Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Baltimore Marathon October 2002

October 2002

There are no race photos . . .or online`race results . . .this is the inaugural running of "Balmer" and these frills simple were not part of the package. Neither are gel or "goo" packs offered on course. I also had never even contemplated a triathlon let alone an IM.

The Baltimore Marathon October 2002 is truly my first foray into the world of endurance racing at 33 years old. The concept of running for 26 miles and hours without your legs falling off or not stopping must be REALLY painful! Here I am working in NYC, stressed out and seeing the same guys on the train day after day, week after week and year after year. Every time I see them, they appear, a little fatter, a little less hair, and a little more of that gleam in their eye is disappearing. I am not going to be one of those guys. Short of an abrupt lifestyle change brought on by a career and geographic change I am going to change. I am going to eat less junk, drink a bit less and run a bit more. I found this race advertised in Runners World and signed up. No buddies, no fanfare, no hyped up Oprah or Katie Holmes race walkers. Just a vanilla marathon in a place where I can drum up some fan support close to my parents home.

I had never run more than 16 mile before raceday, and that only in a completed a 25 K just three weeks prior which I finished in 2 hours flat. Prior to that I had run a couple of 13 mile runs including the kickass Philly Distance Run a year ago a week after 9/11/01 which is a story for another race report!

Thus, with a 26 mile distance, the marathon is a mental game as challenging as the physical hardship or the training leading up to the race. Some say ignorance is bliss, and I certainly fall in this camp. I had witnessed my dad run the Marine Corp Marathon several times and would marvel as he would appear at mile ten on the mall after 75 minutes of racing past the Pentagon, and Georgetown, disappear for an hour to cruise the Capital, reappear at mile 18 and then look like death warmed over climbly the hill at Iwo Jima to the finish. (He did manage a PR race of 3:17, a tad over 7:30s which is uber impressive for any 43 year old!)

But I digress . . . . .Heather and I drive from Chatham, NJ on Friday to Sherwood Forest, Md stopping at the M+T Ravens stadium for packet pickup on the way down on. In 2002, there are no pace groups and the masses are just beginning to get into marathoning so fuss is not that much to do. There realy is not much of an expo in fact, just on the club level at the stadium. In fact 2002 is the Baltimore Marathon debut race, and is not well attended by the pros.

The start and finish are at Ravens Stadium with a run thru Camden Yards at Mile 25. The total race is just about 2000 runners. While I have no idea of a target finish time goal, I do have several other goals in mind, First, finish. Second finish . Third run the whole race sub 4:10 which is (DAD) Ted's marathon debut time back at the St. Mary's, MD marathon. And finally, well yes,`finish!

Friday nite is a carbo loading dinner at "the cottage" with mom and dad and an early to bed. I wake up at 4:30 a minute before the alarm is set for. I stealth out of bed not to wake Heather. Reflecting back after years of racing, I am amazed that I nearly always wake up minutes before my alarm is set for any time between 4 and 6 am. My internal alarm tells me today is the day!

Ted and I depart Sherwood Forest, MD at 6am for the 8am race start at Stadium in the inner harbor of Baltimore. We arrive early, at 6:30, which I like, and park at the Baltimore Federal Reserve across the tracks from the stadium. We then check out the stadium. The weather is chilly at 45 with a high of 55 and ovrcast skies. Many are huddled in warmups and I plan to run in shorts and my Washington Bullets 24 "Googs" jersey in hopes of getting some fan input during the run. I may be a bit cold at the start but adhere to the 20 degree haircut rule. Whatever the temp, dress like it is 20 degrees warmer.

I fall into my familiar hydration and stretching routines that I have developed since high school football. I find this is as much a mental relaxing stretch as for any physical needs. I locate that peaceful state I am looking forward, with a relaxed heart rate down to 80 or so and head off to the start line. Without pacing groups, I get up close to the front so as not to be boxed in by pedestrian runners. Wait am I one of those?

