After running last year’s inaugural Diva Dash in Austin sponsored by Shape Magazine, I was pretty sure I didn’t need to run it again. It was poorly organized and there were a lot of unforseen problems. It was an ok race on a semi-challenging course, but nothing spectacular. There wasn’t even a t-shirt, just free DivaDash socks! But, there was a big discount for registering early and I got hooked. I also had read that the organizers were going to make some positive changes and I figured it would be much better this year.
The first weekend in March I ran a 1/2 marathon, and since then I’ve just been leisurely working out. No real plan, no real goals, just running when I feel like it and doing other things whenever else I feel like it. But I will say that the few weeks before this race I had gotten back on the track and started to enjoy my track (speed) workouts. I even was able to run a 7.31 mile and the weekend before this race I was able to run 3 8-minute miles in a row. Oh wow, that means I could potentially run a 5k in 26 minutes?! After that, I was determined that this would be a personal record (PR) race.
I got up early on Saturday morning and ate my typical banana and LARA bar breakfast. I drank some water and tried to remember that I needed energy to run hard. Ben unenthusiastically woke up and got in the car for the hour and a half ride up to Walter E Long Park in Austin. I was playing pump-me-up music semi-softly during the ride since he was trying to sleep a little more. (It’s finals season for law school which means late night studying for Ben). The race director had emailed to get to the race an hour and a half before your wave if you needed to pick up your packet. Ben convinced me that I didn’t need to go that early, so we got there about an hour before I was supposed to start running. There were no lines (except to park) so I was able to walk up and grab my number and timing chip. I went back to the car to put them on and stay warm. This race is run by Walter E Long Lake and there was a pretty cool breeze blowing off the lake that morning.
I had plenty of time to warm up, so I threw on my old running shoes and started jogging around. There were a few obstacles in plain sight, a cargo net A-frame, buoys in the water, a flag maze and water hurdles. I got to watch the first person come up to each of these obstacles and I got a little scared because they hit the end of the race a little after 30 minutes. That made me think the course had been altered enough to slow us down and maybe it wouldn’t be possible for me to get a PR. But, I still kept my energy up and decided I would run as hard as I could and hope for the best. Due to the fact that the obstacles can cause runner back-ups, my 9:00am start wave was delayed from starting until about 9:35am.
As soon as the gun went off, I ran out of the start line trying to find my 8-minute mile pace without killing myself. One girl ran out in front of me for about 500 meters and then dropped back and another girl passed me within the first 1/2 mile and kept her lead until about mile 1 1/2. I don’t know at what distance the obstacles came up but I’ll give a short recap of what I remember.
Mile 1 is straight, slight downhill for 400 meters or so, then a 90 degree left turn for 200 meters another 90 degree turn and a long straight away with a slight uphill. In the middle of the hill were zig-zag balance beams, so imagine a 10ft balance beam diagonal to the right, connected with another diagonal to the left, and repeat 4 times. If you fall off, start over.
At the top of the hill you make a 90 degree right turn and run through 10 football tires with fit balls above you. Run straight away for about one minute and enter the flag maze. After the maze you take a right turn and run on a semi-winding wide trail.(Obstacle photos end for a while because this part of the course isn’t really accessible to spectators). Take a left turn and go through an a frame with bungee cords strung across it, run up a short hill, take another left turn to run down another long grassy stretch. In the middle of this stretch there was a canvas Shape Box, 6 ft tall, 10 ft wide by 15 ft long and it was filled with BUBBLES
….like what you see when the washing machine overflows! They were taller than me and so I ran through them not knowing when I was at the end. Kinda yucky to be half sweaty, half covered in bubbles and have nothing to wipe them off with. Oh well, keep running hard! A couple more turns and then a good downhill and left turn to the Log Carrying obstacle. Grab a four-foot tree limb the size of my arm run up a short steep hill and down the other side, drop off the log and keep running. Make a sharp left and keep going downhill but another left turn puts you at construction barriers. You know, the orange and white ones you see when driving in construction.
They don’t look that big when you’re in a car, but they were up to my chest, so at least 4 1/2 fee tall! You had to go over five sets of them. The first one I treated like a ladder, but after that I started jumping up and kind of hurdling over them. It was much faster and had better flow. I may have been better off to go slowly because they were at the bottom of the very long gradual incline hill. I think it is a least a 1/2 mile long, but I just slowed down a little and kept running while telling myself, “There is NO need to walk!” The greatest part about the hill is that when you get to the top you take a right turn and you can see the finish line about a mile away. I hope no-one is doing math, because I’m sure my guesstimates have gotten me past a 5k distance a while ago! But after the hill you run a little ways to the water hurdles. These were long PVC pipes places in the water that you could walk in thigh deep and step over. A lot of people were waiting in a single file line, but since I was running a RACE, I went to the outside and went around them.
Ok, out of the water and slosh, drip, squish up a little hill and on to the inner tube obstacles. For this, you grab an inner tube and go out and around 3 ‘cones’ in the water. Now, if I would have stayed in the single file line, there would have been no need for swimming, but again, I was running a RACE and that required me to go around slower people.
This also mean I swam about five or ten feet while pushing the inner tube with my head, nice visual right? Ok, out of the water, try to catch my breath and run up a short steep hill, under a tree branch around people walking and start climbing the cargo net.
I did good until the last three feet, where I couldn’t seem to get my foot on the rope. Finally, I hit the rope and jumped to the ground.
The finish line was about 200 meters from the net and I took off running as hard and fast as I could, and when I crossed the finish line, my watch said 28:13:12….definitely a PERSONAL RECORD!! Woohoo…I couldn’t hardly breath and I had run a hard race, but I met my goal which was to finish under 30 minutes.
Take-away thoughts from this race: I think this is a fun race, like the kind you don’t really race to the finish line for. At least that is how a lot of the other participants were taking it. There were a lot of people walking after the first obstacle and at all parts throughout the course. Walking and chatting, like it wasn’t a race at all. So, it would be a great race for first timer or people new to running. It will definitely challenge you but be very fun. Wear old shoes. I was so glad I threw my old shoes on because I was completely soaked after this race and I would have been mad if my good shoes got that wet and dirty. I feel like the race organizers were trying to make this an Austin only race because there were events on Wednesday and Thursday for packet pick-up, but nothing on Friday when out of towner’s could attend. Luckily the line was too long to get my number, but I still felt inconvenienced by the fact I needed to arrive an hour early just to get my number and timing chip. Having no information about any of the obstacles makes it hard to prepare for the race, and there was not enough explanation from volunteers at the obstacles. I shouldn’t have to ask how to do an obstacle, the volunteer should clearly explain before I have to stop dead and ask. Finally, the big question, will I run this race again? Maybe. I would run again if I had other girls to run with, but I won’t run alone again.
I will say that my after race lunch made up for most of the frustration that I had with the race and it was the perfect way to celebrate my newest PR. We ate a Torchy’s Tacos and I had a barbacoa taco (The Democrat on the menu) that rocked my world. It was so good that I don’t want to eat another kind of taco ever again. Good think I like fajitas and enchiladas and a I hope Torchy’s opens a food truck in San Antonio soon!