remember that technically, my goal was 04:30, not sub-04:30. So really, I did meet my goal since technically, I was at 04:30 … with a little extra.
Sometimes you have to get creative for inner peace.