Marathons, Rock n Roll Marathon Series, Running

Race Recap: Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon + 5K + Meeting Meb

The Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon was probably one of the hardest marathons I’ve ever ran! It being my sixth, I thought I was mentally prepared for what I was facing, but boy oh boy…

In between Las Vegas and San Antonio, I had a few busy weeks at school and work. Training was a limited, so I worked on speed and was able to work in a long run. That was most definitely my problem, thinking I could bank my train of good performances from the season overall into this one last marathon. Perhaps I could recreate the performance I had in San Diego here in San Antonio?

I packed my bags in a hurry, and we headed out to Austin. (Logistically it was cheaper.)

We were doing the Remix Challenge weekend, and there was still work for me to do on the road. I was put on a new project at the last minute, so my stress level was still running a little high. That didn’t help since it compounded how stressed out I was about the race! I tried to allay my stress with enchiladas and In-N-Out.

Rock n Roll San Antonio 5K

The morning of the 5K, I woke up and contemplated staying in bed. I was fairly tired from the workweek. It was just a 5K. It was, however, the last Remix Challenge I’d be able to do since they were no longer included with the tour pass. Since Erik and I only run the “free” 5Ks together, this would probably be the last race we’d run together in a long time. I put on my shoes and we left.

Compared to some of the other Rock n Roll 5Ks we’ve gone to, this one had a pretty sizable turnout. It wasn’t like Vegas or anything, but definitely more than Seattle or Denver! It wound through some quiet warehouse parts of San Antonio. On the course, there was a woman who was wearing a “My First 5K” shirt, so a ton of people were congratulating her. I could smell a lot of breakfast in the air. We finished at The Alamo, which was pretty neat!

After grabbing our bananas and snacks, we headed over to a nearby Starbucks for some coffee. We were sitting down at the tables outside when lo and behold Meb Keflezighi walks into Starbucks. He walks in with a small group of people and finds a quiet corner in the back. Everyone else is pretty starstruck, except for a non-runner who is sitting on her laptop next to him pretty unfazed at the sight of a champion sitting next to her.

After mustering up the courage to urge Erik to accompany me to walk over to Meb, we were able to snap a photo with him. Overall, it was a great way to wrap up our last Remix Challenge of the weekend!

Later that day, we headed back to the expo. On the way there, we came across the Berlin Bear, one of the sites we saw on Atlas Obscura. I was able to snag a photo with it –

The expo on the last day seemed busier than others. The Hall of Fame ceremony was also pretty fun. There were folks who did 25 races this year…can you believe it?! Just incredible.

Later that day, we headed out to the world’s largest cowboy boots….just because!

I also found a prospective race hairstyle. I was a bit concerned about the reindeer nose falling out during my run, so I didn’t use it. I figured that I’d have a holiday party where it could make a guest appearance.

Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon

All right – so, marathon morning! It was FOGGY. It was MUGGY. I was swimming through the air because it was so heavy with moisture. It was like Virginia Beach, except wetter. It wasn’t warm, just heavy. The weather seemed fairly clear without much rain in the forecast. I wore a running hat and packed a windbreaker, in case things changed. I left my waterproof shoes at the Airbnb, figuring that I wouldn’t need them.

I got to the start after checking my bag. With time being a concern, I started a little early so that I could give myself a little more time to finish. I knew I would need the extra time to ease my mind, even though the course was relatively flat. The course also had a lot of turns, and that would cause me to add in a little but of distance to the race. To keep me from stopping too many times, I carried my Camelbak this time.

I set off to start at a decent pace. I hadn’t yet set my running timer since most of the people around me were running at a good clip and I didn’t want to set off any stop-and-go issues with all the faster folks and corrals behind me. We were about a mile or two in when it started raining a little bit. A minute later, the downpour began. I hopped off the course after a few minutes when it wouldn’t let up to fish out my jacket. I had packed one that was not completely waterproof, and at this point, nothing except a house would be waterproof in this type of weather. We were coming up on a Walgreens. If they were open, I told myself that I’d run in and grab a poncho and probably a cheese danish. THEY WERE CLOSED.

They say that if you dislike the weather in Texas, wait fifteen minutes. It rang true. The rain was torrential but it was on again and off again for about 30-45 minutes, but that was all it took to make me uncomfortable for the majority of the race. A few miles later, I pulled off to the side to wring out my compression socks and my shirt. They were soaked, but I felt a lot better running on less-squishy feet. We winded through more of the city, and splashed and swam our way past the Alamo. I could feel my compression socks cutting into me, but we didn’t seem to be running near any stores where I could find some replacement socks. This wasn’t going to end well. I didn’t feel any blisters coming on, thankfully.

