This evening I reflect back on another Labor Day Weekend come and gone. And although Labor Day is supposed to be a weekend of rest, I did anything but. You probably hung out with family, BBQ’d some meat and veggies, ate some pie, maybe went camping or swimming. You did all that because you are smart. I. Am. Not. Nope, I decided it would be a good weekend for my 4th Half Marathon! And I convinced my friend Shelley that this would be a good idea. So, as you unwind from your weekend of relaxation, let me spin a tale of mine.
The half marathon we signed up for was the Oregon Wine Country Half-Marathon. It is one of a series of half marathons put on all around the country by Destination Races. This isn’t just your typical half marathon. Nope, they promise beautiful views of vineyards and scenic farmland, an on-course tasting and a post-race wine tasting with 27 different wineries! Plus, for those people who have an athletic bone in their body (I don’t) and might actually stand a chance as finishing in the top 3 of their age division (I have no chance), you can actually win wine! What better motivation is there to hustle!
So Shelley and I headed out for a weekend of girl bonding and pushing our bodies to the limits. It went something like this…
Sunday morning – the alarm clock went off at 4:55 am… I told Shelley to set the alarm at 5, but she thought this would be better… UGH! We got dressed and slammed a bit of caffeine before
skipping stumbling out the door into the pre-dawn morning. We drove from our hotel in Newberg, Oregon, over to Carlton, Oregon, where the finish line would be. We drove in the dark. We mostly drove without speaking (there might have been some grunts and mumbles). Soon we joined a line of other athletes insane people heading in the same direction, rolled into Carlton and found the parking lot. The place was already crawling. It was 5:41 am.
After parking, we got on an old school bus and made the trip in the dark up to Stoller Winery. We were close to the last two on this bus, so I ended up sitting next to a lady in her late 40s from Portland, who had a bit of a race obsession. She told me she was taking next weekend off because the wine country half was her third weekend racing in a row. Ummm… No… I will never have an obsession like that. As we got off the bus, the morning light was just starting to peek over the hills. And it was cold!
We walked up the hill to the winery, and spent the next hour
trying to wake up mingling on the patio outside of Stoller – there was a DJ working up the crowd, with some music and some motivation – then the sun began to come up over the mountains in the distance. It was beautiful! Then we saw a tiny little dot – a hot air balloon doing a sunrise flight in the distance, watching the sunrise just like us.
Shelley and I had our breakfast of Baker’s Breakfast Cookies – peanut butter and apple cinnamon for me, pre-race hydration and one last stop at the Honey-Bucket before heading back down the driveway to the start line. We lined up and then! We waited… They were a couple of minutes late sending us off, but pretty soon, the gun went off and everybody started to move!
Here’s the play by play of the race…
Mile 1 – Since we are walkers mostly, we try to start near the back, but as always, there are a million runners who don’t line up until the end and end up behind us. So, the first mile is people passing us. We passed by some cows, and their cow smell, and some horses (horses don’t smell, of course). We jogged and walked and jogged some more. Feeling pretty good at this point!
Mile 2 – 3 – We wove through a residential neighborhood in the town of Lafayette, with cute little tract homes sleeping in the early morning light. A few residents came out to watch and cheer us on, and the first aid station supplied us with water. At this point, we were neck and neck with a man we called Doctor’s Order’s, an older (late 50s) man who was pretty overweight and seemed like he might collapse at any point. He was really puffing loudly and had already sweated out a kiddie pool of water… Good for him for giving this a go, but we really hoped he had ok’d it with his doctor.
Mile 4 – The second aid station offered water and Honey-buckets. Shelley had to go, and I wanted to beat my standing personal best time, so we said our goodbyes here. I continued on my own down some tree lined roads – the shadiest part of the course. There were some pretty Bed And Breakfasts – I might have to look into staying there one day. At one point there was a little park area with a couple of picnic tables near a marshy pond – it looked like a great place for a picnic – a picnic was sounding really good at that point… The crowd had thinned out considerably, and I passed and was passed by the same several walk-joggers multiple times as we each pushed ourselves.
