Saturday morning I ran my second half marathon, the Baltimore Running Festival Half. I spent the past 6 months (since I was 3 weeks PP with Drew) training and felt confident in my training. I had reached a running strength, both mentally and physically, that exceeded my expectations. Based on my last long run of 11mi I thought a sub-2 was in the bag, so long as I didn’t die or break anything along the way.
The week before the race both boys were sick. Congestion, hacking coughs, snot out to wazoo, and fevers to boot. Sleep was pretty non-existent. I tried like hell not to get sick too but felt the itchy throat, the body aches and painful lungs begin on Thursday.
Race day started an hour earlier due to the Orioles making it to the ALCS. I woke up at 2:50am, 10 minutes before my alarm and with only 3 hours of sleep. This wasn’t a good start. I rolled off the couch where I’d slept to avoid middle of the night wake ups from Andrew (Bry took over for the night), made some coffee and pumped. I spent the next hour relaxing, wearing my calf sleeves with my legs elevated on the couch, reading a book on my iPad. I’d done this the past few weeks before long runs and it made the runs go much better than the extra hour of sleep.
At 4am I woke up Bryan so he could have some breakfast. At the 5K race I’d eaten 3 hours before the race began and felt my glucose stores crash during the run. I decided to hold off eating as long as I could before the half began. I went to the table to sit with Bry while he ate and found 2 shirts, one for each of our boys that Bry had hand decorated to say “Run Mom Run”. I literally started crying. This man I married. There are no words.
We spent the next hour getting everything ready for the race and for our trip to NY since we were leaving right afterward. At 5am I ate a PB sandwich with cinnamon and then went to wake up the boys. They were dead asleep when I got them and yet within a minute they were both up and happy, excited to see what our adventure was. They’re amazing, easy going kids. We finished packing the car and by 5:30am we were out the door, right on time.
We made it to the off-ramp for the parking garage and hit stand still traffic. The race started at 8:45am and the clock was ticking by and we were barely moving an inch every 5 minutes. Finally at about 7am Bry dropped me off on a side road and I started following a couple in race shirts, hoping they knew where they were going. I walked about a mile to the inner harbor where the half started. I peed and then watched the sunrise over the harbor. It was absolutely gorgeous. At 7:30am Bry called me to say he’d just parked and was on Pratt St. which was right where I was. About 10 minutes later I saw a handsome man in flannel pushing a familiar looking double stroller. I loved unexpectedly seeing my boys right before the start. At 8am I got in line to pee again since I made the mistake of not going right before the start of our first half and had to stop at a port a potty 1 mile in. I didn’t’ want to have to do the same thing again. Then I lined up with Wave 2 and before I knew it we were counting down.
I started running and as soon as I passed over the start line I saw Bry with Jackson on his shoulders. I called out to them and blew them a kiss. Then I got serious. The first mile I spent an absurd amount of energy weaving in and out of people, trying to get into a comfortable pace. Before we even got to the mile marker, the hills began.
I had looked at the course map multiple times before race morning and even studied the elevation map. Apparently I suck at reading maps. I thought the course looked fairly flat and my only contender would be a pretty wicked hill from miles 4-6. At least, that’s what the elevation map said. So during training I spent the last 4 long runs on Capital Crescent Trail running the first half of my runs at a mild decline with 2 large hills/overpasses/bridges and the second half at a steady incline with the same 2 hills. I figured if I could do 5 miles of straight incline in the latter half of my long runs, I was all set for a 2 mile hill during the race. It never occurred to me that there was a reason every one I encountered race morning asked if I had seen the course.
The entire race was rolling hills, which I’d failed to train for. Many of them we’d crest just to turn the corner and begin another incline. Each hill I kept telling myself this was “the” hill at mile 6 I thought was the only hill, and all I had to do was climb it and it was all downhill from there. Liar, liar. At mile 3 my legs were already beginning to call uncle. My quads were burning. I reached mile 5 maintain a 8:45 pace and then we reached an out and back section. I wanted to be done/ I was over the hills and to make matters worse we were facing some serious headwind. Miles 6-8 were a loop around a really beautiful lake. I appreciated the flatter section but it felt like we were running on a track and mentally, I was dying. I kept pushing through and abandoned hope of getting my sub-2. These hills were no joke. At mile 9 I ran out of fuel. I’d successfully downed all my gu chomps in an attempt to get through the never ending hills and my water bottle was dry. I threw it to the side fo the road and kept chugging along.
I stopped at a water stop at mile 10, successfully managed to get about 3 drops of water in my mouth and kept going. I knew there was a fuel station at mile 11 I just wanted to get to. And then I saw it. The bridge.
Mile 11 was at the base of a concrete bridge. I took a deep breath and just told myself to keep going. I didn’t care if I was maintain a 20 minute/mile, I would not walk. But as I kept climbing my right knee started to ache. Not in a mild way but in a “I’m about to blow out” way. I told myself if my knee still ached at the top of the hill, I’d walk. No race was worth blowing out my knee but thankfully once I reached the top, it felt fine. I got another cup of water at mile 11.5 and managed to get 10 drops of water before I abandoned hope and headed for the finish line.
The last 2 miles were a blur. I was on autopilot and really have no idea how my body kept moving at that point/ I finally saw the finish line and as everyone else seemed to get a burst of energy, I responded by slowing down. My body literally decided that was enough. We saw it, that counted. But I forced it to keep moving forward, no matter how slow and cross the finish line.
I crossed it at 1:57:33 and 13.31 miles according to my Garmin and an official time of 1:57:27.
I did it. I got my sub-2, despite the hills, the lack of sleep, the exhaustion, my chest throbbing, the desire to quit 10 miles earlier and the loss of 2 toenails. And into the arms of the three greatest guys in the world ❤
*A note about the Baltimore Running Festival: Unlike the Rock n Roll Half which is the only other half I’ve run, the course support was impeccable. There was plenty of water and Gatorade at every aid station and numerous volunteers there to hand it out. Some were even in the center of the course so you could grab a cup from either side (I managed to always get to the stations right after they’d handed off cups and picked up my own but it wasn’t a big deal). At RnR the last 3-4 stops had NO ONE there and were already out of water. It sucked. BRF had so many amazing volunteers and the community came out with crazy amounts of support along the entire course. There were always cheering spectators, some handing out food and beer and a few blasting music which was uplifting. The course itself wasn’t terrible. I didn’t do my due diligence with looking at the elevations in detail and being prepared for the hills. They sucked. A lot. So much so that the back of our medals even have the motto “It’s just a hill…get over it”. The signage to get to the half marathon was nonexistent. When you’ve just encountered standstill traffic, you’ve had to pee for 45 minutes straight and you can’t find a single sign to point you to where you need to go, it sucks. Also, there were only 12 port-o-potties at the start. 12. For over 8,000 runners. As you can imagine the lines were incredibly long but the bathrooms themselves were extremely clean, so that was nice. I loved the course start at the inner harbor and that the middle 2 miles you got to run by the lake. Overall, I’d recommend the course but not for someone looking to PR. And I’d definitely recommend training for the hills.*