Run Doodle Run

The long road to 26.2


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Follow the red brick road… follow the red brick road…

I both love and hate running downtown. I love it because Baltimore, for all of the issues it has, is a gorgeous city first thing in the morning. It’s truly enjoyable to watch the city wake up. I hate it because, well, where do I begin – it’s super far away so I have to wake up super early, it’s flatter than a pancake, and there’s brick. So much brick.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to run on brick, I can’t honestly endorse it. It’s hard. It hurts. And sometimes bricks heave and create a tripping risk – and lends to you spending more of your run looking at the ground than the scenery.

Saturday was a rather perfect day for a run in Baltimore. Upper 60s/low 70s, a nice breeze, a gorgeous sunrise. As I drove from the countryside into the city, all of the farms were covered in a gentle fog, which flowed across the road to the next field like a thin veil.

This was to be my longest run to date – 18 miles! Whoa!

We started off nice and easy, knowing the trek ahead of us. Our first “landmark” was a spin around the Under Armour campus and Domino Sugar facility (which had a rather unsettling smell…), then we headed for the Inner Harbor, running past the Ritz Carlton, the Science Center, the Constellation, the Torsk, and the Aquarium, meandering up and down every pier to squeeze in as much mileage as possible. We were up and out so early even the ducks on the harbor were still curled up and asleep!

After a quick water stop at the Aquarium, we headed east through Harbor East, past my b-school haunts, and Fells Point, through the Fells Point Farmer’s Market, and on towards Canton.

When we reached the end of the Promenade at the Canton Waterfront Park, my Garmin read 6.98 miles. That’s it?!?

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So we started back, past the sleepy dog walkers clutching their coffee and early-bird tourists. Through the upscale waterfront homes, past the Pirate Ship, and back to the Farmer’s Market we went. Up and down each pier, arms stretched out like wings on the tight turns.

We were told the Aquarium water stop would still be functional when we returned, but alas, the well had run dry. As our water supplies dwindled, we aimed for as much shade as possible, hugging the west sides of buildings and running perhaps a bit too close to the folks sitting on the benches (hey, it’s where the shade was). One more lap around Domino and Under Armour and we made a pit stop back at the store to refill. Despite all of the running, we still had 3.75 miles to go!

So back out we went, heading west for Fort McHenry. The last time I had been here was almost exactly 15 years ago to the day, and I was really looking forward to seeing it again.

Boy, how times change!

Boy, how times change!

We ran down Fort Avenue, enjoying all of the shade from the trees lining the road, saying hello to the old men sitting on the benches. A bridge loomed in the distance, mocking our tired, achey legs. And then the Fort. We ran through the gate, as others ran out, and followed the path around the Fort – a wonderful, 360 degree view of all that is Baltimore.

End to end: the Canton Waterfront Park, seen from Fort McHenry

End to end: the Canton Waterfront Park, seen from Fort McHenry. It looks so much closer from here!

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As the sun blared down on our shoulders, we made our way past the visitor’s center and back out of the gate, over the bridge, and past the old men on the bench.

My feet were screaming, my shoulders ached, and my mind tried every coercive method it had in its bag of tricks to get me to stop, but I kept going. No matter how much I hurt, I was not about to stop this close to the goal.

Yes, we looked silly, and yes, we thought about stopping more than once, but we kept going, back and forth, up and down Fort Avenue as the Garmin slowly crept closer towards the goal. After the third pass, we turned in towards the store, and it finally beeped. 18 miles. 18 miles!!!

We stopped running, and our walk was as slow as a crawl – a horrible, painful crawl – but we did it. 18 miles.

There wasn’t a spot on my body that didn’t hurt, but my mind felt nothing but pride. 18 miles!! The girl who used to come up with every excuse in the book to get out of gym class voluntarily woke up at 4:45am on a Saturday and ran 18 miles.

Damn straight the runner’s high is real! 😀

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The Importance of Dignity for the Homeless

As a country we have worked hard to confront many of the challenges faced by others, but one which remains largely taboo is homelessness. Much like mental illness (which, coincidentally, is not terribly uncommon among the homeless population), everyone acknowledges that homelessness is a problem, but it has not yet reached the level of being a sexy topic which people don shirts or ribbons for.

