Finish time -- 1:39:39 (Personal Record)
The inaugural Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon was another well-run event run by Destination Races. For their first event in Oregon, I was suprised by how well everything was put together -- the expo was small, but grabbing packets couldn't have been easier; there was a wine tasting at the expo and the finish lines with tons of wineries pouring; the starting line was easy to get to and there were various parking/transporation options available for participants to ensure getting in and out without hassles.
I ran this race with scary number 666, but I finished in my best time without having to sell my soul to anyone named Damien, Beelzebub or Lucifer. The number of runners was fairly small -- approximately 1600, making it easy to grab a spot at near the front of the pack. I love doing this because it means I expend less energy weaving around folks who think they're faster than they really are. Unfortunately, I had to stop at the first bank of port-o-lets, or as they're known in Oregon -- Honey Pots. After the bus dropped us off at Stoller Vineyards, I made a quick pit stop, but I must have either had too much water to drink or the butterflies got the best of me because when the race started my bladder was ready to explode. Fortunately for me there were a couple of potties near mile 3 in the town of Lafayette. I think I lost about a minute taking this break, but it sure beat having to scramble out of view behind a shrub along the course.
Weather for the race was absolutely perfect. A little chilly and overcast at the starting line before 7am and it remained that way until about 9am when I crossed the finish. I haven't spent much time in Oregon in the past, but it was what I considered the perfect Oregon weather -- cold and gray. The cooperative weather also provided a pro against the two big cons of the course: crazy hillage and a 3.5 mile stretch of gravel/dirt road with a washboard surface. The elevation maps provided gave no indication there would be so many rolling hills along the entire course, by about mile 6 I figured there was no reason to expect the remainder would flatten out so I made sure not to push too hard. The other crazy part of the course was the long stretch of dirt. I typically run on a dirt course near my apartment, but this road had so many rocks, which were occasionally kicked up by other runners and hit me in the shin. The other drawback were the ridges in the road which made it impossible to develop any type of rhythm. I struggled to find the flattest part of the road and when I thought I had it, the little ridges popped reappeared. After a few miles of battling against the dirt road it got sort of fun trying to the flat portions, even if it did mean having to use up tons of energy. The distraction of having "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" playing on my shuffle definitely helped me get through this awful part of the course.
The final 1.5 miles were back on paved roads with a slight uphill all the way to the finish. It was here that I figured I needed to kick it into gear to make up for lost time on the dirt road of death. Several older runners passed me by, which kinda sucked, but I kept telling myself they were part of relay teams, so it was natural for them to have extra energy given that they only ran half of the race. Hey, whatever works to keep me in the competitive mindset, right?
Except for the unexpected hills and the dirt road that went on for too long, this was among my favorite races due largely in part to Destination Races putting on such a wonderful event. They're definitely learning from their past events (Napa to Sonoma, Healdsburg and Santa Barbara) and it's making for races that are set in gorgeous locales with little to no hassle from a logistical perspective.