Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Race Report: 2015 Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio 10k and Half Marathon

The 10K Startline
This one has been long in being written, and I apologize for how late it is... this was almost three months ago!  But it's a good one - one I've taken the time to write (and get RIGHT!) and recounting a race that really meant a lot to me.  I hope you enjoy it...

I had a late night direct flight to San Antonio, arriving around 11pm Central on Friday night.  Waiting for me at the airport was my friend Nicole, who was picking me up.  It was getting pretty late, so we headed straight back to her house since I had a 9am 10K in the morning in downtown San Antonio.  The following morning, I got myself changed and packed my backpack full of everything I needed for the day, since I wasn't coming back to Nicole's until later that night.

Black Sheep at the start of the 10K
The following morning Nicole drove me to the start, and we parked near enough and stuck around inside the heat of the car before it was evident that the area was getting crowded for the 10K.  I met up with a bunch of my running buddies and ran the 10K course, which was almost exactly similar to the year before, which I reviewed here (but without running with Meb, as there was no way I was going to pull in that fast of a mile run with the FULL scheduled the following day.)  I ran a 57:03 10k, only 7 seconds slower than last year.

On Houston Street, the last mile of the 10K, heading to Alamo Plaza

Drinking out of the
Hall of Fame medal!
I met up with a bunch of my running friends and we ended up heading over to Denny's for breakfast, where I encountered the most sarcastic little old lady waitress who was giving me crap about charging me for coffee I never got.  Whatever.  Anyway, after that I headed off to the expo, where I bided some time to write up my blogs (finding time to do these is NOT easy!) before I met up with the rest of the Hall of Famers to gather for a group photo and honor fellow Black Sheeper Leah, who ran the most RnR races in 2015, with 23.  We also got a chance to surprise Amy Vaughn, RnR tour manager extraordinaire, with a picture book from all of our RnR exploits from the past year.  Amy decided in the fall to not renew her contract with Competitor Group, and was leaving the company to explore other interests in marketing and publicity in the NYC area, near where she lives.  It was nearing the late afternoon so the Marinos, Hyalker, and myself decided to head off for a drink before our group dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse.

RnR Hall of Fame Class of 2015 (Photo by Bill Kwok)

With Leah Reid of Vancouver, BC, Canada - top Hall of Famer with 23 RnR races completed

The Marinos, Hyalker, and myself, posing at the PowerBar photo booth

My custom back bib in honor of my
uncle Deo
There was a HUGE group of us getting together for dinner, and the atmosphere was very festive, as we used it to commemorate a fun year of traveling and running all over the country amongst our group, who became close and tight-knit over the last twelve months.  After dinner, I rode back with Nicole and Pam back to their house with a quick trip to FedEx Office to laminate the back bib I created to honor my uncle for the race.  The back bib had a picture of him and me after I finished the 2014 RnRSA 10k, and it was a way to ceremoniously have him run with me and be with me for every step of the way for all 26.2 miles.  And then it was one last sleep before the big race on Sunday morning.

The Half and Full Startline!
Nicole and I were out the door SUPER early along with her friend Corey, in order to get to the Best Western, where our friend Rachel was staying.  Rachel kindly allowed for Nicole to have her car parked there during the race as part of her reservation, which would save us having to walk excessive distance (and possibly paying a lot more $$$) after the race was over.  We arrived well before the roads closed, and decided to nap for awhile (to also warm up before having to brave the chilly morning air) before we walked over to the Alamodome, where everyone was assembling before the race start. There seemed to be a lot more people this year than last.

A Juanfie before getting on the road!
(Photo by Juan Aguilar)
When I did the half marathon in 2014, I stayed with my uncle Deo Diego, or "Tito Gie" as I called him, and his wife Ceecee, who were extremely kind and gracious to open their home up to me and take me to and from both of the races and the airport. After that, the last time I came down to San Antonio was right after finishing Rock 'n' Roll Dallas, when he was in the hospital dealing with a very serious kidney and liver ailment in March 2015.  The doctors were dumbfounded with his symptoms, and three weeks later, when I was in Raleigh running the Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh Half Marathon, he passed away. When I visited him in the hospital, I had told him that he needed to get better so that when December 2015 came along, he could run the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio race with me. A year later without him here is hard, but I knew he was watching.

Mile 7 of the course, on Main Ave
Quite a few of us from Black Sheep decided to run the full marathon as a way to commemorate an awesome year of running RnR races, but also to be supportive to our own Amy Heveran, who was running her first 26.2.   A little after 7:30, and we were off in comfortable 46ยบ temps.  I decided to run with our small pack, who was planning to start off at a 9:00 per mile pace - I stayed with them for the first 5K of the race before deciding to peter off and go at my own pace, since I still had 23 miles left to go.  The course remained pretty much mostly the same as last year, for at least the first 11.5 miles where the full and half marathon courses split off.  To read about the first 11.5 miles of the course, check out my blog from last year here.  The hills at Trinity University still sucked, and the stretch down Main Avenue was still  nice and fast, and full of cheering people.

