Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Race Report - My First Half Marathon

I'm back from a fantastic weekend in San Antonio TX where I ran the inaugural San Antonio Rock N Roll Half Marathon. It was a first for San Antonio and a first for me. Overall it was a well organized, and very fun event. Kudos to the folks who pull these things together, it can't be easy getting 30,000 people to all run the same course at the same time.

Pre-Race: It was cold, and I mean really cold by Texas standards, on Sunday AM. I never did check the official temp, but it was for sure in the 30's. Being a Minnesota girl, and having maintained my thick blood I wasn't sad about the cold. In fact I love running in the cold, so this wasn't a problem for me the way it was for many and I was thankful for that.

We rose bright and early to catch the shuttle at 6 AM, despite the line, which I expected, the whole shuttle thing went smooth. As did the other pre-race activities of checking our extra gear, and waiting in the porta-potty lines. So despite the fact that it was a little on the chilly side I was able to start my race relaxed. You can't ask for more than that. Perfect!

The Run: My plan had been to join the 2:30 hour pace group for the half marathon, but at packet pick-up I learned that the pacer would be starting two corrals ahead of me, giving her a minute and a half head start. I hoped to catch her, knowing I could run a much more relaxed race if I had someone else worry about how fast I was going. I didn't want to go out too fast with the excitement, but I didn't want to psyche myself out and hold back either.

By mile one I had caught up to the 5:00 hour full marathon pace group, but still had not seen the half marathon group. I figured it's all the same when you do the math so I fell in with the 5:00 group and decided to hang with them until I either found the half group or until our course split, at which point I would only have 2.5 miles to go.

The pace leader was great! She ran us at a consistent pace to within just a few seconds per mile and we were running ahead just a touch. We caught the half marathon pace group at around mile 4 or 5, she was running a few minutes behind pace and honestly she really looked like she was struggling. Needless to say, when the 5:00 group passed her I went with them and stayed with them until the half marathon course split.

When the split did come I was feeling amazingly good. Nothing hurt and I could breathe. Breathing is key. I was amazed at how quickly the miles had gone by - I had not once got inside my own head and felt daunted by the distance. And I was still relaxed and even more importantly I was still having fun.

At the split the pace leaders parting advice to me was this "I want you to spend the next 2 miles looking at the backs in front of you and picking ones to pass. Just keep passing them one by one". I thanked her for a great race and went my way. I was even able to follow her advice and finish strong.

At mile 8 I was cheered on by my friends who had traveled down to cheer us on. They tried but missed me at mile 2 and again at the finish line, but we saw each other at mile 8. It's a great boost to see your peeps out on the course. I feel grateful to have such good friends.

All in all the course was fantastic. It was flat, and fast, and fairly scenic. There were tons of supporters all along the course. And the bands every mile or so were a great little boost.

I finished my race just under my 2:30 hour goal - 2:28:55 was the official time. More importantly I had a great time, and I left feeling really good. I have to shout out to my Sweetie who also ran. It was also his first and he ran it in an amazing 1:52:13, which in my book qualifies as WAY under his goal of 2:00.

Post Race: Post race was the only time I stopped having fun for a minute. The organizers had just not made the proper plans for dealing with the mass of runners that were going to be coming in around the same time. After crossing the finish line we all came to an abrupt stop and bottle necked trying to get into the post race secured area. Stopping is not good after a run like that and my calves immediately started to cramp. I had to fight my way through the crowds and the mayhem, and was barely able to grab any of the post race food. I managed to grab a couple of snacks and some water and found a little piece of open space between the medical tent and the information tent where I could stop and stretch and re-fuel. It took a long time to get there though and by the time I did I was pretty cranky. So I hung there for a while before meeting my Sweetie and my friends at the designated spot. No sense showing up crabby after an otherwise great race, it may have given them the wrong impression.

After we reunited we headed out to walk the 1.5 miles back to our hotel. That's when the funniest thing happened... We're walking along, we've got our finishers medals on, and we're still wearing the clothes we ran in, it was clear we had just finished this thing. So I spot another obviously just finished runner, and someone who was probably her mother, and they had a whole box of snacks. Because I hadn't been able to grab enough stuff, and hadn't grabbed any sort of electrolyte replacement or salt, I was like flies to crap on their multiple bags of pretzels. I walked right up and said "ooh, may I?" and the Mother says "No, they're hers", and I say "I really need some salt" and the Mother handed me a single pretzel, and the obviously just finished Runner scowled at Mother and gave me a bag of pretzels. I thanked her. We walked on. And my friend Kathy said in disbelief "did she just really give you one pretzel?" And I said "yep, that's going make my blog." We laughed. Maybe you had to be there...

After the walk back to the hotel we celebrated with a couple of cool showers, followed by a giant lunch of Mexican food and a couple of vodka tonics, followed by a well deserved 2 hour nap. We couldn't have asked for a better first marathon experience or a better weekend.

We felt so good about the whole thing we've decided to continue our training and signed up to run the 3M Half Marathon in January here in Austin. I'm actually looking forward to another 13.1 miles. And I never imagined I'd hear myself say that.


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