Along with the loss of a home, many homeless people also lose their dignity. Sleeping out in the elements is not how most people envision their life. Not showering for days (or weeks) on end does not inspire self esteem. Having to scour for food is enough to beat down even the most proud of people.

One restaurant here in Baltimore is taking one small step to try and change that. Every July, Baltimore Restaurant Week takes place. Instead of participating in this annual tradition, Tabrizi’s is taking its show on the road to local homeless shelters. They will be serving “elegant” meals to Baltimore’s homeless. No, this won’t save anyone from homelessness, but perhaps giving someone just a few minutes of dignity, a few minutes to relax, by giving them a good meal like they’d receive at a restaurant just might help brighten their day, will make it easier for them to make their next decision or remind them that they are a worthy human being.

I’ve heard of “soup kitchen cafes” in the past, where soup kitchens or other similar providers serve their visitors at the table and provide them with metal flatware and real plates and bowls, and I think the idea is brilliant. Some of these places even hire homeless or disadvantaged people, giving them the opportunity to contribute and feel better about themselves, all while earning a paycheck. Bringing some sense of normalcy to the lives of those who have been displaced, showing them just a few moments of dignity, really can turn around someone’s mindset – and ultimately, maybe even their life.

This is why I run for Back on My Feet. No, they’re not going to solve the homeless crisis this country faces overnight, but they’re doing what they can to change one person’s life at a time. Dignity has no price, but a lack of dignity can be costly. Treating someone with dignity costs you nothing, but it can make the world of difference.


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BOMF Baltimore

Since 2012 I have been an ardent supporter of Back on My Feet (BOMF) Baltimore. It is an organization that seeks to build up those experiencing homelessness, and often times unemployment, addiction, and/or mental health issues as well, through running.

In light of all that has happened in Baltimore these last few days, an organization such as BOMF is even more vital to the well-being of our city. Those who BOMF helps could easily be defined by what is being seen on the national media – and many have been in the past – but they have chosen to take the steps to improve their lives and build a community. 

No, this is not a claim that running alone is the solution to the systemic, deep rooted and overarching issues that plague our city. But the community that is formed in coming together, the impact that is created in speaking with one unified voice, and the change that we can affect in ‘changing the things we can’ is vital to our effort to rebuild, redefine and rejuvenate this place we call home.

As I prepare for my first marathon, Baltimore faces a marathon of another variety entirely. I may not be able to solve Baltimore’s problems, but I can certainly do my part in helping those Baltimore residents who have chosen to take on their own personal and socioeconomic challenges head-first. A cultural shift won’t happen over night, but affecting one person, who has the opportunity to affect another, starts moving us all in the right direction.

Please help me to help those who have decided that status quo is no longer satisfactory. Please help me to help those who have decided to help themselves.


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Race Report: Oldfields School Half Marathon, Powered by Back on My Feet

Late last year I decided that I wasn’t going to run any early spring races – a wonky winter can totally throw your training off and I had bigger goals for the year. Well, that all went out the door when I heard that Back on My Feet was hosting a half marathon at the end of March. 🙂

When you think of running in the end of March, you think of warm(ish) weather, daffodils, sun, and birds chirping, right? Ha! Nice try. I woke up to snow. Snow! The meteorologist on the morning news assured her viewers it would only be intermittent and pass pretty quickly. Ha! Right.

Knowing it was going to be a cold race, I wore the same kit that I wore for the Father Time Frolic on New Year’s Day, as the temperatures were forecasted to be pretty similar.

Yeah, I don’t care what the thermostat said – it felt way colder than the New Year’s Day race. It was a damp, bone chilling 32 with snow and about a 10-15 mph wind. Even standing around the snow blew right into your eyes and the wind just cut right through whatever you were wearing.

I got there pretty early and only left my car for the portapot and the BOMF pre-race circle.

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The race started at 8:30, and I finally crawled out of my car at about 8:20 to do some quick dynamic flexibility warmups, run a quick bit to see how everything felt, and then joined my friends at the starting line. One of the women from my summer and winter training groups was there, as was an old friend of mine from high school.

