The Casual Runner

2016 Baltimore 10 Miler

Event: 2016 Baltimore 10 Miler
Event Date: June 4, 2016
Event Location: Maryland Zoo: Baltimore, Maryland

Why I decided to run this race

The Baltimore 10 Miler is often held on the same weekend as the Zooma Annapolis half marathon and 10K. Since I’ve done the Annapolis race every year since I started running, I’ve never been able to do the Baltimore race. Although I love running in Annapolis, this year I decided to mix things up and try something new. I’m not a huge fan of hills—which the Baltimore 10 Miler is notorious for—but this is the first year they’ve offered a medal and it has super cute penguins on it. So count me in!

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Getting there/the lead-up to the race

My training since the runDisney Disney World Star Wars Dark Side weekend was almost non-existent.  When I did manage to get out the door for my long runs, they usually turned into walks.  Getting to the track during the week almost never happened.  And I did maybe one hill repeat.  So…yeah…I was not exactly at my peak performance level.

This caused me to change my race plan from running the whole thing—including the hills—to just finishing.  I knew the hills would sap my energy quickly so I planned to walk up most of them and run the downhills and flats until I was too tired, and then walk the rest.  It’s not want I had wanted to do when I signed up for the race several months earlier.  But I simply hadn’t put in the work to master the hills.

The race Expo

There was no big expo for the Baltimore 10 Miler.  Instead, packet pick-up was at various Dick’s Sporting Goods stores around the area in the week leading up to the race and at the Maryland Zoo (the location of the start and finish lines) the day before the race.  There was also a small window for packet pick-up the morning of the race, but only if you registered for it.

I got my bib at the Dick’s in Columbia, and when I arrived about 30 minutes after pick-up started there were already a line.  As long as people had their registration card ready either on their phones or printed out, the line moved pretty fast.  But whenever we had to stop and wait for someone to argue about why they didn’t have it, everything came to a screeching halt.  All we got at packet pick-up was our bib; premiums wouldn’t be given out until after runners crossed the finish line.

My only complaint about packet pick-up is that there was no convenient option for those of us who live in Anne Arundel County.  I understand that they can’t cater to everyone’s geography but there’s a huge running community in Anne Arundel and anyone who lives across the Bay Bridge would be in for a multi-hour excursion to get their bib.  Not cool.

Swag review

After I crossed the finish line, I picked up my premium.  I’m not a fan of getting the swag after the race because 1) it means I have to carry it around the after-party, and 2) I feel bad trying on shirts when I’m drenched in sweat.  I think it’s much more sanitary to try things on and exchange them when I won’t leave gross sweat streaks.  But maybe that’s just me…

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The shirts were heavyweight, long-sleeve, mock turtlenecks.  Although I like the color, due to the aforementioned drenched-in-sweat situation I didn’t try it on before leaving and when I did try it on I found that it didn’t really fit me.  I will probably use this during extremely cold winter runs when I need a lot of layers, but this will not be a staple in my wardrobe.  Also, the race was on the 4th of June in Baltimore, so a lighter item would have been better in my opinion since we were heading into what’s turned into an extremely hot summer.

Although I sound really negative about the swag, it really wasn’t that bad.  It just didn’t work well for me.  I have seen other people wearing them around the area on the very few pre-race mornings that have been a tad cooler, so other runners clearly liked them enough to use them.

The gear

Since the race starts and finishes near the zoo I decided to go with a subtle animal theme.  With the skirts I had on hand I could do a zebra or a peacock.  I decided to go with the peacock.

The gear: teal Nike tank top, blue/green/yellow striped Adidas sports bra, SparkleSkirt with built-in shorts in one of the Peacock patterns, teal Bondi Band headband, Injinji socks, Saucony Guide 9 shoes, and Garmin Forerunner 620 and Gymboss timer.  The distance was right on my cut-off of what I can do with my water belt rather than jumping up to my hydration vest, so I decided to go with my Amphipod hydration belt and supplement with what I could get at the on-course water stops.

