Sunday, October 13, 2013

Baltimore Marathon Recap: Never thought I'd be relieved to run a sub-5

This weekend I ran the Baltimore Marathon. It's always had a special place in my heart as my favorite race. It was my first half in 2009, my first marathon in 2010, and my first sub 4 marathon in 2011. This weekend, I thought it would be my first DNF, and then my first 5 hour + marathon. It wasn't, but it came pretty close.

Believe it or not, I was actually focused on like, real life stuff last week, and hadn't given a thought to my post marathon dessert. But then I went to Target after work Friday to get a gift for a friend, and saw bags of candy corn mixed with peanuts, and suddenly recalled seeing this recipe, and it was on. Thank goodness for smartphones.

FYI - I used my obsession, white chocolate candy corn M&Ms instead of marshmallows, mixed chocolate and peanut butter chips instead of just peanut butter, and added some crushed pretzel pieces for that extra bit of salt.

Friday night was spent in typical pre-marathon fashion. "Baking" a delicious dessert, getting my outfit ready, compression, hydration, TV, and pizza.

 I had 3 pieces, don't worry, just didn't take a picture until after I wolfed down two already.
Obviously, we had to taste test the dessert. You can't serve people something you haven't vetted, it's the law.

Saturday morning, Eric and I were up bright and early. He was running the half, which didn't start until 9:45 (the marathon began at 8), so I felt bad dragging him along with me. But with over 20,000 runners, it really didn't make sense to take two cars.

Eric mocked me but I thought our city looked pretty in the sunrise!
I didn't realize how accustomed I'd become to small races, but I felt totally out of my element. It took us like 20 minutes waiting in a line of cars to park, and then I was nervous because we arrived at security (what?) at 7am, and I was afraid I wouldn't have time for a bathroom trip before the 8am start. Luckily we scored big and found a band of secret porto-porties (add this sentence to "you know you're a runner when....).

The kind of happiness only secret porto-potties can bring

To commit to my "just a training run" mentality, I set my Garmin to only show distance and planned to run by feel, which is usually a successful method for me.

The race began, and I felt great for the first six miles. I did have to take a pee break early on (mile 3), despite our diamond in the rough porto-pottie find, but it was quick. I just knew this would be a great race.

The start line - courtesy of Eric!

Then, at mile 6, I've did the exact same thing in that I've done in 11 other marathons - took an espresso love Gu. My race immediately went as downhill. This is the elevation chart, but it represents how I felt perfectly.

