Like many runners, my favorite way to explore a new city, town, or area is by running through and/or around it. Not only do I feel like I’m able to experience more sights, scenes, trails and roads than I would be able to view from a car window, but I also feel more in tune and connected with the place itself, and the people — most notably, the fellow runners, walkers and cyclists — I encounter along the way.
Over the summer, I woke up early to run to the piers of Pismo Beach and watch surfers catch waves while the rest of the bachelorette party I was traveling with slept in. In September, I got to run the ski trails of Park City (while breathing heavily, of course). And most recently in October, I got to run through the streets of Lakewood — Colorado which also proved challenging, but was a welcome change from the heavily crowded and busy streets of the city that I’m used to.
That’s probably why the activity I anticipated most when visiting Austin, Texas, this past weekend was a leisurely jog on the running and bike path along the Colorado River. And unlike in California, I didn’t have to do it alone.
After booking a round trip flight way, way back in June with the idea that I could visit a new place and see my friend Dave (who moved to Austin last year) at the same time, Dave excitedly told me he would be happy to host me. And to my surprise he suggested I bring along other members of our workout group for the ride — the more, the merrier. (Disclaimer: This shouldn’t have surprised me. Dave, who co-founded The Rise NYC, an amazing free fitness group I am lucky to be a part of, is one of the friendliest, kindest humans I know. But I was still taken aback by his generosity… and happy to take him up on the offer).
His enthusiastic invitation is what led to four New Yorkers flying to Austin one early Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the weather forecast showed that it would be raining for the majority of our trip. But despite the unfavorable (and wet) weather, we got to do some pretty awesome things and I still was able to notice the vibrant active community that Austin has to offer.
On Saturday night, Dave coordinated a team of Austin’s Informal Running Club to run the 2.1-mile Trail of Lights Fun Run in Zilker Park. While we may have pregamed the nighttime run with a few beers, we didn’t go too crazy and had a great time exploring the park and running through the festive AF zone of holiday displays and lights. We enjoyed more free beer at the race after party (win!) before retreating back to Dave’s apartment to experience some of Austin’s night life.
Sunday was a low activity day due to rain, but we ate delicious BBQ and caught a movie at the Alamo Draft House, where they serve you beer mid-movie (did I mention there was a ton of eating and drinking on this trip?!). On Monday, we got breakfast tacos at Torchy’s tacos, explored some triathlon shops, and got a Dave-chauffeured driving tour through Austin to see sights like Rainey Street and the HOPE outdoor gallery.
Despite our binges, we were back on the fitness train on Monday night for a track workout with TMIRCE: ATX (in New York, I usually run with TMIRCE: NYC on Monday nights). We ran six 800-meter repeats, starting a new repeat every five minutes. While we were given the goal of getting faster during each repeat, I tried to keep my first five between 3 and 3:05 minutes, before going all out on the last interval for a 2:54. I’ve been wondering what my ‘normal’ 800-meter time would be ever since I visited Shoes and Brews in Longmont, Colorado in early November and participated in their 800-meter challenge (blog post on that TK), and was comfortably happy with my results. I haven’t concentrated fully on speed work in awhile, but this group of fast runners encouraged me to push myself in ways I haven’t in a long time. I probably won’t ever get back to my high school 800-meter time of 2:25 (yikes!) but playing with speed every so often is a good way to mix things up from my normal ‘all endurance, all the time’ training sessions.
But I have to say, the best part about the group is that we drink beer out of the back of a truck, in the street, after the workout.
After the quickest snack-shower-bed regime ever, we were up again at 4:25am to head to The Rise: Austin for a 5:12am workout. That’s right — Dave has started a new chapter of the New York flagship fitness group, and it begins less than nine hours after the Monday night track workout ends. As a side note that should come to the surprise of literally no one, I was already sore.
The workout takes place atop a hill at Doug Sahm Hill Summit, and since we arrived early, we were able to watch as those attending the workout arrived (either by bike, car, or foot) as well as catch a glimpse of other runners out for a morning run or jog. The amount of people awake astounded me — never mind the fact that they were running and/or there for a workout. The 45-minute high intensity interval circuit was, in a word, a doozy, involving many squats, lots of burpees, sprints uphill, and tricep dips. It wasn’t easy, but it was fun, and I’m glad I got to experience it while I was there.
Since Tuesday was our last day, we ended it the only way we knew how: a run along the river, a visit to walk through the UT campus, a few beers at Hops & Grains Brewery before ending with noms and one last beverage at Rainey Street’s Bangerz. While I expected to like Austin, I was still surprised (in a good way) by how seemingly active the community is — from Dave’s friends, to the fact that I came across not one, but two different triathlon-specific shops, to the people running outdoors (willingly!) at 5am.
The trip was a much-needed break, and very necessary reminder of what a butt-kicking Dave Johnson workout is like — and what it means to be a good leader and to lead by example. Dave and his girlfriend, Angela, were THE BEST hosts, driving us around, suggesting cool things to do, and feeding us everything delicious.
Now (er, I wrote this on the plane ride home…it’s actually Sunday now), it’s off to a short (yay!) week at work, where I fully intend to exercise enough to make up for the indulgences that are breakfast tacos, beer and brisket.
Until next time: Peace, love & por – A – potties,