The gun goes off and I am across the line within ten seconds. The air around me is filled with nervous and pent up energy. There is a lot of talking and high hopes being bandied about. I am feeling a bit more scared now. What did I get myself into here? Not only have I never attempted to run for 26 miles or three to four hours I cannot imagine running alone for that time with no one to chat with and no walkman. (Yes the Ipod had not been invented yet). I am panickin ghtatI will go out too fast. I ALWAYS go out too fast from 5Ks to the 7 minute mile at the recent 25 K

I cross mile 1 northbound on Charles St flat at 8 minute pace (OK TIm not too fast OK!!!) and my day takes a turn for the better. The runner next to me spots the jersey and asks if I am a Les Boulez fan am I also a redskins fan? I nod at him and prepare to get back to my race. However, he falls in next to me and keeps with the questions. What is my target pace? What is my time goal? Have a every heard of an ultra race before? . Over the course of the next 20 miles I learn many interesting things about David Grimm. Yes, his little (big) brother is the Hog Russ Grimm of Super Bowl and Pitt Panther fame. David is running under his friends number who pulled out lame and more interestingly, Dave has registered for a 50 mile ultra, tomorrow! this is his training run! Holy craziness!!!

It takes me a while to process all this information of a training marathong run and consider running 50 miles. Actually Dave tells me he incorporates a version of the Galloway strategy. Walk one mile for every three run for a four mile routine. Usually he says he runs for 10 minutes and then walks for one minute trying to keep this up for 50 miles. Six years later as of 2008 with two IMs and five 70.3s under my belt, I understand that ten minutes of running and one minute walking seems to be a common survival strategy onthe run portion of a triathlon, especially in extreme weather.

Dave at 43 years old and ten marathons dispenses lots of advice about pacing and hydration, (nutrition is less a concept as marathon back in 2002!). However, he has data, but I have brought the Balmer race site fan support!

We hit Druid Hill Park at mile 3 and then we circle back south and duck under the Falls Road Expressway for the long southern run back into the inner harbor at the mile 7 mark . Dave cautions me again not to get caught up racing and stick to 8 minute pace even though I feel good and my legs feel fresh.

Despite his prostations and warnings I am like a horse chomping at the bit. We are on a 7:40 pace after mile 7 clocking it just under an hour, and I am feeling good.

At mile 8 I spot Dad in the inner harbor with some Gatorade and a gel pack. I grab them and go and he tells me to SLOOOWWW DOOOWWWN. Dave and I are now past the stadium and into the Federal Hill district. This is fun! I see Kerri, Joe Carl's fiancee on her stoop and give a yell! I did not know she lived here. She gives a shout out! I am also getting lots of catcalls for the Les Boulez jersey, most of them arguing whether it is a Jeff Malone jersey and why would a white boy wear that! Dave shakes his head and tells me to save my energy for later.

We loop across the marina district by Ft McHenry and it is lonely in the warehouses crossing mile ten at 78 minutes. The loop of the actual Fort has not yet been added to the course. At mile 13 we are back to the inner harbor and the crowds pick up. We cross the half marathon point at (1:42) 102 minutes and I spot Dad and now with Mom, Heather and Jen Kirkegaard. They are pumped up as am I. Dave is amazed at all the love we (I ) am getting. After all this is my marathon debut and my family has not been to many races before.

We cruise Fells Point at mile 15 and head north to Patterson Park. All systems are still go. We are about 3 minutes ahead of 8 minute pacing. Dave has us locked into a sub 3:30 time. Sounds good to me, this is all unknown physical exploration but let go with it! At mile 16 the course gets rolling hilly as we navigate some of the sketchier sections of the city. The crowd support here is more out of curiosity than of interest in endurance racing.

At mile 17 I detect my first hint of trouble. A quick twinge of the right hamstring. I block it out and press on. Momentary blip? Let's hope so! At mile 19 way out in north Baltimore, I hear my name called (No names on our numbers) so who can that be? Why it is Dad, Mom, Heather, and Jen. After a walk from the Inner Harbor they flagged a cab uptown and arrive less than 4 minutes before I steam by. Dave and I are still three minutes sub 8 minute pace. I am on top of the world and fired up by their presence. Dave just shakes his head and reminds me to focus!

