To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
-Steve Prefontaine
Make it simple, but significant.
- Don Draper

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Grapes of Half


While browsing for a half marathon to add to my schedule I came across one promising a medal, shirt, wine glass and wine at the finish - after running through three wineries. Yes, sign me up! It was the Grapes of Half half marathon, and inaugural race set in a rural, quiet part of Oregon just south of Eugene. I cannot say enough good things about this race. It was all around the most pleasant race experience ever - despite the killer ending. And the biggest draw is that it would be my 23rd half marathon -- on June 23rd! But let's get back to the start!

I was up very early and heading north on winding back rounds that I had never seen before. The drive made me a little car sick, but what's a race without me wanting to vomit at some point? Around 5:45am we arrived at the finish area to park the Jeep. First ones there! Too bad there's no award for that. We took our time, had some breakfast and eventually wandered up to the winery to catch a bus and mingle with other runners. It was just so lovely. A beautiful setting; nice, cool weather; and very friendly runners - some I knew, some I didn't. Soon we were on a bus to the start line at the Noble Estate Vineyard where we got our bibs, shirts and packets. We had an hour to wait so we spent it having a lovely conversation with three other runners. I enjoyed it so much, I was kind of disappointed when we had to actually line up to start!

View from the start line
The start was on a gravel downhill road, which then made me back off a little bit so as not to fall. But once on the road Man Friend and I let our legs relax and power through it all until the first of many rolling hills. *I even passed Endorphin Dude at the start!* The race had only 95 runners, so the majority of the race we were not passed, nor passing anyone. Anytime runners did pass/get passed we'd all actually talk to each other and remark on how nice the run is or other things about the day and the course. It felt like just one big group training run with everyone supporting each other!

My new race friend
There were four aid stations along the course, all offering water, Gu Brew and Cliff Shot blocks, my favorite!  Volunteers were fabulous as well. Seriously, such an enjoyable race! ... and then we hit mile 6.5.

We thought mile six was the first hill, but in retrospect that wasn't a hill at all! We did a lot of walking on that hill, and then running once in a while. At the top we had a sigh of relief and then got back into running. That relief disappeared when we hit mile 8. Ay carumba! It was longer and steeper, and on a curving road, so you never knew when the end was near. Fortunately this is when some light rain came down on us and cooled us off. It was a very humid day, so getting actually rain was such a blessing! Once we reached that peek we were so happy to just run, and run fast. Woo hoo!! Up until then we had been on track for a potential PR, even though we had done zero training for it.
It was in the last 5K that my body gave out. Running on the shoulder took its toll on my hip and ankle and I was hurting. MF also had tweaked his knee somewhere along the course, and he was not feeling the love of running. We decided to just not worry, back off, walk as much as we wanted and enjoy the scenery and smell of the fir trees.

The party bus!
Just before mile 12 we hit Sweet Cheeks Winery. As we turned to enter the gates, volunteers welcomed us and told us they had a lovely hill as a parting gift for us. They weren't joking! MF and I split at this point and decided to meet at the end, allowing both of us to tackle this climb in our own way. It was the absolute steepest hill I've ever done in a race. It wasn't even that it was long, it was just crazy steep in this short distance. A water station and incredible view were waiting at the top. I took the opportunity to get some photos before trying to run down. It was so steep that running down was even difficult. But soon enough I was crossing the street and running up a minor hill to get to Silvan Ridge Winery and the finish line.

My medal and wine glass we were waiting for me, and as soon as I had those in my hand I was able to turn around and cheer for MF as he crossed the finish line! The post race area was wonderful. People were relaxing with their wine while I opted for water. We had so much choose from, fruit, hummus, crackers, bagels ... it was one of the best!

Age group winner! Yay!

I checked the results list and told MF we had better get our stuff together and grab the party bus. When he asked why I had the pleasure of telling him he was 3rd in his division and we had to go back to Sweet Cheeks Winery for he awards! Yay! *I left out that there were only 3 in his division, but an age group win is an age group win!
He won a "shoe bag" that I call a backpack.
If you are ever wanting a challenging, peaceful, well run race through the country ... and enjoy wine, I will totally recommend this race! I can't say I won't do it again. I don't like to repeat races, but this was just such a really positive experience, even with climbing the Empire State Building at the end!


7 comments:

  1. Looks like an awesome race. Congratulations!

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    1. Thank you!! Now I'm mega excited for the next half.... Where I see YOU again!! Disneyland here we come!

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    2. Ha! I totally said the same thing on my blog today! So much fun is going to be had. I can't wait!

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  2. Best race name ever! Looks like you had lots of fun. 95 runners..not sure I have ever ran a race with so few people.

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    1. I actually did a half marathon last November and I think it was less than 65 runners. It was so crazy small. And I think I came in 58th or something. And this is why I like BIG races - I look like a better runner that way!

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  3. Grapes of Half - hahaha!! It doesn't take much to crack me up!! Looks like there was great scenery (even if there was evil hills!).

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    1. The name was too cute to pass up!

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