Mile 5 – 6 – The hardest hill on the course was here; a long gradual grade up past a Trappist Abbey. The monks did not come out to cheer us on – I suppose because they have taken vows of silence. Or maybe they were still sleeping. It still would have been cool to have been silently cheered on by Trappist monks. Oh well… I soldiered on…
I passed the next aid station and a chip-timing station set up for the relay hand-off for teams that we running the 13.1 as a two man relay. The man calling names called out – “Great job Camille!” and then, “Camille?” as he second guessed the pronunciation of my name. After I told him that was indeed my name, he cheered some more before moving on to the next person. The last part of mile 6 was up another curving hill, not as long as the last one, but enough to slow me down a bit. I was starting to feel the burn in my quads, and my mouth was getting oh, so, dry…
Mile 7 – 8 – This long, straight stretch of country road was the easiest part of the course, with a slight elevation decline. At this point, mostly alone with my thoughts, I pondered why I keep torturing myself with half marathons. Isn’t one enough? Do you really need to do 4? I won’t be like that lady on the bus… Never mind that I have another coming up in just over a month. I was shaken from my ponderings by a lady who was talking loudly on her cell phone!?! What is possibly important enough that you have to answer a call during a half marathon? Judging by the conversation, no one was dying, nothing was on fire, and she didn’t just discover she had a long-lost sister. I always wanted a sister… Mom?
At the beginning of mile 8, I passed Lemelson Winery, a winery Jon and I have thought about visiting but just haven’t had a chance to get to yet. They handed out a tiny little plastic cup of Pinot Gris. I didn’t have a chance to savor the nose, but it tasted like salty sweat and cotton-mouth. In all fairness, I’m sure Lemelson makes a wonderful Pinot Gris and I would love to taste it when I’m not busy trying to keep from falling to my knees in the middle of a country road. Right after the Pinot Gris, they gave us more water. I took two.
Mile 9-10 – These few miles showed me well that I am a fast walker. When I jogged, I passed some of the slower joggers. When I walked, I kept up with them. I had a nice conversation about GPS watches and my hometown with a man and woman – they were jogging, I was walking. Once I was rested, I broke into a jog again and left them behind. This is the point in the race where I counted the miles left to go as much as the miles already completed (that’s about the extent of my skill with math in my head, by the way). I also was starting to get pretty excited because I was still keeping a really great pace!
At mile 10, I began hearing music and thinking it was so nice of them to blast the radio. As I rounded the curve, I realized it was a band! And they were good! They were covering an 80s song, I can’t remember which one, but it sounded like the real thing! It really pepped me up, and it’s a good thing, because it was time for the gravel section. And wow was it hot! If the race organizers ever read this, I really hope you consider having us run through a misting tent (you know the kind they have at fairs that mist cool water over you?) around mile 9. That would be nice.
Mile 11 – Gravel road. I probably don’t need to say anything more. Less impact on the legs, but slow, dusty and those rocks can really do a number on the bottom of your feet! There were some nice little farms, but I couldn’t wait to get off the gravel! Shelley said a woman walking with her at mile 11 commented on the big hill in the photo above. Shelley laughed to herself – we have way bigger hills at home… The woman at the last aid station was cheered me on with “You are almost done with the gravel!” It worked… Those were the sweetest words I heard during the whole race!
Mile 12 – I was so tired. I was still pushing as hard as I could but I certainly wasn’t jogging for long distances anymore… But I was still passing people! I just kept trying to keep my walking pace as fast as I could. And I could hear the finish line, even if I couldn’t see it yet. Soon enough, I rounded the last turn and could see the finish line in the distance. Up a hill… UGH! I had a really tough time doing that last little bit at a run, but I did! I was done!
I had finished my 4th half marathon, and with my best time ever! I crossed the finish line with my first sub-3 hour half-marathon time of 2 hours, 56 minutes and 41 seconds! My pace was 13 minutes 29 seconds per mile. I was so proud of myself! Shelley did really well too, finishing shortly after I did with a time of 3 hours, 10 minutes and 14 seconds!
And the best part was yet to come! The wine tasting! I’ll write about that in my next post…
P.S. In case you were wondering, Doctor’s Orders didn’t die, and he did finish the race. Sometime between me and Shelley.