Posted by: Drew | March 13, 2007

Race report: Beer Bottle Open

It was finally here, the famed Beer Bottle Open. Held in my original hometown of Columbus Grove, OH, this four mile race would be my longest run to date. In my training leading up to the event, I hadn’t quite made it to a four mile total, topping out at 3.7 miles the weekend before.

As noted previously noted, I was conservatively shooting for a sub-45:00 finish and cautiously optimistic that I’d be able to do a sub-40:00. This was based on my training runs, which all consisted of run/walk intervals. The longest run interval I’d done in over a month was no more than eight minutes, so I figured those estimates would be pretty close to the overall finish time.

The forecast called for showers and low to mid 50 degree temperatures. Fifty degrees isn’t bad, but I wasn’t looking forward to running in the rain. I packed gear for all types of weather as we headed up to Findlay to stay with my dad (who would be cheering at the finish line with my wife) and WSM/SBG (see About Page for description, who would be suffering with me). Before we got out of bed on Saturday morning, I could hear the raindrops hitting the window. I wasn’t looking forward to a soaked race. Luckily, by the time 10 AM rolled around (the race wasn’t until 2 PM) the skies were clear and the sun was shining. It was shaping up to be a perfect day for racing.

Going into the weekend, my brain was going overtime with the excitement. I ran my first race last spring, but this would be the first time I had trained somewhat seriously for an event. It was also an opportunity to run with WSM/SBG, who I would consider to be a much more seasoned runner than I (and no, that’s not an age crack!). She has done quite a few more races than I have, including the Indianapolis Half-Marathon a few years back.

Until Saturday I’d never run a step with her, but it was certainly encouraging and inspiring to have a family member who has “been there and done that” and knowing that you weren’t alone. I know I’m a competitive person, and I think she is, too. We joked in the weeks leading up to the race that we would be trash talking each other at the start line. While that didn’t happen, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there was a small part of me that wanted to perform well and at least compete for the “family title” (if not win). It wasn’t my main focus of the race (that would be to finish), but it was an ever-present thought bubble in my head.

Driving from the house to the race took about 30 minutes or so, during which I tried my hardest to relax. My mind was racing with it’s pre-race instructions and questions:

  • “Don’t start too fast”
  • “Did you make sure to drink enough water this morning?”
  • “Are you going to run with your iPod?”
  • “When are you going to take your first walk break?”
  • “What pace are you thinking of running?”
  • “Have fun”

It was a good, nervous energy. I felt prepared, but until I actually got going I didn’t know what to expect (both from the course, competition, and my body).

We registered, stretched (only a little for me), and made our way to the starting line. A friend of WSM asked me if I was nervous. I lied and said no. They said afterwards that there were 418 (or so) entrants, which was quite a different experience from the 25,000+ I ran with last year. WSM and I had our picture taken standing next to the ambulance (thankfully the closest we’d get to being in one), and walked to the back of the pack to wait for the gun. At that point in time, the nerves I’d been fighting/encouraging all day completely disappeared. I. just. wanted. to. run.

The starter’s pistol rang out, and the crowd surged forward. We were off. At the main town intersection a hundred or so yards into the race, we turned left and headed out into the country. The town that seemed so big as a child was gone within minutes. WSM and I stuck together, bound by an unspoken pact. The pace those first few minutes felt comfortable to me, and we were able to exchange snippets of conversation for the time being. We passed the first mile marker, and I’ll have to clarify with WSM on the exact time as I forgot to click my lap timer, at about 8:30. The official time was 8:45, but it took us approximately 0:15 to cross the start line after the gun. I know that “official rules” state that gun time is the official time as opposed to start-line time. But until I start competing for medals, I’m going with the actual time I spent on the course itself, not getting there. 8:30/mile is right about at my training pace, so this felt pretty good. My legs were getting into the “running rhythm”, and my breathing was great.

At about this time, we lost the cover of the trees and the wind (from the west at about 15 mph) could be felt at our backs. As our minds began to realize that there were three more miles left, the conversation dried up. At the first water station (about 1.2 miles or so), they didn’t have any ready for me so I kept going. WSM managed to grab a cup but fumbled it and it splashed to the ground. Undaunted, or at least wishing to appear so, we both kept on.

Until the race, I’d been doing mostly run/walk interval training. I had tentatively planned (in my mind) on taking a 1:30 or 2:00 walk period after 10:00 or so. I checked my watch at about 12:00, and noticed that WSM showed no signs of slowing and hadn’t mentioned a walk break out loud, either. So I kept on going. I remember thinking to myself, “I may not win this ‘family race’ we’ve got going here, but I’m sure as hell not walking if she doesn’t.” I didn’t feel like I needed to walk, but I didn’t want to wait until it was too late. I decided I’d think about it again at about 20:00.

At about 1.6 miles or so, the course doubles back on itself before taking a right turn. This put us running right into the wind. Whatever sweating I had been doing was promptly done. The winds made quick work of dehydrating me, and I was ready for a little H2O coming back on that water station. We passed the 2-mile marker at 17:01, nearly maintaining the 8:30/mile pace of mile one. I figured I’d lose a few seconds, but this was turning out pretty well.

The water station ahead, I pulled a little in front of WSM (how non-chivalrous of me) and picked up my cup of water. I heard some trouble behind me and from the muted vocal disgust I could tell that WSM was taking a few more seconds than planned trying to get her water. At that very moment, the competitive part of my brain (some, including my wife at times, might be more inclined to call this the “Asshole Lobe”) made a decision: I was “breaking from the pack.” Of course, if things had actually gone bad (broken leg, etc.) I certainly would have sacrificed the race for the good of the family. But seeing as how it was water, and I was feeling ‘so far, so good’: I kept going.

