Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dallas Rock N Roll Half Marathon 2011 Race Report

This morning I ran the Dallas Rock N Roll Half Marathon. It was my first Rock N Roll event. I'm typically a big fan of supporting local races (of which Rock N Roll is not) and races which afford more opportunity for running outreach through lower entry fees (again, Rock N Roll is not known for low entry fees), and I'll add I'm a pretty no-frills racer. Disclaimer: So take that all into account when reading my opinions on this event - different people will see different things at an event and feel different ways about it.

Before Sophie was born in December, I needed a race around this time to get myself motivated to get running again post-baby, so when they offered $20 off on 10-10-10 if you registered that day, I said, "Sure, that makes the entry fee reasonable." ($65) Ironically, this was actually my 3rd half marathon of the year - I was back running the second the doctor cleared me 6 weeks post-C-section.

Photo courtesy of Stacy McKinney about 5 miles into the race

I wasn't excited going into this race because time is already at a premium as a mom, and I hadn't thought ahead to the fact that a 14,000 person race means maneuvering through crowds, carefully reading all the race details online, having to go an hour down to Dallas Convention Center to go to their expo Saturday and get my race packet, and then having to get to and from downtown Dallas race on race day. This race took a lot more time than the time to run it! So again, it just left me a little unexcited going into race day.

Then for small and medium sized races, and races with reasonable entry fees, my expectation level for race swag and frills will be diferent than that of a big and/or more expensive race. The expo wasn't as big as Dallas White Rock Marathon (the hall in the Convention Center was much smaller and half of it taken up with Brooks merchandise, so I think it looked fuller but the count of booths, it didn't really appear to be), but packet pickup was very quick and well-organized. The shirt design was super cute on the front and back - however, it was a unisex shirt and a white shirt (not a fan of white shirts at races, especially if you have the connections to afford to do something else). The bib was colorful, but for signing up 5 1/2 months ago, it didn't have my name printed on it, which I believe Dallas, Houston, and Austin all do (and I do for races I direct because I love that perk).

Look, at the end of the day, as a race director myself, I envy the resources and connections Competitor Group has with their race series and their volume of race entry fees to spend on the runners - and so when I feel like they aren't using that to their advantage, I'm sad about that. If Brooks is a huge sponsor, I'd love to see some gender-specific non-white shirts. I'd love to see the extra $0.02 per bib and a couple hours of a staffer's time spent on bib personalization for early registrants. It's that simple.

A cold front came in overnight and it was cold race morning. About 48 at start with wind chill of 40. I'm glad I wore running tights. By the end of the race, my hands felt frozen. And it had just started to drizzle. Luckily though, no rain!

I got down to the start line in a great time, about an hour before the race, and the race site was laid out spaciously so it didn't feel too crowded. However, there was never a map of the start line village on the website or much signage in the area, so people were asking around about where Gear Check was. I have to say Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon does a fantastic job of giving you a race site layout and amazing race morning signage. Austin Marathon this year had a detailed finish line site layout, of which Rock N Roll also didn't have online.

I saw and said hi to many friends, met some friends for the first time (@SarahStanley and @ShannonRuns), and through some phone calls and texts, connected with Elaine and Meagan (visiting from Houston) to hang out for a few before heading to the start corrals.

Plenty of room in the corrals. Wave start was handled very very well. I started about 16 minutes after the gun for being in Corral 9 - felt reasonable and not like we were waiting forever.

My plan for this race: I ran my first trail half marathon last weekend, and have my first trail 25K next weekend. Plus I've struggled to figure out my post-baby pace which really shouldn't be close to my pre-baby pace. My PR was set in Feb. 2010 at Cowtown Half Marathon and was approximately 11:06 pace. So I decided to set out at a 12:45 pace which should be pretty maintainable over the distance. If I felt good at miles 8-10, I could decide anywhere in there to ramp it up.

Spectators on this course were great. I never encountered an aid station that was out of either water or Cytomax (can't be said for some other big races where volunteers find themselves overwhelmed by the time someone my pace gets there). I felt like there were big stretches of time without any bands, but I liked that when we did encounter a band, they were actually playing. I've commented before that at some races, they are always on break when I come by! [Amendment: I've now heard that it sounds like the city of Highland Park wouldn't allow bands through that section of course, which would explain the big segments without music! Very good to know if this is indeed true!]

12:45 min per mile pace went well, in fact I was a little fast early on. I saw more friends than I can even name, both on the course and cheering. Heels and Hills had our hot pink tent at about mile 7.5, and I was happy to see Paula and Sarah at the top of that tall hill! I was surprised there were no split time callers - Dallas Running Club Half Marathon has them, as does Dallas White Rock Marathon. While we're all in different waves, it's still nice to hear a ballpark figure.

