Guest Author: Megan Wagenaar, @megwag_runs
Talking to people who have run this course before, I learned that part of the course changed from years past. This year’s course featured more hills toward the end of the race. My favorite part of the course took the races through an American flag-lined path, displaying soldiers who gave their lives to serve this nation.
My Training Typically, the half marathon is not my usual race. My training to more specific to the shorter track races like the 800 and the 1500. During the fall, my training consists of longer runs and tempo. An example of my training week is: Monday, easy 7 mile and 10 strides; Tuesday, latter workout (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 minutes on with 1 minute rest); Wednesday, 7 miles with last 3 tempo and 10 strides; Thursday, easy 7 and 10 strides; Friday, workout (5x mile with 2 minutes rest); Saturday, off; Sunday, long run (10-14 miles).
My Weekend Leading Up to the Race
This journey started Friday before the race around 3pm. For the past week, I was pretty excited—my friend, Jamison Michael, and I received free entries into the San Antonio Half Marathon. Like I mentioned before, I am not a typical marathon or half marathon runner. My specialty is the 800m and 1500m. I still enjoy those comparatively short races to the marathon. That being said, my training regimen typically calls for me to run 45-55 miles a week with my long runs being from 10-14 miles. At first, I did not plan on running this race.
Originally, I planned on running at the University of Houston open indoor track meet (open track meets means anyone can sign up). A couple of weeks before the race, my friend said that he would get me an entry into the San Antonio Half Marathon. Ok, I thought to myself, I can go to Houston on Saturday, run my mile race, then do my typical Sunday long run at the half marathon. And so the adventure began.
The first leg of the journey was driving from Austin (my home) to San Antonio to register and pick up my race packet. Because my entry was compensated, Jamison and I had to register in person if we wanted to do the race. The typical hour and a half commute from Austin to San Antonio turned into a three hour journey thank to more traffic than should be possible, road construction, one completely flat tire, and a very low spare tire. We made it before closing time with only a couple minutes to spare. Thankfully the drive home was much smoother.
The packet-pickup expo was very well organized. I registered, picked up my number and t-shirt, and walked through the different booths. I was able to purchase couple of last minute things that I needed to for the race, like so caffeinated Gu. The only thing I found difficult about this process was locating where to park. I will admit that I did not do my research before arriving at the expo, but sign pointing in the correct direction once arriving at the expo center would have been helpful.
Saturday morning at 6:30am, we left Austin once again, this time to Houston. The drive is about three hours, and my race was at noon. Unlike marathons, athletes will spend more time warming up for the race than actually running it. I like to start my warm-up about an hour before start time. We got there with plenty of time to spare.
My warm up for a track race usually begins with a 20 minute run followed by dynamic stretching. My dynamic stretches consist of eagles, scorpions, leg swings (forward and sideways), donkey kicks, knee circles, donkey whips, fire hydrants, and dynamic hurdle stretch. This will then be followed by drills.
Here is a list of the drills that I do: high knees, A-skips, backward skips, butt kicks, side skips, B-skips, straight leg bounding, quick step high keep, and quick step butt kick. I might add a couple other drills if needed. I finish my warm up with 2-4 strides. Typically I will try to do my stride at the pace I want to start my race at. For the mile, that would be about 18 seconds pre 100 meters. Click here for video of my warm up!
Now if any of you have ever ran a mile flat out as fast as you can, knows that it is a different pain than endurance races like marathons. I ended up running a little slower than I wanted, but for the first race of track season and not having anyone to push me, I was satisfied with my race overall. Click here for video of my race!
On to the next leg of this journey. After my cool down and using a Hypervolton my legs for a good thirty minutes, we packed up headed out to San Antonio. Houston to San Antonio was another three hours. Thankfully, since it was Saturday, there was very little traffic and we make good time.
We got to San Antonio just time for dinner. Like most runners know, the thing to do before races is to eat a plate full of pasta. We got to a restaurant and hear that it is an hour wait time. Um, no thank you. So I call ahead for at another place, and they said no wait time. We arrive there—hour wait time. Strike two.
Next door is a burger place that we end up going to just because both of us are getting hangery at this point. My planned pasta pre-race dinner turned into an apple chicken salad with some French fries on the side.
We stayed the night in a hotel only about a mile away from the start. The morning of a marathon is not the time to try to figure out how to get around closed roads to find parking. So we planned it so we could jog to the start as part of our warm up. Thankfully all went smoothly and we got to the hotel without a problem.
Race day morning—6:00am—I wake up and put my race gear on. I had already pinned my bib to my shirt so I was ready in just a couple of minutes. My typical pre-race food is a banana and some pb&j or granola bar. Luckily, the weather was prefect for a long run. After gathering everything I needed, I jogged over to the start line.
