Run for the Water 2016 Race Report
The bonus of waking up at 5:30 and driving downtown before daybreak for a race? Seeing the UT Tower still lit up orange from Saturday’s football victory.
At that hour, parking was still pretty easy, and after some indecision about sunglasses we were walked toward the First Street Bridge. With sunglasses.
We weren’t sure what to expect on the bridge since the course had changed and the starting line moved down Cesar Chavez almost to Lamar. But we found plentiful porta-potties on the Riverside end (although no trash cans at the hand-washing station) and wandered along, checking out the tents and stuff. Eventually we reached the finish line at the other end, and volunteers pointed us in the direction of the new starting line location.
We weren’t in a hurry, so when we encountered another group of porta-potties, we stopped again. Because nervous bladders. Not that I was really nervous–I wasn’t trying to PR this race–but it’s not always easy to convince my brain that running double-digit miles is a fun idea.
Then it was time for the American national anthem followed by the Burundi national anthem. How many races can say that? Hearing the second one always reminds me that even though I might be uncomfortable for two-ish hours today, I don’t have to fetch my own post-race shower water.
My 13-year old had come with us–involuntarily–and he sat on the curb reading a book. As we started, he waved goodbye and headed the other way toward the finish. I turned around to wave back, and I promptly ran into the person in front of me because the crowd had stopped moving forward. D’oh!
I’ve run this race three times before (and volunteered at a water stop another year) and have always found it to be really well-organized. This year was no exception, although I was kind of surprised that the 5Kers and the 10-milers started at the same time. That was not terribly frustrating for me, but I’d imagine those fast 5K runners were annoyed at having to weave around those of us conserving energy the first mile or so. There was also an oddly-early water stop, like half a mile in; all I can think of was the location was chosen mostly for the return route (since it’s further from the finish line) or the 5Kers, not the 10-milers on the way out. I didn’t stop.
Did I mention it was 60-something degrees and humid? Less than ideal racing conditions, at least for me. But the cloudy sky helped as I plodded along–behind Austin High, up the hill to Lake Austin Blvd, then right on Exposition. Some Rogue friends cheered at the corner of Exposition and Enfield, which of course made me ask myself why I ran this thing instead of volunteering.
After a long stretch down Enfield, I pretty much lost track of where I was. Just four miles of turns and hills and more turns and hills. Compared to last year, it seemed like there were more (and steeper) uphill and fewer downhill sections. I felt like I was dragging, and I was pretty sure each mile was slower than the last one. A couple of people commented on the back of my shirt, though, which was kind of motivating.
A few neighbors sat outside their houses and cheered, and at one point someone wearing a dinosaur suit stood on a corner playing music. Police officers guarded us from side-street traffic, and when a group stopped to take a picture at a yard sign (it was in the shape of an acorn and I think it said something suggestive about nuts) a nearby police officer photobombed them. But other than water stop volunteers who were awesome as usual, it was mostly quiet in this upscale neighborhood. And can I just comment on the number of construction projects that knocked down million-dollar houses (but left one wall so it meets some city code because it’s not a 100% demolition…) and were building something even more enormous? I want to know what these folks do for a living. Yowza.
Finally we climbed one. last. hill and emerged on Lake Austin Blvd. Even though this stretch was mostly flat (especially in comparison to Pecos and Scenic) and it was the start of the home stretch I did not love it. I struggled, mostly running but walking a few steps here and there. My quads were killing me, and my left calf had some kind of tightness going on.
Just before the mile eight marker, I finally passed a friend whose electric orange shirt I’d been following since Exposition. Then a water stop, then back down the hill toward Austin High. Speed humps in the road. Passed another friend, walked through a water stop, and crossed what was left of the start line. Rogues again–yay! Another damn incline. Burundian drum music. Spectator friend (“Just one last turn!”) then B ran toward me and encouraged me with “I’m running backwards faster than you are!” One of my BRFs had finished and was cheering too. I finally passed the drummers as I made the turn to the finish.
The best thing about this year’s course change? The finish line was literally just around that last corner. Not halfway across the bridge. I could see my kid out of the corner of my eye, running alongside me on the other side of the barricade. I heard the announcer call my name, and I tried to smile as I crossed the finish line.
Like I said, I hadn’t tried to PR this race (and I felt so slow, especially on the hills, I knew it wasn’t in the cards anyway) but I did finish nine minutes faster than last year. And I earned a 10th anniversary medal.
But I didn’t really need my sunglasses after all.
About the Author: Melissa Cooper started running in 2011 with Couch to 5K. In the summer of 2012, in what seemed like a leap, she joined Rogue Running and completed her first half-marathon–San Antonio Rock and Roll–later that year. Finishing San Antonio was supposed to be a one-time bucket list thing, but these days her half-marathon total is at double digits (and climbing). Her favorite race distance is probably the ten-miler. By day, she is a middle school teacher who juggles work and life and running—sometimes even successfully.