Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas fell on 1. the busiest weekend I’ve had in a long time and 2. the weekend I was scheduled to run 22 miles. Needless to say, I was excited for 1:30 PM on Sunday when I could finally relax after four very long and tiring days. To give you a quick synopsis of what those four days looked like, on Thursday I was up at 4:30 AM for a run, followed by a full day at work (more on that soon, I promise), getting home at 7:30 PM. Friday I was up at 5:15 AM for BodyPump, followed by another full day of work, getting home at about 10:00 PM. Saturday was another action packed day of work, getting up at 4:00 AM and working until about 3:30 PM, immediately followed by heading to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Expo to pick up my race bib. I didn’t get home until 4:45 PM. After I showered and got dressed, Nick and I headed to a friend’s birthday dinner. We didn’t get home until just after 10:00 PM. And finally, on Sunday, I was up at 4:25 AM to get ready for the race. And as I predicted earlier in the week, I didn’t get home until right around 1:30 PM. For some people, this might seem like nothing, but I don’t function well with little sleep or little naps and Nick referred to them every morning I kissed him goodbye. “Did you have a good nap?” he’d ask me. Like I said, I couldn’t wait for 1:30 PM that afternoon so I could crash!
RACE DAY WEATHER
I’d been so busy the days leading up to the race, I didn’t spend a lot of time agonizing over the weather. The day before, I checked the weather. It would be pretty cool with a strong wind coming from the Northwest. Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas, like many of the half marathons in Dallas, makes a loop around the city, starting from the south and going clockwise so the first half of the race would be more or less heading straight into the wind.
While the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas half makes a big loop around the city, it is a point to point race, with the starting line in downtown and the finish line in Fair Park, a few miles away. We were able to park at Fair Park and be shuttled downtown. It was freezing when I was standing in line to get on the shuttle. The wind was howling and the second I got on the bus, I decided to sit as far back as possible so I could stay on the bus as long as possible. Once we arrived in downtown, I considered hiding on the shuttle as it made a few more loops so I could stay warm as long as possible. Grudgingly, I got up and headed out into the cold, making a V-line for the port-o-potties that I spotted the day before. Because of the location of this particular strip of port-o-potties, I had a feeling there wouldn’t be a single person waiting in line, and sure enough, there were 20 port-o-potties wide open for me to choose from. I went in, did my thing, and thought about staying in there to take shelter from the wind. I decided that was a little strange and gross, so I headed back out and tried to find a crevice along the convention center where the wind would be blocked as I waited the hour and a half for the race to start. Right as I was walking up to my desired spot, the doors to the convention center flew open and people started to pure in. They opened the convention center!! I immediately went in and staked out a spot, texting and Facebooking my running friends to come seek shelter and warmth with me.
As my friends started to wander around the convention center, trying to find me, one of them texted “I feel like I am trying to find Kim and Joseph in a shelter”. There were so many runners sitting on the floor, wrapped up in throw-away clothes or trash bags, the scene looked just like a homeless shelter.
The day stayed very windy and chilly. The sky was overcast for most of the race which is my preference. The sun finally broke though when I was either on Skillman Ave or Swiss Ave, with just a few miles to go.
FEELINGS GOING INTO THE RACE
I was tired. I wasn’t so worried about the half marathon, but I wasn’t exactly looking forward to hitting 22 miles that day. Initially, I thought about running the race, then getting in my car and driving to White Rock Lake to do a loop around the lake to reach the required 22 miles. But then I decided it would be better to finish the race, then double back for 4.5 miles and run 4.5 miles back down the course. I knew I’d have a lot of people telling me I was going the wrong way, on the 4.5 miles out, but I thought it would be a better idea to get the 9 extra miles over with right away.
Going into the race, I wanted to keep my pace right around 9’30” or a 2:05 finish time. Knowing I had to run 9 more miles after I crossed the finish line, I didn’t want to push it too hard. 9’30” is a comfortable pace for me right now given the right weather conditions (not pushing too hard but also not feeling like I’m creeping along). I told some friends that I was targeting between 2:00 and 2:10, which would still be a good race for me, something I still wanted to achieve out of the day.