I came up on a private bathroom in a public square. I hopped off the course again. Lo and behold I found an air dryer! I snuck underneath it and tried to dry off my back. My Camelbak had been rubbing up against my lower back and my shirt. I tried drying the front of my shirt. I tried drying my running leggings. I tried drying my socks. I did my best not to lose too much time.

The day went on and things heated up. I had one guy congratulate me on my 15 race bib. (In Philly, I had a lot more for my 10!) After reaching the Alamodome, I had a choice of pulling off for the half marathon, or continuing on for the full. My original plan was the full marathon, but I also left it up to myself to do the half. Erik had texted me to tell me that he was hurting pretty bad at mile 16. I considered pulling off so that I could check in on him. I wanted to do the full but I was pretty uncomfortable with my setup. I also knew that I had a shot at not finishing and jeopardizing my Hall of Fame status by trying the full. I went anyways.

As you can see, the marathon split is always less traveled. Most of the folks do the half. The marathon path is a ghost town, especially when you’re the back of the pack, like me! I was really antsy but I went anyways.

We headed into a residential neighborhood. I saw an Amazon Prime big rig and I took it as a sign of things to come. Things heated up quite a bit, and I slathered on my sunscreen. I ran into Erik at around mile 16 (his mile 23) and we had a quick kiss. There were a few shops (liquor stores and convenience stores). In hindsight I don’t know why I didn’t stop in for a cold drink! I knew I was on a time crunch, but I’m sure it would’ve been quick. Oh well – maybe for a half marathon, when things aren’t too tight.

My mile splits gradually begin slowing after mile 17, probably because my longest training run was mile 17. The energy on the course was low. There were lots of volunteers on the course, but the route isn’t too scenic. I had a lot of time with my thoughts. At mile 20, things start looking pretty bleak. At mile 21, I could’ve sworn that a decade had passed. Why did I sign up to do this again? Why was the Hall of Fame a good idea? Why didn’t I just do the half marathon????

At around mile 22-23 my pace begins to slow to a crawl. A group near me pulls off to the side of the road and begins praying. Have things really gotten that bad? I begin seeing sweeper vans and police cars, and YES THINGS HAVE GOTTEN THAT BAD. I had started in the middle of the race, and now people are being pulled off the course. Volunteers are beginning to shut down water stations. Most of the high schoolers are now chilling and texting, except for one lone diligent girl handing out water cups who is yelling at her apathetic peers “There’s still runners out here, guys!!!!” (Thanks girlie. I appreciate that you thought my shuffle was actually running.)

For the next 2.5 miles I see the Toyota sag wagon circling around the back of pack. As they pick people up, I can see people in the van as they are pulled away from the back, but then the van returns empty. Yikes! Will I be next? There’s a police cruiser following pretty close behind me. There’s about 5-10 people between me and the sweepers at this point. I know that I’m pretty slow, but man, I must be struggling quite a bit. The sag wagon pulls up next to me and asks me how I’m doing. I say I’m doing fine (I’m not really doing fine but what else are you going to say to avoid being pulled?). This happened at the Lake Stevens triathlon but the only way to hedge your bets and not get pulled is to put on your brave face and keep going.

Every ten or twenty steps or so, I look over my shoulder to see if the sag wagon is still picking up people. I try to pick up the pace but I’m really feeling beat and low on morale. I see a text from Erik, telling me that the last mile winds through a swanky neighborhood with cute houses. I finally make it there, but there are SO MANY TURNS and it drives me nuts. I make it out of there and as I look over my shoulder, the sag wagon and cops are finally gone. Maybe I outran them?

I’m now out on a bare city street, and I’m beginning to see folks eating on sidewalk patios. One lone guy is clapping the last runners in. He says I’m really close, but he also says that he’s not lying and that it’s literally around the corner. I believe him because I can hear the race announcer babbling on. I feel for her because it sounds like she’s really scraping for content, which must be tough because she’s been working since 6am and it’s now 3:30pm.

I run through the finishing chute. I made it, with no sag wagon in sight! I made it on my own. I got my Hall of Fame status. I got my jacket, even if it was the wrong size. It all worked out. I was nearly in tears for the last five miles, but here I was, sitting next to some potted plants, downing some cheddar goldfish or whatever snacks they shoved in my face. We found a pedicab and hitched a ride back to the Alamodome. It’s almost as if I completed an assisted triathlon that day – swam past the Alamo, ran through the streets of San Antonio, and had someone ride me on a bike back to the Alamodome.

I’m very proud of having taken the hard way out. Not very many people do, and it was my journey. The hardest journey usually has the best story. I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of, and the things that I’m willing to do to see something through. I suppose that’s a good thing.

Also, I think our shoes finally dried off.



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About Amara Poolswasdi Hulslander