I should have known there was a problem. Some runners hate Gu and have to choke it down. That's not me - I've always looked forward to my Gu "breaks" (I keep running but it's how I mentally chunk the marathon) and love the taste. But this time, the sight of the Gu sort of turned my stomach. Still, what was I going to do? Throw my tried and true strategy out the window at a moment's notice?
I should have. But I took the Gu anyway and almost instantly felt sick as hell. I felt the same way as I did on my run last Sunday, where I ended up turning a 15 mile run into a 7 mile run followed by 2 miles of walk/running to my car.
By mile 8, I was 100% positive I was going to DNF (drop out) at either mile 9 or 13. Those miles are right by the finish, and I was hoping to make it to 13. However, the more I thought about dropping out, the more I realized it had its own problems.
Eric had the car keys. He would begin racing at 9:45, and usually runs about a 2:45-3:00 half. So that meant even if I made it to mile 13, I would be waiting for him for nearly 3 hours. The weather was perfect for running - 60s, cloudy, on and off light drizzle (which made my stomach issues even more irritating). Obviously, those are pretty terrible conditions for standing around in sweaty clothes.
Luckily, running gives you nothing but time, so I came up with an alternate plan. I would drop out, get my bag (which had my phone and a change of clothes) and walk or run to my friend Mandy's house, about 3 miles from the finish area (ok, full disclosure, I planned to call her and beg her to pick me up, walking was a last resort). I'd wait there for Eric. The DNF was on.
I saw Eric at mile 9 and I decided to push myself to complete at least a half marathon. Somewhere in the next few miles I remembered Mandy had plans with her family, and wouldn't be home all day. I couldn't think of anyone else who lived within walking distance and wasn't racing that day, so it seemed I would have to finish. I spent a mile or two slowly mentally committing to crossing the finish line, by any means necessary, even if it meant walking and a time so shameful I couldn't even think about it.
I also committed to not taking any more Gu, because the thought was repulsive (I usually take 4 in a marathon). At the time, that seemed like no big deal, since there were aid stations with bananas and Gatorade every two miles, and tons of spectators offering candy.
Past the halfway point, I was feeling a bit better. My new plan was to run as long as I could, and then resort to a walk/run combo like I did last week. I really wanted to make it until mile 16, when the full and half marathons merge. If I slowed down too much before then, I'd be stuck with the half marathon walkers and in my experience, they like to move 6 abreast. If only I knew.
At mile 15 I started feeling really sick again, and walked a bit. At mile 16, we merged with 10,000 half marathoners and a miracle happened. I looked over while filling my water bottle and saw Eric. On the off chance that the girl I nearly took out on my rush over to catch him is a blog reader, I apologize.
We ran together for a little bit, and he was upset that his phone wasn't playing his music. He was also planning to do a walk/run interval, but at that point his run was slower than mine, although my run intervals were getting slower and shorter pretty quickly because running was just feeling worse and worse.
I said goodbye, turned on my music, and ran off. At that point, my headphones decided to die. I've ran marathons, and ultras, with no music. Running with no music is one thing - walking and slow jogging ten miles is another. We'd both worked hard on creating the perfect playlist the night before, so that was a clear sign from the universe that we were meant to "race" together for the first time ever (still an exciting Baltimore Marathon first!).
We started out running with some walk breaks and by the end it was more like walking with some run breaks, because I kept crying uncle and stopping when I tried to run. The downhills really hurt, so we mainly ran the hills.
It was weird, because it was clear as soon as I started walking that I wasn't going to be the least bit pleased with my time. Still, it was impossible to let go and every walk break pissed me off because it meant an even slower time. Even more annoying, my legs and breathing felt great, it was just that stabbing pain and nausea that prevented me from running. Maybe I'm just a wimp, but I just couldn't get on board with torturing myself for a non-goal race. Furthermore, we had things to do after the race that I needed to be in good shape for, and I couldn't afford to push myself to the point where I needed to spend the rest of the day crying in the fetal position.
My emotional state wavered from "focus on the positive! It's not raining! I'm hanging out with my husband! I'm always complaining that we don't get enough time together - it's so great that we found each other!" to warding off hysterical sobs over my pathetic performance. I'm sure it was fun for Eric too. It was really nothing new for him - we may never have raced together, but we've been married 5 years and that gamut of emotions happens like 17 times on a daily basis. He continued to come through and cheer me up, and even offered to give me a piggyback ride to the finish. For all you who thought I only married him for his good looks - NO. There's more.
This about sums it all up.
There was also a period where I swore off running all together and said I was beginning a new hobby. Eric suggested we become Crossfit cult people. I told him I didn't say new exercise routine, I said new hobby. Like knitting. I've always wanted to learn. I could sleep in every Saturday, wake up, have some coffee, and knit. Doesn't that sound great? What's the exercise recommendation for a healthy lifestyle - like 30 minutes, 5 times a week? I'll do that and that alone.
The race finishes through the Orioles stadium and ends right outside. Eric started telling me at mile 24 that we should run through the stadium to the finish and I didn't even feel I could handle that. In the end, I managed. When we approached the chute, the clock was at 4:59:37 and I was like "OH HELL NO" and somehow managed to sprint in under 5 hours on pure adrenaline. We even got the coveted husband/wife holding hands finish line experience!
 I paid for that little "sprint" though. You know how usually when you stop running, at least some of the pain stops and it's a relief? Well, not this time. Eric and I had pretty opposite post - race experiences.

That concrete sure looks comfortable. Especially if I add a space blanket.
I rallied for this beautiful picture.
Thought my eyes were closed but I was just in my prime.

Many, many hours later I was able to stomach something other than water and sprite.
The other half is waiting for me after I finish this post.

Eric tried a new beer and duck fat fries and was in absolute heaven.

We were prepared to light the way if the restaurant lost power.

Thank goodness I was able to partake in the dessert buffet later that night.


It's been at least a month since I had a weekend morning (or any morning) where I didn't have to set an alarm, so I can't even describe my excitement over Sunday morning. I slept for like 11 hours.
So far, Sunday has been this.
I will never get sick of SATC.

Sadly, my shirt didn't help the game.

I planned to do a 4 mile recovery run but I was exhausted from our half mile walk to get bagels and I want to go to bed at like 6pm. Apparently, I can't handle a 60 mile week.

