Race Recap: The Baltimore Running Festival Half

I will never forget the paralyzing anxiety I was feeling when the calendar hit October last year. Every other big thing I had coming up…Halloween…Thanksgiving…Christmas…these were all eclipsed by MY FIRST HALF MARATHON. It had completely taken over my life. The Baltimore Running Festival Half in 2013 will always hold a very dear place in my heart. I had a great race and even though I flew solo that day I still loved every minute.

Fast forward to this year. Work has been so insane that I didn’t even make it to the expo. It was like the race was barely registering in my mind until I had my bib in hand at lunchtime on Friday (many thanks to my friend Katie of Cool Kids Campaign for picking it up for me!). That’s when I started to get those pre-race jitters that I love and hate all at the same time. Corrigan Sports knows how to put together one hell of an event and I knew I was going to have fun despite the mild pang of disappointment I was feeling over missing out on the full marathon this year.  I was excited to take on the half again and hopefully improve on my time from last year.

The half started later than all the other races: 8:45am. I took the 6am train from my house and arrived downtown just in time to hear the horn blaring for the start of the marathon! PERFECT TIMING!

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I became really emotional watching the start. You just don’t get to feel that kind of energy every day! And also…yeah I felt the mild sadness that I had expected, but there was no time for pity parties on this day of celebration! I jogged over to Dempsey’s in the Camden Yards Warehouse to meet up with the rest of the Cool Kids Campaign Race Team and let me just tell you that I’d be hard pressed to find a nicer group of people. Cool Kids is an amazing organization that does so much to improve the lives of pediatric oncology patients and their families and I am so proud to be raising funds for them.

Some of my friends were already there and this alone would be something that would make this Baltimore Running Festival so much more fun than last year. Last year I didn’t know anyone. I ran my race alone, finished alone, wandered around alone, and then hopped the train alone to go home. This year I knew so many people that were participating in various races and I felt like I was running into people I knew every place I went!

Most of us were running the half so we hung around outside at our stellar vantage point right across from Camden Yards and literally right on the final stretch where every runner for every race would pass by. Shortly after the start of the 5K there was a sudden WHOOP! from a police motorcycle siren…I had no idea what was happening until I realized that it was the leader of the 5K FLYING through Camden Yards with an escort completely unmatched by anyone else. Didn’t that race just start like 5 minutes ago!?

I think he finished in something like 14 minutes. I just can’t wrap my brain around that kind of speed.

Anyway I hung around there watching the 5K for awhile and shouting especially loudly for my friend Tiffany when she ran past. Then it was time to get ready for my own race. I double and triple checked that I had everything I needed with me. The weather was sunny, but on the cool side and no wind, although my friend Justin who is a meteorologist and rarely wrong told me that we could expect to get hit by some wind once we got up into the Clifton Park area.

All geared up, I headed down to the start with friends.

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Once we got there I split from the others to meet up with wave 1 and also to find CYNTHIA!!

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I’m so happy we were in the same wave!! It was great catching up with her for a few minutes at the start. Before too long our own starting horn was blaring, confetti was flying,  and I was dancing my way to the starting line…literally. Sorry for being embarrassing, Cynthia.

I was just so damn glad to be there.

Mile 1 – 3

Yeeeeeah I went out too fast. I had so much freaking energy and I felt pain-free and amazing. It was hard to hold it back. We wound our way through traffic into the Fells Point area…like actually THROUGH traffic. People in cars that were stopped. I would have thought they would have had those streets closed down but I guess not. The people in the cars ranged from happily filming us with their cell phone cameras to looking like they wanted to floor it and take us all out. I waved and smiled at the people that looked the least angry. Once that cluster was behind us the runners owned the streets for the rest of the way.

I just so happened to look at my watch right as my mile 3 time flashed…7:20. Oh crap I better reign this in. Mile 3 would be my fastest mile of the race and I blame it for everything else that came later. Stupid mile 3.

Mile 4 – 7

OH MY GOD THE HILLS. So I don’t know how familiar you all are with Baltimore, but this particular part of the course which travels just north of Patterson Park is almost exclusively uphill with very little downhill breaks. Maybe my mind was just blocking it all out last year, but  this year I REALLY noticed them (maybe because of YOU, mile 3??). I was able to hold my pace pretty well, but by the time I got to Lake Montebello, my legs felt a little like lead. Lake Montebello was much bigger than I remembered and very flat. And just like Justin had said, the wind hit. It was rough. I will say that some of the best spectator support is through there though so that was definitely the extra push I needed.

Mile 8 – 11

Basically I was just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. Mile 8 and 9 are a bunch of gently rolling hills and the spot where I think I can always count on people handing out gummi bears. There is a nice little bit of a downhill during mile 10, but this time I didn’t enjoy it quite so much because I knew what was coming…the Howard Street Bridge at Mile 11. The thing about the Howard Street Bridge…on any other run it would be fine, but at mile 11 it seemed to go on forever. It was on Howard Street Bridge that I found myself very happy that I was not running the full marathon.

