Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rock n Roll San Antonio Half Marathon

What an awesome weekend! The family and I packed up Friday afternoon and headed on our four hour road trip to San Antonio. Our Hotel was in town across from the Alamo and only two miles from the race start and one mile from the finish.
My goal for this race had evolved from my intent behind initial registration. I wanted to race San Antonio because I thought it was important to have completed a Half Marathon race prior to the Houston Half Marathon next year where I will be racing against the clock. I wanted to check out the logistics behind running a marathon event – from shuttles, pre-race admin and bag check-in, packet pickup, on-course water stations, post-race recovery … and the list goes on. Also, I wanted to make sure that I could complete the distance and identify that time in the run where I will need to dig deep to fight the mental madness brain games. My time goal for the race was initially set at 2hr15min, but as the training leading up to this event was progressing very well I thought that I could run an easy 2hr05min.

Race morning didn't start out all that well for me with minimal sleep and stomach (gastro) problems. I got up super early and waited in the lobby of the hotel for the marathon breakfast and for some other competitors to walk across to the shuttle bus with. I would have loved to have had a coffee and a bagel, but my stomach couldn't handle much so I stuck with plain water. The weather at 4.30am was warm enough to be outside in shorts and a tank shirt – a sign that it was going to be a warm day! The sun hadn't even surfaced and it was hot and humid. At least this had solved my issue of what to wear or how to dress for the event had it been in the 30's or 40's. As it was by 7.30 am it was around 66F with 97% humidity! The humidity stayed constant for the duration of the race, and the temperature rose to a sticky 79F!
Three hours, numerous visits to the port-a-loo, two bottles of water and half a bottle of cytomax later it was time to line up in the race corrals. Mine was Corral 12, kicking off 20 minutes after the initial gun. I debated long and hard whether to GU pre-race as I didn't want to tempt fate or my stomach. I decided that I would tempt fate mainly because I hadn't eaten anything all morning. So, 15 minutes prior to Corral 12's actual start I slowly and carefully consumed a Vanilla GU.

The gun rang out and I ran, and ran, and ran. I know I might have started out a bit fast – it is a bad habit of mine. I think I do it to find my place and then settle at a pace. The first mile and a half was HOT and I noted the sweat dripping down my face. After my breathing settled down and I fell into a rough 9.10 pace I felt like I was cruising. The crowds were amazing. What disappointed me was some of the bands were not playing when I ran past, I had hoped to be entertained throughout the run and to hear a constant stream of music. This was not the case. Also by Mile 5 the water points became a war zone. Regardless whether you wanted to stop (or slow) for water you were sucked into the vortex and became a casualty of the stampede. At one water point I noted that it took me 1min20sec to break free – this was even though I kept to the centre of the road. At another water point I was pushed by a lady wanting to get in and out quicker than etiquette was allowing. This shocked me as it wasn't accidental.

Mile 6 came and went and I was on top of the world. A nice 9.10 pace for that mile and I strongly felt that it was not too fast nor too slow. Then the race took a turn for the worse as some of the areas went from four lanes of road running down to a tight one. Crowds piled over the sidewalks making it hard to run the outer edge of the road to pass the slowing competitors. At one turn there were barricades and police holding back the crowds, but it was still only a single lane and all of the runners were forced to run the pace of the slowest man as it was both impossible and dangerous to pass or build up any speed. After the first time this occured I found motivation and happiness in spying the Australian flag waving proudly from the sidelines. I put out the call "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!" and was answered "Oi! Oi! Oi!" No such luck for future bottlenecks and the meddlesome mind games started to kick in, telling me I was tired and that my foot was hurting and that this is stupid because there are too many people on the road.

The sun came out and made it even hotter. Mile 10 was a struggle to keep focused. By this point I had moved above my race pace. I consoled myself saying that this was OK, I could still bring it home. I could still finish the last few miles at a 9.20 pace. I still had the legs to run that or faster. But, I didn't. I couldn't. And at 12.8 miles I walked. Who puts a hill as the finish line, seriously? I had picked up pace for that final mile and was happy that I would finish under 2hr10mins and fairly close to the 2hr5min mark until I saw it… felt it. Against all the encouragement from the finish line spectators I walked until the 13 mile marker at the top of the hill and then ran to the finish line. The heat, the legs, the head – they couldn't sustain that pace up the hill and everything just switched off. It may have only been a slight rise or it could have been a steep incline – at that point it might as well have been Mt Everest. My mind consoled me that I had achieved everything I needed to out of this race, why endure further pain. The body reluctantly listened and agreed.

2.08.25!! I pressed the wrong button here on my watch. Adjusted chip time sent through to me was 2.07.56

My hat is off to all the volunteers who made this event possible. All that I encountered were very helpful My hat is off to all the volunteers who made this event possible. All that I encountered were very helpful and cheerful!! Also a big thanks to my family who made the road trip to San Antonio with me and hung out at Mile 12 to cheer me on!! Overall I had a great weekend and am happy with my run! I may not have achieved running a 2hr05min but I came in strong under the 2hr15min mark which was my initial goal! For me now it is to take away the lessons learnt from the race and continue with my training (speed work this week – no rest for the wicked). Houston – I am ready!

Question for readers and marathon veterans – is the water point war zone a common occurrence during marathon events?


Anonymous said...

Kirsten, CONGRATULATIONS on your half! An awesome time, amazing pace... Sorry I didn't get to tell you this sooner :)

I am so shocked by the lady who pushed you. So disappointed. It's not that serious, lady!

I've only done the one half marathon (2:16), and there was some congestion with water stops, but nothing that took even close to a minute. I'm doing my next half in a month, and there's both a half and a full, which means lots of traffic. I wonder if it will be worse.

Anonymous said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.


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