Apparently I have this little habit of signing up for half marathons immediately following my relay races. To keep with tradition, I decided to join my running friend Emily for a little 13.1 mile run through the Oregon wine country at the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon.
We were both running on used legs this time around, I was seven days out from Portland to Coast and Emily had just returned from Vancouver BC where she was lucky enough to get a much coveted entry into the Lululemon Sea Wheeze (which I TOTALLY want to run next year!). As such, neither of us was feeling all that hopeful for a record breaking race. With that being said, it was a beautiful morning as we drove an hour out of Portland to the starting line at the Stoller Family Estate. Right away I was blown away with this race, ample parking for attendees, plenty of Honey Buckets and a portable gear check system that was not only easy, but efficient. Plus the vineyards were beautiful in the early morning light.
Emily and I made our way down to the starting line and kept wondering why we had elected to run the entire half marathon course when we could have just as easily registered for the two-person relay where we could each run a nice little 10K. I told Emily that my goal was to just run the entirety of the course. I feel like I'm just now finally feeling recovered from that hip issue that plagued me all spring and early summer. I knew I could complete the mileage but I had no plan to really push my pace, especially coming off Portland to Coast the weekend prior.
As such Emily and I settled into a nice easy pace. We chatted about our previous weekend's adventures and Emily's new job. We enjoyed the pretty scenery and just chit-chatted the first several miles away. Around mile 5 and ANOTHER rolling hill, Emily told me she was going to slow down on the upcoming incline and told me to go on without her and I did. Soon enough I came upon the relay handoff where the relay runners exchanged. It was easy to spot the fresh legs on the course as we pulled out of the water station and up another hill.
Let me pause for a minute and talk about the support on this race. Wow - wow - wow - I give this race TWO THUMBS UP for their support and water stations. There were stations every mile and a half all along the course WITH Honeybuckets. Really really nice for runners. Luckily it wasn't a super hot day but if the temps would have been just a few degrees higher, those water stations would have been a life savor for runners. As it was, I almost felt water logged by the time I finished the course. I probably could have skipped a few and done just fine, but wow it was great to have the resources!
I talked to a few people along the way but mostly kept plugging along on my slower pace. It felt good to run this as more of a training run. I wasn't winded or in pain at any point and that was welcome. I was starting to think ahead to my dreaded 'mile 9' coming up (my own personal wall in any and every half marathon I run) but then I remembered the course was going to serve wine at mile 8. YEAH - now this is a race I can support - wine on the course!
After a quick shot of white wine followed by a water chaser, I was off and running toward my dreaded wall. I tried hard to not let mile 9 intimidate me and was feeling pretty good about my 9th mile performance when the real challenge was in front of me. Yet again, I should have spent a little time with the course map. I didn't realize miles 10-12 would be on a gravel road. It was my first leg of Portland to Coast all over again. I was going to need a new pair of kicks after my summer races.
The final mile was kind of painful but I see from my Garmin data that I ran that final mile the fastest of the entire course so I guess that's why it hurt a little bit. The final kick was on an uphill, I hate when races put the finish line on an uphill, because at that point in a race even a flat surface feels like a climb.
The finish area was really first class. First off it was a beautiful sunny day. Secondly the number of wineries participating in the complimentary pouring was outstanding. The medals were beautiful as was the complimentary wine glasses for finishers. This race certainly had my favorite finish line to date! I wish I didn't have to drive home, I would have sampled every single winery!