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It was as cold as we all look.

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The first .63 mi of the race was downhill, from the school to the trail. In an effort to warm up and keep up with my high school friend, I (surprise, surprise) went out a bit too fast. My first mile was 9:15, and the second wasn’t too much slower. At around 1.5 miles I decided to try and pull back the pace, but I had a really hard time with pacing for some reason. I honestly don’t know if it’s from the cold or from the wonky winter training season, but I just couldn’t get it under control. It didn’t matter if I went by feel or by Garmin.

We passed by the first relay point at about 3.3 miles – and surprisingly there was a really big crowd! That was a much needed mental boost. The rest of the outbound trip was pretty quiet, as there’s really no where for spectators to stand, but I was well with the pack. The leaders started passing back on their return trip somewhere around mile 5. En route I managed to tie my 5k PR and set a new unofficial 5 mile PR (48:42). Awesome, but not good. This wasn’t a short race.

I hit the turn around point, which was a cone with ridiculously, but much welcomed, large smily face ballon in about 1:03:45 – which kinda shocked me. I’m not sure what happened at this point, but I kind of got into a dark place. My achilles was starting to hurt, my piriformis, which I admittedly have gotten lazy about, was tightening up, and my legs were just feeling heavy. And I was cold. Really cold.

As I watched my pace plummet on my Garmin, that place just got darker. I stopped to stretch two or three times, walked through the remaining water stops, and watched as the pack in front of me got thinner and thinner; and then I got passed, by more than a few people. I presume some of them were relay runners, fresher than I, gunning to get to the exchange, but the sting is still the same. The wind never ceased, the snow kept falling, and it felt like the temperatures were mimicking my pace. I high-fived the racers that were still heading out to the turn-around, but I’m not sure if I was doing that more for them or for me.

I had hoped to see a big crowd again at the relay exchange point, to get that little bolt of energy, but it was pretty quiet. Not that I can blame them – it was #$)@(ing cold. I wouldn’t want to stand around either.

The last 3.3 miles were very quiet. The snow had started to lay on the adjacent fields, and parts of the trail, which had been perfectly clear just an hour or two ago, were now covered. I tried to take a picture, but even my phone gave up – the cold sapped the battery and I was left with a shiny paperweight.

It turned out to be a good and a bad thing that I knew this part of the trail well. Good, because I knew where I was and how much further I had to go. Bad, because I knew where I was and how much further I had to go. But being this close, I couldn’t let that dark place bully me in to slowing down.

In order to distract myself I kept taking sips of water, “in preparation for the hill.” Yeah. That hill that I sped down at the beginning? It’s an out-and-back course.

As I got closer, I could see the other smily-faced balloon bobbing in the wind like some deranged bobblehead, telling me it was time to climb the hill. I swung wide and transitioned from packed stone to pavement, reminding myself that there was only .63 mi to go. Trying not to look too far ahead, I focused on the snowdrops which were blooming next to the road – the only sign that spring might actually still consider happening. As I slowed down, the cold only got more pronounced, so I tried to push harder and faster, making an extra effort to run the tangents, just to get to the finish sooner.

When I came upon the last bend in the road, I could hear the crowd at the finish line cheering people through and I kicked it into over drive. It didn’t matter how much my achilles, my piriformis, or my pride hurt, the finish line was mine. As I turned the corner and hit that slight downhill, I broke out into a sprint – and then I was done.

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I didn’t even stop when I crossed the line – I made a beeline for my car, where fresh clothes and a warm second layer awaited. Once dressed for the weather, I went back to the finish area, grabbed some food and drink and chatted for a bit before heading home with dreams of a blisteringly hot shower dancing in my head.

The less-than-stellar winter training definitely took a toll on a few of us, but we had our first half of the year in the books, a good baseline for the rest of the year.

I should be much more ecstatic than I am. I got an awesome new PR – 2:11:21, officially – but for some reason I just feel kind of deflated. That feeling from the second half of the race just took over the joy of the PR. Even today, I just can’t shake it and still don’t feel pride in the PR.


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I am so over winter.