And that's the story of the Baltimore Marathon. I'll be honest, I expected to wake up today and be motivated to get redemption and laugh at my knitting plan, but that hasn't been the case. It's only been a day, but I'm really over running right now.

My sister just published a great post that is guaranteed to put your problems into perspective (it absolutely did for me). It's a really inspirational story about her soon to be father in law, and as always, it includes pictures of the world's most precious, perfect child (baby? I still want to say baby!). Did I mention I'm seeing him in 5 short days?

Anyone have any other hobby suggestions for me? Kari has already offered to teach me to knit, so I'm good there.


  1. Sorry your race sucked. :(

    I think crocheting is easier than knitting, so that's another option if you find that you don't like knitting.

  2. Sorry your race kind of sucked. Hopefully you'll be feeling better soon! I can teach you how to knit as well. I have to admit, not getting up and running for hours every single weekend has been pretty nice this year while I've been in the old running funk!

  3. Huh....I think you need to have a 5 hour marathon. I have one and it's shameful every time I think about it.

    I'm so glad your Ravens lost to the Packers today ;) Made my day a whole lot better.

    You'll have a great run soon and love running again. I had one today and now I feel like I could run more miles tonight. We both know that is a terrible idea though. Then I'll be back to hating it. Such a love/hate relationship.

  4. Ugh, same thing happened to me with Gu and Nuun at Mont Tremblant. It SUCKS. I'm glad the day at least ended with a dessert table.

  5. That sounds brutal. Seriously, ugh. But, I'm pretty envious of all the cookies on that table-- we've got nothing and I'm feeling way too lazy to go to the store and do something about it. Having said that, wanna take up mountain climbing? It's fun, promise.

  6. It's not exactly a hobby, but I always swear I'm going to organize all my recipes (computer print outs, scraps ripped out of magazines, etc.) whenever I "have free time". The thought of doing that is usually enough to motivate me BACK to whatever activity I was attempting to avoid in the first place...

    Sorry you had a sucky race - sounds like a hard race on top of a long week. Give yourself a few days to recover, and I'm pretty sure you'll be anxious to get back out on the trails.

  7. I feel like you've really sold me on knitting as a hobby. During my first marathon I decided to be a scrapbook person. They have social meet ups and you get to hang out with friends and glue shit. That sounds fun and much less painful than running for hours. Unless you burn yourself with a glue gun. I guess every hobby has a dark side.

    On an unrelated note: My life has been missing duck fat fries. I never knew until this post.

  8. Sorry about your crappy race. You had a lot of miles on your legs this week. Glad you were able to rally for the dessert buffet!

    Hmmmm well I could teach you to ride a unicycle and juggle if you'd want to learn that as a hobby. Otherwise, I suggest something to do with the Divergent trilogy.

  9. This post broke my heart. I am so sorry you were in such pain and that none of your escape routes panned out. You were really tough to finish!
    Reading? Scrapbooking pictures of your nephew?

  10. I feel like I can feel your pain just reading this post. I'm glad you were able to finish and meet up with Eric. I can't imagine how miserable it would have been without him!

    On the positive side: your hair post-race at the restaurant looks amazing!

  11. At your recommendation I tried the candy corn M&Ms and they are yummy! My Target had no small bag, but big bags (though that offers less portion control).


  12. Ugh, that SUCKS. I'm glad you found Eric! And you're tougher than I am...I totally got a ride back to the start at the DE marathon. :)

    Time to figure out that nutrition problem. No more Gu!

  13. That sick feeling associated with GU is exactly what I experienced the first couple of times I tried to use GU gels and it took a year before I was brave enough to try them again. Sorry this was a bad race for you :(

  14. I hate that you had such a crappy race! Your stomach pain sounds a lot like what I had happen during my run on Saturday. Fortnately for me though, I hadn't paid an entrance fee for my craptastic run. I too swore of running, still haven't really regained the whole "running is the light of my life" love that I had before last weekend.

    My only hobby is baking, and you've pretty much got that figured out. Walking is super fun though, I've decided that after I run this stupid marathon in January, I'm going to only be a walker. It's so much easier to walk and talk. Plus, you can drink coffee while you meander and eat yummy food. There really are no limits there. I know it goes against your only 30 minutes of exercise, but if you go slow enough, I don't think it would count.

  15. i love reading your thought process about whether to DNF or not!

    eric is a good man! my husband pulled me out of the trenches during a race too.

    i always think that i'll take up speed walking during bad races.


Thanks for commenting! Comments make me probably more happy than they should.