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  • Quick Glance:
  • Host: Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Series
  • Shoes: Barefoot/“J”uaraches
  • Venue:Downtown San Antonio, Enough Said!
  • Would I Run It Again:Has registration for next year re-opened
  • Muddy Toes Rating: Even without mud, this gets a 10 out of 10!
  • Yes, I was the “crazy barefoot guy” in the ORANGE head wrap

It’s currently (as I start writing this review) a little over 14 hours since I finished the San Antonio Rock ‘n Roll Marathon…my feet hurt… my quads feel trashed…I am sun-burnt…I have a tan line from my back pack straps, and my HRM chest strap that makes me look like I was wearing a bra….and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

I’ll start, as I always do, at the very beginning: I signed up for this event right after I completed my first 10k in February, the Natural Bridge Caverns 1/2 Marathon, 10k and 5k. I had already signed up for a Tough Mudder, a Spartan Sprint, A 1/2 Marathon, and many others…I figured I would be 100% ready to run a full Marathon by November, so I never even considered running the Half-Marathon…kudos to those who did though, 1/2 the distance seemed like it was twice the fun!

I spent most of this year training for a Tough Mudder and a Full marathon, which were to take place within a month of each other! You all know how the Tough Mudder went, this event was a wee bit different! (it was difficult to train for both simultaneously….but I didn’t learn my lesson, now I am currently planning a 1/2 Marathon (Alamo 13.1), an Ultra-Marathon (Prickly Pear 50k) and another Tough Mudder,  all within the span of 45 days… I might throw another 5k obstacle race in there too)

Packet pick-up was fairly simple and easy to get to, aside from dealing with the general parking issues downtown on a Friday morning. The “Health and Fitness Expo presented by Garmin” was held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center…it’s kind of a landmark here in San Antonio….There were boards listing runners names alphabetically, in case you needed to find your bib number and assigned corral. The packet pick-up area was HUGE and well organized, as was the swag bag and t-shirt area, no problems there!

I walked into the Expo area, where a veritable cornucopia of vendors of all shapes and sizes were busy demonstrating their particular wares…there were many great deals to be had, but being a barefoot runner, I really wasn’t interested in shoes and compression socks…so about 70% of the displays were lost on me. I did check out the “Yurbuds” earphones, pretty cool, because they had product experts sizing you, and they gave me a card with my size on it…I got  a funny look when I plugged in to my MotoACTV…

There were also tables there from some of my favourite race series as well, the Jailbreak Race, the Spartan Race Series, and the Alamo 13.1 to name a few…

After about an hour walking around this runner’s wonderland, I headed back out into the day, final race preparations on my mind.

I got home, fished my bib and t-shirt out of the swag-bag, and I was suddenly hit with the realization that, in less than 48 hours, I would be running a distance that actually killed the first person in recorded history (ok, mythology) to run it… (click for a history lesson)

I spent the evening and the next day carb-loading, and making final preparations to run,  laying out my clothes the night before/huge spaghetti dinner/writing a huge note to NOT FORGET TO APPLY Bodyglide…that sort of thing. I decided that I was going to run the race barefoot…not barefoot “styled”…not in “barefoot shoes”…actually bare foot…no shoes, no shirt, no problems… I also solved the issue “Where does a barefoot runner put a shoe mounted timing device?”

…On my ankle-mounted Road ID Of Course!!!!

I went to bed early on Saturday, and woke before my alarm went off on Sunday morning. Mrs. MuddyJ and I rolled out of bed together and got the Thing’s Three up and dressed…the plan we had decided on: Mrs MuddyJ would drop me off EARLY as near to the race start as we could get, and I would walk to the starting line. the highway exit nearest to the runner drop-off was already backed up for a mile or so-THANK GOODNESS we are locals…I told Mrs MuddyJ to take an earlier exit, and I got out and walked the distance, letting the cool morning air wake me up during the walk over as the activity warmed my blood…

A block or so away from the starting area, I started talking to some runners that were obviously heading in the same direction, I mean seriously, what are the odds that an event with 30,000+ runners would see anyone in the area headed in a different direction?

The starting area was well laid out. The port-o-potties were plentiful, though running out of toilet paper very quickly, next year I’ll bring a roll with me, and the corrals were clearly marked.

