Saturday, June 16, 2012

5th Time is the Charm: 2012 Baltimore 10 Miler

The Baltimore 10 Miler....a race, and honestly, race distance that has not treated me well.  The B-10 is generally not a race for time.  It's a relatively hilly course, and the weather in its first four installments was positively awful for running.  Then something happened this year, and the high for the day was scheduled to "only" be 86 with decently low humidity.  With a 7:30AM start time, we were looking at starting temperatures right around 70 degrees or less.  All of a sudden, we had good weather for a June race.

I decided to go into this race with minimal expectations.  I had done very, very little running in the three weeks prior, doing only one "long" run of 10.5 miles the week before.  I was however, biking my ass off, as anyone who reads this blog can clearly see.  So I figured I'd be in good aerobic shape for this race, but possibly not ready for the pounding of 10 hard miles.  Combine that with the fact that my legs felt "meh" that morning, and I wasn't expecting much.

But, what did no expectations do for me?  It took off all the pressure.  I decided to keep it simple, and just run whatever felt comfortable early, and if I still felt good at mile 4/5, then turn it up a bit.  The course was changed for this year, and getting to the front of the crowd proved difficult, but eventually I found my way up front.  With the final hill in the course removed, times would hopefully be faster this year.

Historically, this race hasn't attracted the real top tier runners, but there was a Dave Berdan "sighting" which of course meant, the race was his to win.  I really didn't care, since I figured just winning my age group and maybe breaking 60 would be good enough.  With a 1:04:23 to my credit last year (terrible, terrible experience), it would be nice to just finally break 60.

The gun went off (10 minutes late) at 7:40AM, and I was quickly behind 15-20 others.  Every year, I've fallen for the trap of going out too hard on the first two miles (screaming downhill) only to get absolutely destroyed on the second half.  I was not having it this year.  My plan was to go out conservative on the early downhills and keep it steady on the 33rd street rollers out to a flat loop around Lake Montebello.

I hit the first mile, running with a couple of guys I know, Keith and Jesse (just out for a morning "jog"): 5:43

My legs were not a fan of the downhill, but otherwise, I felt way, way too good.  I honestly thought the mile marker was short because of how good I felt.  But no matter, I continued running with Keith and we slowly started picking people off.

Mile 2: 5:41

I still felt good, way, way too good.  Something wasn't adding up.  Regardless, I stayed within myself and continued to be steady.  A lot could still go wrong over 8 miles.

The downhills stopped at that point, as we began approaching the lake, hitting some decent hills.  Though mile 3 looked slow, Keith and I continued to gain on the people around us, so we must have been doing something right...

Mile 3: 6:00

As we closed on the lake, I passed another guy I have run with, Dave (40 year old with a thick English accent, good guy), who was looking to run 59:59, but took it out hard.  I had let him go early, knowing that was not going to work for me.  Now I had caught and passed him, and still felt way too good.

We hit the lake, and I was still firing on all cylinders, so I decided it was time to institute my Baltimore 10 Miler plan that has never ever come to fruition: turn it up on the lake.  Lake Montebello, is approximately a 1.2 mile flat loop where dreams in the B-10 and Baltimore Marathon/Half go to die.  I know every B-10 I've done has died on that lake.  But not today, this time I was planning on crushing everyone else's dreams.

I'm also going to momentarily rant at the race organizers.  For a 4500+ person race which we paid a steep price for, it is completely unacceptable that there were cars ON THE COURSE at this point in the race, cars, heading straight for us.  I know races these days are just about making money, but seriously, I can dodge cars for free any weekend.  They will be hearing from me about that one, because honestly, it's just dangerous.

But back to the race...

Mile 4: 5:43

After what was supposedly a slow mile 3, I clearly rebounded well and ended up dropping Keith.  A group of about 2 or 3 others started exchanging positions with me.  One guy with some kind of orange bandana then put a small gap on me.  As we started to come off the back side of the lake, I decided I had enough of looking at that bandana and passed him.

Mile 5: 5:49

I was still feeling strong, but knew crunch time was approaching.  We would be leaving the lake next to roll back on 33rd street, and then climb all the hills we flew down at the beginning.  The next 5 miles would determine the race.  Though at this point, I running better than I ever have at the B-10 and knew I just had to take it a mile at a time.

After a complete BS out and back off 33rd street, I hit the next mile.