Mile 16
As we made the turn onto Eagleland Drive, passing by Breckenridge High School, a familiar face was greeting us, doling out high fives to the racers.  Meb Keflezighi himself came out to the race course to cheer us on, which was really awesome to see.  We continued on past the 11 mile mark, and imminently to the split off between the half and full marathoners. The split off, of course, was lonely.  While there was a steady stream of folks going right, there were A LOT of folks heading left, toward the last 1.5 miles of the half course.  We, full marathoners, however still had just under 15 miles left.  We first turned right onto Lone Star Boulevard and made our way around a recycling plant, headed further south into San Antonio's southern reaches.

About to get onto the Mission Reach Trail
Mile 18, en route to a small out-and-
back that felt like eternity...
The elevation profile from
mile 20 to 25. Seriously?
The next couple miles up until the halfway point of the race were rather bleak, running through an ultimately very industrial/manufacturing part of San Antonio south of the downtown area.  We turned onto Roosevelt Avenue and went through a residential area in the neighborhood of Riverside, and then ran alongside Riverside Golf Course.  We went further down Roosevelt Avenue and then turned left onto VFW Blvd, just past the 15 mile point, past a restored drive in theatre and the VFW Post 9186 building, before turning onto Padre Drive, which led us into Padre Park.  Eventually, we turned onto Mission Parkway and the Mission Reach Trail, where we began to run on the paths that make up the south part of the San Antonio RiverWalk.  By Mile 18, we were at the furthest south section of the race, where we crossed a cool low-lying section of Mission Reach Trail that went over the San Antonio River to an out-and-back that lasted for a good mile... and it felt like forever.  We then followed the meandering cement riverside paths which were largely exposed to the elements, as many of the trees in the area were narrow and not made for shade.  Add to that the elevation profile for this area, starting at mile 19, resembled a reading off of an active EKG monitor, and I had myself a hell of a time getting myself back to the downtown area for the next five miles of the race.

The Riverwalk!
Hills and no shade.
Pretty landscaped sections
of the River Walk
At about the 24.5 mile mark, we finally emerged out of the San Antonio Riverwalk, and back onto the roadways that led to the finish line.  A few half marathoners were making their way to the finish as well, and we helped and cheered each other on through with each step, some of them doing their first ever half marathon.  We made our way down Boyer Avenue and around the turn on Hackberry Street to Westfall Ave and finally the last turn onto Cherry Street, where we could make out the finish line and the Alamodome only a matter of blocks away.  It was here where I began to spontaneously burst into tears realizing I was only a few hundred meters away from finishing what would be my fastest marathon to date.

Victory Headstand with my best friends!
I realized I had the potential of setting a new PR somewhere around mile 20, when we hit that rolling hill stretch of the RiverWalk.  I had calculated it in my head how fast I'd finish even if I had a couple bad miles in the last 10k, but at this point, I finally realized that I did have my uncle help me, in spirit, every step of the way, and that he did keep his promise he'd be there to run it with me, even if he wasn't there physically.  As difficult as those next few miles were, I knew that I could get through it... When it hurt, he helped me push on through the pain... When I got winded, his voice in my head told me to take a breather and a little time to walk it off... In the end, my uncle was my rock - he was the one who got me to finish the race... Even though he wasn't physically here anymore, his spirit was definitely there, and I absolutely felt it. After 26.2 miles dedicated to my uncle Deogracias Diego, I have a new personal record (PR) for running 26.2 miles... 4 hours, 37 minutes, and 21 seconds; 8 1/2 minutes than my previous best at the 2014 Chicago Marathon.

A video posted by Jim (@jimbobwaay) on

Emotion at the finish
The official race pictures from MarathonFoto definitely speak to my emotions.  When emotion takes over in the last 1000 feet of a 26.2 mile race, you just let it out.  I cried my way through the finish line, taking my medal, and was just overwhelmed with emotion as I trudged my way to the Heavy Medals tent to receive my remix medal for having run two races over the weekend.  I saw Mindy and Amy, who both gave me a huge hug after I was able to blurt out that I had PR'd and recounted how much the race had meant to me.  I found a group of Black Sheepers who stuck around to cheer on the marathoners, and we all drank beers out of our Hall of Fame medals.  The group of Black Sheepers were a constant presence for me, so I thought it best to make my headstand photo be with all of them.  It was a memorable race for sure, and a great way to finish out the year on a high note.

New PR!!!

1 comment:

  1. I am so sorry about your uncle.. You know in your heart he was definitely there with you and carried you through that special day..