Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon – Race Recap and Review

Disclosure: I received a complimentary entry to the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! All opinions are my own.

Growing up with both sets of my grandparents in San Antonio, I’ve been more times than I can count. And since I moved to Austin (less than two hours away), I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to make it down to San Antonio for a race. After enjoying the race in Dallas so much earlier this year, I couldn’t wait to see what Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio had to offer.

Pre-Race

Sign ups were easy and there was ample communication beforehand, though it was almost information overload! As it turns out, a conflict came up and I wasn’t able to make it to the expo, but from my last experience, I’m sure it was expansive and I wish I would have had time to stop by and shop around.

Race Day

Race day morning this time was a bit more complicated than last time, as we were driving from New Braunfels to San Antonio (we’d driven to New Braunfels late the night before). However, thanks to all of the information that they sent ahead of time via email, the morning wasn’t as frantic as I thought it would be to make it to the race’s 7:15 a.m. call time. We followed the directions to runner drop off areas downtown, and found ample surface parking lots along the way. The walk to the start line was short, but when I got there, I couldn’t believe how massive the crowd was. The race was one of, if not THE largest I’ve run and felt much larger than RNR Dallas, which also felt large. It was pretty tough to get around to my corral because there were just so many people.  They prepared though – there were so many porta potties and I was even able to find a section without a line (*gasp*).

Side note: you may be wondering how I got my packet. It’s not commonly known, but there is a solutions tent that can be utilized in extenuating circumstances on race day morning to pick up your packet.

 

After taking a quick restroom stop, I headed to my corral to wait for the crowd to move up. I was in one of the earlier corrals, but it still took about 30 minutes for us to make it to the start. Knowing that there was a course time limit, it’s tough to imagine what the runners even further back (who were likely run/walking or running at a slower pace) would have to do to finish within the time limit.

However, the emcees were still spirited and once I made it across the start line, the real challenge began.

Selfie with the Alamo!

Overall, the course was interesting and relatively flat, which was quite enjoyable. It wound in and out of downtown San Antonio, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas! There were also not too many hills. Due to the size of the race, I found that there was a ton of crowd support the whole way through.

My favorite part of the course was running through the park (I believe it was Brackenridge Park). The leaves normally change colors around Thanksgiving or in December here in Texas, so all of the tree leaves had turned into a lovely yellow canopy. At the same spot, a veterans group placed memorial signs for fallen service members that ended with a lengthy flag salute. We were running through a picturesque fall canopy surrounded by reminders of those that have given everything for our country’s safety and security. It literally took the breath from my lungs because it was so beautiful and is a sight I’ll never forget.

Pictures are not doing it justice, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The weather itself was not ideal, with rain for about three miles soaking everyone and creating so many puddles on the course. It wasn’t the race’s fault of course, and I think this race would have been nearly unbeatable on a good weather day.

Oh, and who could forget the music? All of the bands stationed on the course were fantastic, and there was a good amount of variety. There was even a local mariachi band spread out all the way up one of the course’s only hills, which was a fun, festive and local touch.

Post Race Party

Tucked away a little bit behind the finish line, the post-race party was on point. There were so many snacks once I crossed and so many places to grab a photo with the photographer. Meb was there (Kolbe met him!) and there were great live bands playing. I had to head back to Austin for a baby shower, but was really happy to see that the finish line festival lived up to my expectations. The swag did not disappoint either – the shirts provided were so nice and the medal was too!

Ultimately, no PR for me this time, but I’m still thankful that I got the opportunity and truly enjoyed everything from the race’s perspective. This would be a fantastic race for just about any runner, due to the simple course, amazing crowd support, and organized race management. If you’ve never run a race before, I caution you to bring plenty of water (especially if the Texas weather takes a turn for warmth), because there aren’t as many water stations as other races provide.

Once again, cheers to the unexpected challenges of each race day!

The definitive guide to getting your carb on: Bryan/College Station

Never been to College Station (or just never had a race there)? Have no fear – the first in my series of restaurant guides for race weekend is here.

Check out some of my favorite places to eat that are pretty unique to the area when I’m in C-Stat for a race. And look for me on Sunday right here at Kyle Field for the Nutrabolt Oktoberfest Half Marathon post-race party!

Layne’s Chicken Fingers

106 Walton Dr.
College Station, TX 77840
979.696.7633

A College Station original decked out in Aggie maroon and white, Layne’s offers delicious, lightly breaded and crisp chicken and a secret, peppery comeback sauce. They also have fresh, buttery Texas toast, and an authentic vibe that will make you reminisce of the holes in the walls you frequented in college. Plus, true to college life, it’s super-affordable ($5-6 per person) and near campus.

Hungry Howie’s

105 Southwest Pkwy. #400
College Station, TX 77840
979.693.6666

Pizza can get a little old if you’re eating it often to carbload. Flavored crusts add another level to elevate the take-out pizza (garlic herb, anyone?). Plus, when you’re traveling, it’s great to have an inexpensive meal option, since you’re paying for gas and a hotel as it is.

Caffe Capri

222 North Main Street
Bryan, Texas 77803
979.822.2675

For those looking for a pasta party the night before a big race, in historic downtown Bryan, Caffe Capri has the most delicious Italian fare in the area. They serve the best bread as an intro, and their pasta is to die for. Be sure to call ahead or get there early if it’s a Friday or Saturday – it gets pretty crowded!

Grub Burger Bar

980 University Dr E #400
College Station, TX 77840
979.268.1041

Grub is the home of some of the best burgers in modern history, and has delicious fries to boot (and milkshakes, if they don’t upset your stomach). When you walk in, the aroma of their fresh buns wafts in your direction, so you know it’s going to be good. And they have a lot of different flavor options, so you’re bound to find something you like on the menu.