Mile 6: 5:43

I wasn't quite yet digging, but the pain was coming.  Off in the distance I could see 4 guys, two of which I knew, "Beef" and Eton.  I had been chasing those two guys basically since mile 3, but could see ever so painstakingly slowly, that the distance between us was shrinking.  With the course looping over itself now, I also got a few shout outs from the Back on my Feet crew, and various Geico Pace Group Leaders.

It was certainly appreciated!  Of course, the guys ahead of me knew I was coming, so there would be no sneaking up on them.

Mile 7: 5:41

I was in complete disbelief that I was still running this strong.  The next couple miles would be the ultimate test, but at this point, I was going to make absolutely sure to hold on.

Time for one more rant.  Once again, for the amount of money I paid, it is completely unacceptable to feel unsure of where to go.  Between mile 7 and 8, besides the confusing cones, there was no course marking, and NO volunteers directing runners.  The freaking Baltimore City Police were telling us where to go, and it is not their job to do such (as we are always told), they are supposed to keep us from getting hit by cars!  Once again, for a race this size, completely unacceptable.  I can get lost near Johns Hopkins for free any day of the week.  But thankfully, beyond all hope, the cops directed us correctly.  The organizers of this race seriously need to consider their priorities when it comes to putting this stuff on.  I've run $2 races with better course marking and control.

But, once again, back to the race...

Over Miles 7 to 8, I finally caught up to that pack of 4.  It took a lot of patience, but I got there.  As soon as I hit the pack, it was beginning to crumble, with a guy in a DC Tri Club jersey pulling away.  I went with him and managed to pull ahead, though I could still hear footsteps for most of the mile.

Mile 8: 5:24

Either this made up for mile 3, or I was actually burning up the pavement, but either way, I was starting to feel it.  I had passed a lot of people and was still running strong, but the gas tank was running low.  I used the downhills over that mile to help me along since Mile 9 would take me back UP into Druid Hill Park.

I had a few things working in my favor for this hill.  First, I finally could no longer hear footsteps behind me.  I had no interest in a sprint to the finish, and hoped I had just decided the race right there.  Second, with the final hill taken out of the race, I only had one left.  Third, the mile 9 water stop was likely to go absolutely crazy when they saw me.  So I dug deep and told myself "just get to the water stop."  As I approached the mile marker, someone shouted to me "you're in 4th!" to which someone else said "no, he's in 3rd!"  I didn't have a damn clue what place I was in, but was quite surprised I was that close to the top.  Regardless, I wasn't giving up my spot if I was second to last at that point.

Mile 9: (nearly at the top): 5:34

As I rounded the curve up the hill, I got a cheer from the official Back on My Feet water stop that I kid you not, was as loud as anything I heard at the Boston Marathon.  My legs were fried at that point, but I knew I had to keep pressing.

We hit the "1 mile to go fudge factor loop" through a desolate area of Druid Hill Park, which I survived, continuing to feel my legs falling apart.  After the loop, I turned back onto the main road for the final run to the finish.

I saw 56 tick away as I crossed the line in 57:00, my fastest B-10 time by far, and a mere 5 seconds slower than my all time PR (also on a hilly course).  I was confirmed as the third place finisher, and actually got some pretty nice hardware for my efforts.

My legs were trashed, I felt tired, but overall, felt really, really happy.  Running has been somewhat rough lately, and this was a perfectly timed confidence booster.  I was also really really happy to have finally done well at the B-10, and even placed overall.  I've done this race every year since it started in 2008, and have come a LONG way from my 1:15:51, and 125th place debut.  If you don't believe me, check the 2008 results.

A couple pictures, first of my approaching that final water stop (courtesy of the hard working Back on my Feet volunteers), and a picture of the sweet trophy I got:

I'm taking the rest of the weekend off after this one.  As far as I'm concerned, I freaking earned it!


  1. That's the longest it's taken you after a race to post your recap! But seriously awesome race - DEFINITELY take the rest of the weekend off. Not only did you earn it, but you'll do yourself much better if you just chill out tomorrow and get back to it next week!

    FYI I bet it was Luke Holman wearing the DC Tri Club shirt. There are few people I know that would wear a tight tri top in a running race.

    1. I know, I had somewhere to be right afterwards, so the post got delayed!

      Looks like it was Luke Holman. I guess he didn't get the memo...

  2. Nice work. Resting up afterward sounds like a good plan-that is resting and basking in your glory! I've not yet raced a 10-miler, but will change that this fall.

    1. Thanks! It's an interesting race distance since you can go just a bit faster than half pace, but it's a fine line because it's still a long way to go.