About mile 10, I fell in with Traci, who I had just met at Grasslands Half Marathon last weekend. We stuck together until the end, and I started increasing my speed each mile a little. In the end, I felt like we kicked too early (my gosh, running through Fair Park took forever, when will we get there?!?). But I'm very proud of the 8:42 pace I managed that last 0.17 miles!

In the end, 2:44:29, a 12:29 pace! Nailed it!

Finisher medal seemed a little plain but was solid and heavy, but the ribbon wasn't printed which I think is a nice touch for finisher medals. I will say I really liked their design from last year that looked like a sheriff's badge.

Post-race: I am COLD! Ready to go home and warm up!

I'm a bad one to render too many opinions on finish lines. I'm a no-frills girl. I rarely eat or drink much after crossing the finish, don't drink beer, didn't have much interest in the Bret Michaels concert, didn't have to meet up with family. Picking up my gear was easy once I figured out where the school buses we had checked the gear onto were parked. I did see the start of the Bret Michaels concert, and it was cool how close you could get to the stage if you were really into it.

Next up: Hells Hills 25K is only 6 days away!

Mile 1: 12:09
Mile 2: 12:36
Mile 3: 12:15
Mile 4: 12:24
Mile 5: 12:55 (walked through taking my Gu)
Mile 6: 12:49
Mile 7: 12:41
Mile 8: 12:32
Mile 9: 13:25 (walked through taking my Gu)
Mile 10: 12:42
Mile 11: 12:30 (ramping it up!)
Mile 12: 12:16
Mile 13: 11:51
Last 0.17 pace: 8:42 (bring it home, baby!)


  1. Great job Libby. I don't care for RnR because of the things you mentioned. They make a ton of money and do very little for the runners. But you are certainly a serial halfer. Great job!

  2. Congratulations!!! Great race and awesome splits. Consistent with a faster end.

    I agree about time spent on packet pick-up etc. I used to love getting my packet in advance... but now, I really like the race day option if I have to go further than Run-on.

    (By the way, they didn't have split callers, but every mile marker had a sign with the current race time on it... which I really liked.)

  3. Nice job on your race! Wonderful recap....I've run a few Rock n' Roll races and my favorite two favorites were New Orleans (2010 - but it was the first year it was a R&R so a bit smaller than I'm sure it was this year) and Las Vegas. Both had great venues to listen to the bands afterwards....and both were combined with vacations (so that's probably why I enjoyed them so much). I just passed by a 13.1 race in Chicago for the reason that those too are getting to big to do a smaller venue in a suburb of Chicago the following weekend. About the same price but I suspect I'll have a better experience without the crowds.

    I have run large & small races - but none are nearly as experience as the R&R races. As a matter of fact, the Vegas half was the same price as the full? Not sure why that was the case although I'm sure the bands are somewhat expensive.

    Can't wait to read about your next race! Good luck.

  4. Nice report- I have heard that the RNR races are really for profit- they only use the charity thing to keep the runners happy. I think it would be great to see how the money is actually divvied up.

    Sam Cole

  5. Great post! Thanks for letting me watch some of Bret Michaels. I was giddy as a school girl! Looking forward to your post on Hells Hills!

  6. Great job, Libby! So proud of you coming back from maternity leave and kicking your running into gear!

  7. You are seriously amazing with all of the long distances you do so regularly. I can't wait to see how your next race goes. Keep it up! :)

  8. Way to go Ms Consistency! I especially liked the little kick at the end. Well done!

    I have never run a RnR race--mostly for the reasons that you list. The entry fee is just too high when there are 2 of us running and we race a half marathon every month.

  9. Great Race Report, though I'm a little bummed to hear so much negative about the RnR. This was my first half and I LOVED it. I thought the course was gorgeous, the pickup (we went on Friday) was well-organized, and we just generally had a great time. But, maybe because it was my first one I don't really have any comparison.

  10. Great job Libby!! It's interesting to hear the perspective of a race director on this one. I agree with many of the things you said, but I enjoy some of the things you don't (like the expo ;-p). This might be my last year for RNR - but I'm doing 3 of them. At least I'll get 2 extra medals from the Heavy Medal series!! I have a hard time with the high entry fees, too. There is a group I found online last year that is boycotting competitor because of similar things you wrote about. It's sad to see, because in the end, I love expo and race day!! I go back and forth ... Either way, you did awesome!!

  11. Julie and Erin, I actually didn't feel like I was that negative on them, I thought I tried to point out positives and negatives. I pointed out things that weren't my fave or simply aren't my cup of tea (like the expo & post-race concert) and I pointed out instances where I've seen locally-produced races do it better (note never being arrogant enough to include the races I direct as examples). But I also included many positives: corral & wave start were great, spectators were wonderful, and aid stations were handled well, as some examples. Those are all important items to do well!