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Baltimore Marathon 2015 Race Report

You’ve no doubt noticed a “busy” trend with the past few posts, and the active extravaganza that was October continued with the Baltimore Marathon on October 17th. I’m still in the honeymoon phase of our move to the east coast, so having such easy access to so many large metropolitan areas and so many new races is a thrilling novelty. Thus, when the opportunity presented itself to run the Baltimore Marathon, and I realized it was an easy 90 minute drive, I obviously jumped at it.

Stefan was able to reserve an inexpensive hotel room in Baltimore, and I drove down on Friday night after work to meet him and a bigger group of folks from D.C. for a fun morning of running and exploring the city. It was a whirlwind of a trip, and I was gone less than 24 hours, but it still ended up being quite satisfying and I had no regrets! Stefan was able to pick up my packet earlier in the day, along with his own, so we simply relaxed for a bit in the hotel room, got everything ready for the race the next morning, and caught some zzz’s.

The 8AM start time, coupled with our close proximity to the start, meant we didn’t have to leave all that early from the hotel. We ran into some minor traffic, but made our way around and found a relatively close parking space with plenty of time. Everyone else was running the relay, so Stefan and I made our way to the start (he was running the first leg) while the others made their way to their respective checkpoints. I had no expectations for this race, aside from enjoying the course and finishing, and I figured I’d simply run by feel when I got there.

I might look a tad bit more pained :)

I might look a tad bit more pained 🙂

It was a beautiful morning for a race, with temps in the low 40’s, a little breeze, and the sun shining. We made our way a bit closer to the front and ended up around the 7:30 pace mark, which seemed rather fast to me, but it would at least mean we wouldn’t have to bob and weave through as many people to hit our stride. I decided I would simply hit the pace hard from the beginning and see how long I could hang on. I hadn’t raced a marathon since moving to the east coast, and I was curious to see what all of the hill work over the summer had done for my pace and endurance.

The first few miles definitely went by like a blur, but I was feeling good, and Stefan was pushing me enough that I didn’t notice the pace as much. I had my simple hydration bottle with me, filled with Tailwind, so I could avoid most of the water stops and keep pushing through, and that proved to be quite advantageous. My splits for the first 6 miles were pretty consistent and in the 7:35/mile range, which I knew was too fast, but I had already made my mind up to try and push myself. I will say that I “tried” early on to pull the pace back a bit, and both Stefan and I said we needed to do so, but the collective adrenaline meant we never actually slowed down much!

The hills were weighing on my legs!

The hills were weighing on my legs!

At the first exchange point for the relay, Stefan decided to keep running and simply run the marathon (he had really been planning it all along), so he passed the chip off and continued on with me. We made our way through the Baltimore Zoo and were greeted by several birds of prey and a penguin (with handlers), which made for a welcomed distraction from the pace, not to mention a nice touch for the route itself. Despite our continued attempts to slow down, we still managed a 7:07 9th mile, and I knew I was probably on borrowed time before my body forced me to slow down regardless.

I continued to push and hit the half marathon mark just short of PR time, which was encouraging. However, it was about this time when I realized just how hilly this course really was, and I started to think more about the unrelenting rolling hills. We made our way through Under Armor Headquarters (Baltimore Running Festival sponsor) and continued on past the half-way mark. My pace was holding, even if I was feeling the effects a bit more. Around mile 15, I began to pull away from Stefan a bit but knew I only had one pace in me so I kept moving, and he happily pulled back a bit. I made it through 20 miles before my body left me no choice but to slow down a bit.

My mile splits dropped down to the 8:05 range, but I was still feeling good, and content to continue pushing and tackling the hills. The last 10K was definitely a challenge, and the hills never really quit, but I could taste the PR at that point, and I wanted to know if I really had it in me. The final push past Camden Yards, greeted by a sizable crowd, was considerably energizing and made the stretch to the finish line tolerable and invigorating. It had been a while since I had really left everything out on the course, and it felt great to have truly pushed my body to the limit.

We were all smiles at the end :)

We were all smiles at the end 🙂

The bottle of water I downed once I crossed the finish line tasted extra-delicious, and the mylar blanket was especially warming. The medal around my neck even felt a bit more hard-earned. Ultimately though, the 3:23:40 was my reward, and a PR I once thought well out of reach was now in my possession. I collected some food in the finish area, made the mistake of trying a Gatorade protein shake (awful!!), and waited a bit until I found Stefan and the others. We hung out for a bit in the finish zone, and ultimately decided to make our way back to the cars and go find some lunch.

