Last week our son passed his 4 month mark and I ran my first race since childbirth. So many good heart feelings! I can’t wait to share about the experience and my favorite hometown race, the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon.
Some runners have a special race which carries a significance beyond the training put into it or magic of the finish line itself. The Oregon Wine Half is mine. Last year I ran it for the first time and the next day found out I was pregnant. I remember the race as the last thing I did before that major life changing moment.
This super fun photo was taken of me on the course last year…
…and throughout the following year it would pop-up in random places, reminding me of my strengths and the things that bring me joy.
While pregnant I had days when I struggled with all the body changes, but one day someone told me I was in the photo on the top of the Asics website for the Vine Body Sole race! Talk about a mood boost. Then again, 5 weeks after giving birth I was having a rotten, awful day. It was my first mother’s day and I had a crazy skin infection. I was on the way to urgent care when out of nowhere, this giant billboard appeared with that photo of me at the Oregon Wine Half. There I was, doing something I love and exuding joy. It was exactly what I needed to see.
Now, the Oregon Wine Half is my first race as a mom. When the race organizers offered to let me run again, I was ecstatic but wanted to be smart. I’d struggled with health issues after baby. Attempting 13 miles at 4 months postpartum would have resulted in a DNF. So I asked my friend to run this with me as a two-person relay, meaning I’d only be responsible for 6.2 miles. It worked out beautifully.
So this race is special to me and now you know why.
Now let’s talk about the actual race experience this year.
2 Person Team Relay
I took the first leg of the race for a few reasons. The first leg of the relay is one mile shorter, it would be cooler, but it has most of the hills. I wanted to give my teammate, Alisha, the flatter leg and the finish line experience as this was her first race. My plan was to run/walk an 11 or 12 minute mile or just make it to the transition before the second shuttle left for the finish line.
To start the race, I met up with my race giveaway winner, Nicole from Texas. We both had no time goals and decided to start at the very back of the field. I think some runners who showed up late were actually the last to cross the start line, but we were definitely the last to cross when the main field took off. That felt a little weird.
FIRST 4 MILES:
I love the tree-lined start at Stoller. The short jaunt through the neighborhood before hitting Abbey Road is quiet. One house put up “Welcome Runners” signs and a few people cheered us on from their front porches. That was kind of rad.
The best part, though, is seeing the vineyards, orchards, and ponds from the tree-covered turns on Abbey Road. I looked around several times and said, “Wow. I’m lucky. I live here.”
Running felt good, but it was not easy. I need more conditioning, my joints are loose, and my core weak. Still, I was able to jog up hills on my run interval and feel strong. I had energy from my race morning fuel routine of Coach’s Oats & Nuun. I stayed between an 11:45 & 12:15 pace with some familiar 9 min pace strides here and there.
LAST 2 MILES:
Then I passed mile 4 and my energy began to fade. I’d left my Island Boost packet at home (doh!) and didn’t have the training to keep chugging along. The last 2 miles my pace dropped to 13 and I probably glanced at my watch every 10th of a mile.
Toward the halfway point, the tree coverage disappears, the sun is higher in the sky and the biggest hills present themselves. My teammate Alisha kept texting me encouragements throughout the race and I would give her updates on my progress. It kept me focused and feeling positive.
I was so thankful when I saw the transition appear up ahead. Having carried my brand new phone in my hand the whole time, you’d think I would’ve taken photos on the course, but no. I did managed to get a terribly shakey Facebook Live video of the transition – the last few seconds are steady footage at least.
I was impressed and grateful that the relay transition point was treated like a finish line for the first relay runner. After I handed off to Alisha, I was handed my medal and a bag of goodies. It was great to have the snacks and drinks to eat while I waited for the shuttle to the finish line. It felt partially weird to have my finisher’s medal before Alisha was finished running, but I was glad to have it.
I got to eat breakfast and relax at the finish area while checking for text updates from Alisha. For her first race and longest ever run, she did amazing. She never stopped to walk and came barreling into the finish line with energy to spare. She even went right past the finisher’s medals and we had to call her back so she didn’t miss out on her bling!
I take all the credit for writing her training plan! Haha, but seriously…it was wonderful to be there with my friend and see her beaming with runner pride. We sat and talked and soaked in the joy of our accomplishments for over an hour before we finally made our way to the wine tastings. A new runner and race junkie has been born!
The Whole Experience
After the race I’m feeling jazzed, because this wasn’t just a race, it was a whole weekend experience. When you sign-up for a Wine Country Half there are things called “race extras” you can purchase. The wine glasses for friends (so they can sample wines with you at the finish) and Pre-Race Dinner tickets are definitely worthwhile!
If you’re social and hungry, the Pre-Race Dinner is the perfect way to get plugged into the energy of the race the night before. This year we dined at Sokol Blosser Winery in Dayton, Oregon. I drive by the sign for this winery all the time and it’s been on the top of my to-drink list for a while.
Over wine, apps, and dinner, I met some amazing people and learned about new races I need to run. This year there was no special guest speaker (last year it was elite runner Alexi Pappas but she’s kind of busy setting a record at the “Big Event” in Brazil right now). We heard from Destination Races director, Matt Dockstader, and there is something so validating about being in a room full of people who are just as excited about running as you are.
One of the greatest benefits to the Oregon Wine Half (aside from running) is getting to taste wines from 20+ Oregon wineries all in one place. It would take several days to visit all these wineries to discover which ones you liked. At this race, I can sample pinots from so many places I don’t have the time to drive too and now know who I want to visit for further tastings! What better way to celebrate?