After my flights to Austin were booked for a work trip the next thing I did was to see what races were around. Since I was flying out on the Friday it gave me the weekend to find something. I searched for things around Austin but no luck. But after a bit more searching I found a half in Bryan Texas. It looked like an interesting race with some novelty aspects to it. It starts and finishes in the vines of Messina Hof and includes a wine stop on the course. A good looking medal sold it for me. I signed up and booked a hotel close to the race and was looking forward to the race.

I arrived into Austin on Friday 22nd and of course had to start the trip with a burger. There was no changing that tradition. On Saturday I decided to get a swim in Barton Springs Pool to loosen out. I was down there early to make the most of the day. I’m sure plenty of people thought it was cold but I certainly didn’t and got in a good swim. I then drove down to Bryan Texas and headed to packet pick up. It was very straight forward and there was a wine festival on. There was a great atmosphere and weather was great.  I got my gear together and then headed off for some food in College Station. It was time to relax and watch some tv before an early rise in the morning.

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I was up at 5am on the morning of the race and it was time to plan my breakfast. Like all true athletes I headed to McDonalds. I wasn’t sure what else I could get so early in the morning so some pancakes would be the perfect choice to start my day. Once I was done I headed towards the venue. I had bought a pass for VIP parking so I was able to park right at the venue. I’m delighted I did that as it gave me the chance to relax in my car and go back and forth before the race. Weather was nice again and it would have been great to stay some what cool but that was never going to happen. I’ll just enjoy the cool breeze before the sun came up.

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Once I got rid of my pre race jitters and did a bit of a warm up I headed towards the start line at 6:50am. I check out the pace group and the 1st pace group was 1hr 40mins. I was aiming for better than that but nobody wanted to move further up for now. I stayed back with that group for now. It was announced just before 7 that the start would be delayed by 15 minutes as people were still arriving. My main worry was that I had planned my food and nutrition for 7am start and such a late decision was disappointing but understandable. They managed it well and decided to break up the starting corrals to make it easier while running through the vines. I would head off in the 1st corral.


The race got underway and I set off with the first batch of runners. We all headed up the road together and into the vines we went. There was a bit of confusion when we got to the end of the 1st vine as the 1st couple of runners didn’t see the arrow on the ground. But once we got through that it was obvious what was needed then. It was run along a section of the vines, sharp turn and back through the next and so on. It was tough on the legs. The ground was soft so it was a bit of work on the legs and each turn slowed your pace down  as you had to do a U turn each time but this was the novelty factor of the race and was something I hadn’t experienced in the past. My fast km was when we left the last row of the vines and back on to the road. I passed the 1st water/wine stop – I don’t think anyone in the first group went near the wine. I was 6th coming out of the vines but more tough work to come.


I was out on my own for much of the race, the group in front were to far ahead but I could sense some people close behind. I chose my pace and tried to stick with it but that paced slowed down after the 5th km. The heat and the effort through the vines really did slow me down. Where there were people cheering I could tell how close people were behind me and I knew I didn’t have much of a gap. For me it was nice to run in places I haven’t run before. We ran on some very quiet roads and through housing estates. The whole race was very well directed and no issue with getting lost which had happened to me in a race outside Austin a couple of years ago. There were plenty of water stops which was very much needed as the temperature rose. I’m sure a lot of runners were not feeling the heat as much as I was but with the way things were going I may miss out on a PB due to my slowing pace. My aim now was to keep the pace steady. At approximately the 15km (my slowest one of the day) I was passed by 2 people. 1st was the lead girl, it looked like she was just out for a short jog she made it look so easy. I was then passed by another male runner. He didn’t look as comfortable and was heavy breathing and looked like that heat was taken his toll on him. Both of those were moving away from me at a quick pace.

Mile 10 was the toughest of the day. It was uphill the whole way and I had to work harder to get through it. I saw the male runner who passed me having to walk parts of it but the gap was still big enough where I couldn’t catch him. At this stage I was calculating in my head what pace would get me a PB or even better break 1:35. It was going to be tight. I took a look back as I made sharp turns and saw no one behind me. I knew the vines were coming again soon so had to push. The atmosphere as you passed by the entrance to Messina Hof was great and gave me a bit of a lift. So it was the same thing up and down through the vines. In front of me I could see the male runner who passed me and he was really slowing down now. I passed him through one of the vines and looked like the earlier effort had taken it out of him. But then came the realisation that another runner was catching me. I hadn’t seen him for a long time and now every time I went up and down a vine I could see he was getting closer and closer. The soft ground through the vines was taking everything out of me.

I knew if I got out the vines ahead I would have enough in me to push on. Being chased down did help me keep my pace up. As soon as I hit the road again it was time to go as hard as I could and get to the finish line. It was slightly downhill and turned the corner and crossed the finish line. I did it. 7th overall, 6th male and 3rd in my category in a time of 1:34:27. A new PB by almost 2 mins. I only had 13 seconds to spare to the next person in my category. I talked to that guy a couple of days later while training in Austin Aquatics and Sports academy. A really good guy and we both helped each other push over those last tough miles. A 3rd podium finish in my last 3 races in Texas. I should come here more often.

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I’d like to take everyone at Messina Hof for their hospitality and for planning a unique race which if I ever find myself back at this time of the year I’d do again. A really cool medal and wine glass added to it all. Now it was time to head back to Austin and get ready for a week of work. It was a tough day out there with rolling hills, vines and heat but enjoyed every minute of it.

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Posted in Challenge Galway, Sport.