The green streets of Baltimore {Kelly St. Patrick’s Day 5K Recap}

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Pretty intense right!?

This was my second year running the Kelly St. Patrick’s Day 5k put on by the very best place ever, Charm City Run, and just like the last time I did this race (in 2014), there was so much green out there that I felt like everything else I looked at for the rest of the day had a green tint to it. Or that could have been the shot of Jameson I did at the finish line party. I’ve been pretending to be Irish a lot this week.

Anyway, this is one of those odd races that starts in the middle of the afternoon, but I have to admit that I was thankful for the extra sleep what with the time change and everything. My friend Suzanne showed up at my house mid-morning and we went to a local diner for a breakfast that I instantly regretted eating as soon as we got downtown and started warming up. Luckily we were early enough that I had a bit of time to digest my eggs and toast before the 1:15 start.

I already didn’t have much of a goal for the race when I got there, but after some rain moved through and my heel was giving me some issues, I decided that this one was mostly just going to be for fun. The first half mile or so is exclusively downhill and the street was VERY slick. As we waited for the air horn I discussed with people around me – some of whom appeared to already be pretty drunk and no offense, but I just don’t see the fun in running any kind of distance when you’re drunk – how stepping on manhole covers just then could lead to broken ankles. We heard the National Anthem and then we were off!

I’m not going to lie; as nice as that downhill start is it is also somewhat frustrating because literally 5,000 people run this race and Charles Street is super narrow right there. And EVERYONE wants to be in the front regardless of whether they are runners or walkers. I had better luck this time, but it was still a slow-go for a bit as I nearly tripped over groups of friends that were walking together.

The course is downhill to flat-ish, from Charles Street to Key Highway – which probably means nothing to most of the people who read my blog – then turns back toward downtown and ends at the Power Plant Live complex and an ENORMOUS green party (pictured above). I found a nice, comfortable pace for pretty much the whole thing and enjoyed the actual race part much more than before because I took the time to check out my surroundings. My favorite part was people watching after the turn around point…it’s like a huge party in the street and I could tell that everyone was having a blast. One of my least favorite things is whatever the heck happened with my GPS. I don’t know if it freaks out because of all the big buildings or if I’m really running longer than a 5K, but my distance has been longer both years I ran this race. And this year my first mile clocked in at around 5:55. I know mile 1 was my fastest, but I am fairly certain that it wasn’t 5-minute mile fast!

Even though I wasn’t killing myself, I still bested my 2014 time by about 30 seconds.

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My official chip time was 22:26. I took some green beads that a girl handed me at the finish line and it was time to find my friends and party!

This race is VERY popular and I saw many people that I knew. Because I didn’t have Betty last weekend I could actually hang out for awhile and man was it FUN! Live bands, a nice spread of snacks, beer (of course), and lots and lots of happy runners.

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I especially love how thrilled we look as compared to the miserable looking people behind us. My friend Jarrod’s watch also told him that he had run a sub-6 first mile. We like to think it’s true.

I remember being sort of grumpy after this one in the past – maybe because my dumba$$ decided that wearing a wool kilt would be a cool idea which it was NOT –  but after a MUCH better experience this time around I will definitely be signing up for this race next year. Charm City really is tops at organizing big events like this. Small annoyances aside, it really couldn’t have been a better day, despite the pouring rain that moved through as the party came to a close.

Did you run a St. Patrick’s Day race this year? How did it go? How do you feel about getting drunk before running?

I hope everyone had a very lucky day yesterday and that you all have a fantastic weekend!

xo,

Salt

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An unexpected PR on a perfect fall morning! {NCR Half Marathon Race Recap}

You know what’s cool about today for me? It’s the 2 year anniversary of when I ran 13.1 miles for the very first time. And now today I get to recap my new half marathon PR! 

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My very first half marathon in 2013!

