Many months ago I had signed up for the San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon getting a good deal as a early registrant and a returning runner thinking that this would be my "A" race for the year. Of course life's events changed and now the race was merely a long training run coming out of recovery from the Longhorn 70.3 and looking forward to the Goofy Challenge 8 weeks later. I was feeling good a week before, but a solid long run the previous weekend let me know I wasn't quite recovered, and left me with a sore left ankle and right knee, which I nursed back to feeling mostly better by race day.
I was up early, about 3:45, to get ready, kissed my wife (Darcy) as I left the hotel and headed over the shuttle buses. I was on the first bus out of downtown to the starting area. Apparently, buses were dropping off in 2 areas, and I got dropped off about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile form the starting area. Being in place more than 2 hours before the start I checked out what was where and found a nice spot to rest and listen to my iPod for a good while. Around 7:00 I checked in my gear bag and visited the porta-potties (having learned last year to stay away from the ones near the main area and walk up around the actual starting line where most people did not go, plus then I could wait for the corrals to move forward and hop into mine).
It took about 30 minutes for me to actually start (corral 15) after the race began. My biggest complaint is that the corral structure was not really enforced and there were many with corral numbers well behind me that had started way up front that clogged the roads early. If I was going for a half-marathon PR, this would have been frustrating as I think it would have cost me 5 to 10 minutes plus extra energy to get around these guys. True to the advertising there was lots of music and cheering squads along the way for motivation, and the people of San Antonio turned out to help. My favorite was a sign board posted at a school early in the race proclaiming that there were only 23.8 miles left to go! When we ran through downtown the streets were absolutley mob with people cheering and I saw Darcy right at mile 8, which gave me a big mental boost.
Around mile 9 I decided I was going to stay with the marathon course at the split point. I don't know if it is true of other Rock n Roll races, but since I was registerd for the full I could have just run the half marathon course and the timing system would have recorded me as a half marathon runner. Although I was cruising along nicely, I dropped back my pacing because I knew I had a long run ahead and my heart rate was already running a little bit high for me. I did a 4/1 run/walk early (and could have run that into a half marathon PR if I had chosen), but I went back to 3/1, then 2.5/1, then 2/1, and finally 1/1 as the race went on and my heart rate recovered less during the walk breaks. In the end I wanted to make sure that I didn't hurt myself with this race and affect my coming events in December and January. As it turns out I still think I was doing pretty well for me, as my times at 25K and 30K would have been easy PR's at those distances. Even with all my slowing down, it seemed that I still passed far more than passed me along the last 10 miles or so.
I finished in 6:11:38, not exactly a stellar time, but I'll take it for what this event was for me: my first full marathon (although I have run the 50K distance previously) and training for the January Goofy Challenge (where I'll run the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday). As a whole, I really enjoyed the experience and would consider doing this one again.