Race Recap and Review: Dallas Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon

Rock 'n' Roll Dallas

#4/13 of the 2013 Half Marathons

 Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, ‘Because it is there.’ Well, space is there, and were going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there.  -John F. Kennedy, U.S. President (1961-1963)

My running travels took me to Dallas, Texas this past weekend. Why did I fly halfway across the country for a half marathon? As JFK said, it’s because it’s there. This was the first race where I had to plan everything in advance, from plane ticketing to lodging to transportation.

Friday afternoon I took half a day off of work to San Jose International Airport for my flight to Dallas/Fort Worth. As a frequent flier (almost A-List!) of Southwest Airlines, it felt a little odd flying on another airline domestically. I had to actually choose my seat beforehand! That certainly felt a little archaic.

One of the coolest parts? American Airlines incorporated Passbook to the iPhone, which was something I really wish Southwest would do. I didn’t have to print anything, and it felt so cool just whipping out my phone and having my boarding pass immediately available.

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But I digress. Onto the race weekend!

Touchdown Dallas

I landed at Dallas at around 9:30pm Central Time, and my uncle picked me up from DFW. It was the first time I’d been in Dallas in about 12 years when I last visited my relatives there. Needless to say, I don’t remember too much from my last visit, other than that it was triple-digit temperatures in July and playing Super Mario with my cousins.

My uncle took me to a Midwestern diner chain, called Steak and Shake in Frisco. I had burger with a fried egg on it, with caramel and apples. A very good start to all-American foods!

Race Expo

The next day, I took the DART (the Dallas version of BART?) from my uncle’s place in Allen, TX all the way to the Dallas Convention Center.

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As always, Rock n’ Roll expos are the same, so I won’t go into much detail here. The only difference I noticed here was that the expo appeared to cater to a more Texan crowd. There were booths giving out free samples of dog food (for your dog, I presume), a Christian running group, and Brooks held a circus county fair type of event about running. Other than that, nothing else was too eventful.

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In the bag o’ swag.

The Texas Culinary Tour

Naturally, as Texas is famous for this, I was craving some steak and BBQ. I turned to Man vs. Food’s Dallas episode (begin at 6:45) and discovered Sonny Bryan’s. Two of my cousins, my uncle, and I visited the establishment in Richardson and ordered some amazing food.

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Fried okra? Ribs? Mac n’ Cheese?! Too much good stuff.

Later that evening, we went to Saltgrass Steakhouse and I had a massive T-bone steak, a sweet potato, and butter as my pre-race fuel.

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The T stands for Texas.

Race Morning

One of the things I didn’t account for when making my travels from California to Texas was that Dallas weather is cold. It’s very cold in mid-March in Dallas, and when I woke up Sunday morning it was 40 degrees with wind chill down to the low 30s, due to the 30ish mph and increasing winds. My running gear this time was just a cotton short-sleve and shorts. Yikes.

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Luckily, my uncle’s neighbors, Greg and Shana, are frequent runners (more so than me!) and I was able to hitch a ride with them to the start. I’m also more than grateful that they  lent me a pair of their gloves and a running jacket to use during the race. I don’t know what would’ve happened without them!

We drove over to Fair Park and took the shuttle over to the start line near City Hall.

Greg and Shana were going to do a warmup jog, and I just decided to join just cause. Previously, I treated the first mile as a warmup, but I’ve noticed that I feel much better at the beginning when I don’t have a cold start. A warmup really helps.

With the windspeed increasing minute by minute and blowing against the direction of the race course, the race started at exactly 8am! We were in corral 3, so we started promptly at 8:04.

The Course

The Dallas Rock n’ Roll race begins at Dallas City Hall, near the Convention Center, and finishes at Fair Park, where the annual State Fair of Texas is held. It crosses US-75 near Mockingbird Lane at its northernmost point.

In the first mile, we passed the infamous place where JFK was assassinated exactly fifty years ago. From there, we veered north up and navigated around mostly suburbia.

Since Greg and Shana were aiming for a 1:50 time, I decided I should keep pace with them. Who knows if I would’ve PR’d? After the second mile or so, when we started venturing through suburbs and out of Downtown Dallas, I felt a PR was in my grasp and took off.

Much of the course isn’t all too interesting. For the most part, the course was very flat, but not as flat as Phoenix or San Jose. There were some rolling hills up until the 8th mile, and from there it was a steady downhill slope to the finish. I was mostly concerned about the wind, since it was consistently against the course up until mile 8, when we turned and changed direction.

In mile 10 and 11, we turned onto Swiss Ave, where large, Southern-plantation style houses were abound. They didn’t have the vast fields of Southern plantations, but they were huge! Huge houses that would simply not exist in the Bay Area.

…Honestly I’m thinking of what else I can say about the course, and there’s not much I can say. I did notice that someone was holding a sign saying “Run, Random Stranger, Run!” I love these supporters.

The mile 12 marker didn’t exist, and I reached the 20K (12.43 mile) marker much faster than I thought. I learned later that it was because of the mile 12 marker was blown over and nearly flew away O__O.

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I finished at 01:48:15, or 8:16 / mile. Another personal record! I was extremely surprised I was able to hit below 1:50, let alone a personal record. I’m not sure what accounted for this. The weather? The warm-up jog? The new running shoes? The Texas steak? Who knows. I didn’t really train any more different than usual either.

The best thing is, I didn’t feel tired! I definitely could’ve ran faster, and can definitely PR again if I ran the course once more.

After the race, I met up with Greg and Shana, who finished three minutes after me (almost their PR), and we walked back to their car for some celebratory Starbucks. Woo hoo!

As always, my post-race meal did not disappoint. My uncle and cousins went to Texas Roadhouse and I had their Cowboy Cut Sirloin Steak.

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The rest of the day, I lounged around and explored more of Dallas, including parts of Allen (the 60 million dollar high school football stadium), UT Dallas, and sampled more food!

After some long overdue family bonding time, it was time to head back west to the Bay Area. My uncle took me over to DFW once more and I was on my way back.

Would I do this again? Yes, absolutely. This was certainly the furthest I’ve traveled simply to run a race, and I can say without a doubt it is a lot of fun.

A huge thank you to Jun for sending me to the airport, to my uncle and my cousins for finally meeting some of them after many long years (one for the first time!) and to Greg and Shana for graciously lending me much needed clothing and transportation to the race!

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