B-More 1

Unfortunately, I got stuck in traffic on the way to lunch, so I never made it and decided to just head home. However, despite it being a whirlwind race experience, I couldn’t have been happier with the end result. The Baltimore Running Festival was well-organized, the aid station volunteers were friendly, and the organizers seemed to have a great handle on the race experience as a whole. Even though I had already crossed Maryland off my 50 States list back in August, it still left a smile of accomplishment on my face as I made the brief journey home to enjoy the rest of the beautiful weekend with the epicurean! #chasing42 #chasing42reports #tailwindnutrition

 

Tailwind Nutrition Review

For most of the summer, I’ve been using Tailwind nutrition as my go-to nutrition source during most runs over 10 miles, and I thought I’d share some thoughts. Tailwind kept popping up on various ultrarunning blogs and websites that I follow, and I’m always on the lookout for the most efficient nutrition solution for what I can only describe as a finicky stomach. I’ve mentioned before that I have given up on all sports drinks, and most GUs and Gels don’t sit well in my stomach either. The sugar just seems to be too much for me, and I always end up with a few unplanned pit stops. So, I was excited by the idea of an all-in-one nutrition product that I could dissolve in water and drink throughout my entire run.

tn-logofinal

I typically carry some sort of portable hydration solution, whether it be the incredibly comfortable and economical Simple Hydration Bottle (love this bottle!)  that frees up my hands during shorter, faster runs, or my Salomon pack, which sustains me for most of my long-distance training. Tailwind offers a pretty exciting product that has the potential to eliminate the need to carry around additional GUs, chomps, bars, and electrolyte pills or tabs. Since I’m already carrying water, this seems like a no brainer…on paper. However, did Tailwind come through and lighten my load without lightening my stomach?

It has absolutely come through! I’ve been nothing but impressed with this product. It truly does offer the complete calorie + electrolyte + hydration solution. The taste, portability, ease of mixing, and easily digestible nature make this product my new go-to nutrition solution for training runs and races.

My order even came personalized with a hand-written thank you note!

My order even came personalized with a hand-written thank you note!

Taste: I ordered the berry flavor, as this is usually my first choice with any new product. I was initially skeptical after tasting so many different artificial berry-flavored sports drinks and flavored waters. However, the berry flavor was light, smooth, and refreshing. It was not overpowering, and it mixed with the water so completely that I would have never guessed it had been a powder. They recommend approximately 1 scoop per 12 oz. of water, but I’ve added even more for some added calories and it still mixed cleanly like a champ! They sent me a small package of the lemon flavor as a thank you for my first order, and I had the exact same reaction. I usually hate lemon and lemon-lime flavored drinks (why is it ALWAYS lemon lime at aid stations?!), but the Tailwind lemon was just as smooth, light, and refreshing. I’m looking forward to tasting the mandarin orange as well.

Portability: I’ve been able to carry it around with me in several different formats. When I want to pack extra on self-supported runs, I simply portion it out into ziplock bags and carry them in my Ultraspire Quantum waist belt. It’s really easy to empty the powder into my empty water bottle and fill it up at a water fountain around town. I’ve also simply brought along the entire bag and left it in my car so I can circle back at various points, very much like you would do with a drop bag during a race. I plan to drop empty water bottles with the Tailwind already in them as well, which should make for a quick transition. Tailwind even sells individual pouches for ultimate portability!

Ease of Mixing: What can I say? It takes minimal effort and dissolves quickly and completely. You’ll never have a gritty aftertaste or see it settle at the bottom of your bottle. Cleaning your bottle out is as simple as if you were only using water.

Digestion: This was the biggest test for me. How would it sit in my stomach? My sugar intake overall is now so low that I can barely stomach the taste of sports drinks because they are so sweet. Tailwind has such a light taste that it’s more like drinking water with a hint of berry to make things interesting in your mouth. I’ve used it exclusively for up to 6 hours thus far, and am happy to report that I have not once had any GI issues! I feel full, hydrated, and energized, and my calorie consumption seems to be more consistent as well. It’s easy to forget to eat at times, but you are always drinking.

nutrition information

nutrition information

Of note is the decision by Tailwind not to include protein in their mix. They reviewed quite a bit of research, and determined that most of it indicates no benefit to a carb + protein mix, and that furthermore, protein can hinder the absorption of carbohydrates, as well as being hard to digest. They now offer a version with caffeine, which I haven’t tried yet but will probably give a chance as well. The cost per serving comes out to be less than you would spend on other solid nutritional products as well, so you will end up saving money in the long run, which is always nice! Tailwind is also naturally Gluten Free, which makes the epicurean happy. Overall, I’ve been completely won over but how well Tailwind works for me. I’ll be putting it to the ultimate test during the Mark Twain 100 in a few weeks as well, so stay tuned. We’ll see if it’s still keeping my hunger at bay after 16 hours on the trail 🙂

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