Friday, November 22, 2013

San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon

The Alamo
Welcome to Texas.   If marathons were all like this one, I would switch to half-marathons.  It was torture.  Until today, we held the Hyannis, MA Marathon to be the most miserable one we've done, because of temperatures in the 30's there, with rain and sleet.  On Sunday Hyannis lost that distinction, replaced by San Antonio, with temperatures of 89 or more, high humidity, no wind, sun like a blowtorch, and zero shade in the last 13 miles.  Where’s a little sleet when you need it!

Riverwalk from above
I did finish my 77th marathon, in 6:08:10, fifth of seven in my age group, but it was no fun - I was never so glad to be done.  That is mostly not the fault of the race organizers, of course, they can't control the weather.  Today was a freak - the forecast was for one degree below the record high for the date, and the actual temperature went even higher and set a new record.  The race started at 7:30 am, and they could start it a half hour earlier, but that wouldn't have made much difference.  We needed shade ...

My Race:

"On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions, who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to rest, and resting, died!"  - George W. Cecil.  That quotation rattled through my head many times in the later miles, as I was sorely tempted to sit for a moment in a shady place.  I was also thinking of a T-shirt I saw two weeks ago in the NYC Marathon: "I don't stop when I am tired, I stop when I am done!"  I really did want to stop, rare for me, but I didn't.  A sign along the way said "Own every mile, celebrate every moment."  Sorry to say, I didn't celebrate much in the second half of the marathon, but I sure did own the damn miles!

Concrete trail
For the first half marathon I ran pretty well.  The temperature was in the 70's and climbing out, but the sun was behind clouds.  I followed the 5:30 pace team leader with no trouble.  I fact, as the sun began to peek around the clouds, the pace team started to lag a bit (I think by agreement among them) and I moved out ahead, staying on pace, trying to milk whatever I could out of those first relatively cooler hours.  I knew that I would have to slow down later, because the temperature would climb and the sun would appear full time.  By Mile 13 the sun was shining more than not, and by Mile 15, I was done running.  My face was hot, and in the later miles I began to feel slightly nauseous.  Both of these are possible symptoms of heat exhaustion, so I even slowed my walking pace at times.  By Mile 17 or 18 the 5:30 pace team passed me, though they weren't running much faster than I was walking, so I doubt they finished ten minutes ahead of me.

Most of the last miles were on a beautiful, wide, new all-concrete trail along the San Antonio River.  Unfortunately, however, there are no trees whatsoever.  I fear that I didn't enjoy that lovely trail as much as I might have.  I did see lots of other runners (walkers?) stopped by the side of the trail, under a bridge or wherever else they could get a spot of shade.  They weren't enjoying it either.  In those last miles I didn't run a step, but I did walk fairly fast, and I passed a lot of people.  Few passed me, and if they did, I usually caught them again.  No one was doing well.
Early miles

I took a Clif Shot Mocha gel at mile 2 and four more during the race.  I skipped the last one because of the mild nausea, thinking that the race people would try to take me out of the race if they saw me throw up.  I took six or seven salt tablets, and I’m sure that I've never taken more water in a race.  I had no trouble with cramps (yay!), except in my hands (?)!

Whining.  See above!  However, nothing hurts except the expected muscles and ligaments, and those will recover nicely in time for the next marathon in three weeks.  I got away with this one.

RnR San Antonio Marathon:

I usually avoid the Rock 'n' Roll Marathons because I’m not drawn to over-amplified music, especially when it's not of my own choosing.  But this one fit our schedule nicely, so we took a chance.  Happily, there was no music at the start, so we didn't have to stand it for a long time, only for a few seconds at a time as we would pass a band on the road.