-Before it got crowded

When registering as a runner for this, I was asked what I estimated my finish time might be…I was honest and wrote in 5 hours, and wound up in corral #20 ...about half a mile from the starting line…

I chatted with other runners, as I am prone to do, and fist bumped LOTS of other Tough Mudders (instantly recognizable by their Orange Sweatbands)… I wore my usual Orange Recon Wrap on my head,  but, as is my tradition, I wore the shirt from my last event to the next one…my last event: TOUGH MUDDER! By the time we neared the start though, the temperature had risen enough that I doffed said Mudder Shirt, and assumed my usual, No shoes, No Shirt, No problem appearance….

-looking cheesy for the photographer

Announcements were made and the countdown to start began…and then the countdown to the next corral’s release…. and again… 15 minutes later, we started to move towards the, and at the stroke of 07:56:30 (26 minutes AFTER the start) my corral was released, and I began my race.

As most endurance events tend to do, this marathon started out as more of a trickle than a flood…runners took up an easy trot, probably planning to unleash their inner beast later…

-waltzing up to the starting line

I had a strategy for this race, to follow a preset heart rate progression for the entirety of the event, with my first miles being run @ a recovery pace. I don’t know if it was the heat, the humidity, or the excitement of running in such a HUGE event, but that plan, as many plans are prone to do, went out the window in the first mile…I just found a pace I felt I could maintain, listened to my own breathing, and went for it! I simply couldn’t get my heart rate down into the zone I wanted to.

Pre-race jitters and initial issues aside, I settled into a nice  11-12 min pace…after all, I was more worried about actually finishing my first organized marathon than I was worried about time. It quickly became apparent that other runners thought I was a novelty, and spectators were pointing me out to each other “hey! that guy is BAREFOOT!” The first 10 miles are pretty much a blur to me, no matter how hard try to remember specifics, it was a constant stream of comments, cheering throngs of people on either side of the course, water stations, aid stations, cover bands…and SHADE…it seemed like most of the first 10 miles of the 26.2 mile course were in the shade!

Then came the split.

The race became a very, very different experience after that…

As I approached the ten mile mark, barely breathing hard and feeling great, I noticed a line of cones splitting the road down the middle…on the left, it was extremely crowded, with runners packed in tightly to each other, on the right it was quite a bit more…empty…the relay runners and 1/2 marathon participants made a left turn, while the full course runners wound up heading off to the right. What was moments before a crowded avenue of runners packed in shoulder to shoulder, with barely enough (or mostly not enough) room to pass, was now wide open space. I stood a little straighter, opened up my stride, and picked up my pace just a little. No longer were there thunderous groups of cheering spectators…the roads were now lined with empty sidewalks. There were still people watching, but it was a more subdued and respectful air about the few spectators who were there. Many held signs, cheering on a specific runner they had come to cheer for, and many others had funny remarks: You can do it random runner! / Worst.Parade.Ever. / Run Faster, I Farted …just to name a few..

Around the 13 mile mark, Mrs MuddyJ and the Things Three were set up to watch me pass and cheer as I went by…I would be passing by again at the 22 mile mark, so it was as good a place as any to watch the race, in fact it was better than most! I spotted them before they spotted me and I waved…Mrs. MuddyJ snapped a few photos as the kids cheered me onward.

waving to my awesome and supportive family

“I’ll be back in a little bit!” I yellled, full of renewed vigor, mostly from my family cheering me on.

I know that I have mentioned that GU energy gels REALLY don’t agree with me, but I decided recently to try a different gel: Carb BOOM! It’s an “all natural” fruit based gel that actually tastes good. I had been using one an hour since the race began, and I am fairly certain that they really helped me maintain my energy levels.

The race continued onward, straight and flat and…well, for lack of a better term…boring…  somewhere near mile #14 I settled into my stride, set my legs and arms on auto-pilot, and simply checked-out mentally. I broke through, and found the joy of running…

I snapped back into reality only at water points, and periodically to run a self-diagnostic-stride:check, back straight:check, chicken wings: check…and so-on and so forth…

Closing in on my three hour mark, I saw a familiar runner in the distance, and I was closing much faster than I thought possible…My Alamo Running Buddy Stephen was just ahead of me, and I was gaining on him quickly! I cupped my hands and shouted after him, “You better start running Stephen!”

He looked back and smiled…the good natured jibes dispensed with, I pulled alongside him and we chatted a bit…it turned out that he was really having a hard-time with the rising mercury, but was otherwise ok…(side note: He did finish, though he claims this will be his last full…yeah, right!)

Around mile 17 the course began a long turn-around, which was about five miles or so. The pavement here was very rough, and after a few miles of it, my feet got pretty raw from the rough surface. The rising thermometer was also causing the pavement to heat up rapidly as well…I checked my splits, and, after a particularly rough stretch of rocky pavement (with gravel on top) I decided that it would be foolhardy to stay barefoot. I stopped running, sat down on a curb, gave my feet a cursory examination, and slipped on my “J”uaraches.

It took a few paces to get running again, but my feet were much more comfortable, and I increased my effort…but not my speed…

I was beginning to see the wall… something I had never faced before. To tell the truth, the prospect terrified me…

Somewhere around mile #20, I spotted another one of my Alamo Running Buddies, Belinda…

How would you celebrate finishing a  Iron-man 70.3? If you chose to test your grit against a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56 mile cycling ride, which was then topped off with a half-marathon run…well, if you were Belinda, you’d go run a full-freaking-marathon two weeks later…that’s how you celebrate with STYLE! THIS CHICA IS HARDCORE!

I tapped her on the shoulder as I passed her, and she flashed me a huge smile…we gave each other a thumbs up… the universal runner’s sign for, I am going to make it, but don’t make me talk too much… (unbeknownst to me, she snapped a photo of my backside with her cell)

Thanks for the photo Belinda!

Closing in on mile #21, I paused to remove my sandals and put them back in my bag…I really wanted the Thing’s Three to see me barefooted again as I ran past them a second time at mile #22…

-this puddle was nice to run through as well!

Closing in on that mark, I spotted them again, but this time, instead of just waving, I stopped for some hugs…I needed the few seconds of rest and encouragement…Mrs. MuddyJ looked on concernedly and asked, ” How ya doin?”

“I’ll finish” was my reply, “It’s getting HOT”

“are you ok?”

A quick hug and kiss from the best woman in my universe, and I replied (with machismo) “Now I am, see you at the finish!”

-My kids love, better than GU

With that I walked off to the next water point, a few meters away from them… I drank some water and gatorade, and continued my walk through the water point. On the far side, I sat on the curb again and donned my “J”uaraches…my feet had gone from “irritated” to “raw” over the course of the last mile, and I wasn’t going to make it in under five hours without covering my soles…

I fell back into my stride and there it was: THE WALL

I finally hit the wall headlong at mile #23. I simultaneously felt as if I was running every step uphill, in waist deep water, while trying to breathe a substance that was more akin to maple syrup than air…I considered walking, because it would probably have been a faster pace then I was managing to run…but I shrugged that off…I wondered why I was doing this…it honestly felt as if every fiber in my body was screaming at me to quit.

I told the aforementioned fibers to “shut the fuck up”…and  I kept on running

By the time I hit mile #24, I was over and past the wall. It had taken it’s toll, but I had beaten it. A group of spectators dressed as Spartan Warriors hooted and hollered…”A-ROOOO A-ROOOO A-ROOO” and a high five was my reply to them as I passed… if you guys were real, and happen to read this: Thanks for your crazy costumes and celebratory attitude…you guys were at JUST THE RIGHT MARK TO REMIND ME I SHOULD NEVER UNDERESTIMATE A 5K…after all the “Spartan Sprint” is “just a 5k”….right? Being reminded of one of the TOUGHEST 5k (?) races I have ever competed in gave me the courage and strength to finish strong.

The rest of the distance to the finish line I reflected on all the training and preparation that I had invested in this event…by the time I saw the #26 mile mark, I was at peace with myself and the universe…I had done what I came to do…I dug down into reserves I didn’t even know were there, and I sprinted up the final hill and rounded the corner to the final approach…I could hear the announcer’s banter as I ran on and finished…finally making it across the finish line….26.2 miles from where I had started….my time: 04:54:40 not too shabby for an 85 degree marathon!

And I wasn’t dead….

I collected my hard-earned Finisher’s Medal, and a bottle of water. I wandered through the “runner’s only” secure area, grabbing a banana and wolfing it down…I stopped and posed for my “Official” finisher’s picture…then I fished my cell out of my backpack, and called Mrs. MuddyJ… she had just arrived near the reunion area via shuttle, and we arranged to meet near a giant P.F. Chang’s inflatable. The Thing’s were super-happy to see me, and ran at me full-speed as soon as they spotted me….

Mrs. MuddyJ snapped some photos, and took over (I get kind dumb after a race)…eventually we made it back to the car, and headed out to a well deserved meal…

I had a cheeseburger, 5 glasses of unsweetened tea, and a HUGE pile of French Fries…I wasn’t too concerned …after all, I had burned over 4500 calories….

Enjoy the rest of the photos!

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