I’m not sure what I was thinking, signing up for a 5K in June. Oh right. My friends talked me into it.
This year’s Fit Foodie 5K was held at the Mueller development, a repurposed neighborhood that used to be the Mueller Municipal Airport until the late 1990s. Now it’s a mixed-use area with homes, townhouses, condos, an Alamo Drafthouse, a children’s museum, tons of trendy restaurants, and streets named after old Austin icons: Barbara Jordan, Zach Scott, Antone’s, and Threadgills to name a few. Dell Children’s Hospital and Austin ISD’s Performing Arts Center are also located here. As far as I know only two structures survive from the old airport: its art-deco air traffic control tower on one end and at least a portion of the historic Browning hangar at the other. I went to high school in this area back in the days of the municipal airport, and I am happy that they’ve saved these two structures. I flew in and out of this airport dozens of times and I’ve always loved the tower, but I’d imagine if someone new to Austin who didn’t know the history ran across it, they’d wonder what the hell an air traffic control tower is doing in the middle of the neighborhood. Go ahead, follow all of those links and read the history of these old-Austin landmarks–I’ll wait. 🙂
Anyway, as another testament to Austin’s growth, street parking at Mueller is not free. So we arrived early and parked in a shopping center on the outskirts of the neighborhood, then walked a half-mile to Mueller Lake Park and the start.
The Browning hangar has been converted to a pavillion of sorts, and that’s where we found the epicenter of the race. Fortunately we’d gotten our bibs the night before (thanks to my spouse, who was in the neighborhood to attend a friend’s swearing-in as the new Austin police chief at our old high school) so thankfully we didn’t have to wait in a really long line for that. But we were early, so after waiting in the porta-potty lines we sat down on the steps at the edge of the lake.
About 15 minutes before the start, clouds rolled in and the wind picked up, and we crossed our fingers that it would stay this way for the race. Then we made our way to the starting area.
The announcer’s sound system wasn’t very good (or wasn’t pointed in our direction) and we didn’t hear the official start, but eventually everyone started moving. Just not very fast. The usual race etiquette problems–such as walkers lined up in the front–plus an immediate sharp left-turn got people jammed up right at the beginning. Just as the street opened up, we had to dodge those circular pop-up barricade things that no one had lowered, then squeeze through a narrow space formed by a couple of barricades.
We funneled onto a sidewalk path that circled the lake, and while it was really pretty and the breeze was nice, many people had a difficult time in the congested traffic. At one point a fast runner with a stroller came up behind a group of walkers and asked them to move to the right, but instead they made snarky comments about “why don’t YOU move?” which I thought was ridiculous as the runner was clearly not holding anyone up. Slower traffic keep right, people.
We made this weird jump over a curb and picked up the sidewalk to finish the clockwise circuit, then looped around the lake a second time. I was going to be unhappy if the entire race was circling the lake six or seven times, but fortunately at the end of the second loop we turned left and headed the other way.
Here the path went from a sidewalk (about four people wide) to a crushed granite, tree-lined path slightly more narrow. That did not prevent small groups from taking up the whole path–I felt bad for anyone really racing this thing because passing was so challenging. Especially as this section was out-and-back, and the race leaders were soon coming back toward the finish.
About a mile and a half in, the sun came out. Well, the clouds were fun while they lasted!
This section had some rolling hills–nothing difficult, and I practiced my uphill form–but with the hills, the now two-way congestion, and the sun, I was happy to be maintaining my 10K pace. I skipped the water stop and the snack stop in both directions, but at about 2.5 miles I had to walk for a few seconds to use my inhaler.
As we approached the lake area again, I realized we weren’t running straight to the finish–the course turned right and we made a counter-clockwise loop of the lake, then approached the finish from the other direction. About 1/3 of the way around, my watch beeped three miles, but I’ve run enough races that I could tell I still had a lot more than .1 to go. And in the end my total distance was more like 3.4 miles. Definitely not a PR-kind of day, which was fine because I wasn’t shooting for that anyway. I was just out to have fun.
After all four of us were done, we wandered around the foodie festival sampling snacks. Vegetarian protien drinks, sugar snap peas and carrots, hummus, lots of healthy stuff. Also beer, wine spritzers, and vodka mimosas. The longest line was for Kona Ice, but the guy was super efficient and it moved quickly. My watermelon snow cone hit the spot. We ran into some friends and chatted a while, and then we walked to a nearby coffee shop and refueled properly while comparing race notes.
Our Garmins all showed a 3.4-ish mile distance, which couldn’t completely be attributed to weaving around slower participants. I mean, the route was pretty narrow most of the way, so even weaving only meant a mild swerve. It’s not like a road race where you can swing wide around a corner or run on the other side of the street–almost the whole way, the path was the width of about four people. Maybe five if they bunched up a bit. Which they usually didn’t.
We were curious about the discrepancy, so we looked up the course map on the race website.
It looks like we were supposed to follow the lake path, not the street, which explains one of the earlier logjams around a barricade and having to jump the curb. Going that way twice added a total of about .3 of distance–you can see where my mile markers are different from the ones marked on the course map. Oops.
My chip time was about five minutes off my 5K PR, but this race was also 35* warmer and .3 miles longer than my PR run back in February. So adjusting for those factors, I’m not unhappy with my results. AND I GOT A MEDAL SHAPED LIKE AN AVOCADO.
Yeah, there were a few snafus and organizational glitches, but I’m glad I did it. We had a good time, there were lots of adorable dogs, and it was fun hanging out with my friends after the race. Next year, though, please remind me that a 5K in June is kinda tough, okay?