Other stuff:

Streets really were CLOSED!
  • These guys have done this before.  Everything was well organized.
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons are big business and seem so, apparently not engendering too much allegiance.  I thanked one person at the Expo for volunteering, and she replied "If I were volunteering I wouldn’t be here."
  • We were required to sign a negligence waiver at the expo.  A waiver signed at the time of payment may be valid, but this one, signed later, is a total waste of everyone's time and suggests an arrogant disdain for the runners.
  • Porta-potties at the start were organized into little C-shaped groups of four units, so runners naturally formed a line for each group - no question which units belonged to which line.  Nice.  Why doesn’t everyone do that?
  • The whole course was closed to automotive traffic, period.  That is wonderful!
  • The marathon starts and ends in the same place, the Alamodome, as does the half.  Makes things easier - no bussing.
  • The Expo was at the Alamodome too, and it was a nice, large expo.
  • Packet pickup was smooth and easy, except for the bullcrap about turning in the signed negligence waiver.
  • The full and the half started together, which meant that my "corral" (24th of at least 32 corrals) got to the start line 38 minutes after the first corral started.
  • For the most part the organizers were prepared for the weather, with plenty of water, even spray hoses at the aid stations. 
  • They say that there was ice at every aid station, but I didn’t see ice at most of them when I got there.  Water was almost always warm. 
  • Next year’s event is December 7 - weather should be cooler.  Good decision.
  • I saw lots of battery-powered carts running up and down the course checking on and assisting runners.  That’s good.
  • But when I asked them for a bottle of water, they didn’t have any.
  • I saw several dropped runners, either on carts or waiting for one, but I have seen no news about this.
  • Results were up immediately - I love that!  Results are easy to navigate, too.
  • The time limit was 7 hours, and the last-listed runner finished in 6:59:02.  Since runners were still finishing in droves, the organizers obviously just cut off the rest despite the extenuating circumstance of the record heat.  I think that’s disrespectful, and of course the effect will be both sexist and ageist.
    Sunset from hotel room
  • The time limit for the half was 4 hours, but the results do show people finishing well after that.
  • 2013 finishers:  Half 14,430 and full 2,678.  Note that this is basically a big half marathon with a full added on.
  • For some reason I missed many of the mile marker signs - didn’t see them.  Probably my fault, but I usually see them.
  • There was no marker at Mile 25 at all - I did see the paint marking on the pavement, but no sign.
  • No aid station at Mile 25 either, or at Mile 12 for the half.  The last two miles were devoid of aid, spectators, even music, until the last tenth or so.

  • The half and the full ran together for the first 11 miles.  At about Mile 12, I told the pace team leader that I had almost expected the full to be redirected to finish with the half, because of the heat.  She replied: "Nope, this is Texas!".
  • I heard a rumor that the slowest marathon runners were turned around a few miles short of the measured turnaround, so they ran a shorter race.  I don’t know the truth of this, and I could find no news about it.
  • Update:  It's true.  Hundreds of runners were directed through the shortcut.  I have no idea if those people had their times adjusted in some fashion.  Probably not.
  • In my age group (70-74) no one qualified for Boston.  This was not a good day for qualifying!
  • We stayed at the Staybridge, which is about as close as you can get to the start and finish, but still an easy walk to the Alamo and the Riverwalk.
    After the race
  • We even got in a little Friday morning run on the Riverwalk.  Nice.  We liked San Antonio.
  • Some women raced in tights or pants despite the heat.  Modesty?  Some of those tights really didn't help much with modesty.
  • One of the amplified "bands" was a man playing a recording of organ music, possibly E Power Biggs.  It was not too loud and I enjoyed it for half a minute as I passed by. 
  • A live band, near mile 19 or 20, had temporarily abandoned their instruments and devolved into goofy acappella singing of old tunes.  They were horrible singers, but having fun in the shade of a tree, and I was almost tempted to join them.
  • I saw a lot of my favorite Team In Training runners in this race, especially in the half.  I like to encourage them. 
  • I wore my Team Continuum singlet of course.  Go Team Continuum! 
  • I ran this race in honor of my friend Sharon.  We love you, hang in there.  Both of you.
Splits: 35:16 (3 mi),, 11:44, 38:26 (3 mi), 12:53, 25:24 (2 mi), 12:43, 13:16, 1:10:26 (5 mi), 16:11, 15:19, 16:06, 15:57, 33:11 (2 mi), 15:46, 38:15 (2.2 mi), total 6:08:10, pace unmentionable.

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