Hmm, should I put the video at the END of the post to make you read through my 2017 Gorgeous Wine Country Relay Review to get to it? Or just put it right up front and center because, let’s be honest…that’s the fun part. Yeah, let’s do that. Then you can skim and scan through the race details after.
I ran legs 5 & 10 this year. Leg 5 was 4.8 miles and the first 3 were all uphill. I struggled, averaging a 10:46/mi pace. Leg 10 was shortened from 3.4 miles to a super easy 2.5 from Stoller Estate into the town of Lafayette. Felt better with a 9:11/mi pace.
Wine Country Relay 2017
Just like the Hood to Hood Relay last month, this was the inaugural year of the Wine Country Relay. I was MOSTLY excited to run a relay in my own backyard because I get to sleep in my own bed and do all my race prep at home.
About That Course Though
Advertised as 47.3 miles of fun to be split among 6 runners or less (we had 5). In order to make up that distance this course meanders around the landscape a bit on back roads (lots of gravel) and even through some vineyards.
So I gotta be honest, and maybe I’d gotten bad info, but I’d heard through the grapevine (ha) that this course would have “rolling hills” and only one gravel section. Maybe someone was describing the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon (also a good race in this area).
The running reality is that THERE BE BLOOD ON THEM HILLS because they are steep and covered in mostly gravel and also my sweat and tears. The thing is…had I expected this going in I would’ve 1) trained differently and 2) loved every calve-cramping second of it. It’s all about managing those expectations, man.
So yes, it is an outstandingly beautiful course. Some shaded sections. Beautiful vineyards and orchards. Not all bad, by any means.
Team Run For Fun
We were rolling in our Sequoia again. So glad we bought that car. My friend Kym captained this team and Jenny, our Hood to Hood teammate, joined us as well. They both ran extra legs and I’m so glad they did it and not me. For some reason (inadequate training, poor fueling choices and my lower back pain maybe?) I struggled on this relay.
This was a wonderfully small event again – I only counted 13 teams starting with us at 7:15 am. I’m not actually sure if there were other start waves before or after us. I’d love to see the event grow so there are more runners out there. It makes it more fun during the relay to see others. HOWEVER, I also wouldn’t want it to get TOO big and have to wait in line to taste the wine. Because that would suck.
Best things about the relay:
- WINE! EVERYWHERE! It may be a little weird to be sipping Pinot Gris at 7:30 AM but, I’m all about weird. Honestly, the tastings were just that – a couple sips. Just enough to know if you want to come back and try some more later.
- Exchanging at Vineyards. Relay exchanges are often ugly plots of field or random church or school parking lots. Nothing exciting. But on THIS RELAY, most of the exchanges were at vineyards. It’s pretty sweet to drive into an exchange on a picturesque estate with impressive buildings, art, and rows of grapes just starting to plump. Oh and they have bathrooms. Like legit indoor ones.
- Done by early afternoon. Like I said before, this one day relay thing is pretty fabulous. You get that great accomplishment feeling of the longer relay, but still have a happy stomach and good energy at the end to truly enjoy the finish line celebration with your team.
- Lots more bathrooms! Did I say that already? I did have to pee behind a pile of gravel once, but that was still an improvement from the last relay.
Worst things about the relay:
- Some scary bits of road. I have to mention there were maybe two or three short sections of no-shoulder roads with blind corners that felt a bit risky, IMHO.
- Some volunteers…yikes! I hate to even say it because almost all the volunteers were AMAZING, as usual. And yet, some weren’t really doing their job. The lead runner missed a turn but our friend’s team tracked her down and drove her back to the right spot.
- No official timing. After the last relay this is not a surprise. So it’s not a big deal..and yet…I can’t shake the longing for an official race results list where we can see our team listed among all the other teams. All that juicy data is part of my post-race detox ritual. I don’t get closure without race results!
- My GoPro died. BLARGH! I forgot to bring the charging cord so I could juice it up as we went. For the second half of the relay, all I had was iPhone footage. It’s not terrible but it wasn’t what I had dreamed. Live and learn.
Would I run it again?
Heck yes. It’s so close to home, involves great wine, and if I register a team early enough it won’t be nearly as expensive. Next year I’ll be ready for the steep inclines and wear my trail shoes for the gravel.
Also, big thanks to the following wineries/vineyards for being awesome:
- Argyle Winery
- Knudsen Vineyards
- Torii Mor Winery
- The Four Graces
- Colene Clemens Vineyards
- Saffron Fields Vineyard
- Monks Gate Vineyard
- Stoller Family Estate
- and The Carlton Winemakers Studio