Baltimore Half Marathon Race Recap

Wow!!! I still can’t believe that yesterday I completed my first half marathon and ran further than I ever have before!  This was also my first “big” race with an actual expo and substantial amenities before/after the race.  The whole thing was also made more special by the fact that my mom drove all the way from NY on Saturday morning to be there when I crossed the finish line.

Backing up to Friday, I went to the expo to pick up my race packet and of course could not resist doing a little shopping.  I have been meaning to by a belt of some sort to hold mid run fuel, keys, phone,  etc…. instead of just shoving everything down my sports bra (sorry for the over share)… and since most things at the expo were discounted I finally decided to buy one.  I was a little worried about wearing it for the first time during the race and having it be uncomfortable but the Nathan belt I got was amazing!  I barely noticed it during the race and can fit a lot of stuff!  Another perk of the belt is that it comes with a built in ID tag.  I have also been meaning to by a RoadID tag so this saved me on having to make another purchase :)  After leaving the expo I headed over to my yoga studio to take a great hot yoga class.  I mentioned to the instructor that I was running the race tomorrow so he put some extra focus on hip openers/pigeon pose for me.   The rest of the night I spent cleaning up my apartment for my mom’s visit and making sure I was sufficiently hydrated and carb loaded :)  I forced myself into bed around 10 and finally passed out sometime around 11.

Luckily the half marathon had a late start of 9:45 so I was able to sleep in until 7am.  I was surprised that I actually slept up until my alarm went off!  I sprung out of bed, got dressed, double-checked that I had everything I needed, and prepped my breakfast (whole wheat sandwich thin, pb, and 1/2 banana) plus coffee to take with me while traveling to the race.  Everything was going smoothly at this point, but unfortunately that did not last much longer…

I knew parking was going to be difficult at the stadium and did not want to have my car down at the race if my mom was going to be there with her car too so I decided to take the bus down to the race at Camden Yards.  I have only used the bus system in Baltimore once before, so I made sure to call the transit authority and double check that I was taking the best route/that all the times were correct.  I made it to the bus stop with plenty of time to spare, but was still so relieved when it finally pulled up.  I boarded the bus and immediately double checked with the driver that I was on the correct bus.  This is when things got bad.  The driver informed me that because of the race, he was only going as far as the next stop and that the next bus running wouldn’t start again for another 2 miles.  I immediately started to freak out.  Not only was I already on the moving bus, but I also did not have any extra cash/credit cards on me.  The bus driver was really nice and refunded my fare so I could get on the another bus, but I still had to get to it.  Lets just say speed walking for 2 miles before having to run a 13.1 mile race is not fun.  While hauling a** down the lovely streets of Baltimore I called a few of my friends to see if they could help, but no one answered.  After 2 very fast miles, I finally made it to the train station and was able to jump on a light rail train that would go to the stadium.  So of course, everything worked out ok, but I was already a bundle of nerves and didn’t need extra stress.

The light rail ride down to the stadium was a breeze, and the whole car was full of runners so it was fun to chat with people beforehand.  I ended up talking to another girl my age who was also running it for the first time and we stuck together up until we had to get into our respective corrals.  At that point it still hadn’t really hit me that I was about to run 13.1 miles.  I was talking to a few people next to me the whole time and as we made our way closer and closer to the start it still hadn’t really clicked.  Regardless of how ready or not I was, the horn sounded and we were off!

I had participated on an organized training run a few weeks back on the actual race course, but that started at mile 3 of the half marathon course so the first 3 miles were totally new to me.  And wow! Those first 3 miles were rough, lots and lots of hills.  This was only tough because I knew that miles 5-7 are basically entirely uphill.  I managed to keep up a really good pace and passed a lot of people in the first few miles.  I kept telling myself that I was just going to run my race and let my legs determine my pace not a watch.

I was going pretty strong for the first 6 miles but then started to fade.  I kind of anticipated this, however, and took my first hammer gel at mile 6 and allowed myself to walk a few times throughout miles 6-8.  Those 2 miles were really hard though.  My butt was on fire and I just could not wait for the hills to be over.  At mile 8 I knew I could start working hard again so I took 1 cliff shot block and my legs felt 1000x better.   Once I hit mile 10 I really started to pick up my pace again.  I could feel myself moving faster with enough strength to support an increased effort.  This may be TMI, but I also started to go faster because at that point I really had to pee! I kept thinking to myself that the faster I run, the sooner the race will be over, and the sooner I can use the bathroom :)  I barreled down what seemed like the longest finish line ever through Camden Yards and crossed the finish line with a clock time of 2:02:30!

