First things first: Thank you so much for all the supportive comments, tweets, texts, and messages of any kind - those things really do make a big difference to me. Honestly, thinking about writing a triumphant facebook post, tweet, and blog recap is absolutely huge for my motivation, much more than you might think!
Second: We all know I don't know how to shut up, and take lots of pics. My marathon recaps are just that: marathons. You've been warned.
On Friday, the last bell could not ring soon enough for me to fly out of school and straight to Michaels to start picking out puffy paint. I've never run a marathon that didn't involve puffy paint, and I wasn't about to start now. I went a bit wild with my selections.
Not long after I got home, Kara arrived, and the party really got started.
|She said something about this not being a normal activity for 28 year olds, but I didn't understand that comment.|
|My shirt got lots of compliments. Kara's got lots of dirty looks.|
Kara was nice enough to help me create my post marathon epic dessert: two double stuff oreos, glued together with peanut butter, baked into a brownie (in a cupcake form). I've never in my life baked and not licked the batter, but I had less than 24 hours to go in my no dessert challenge, and I wasn't about to give up now.
|Kara and Eric took one for the team and tested the results for me|
I broke a cardinal marathon rule (well, actually a lot of them, throughout the week) and wore my new headband from Emily, which arrived just in time! Check out her awesome headbands, it survived a tough 26.2 without budging, and was adorable in the pictures.
We forgot the camera, so we took some lame ipod photos before the race started. My running group rents out a bar that is just steps from the start line, with a real bathroom and everything.
|So many great training runs with Jill went into this marathon!|
|Eric is morally opposed to taking nice pictures|
|A little abuse helps|
My friend Jackie was running the relay, so she started out with us.
I wanted to line up with the 4:15 pace group, which I thought was ambitious. Kara laughed at me. My marathon PR was 4:17, at Shamrock, which had a total of 40 feet of elevation gain. According to my Garmin, in yesterday's race we climbed 4,063 feet. So my thoughts were, I would love to PR, but with almost no taper and the focus of training being on endurance, not speed, I didn't think it was in the cards.
I had two goals for this race, and neither one was time related. Don't worry about what the Garmin says, and don't pee. Everyone was shocked I didn't have time/pace goals, and that is pretty unlike me. But I didn't want to get discouraged if I wasn't meeting them, and I didn't want to run a marathon and feel like a failure, so I just ignored the numbers game for once.
Kara set a good pace, and I spent most of the first few miles feeling good but worrying if we were going out to fast. I guess we chatted too much the night before because we were oddly quiet. Jackie told us to go ahead after the first two miles.
The first 3-4 miles are straight uphill, so once we got to the zoo at mile 4, it flattened out a bit and had some downhills, plus we got to see a raven, penguin, and skunk that they brought out for us, so we were pretty excited, laughing, talking, and having a great time.
I continued to feel good as we headed downhill back to the harbor. At mile 9, there are tons of crowds and people waiting to start the half, and that's exciting. A few girls from my running group were there cheering me on, and that boosts me up like crazy. Kara made fun of me for being a "Wooo" girl, and sprinting every time I saw someone I knew - I own it.
We headed through Federal Hill for miles 9-12, and there is an out and back part, which is great during races. I saw Jackie, Jill, and Carolyn, and was so glad that we could cheer each other on for a brief moment. Being so far ahead of people I'd trained with made me a tad nervous (especially since Jackie was doing the relay, not the marathon!) but I ignored it.
As we headed back through the harbor, I saw Casi and Donnie, who were doing the half, lined up to start and got to high five them. I looked frantically for Eric, but he was the one runner I never got to see!
The half started at 9:45, and Casi and Donnie were in the fourth corral, so I knew it had to be between 9:50 and 10:00 am, which meant our half time was under two hours. At this point I thought: "well, this will either be really awesome or totally screw me later on". Turns out, our half split was 1:56:59. Considering my half PR is 1:50:33, that's fast. Running right next to the half marathon start was really exciting, and I pretended I was just starting too. Last year I was too slow to see the halfies start, so it was a good feeling.
We headed through Harbor East and Fells Point. This is a part of the race I absolutely love, because it's our old neighborhood, and it's filled with Deja Vu. I grabbed a snickers and was so excited to eat chocolate after 24 days without it. I should have waited a little longer, snickers + racing a marathon doesn't equal delicious.
After Fells Point, we start another ascent through Canton. At mile 16, we join with the half marathoners. Since there are 10,000 of them, we had been dreading that point, and the dread was justified. Last year, I joined with all the walkers, and it was awful. I have no problem with people walking, but I have a problem with people walking 5-6 across in the middle of the road and not letting runners through.
This year, we joined with faster runners, but somehow the paces didn't match up, and it was much more crowded and worse that the walkers. We were just fast enough to need to constantly pass people, but it was so crowded, that passing involved seeing a hole, sprinting in front of people to it, then slowing down to our normal pace again just to weave around people and repeat the process. The constant sprinting, weaving, and changing pace was exhausting me, and this whole stretch was uphill.
At mile 18, we begin a huge ascent that lasts until Lake Montebello at mile 20. Kara was sprinting up it like it was a little short, steep hill, and this was the point when I was getting angry and just decided that if she wanted to sprint, she was on her own. In my head, I politely told her that this hill had more than a mile to go and I didn't want to sprint it. In her version, I screamed angrily at her to take it easy on the hill. Perception is your reality.
