Monday, October 15, 2012

Race Report: Baltimore Running Festival 2012 - Half Marathon

The 2012 Baltimore Running Festival's Half Marathon was my fourth half marathon and my second on this course.  The course starts in downtown Baltimore on Light Street which is right in the touristy part of town and takes you through the central part of the city and then finishes at Camden Yards (where the Baltimore Orioles play).  If, like me,  you aren't familiar with Baltimore, there aren't a lot of really great sights to see along the way.  The exception being running around Lake Montebello and the finish at Camden Yards.  Crowd support is excellent and the race is very well organized.

The weather was perfect for running.  Temperature at the start was about 50 degrees with clear skies and very little wind.

I live about an hour from Baltimore and decided to drive to the city myself instead of taking the light rail.  I found a place to park about a half mile from the start.  I don't know the city very well but I managed to find the bag drop after stopping a couple times to ask people and got my stuff stowed away.  I brought an old sweatshirt with me to discard right before the start (it would have been donated to charity) but changed my mind at bag check and stuffed it in my bag.  I didn't bring a clean shirt to change into after the race and I felt warm enough to go with out it.

On my way from bag check to the start line I realized that I forgot my pace band.  I knew that this might cause me to miss my 1:50:00 goal time but I didn't let it bother me too much.  Thanks to the long line at bag check, I got to the start about 5 minutes before race time which I think was ideal.  It was really crowded with lots of non-runners clogging up the street.  I was in corral 2, so once the first group was gone and we moved up all the non-runners stayed behind and the crowd thinned out somewhat.

This was definitely the least nervous I have been before a race.  I just felt focused and ready to go.  Because I didn't have my pace band I knew that I would get totally screwed up by the math if I tried to run the 8:23 and keep track of that in my head.  Instead I decided to just try to run even 8:30 splits and see how I felt on the last mile and pick it up if I could.

Miles 1-3 (8:19, 8:48, 8:16) The start was fine.  Not a lot of crowding but there was the usual number of people that were running too slow for where they put themselves at the start.  I didn't have much trouble moving around in traffic and after a couple miles it thinned out.  I really don't know what happened on mile 2. I guess it was the big hill, but it really didn't feel like I ran that slow.

Miles 4-6 (8:30, 8:35, 8:50) This is the toughest part of the course.  It's almost all uphill until about the 6.5 mile mark.  Peter Gabriel's "I Have the Touch" came on my iPod.  The cadence to this song felt perfect so I kept hitting repeat until I got to the top of the hill.  I'm not sure how many times I listened to the whole thing, I think at least 5.

Miles 7-10 (8:39, 8:28, 8:30, 8:33) Shortly after the 10K mark the course levels off for a while as you go around Lake Montebello.  I was passed by a lady that looked strong and I decided to pace off of her for a while.  I ended up following just behind her for almost four miles and ran my most even splits all day.  At about 9.5 miles the course starts a nice long decent and I decided to pass my pacer and try to make up for some lost time.

Miles 11 - 13 (7:52, 8:27, 7:40) I tried to hold the faster pace but the bridge and then the long hill on the other side had other ideas.  I was happy that I still had enough in the tank to make the last mile my fastest all day.

After I crossed the finish I waited for a minute or so and the lady I had been pacing off of crossed.  I waited until she caught her breath and thanked her for helping me PR and complimented her for running such solid splits.  She thanked me as well.  Evidently she followed when I sped up but faded on the bridge.

I don't typically hang around long after a race so I just headed over to bag check and grabbed my stuff.  I was pretty sore but was able to walk back to my car just fine and head home.

For the first time ever, the time from Garmin and my official finish time matched up at 1:50:55.  About a minute slower than my goal time but all things considered I'm very happy.  This is a 6:05 PR and beat my time on this course by almost 45 minutes. Last year I ran this race in 2:24:28! 

I don't have any race pics yet, but I do have the elevation chart from my Garmin.  If you made it this far thanks for reading!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Half Marathon Number Four

Tomorrow morning I'll run in my fourth half marathon.  As I said in the previous entry, I'm running Baltimore again.  The weather forecast looks perfect for running so no complaints there.  I've set what looks to be a pretty tough goal for this race. I'm trying for 1:50:00 which would be a seven minute personal best.  I ran 1:53:25 a couple weeks ago on a training run but that was on a flat course and Baltimore is very hilly.  Of course that was also at the end of a 30 mile week and I've been resting a lot this week so I'm feeling pretty good about at least beating 1:53:00.

The part of this race that I'm most concerned about is pace.  I know what pace I need to run in order to meet my goal and I'm pretty sure I can run at that pace for 13.1 miles.  I'm just not very good at knowing how fast I'm going as I'm doing it.  I usually run by perceived effort and am often surprised by how fast or slow I'm actually running when I check my watch.  Although I do feel like I'm getting a little better at it, I still don't really trust myself.  One thing I am pretty good at is holding a pace once I've been running it for a mile or two.  I can sort of lock in and hold that pace or at least know when I'm slowing down or speeding up. This race isn't offering pace groups so I don't have the option of getting in with a pacer to help me get my rhythm. I'm trying to look at this as a fun experiment.  I'm going to see if I can set pace on my own, with the help of my Garmin of course. 

I also plan to push this one as hard as I can.  I pushed a little bit in the last HM back in May but I still had a lot left in the tank when I finished.  The two races before that were great learning experiences, but I was really under trained and I just hoped to finish.  This time I want to finish it as fast as I can.  With that kind of mind set, there is a pretty strong chance that I'm going to go out too fast and blow up.  I could end up walking a few miles at the end but I'm willing to risk it just to see what I can do.  What the heck, you only live once.