I enjoyed this race so much last year that – despite the variety of tantalizing races available in September – I decided to sign up for it again. This race is most definitely a hidden gem, especially for runners and walkers who enjoy timed races. The venue could not be more perfect; Clark Gardens Botanical Park in the prosperous town of Weatherford is beautiful at this time of year and the autumn decorations, both natural and manmade, are delightful. The course consists of varied terrain (grass, gravel, dirt, stone) and is flat and mostly easy on the feet and legs.
Our trip began the Thursday before the race. My husband and I flew to Austin so I could pick up the age group award that I had won last February at the Austin Marathon. The award had been mailed but since it was extremely fragile, it arrived in Florida in a hundred or so pieces. Gina from the Austin Marathon was wonderful when I explained the situation and she graciously had another award made up for me. This time I would not trust the mails but would stop by the marathon office and hand carry my prize home myself. That explains why we flew in and out of Austin rather than DFW, which would have been much closer to the race site.
We took advantage of our time in Austin to visit with Ernest, Darcy’s best friend from college, and his attractive girlfriend Ana, as well as two of Ernest’s charming sisters, Eva and Elma. They treated us to a delicious Tex-Mex lunch at Serrano’s (fajitas for me, of course) and we spent the afternoon chatting and reminiscing. The next day we were off to Weatherford for the race.
Since I was familiar with the Gardens and the course, we waited until Saturday morning to visit the race site. Packet pickup began at 5:30 and all participants were given a bib, ankle chip, a little rubber ducky, and 2 short-sleeve tee shirts, one tech and one cotton. This year the design on both gray shirts was very bold and bright (ducks, natch). Dirty Girl Gaiters also donated several pairs of their colorful red, white, and blue gaiters and I volunteered to wear a pair (Dirty Girls are my very best favorite gaiters; I already have several pair but since I wear them all the time, even in road races, I was thrilled to get another set).
Race Director Randy and his five daughters plus a group of veteran volunteers masterminded the entire race, from cheering us on every time we passed the start/finish line of the 1.02 mile loop to handing out drinks and food and anything else we needed at the 2 aid stations. I missed my friend Karen who usually helps out at this race. She was hiking the Santiago de Compostela in Europe this year. A major plus is the existence of real restrooms across from the second aid station. This year the weather was much hotter than in 2013 – and since much of the course is unshaded, I could definitely feel the sun beating down during much of the day. Sunscreen is a must and I was glad I had slathered some on (often I forget).
But heat aside, the race was close to ideal. There was one snafu that could have been a disaster but was not allowed to. About 5 hours into the race, word had spread around the course that the race would be halted at 1 o’clock because the EMT had left the area. For safety’s sake, Randy had to collect our bibs and ‘officially’ the race was stopped. However, we were allowed to continue on our own if we wanted to, and we still wore our chips (the timing person was not due to return until the race was supposed to end at 3 pm). Randy would still give us an official time. At that point, I still had 6 or so laps to go to complete a marathon distance, so I really wanted to continue. By 7 ½ hours, I had completed 27.54 miles and called it a day.
Last year, I was able to complete a 50k during the 8 hours of the race, but this year that dang piriformis injury began bothering me right from the start – I knew I would be happy to finish 26.2 miles, so anything over that was terrific. I also had a huge blister that had developed on my bunion. I really should have popped that blister and changed my shoes but I didn’t want to waste time. As a result, at the end of my 27th lap, I realized the race was over for me and I gladly plopped into a chair to await the arrival of my husband to take me back to the hotel.
We spent Saturday night in Weatherford. I showered and rested while my husband went to a nearby Rosa’s Tortilla Factory to bring us back fajitas for two (which I ate while resting in bed with my legs propped up!). The next morning, we took off for San Angelo to visit my husband’s brother Dana and his wife Kathy. On the way, we stopped at the tiny town of Bangs to visit the graves of my in-laws. When we arrived in San Angelo, we were surprised and pleased to see that Darcy’s oldest brother, Carey Lee, had driven down from Brownfield, TX, to join the reunion. We all had lunch at a local Outback and then returned to Dana and Kathy’s house for lots of laughter, memories, and tall tales. It was a good visit!
On Monday morning we left San Angelo to return to Austin. Our trip was punctuated by a stop in Castell to visit some more gravesites and then another stop at the Llano County clerk’s office to look up some genealogy records. We had lunch at Cooper’s BBQ in Llano and then drove back to Austin, where we began our trip. Another night at the Hampton Inn at the airport (we stayed at Hampton Inns throughout this trip) and by Tuesday we were ready to come home. I managed to carry my Austin Marathon award unscathed during this whole trip.