MEALS BEFORE THE RACE
As I mentioned above, Nick and I had a birthday dinner to go to on Saturday night for our friend, TY. TY’s annual tradition is to have dinner at Benihana. It isn’t a particular favorite of mine, but on the upside, the meal size is rather large, full of carbs and sodium, perfect for a pre-race dinner. I went back and forth on what to get and finally decided on the hibachi steak and shrimp, which comes with onion soup, salad, fried rice, additional shrimp, hibachi vegetables, and ice cream. I devoured all of it. In years past, I’ve always brought leftovers home, but not this night. I was hungry and well, I can eat a lot these days. Oh, and Nick and I shared a spicy tuna roll.
For my race-day breakfast, I had my usual, Central Market whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter and jam. I forgot to take a picture, but I ate in near darkness, so it really wasn’t too exciting to see anyway.
WHAT I WORE
I put on my usual (as of lately) race outfit and at the last second, I grabbed a different pullover to bring with me in case I changed my mind. As usual, I had my Brooks Glycerine running shoes, and ProKinetics insoles. I also wore my thick pink Smartwool socks and my white cheap-o Target/Champion sports bra. I also wore my Nike thermal leggings. For my top, I wore my long-sleeve plain white Nike dry-fit shirt. On top of that, I wore my grey C9 pullover, which I switched out of once I parked at Fair Park.
I exchanged that with my warmer Nike dry-fit turtleneck pullover. I pinned my bib to the pullover before making my way to the shuttle, but quickly moved it to my leg as the race began and my corral was walking towards the start line. Being a warmer pullover, I was worried about getting to hot. I did warm up pretty quickly, but I told myself I should leave the pullover on until we were heading back down towards the finish line, at which point the wind would for sure be to my back. Ultimately, I never took the pullover off, even though I was hot. I also brought my throw away gloves (same gloves I’ve been using for over a year now). They lasted on my hands for about two or so miles and, not wanting to get rid of them, and with a lack of pockets in my pullover, I shoved my throw away gloves down the back of my pants. I’m sure from behind it looked like I had two large lumps on my butt cheeks, but I didn’t really care that much. They stayed in place and I didn’t lose my lucky throw away gloves!
I didn’t bring any liquid with me, and depended on the water stops, but I did have my blue Flip Belt on, in which I stored my cell phone, a few tissues (for the cold, windy weather), and my ShotBloks.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas is made up of a half marathon and a two-person relay, which the exchange point being just over half-way through the half marathon. I ran this race last year and didn’t look at the map too much ahead of time, assuming it would be pretty similar to last year’s race and other major races in Dallas: hitting Downtown, Uptown, Turtle Creek, Park Cities, and Swiss Ave. I was a little worried that the route changed to include the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. With the wind, I wasn’t too eager to run across this bridge. But, to my delight, this landmark wasn’t included in the race.
One change I did notice is they cut out the long stretch on Mockingbird Ln and had us run through the M-Streets, which I really liked. Last year’s stretch on Mockingbird isn’t that great. There are a lot of businesses that line that busy street, but they are set back, so the scenery isn’t that great. The M-Streets is a neighborhood with lots of cute houses and lots of great crowd support, so I really appreciated this change. The relay handoff took place in the M-Streets.
As for the elevation of this race, it is a gradual incline to about the mid-point, and then a gradual decent. Cowtown was a much harder course, and while this race had its fair share of hills, none of them seemed difficult to me. Plus, I knew exactly when to expect them!
Elevation chart from the race website
Elevation chart from my Garmin
THE RACE ORGANIZATION
Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas is put on by the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. Since this it is a series of races, RnR has the system down. Rock ‘n’ Roll is a for profit organization so these races tend to be money-making machines. That is, the races are expensive and they charge for every little thing possible. And none of the proceeds are donated to charity. That sort of irritates me, but it is the biggest spring half marathon here in Dallas, so I deal with it.
One of the features of Rock ‘n’ Roll is the live bands playing along the course. Last year I had my headphones in so I didn’t really notice the bands too much, but this year I ran headphone-less, so I definitely noticed them! The music doesn’t stick too much in my head for very long, but that’s because of “runner’s brain”. (In other words, brain functionality is pretty low when I run!)
The expo held on Friday 3/22 and Saturday 3/23. I swung by on Saturday afternoon and didn’t have much intention of meandering through the vendors.
