Will Run for Wine!
The Zooma Women’s Texas Wine Country Half Marathon was a race I’ll never forget. I haven’t run the 13.1 distance in two years - since before I was pregnant with my second baby (now 14 months) - so I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know I’d break my record from spring 2014!
Thankfully, I had built a terrific running base that started back in April training for a stroller 5K. At that time, I was having a lot of postpartum pelvic pain and struggling to run longer than 3 miles. I took it slow and through my fittravelingmama IG account, facilitated a runner’s world run streak digital group, in which we held each other accountable to run at least a mile a day for 39 days straight. When that wrapped on the 4th of July, it was time to get serious about the wine country half marathon.
Training for this race wasn’t exactly smooth; I loosely followed a plan I created, but I had just started working again as my mileage increased. However, I was religious in doing my long runs every weekend, a tempo run and at least one CrossFit class during the week. As a new working mom of two, I had to get used to 4:30 am wake ups on training days. I leaned on my husband for support, who begrudgingly watched the kids on weekends for hours during long runs. My goal was mainly just to finish the race, have fun and drink some wine. I had planned on doing the run with some friends, but life happened and people had to cancel. I knew it would be a terrific race anyway, and I’d make companions along the way in an all-woman race where the estrogen is high and the comradery stronger than ever.
I enjoyed the quiet, solo 1.5-hour road trip heading Northwest into the sunset toward Fredericksburg, Texas from San Antonio, the main town of Texas’s wine country. I drove straight to packet pick-up in the center of the historic German town to the Marketplatz. Zooma was well-organized, and the pick-up took less than five minutes. I was checking out the merchandise and ran into My Mommy Runs author Matt Sorenson – read more about our encounter and his book here.
I drove down Main Street toward my accommodations for the night at Emigrant’s Inn. I was SO excited to not only sleep on my own without having any distractions, let alone in a gorgeous historic boutique hotel. The room was stunning to say the least, and had a big whirlpool tub that would come in handy the next morning after the race.
It was time to carbo-load! I had researched Italian restaurants in Fredericksburg ahead of time and chose Bella Sera, just outside of town and not as crowded as the in-town option. The restaurant was Italian-family-owned and felt very authentic. Nothing fancy, but the food was on-point (and so was my server’s accent).
Besides some assumedly younger girls stomping around in cowboy boots (go to bed, ladies, there’s a race in the morning!) on the floor above me, I slept wonderful in the big king bed. The Inn’s manager was so sweet and granted my wish of a late check-out so I could shower and get ready for the wineries after the half marathon. I checked the temperature to plan my outfit for the race. To my dismay, I was expecting the low 40’s (manageable) and saw that the temps had dropped to 33, and appeared to stay that low the entire race (freezing, literally). But there was no turning back now. I put on my Saucony headband, gloves, long sleeve shirt, vest and warm leggings and trudged out the door into the crisp morning air toward the starting line, a quick warm-up mile away.
As soon as I arrived under the pavilion, warmth of other runners filled the otherwise cool air. There were so many women there on different “running paths” – some running their first half marathon distance and other seasoned runners meeting up for a girlfriends’ trips with dozens of 13.1’s under their belts.
The shotgun went off, and we all hit the pavement. I chased the 2:15 pacing girl as a realistic goal from the start. When I caught her, I met two girls from Houston who were pacing an aggressive (for me) 9:20 per mile and ran with them for the first few miles, which had rolling hills. I admitted to them I couldn’t keep the pace and would likely drop off. I didn’t. We hit some bigger hills, and I pushed ahead, with them cheering from behind. At mile 5, I was running alone when what looked like a giant dog sprinted across the country road, less than 10 feet in front of me. Other runners gasped as I laughed and realized I almost got run over by an enormous buck! A true Hill Country experience!
Usually by mile five in a half marathon, I know what kind of race I’m going to have. I’ve either hit the wall already because my pace is too fast, or it’s going to be a good day with a PR in sight. I felt the latter was a possibility, so I pushed harder through the hills to mile 8, when I still felt strong as ever. We descended from the beautiful countryside and came back to the town, running through hilly suburbs I’d feel blessed to live in. With less than one mile left, as I rounded the corner toward the Marketplatz, I yelled at whoever I could, “Keep going, we can make it under two hours!” With the suspense killing me about what time I would get, I sprinted toward the finish with every ounce I had left. I didn’t break two hours at 2:00:54, but I did smash my record from 2014 of 2:04! I cried, I bought a long-sleeve tech shirt to reward myself, had a complimentary glass of wine from Fiesta Cellars and walked back to the hotel, happy as a clam. After a quick hot tub soak and change, I was ready to meet my family for some serious winery hopping!!
Experiencing Wine Country
Our plan was to go to William Chris Winery, Perdernales Cellars and Fiesta Winery after the race. We had reserved a quaint Airbnb in Stonewall, Texas, which was the middle of NOWHERE but a fantastic location to explore wine country. We were pressed for time, so we weren’t able to make to William Chris, but I plan to go back – they have grapes grown on the property for those Insta-worthy vineyard pics, and the wine is top-notch from what I hear. We did make it to Perdernales Cellars, and the views and wine were spectacular!! I appreciated the sophisticated, yet kid-friendly atmosphere. It was so relaxing to sit on the swing with a glass of Tempranillo in hand, watching my kids play while gazing into the rolling hills.
After Perdernales, we realized our one big mistake was planning for lunch. I originally planned for us to go to Chisholm Trail Winery for pizza but this was actually 45 minutes away from Perdernales Cellar (in Stonewall) on the western side of Fredericksburg. Since we were starving, we drove the 25 minutes back to Fredericksburg and stumbled upon Tubby’s Icehouse, which had a fenced-in playground safe for toddlers, craft beer and gourmet tacos, among other items. Definitely bring a sandwich lunch if you are planning on visiting multiple wineries in Texas Wine Country! Or find a winery in advance that does serve food like Chisholm Trail.
On our way back to Stonewall, we stopped at race sponsor Fiesta Winery, which is situated in a little village shopping center with boutiques and an inn. I did a tasting, which was around $20, and we listened to live music out on the patio.
We spend the rest of the evening at our country Airbnb taking in the Hill Country views at the firepit and sipping on the wine purchased throughout the day. The kids loved all the space to run and the quiet sunset we were able to share. There was a small Tex Mex food truck and bar down the street in Stonewall (Albert’s Icehouse), which made for a perfect takeout dinner to end the evening.