I was thrilled when we reached the lake, since reaching 20 miles in a marathon is a turning point, and reaching a flat section after a 2 mile hill is cause for a celebration. Kara claims I told her we had finished the last hill, but what I said was, we were done with big hills. Usually I love running around the lake (it's in lots of races, and I bike there a bit), but this time I was pissed because it was narrow and caused even more congestion, and my legs were just so tired and sore. Mile 20 in a marathon maybe a turning point, but it's generally a turning point from "YAY, I'm running a marathon!" to "Shoot me, I'm running a marathon!". I always get a bit nervous. At mile 20, the clock said 3:02. This was my exact time at a 20 mile training run, so I knew it meant a 9:08 pace. WOW.
We left the lake, and then we just had five more miles to go. Mile 21 was starting to feel extremely tough, and as we hit 22, I hated life, I hated everyone, and I was just miserable. As we cut in front of yet another pair on an uphill, I guess some girl didn't like that, so she grabbed my shoulder, and shoved me. Everyone asked why I didn't react, but, honestly, every tiny ounce of energy I had was going in to continuing to run at that point, I couldn't even muster enough strength to speak to tell Kara what happened.
Some people are anti music, but I don't care what anyone says, at this point, my ipod saved me, and turned the marathon around for me. I put in my headphones, turned on my playlist, and Celine Dion came through with "It's All Coming Back to me now". Laugh all you want, but Celine and I had a private moment together, I went to my own place, and my mood went from "I want to stop running and punch everyone for being alive" to "I love this marathon!". Thank you, Celine.
Apparently, the music also affected my pace, because Kara finally had to tell me to slow down. After 20 miles of me begging her for mercy, I was so excited to finally be the speedy one, that I think I sped up. At one point she got really angry and started yelling at me and calling me "Crazy Lady" (um, did she read her own shirt?). I was totally confused, because I was following her plan of running by feel, and I felt good! I wanted to finish with her though, so I tried to rein it in. I knew she was angry, but I knew once we crossed the finish she'd like me again.
I am truly shocked at how good I felt miles 22-26. Sure, I was in pain, and there were still hills to contend with, but mentally, my spirits were way up, and miles actually seemed like miles, as opposed to my previous experience, where each mile between 21 and 26 seems like a marathon in itself. I only questioned if they forgot to put up a mile marker once (mile 24), instead of every single time!
At mile 25, you can see the stadiums (where the finish is), and it's all downhill. I'd been gunning for that, and when we got there, I was thrilled, and couldn't wait to finish. As we reached Camden yards, we only had a half a mile to go, the crowds were going wild, and I just kept reminding myself that even though I felt like I was going to die, to enjoy this feeling of being about to finish a marathon!
|Can you spot me?|
I had stayed true to my word, and not looked at my Garmin. Once I glanced at it, about halfway through, just to make sure it was working, I saw numbers in the time screen, but didn't look at anything else, and got no usable information from it, other than that it was on and working.
Therefore, as we approached the finish, our time was a total mystery. When the clock came in to view, it said 3:55, and I screamed something like "it's under 4!". I had absolutely no intention of running a sub - 4 marathon that day, and had thought that was maybe a good goal to hit in a few years. Seeing the clock still within the 3 hour frame was the shock of a lifetime, and I was so relieved when I heard the announcer say something about "we are almost at the 4 hour mark" so I knew I wasn't hallucinating! After we got our medals, we just kept mumbling things about "sub 4" in amazement, got the time on twitter and facebook, took one look at the gigantic line for food, then decided to skip it and leave the finishers area. It took us 10-15 minutes of standing in a huge crowd just to get out, which was awful on my legs at that point. That is the one part of the race that I wish was better organized.
We finally got out, and found Lily, who rocked the half marathon with an amazing time.
|Eric ran the half and got a huge PR!|
|Sub 4 marathoners|
Jackie was nice enough to give us a ride back to her house, and let us shower there. I knew Kara had been pissed at me during the last 6 miles, but when she shared her actual thoughts about me during that time in the car, I was truly terrified. I thought I'd been angry at some points during this race and in the metric marathon, but apparently her inner race bitch is really scary.
Kara headed out, and we went to finally get some food at a local Mexican restaurant with Jackie, her husband Dan, Lily, and Tricia. Then we walked about 2 miles to Carolyn's house, which seemed like torture at first but ended up making my entire body feel much better.
Carolyn hosted a post race party for all the runners, and it was fantastic. Amazing food, karaoke, dancing, and tons of detailed race recapping.
|No party is complete without Baby Got Back - even post marathon ones|
|They were looking forward to Tricky for weeks.|
Overall, this was an amazing race, although a challenging course, with absolutely wonderful volunteers. I carried a Deer Park water bottle, which I refilled three times, and every time the volunteers were sprinting around to get me filled and back on the course as fast as possible, all while smiling and being encouraging at the same time. I highly recommend the Baltimore Marathon to anyone, don't let the scary description of hills stop you, this race is so much fun! You also get to see so much of the city.
I'm so glad Kara decided to come down and run it with me, there is no way this sub 4 would have happened without her fantastic pacing and pushing me!
Gus consumed: 4
Times in the bathroom: 0
Times looking at pace on Garmin: 0
Miles I listened to my ipod: 3
How I felt: I was pushing it, but I wasn't about to die. Only felt that way a handful of times.
|Check out that drop at the end!|
Amount Eric loved his medal: