Monthly Archives: October 2011

Baltimore Marathon

Number 2126.

25,000 runners came to Baltimore to compete in the Under Armor Running Festival.

My wife Ann and I pose for a picture neat the starting line.

Where do I begin?  10 years ago I was finished with my athletic career.  Due to a torn ligament in my elbow my baseball playing career had ended. I lifted weights but I was no longer competitive.  I was really strong but I had poor diet habits. It took nearly 6 years as I continued to gain weight. 4 years ago  I was 100 pounds heavier than I was in this picture.

I always tell people that I did not lose weight because of running.  I started running because I lost weight.  It started with just a mile on the treadmill.  Then a year later I signed up for a half marathon in Jersey City.  Now three years after I started running I ran my first Marathon.

The weekend started with the long drive down to Baltimore.  We hit some miserable traffic and it took close to five hours.  I was not too happy picking up my race bib above.  The expo was at the convention center.  It was pretty cool.  There was a ton of running gear which I browsed through.  The only thing I actually picked up were a few gu energy gels that came in handy during the race.  I had originally planned to carry 4.  However, I decided to bring 6 just in case and I am glad I made that last minute switch.

The night before we went to La Scala for a pasta dinner so I could get my carbs in before the race.  I started eating more carbs 3 days before the race but this would be my last chance.  The meal was very good.  We headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep.  All I kept thinking of was the Seinfeld episode where the marathoner missed the Olympic trails because his alarm clock malfunctioned.  “Was it the Snooze?’  No the am/pm!”

Race morning I woke up at 6 a.m.  Alarm worked great (Thank you IPhone) although I am not sure if I really even needed one.  I stuck with my plan of not eating before the race.  I had a cup of coffee and plenty of water.  I followed through just as I had planned it in my mind.  I bundled up to face the cold weather and headed down towards Camden Yards.  The hotel was just a block away which was perfect.  I tried to stay warm.  I had a long sleeve tight fitting north face, gloves that came in my gift bag, and a nice winter hat to keep my hands and head warm.  I wore my typical Road ID tag and my Nike plus wrist band.  I wore under armor shorts and t shirt which I love running in because of their ability to keep dry.  I wore my Brooks ghost 4 running shoes.

When the confetti dropped and the gun sounded I started gingerly into my run.  as I crossed the starting line I hit the button on my Nike sensor and waved goodbye to my family.  I knew Miles 1-4 would be up hill from the elevation charts but to be honest it was a breeze.  At that point I was fresh and still energized from the crowd and the race atmosphere. Great,  I have to pee really badly.  I saw a porta potty but there was a line.  This is a race!  I am not waiting in line to go to the bathroom.  Plus at this point I was recalling what I said to my friends at work. I will not walk.  If I walk I might as well stop.  They though I should walk through the aid stations or at a few strategic points to conserve energy.  I disagreed.  Just before the race I read Dolphin Dan’s tweet.  “Good luck to JoeLopez55 in the Baltimore Marathon today.  #nowalking.  I kept that promise at mile 3.5 or so I saw guys and girls using some well positioned trees.  I ran off the road and used the trees and ran back onto course.  It might have cost me 30 seconds or so but I didn’t walk and I felt much better.  As we approached the Maryland zoo I was cruising.  There was a downhill section that I felt like I was just flying through.  I guess there were animals and stuff but I wasn’t really paying attention.  I think I saw a penguin in a cage but I am not too sure.  There were plenty of water stations along the route and I had my gu energy gels which I planned to take one every 4 miles.  I stuck with water only.  I didn’t want to do anything different than on my training runs.

The crowds were great.  There were sections of local schools handing out swedish fish and cheering for the runners.  There were very few spots where it was quiet.  Several people held signs and others stuck their hands out to high five.  Even the cops offered their support.  Before I knew it  was at mile 9 back near the inner harbor and looking for my family.  The way the course was set up we decided they could see me at mile 9 and again at mile 13 both near the same location.  I had a feeling that I might have missed them AT mile 9 but I kept looking.  It was hard because there were big crowds at these points.  I ran that first 9 faster than I told them I would. I guess I didn’t anticipate the perfect weather and the quickness that I ran the hills of 1-4.

At Mile 11 we go to the Under Armor Headquarters.  It was a non de-script set of brick buildings with a huge sign telling you that you were there.  They were promoting their newest running shoe.  If we didn’t hit traffic on the way down I was planning on going to the Under Armor Block party where they were giving away free stuff for trying out the sneakers.  I wear almost everything else Under Armor but I have always worn Brooks running shoes.  There was a guy on the bullhorn encouraging runners and talking about how good we all looked in our Under Armor gear.  They also had music blasting throughout the Under Armor Campus.  When we made the turn back towards the inner harbor I knew I would see my family at mile 13 because they should have gotten a text when I crossed mile 9 because of the chip tracker I was wearing in my bib.  I felt great.  The first 13.1 I clocked at 1:56.  I saw my family and it was a good feeling to see them along the route.  I also got there just in time to see the start of the Half Marathon.  This is always a cool site because the Half has a lot more runners than the full.  Somewhere near 12,000 runners were starting just as I passed by.  The merge was a little slow.  Last year I was a half marathoner and I thought it was no problem but I guess seeing it from the other side was a little different.  After doing 13 plus miles you don’t want to bob and weave to pass slower moving people but I guess it makes for the atmosphere of the race.  From this point on it was definitely a lot more crowded.  I did enjoy passing half marathoners at the end of the race and then having them see the words “full” on my back.  I know that would bother me if I was running a half.

I was preparing for my 15-21 from the beginning.  I ran hill repeats all summer with the Lifetime Running Club.  However, I do have to say making miles 15-21 on a marathon all uphill is just cruel.  I actually ran these miles quite well keeping my pace. I was determined not to let that hill beat me.  However, Mile 22 I just was worn out.  I slowed to a 12:38 pace for this Mile.  The hill got to me.  That one Mile was the only outlier in the entire race. I am still bothered by that one mile.  What if I stayed on pace the whole time?   In fact here are my splits.

Mile 1:  9:25

Mile 2:  8:25

Mile 3:  9:01

Mile 4:  7:53

Mile 5:  8:26

Mile 6:  8:26

Mile 7:  7:41

Mile 8:  8:25

Mile 9:  9:01

Mile 10: 10:10

Mile 11: 8:25

Mile 12: 8:26

Mile 13: 9:25

Mile 14: 8:25

Mile 15: 8:26

Mile 16: 9:26

Mile 17: 9:26

Mile 18: 8:26

Mile 19: 10:06

Mile 20: 8:25

Mile 21: 9:26

Mile 22: 12:38?????

Mile 23: 10:57

Mile 24: 8:55

Mile 25: 8:25

Mile 26: 9:23

Finish: 3:57.04

After that it was just  few more miles to go.  I took two miles to recover and then for the the last 3 miles I returned to my normal pace.

When I saw Camden Yards I knew we were close.  In that last stretch you run through the area behind the ballpark between the stands and the warehouse.  The sides are filled with people.  I heard Ann screaming my name.  “You’re doing great!  Almost finished.”  After that I turned the corner and saw M & T Bank stadium and the finish line.  When I crossed I felt so relieved.  I bent over and felt my hamstrings tighten up and then I checked my watch.  The clock had me at under 4 so I knew I broke 4 hours.  To be honest I would have been happy with anything under 4:10.  After getting my medal and eating and drinking.  I just had to sit down and contemplate what I just did.  26.2 miles.  I felt drained a little emotional.  I couldn’t wait to see m family but I couldn’t move.  I just wanted to sit there and enjoy the sun.  When I found Ann and I my family I was still a little shaken but I was so happy.  This was one of the best days of my life.  They say when you finish your first marathon you have either one of two reactions.  Wow, I will never do that again or that was awesome I can’t wait to try it again.  I am not ruling out another one.  I think this just motivates me to do more.  The rest of the weekend we had great meals.  I had plenty of drinks and dessert.  The next mornings breakfast at Blue Moon Cafe was incredible!  I highly recommend the Gingerbread pancakes if you are in Baltimore. The weekend as a whole was a success.  I can’t be more proud and I might even take my dog Wrigley on a trail run this weekend to celebrate!    Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way.  Thanks for all the facebook messages and comments.  Of course thanks to my wife Ann who the last few months have been planned around my weekend runs.  Baltimore Marathon.  Mission accomplished 3:57.04.      I still am mad about that one 12:38 mile though!

Ann wishes me luck as I leave for my spot in the masses.

After the race I wore my medal proud.

