Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

The Accidental PR

I know I’m getting lazy about keeping up with the blog when I can immediately follow one race report with another. But, here we are.

I signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon sometime last summer when I got an email with a $10 discount code. I’m not exactly sure why this particular code put me over the edge–$10 discount codes to Rock ‘n’ Roll races are about as hard to find as dead lawns during a Texas summer–but I have a strange affection for this race. I say “strange” for a number of reasons:

  1. San Antonio makes getting to the start line more difficult than getting through airport security with a bag full of Swiss Army knives.
  2. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series has forged an unfortunate partnership with the energy drink company CytoSport, makers of Cytomax, or “the one energy drink that sends my usually iron stomach running for the Port-A-Potty.”
  3. I’ve now run San Antonio twice (I did the full in 2009), and both times the whether has been “unusually hot and humid” for mid-November.
  4. The wave start used by the Rock ‘n’ Roll races is a monument to inefficiency.
  5. I’m still not sure how I feel about this whole “for profit” trend in marathon organizing.

I could go on, but 5 complaints is already sounding fairly whiny, so I’ll get to why I do still like this race…

San Antonio was my comeback.

Sure, it was a miserable experience that left me unable to walk for a week, but the 2009 San Antonio Marathon was the race that finally proved I was back in the game after more than a year of IT band issues. After hundreds of dollars of PT, hours and hours of run/walk intervals on the treadmill and hip-strengthening “clam” exercises, San Antonio was my ROI.

Not only that, but my family made a really big deal out of San Antonio in 2009. My dad secretly signed up to run it with me, Handsome J and my mom managed to defy roadblocks to see my on course no less than 5 times, and my mom’s dog ate the entire bag of mini bagels I got at the finish.

I feel like San Antonio marked the start of my new running life. It led me to blogging and Rogue and Chicago and even as far as Dusseldorf. So yes, even though the race organization is a bit of a disaster and the aid stations make me pukeish, I still heart SA.

That said, I’m not about to sign up for the full there again anytime soon. But, the half seemed like a reasonable option. It was a full 5 weeks after Chicago – plenty of time to recover from all but a truly serious injury – and I told myself I wouldn’t really race it anyway. I’d just, you know, enjoy the city.

Well, let’s just say that the San Antonio Half was a lesson in my own complete lack of self control.

Things weren’t looking great going into the race. A twinge in my left hamstring the weekend before turned into a full-blown, requires treatment injury, and I spent the days leading up to the race alternating between lying in bed feeling sorry for myself and going to the chiropractor for teeth-gritting sessions of ART. (If you aren’t familiar — it’s sort of like a deep tissue massage that only focuses on the parts of your body that are in extreme pain.)

Thanks to the miracle work of Dr. Z at Advanced Rehabilitation, I made it to the start line, only to have my stomach start churning in some sort of “I can sense Cytomax is in the area” panic. Let’s just say I heartily approve of the decision to move the start line from a commercial street to one lined with hotels that don’t mind runners invading their restrooms. I owe the Grand Hyatt a three-day weekend, at least.

When I finally summed up the courage to abandon the relative safety of the hotel lobby, I walked out to a city completely cloaked in fog. The sun was just up, the temps were in the high 60s and climbing, humidity was 93%, and Olympian Frank Shorter was on the mic giving the crowd a pep talk that involved phrases like “This isn’t a PR day.”

The corrals were their usual mass of confusion, causing numerous runners to panic over whether corral 12 started in front of the rope or behind it. I wanted to helpfully point out that it didn’t matter if you started here or three feet thataway, but I couldn’t think of a way to say it without sounding like a total snob, so I just tried to think thin and take up as little space as possible.

Needless to say, I had every reason to not race this race.

And after successfully sticking to plan in Chicago, I thought I would here as well: Go for 10:30 pace for the first half, and then pick it up if I felt good.

Well, apparently I’m only capable of sticking to the plan if the race is sufficiently long to put the fear of passing out in me. And apparently “sufficiently long” means “26 miles”. After the 30-minute shuffle from our corral position to the start line, I clocked a 9:45 for the first mile.

That’s okay, I thought, I’m just happy to be able to move again. Now I’ll slow down.

But of course I did no such thing. Garmin is my nemesis for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that once he shows me a mile split I like, I find it virtually impossible to ease up, even if I know I’m starting way too fast.

Or maybe it’s that I didn’t fully believe I was starting way too fast. Sure my times haven’t been great lately, but I still remember that string of PRs from Germany, and if I could run sub-10:00 pace for a 10-miler, well…wasn’t this just that plus an extra 5K? There was a devil on my shoulder, and I let him set the pace.

I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

I had a few unfortunate realizations. For one, San Antonio is a much hillier city than I realized. For another, running 10-minute miles isn’t so bad when it’s 50 and overcast, but by mile 10 it was 80 and sunny, and my legs called it quits. In a repeat of my race in 2009, the last few miles became a death march (although at least the half course doesn’t go through the actual cemetery, like the full does).

When the course split around mile 10.5, all I could do was stare after the full marathoners and think, Thank you GOD that I am not you right now. I love marathons, but I have never been so happy NOT to be running one in my entire life.

Of course my own travails weren’t over, and my 10-minute pace became something much closer to an 11-minute pace from that point on. You would think at this point that I would acknowledge my foolishness at starting too fast in bad weather, but now I was stuck. I knew I was on a PR pace, so I had to keep pushing as hard as physically possible. I was trapped by my own ridiculous pride.

And I do mean ridiculous. I hit the finish in 2:16.02, good enough for 6,552nd place. Yes, a 6-minute PR is exciting, but this was not exactly winning my age group. I ran myself to the brink of exhaustion because, well, I was too stupid not to.


All I can say is that I hope to race smarter in my next half, which is currently slated to be 3M here in Austin in late January.

After all, by January, 10-minute miles will be no problem at all…


PS–Sorry for the lack of pics. Handsome J had to represent at a friend’s birthday in Austin. I’ll be sure he has no excuses for 3M.

PPS–Extra special thanks to Mom who sweated it out on the sidelines for hours by herself (and found the world’s most amazing parking space!).

One comment on “The Accidental PR

  1. Jeanine Swanson
    December 15, 2011

    Bahahaha, I love this post for a number of reasons. Damn girl…you are gettin' fast. 🙂 Down with the evil cyto max.

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This entry was posted on November 21, 2011 by in PR, races, San Antonio.
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