Checking my bag was simple and quick, but the lines for the port-a-potties were very long. If I was to do this race again, I would have made sure to arrive a little earlier to be able to stand in line for them.
Because of the time I believed I could run, I was placed in corral three. This was probably the main issue I had with this marathon. My goal for the half was to run under 1:25. Even though I started at the front of corral three, for some reason I was behind the 1:35 half pace group. I believe the individual assigning me to a corral placed me in the wrong group. This meant that I spend the first three miles just trying to get around people and the rest of the race passing people.
Apart from where I started in the race, the start was well organized. First, the race directors started the wheelchair division, followed by the elite corral. All other corrals subsequently started after with about one minute between waves.
There were plenty of water stops along the course. There were six stations with water, Gatorade and water, or gels and water positioned about every two miles and plenty of volunteers. There was even a person handing out oranges along the way! Personally, for a half marathon I will not drink much water, especially when the weather was as nice as it was on race day. I did grab a couple of cups of water to help wash down the Gu that I ate at mile 6.
Since this race was part of the Rock n' Roll series, there were several music stations along the race. It was entertaining and helped break up the monotony of a long run. Other than that, I do not remember too much about the music. The whole race went by as a blur. I remember looking down at my watch and thinking, “Wow! That was a fast mile, I feel really good. Just relax—it’s a long race.”
One of my favorite things about running races is the support of not only the spectators but also other racers. There was several times during the race another competitor shouted out encouraging words to me. Is it the Southern Hospitality or just the friendly nature of runners?
Whatever it is, I just love it.
I finished the race in 1:21:28 as as the fourth place female overall by chip time. Starting back in corral three, I started around ten minutes after the elite corral. Unknown to me, my chip time was only about ten seconds behind third place’s chip time.
However, because of how far back I started, the winners were already celebrating on the podium as I crossed the finish line. Wouldn't that have been a little funny if I had actually ran fast enough that I finished third place? I wonder if they would have honored a third place chip time over gun time.
At the finish line, volunteers handed out finisher medals and all of the snacks. I mean all of the snacks! Chocolate milk, granola bars, Cheese-its, Gatorade, water bottles, fruit cups, fruit juice, you name it! I did not have enough hands to hold everything I could have grabbed.
After finishing, I immediately went back to bag check to get my jacket. The line for bag check was not long but it did take them quite a bit to find people’s bags. At the conclusion of the race, there was a concert and award ceremony. It was outside, and I was getting cold so I just ended up walking back to my hotel to take a hot shower and relax.
I had a really nice experience overall. I highly recommend this race for anyone looking for a fun, well-organized half marathon. I would also advise individuals to make sure plan ahead of time were to stay the night, where to park, and arrive at the start line with plenty of time to spare. Booking a hotel near the start and finish line would allow a finisher to take a hot shower after their race and come back to enjoy the concert and after party.
My schedule did not allow me to be at the expo on Saturday before it closed, so I did have the make that extra drive to San Antonio from Austin on Friday. It would have been nice if there was an option to register morning of the race. I understand how that might be chaotic, but it would be more convenient for those driving in.
Would I run the San Antonio Rock n' Roll Half Marathon again?
Yes, though there are several things that I would do different. First, I would try to get into a better wave. Even if I could not get into the elite field, I would have had a better race if I did not spend the first couple miles trying to get out of the crowd. Second, I would bring warmer clothing for after I finished the race. I would have liked to enjoy the concert and award ceremony, but I was too cold to stand around.
The best thing about this race was being able to run it with my friend, Jamison Michael. There is nothing better than having an adventure with a friend.
Watch Jamison's Vlog of the race here:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Inspired by her mom, Megan Wagenaar started her running career as a junior in high school on a track team of less than 10 girls. There, she learned how to work hard and get the job done with little resources. Her senior year, she anchored the state champion runner up girls 4x400 in TAAPS 2A division. After graduating, she received a chance to compete in track and cross country at Concordia University Texas.
With the guidance of her coach and support of her teammates, Megan became the first ever runner in school history to qualify for the NCAA DIII Cross Country National Championships her senior year.
After graduating college with a degree in business, Megan continued her love of running and competing. She joined a club team and trained specifically for the 800 meters. Her times improved and she ran in the qualifying rounds at the Canadian track and field National Championship. Still while training, Megan took up a part time coaching position at Concordia and continued her education to received an MBA.
Now, Megan works full time as the first female head coach for the men's and women's cross country and track & field program at Concordia University Texas. Her love of the sport helps her to find time to continue to improve her own time while helping and inspiring her athletes to do the same.