2011 Baltimore Under Armor Marathon

This is the free Under Armor long sleeve shirt given to all marathon runners.

Ann, Krissy, and I talking about the day's events.

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Mission accomplished

Details to follow

I don’t listen very well. The Good, The Bad, and the Inspirational

So for those of you who spoke with or read my blog last week know I was supposed to make my last long run of 21 miles before tapering. However, I melted in the humidity and died out at 17.5. I went to facebook, twitter, and my running friends for advice on whether I should attempt to get 20 or just begin my taper three weeks out like my original plan called for. Every single person I talked said to just forget about and stick with my original plan and start the taper. For someone reasons I just couldn’t imagine showing up on October 15th and attempting to run 8 more miles than I have ever run in my life. Keep in mind this is my first marathon. I have never ran more than 18 miles at a time before. If this was my 3rd marathon I would have tapered. So despite the advice I ran 3 miles earlier in the week and then went out for 21 today. Fortunately it was much cooler today and it actually felt like fall. I ran a blistering pace (for me) of 3 hours and 7 minutes. If I run this pace on Marathon day I will be ecstatic.
The Good. I wore exactly what I plan on wearing for the marathon. Same shirt, shorts, socks, and sneakers. I wanted to see if there were any unforeseen issues. Maybe the socks shift out of place and cause blisters or maybe my shirt is too loose and causes chafing. Luckily, everything felt great. So let’s analyze what I did so hopefully I can recreate it. First of all I the weather. I can’t control what the weather is on October 15th but certainly that was a big factor. 58 degrees with little humidity and partly cloudy vs 83 degrees with 93% humidity. The second is I actually had pasta the night before. It was my mom’s birthday so we went out for dinner. I had penne all vodka with grilled chicken. I have no idea if this played a factor or not but guess what? I plan on having pasta the night before the big day. I also had two beers and an Irish Coffee. Coincidence? Wade Boggs ate chicken before every game of his entire major league Hall of Fame baseball career. Who am I to argue? Third thing is I ate nothing before I ran. I woke up and had a cup of coffee and a bottle of water. Last week I tried t eat and my stomach was not agreeing. I started to cramp up and feel side stitches most o the way. I did take 3 Gu packs with me and had those every 5 miles. They are 100 calories of high carb and sugar which can replenish glycogen stores that are lost on the run. On race day I will probably use 4 of them. I also tried to drink 6 ounces of water every three miles. I have tried gatorade or vitamin water before but again it doesn’t agree with my stomach. Maybe I will switch to gatorade late in the race when I am on the home stretch but I plan on mostly drinking water.
The Bad. I had a pretty bad foot pain. Just under my big toe on my right foot I had an excruciating pain. When I am running on flat ground moving straight ahead I was fine. Any pronation at all because of an uneven surface was really painful. The streets of Morristown are crowded and if I had to side step a person or a garbage can or any lateral movement was really painful. I am hoping it is just a bone bruise from just the wear and tear of 350 miles of road running. If that is the case I am hopeful that the next two weeks of tapering will help heal that up. Worst case scenario I guess is a stress fracture but I am not there yet I don’t think.
The Inspirational: My wife Ann ran her first ever 5k on Saturday. After weeks of training she ran and completed her 5k and even reached her goal time. In fact, when I was debating whether or not I would ever attempt a full marathon she was the one who made me a deal. She said if I ran a marathon she would run a 5k. I created a workout plan for her and she followed it perfectly. Despite having a pretty nasty cough that popped up the week of the race she battled and reached her goal. I am so proud of her and she did an amazing job.
Now its time to taper. All the hard work in mostly done and I feel ready. This coming week I have two runs of 4 miles with speed work and 8 miles with a hill or two. Then I have a massage scheduled on Saturday which I am very much looking forward to. It is a 90 minute “extreme sports massage” at Bliss in Hoboken. Then after that we are in race week. 2 miles flat and 5 miles flat at an easy comfortable pace during the week. I took of work on the Friday before so I can head down to Baltimore and relax. I have to pick up the race packet and my free under armor T shirt at the Health expo. Then I can walk around a little and see what the expo has to offer. Then Friday night I plan on getting some pasta and a good night’s sleep before race day. Hopefully I can finish the race and hopefully the weather cooperates. Stay tuned foe race day updates. Baltimore running festival. October 15th. Here I come.