The end of February means the end of brutally cold long runs, right? Right?? *sigh* a girl can dream…

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winter

Saturday was long run day here in Baltimore 🙂 We met downtown and, in between bone-chilling wind gusts, were treated to gorgeous views of the frozen Inner Harbor. This is only the second time that I’ve seen this much of the harbor freeze (last year being the first time).

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Much of the Promenade was bone dry for us, but in more than a few locations our long run turned into an obstacle run as not all venues had cleared the snow away sufficiently (I’m talking to you, Pier Five Hotel and Bond Street Warf) or at all (that marina down by Aliceana and Boston).

Because of all the walking tip-toeing we had to do over these icy patches, we decided to take a more direct route home, avoiding many of these icy bits and instead continuing our run all the way down to Under Armour before heading back. Post-run Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate has never tasted so good.

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It was painfully cold, but it was a 11.1 mile run. I ran with J, one of my usual running partners this winter, as well as two other women and we just really had a great time being out there. This was the first time one of the women had run this long and she easily smashed it. Because I missed my long run outdoors last week I planned on taking this one a bit slower than usual and that strategy paid off – I had no achilles discomfort during the run or for the rest of the weekend.

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(The mileage doesn’t add up because I paused my Garmin to take a photo in the second mile and forgot to restart it until it threatened to go into power-save mode 5 minutes and .45 mi later 😣)

With the end of February that means that my first half of the year is just 4 weeks away and I couldn’t be more pleased with where my training stands right now. I don’t want to jinx it just yet, as I still have two more long runs (12.5 and 14, I hope) left, but I really think things are lining up for a great spring racing season 🙂

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That’s particularly impressive given this horrible winter we’ve been having. My 5k training group has cancelled nearly every training session due to weather or brutal cold (which worked out well for me while I was away on vacation!) and my half group has cancelled more than a few sessions as we hit the height of our mileage. I’ve been doing my best to get in quality indoor miles and keep my strength training up, but also make the most of any and all outdoor miles without doing too much.

Do you have any early spring races coming up? How has this winter affected your training? Are you feeling confident going into the spring racing season? 

Anyone get into NYC?? 


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Outdoor Long Run!

It’s been a few weeks, but I FINALLY got a full-length long run in outside! It was a brutally cold 18 degrees and super windy along the water but totally worth it.

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All of Charm City Run’s groups met at the downtown location this morning. As much as I dislike running downtown (it’s so far away and the brick aggravates my achilles), it’s always so great to see so many runners along the waterfront.

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This week was a cutback week for us, but I was on a mission – I needed to get 9.37 miles in today in order to get my first 100+ mile month ever.

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I started off more or less by myself but picked up with some marathoners from the Annapolis store. Once I warmed up enough to not notice the cold (as much), it was a really nice day for a run. My pace was pretty comfortable and mostly in the lower 10s/upper 9s, even though it didn’t feel that fast.

I turned around in Canton when the Annapolis ladies stopped to gel up. In my 5th mile, the Promenade changed from brick to wood planks, like a boardwalk. Well, one of those planks was bowed up – and dammit if my toe didn’t catch it. I tried to stop the fall, but my legs were too cold for me to pull them high enough and yep, I ate it. Hard. When I stopped sliding forward, I hopped up, made sure my Nike Flash jacket wasn’t totally destroyed (which, surprisingly, barely had a mark on it!), dusted myself off, and kept going. The only thing I felt at the time were the scratches on my hand, which had sweat pouring in to them.

Down for less than 20 seconds and didn't even pause the Garmin!

Down for less than 20 seconds and didn’t even pause the Garmin!

The return trip was a bit lonely, as I turned around after the half marathoners but before the full marathoners, but there were so many other runners out there so I was never truly alone.

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My achilles were definitely a bit angry with me for doing such a long run on the brick, but I felt really great right up until the last mile. This was totally unexpected because I haven’t been on the road much lately.

When I got back to the store I immediately changed into some dry clothes and was able to survey the damage from my fall. My knees and hip are scuffed and bruised – I swear I can watch the bruise grow – but thankfully my clothes came out unscathed. Whaddaya know, running really can screw up your knees 😛

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The other great thing about these big group runs? Free brekkie when we get back 🙂 Bagels are good, but free, 10-mile bagels are awesome.