Mile 12 & 13.1

FAST FINISH!!!! Unfortunately the Howard Street Bridge left me reeling a little bit and rather than try to run and possibly choke and die while eating my GU, I took a quick walk break while I ate it. I felt like I was moving SO SLOWLY and it would be my slowest mile of the day, but I was surprised later to see that I was still under 9 minutes; I was expecting it to be more like 15. This was also where I made the poor decision to dump a cup of water that someone handed me over my head. Apparently the water had a little bit of salt added to it which became apparent as soon as it hit my eyeballs.

At least I was almost finished. I think salt in my eyes at mile 5 would have been way worse.

This might make me sound like a terrible baseball fan, but when the Orioles were eliminated last week I found a happy little silver lining in the fact that we would not be rerouted for the finish. The Baltimore finish is a truly epic experience. As I swept down Eutaw Street with the Bromo Seltzer Tower in my sight and beyond that the big screen in the outfield of Camden Yards, I felt revived. I pulled my headphones out which is something I did not do last year and I’m so glad I did because this year I realized that they announce your name as you exit the other side of the stadium. Very nice touch!

The crowds are the best right there at the end too. I was hamming it up for some cameras when I heard someone scream “Oh my god it’s Lauren!” off to my left but I couldn’t tell who it was. It ended up being my friend Colleen. She posted on my Facebook wall right after seeing me.

Just outside the stadium the clock came into view and why it was so much farther away than last time I have no idea, but I kicked it up as much as I could to the finish. I had set my phone up to track my own progress so as I walked toward the finisher area I pulled it out and my results were the very first thing I saw…

1:47:36

A little more than 2 minutes off my PR, but better than last year!

Obviously I’m happy, but also a little upset with myself at the same time. It was a good finish on a MUCH harder course than I ran two weeks ago, but I could pinpoint every moment where I made little mistakes along the way. I was on track for 1:44 when I was 6 miles in. Anyway I’m trying to not over-think it too much. It is what it is and it’s nice to know I can preform that well after struggling for so long with an injury. I got my awesome medal engraved with my shiny new Baltimore Half PR while catching up with Cynthia again. She was not feeling well that day and still killed it!

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Then it was back to Dempsey’s to watch some more of the race and obviously there was a celebratory glass of wine (or two) to be had. Some friends struggled a bit like I had and others had big triumphs like Sharon’s awesome PR! I also wanted to keep an eye out for Sara who was running her first half. She had shared a picture on Facebook earlier and I was so glad she did because I knew exactly which headband to search for…and then I saw her!! She looked so amazing and strong running through Camden Yards and I was so unbelievably proud of her!! YOU ROCK, HALF MARATHONER!!

(There should be a picture of Sara and I here, but I am dumb and did not take one.)

Even though I felt a little like a whiny baby over my time, it was still such an awesome day. Great premium, great medals, great volunteers, an awesome after party, and a fun, challenging course. There’s really nothing like being out for a run with more than 10,000 friends.

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See you next year, BRF! Maybe for the full this time? We’ll see!

xo,

Salt

Race Recap: NCR Half Marathon

AKA the half marathon that I almost didn’t run.

The NCR half was one of the final races in my run club’s Grand Prix Series and, well, I really didn’t NEED to run it. I have already logged the 4 required races for the series and topped my AG in all of them so anything beyond that was just a bonus. But I have the Baltimore Half next Saturday and I did want to get in one 13.1 trainer beforehand. This would be a great way to do it. Unfortunately my foot was not in agreement.

I was hurting. In the week before the race I was one click away from emailing the RD and signing up to volunteer instead. As part of the series we have to volunteer for one race this season and I figured if my toes wouldn’t cooperate I might as well help out.

After a couple days rest things started feeling a little better though, so I decided to go for it.

Race time was 8am on the NCR trail. The course would take us a little more than 3 miles north, turn around, run past the start and then south for a little more than 3 miles, turn around yet again and back to the start again. I’d be lying if I said I was wild about this idea, but the weather was downright chilly, and a bunch of friendly people were out to run. And $2 entry. I can’t say no to $2 entry.

As has become my always-routine, I ran a warm up and my foot felt like hell at first, but loosened up a bit as I went. This would only be the second organized half marathon I had ever run and my longest run since May so I wasn’t sure how to tackle it. My club has a bunch of very fast folks and at the start of the race I had to remind myself over and over again to not get too overzealous; let people pass me and conserve my energy even if it meant I fell all the way to the back of the pack. I would be running for a long time.

Honestly I think I took a nap for the first several miles and really did feel like I was dead last until the leaders started passing me, the turnaround was right there, and I realized I wasn’t doing nearly as badly as I thought. At that point I started concentrating more on who was in front of me and pacing them. There was this guy in purple shorts that I followed for awhile. His gait was very relaxed which kept me relaxed. And then an older man who I followed for several miles and I think he got really tired of me. Next I started gaining on a girl in pink compression socks. I was feeling great. My playlist was really fun and I was singing along and having a blast. I sailed past the starting line again knowing that I only had half a race to go, a fact that put a huge smile on my face.

