or This Place Smells Like College
or So Glad I Didn’t Run the Half
Last year, S and I went to Shiner as spectators. She had registered, but she was injured so we decided to go and cheer instead. This year, we were both healthy and decided to run the 5K while two other BRFs signed up for the half. And after last weekend’s almost-PR, I was secretly a little hopeful, even though our coach had warned us about the hills.
The four of us drove from Austin to Shiner on Friday afternoon. We arrived too late for a brewery tour, but they were giving away free beer samples in the gift shop. An aroma of beer enveloped the place, and someone quipped, “It smells like college.” Amateurs. My college experience smelled more like tequila. 😉
Spoetzl Brewery, Shiner
After that, we went to check into our hotel–we had two rooms at The Black Gold Inn–a few miles south, in Yoakum. Just screams “small-town Texas,” doesn’t it? But was a pretty nice place–our room had two queen beds and a little kitchen area, plus free hot breakfast in the morning.
View from our hotel
A cold front had blown in during the day, and temps really dropped after dark. We ate dinner back in Shiner, then retired early. The race wouldn’t start until 8:30, but we had a little bit of a drive plus there was an unknown parking situation, so we wanted to leave by 7:15 or 7:30.
It was in the 40s and windy when we checked out of the hotel and headed to the race. We scored a parking spot along the road across from the brewery, thanks to S’s SUV. Since she was running the half, she gave me her keys so that when we finished the 5K we could retrieve extra shirts to stay warm while we waited. I zipped them into the pocket of my pants, but the whole morning I was paranoid about losing them or forgetting to lock the car.
Rogue CP had chartered a bus, and we ran into a couple of friends who had just arrived, plus some others we hadn’t seen in a while. It was cold, but as long as we huddled with the crowd, it wasn’t too bad. Around 8:15 two of us made our way to the start area, but we couldn’t find the others before the gun. I felt bad that I didn’t get to wish them well before their longer race.
The race is capped at 2107–the population of Shiner– and the 5Kers and half marathoners started together, so it was a little crowded at first. But it spread out pretty quickly as the course ran out of the brewery and up a short hill before turning through a small business district into a residential area. My lungs burned from the cold air–I tried to use my inhaler but couldn’t hold my breath long enough for the medicine to work very well. That first mile, several Rogue friends encouraged me as they passed.
I knew the course would be mostly uphill on the way out, so I expected my first mile to be my slowest. When my watch beeped a 10:57 first mile, my only thought was, “Well that sets the bar pretty high.”
Soon the bike escorting the leader–a Rogue!–flew by going the other direction. The number of returning runners increased, and even though I wasn’t really looking at my watch, when I spotted S I knew it wasn’t too far before the 5K turnaround.
When I reached it, I had to avoid a couple of half-marathon runners going straight as I tried to turn. I was impressed with the runner pushing a stroller who whipped that thing around the cone like one of those zero-turning-radius lawn mowers. A few minutes later I spotted the other two and waved, glad I didn’t completely miss them at the beginning of the race.
I knew from here it was mostly flat or downhill, so I could pick up my pace just by running the same effort level as the first mile. And I did–the half-uphill second mile was 10:44. So now I knew a PR was possible as long as I kept up this pace or better–possible, but not easy. My breathing was raspy, exacerbated by the occasional wind gust, but otherwise I felt okay.
I remember making one of the last turns and seeing a downhill stretch before runners disappeared to the left and the finish line. Almost done. I was tempted to look at my watch–it felt like I was running faster now, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to know if I wasn’t.
As I turned the final corner, a blast of cold air hit me. Really? A headwind at the end? But it was all downhill and I could see the finish. Just before I reached the last mile marker, my watch announced a 10:15 third mile. That (and S shouting encouragement at me) powered me over the bridge and to a 25-second PR. She had PR’d as well, so there were smiles all around.
If a race is going to have hills, I prefer them on the way out
After some water and another attempt at the inhaler, I dropped off some race stuff and grabbed a warmer shirt from the car. We went back to the finish line to catch one of our friends, then got in line for the food. We sat on the grass eating sausage wraps and chips—more food than my 5K calorie burn warranted–while absorbing sunshine, which was pleasant except when the wind gusted.
We decided to walk back along the course to catch our friends and run in with them, and we called out to several Rogues on final approach. We stopped on a corner about a mile from the finish–where there was no crowd support at all–and cheered while keeping an eye out for their matching blue shirts. Which was a challenge because the race shirt was also blue, albeit a little more turquoise. It seemed like forever before we saw them, but I think that’s mostly because the wind gusts were freezing.
We jumped in and ran with them. My breathing was still funky, but half-marathon pace was doable. When we made that last turn and got hit with that cold headwind, I thought again to myself, “I’m so glad I didn’t run the half!” Running the last mile with friends was pretty fun though. I pushed S to pass a couple of people at the end, then veered off at the bridge and sent her to the finish on her own.
S and I sherpa’d their stuff from the car, and once again we sat on the grass, relaxing. They got food and beer, then we caught up with the other Rogues and took a huge group photo as half-marathon awards were called out. A couple of Rogues won–impressive but not surprising since they run past me every week and I know they’re badasses.
This race is pretty unique in that a lot of people come from out of town (they had packet pickups in Austin, San Antonio, and Shiner) and stay all afternoon for the post-race beer and live music. We decided to hit the road when the Rogue bus left, and even though it was 1 P.M. the party was still going strong.
From the back seat, I looked up race results and learned that–shockingly–I had finished ninth in my age group. Out of more than 40! To be sure, some of them were walkers, and ninth isn’t exactly award-worthy. But still, that single-digit place felt pretty satisfying. Then I scrolled to S’s age group and saw that she was SECOND! We’d never heard the 5K awards after the race and had no idea she’d earned one until we were on the road. I hope they’ll mail it to her! The other two had finished about five minutes behind their 3M half marathon time, which is great for the much hillier Shiner course.
And their medals were pretty spiffy–I was almost jealous, but still glad I didn’t run the half.