#chuck12- my favorite race
Back in 2019 my first “long” race was the Charles Street 12, aka Chuck12. I love the idea of the race starting in Towson, not far from where I used to work, going past the hospital that I delivered the boys, continuing past where I went to law school and ultimately finishing at Under Armour Headquarter in Baltimore City. When I ran this race two years ago it was going to be my longest race to date and I didn’t really know what to expect. But when I toed the line this year, I’ve run a variety of half marathons and a virtual marathon. Plus, there’s nothing like having a real sense of the course. I wasn’t a newbie runner- yet still had that nervous energy as we got started. Even with Chuck 12 being my ultimate favorite race, I almost didn’t go. Last week was crazy- start of school, Jackson’s birthday, big event at work, all on the heels of a long month following my father’s death. But this was a real life racing opportunity, how could I pass it up?
I’m not going to lie, I was super sad and frustrated when racing got “covid cancelled” for much of 2020 and into 2021. I missed the opportunity to have a race setting push me to run my very best and test my training. I ran all the virtual races and it was just not the same. It took seemingly forever for racing to return to Maryland. It wasn’t really until June of 2021 when races started to happen in person. In October of 2020, I “raced” my virtual marathon and then basically had been in maintenance running mode for months, with no real race on the horizon. The June race that I ran was a last minute entry and a really tough course. I was of course happy that I did it- when I was done. Up next was the Frederick Half. This was a race I had deferred from 2020, that was supposed to be in May but was in July. Ugh- Maryland in July is hot and humid. Overall that day proved to be decent weather conditions, but my time was not my best, nor was it my worst. Again, I was so happy that I did it and my husband and sons were there to cheer me to the finish. But really my two racing experiences in 2021 had proven hard and didn’t yield the time results I had been hoping for. So clearly, I knew despite the long week- month- and migraine I was running the Charles Street 12.
One of the interesting parts of Chuck 12 is it starts and finishes at completely different places- as you would imagine that are 12 miles apart. I’m so fortunate that my husband and boys still enjoy coming out to wait for hours to see me cross the finish line. So they headed to the finish and my friend and I drove to the start of the race. Funny side story- I wear glasses 98% of the time. Maybe on 10 occasions during the year do I wear my contacts. But for whatever reason for races I prefer to wear my contacts so I don’t have to worry about my prescription sunglasses. If I drop or lose my sunglasses I would much rather it be a $25 pair than a $500 pair of prescription lenses. However, since I so rarely wear my contacts I make a lot of rookie mistakes with them. The car ride to the race proved to be one such time. My eyes were super itchy so I scratched them without giving it too much thought. Until, all of a sudden I couldn’t see so well out of my right eye. I thought at first that the contact was dry and tried to generate tears. Then it dawned on me…I had rubbed my contact out of my eye!! Panic set it. I didn’t have glasses with me and I certainly didn’t have another contact. I searched my eye- maybe it was hiding up under my lid. No luck. I carefully looked all around me. No luck. Well, it hadn’t disappeared so where on earth did it go?? We got to the start of the race and did some more searching in the car. As a last resort, I got out and thought maybe looking from a different angle I might see it. Still nothing. So I was resigned to running with on contact, and a migraine that I was keeping at bay with Excederin Migraine. Now if that doesn’t sound like prime condition to run a race, I don’t know what does. Then I got back into the car. Folded up like a creased up taco was my contact on the seat of the car. I then proceeded to break all the contact wearing rules in the book. Took the cap off my water bottle, dropped the contact in and poured some water on in- willing the dried up little contact to come back to life. All of this is quite entertaining NOW- at the time. Not so much. Somehow the contact sprung back to life and I got it back in my eye. Yes, I know it was completely unsanitary. But short of spitting on my contact I wasn’t really sure what else to do. I’ve considered every in person race leading up to NYC a trial run and so the lesson was BRING EXTRA CONTACTS!! I may even bring and old pair of glass that I’m willing to part with too. Something to think about for sure.
Well, now that the contact drama is behind us I could begin to focus on the nervousness and the fact that generates the sensation of needing to go to the bathroom. So I made a bee line for the porta potty line. One would think that one visit would be sufficient as I really hadn’t drank that much, however there was the half marathon when I assumed it was jus the nervous sensation that I needed to urinate- when in fact I really did and I lost nearly two minutes running to a bathroom in the Magic Kingdom. As a result, I never take for granted that it’s nerves and go to the bathroom as many times as possible before the race. This should be really interesting when I have to spend nearly 5 hours waiting to start the marathon in November.