I clocked mile 3 in 9:05, up to 26:06 total. I was starting to get a side stitch in my right side, but it didn’t progress beyond mildly painful. I wanted to finish strong, so I slightly increased my stride length and picked up the pace. As I rounded the final bend into town, I could see a small crowd of people around what I hoped was the finish line. The end in sight, I kicked it up a little more. Instead of thinking about the pain in my side or breathing difficulty, I took in the scenery. On my right I passed the house where Dad grew up (I knew because he told us about an hour and a half earlier) and the church where my Grandma and Grandpa had their wedding anniversary party, and before I knew it I was across the finish line.

finish line

I had forgotten to stop my watch as I finished, so after I caught my breath I headed back to ask what my time was. My cheering squad of wife and Dad told me the clock said 34:42. So when I took off the 15 seconds from the beginning, it was 34:27 (unofficial, of course). WSM finished in 36:11 and taking off 15 seconds to make 35:56 has her coming very close to her pre-race prediction.

We headed back to the school gym for the awards, and relaxed for a few minutes as a parade of very fit people received their beer steins (winning time of 19:44, ridiculous). The presentation over, we collected our things and headed back to Findlay for our post-race dinner.

Overall, this was a great race to run. Not only was the weather great and the course nice, but it was a good race for me to be in personally. It was neat to be in the town you grew up in (even if it was only for four or five years) and see things through an adult’s eye as opposed to those of a young child. My mom also told me a few weeks before the race that she’d run in the Beer Bottle Open many years before, so that was fun to run a race that actually means something to someone other than me. And finally, the opportunity to run with WSM (I hope she doesn’t mind that I’ve used this moniker for her over ten times, I’m trying to preserve anonymity here!) was a blast. Competitiveness aside, it’s fun to spend a few miles suffering with family. I look forward to the next opportunity.

What’s up next on the race calendar? Officially, it’s the Susan Komen Breast Cancer 5k in May. But I may stash another race between now and then. Who knows? Thanks for reading. I’ll have a few photos up soon.



  1. WSM Speaks…..My side of the story.
    Actually, I have to say that SSS (Speedy Step-Son) gave an accurate account of the day’s events. The only correction I have to give is that the wind was actually from the west at 19mph. Being the Monkish member of the family (read OCD) that I am, I checked the weather channel the next day to get the exact wind speed & temp at 2:00 on Saturday. SSS is very correct, I am also very competitive and I don’t like to lose.
    When I originally suggested we run this race together, I expected to lose but have fun running the race together even though I thought I would be left in his dust. Then, while following his running blog very carefully, I knew that he had been doing a run/walk type of training and had not yet completed four miles, and was behind in his goal of total miles I had been consistently running four miles and for the last couple of weeks without a walk break. That said, none of my runs had consisted of a constant 8:30 pace. I had some miles at that pace, but never four together. My best four miles up to race day had been 35:43. Being the competitive person I am, I started to tell my coworkers and bowling team that I was starting to think I could possibly win the family title. A co-worker’s husband (also a runner) at first said SSS would “clean my clock” due to the age difference. Then he thought I could win due to the difference in training. So I was hopeful. I even considered making signs to put on the back of our shirts, “Hare” for him and “Tortoise” for me.
    Well, I have to say that I had no idea what SSS was thinking. I didn’t know if we would stick together or not. As it turned out, we did for 2 plus miles and that was my favorite part of the race. At the water hazard, I did lose some time and didn’t expect him to wait for me but did hope I could make it up. The fast start and the darn wind took its toll on me and I lost ground instead. Even without the water episode (they still should have better water stops…..actually have water ready for the runners) I never could have kept up with him. I could see him up ahead and he looked great. His form never changed, never broke down. I knew I was a goner. I was surprised that he could run the entire four miles at that pace without a break.
    That day I was a good loser. Evidently the waiter at the Mexican restaurant we went to that night saw through me. He kept trying to get me another margarita. Could he see I was trying to drown my sorrows? The next day, I was upset with myself & the mistakes I made. I started too fast with the wind and didn’t consider that we had to turn around & come back in to the wind. Also, I didn’t realize that we both wanted to take a break but were both too proud to say so. I should have done more of my training on windy days. What was I thinking? It was an afternoon in March. March=Wind.
    In summary, I have to say that I am very proud of Triple S’s performance that day. He ran a fantastic race. He should be very encouraged as he thinks about training for a half marathon. I have read that when you are having a bad training run, you should replay in your mind a good run or race. Well, he now has that mental movie to refer to when training in the future.
    I was glad to read that if my problem consisted of more than a bad water stop, he would have stopped. It is funny that he mentioned a broken leg because that thought crossed my mind a couple of times when he led me off the road and on the gravel to pass slower runners.
    It was a fun day and I also look forward to running another race with my SSS. In the meantime, I will continue to follow his blog and training log in anticipation of going down to cheer him on in the Columbus Half Marathon.
    P.S. When asked, “Now that you have won the family title, what are you going to do?” Why did you answer, “I’m going to Disneyworld!!”?

  2. P.S. When asked, “Now that you have won the family title, what are you going to do?” Why did you answer, “I’m going to Disneyworld!!”?

    Smart ass!

    Seriously, thanks for the compliments. I think you did quite a bang-up job as well.

    I did enjoy those first two miles the most, especially since I started to realize I was a bit tired for the next two. I look forward to the next installment.

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