Nearing the second turnaround, I noticed I had made up some time on the leaders…well the women anyway. (The guy who won finished in 1:17:57 and no one else was really even close.) I could feel that I was pacing everything just right. The last 3 miles were a blur and before I knew it I was passing the finish clock with a new half marathon race PR. Not bad considering that I almost didn’t show up.

Why do I always do well in races where I almost don’t show up? I should almost not show up more often.

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And my happy little splits:

1    8:32    1.00    
2    8:21    1.00    
3    8:11    1.00    
4    7:48    1.00
5    7:50    1.00    
6    7:59    1.00    
7    7:56    1.00    
8    7:52    1.00
9    8:03    1.00    
10   8:03    1.00    
11   7:51    1.00    
12   7:56    1.00
13   7:47    1.00    
14    1:18    .18  

SO HAPPY with the splits. One thing I have been working on during my blog break is running by feel and it has really shown in my times lately.

I ended up 6th female overall and 1st in my AG, which doesn’t make a difference in the final standings, but it sure is nice to see all the little 1’s after my name! The final race of the series is a cross-country 5 miler and after the cross country debacle in June that kicked off NotBeingAbletoWalkapalooza 2014 I think I’ll get my volunteer credit at that one instead.

Run club events are always fun so beyond the PR I’m so glad I went out that day. Great weather, happy people, plenty of refreshments, and although I thought the logistics of the course would be awful, it was actually quite pleasant. The icing on the cake came as I was walking up to my car and who should I see, but my sweet little B and Mr. Salt! He had gotten confused about where the finish line was so they didn’t see me run, but it was so awesome getting a big hug from my girl after a great race. Followed up by a giant Starbucks because some things never change.

Baltimore Half…I’m coming for you! I want that crab medal! I hear it doubles as a bottle opener. I wonder if I can use it to get a cork out.

xo,

Salt

It’s Like Magic. {Kohler review}

Over the past year I have been asked to review some things. Sometimes these things are running related, but sometimes they are not due to the nice nod I got from Parenting.com. Sometimes they are things that are obviously very useful to me and then sometimes they are things that I never would have imagined I would need. Or even that I knew existed.

Such was the case with Kohler Touchless Technology.

Yep. It’s a magic toilet.

At first I was like….

what

But then the more I thought about it, it made perfect sense. Because:

  • I have a potty trained toddler.
  • When I asked said potty trained toddler to flush the toilet when she was done using it, she would attempt to touch literally every square inch of the toilet. Somehow this never included the flush handle.
  • Ummmm MAGIC TOILET. Did I really need any other reason?

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The kit arrived to my house and I handed it over to a very skeptical Mr. Salt who was able to easily set it up in a matter of minutes. You do have to have a compatible toilet for it to work, but I would think that most of them would be compatible by this point. Basically if your toilet has one of those big rubber ball contraptions, you’re out of luck. Or one of those toilets with a push button flush on top, but does anyone really have one of those?

Anyway the set-up included removing that pesky handle that Betty never seemed to want to use and then installing a sensor inside the tank. That’s pretty much it. Now if you use the bathroom at my house you would only need to wave your hand over the back of my toilet and TAH DAHHHHHHH! It flushes! Mr. Salt proceeded to flush the toilet about 20 times because he was so fascinated with it. I can’t blame him.

Betty already knew how to take herself to the bathroom when we installed the Kohler, but from a potty training standpoint I am pretty sure this would trump any sticker chart around. I’ve suggested it to quite a few friends who are so deep in potty training drama that M&Ms just don’t work anymore. B quickly became so used to her “magic potty” that I had to explain why she can’t flush all the toilets with a wave of her little hand although I’m now of the belief that every public bathroom should have these installed. Much better than those handle toilets that I always flush with my foot and those fully automatic ones that give you a heart attack when they go off without any warning.

Because Kohler is apparently a friend of all parents of potty training parents and people who like to go to the bathroom in the dark everywhere, they also hooked me up with another amazing invention that I never would have thought I needed until it arrived to my house.

Meet the Toilet Nightlight.

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I know you all want to come over now. I have the most fun toilet on the planet.

Installation of the nightlight is no more difficult than switching out your regular seat. The result is a pleasant, blue LED lit toilet that keeps my daughter from falling in the bowl when she gets up in the middle of the night. Or me from falling in because Mr. Salt forgot to put the seat down again.

Just like the touchless flush, the nightlight runs on 4AA batteries and you can set the cycle so that it only turns on when you need it. As a result we are still on the same original set of batteries. We have had to swap the touchless batteries once – probably because Betty likes to flush the toilet so much  – but the system gives you plenty of warning that the power is running low. If you get caught with a non-flushing potty because you didn’t change the battery…well that would be on you.

Additionally it’s worth mentioning that among other options, Kohler also has a fantastic transition seat that would also be extremely useful for potty training, but it is not available with the cool nightlight.

Before I started potty training my child, toilets were about one of the last things I ever thought about. Now that I have a toddler I feel like I’m always hyper aware of them…location, cleanliness, ease of use for my daughter. I can’t change every potty on the planet, but it’s nice to know that at least the one we have at home is extra user-friendly for her.

THANK YOU, KOHLER!! :)

xo,

Salt