I needed Shot Bloks and wanted to see if the Rock n Roll series had a booth with discounts to future races. I also told Nick I would check out the Brooks, the sponsor athletic-wear vendor, to see if they had any reasonably priced men’s athletic pants. Unfortunately, I didn’t spot any athletic pants. But I did get to check out the cool commemorative glasses and experience the Brooks carnival. This expo ranks #1 for the most free T-shirts I’ve gotten thus far. Not that I need more T-shirts and tech T-shirts, but hey, when at the RnR expo…
After making my way through the Brooks area (the first and largest area), I entered the rest of the expo. Immediately I got free samples of Hill’s Science Diet cat food for Jackson. He eats Hill’s Prescription Diet and the vet at the booth said he should be fine with the Science Diet samples. I might mix the little sample bags in to the large container of his Prescription Diet, just to be safe. I also got a few Hill’s coupons, which will help offset Jackson’s grocery bill in the future. Right after the Hill’s booth, I spotted the Allstate 13.1 series booth. By signing up for the email list, I got a free tech T-shirt. I asked the lady working the booth if they had any discount codes. She said if I signed up then and there, I’d save $10. The guy working the booth also presented me with the “spin the wheel” discount option. If I landed on the right slot, I got a total of $14 off. I landed on the right spot and had to sign up then and there, but with the discounts, the race wasn’t too bad, coming in at just over $50. My next stop was the Clif booth for my ShotBloks. I picked up a variety of flavors: Strawberry, Citrus, Margarita, and Cran-Razz. I then found my way to the Rock ‘n’ Roll booth and got a $10 discount for signing up then and there for Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago. One of the women working the booth gave me two free T-shirts for signing up. They are the same shirt, one in small and one in medium. She told me to go ahead and take both, and I could decide at home which one fit better. Once I was registered for Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago, I made my way out, skipping over all the other vendors.
I will say, even though RnR is a money-making machine, they sure do put on a great expo and post-race event… more details to come on that one!
The crowd support was great for this race. Highlighted areas where there was plenty of crowd support included Uptown, Turtle Creek, Highland Park, the M-Streets, Skillman, and Swiss Avenue (basically, the usual spots). There were a few voids here and there, but I think that is typical of Dallas races.
I took the back way in to Fair Park, avoiding ALL traffic. I learned this trick last year and any race I do that starts at Fair Park has me taking this back route. My only concern is that, by going this way, I cross over part of the course, and I fear that the road will be blocked off. The barricades were out at this crossing point, Swiss Avenue, but they weren’t set up yet, so I was able to cross over and sneak into Fair Park without a single car in front or behind me. Once at Fair Park, I headed over to the shuttle area and only had to wait in line a few minutes before I got on the bus.
Once in downtown, my running friends slowly trickled into the convention center at the spot I staked out. We hung out there for as long as possible before heading back out into the cold to find our corral. A few of my friends parted ways with us, but Michael, Jessica, and I made our way to corral 7. Rock ‘n’ Roll does a great job staggering the corrals, so it was several minutes past 8:00 AM when we finally started. Last year I remember thinking how spaced out the corrals seemed. This year, I didn’t notice the spacing as much and we were dodging people pretty soon after we started.
Clearly, the stranger who took this picture has no knowledge on how to take a picture… He cropped part of both Jessica and Michael out!
Michael, Jessica, and I took it easy as we headed out. We stuck together for the first 2 miles, holding it around a 10:00 minute mile. Jessica was coming off of an injury and told Michael and me to go ahead if we wanted to speed up. A hill came and Michael and I charged through it, getting it over with. I looked back and we’d lost Jessica.
Michael and I stuck together for another two miles as we made our way through Turtle Creek. I passed the point where I waited for Nick last year (the point of last year’s no return). Michael did a marathon the week before and a 10k the day before, so his legs were starting to feel the weight is previous two races. He told me to go ahead. I wound my way into Highland Park, up the incline. I had flashbacks to last year. I started to walk in Highland Park last year. This year was a totally different story. I felt so much more prepared for this race this year! My watch buzzed and buzzed as the miles ticked by. I wound my way across 75 and into the M-Streets, passing the relay check point. Things were going well. I was consistent about my ShotBlok intake, eating one every three miles: mile 3, 6, and 9. I took water at the water stops shortly after eating my ShotBloks, but I didn’t slow down. I took a sip of water, spilled about a fourth of it on myself, and kept going. I wasn’t thirsty enough to need to walk through the stops (to actually be able to drink the full cup) so my method was working for me. As I turned onto Greenville Avenue, I spotted Kate and Valerie, two girls in my pace group this season, up ahead. I caught up to them and said hi before moving forward, plugging away. The race turned onto Mockingbird for a short stint and then took us down Skillman. I passed the Gu fuel station, and didn’t look twice at the little packets. Right around this point, a women came up by me and thanked every single person in sight. Now don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful to the officers, volunteers, and spectators and do my fair share of thanking people along the way, but this woman was crazy appreciative… to the point that it was annoying to me. I don’t know if I sped up or if she slowed down, but after about 50 thank you’s I lost her.