Let’s chat about the weather. The week leading up to the race was hot and humid until the remnants of Hurricane Ida came through and cooled things off considerably. That translated to temperatures in the 50s to start the race, but still some humidity. Overall a beautiful weather day to run a great course. This was part of what got me out of bed the morning of the race. How could I pass up such a wonderful weather day?? That and I’m in a marathon training cycle. The week called for 26 miles and I still had 12 to run as I had planned for the race to complete my weekly mileage. I’m a stickler for following the plan. Either way I was going to be running 12 miles so I might as well make it part of the race.
Speaking of training cycles- when I ran the Chuck 12 last time, I trained for it like it was a half marathon. Did the proper tapering, etc so I would have fresh legs to run on. As I just mentioned I’m in the middle of a marathon training cycle. So there was no taper and I had already run 14 miles this week, including speed work earlier in the week. The week after the race has a key run of 10 miles. So I’m considering myself ahead of the game with having the 12 miles done early. There are those who say don’t race during a training cycle as racing taxes your body differently than training runs. There are others who would say that two months before the marathon having a race like experience isn’t detrimental. I knew I had two options when I showed up on race morning- treat it like a training run and take it easy or run it like a race. Training my mind to have easy runs was a work in progress for a long time, so it’s definitely not at the place that I could have treated this just like a training run…it was a RACE!
Whereas my goals in 2019 were to finish races, I have more specific time goals now. Most of the time they are conservative. Sometimes, like for Frederick because of the heat and humidity I knew I needed to bring my time goal down to a safe number to not over tax my body. In the end I met that goal, but overall didn’t feel solid during the course of the race. When it came time to plan for Chuck 12, I couldn’t quite figure out what I thought my time could be. In 2019 my time was 1:52:28. At the time, that was 5 minutes faster than what I had anticipated would be my finish time. I was beyond shocked when I finished that quickly, as was my family who weren’t expecting me for another 5 minutes or so. Based upon my utter exhaustion and not tapering I was considering 1:48 a solid finish time for 2021. That would be more than 4 minutes better than last time and seemed like a realistic goal. But my reach goal was 1:42. Now that is a broad range! Six minutes faster would mean shaving 30 seconds or so off per mile from my 1:48 goal. That’s a lot of time. That said, 8:30 a mile isn’t too far off what I was doing when I hit my stride before Covid shut everything down. I’ve never run with a pace group during a race, but I’m intrigued by the idea. There were pacers at the race which got my mind thinking. I lined up with the 1:40 pace group. Yes, I know this is even faster than my reach goal, so I needed to have my head examined. But they looked like a fun bunch. I knew I couldn’t really hang with them, but went out with them for the first mile and then settled into my pace. I continual remind myself that I need to run my own race and pace. But here’s what I figured, I would maintain my own pace that felt comfortable, as comfortable as a pace can feel at race pace and try to avoid getting passed by the 1:45 pace group. If however, the 1:45 pace group came up on me I would run with them and still beat my 1:48 initial goal.
After learning to race and take water when it was offered, Covid had me wearing water to train and race. Each is a mental mind shift. Truth be told, I don’t love carrying my own water, but there’s something to be said to be able to drink whenever you would like. It also allows me to have a nutrition pouch whenever it’s convenient because I need some water to wash it down. All this to say, when push came to shove I opted not to carry my own water. It felt good to be traveling light!!
While the course is advertised as down hill, the first six miles or so have a series of hills. I play mind games as I tick off the miles during a race. At first it’s to get under 10 miles. Then I start adding my mileage. Usually once I get to four miles I’m in a solid rhythm and feeling pretty good. So for this race my mental mind games were to get to 6 and I would be halfway done. Then focus on getting to 8- then 10- then at 11 which is when I call to say I’m a mile out and boom I’m done. It’s really not quite that simple, but that’s literally how my mind was working Saturday. At the end of the day- it’s all about what works for you. This is what works for me! This was the first race in a long time that I wasn’t questioning my sanity. I felt solid pretty much the whole time. That is not to say that I wasn’t extremely happy to see the finish line because I was in fact very happy to finish. But the best part of the finish was that it wasn’t super crowded and I had a great view of the boys with their signs. I was waving and smiling to finish up 12 miles. Who would have ever thought?? There is truly something to be said to having family support at the finish line. Sometimes it’s what gets me there and times like Saturday it’s fun to celebrate together!
Because I’m all about the numbers- how did things shake out?? I averaged 8:35 a mile for 12 miles. Not too shabby. There were 953 participants. I finished 247. So not quite the top 25% but not too far off. There were 479 women who ran. I finished 74th. (PS my 8 year old had counted all the women who finished before me and was able to tell me within one of what number woman I was to finish). In my new masters age category of 40-49 there were 152 women. I finished 17th. So, all in all a solid showing, a good race overall and I can’t wait to do it again next year!! The Charles 12 will always hold a special place in my heart.