Fall Racing: A Look Back

By: Asia Shah

When I initially decided to run the Spicewood Half Marathon I thought of it as a nice way to get my legs turning over for a longer distance and to have some fun.  The prize was wine, so I was sold right there!  It is my experience that sometimes jumping into a race is the best way to get in a very high quality workout in the absence of a planned group workout.  Plus, racing is something I have never fallen out of love with.  It took me almost a year out of college to realize that things are different now than when I ran collegiately because I could race whenever I damn well please!  This seems obvious, but for eight years I was part of track and cross country teams where my coaches dictated when I ran, how I ran, what workouts fell where, and which races I ran (and how often).  Don’t get me wrong here, it is amazing to have that type of support and direction considering how much mental stress and effort it takes to really own your running 100%.  As it turns out, I am the type of controlling individual that feels better being at the helm and find it difficult to just let go.  And so, I signed up for the race and promptly forgot about it for about a month, until I began getting updates from the race director, that is.

After wedding number two (same guy, just go with it) I ended up quite sick as a result of family, friend, and red wine overload.  This didn’t cause me to miss more than one run, however the quality of said runs suffered quite a bit for about a week there.  Three days out from the race, halfway through a dose of steroids for the cold, and I decided to go all-in and just run the dang thing.  There are many different opinions regarding the topic of running while sick and even though I knew there was the potential of aggravating things, I let my thick-skulled half (probably more than half, in reality) prevail and kept the race on the calendar.

With a start time of 8:30AM I was given plenty of time to wake up, down a big bowl of oatmeal, and drive my way West to the Spicewood Vineyard.  The rain was coming down the entire 50 minute drive, and as I forged further West the terrain turned to giant hills that made my car work a tad harder. Gulp. The fact that I made it to the race venue without getting lost or even having one “oh shit!” moment of second guessing myself and directions was a huge win for me.  In fact, I made it before the crowd to grab a good parking spot and a number one spot in the bathroom line.  Right away, things were looking up.  And so was the weather.  The light rain wasn’t enough to make the balmy 62 degrees feel cool, but the overcast and gloomy skies were a welcome trade-off.  I decided to warm up on the first mile or two of the course partly to see how it felt and partly because there was a total of one road to run on out there.  The 25 minutes I ran made me feel cautiously optimistic that this course was nowhere near as hilly as previously reported  Maybe these people are easily spooked, I thought.  Maybe, they haven’t seen the hills I’ve seen in Austin and just have a wimpy reference point?  Boy, did I have a shocker coming my way!

I made my way to the starting line about 15 minutes ahead as prompted and even ran into a few Team Rogue friends and got to chat for a few minutes to pass the time.  Being a small race, there wasn’t really any rhyme or reason to the way people lined up. I think I was standing behind people looking to run 2+ hours at the very front and people asked “are you going to win??” of me as I stood waiting for the organizers to get the thing going. I thought, well, probably considering this is a small race and no one is looking particularly threatening, but for the most part I just wanted to enjoy it and not care one way or another about my time or place.  That was not the point of this adventure and I didn’t want others’ expectations to make it so. Feeling relaxed and calm I joined the bustle as the gun sounded and legs started moving. Immediately and without intention I was in front behind only two men. I kept waiting for a mass of guys to push past me, some in pursuit of a top place and time and others just not wanting a girl to be in front of them. But after a mile or two I realized that no one was coming and that I would be running in third most likely for the duration (barring a total deflation and slow death, which I never really ruled out).

The course was much more hilly than the first mile would indicate!  I had a momentary feeling of relief at mile 1-2 as I thought that maybe the hype about the “huge hills” was just that, hype.  But by mile two I knew that I was in for a challenge as the road wound up and up. There were some sweet downhills, as one would expect with a hilly course, and fortunately, downhill running is my strength.  This gave me a bit more umph going up into the base of each hill as I rolled off of the previous down. When I reached the halfway point however, this was an out-and-back course in case I forgot to mention, I felt like maybe this was going to get ugly. Upon turning around we were greeted with a monster climb, but I was fortunate in that I was no running against the entire rest of the race field. Nearly every single runner cheered me on (definitely a perk of being a girl up front) and all I could think was, crap! I can’t say “thank you” and “you too!” to every one of them!!  I think they understood though, as I drug my body up and down those mountains one at a time. With about two miles to go I could taste the finish of this bad boy. It was a relief that I never died, in fact, my splits were quite steady other than the miles consisting only of large climbs, which were a bit slower. Crossing the finish was a great feeling. Not only was I the first woman, but more importantly I had run a surprisingly solid time given the course.  Holding 6:24′s for the race was pretty good considering, especially given how good I had felt the entire way.  Of course, the main the reason I had wanted to win the race was the prize…wine!  It was held at a vineyard after all.

As this race was somewhat random for me and just plopped right at the end of a tough training week, I learned several things. First, I realized that I still have the ability to surprise myself. This may seem obvious, but for me it was a welcome reminder that I am only beginning my best years as a runner and have many exciting workouts, races, and experiences ahead of me. Second, I came away knowing that even when there is no taper, expectations, or race plan going into an event, if I just relax and run my way I can come out satisfied and if nothing else, call it a great workout! Third, I learned that hidden out there in the hill country of Texas are…F-ING HUGE ASS HILLS!! (shocking, I know)

Well, the fall is over, and winter is on…next up:  BOSTON!!

Check out Asia’s personal blog on training, racing and life in Austin, Texas here

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