At mile 10, I started to play the math game with myself. If I do this same pace for the next three miles, I think I can get in under 2 hours. It was a little hard to tell because after 1 hour, my Garmin doesn’t have enough display space to show the seconds. I was also estimating how far off my watch was to the RnR mile markers on the street. The difference gradually grew, but it was still a tolerable range. At mile 12, I planned on taking my next ShotBlok. For the first three ShotBloks, I was basing them on the mile marker signs. But there wasn’t a 12 mile marker! At least I never saw one. So I never took that ShotBlok. I saw Fair Park up ahead and knew I was almost done. My memories from last year reminded me that there was quite a few turns to make once in Fair Park before hitting the finish line. The same was true for this year. At least I was expecting it. There is nothing worse than thinking you are so close to the end and then realizing you have to make a gazillion turns before you actually see the finish line.
Mad dash to the finish line. Screw the camera, I want to get in under 2 hours!
I crossed the finish line, grabbed my medal, posed for a few pictures and walked through the finisher’s area before taking off for my last 9 miles.
I’ll try not to spend a lot of time on those last 9 miles since they weren’t technically part of the race, but I do want to include them for future reference if I ever have to do something like this again. As soon as I got out of the finisher’s area, I began jogging again. My pace was a bit slower, but I was okay with that. I was done racing and taking those last 9 miles nice and easy was fine with me. I attempted to find a way back onto the course, while staying out of the way of the runners and in the process, I had to cut through a different part of Fair Park to get back on the course. After making one wrong (barricaded) turn, I realized I still had my timing chip on. I paused my watch, reached down, ripped it off, and tossed it in the first garbage can I found. Making my way back onto the course, I hit the wind… HARD. The first 4.5 miles up were straight into the wind. I stayed on the sidewalk the whole 4.5 miles up, which wasn’t always evenly paved. At points, there was one lane of traffic open along the side of the sidewalk that I was on, so I had to stop two or three times in order to cross the street. I got a lot of “You’re going the wrong way”, which got old very quickly! But I also got a lot of, “Wow, you rock!” I also got to see several of my friends who were running towards the finish line. It was hard for me to spot them out in the crowd, but most of my friends spotted me… the only crazy person running against all the runners… and shouted out to me. Seeing my friends over those first 4.5 miles out was a lot of fun. I finally made it to a medical tent/port-o-pottie that was just about 4.5 miles up and decided that was a good turn-around spot. I decided a pit-porto-o-pottie-stop might be good before heading back, but alas there wasn’t any toilet paper left and I decided I didn’t have to go that badly, so off I went, to take on the last 4.5 miles. At this point in the race, the people out on the course were walkers. I passed two women who spotted me run up the course. They were both blown away by me and made some comment that I made it look so easy. I laughed and thanked them. I continued on and hit the Gu fuel station again. The Gu people were still handing out packets. I asked what flavors they had, but none of them sounded appealing so I continued on. Once I hit Swiss Avenue, I needed to take a quick stretching break. My legs were getting tight and my neck was extremely sore. I had my medal around my neck the entire time, but tucked under my pullover so it wouldn’t bounce around too much. Even though the medal is relatively light, the weight of it over those 9 miles made it feel like I was carrying a 30 pound weight around my neck. I also walked the remaining water stops, some of which no longer had Gatorade.
I hit Fair Park once again and started to play it up with the cameras. I whipped out that 30 pound medal and showed it off as I ran past the camera guys and gals, making a peace sign, signifying that this was my second time through the finisher’s chute.
I crossed the finish line and once again made my way through the finisher’s area, which was much more deserted and picked over at this point.
POST RACE FOOD AND VENDORS
Rock ‘n’ Roll did an awesome job with the post race food. My first time through I only took a bottle of water, but there were Power Bars, Jamba Juice, chips, pretzels, milk, bagels, bananas, etc. I should have taken pictures of the post race food then! My second time through, it was slim pickings. The Power Bars and milk were gone. Jamba Juice was still there and so were the awesome chips (which I ate on the drive home).
My Jamba Juice lasted me as I walked through Fair Park towards my car. The only trouble was, the smoothie was super cold and coming off the race, I was freezing. Oh well, it tasted yummy anyway. There was a big stage set up on the Fair Grounds where the feature band was playing, but at this point, Fair Park was starting to look desolate as most of the runners had cleared out, seeking warmth.