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The pre-race

Since I didn’t know what the parking situation would be like I arrived super early and scored a pretty nice spot on the road near the starting line.  I waited in my car listening to music for a while, then walked around for a while to get my muscles moving.  I had time to visit the port-a-potties twice, walk back to my car to adjust my gear twice, and I think I still had 30 or 40 minutes before the race started.  But if I’d gotten there much later I would’ve had to park much farther away and had a longer walk.  So for me I think it was better to get there early.

One area where this race could really improve is the release of runners.  They had waves (three waves, I think) but there wasn’t very good instruction on how you lined up to get in the correct wave.  I lined up near the 15:00 minute pace sign, but there wasn’t enough space between signs so you couldn’t really get all the people at their correct pace groups.  Plus, since all of the runners essentially loaded from the back, once we crammed up the area around the 13:00 and later paces, no one could get past us.  So the runners coming into the chute later just pushed us forward so we were much further up than we should have been.  And, once the waves released, it seemed that they just eyeballed how many runners had gone through and then shut it down for a few minutes before releasing the next wave.  So even with me moving forward very slowly I almost released with the first wave—a place I absolutely shouldn’t have been.  So I ended up stepping to the side to let about 3/4s of the second wave pass me before I started.  This meant that I was closer to my correct pace group but it was still probably before I should have started.

One thing I really liked about the start of the race was that the organizers had Sid Busch, a retired Navy Chief who now runs in memory of fallen soldiers, lead off all of the runners. While their motivation might have been practical since Sid is slowing down and he might have needed more time on the hilly course, it was a beautiful symbolic moment to let Sid carry his flag first across the starting line with the wheelchair athletes. It also gave me a goal: to catch up to Sid and run with this group at some point during the race.

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Along the course

The race was more or less an out-and-back. I believe there was some road construction that resulted in a few small alterations to the normal course, but nothing that seemed significantly different than what the course maps looked like previously.

I’m not a huge fan of out-and-backs, but it gave me the opportunity to see and cheer for the leaders and it gave me a chance to calculate how much ground I needed to make up to catch Sid.

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The course was hot and didn’t have a lot of shade to provide relief for the runners. Still, I managed to mostly run the first 6 or 7 miles. That’s right about the time I finally caught up with Sid and his group. Everyone in the group was really nice and I enjoyed walking with them for about a half mile, but their pace was slower than I wanted to go. So I kept moving forward and eventually fell in step with another walker for the rest of the race.

The SMOpinion

I don’t think SMOs had been given out at this race in previous years. But this year they decided to give them to all finishers, which was a reason why I decided to do it this year. And there are penguins on the medal! The shape itself wasn’t all that imaginative but the penguins are so cute! I think I read that for the next five years they will highlight a different animal on the medals, so there is some reason to repeat the race to collect the different medals.

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The post-race experience

Because this race was on my wedding anniversary I didn’t spend a lot of time at the post-race festivities. I collected my food and shirt fairly quickly and then left. I had dinner plans with my husband and I wanted to get a nap in before going out for the night.

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Playlist Peak

In the early 2000s Baltimore adopted the motto “Believe” as a way to fight crime and build civic pride. They changed the slogan a couple of years ago but Believe continues to be a big presence in the city. My iPod also seems loyal to the Believe slogan, highlighting it by delivering this perfectly timed sequence:

“Good Morning, Baltimore” from the musical Hairspray, as I watched the female leader crest a hill with the morning sun streaming behind her. Followed by Poison’s “Give Me Something to Believe In” and “I Believe” from the musical The Book of Mormon in quick succession. Well played, iPod; well played.

Looking back now

I didn’t have a great performance at this race and the course wasn’t all that great in my opinion. The Baltimore 10 Miler is a tradition in this city and I’m glad I ran it at least once. But I am tired of running hilly races that I’m not trained for, so I think I have to make a pact with myself to not run it again until I can commit to the right training.

img_20160604_084144808 Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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