At mile 20 we hit Patterson Park and an uphill to a big water stop. Dave suggests we walk for 30 seconds to intake some fluids. We are at 2 hours and 30 minutes in and still 4 minutes ahead and can walk for a little bit. Wow!! that feels great! When he starts into his run, I pause for a second. My body likey walky. But off we go and we are back on track. At mile 21 the hammy twinge is back, and this time alarmingly from my glutes down to my knee. It disappears a second time but the alarm bells are going off. I am still in business, but now I am nervous is that what hitting the wall is all about!

At mile 22, I am in trouble. What is happening? My body is not listening. My brain says run, and the legs chortle. Both hammies charlie horse up and I am down. I mean falling down on the ground. I try to rise, but no go amigo! I look up in fear and see Dave twist around and look . I am not sure if my fear face spooked him or what, but he slows momentarily, looks again through some other runners now and then disappears down the road. It is mile 22, and I am on the ground. Worse still now I am on my own with no plan beyond minimizing pain by not moving my legs.

Six years later as a triathlete writing this race report I reminisce back at this moment as a defining one. Many would quit the race right there out of fear and risk of physical injury. Others may walk for a bit toward the finish. I have no strategy, I know nothing about hydration, nutrition, electrolytes, or potassium. I am sitting there in a daze. Then a good samaritan appears. He must be a runner because he grabs my ankle as I lay there and jerks my leg straight into the air. Instantly my cramped hamstring releases itself. He repeats the process and tells me to find bananas, gummy bears and gatorade. I need food, and electrolytes he says. Whateve those are? I am up and wobbling. I take a tentative step. then another, and another, and I am off. At mile 23 the hamstring again cramps a bit, but I know what to do now. Folks are running, but not that fast and not too many ar epassing me. I have lost track of my time overall time, time in general, my brain is just not working. BUT, I do know I am putt putt putting along. I look at my watch and see numbers but they do not compute and mean nothing. By mile 24 I think I can make it to the end. The finish cannot come quick enough. I swear these miles are not spaced right! Then I start to hear the crowds and music has picked up now. I steam, (well . . .meander) toward mile 26 and Camden Yards. We run through Boogs Bar-b-q in right field and I know I can make it. But the right hamstring goes out one more time, and I put on the brakes. I raise it onto a stantion, and watch ten or so runners glide by! I can hear the finish. Move Tim, move!!

This blows!! I dismount the stantion and take off. Now I am angry and the andreneline must move me because I start passing back the runners nowin a near sprint. I hear the finish. I see the finish. I hear my name. I hear it again from the crowd. I look to the left and there is my posse. But it has grown now! Ramesh, Bob Mulvaney and Paul K. are now here too. Bob snaps some crucial photos which grace the walls of my basement to this day. I toss them my over t-shirt, Why did I hold onto it the whole race? I eye the finish and the time clock. 3:35:40 . . . .OK, I only lost 10 minutes from pace at mile 20! I cross over at 3:36:02. My finish time nets me place 360 out of the roughly 2000 entrants.

There is no record of automated finish. There are no official race photos, save Bob's. This is my first endurance race and my marathon PR and I will always savor how I overcame my naivety and how to handle my body failing me to persevere. The lesson learned in this race, is that; One pacing is crucial. Two, hydration and nutrition strategys need to be developed and adhered to, and finally, to quote famous Jimmy Valvano. Never give up. Whatever you do, never give up.

My posse showed TREMENDOUS support ALL DAY and consists of Mom, Dad, Heather, Jen and Paul, Ramesh, Liz and Bob, who snapped the great action picks. We all walk (or hobble for me) over to celebrate at Mother's Bar on Federal Hill. The Bud beer and chicken cheesesteaks and cheese fries never tasted so good and go down so smooth! College football is on and life is good. I love Baltimore and as my first foray is still my best and most memorable marathon race and of course my PR! I now can call myself an endurance athlete!!