I was soooo excited because that meant that my chip time was under 2hrs since I was in the 3rd wave and started a decent bit after the official start of the race!  After catching my breath for a minute I started through the path toward the finisher’s area and picked up my medal and a few bottles of water along the way.  The line for food was crazy long and at that point all I wanted to do was find my mom.  I made it out of the runner’s area and almost immediately heard someone call my name.  I turned around and there was my mom beaming at me with pride.  I ran to her and gave her the biggest hug and gushing about reaching my goal of under 2 hours!! My mom and I then headed over the the bag check area, grabbed my stuff, and headed over to one of my favorite restaurants for some post race food :)  I had the biggest/most delicious whole wheat blueberry pancake I have ever had/seen in my entire life (like no joke it was 1in thick and bigger than my head) and an omelette with mushrooms, peppers, onion, and jack cheese.  I made a pretty impressive dent in both, and during breakfast/lunch I was finally able to check my official time…

I came in with an offical chip time of 1:53:19!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I could not believe it when I saw my results and was so happy I started crying.  Everyone had told me how hard the course was and that for my first race trying to beat 2 hours was probably unrealistic.  Not only did I come in under 2 hours I finished way faster than I thought I did!!!!!

The rest of the day was spent shopping with my mom and basking in my post race glory.  We headed out for an earlish dinner of sushi and then my mom had to hit the road to go back to NY.  I came back to my apartment, relaxed for a bit, ate some yogurt and cereal and then passed out around 11.  I was exhausted!! Normally after long run days I lounge around a lot and could definitely feel the difference not doing so…

I am still totally on cloud 9 though and can’t believe what an amazing/challenging experience the race was.  I’m already looking into more races and can’t wait til I get to run my next half marathon…and maybe one day a full ;)

Tomorrow!!!

So its the night before my big race.  I’ve picked up my race packet, eaten lots of carbs, and laid out everything I should need.  I have done the best I can to prepare for this race and what will happen will happen.  My dream would be to finish in under 2 hours, but since this is my first long race I know I will be proud of any time.  Baltimore half marathon here I come! Check back for the recap tomorrow!!

bad little blogger

So I haven’t been the best at posting as much as I like over the past few days but in a way that is a good thing because it means I’m actually out living my/a life :)  But also bad because it I have been avoiding talking about somethings that I know I need to own up to…

This past week has been filled with a lot of ups and downs.  The good things have been actually being productive and starting big assignments/GRE prep, going out with friends both weekend nights, completing my 3rd double-digit run and feeling strong (even after a night out at the bars!), a new job (more on that in a bit), and getting a new pair of sneakers just in time for my race.  Saturday I was able to complete my third and final long training run for the half marathon.  Despite being up til 3 am and running in midday heat, I was still able to bust out the 10 miles in 1 hr and 30 min!  I also got to try out hammer gels on this run, which were a total success.  My stomach felt fine after I took them and my legs felt 1000x better.  Now I have 2 sources of mid run fuel I can bring with me on race day so I feel much more prepared.  Plus, it’s always good to have options and back ups just in case I start dragging and really need the extra fuel.

Despite all that good to boost my spirits, my world was kind of rocked on Tuesday when I found out I lost my work-study grant (due to some missing paperwork on my parents end) and was now jobless.  My family is not very well off and I really relied on the measly pay checks I earned working on campus to cover almost all of my living expenses at school.  After I informed my parents about all of this the next few days were spent in crisis mode seeing if anything could be done to reinstate my work-study grant.  Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done besides increasing a loan which we already have out.  Thankfully, I was able to find a new job through my school’s career center, although, it’s a tad less than fabulous.  I am now working as a domestic aid aka cleaning person for a wealthy family near my school.  Today was my first day at their house and I have to admit, it’s definitely providing me with some unique experiences and insight.  Even though its kind of embarrassing to tell people I am cleaning someone’s house, I hope this will allow for some personal growth which I’ve been lacking in lately.

I have also been really struggling with my body image lately.  More than I would like to admit. The next few things I am going to say may be triggering, but I really need to get them out.  The rational and irrational sides of my brain have really been going at it lately.  On the one hand, I know I have been working on fueling better, increasing my food intake, and allowing for more judgement free indulgences.  I also know that I have stepped up my exercise quite a bit these past few weeks and I have compensated for that, but not as much as I should.   The main problem is my distorted body image.  While babysitting this past week, I made the decision to use the family’s scale.  I do not have a scale in my apartment and the only other one I have access to is in the middle of my school’s gym, so yeah… not about to hop on that one…  But for some reason that night I decided that it would be a good idea to just check where I was at.  It was/is not
“good”.  In a couple of weeks it will be a year from when I left in patient treatment and I am not too far off from my discharge weight.  When I left home to return to school in September I was definitely much further away from my discharge weight.  But like I said before, my body image is so distorted.  I honestly believe I look the same as I did a couple of months ago and cannot recognize the weight loss.  This terrifies me.  I have worked so hard to be at a stable place and the idea that I am slipping again scares me to my core.  My therapist was happy to hear that my initial reaction to the number on the scale was fear and not satisfaction, but that does not mean I have been able to “fix things.”  I have been trying to increase my intake but with that comes anxiety about messing with my routine.  I know I need to challenge those thoughts and push through them, but it’s not easy.  I am so close to finally graduating and I refuse to let ED take my life on any more detours.