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Twas the Week Before Christmas…

And my house turned into an infirmary.

Sunday night/Monday morning my mom started getting sick. Uh oh. I haven’t really gotten sick since I had my nose surgery a couple years ago and was hoping to keep it that way. But no luck. Luckily I didn’t get as sick as her (she was literally in bed for 4 days straight), but it still kinda sucked.

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the pups took good care of my mom while she was sick

Monday night I forced myself to do a light workout which actually helped me to feel better. My coaches kept me in line.

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That look from her means I’ve stopped for too long. No more dillydallying, woman! (He’s just hoping I get down on the ground so he can clean all the salty goodness off of my face)

Tuesday I was feeling worse but it was my first track session with my new group! And it rained. Ugh. It was in the upper 30s/low 40s, but a surprisingly large group of people showed up. This run was fueled by Claritin D and Advil, which apparently made me darn fast. We ran 6x400s and I was running each 400 25-40 seconds faster than I did this summer. Holy moly! Maybe my last quarter mile at Celtic last weekend wasn’t a total fluke… Afterwards our group and the full marathon training group met up for drinks, food, and camaraderie at a bar around the corner.

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I was going to workout Wednesday and Thursday, but felt super crummy, so I just took the rest of the week off to get healthy again. This winter is all about building a solid base, not driving myself into the ground before the season even comes around.

Saturday my group met downtown for our long run. I love and hate running downtown. It’s flat, tends to be pretty windy (which super sucks in the winter) and the brick is hard on my legs. But the view is pretty nice and it’s always nice to get a change of scenery. It was an ugly sweater run, but I don’t own an ugly sweater – so I painted my nails festively and had a Santa hat instead. I was going to try to do something with tinsel and bells, but Target failed me.

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5:00am wakeup calls for Saturday long runs are rough no matter what time of the year, but they’re extra awful in the winter. During the summer the sun typically rises shortly after I get up, my parents and dogs are up and about in the house, people are on the roads, the birds are chirping – you know, signs of life. During the winter? It was literally me and the creepy blow up Santa on the neighbor’s portico. No bueno.

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On the bright side, though, the moon was absolutely gorgeous on the drive downtown. Just before the sun came up you could see the entire moon, even though only a sliver of it was lit up.

I ended up running 5 nice, easy miles with two women in my group, averaging about 11 minute miles.

After the long run I did a little bit of damage at Charm City Run (hey, it’s Christmas), grabbed a donut from Dunkin Donuts, and got a Christmas gift for the Beast at the doggie boutique next door, before heading home to shower, change, and head back down to the city to meet a friend for high tea at Gertrudes at the Baltimore Museum of Art. It was surprisingly fun and un-stuffy! We were there chatting for several hours (the wait-staff seemed like they were trying to nudge us out so they could turn the table over for dinner), then I headed off to a party for a bit. I was so exhausted from the long day that I didn’t stay too terribly long.

I had planned on going to bed embarrassingly early when I got home but someone on the street was having a party and the windows in my room are so thin that I knew they’d wake me up when they all left, so I plopped down in the living room with my parents to watch the never-ending Thursday Night Football game on Saturday Night (as if I wasn’t having a hard enough time remember what day it was this week…). I had no stake in the game but it was surprisingly good.

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This morning I slept in a bit and then met Aaron and Beast at the trail for a quick 3.5-4 mile walk. The trail was surprisingly crowded for a chilly Sunday, but we got to see some people running in festive garb – one guy passed us wearing a Santa hat and a lei of big Christmas lights 🙂

icicles!

icicles!

Then I came home to see the awful Ravens “game” (I’ve never been more embarrassed to be a Ravens fan). There were surly a few bad calls, but it was 95% on the team. Now I’m watching the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Finals (watching skating on TV always reminds me of just how much I miss skating…) and drooling over the smell of roasting veggies that’s filling the house.

that's not hot chocolate. that game called for something a *bit* stronger...

that’s not hot chocolate. that game called for something a *bit* stronger…

How was your week(end)? Any great holiday plans coming up??