Earlier this year I started setting some goals for myself for the fall. These goals did NOT include running a marathon, but rather focusing on shorter distances. Ultimately I wanted to do more halfs and possibly run myself a new PR. My best time of 1:45:27 happened last September at the NCR Half Marathon, a small race that is part of my run club’s Grand Prix Series. I also did not intend to compete in the Grand Prix Series this year, but now that I have 3 of the 4 necessary races under my belt…hey why not.

This year the NCR Half just so happened to fall on the day when my training schedule told me that my long run should be a very convenient 13.1 miles. And even better? The race is on the very same trail as the upcoming marathon so I would be able to practice on familiar terrain.

100 people showed up to run on Saturday morning and as usual I loved seeing some familiar faces, especially my friend Michelle who I’ve been doing my long runs with lately. The Baltimore Road Runners are a fun and welcoming group and the weather was absolute fall perfection. In my tank top and shorts I was more than a little bit chilly as we walked to the start, but after jogging around for a half mile I felt warmer and knew I’d be comfortable for the race. It was set to start at 8am and right around that time we all lined up on the trail facing north. The course is a double out and back, which I remember really disliking the idea of last year, but it ended up not being so bad.

PR thoughts had been in the back of my mind, but during the first several miles they all went out the window. I wasn’t feeling particularly well and even though I was coming off a couple days of rest my legs felt like lead. I even debated calling it quits when I got back to the start. In hindsight, I should have considered that it just takes me a lot longer to warm up now that my long runs are getting into the mid-teens. By the time I was three miles in and nearing the first turn around, my energy level had started to improve.

Then I realized as the leaders were passing me going in the opposite direction that I was the second female. I got way excited and as a result mile 4 was my fastest at 7:25. After that I had to remind myself to rein it in because I still had a long way to go.

From mile 4 until mile 11 I was feeling pretty great. When I race I like to pick out another runner up ahead, pace with them awhile, and then try to pass them because it gives me something to focus on when I’m getting tired. No one had passed me so I knew I was still the second place woman, but this was reinforced by several people who screamed it at me as they passed me going the other way. Even though I already knew, it still gave me a boost to hear it.

There were plenty of water stops with friendly volunteers, but I hadn’t stopped at any of them until mile 12 when I was suddenly very exhausted. I drank about 3/4 of the cup and dumped the rest of it over my head; it was freezing cold and helped a TON. The trail was crowded with people out enjoying their mornings, but there wasn’t anyone from the race that I could follow for the last couple miles; the guy who finished in front of me was like 2 minutes ahead. Because I run that part of the course all the time and know it like the back of my hand, I entertained myself by running from one landmark to the next. When a familiar bend in the trail appeared up ahead, I knew I was almost done and when the red, digital readout of the clock appeared I literally said “OH THANK GOD” and sprinted as fast as I could to the finish on tired legs.

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So I PRed by nearly 2 minutes, held on to second place and first in my AG which is great for the Grand Prix Series, but then this is also the first time I’ve run a half marathon with my average pace under 8 minutes. I don’t know which of these things is most exciting for me. All of them, I guess.

After sharing high fives and congrats with some of the guys who had finished at around the same time as I did, I visited the table that was set up with snacks and drinks. I helped myself to Gatorade and water and then there was also bagels, cookies and bananas which I appreciate for other people, but can’t eat without dire consequences. I had a lunch date and couldn’t hang out long, but it was nice to catch up with friends and cheer for other runners crossing the finish line.

Such a great day. 🙂

How do you pass the time on long runs? Did you run or race last weekend? How is your fall season going?

xo,

Salt

One heck of a monumental race. {Charles Street 12 Recap}

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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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!

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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!

IMG_0533Lisa from Running Out of Wine!!IMG_0564Sara from Sweaty Mess Mama!!IMG_0527My friend Jarrod and this picture cracks me up. Here’s how you hug people when you are extra sweaty and gross. Awkwaaaaard.

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!

xo,

Salt