NO PAIN NO GAIN
I felt great for the 13.1. It wasn’t until I did the last nine miles that my legs started to feel tired. Like I said above, my neck was killing me from having the medal around my neck, too.
After I was done running the full 22 miles, my hamstrings were incredibly tight. I hobbled to my car and drove home. When I stepped out of my car, not only were my hamstrings tight, but my entire legs were stiff. Getting up the stairs was struggle. It felt like I’d just ran a marathon… pretty close to it, I’d say! My upper body was fine, but from the bottom of my butt down was sore. As typical of most evenings when I head to bed after races, I was super fidgety. I apologized to Nick but he said, I know, you have runner’s legs. Yup, fidgety runners legs is right! Once I got my legs propped up by some pillows, I was okay. The next day I felt better, but I was still a bit stiff. Going down stairs was a painful activity, but other than that, I was walking around just fine.
OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS
This race went by really quickly. Maybe that was because I knew I wasn’t done until I reached 22 miles. I remember thinking at mile 10, wow, it seems like it’s only been 20 minutes or so. Well supported races (lots of runners) go by a lot faster for me for whatever reason.
While I wasn’t planning on going as fast as I did for the race, I’m glad I did. My pace was a bit slower for the last 9 miles, but still much faster than I’d go for my weekend long runs. It was a great dry-run for me for my upcoming marathon. Had I not stopped at the finish line after the race, I wonder how much longer I would have been able to maintain my pace. Stopping and then starting into the hard wind again killed my day’s race pace for me, but had I been able to run straight through the finisher’s chute and back around, I think I could have maintained my pace sub-9’00” for a while longer. Never once on the 13.1 did I feel like I was exerting myself too hard and I was going a pace that felt comfortable, yet on the quicker side for me, especially for the second half of the race.
Driving home was tough. I had no patience and just wanted to get home. The second I got home, I ate a piece of leftover pizza and passed out on the couch, still in my nasty sweaty clothes. While I wanted to get clean and comfortable, I was too exhausted to even think about stepping foot in the shower. After about an hour nap, I had enough energy to strip out of my stinky clothes and was the sweat off myself. That’s the first time I’ve even not immediately jumped in the shower after a run. The insanely busy four days sure did catch up to me!
What a better time I had this year compared to last year! At times, I thought the music along the course was a little blaring, but maybe that’s just me and my issue of having heightened senses when I run. I really enjoy the route; perhaps because it is familiar; and even though Rock ‘n’ Roll is a money-making machine, they are well-organized and offer great perks (especially at the finish line). We’ll see what happens next year with my running schedule, but overall, I think this is a great Dallas area race…. just as long as you are okay with all your money going straight to this for-profit organization. On the down side, I do think they could use a better ribbon for the medal. At least they could have some text on it instead of being a solid blue ribbon. Oh well, I don’t know if that will ever change.
Bib Number: 7336
Division: Half Marathon Female 30-34
Official Chip Time: 1:59:43
Official Gun Time: 2:11:05
Official Race Distance: 13.1 miles
Official Average Race Pace: 9’08″
Overall Rank: 2847 out of 10682
Sex Rank: 1107 out of 6551
Division Rank: 230 out of 1249
5k (3.1 Mile) Split: 30:33
10k (6.2 Mile) Split: 59:01
10 Mile Split: 1:32:41
Garmin Time: 1:59:44
Garmin Distance: 13.31 Miles
Garmin Average Pace: 9’00″
Mile 1: 10’02″
Mile 2: 10’00″
Mile 3: 9’01″
Mile 4: 9’09″
Mile 5: 9’03″
Mile 6: 8’57″
Mile 7: 8’53″
Mile 8: 8’55″
Mile 9: 8’39″
Mile 10: 8’38″
Mile 11: 8’45″
Mile 12: 8’44″
Mile 13: 8’30″
Mile 13.31: 7’53″
And for reference, my last 9-ish miles, bringing me to a total of 22 for the day:
Garmin Time: 1:30:18
Garmin Distance: 8.89 Miles
Garmin Average Pace: 10’09”
Mile 1: 10’28”
Mile 2: 10’16”
Mile 3: 10’12”
Mile 4: 10’18”
Mile 5: 9’54”
Mile 6: 9’47”
Mile 7: 10’25”
Mile 8: 9’55”
Mile 8.89: 10’10”