Wow.  It feels so good to get that off my chest.  I am sorry if that was TMI, but its whats been going on in my head so I thank you for reading if you did.

In other more exciting news MY RACE IS THIS WEEKEND and my mom is coming to visit!!!! I can’t believe it’s almost here…

It is possible…

…for it to be a challenge every time I run?  Yes my ability to run farther and faster has definitely improved over the past few weeks of training, but it still feels like a challenge every single time I lace up my sneakers for a run.  I read some blogs where people say they just went on an “easy 3 mile run,” but for me I seem to find my runs equally challenging.  Sure, after my 12 mile run I was a lot more tired/hungry afterward :), but during the actual run itself it felt no different from one the days I have a quick 3 miles planned.  Each time I get out there I give it my all.  On my longer run days I mentally break the run up into smaller sections, which really helps me keep my pace up throughout the entire run.  On my short runs, I tend to have the mindset of “well, it is such a short distance so might as well just run hard.”  This method of training has allowed me to finish all of my runs, no matter the distance, maintaining a pace anywhere from 8:15-9 minute miles.  This is the sort of pace I want to have for my half marathon, but was consistently running at that pace bad?  I have done a few speed workouts/cross trained quite a bit to mix things up, but when I go outside on a run its always the same.  It is hard for me to accurately pace myself while running since I do not have a fancy running watch to track my time/distance, so I usually just do as best I can and push myself.  It is only after the fact that I calculate my pace per mile.   What I want to know, is am I doing myself a disservice by pushing myself on every run?  I know that I could run on the treadmill and therefore easily control my pace and force myself to run more slowly the entire time, but just the thought of that is like torture…

Any feedback?

I Got This.

The longest run in my training plan was scheduled for today.  Last weekend I was a bundle of nerves before meeting up with other race participants for the group training run, but this morning when I woke up I just felt excited.  Having completed the 10 miles last weekend gave me way more confidence in my ability to tackle the 12 scheduled for today.  When my alarm went off at 7:30 I bounded out of bed and began to get ready to run!  After letting my coffee and toast digest for a little bit, I stepped out the door at 8:30 to way cooler temperatures than I’ve been used to, but I definitely welcome the change with open arms.  It is so much nicer to run without humidity and feel like I am overheating the entire time.

Although I was excited to run I was a little unsure of the route I had planned out.  It was a completely new loop for me, but I knew that I needed to plan my run so that I had to finish it in order to get back to my apartment.  The option of just doubling one of my 6 mile runs just didn’t seem like a good idea.  Turns out I actually did a really good job of planning my course.  There were a few long climbs around the same mile points as the half marathon course and a lot of rolling hills (didn’t realize there would be so many) to keep me on my toes.  I was also able to stop into a few Starbucks a long the way for some much-needed water.  Have to say, by the way, how much I love the Baristas at Starbucks.  They see me walk in all sweaty and one of the employees immediately says that I just need a glass of water. About 30 sec later my thirst is quenched and I am on my way.  Major props Baristas, major props :)  Even with a bunch of unexpected hills, I felt really strong throughout the run.  The 3 Cliff Shot Blocks I took around mile 7 definitely helped me keep up my stamina and I am happy to report that these did not leave me feeling nauseous like the GU did last time.  I definitely think I found a good mid run fuel source for my race!!

I still can’t believe what I did today.  This was the farthest distance I have ever ran!  I made sure I knew exactly where the 10 mile point was and every step after I hit that point I couldn’t stop thinking, “wow I’m actually doing this!  I am running farther than I ever have in my life!” I ended up back at my apartment in exactly 1hr 45min and I couldn’t have been happier.  I finished 5 minutes faster than I thought I would and was so happy.  Sure my legs and butt were on fireeee from all the hills but that couldn’t get rid of the giant smile I had on my face!  After doing these 12 miles solo I am feeling so pumped and so confident for the race!  I know that the adrenaline and race spirit will definitely help push through those last few miles if I start to fade, but if I can do this run all by myself, imagine what will happen when I have company… sub 2 hr first half marathon…??? :)

