Sunday, October 13, 2013

Running in Charm City - Baltimore

Next up on my race calendar is The Baltimore Running Festival.  I considered driving to get there but talked myself out of it and bought an airplane ticket instead.  Fewer days away from home and fewer miles put on the SUV odometer is a desirable thing. 

So Thursday morning I was headed to the airport by 5:15 AM for a 7:30 AM flight.  This being the start of a long holiday weekend I expected long lines at the TSA checkpoint, but this is really ridiculous.  I had a long line for my last flight (to Pittsburgh) as well.  Good thing I got an early start, because by the time I got to the gate, I had less than 30 minutes to spare.  Note to self:  consider getting TSA pre-check clearance.

Anyway, the flight departed on-time, I had a good breakfast in first-class, and we arrived a little early.  I had a pre-paid reservation on the airport shuttle and the van swooped up to the curb just minutes after I arrived and whisked me on my way to my hotel in downtown Baltimore.  It all went like clockwork!

The weather in Baltimore had changed radically since I'd checked it earlier in the week.  I had to do some last minute repacking as a result.  Warmer temps and sunshine had given way to nor'easter winds and rain, as the remnants of Tropical Storm Karen swept up the east coast.  It was raining pretty heavily when I arrived at the hotel.

Thoughts of getting out to do some sightseeing that afternoon were pretty much dashed, but I did walk a few blocks up the street to the historic Lexington Market for a late lunch and to buy some fresh fruit to have in the room.  It was a pretty neat food market, very reminiscent of other indoor food markets I've visited in other old historic cities such as Boston or London.  I browsed the stalls a bit before picking up a hand of bananas and then some fried chicken for lunch.  Standing at one of the stand-up tables nearby, I ate my chicken while watching the foot traffic come and go.

My view from the stand-up eating area.

Beautiful fresh produce

Meats, sausage, cheeses

Huge selection of fresh fish

Logo shirt and fridge magnet
Then it was back out into the rain for the walk back toward the hotel and on to the convention center to pick up my race packet.  It was a good-sized fitness expo with lots of race logo-wear and other goodies.  Even though we get an event race shirt as part of our registrations, I just can't resist buying more race-related logo-wear as souvenirs.  I looked for a nice fleece - a favorite item for me - but didn't care for the only two colors available in women's sizes: bright pink or bright lavender.  I passed them by in favor of a nice UnderArmour long-sleeve shirt with a subtle race logo on the back and also a refrigerator magnet.  I've accumulated quite a nice collection of these.  They're small and easy to pack!  . 

Friday was equally as dreary and rainy in Baltimore...not much opportunity to do some sightseeing, so I stayed close to the hotel.  I really wanted to walk down to the harbor area but that just wasn't going to happen.  Fortunately I've been to Baltimore on business trips and have seen the harbor area already. 


Saturday morning - race day!!  Baltimore marathon/half marathon event has a different race start than others I've participated in.  The marathon will start at 8:00 AM, and the half marathon at 9:45 AM.  Odd, but I can certainly understand their objectives in doing this.  It will bring the finishers across the finish line within a much smaller time-window.   Another part of this odd format is that the full marathon route joins up with the half marathon at mile 16 (for full marathoners) and mile 3 for half marathoners.  We all run the last 10 miles together to the finish line. 

somewhere around mile 8, just finishing the lake loop

The weather cooperated very nicely on race day morning.  Originally forecasted to rain, the wet stuff held off all morning:

Race day morning forecast

The support along the route was fantastic!  Better than many races I've participated in.  The route took us east and then north and we traversed through a number of different sections of the city giving us a sense of the variety this city has to offer.  It was a very pleasant route with good variety.  Miles and miles of Baltimore row-house neighborhoods and plenty of folks, families, kids outside and cheering us on!  The best was the lady on her front porch drumming away on a child's drum kit and sounded pretty darned good, too!

Race route - data from my Garmin watch

As we headed back south toward downtown and the finish line, a deejay was playing the song, "Good Morning, Baltimore!" from the musical, Hairspray, which was absolutely perfect!  I got goose-bumps running up my back and across my scalp when I heard it!  It was just so cool!

Crossing the finish line

Finisher's Medal
The last couple of miles were pretty much a slight downhill into town, which made it very easy to keep on running right to the finish line!  Good race and a good finish time for me. 

The race organizers changed up the finish line from past years - I wouldn't know what it was like, having never run this race before, but I was far from alone in my negative feedback, based on comments on their Facebook page.  They elongated the finish chute on the far side of the finish line, apparently to help with congestion, but most of us felt it was too long, too spread out, not enough volunteers and very disorganized because of all that space.  But the good news is that I finished, had a good time, and it didn't start to rain until right after I crossed the finish line and grabbed my space blanket to keep me warm and (mostly) dry. 


Friends Deb and Suz picked me up at the hotel a couple of hours later and took me to a local diner called The Sip & Bite.  It was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives in April, 2012, and the crab cakes and spinach pie got the nod from Guy Fieri. 

So of course I had what their menu called the "DDD Special."  A crab cake, slice of spinach pie, and two sides.  OMG, so yummy!  The crabcake was huge, lightly pan-fried with huge chunks of crab and just a tiny bit of filler, only enough to hold it all together.  The spinach pie had a wonderful flavor, with a light flaky filo layer on top.  Perfect washed down with a mug of light beer! 

So then we see the waitress deliver a dessert to the folks in the next booth.  Should we?  Absolutely!  The three of us split an enormous slice of baklava cheese cake.  We were groaning by the time we polished it off!

Just as we were finished up, friends Brian and Donna showed up.  Deb and Suz needed to get home so I stayed with Brian and Donna chatting with them while they ordered and then ate their dinners.  They drove me back to the hotel, but not before giving me a wonderful driving tour of some of the beautiful and historic neighborhoods near the harbor, including historic harbor areas like Canton with the beautifully restored rowhouses and O'Donnell Square, and  Fells Point with its cobblestone streets and wonderfully repurposed warehouses and buildings.

Later that evening, back at the lobby bar, I struck up a conversation with a couple of ladies who were in town to attend a Nerium convention.  Over the last few days I'd had brief elevator chats with several women in town for this meeting,.  It's a skin care product, sold through a pyramid marketing structure.  Some ladies were more aggressive than others in making sure I knew about their company, their product, and their recruitment.  Not for me, but interesting how avid these women seemed to be about this product.

State #28 is now added to my 50 States map:

The next few days will be spent in Ocean City, MD...

View from balcony

...and then I'll move north to Dover to run the Monster Mash Marathon/Half Marathon with friend Alan who will be coming in from Indiana.


1 comment:

  1. So glad the rain held off for you. You needed that bit of luck after the long lines through security.

    Congrats on finishing one more half marathon.