This past weekend was one of my most favorite races…the Baltimore-famous Charles Street 12! I had been looking forward to this one all summer long as my first goal race of the fall season. It was my second year running it and my first year running it without an injury. Because of this I had hopes of grabbing myself a shiny new PR along with the awesome shiny medal at the end.
There was an interesting twist to this race for me though. As I mentioned here, I had been contacted by my friend at Charm City Run and Under Armour a couple days prior asking if I could help them out with some marketing stuff. By that they meant they wanted to dress me in head to toe UA gear and live track me along the course so they could take my picture. Maybe they could also provide me with an Under Armour paper bag to breathe in because initially the thought of it sort of made me feel like hyperventilating.
Friday I visited the Timonium store to pick up my packet, premium (a comfortable thermal shirt), and an outfit to wear. Head to toe meant headband, sports bra, top, shorts…and shoes. Yep. I would be breaking in a brand new pair of Speedform Gemini on this run. Not quite the ideal footwear situation, but I wasn’t as terrified as I could have been. I already have a pair of these shoes so I’m familiar with how they fit my feet and and ran a 14 mile training run in the other ones shortly after receiving them.
As usual, packet pick up was a breeze and I was beyond excited as I laid out my flat self the night before. MY FIRST PAIR OF PURPLE SHOES. Just in time for football season!
Uncharacteristically I slept really well the night before. I woke up at 5am to go out for coffee and then my mom and Betty dropped me at the starting line right around 6:30. The bus transportation is great and I had considered taking it again this year, but because I live right up the street it was much more convenient that way. I managed to run into quite a few of my friends as I milled around Kenilworth looking for the folks from Under Armour. I would need to hook up with their photographer on Map My Run so that he would be able to pinpoint my whereabouts. They were all SO nice. Just when I thought I couldn’t love Under Armour any more, they have the coolest people on the planet working for them and it makes it that much better.
My goal for this race was to do better than last year (1:41:50). I noticed that they had pacers. Was that new? Maybe I just didn’t see them last year because I was too preoccupied with my foot. Anyway I went over to talk to a few of them and before I knew it I was saying “Oh yeah I’ll run with the 1:35 group!” Which would be 6 minutes off my time from last year. On the longest distance I had run since April. In shoes that I had just put on for the first time 12 hours earlier. Dream big.
The race was set to start at 7:30 and the weather could not have been more perfect: right around 70 degrees, overcast, and a light breeze. With about 15 minutes left I figured I’d make a bathroom pit stop and yeah…I should have left myself more time. I scrambled my way to the start as they were singing the National Anthem and I could see the 1:35 pace sign waaaaaaaay up ahead with no way to get to it unless I was super rude and pushed through the sea of people. I decided to try and catch up if I could, but if not no big deal.
The start was very crowded. Because I was way in the back, I had to do a lot of bobbing and weaving, but by the time I got up to the end of Kenilworth Drive I had found some room to run. At the corner I saw that the 1:35 pacer had ditched his sign on the side of the road so then I was on the look out for their bright yellow shirts instead. I was kind of on a mission at that point and knew that I was probably going out WAY too fast, but I wanted to catch up with the group. And I did right around the end of mile 2! At that point I was able to relax and recover little bit.
Let’s revisit the elevation profile I posted of this race from last year:
Lots of downhill as you can see, but there are some deceiving uphill sections strewn throughout. Luckily the worst of the icky climbs are at the beginning and having run this course once before and driven it about a billion times I knew all the places where I would get a little bit of a break. There seemed to be more spectators out this year which was awesome and encouraging. There also seemed to be an equal amount of very angry drivers. If you aren’t familiar with Baltimore, Charles Street is a major road and I am still amazed that the organizers of this race have logistically been able to make this happen three years in a row.
This was such a happy run for me. I cruised along with the pace group, enjoying the scenery and thanking the police officers at the intersections we crossed over. Those men and women had their work cut out for them! The miles felt like they were flying by. Water stops were well-spaced and stocked with the obvious water, Gatorade, and friendly volunteers. I’m always glad when I don’t have to carry a bottle with me.
As we got into the more downtown areas of the city I spotted the photographer that was tracking me a couple times and each time I reminded myself to try and look as non-hideous as I could. As I’m sure you all know, this is damn near impossible in race photos so I hope they came out okay. If not, maybe they can work some Photoshop magic.
Last year it was all aboard the struggle bus for me at mile 9, but this time mile 9 felt just fine and so did mile 10. Then…mile 11. By the time mile 11 rolls around the course is much more flat. It’s amazing how hard this can be on your legs after all the hills. Just like last year I felt a little like my quads had gone through a meat grinder. I had fallen off the back of the pace group, but I wasn’t worried about it because I had a good time cushion from booking after them in the beginning of the race and I was still well ahead of my time from last year. Once the Inner Harbor promenade came into view, I managed to pulled myself together. I LOVE running through there and I know I had a big doofy smile on my face the whole time. Not just because the race photographers had big signs up telling us to SMILE although I’m sure that does help.
The Under Armour photographer caught up with me one final time as I was about to head up to Pratt Street and the final stretch. There were lots of spectators out now and the energy was fantastic. The best part?? As I crossed the finish line my friend Normailed who I hadn’t seen in years was there volunteering and handing out medals!! She didn’t even care that I was a sweaty mess (or if she did she didn’t let on) and gave me the biggest hug. It was such a cool moment and the perfect way to end a race.
And I got that PR that I wanted so badly…more than a 6 minute improvement over last year!
The finish party was great just as I expected it would be. They had boxed meals for all the runners, a live band playing, and of course the beer that I got and then didn’t drink because that’s how I roll. Under Armour had set up a cool VIP area upstairs that I visited for awhile and the food was outstanding. I was able to catch up with a few friends too!
I also ran into Lauren and I know that Amber and Stacey were there someplace, but I missed them both. Many non-blogger friends were running on Saturday too and it was wonderful to catch up with some of them. You guys are all so great!
I just can’t say enough positive things about this year’s Charles Street 12. From the perfect weather, to the impeccably planned race, to the post-race festivities, and of course the extreme generosity of Under Armour and Charm City Run, the day could not have been better. This one is really worth traveling for if you are an out of towner and I know I’ll be doing it again next year.
Did you race last weekend? How did it go? Have you ever done a 12 mile race? Or one that is primarily downhill? Beer at the finish line…yay or nay?
I hope everyone had a great, safe holiday!