I Can Feel the Pressure

…Paramore=total guilty pleasure. They are one of my favorite bands to run to and this line really sums up how I feel lately…

I can’t believe September is almost over.  As long as the days seem at times, it is crazy how fast the month has actually gone by.  That means there are only 16 days until my half marathon and only 3 more months til I am finally done with undergrad.  So this is when all the fun stuff begins.  GRE prep, grad school applications, and major school projects are all hitting me at once and it’s getting a bit overwhelming.  Beyond the actual amount of work, I am a crazy perfectionist and so if I don’t think I can do all of this “well” I put it off even longer  for fear of failure.  Everything then just ends up building up and I pull a lot of all nighters to get the work in on time.  Luckily, my grades haven’t been affected too much by this tactic but I do know it’s not the best way to go about things.

In training news, I am beginning to find my training schedule to be just as overwhelming as all my school work.   I feel pressured to stick to the training schedule regardless of whats going on in the rest of my life.  I’m afraid of not “training perfectly” and therefore if I miss a run or shave of mileage I won’t be prepared for my race.  I know that this is my first half marathon and that my goal should just be to finish, but I can’t get away from the fact that I know what my time should come out to and fear of not actually obtaining it.  Training for this race has been such a big part of my life for the past few months that I would be so bummed if it doesn’t actually turn out the way I practiced for.  All of this stress has definitely been impacting my mental state during my runs.  This morning I set out to do 6 miles (ended up with 7 because I messed up the course) and the whole time I kept thinking about my pace and how I can maintain it for the entire race.  I have been running without my Ipod/timer so I just I just look at the time before and after my run.  This has been great for my mood when I’m done running because I usually end up finishing in consistent/faster times, but during the run I have so much doubt about my pace.  Luckily I still enjoy my actual run I just get scared that I’m not doing it as well as I should.  I need to keep reminding myself that  I have put in a considerable amount of time into my training and that I am capable of completing my runs in a decent time.  And so what if I have a bad run?  It’s just one day and does not mean that everything I have worked towards is gone.  My 12 miler planned for Sat is going to be a test of my mental stamina just as much, if not more, than my physical abilities.  I know what I need to eat before my runs, have a few different gels/shot blocks to try out, and have a decent course mapped out.  I have all the physical resources in place and need to make sure my mental arsenal is just as well equipped.

Its Official!

So I think today marks the first day I can actually say with confidence that I am a runner.   I went on my first double-digit run ever this morning and it was amazing!   As part of my half marathon training plan this weekend I was supposed to log a 10 mile run.  Originally I just planned on doubling my 5 mile loop close to school, but then yesterday I received an email that a local running club was sponsoring a free training run on the actual race course with either a 10 mile or 20 mile option!  I immediately responded to the email saying that I would love to join them.  After I hit send, however, I started to become really nervous.  What if I couldn’t keep up with the people running or couldn’t make it to the end? Even though I had a lot of reservations I tried to focus on how it will be good to have support throughout the run, having preset water/fuel stations would be a big help, and it would be really cool to get some practice on the course since there are a lot of hills.  Running this course would also force me to finish the actual planned 10 miles and not chicken out after the first 5 like my original plan would allow for.

This morning I made my way down to the park where everyone was meeting up at 7am.  Most of the people there had at lease one other person they were running with so for a little while I stood there awkwardly trying to figure out someone to talk to.  I ended up meeting a really nice woman who I talked to/ran with for the first couple of miles but then we separated as my pace increased more than hers.  For a good portion of the run I was actually alone and had no idea of how far I was/how fast I was going.  Close to the second water stop I ended up running next to a really nice guy who I owe a great deal of my run to.  When I was starting to feel the last few miles he was really great at talking to me and telling me funny stories to keep my mind off my legs.

Finally we made our way back to the starting point and I was so excited.  As much as it hurt towards the end, reaching double-digit mileage is something I never dreamed I could do, but this morning I did it with relative ease.  Yeah my pace slowed down a bit at the last mile, but I didn’t feel like death when all was said and done.  The whole course took me an hour and a half, which gives me so much confidence for the half marathon!  I now know I CAN do this!  I also learned that I do not like GU.  They had packets at one of the water stations and I have always been interested in trying it and I figured that this was the best time to practice with it.  Although I definitely felt better with the extra fuel, I did not like taste the tangerine flavor left in my mouth and I felt a bit nauseous from it.  Any suggestions on better flavors or tasteless quick forms of energy?

Now I can’t wait to spend the day refueling and possibly go to a hot yoga class in the afternoon to help stretch out my sore legs! Next weekend I plan on conquering 12 miles and today’s run definitely gives me the confidence to set that goal!