Fuego Tortilla Grill

108 Poplar Street
College Station, TX 77840
979.703.1804

Tacos, and especially breakfast tacos, are a Texas staple. Fuego does them really well, 24/7. They are made to order and have so many fresh salsas to choose from. I have to get the Fuego Steak every time I go, but their chorizo breakfast taco is also what got me hooked on chorizo. They also have fantastic chips and queso, if you have time to sit down.

Blue Baker

201 Dominik Drive
College Station, TX 77840
979.696.5055

What runner doesn’t like homemade baked goods? This place is like a local version of Panera. My favorite menu item is the Club Bleu on a croissant; they also have delicious bread bowls, sweet breads, scones and pastries. And if you’re short on cash, just wear all blue and you’ll get a free cookie.

Atami Steak & Sushi

800 University Dr E #200
College Station, TX 77840
979.268.8883

I love their sushi here – if you’re looking for something a little lighter to load up on carbs and protein, I highly recommend this place.

Not quite a carb:

Sweet Eugene’s

1702 George Bush Dr. E.
College Station, TX 77840
979.696.5282
 

If you need coffee in an IV, Sweet Eugene’s is one of the best local places and has a really quirky, comfy atmosphere. They have delicious pastries and donuts, too (I recommend the white chocolate cranberry scone warmed up).

If you try any of these local eateries while you’re in town, or if you try something new, I’d love to hear what you think!

Cheers to getting your carb on for a successful race. 🙂

FREE TO TRAVEL: Amsterdam Edition

I’ve been wanting to share our experiences from our trip to Europe, because we saw and learned so much. Enjoy my first ever FREE TO TRAVEL post!

Chris and I decided on Amsterdam for a variety reasons. From everything we read, the city was charming and easy to navigate. We were also interested in a lot of the tourist attractions – the food, castles (Chris’ request), museums, etc. Finally, my husband has traveled a lot, but Amsterdam/Holland were one of the places he’d never been, so it would be new to both of us. I’ve included some of the highlights of our trip, and some of the tips we have if you’re considering a visit to this gorgeous city.

Must Do’s

New Europe Walking Tour

In addition to having a great tram system and being a fairly small city, Amsterdam is actually fairly easy to walk –  just watch out for bikers. On our second day in Amsterdam, we took a walking tour from New Europe Walking Tours. We learned so much from our tour guide, who actually went to school in Austin (small world!). For example, did you know weed isn’t actually legal in Amsterdam? Cannabis (without THC) is, but weed is just tolerated… which is as good as being legal, technically. The government actually created a different tax bracket called “goods and other services” for “coffee shops” to use for paying taxes on the weed that they sell. I also liked the ease at which we could ask questions and interact with our guide during the walking tour.

Our tour guide hanging out with Edgar Allen Poe.

The smallest house in Amsterdam.

Van Gogh Museum

A popular attraction in Amesterdam is their many (and boy, do I mean, many) museums. My favorite was the Van Gogh. Growing up, both my mom and teachers educated me on impressionist painters, but I had not seen Van Gogh’s most famous works. It was truly a treat and worth the time. I also appreciated how the museum respectfully discussed his mental illness and the way that affected his works.

At the I Amsterdam sign in front of the Rijksmuseum, after visiting the Van Gogh.


Highly recommend this little cafe over by the Van Gogh. It was delicious!

Flowers… flowers everywhere!

The climate in Holland is lush and perfect for lots of flowers. I think the photos speak for themselves. They were everywhere and this nature-loving girl was in heaven!

Also, thought it was funny that they were selling cacti at the flower market.

Anne Frank Huis

If you go to Amsterdam, this is an absolute must. It’s incredible to see the place where the Frank and van Pels families spent their days. Of course, it’s also terrifying to imagine the fear they must have felt, and the courage they had to muster to survive as long as they did. It’s a sobering experience, but an excellent reminder that we must never allow hate to penetrate our society in such a way.

Muiderslot Castle

I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy a castle? This is more of an attraction for kids (there were birthday parties going on when we went). Still, learning how a real live castle worked, felt a little bit like Game of Thrones. We definitely don’t have anything like that here! Another highlight of going a little out of our way to get to the castle was walking through the town to get there. It was a scenic walk, and gave us a better picture of true Dutch life, away from the high-tourism areas of Amsterdam.

The castle.

Seen on our walk from bus stop to said castle.

The harbor outside the town where Muiderslot is located.

Tips

Airbnb

We stayed in a lovely Airbnb, and I highly recommend doing the same if you’re headed to Amsterdam. The Dutch are pretty friendly as a people, and our host was no exception.


I Amsterdam City Card

Might seem like a steep price to pay for something that doesn’t get you into the Rijksmuseum (one of the most popular museums), but all of the other perks were absolutely worth it. We were able to skip several lines, including at the Van Gogh, thanks to this handy pass. It also paid for our tram fare.


The line we skipped at the Van Gogh (plus the snogging couple, apparently).

Dutch Food

It’s hard to find, but make sure you get it while you’re there – it’s worth a good scouring of Yelp. Amsterdam is diverse, meaning there is a large selection of cuisine to choose from. I recommend trying the bitterballen and stroopwafels, too. Yummy!

Cheese Tasting

Holland is known for its cheese and it makes a great souvenir for family/friends. You certainly won’t regret trying all the cheese if you are anything like me.


The best schnitzel I’ve ever had… probably because I haven’t been to Germany, yet. 😉

More photos…

Boat houses!

The view outside a cafe (bikes for days).

One of the magnificent old churches. Because the Nazi’s didn’t ever bomb Amsterdam, a lot of the old buildings are still in tact.

A lost and found at one of the parks we visited. Note the cigarettes, haha.

Have any of y’all visited Amsterdam? What did you think?