Sunday, November 16, 2008

On a (Rock 'n') Roll in San Antonio

Well this morning I ran the inaugural San Antonio Rock'n'Roll marathon. I didn't do any of my usual marathon preparation because it was supposed to be a training run. I did not taper, did not carb load, and ran a fast (for me) 10 miler with my group the day before. I must admit, I was kinda curious as to how that would affect my run.

Something came up at the last moment and Nancy and Gavin could not make the trip, so yesterday I drove down to San Antonio by myself. My old Ford Explorer has a tape player in it, and I found some classic "Status Quo" tapes which had me singing along all the way to San Antonio. I felt so relaxed and happy by the time I got to the hotel, it was a very good omen.

As soon as I checked in, I headed over to the expo to pick up my packet. Oh man, it was packed. And what really annoyed me was that they were selling "finisher's shirts" there. Now call me old fashioned, but I think that's something you should have to earn. I mean, you haven't even run the race yet. I quickly got out of there.

Had a nice supper at the Spaghetti Warehouse (I got to eat in the "tram car") and headed back to the hotel. I missed having my family with me, but it did give me the chance to sit quietly and meditate for about half an hour before I turned in for the night. And I slept so well.

The cold front that came through Austin on Friday (with all the high winds) hit San Antonio on Saturday, but this morning dawned cold and still - perfect running weather. And after feeling slightly crook all week I woke up feeling great. Things were starting to fall into place - I began to get the idea that this was going to be a good day.

Since there were so many people running this race, they had divided us up into corrals - around 30 of them, each holding about 1000 people. You were assigned to a corral based on your estimated finishing time and they were each released a minute apart. I had estimated 3:45 when I signed up back in February so I was assigned to corral 5 with the 3:45 pacers. It was a great way to stagger the start, but I'm pretty sure many of the folks lied about their abilities - I passed quite a few walkers in the first mile.

Still, this was supposed to be a training run. I'd been telling myself that all week, and I believed it - right until I crossed that start line. Then I set off like the hounds of hell were after me to chase down the 3:40 pacers. I caught up to them at about mile 2 and ran with them for a few miles. They were a lot of fun, but I decided I wanted to run my own race and hit the gas. I figured that as I was obviously unable to hold myself back, I was just going to go with it and see how long I could go before I bonked (I love to experiment like this).

About mile 11 I spotted a spectator waving a large Welsh flag. I yelled over a few sentences in Welsh as I ran past, which I think startled him :-)

About mile 20 I realized an odd thing. I wasn't going to bonk - in fact I felt great and really fresh. I had hit a really good rhythm and was motoring along with very little effort. I guess this was the training run I was looking for after all. I'd been singing along to the live bands all day, and slowing down to dance/run when approaching ones who were playing songs I liked (I know, a big dork, but it was fun). By mile 20, I realized a lot of my fellow runners were really struggling, so I stopped dancing (though I kept on singing along) and instead got out my fishing rod and starting reeling people in. I passed a lot of folks who were really slowing down and a bunch of people who were cramping. About mile 24 I started to kick for home. A mile later I blew past a good buddy of mine - Ed - who is a much faster runner than me. I checked to see that he was OK before carrying on. I have never ever beaten Ed before (usually he's out of sight), but I was in the groove, cruising and still had a few extra gears if I needed them. Right at mile 26, we took a right turn and there was a big hill that ran for the last 0.2 miles. I didn't feel as if I'd even run a marathon and kicked hard to power up the thing, passing another 6 or 7 weary looking people on the way. I crossed the finish line feeling as if I'd run an easy 5k. But I hadn't - I'd run a marathon in 3:36:59 (8:17 pace) - a PR by over 12 minutes, which was very nice. I was even more pleased with my splits which were very even.

It was one of those perfect days when running is easy - my best (and easiest) marathon by a long shot. I was not sore at all - no post-run Frankenstein walk for me today. I just gathered up some refreshments and jogged back to the hotel to drive back to Austin and get to work. No aftermath whatsoever - I wasn't even stiff getting out of the car. I can only put it down to the back-to-back long runs I've been doing for the past few months. I guess when you run a marathon virtually every weekend, it gets easier after a while.

Things I learnt from this race: it was a day where I was very much in the groove, but I also helped that along by planning out the race and being smart (for a change). I was much better on nutrition - took some gels every 5 miles and religiously alternated water and sports drink at the water stops. I was very relaxed throughout the race and tended to zone out for miles at a time. I also enjoyed the scenery - the packed downtown section was nice, but I liked the more serene tour around the missions.

I also learned something I already knew - I am competitive. I may pay lip service to taking it easy, but in my heart of hearts I know that when it comes down to it, I'm gonna go.


Derek said...

Nice training run!! I guess those long runs and ultra training make marathons easier!!

Jeff F. said...

Congrats on great run. I'm glad they've upgraded the S.A. Marathon.
At mile 22 or so in '99 all they had on the tables were gallon jugs of water. How disgusting is that. It sounds like this run will always be near the front of your memory bank. Congrats again!!

Mark said...

Thanks Derek - you may be right.

Jeff - congratulations to you too for your run at Warda. Way to go dude.

Kevin said...

wow! great race and race report!

cymrusteve said...

Great race!! Nice to see you taking it easy...