Race recap: The Windy City may be Chicago’s nickname, but apparently Baltimore wants to challenge that! The logistics at the start line left a bit to be desired as half marathoners had to cross the marathon course, which was already in progress (the half started 75 minutes after the full from a different location). Once we were off and running, the first few miles through the downtown area were quite enjoyable as we passed by local architectural attractions with a number of fans cheering us on. After mile 2 we lost the protection of the large city buildings and were subjected to 25-30mph wind gusts for the remainder of the race! At mile 4 we began a steady incline that would last a bit over 2.5 miles, and by the mile 6 marker my body was feeling like it was closer to mile 11 than 6, but Kristin looked good and helped to keep me positive by high-fiving kids along the course and chatting about our surroundings. Several spectators lined the course around mile 7 dressed as zombies in search of “slow runner brains” – a nice distraction that made us smile. Mile 8 is around the picturesque Lake Montebelo, one of the most scenic parts of the race. Just before mile 10 I tried some road beer (i.e. Dixie cup of beer handed out by a random person in a pink tutu). Even though I managed to get more of the beer on my shoes than in my mouth, it was a nice change of pace from the water and Gatorade. The final 5k was pretty tough for me - I haven’t had that strong of an urge to stop in a race since our last marathon - but Kristin kept me going and I relied on my previous race experiences (I knew I could complete this distance) and we finished strong with the last mile slightly under 8 minute pace.
Highlights: Crossing the halfway mark in our 50in100 journey – 25 states down, 25 states to go! Just before the finish line we ran through Camden Yards (the Baltimore Oriel’s baseball park) and finished right outside of the Baltimore Raven’s stadium – pretty cool to see both stadiums right as we finished.
Tip: Every year The Baltimore Running Company puts on a promotion in connection with the Baltimore Running Festival (sponsored by Under Armour) where they provide every runner with a $15 coupon (print off your initial registration email). Unlike almost every coupon out there this is a no-joke, no strings attached, no minimum, $15 gift card! While their store is a bit outside the city (~10 minute drive) we stopped in and each grabbed a 12-pack of Hammer Gels for $15.60 - $15.00 = $0.60! The staff was very nice and said quite a few runners came in and spent just over $15.00. Great deal!
Day 1 (Friday):
Lunch at world famous Obrycki's seafood. The steamed crab with house prepared "seafood" seasoning was outstanding. Kristin's mid-day lunch of broiled crab with a baked potato and green beans was awesome and definitely the best way to go. De-shelling crabs is a lot of work and there isn't as much meat as you might expect in a crab - so let the pro's do the work! The crab melt (crab cakes on top of English muffins topped with sliced tomato and cheese) was good, but the meaty and fresh flavor of the crab is lost a bit as compared to the straight broiled crab. Excellent crab at this popular spot.
Fort McHenry is a star shaped fort best known for its' role in protecting America from the British Navy in the war of 1812. The battle and sight of "red bombs bursting in air" inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem which was later set to music and eventually became the national anthem of the United States (The Star Spangled Banner). In addition to the massive cannons, many weighing more than 20 tons, the grassy bunkers surrounding the fort are very unique and worth a visit.
The Inner Harbor is an enjoyable place to walk around and see both old (USS Constellation) and new (U-27) battleships. While we didn't board any ships, it was pretty neat to see how war-ships have evolved over hundreds of years as we strolled through the Inner Harbor. My favorite sign along our walk said "No biking, except Monday through Saturday" - apparently "No biking on Sunday" would have put the sign-makers out of work!
The National Aquarium was running a promotion where general admission on Fridays after 5:00pm was only $8 (normally $25) - so we took advantage of the 78% savings and toured the enormous aquarium. The entire facility is designed to amuse and educate, with interactive touchscreen displays to help you identify the types of fish you are looking at. Aside from being a pretty cool aquarium, the layout is fantastic - several of the tanks are 3-4 stories tall, and rather than just walking in circles looking at sharks and fish you are transported by vertical walkways above and around fish. The reconstructed Megladon jaws (a prehistoric shark the size of a city bus) were awesome - I would have been bite size for that massive shark!
Being the night before the race we expected most Italian restaurants to be packed, but to our surprise Little Italy was busy but not over-crowded. La Tavola served up the best veal I have ever had in my life. The portion was huge (easily could have been shared by two) and while none of the meals come with a traditional starch (pasta or potato) our waitress was great and had the chef make a half order of plain pasta on the side. The restaurant was a bit fancier than we first expected, but the food was extremely good and worth a few extra bucks.
A review we read on Urban Spoon said it best - "eat anywhere you like in Little Italy and then go to Vaccaro's Italian Pastries for dessert." Simply put Vaccaro's has the best gelato I've had outside of Italy, the pistachio was amazing and Kristin raved about the chocolate chocolate chip. We also picked up a fresh baked chocolate iced creme-puff, which we put in the hotel refrigerator and thoroughly enjoyed post-race. The walk through the Inner Harbor with gelato and coffee in hand was a true highlight of our visit to Maryland!
Day 2 (Saturday - Race Day):
Post-race we drove to Atlantic City, New Jersey for our first ever attempt at a "Double Dip" half marathon weekend (i.e. a half marathon on Saturday and another half marathon on Sunday)! How did it go? Check it out here: New Jersey.
Maryland Half Marathon Medals
October 15, 2011: Baltimore Half Marathon