So I moved to Oregon a few weeks ago. And of course winter blew in with a flurry to welcome me back to my home state. If I ever needed a destination race, it was last Friday when I woke up to a frozen driveway and had to cancel an important work event.
So Friday night, I hopped on a plane and the next morning…I was in a warm sunny place and ready to race!
Cool wine bottle start arch, right?
Disclosure: I got to run this race for free!
Destination Races (perfect name for an event company, yeah?) gave me a free VIP registration in exchange for helping them spread the word about their newest event.
The Temecula Wine Country Half Marathon had 800 or so runners last Saturday (I think at least 600 were women) and really tried to tie in all the local elements. There is a huge hot air balloon festival every year in Temecula. Many vineyards and wine makers have been successful here and are starting to get attention. Just a couple hours from both Los Angeles and San Diego, it’s a great little getaway for wine tasting.
So I’m here to tell you what’s so great about the race and what’s maybe just so-so and what you should definitely NOT do on race day.
What NOT to do: Miss the expo.
So, as I said I flew in the night before. Which meant my friend had to pick up my packet for me and let me know how the expo was. So here are photos Ericka too at the expo! Lol.
Ericka said this expo was kind of low key, which makes sense. This is a smaller race than, say, a Rock ‘n’ Roll event or something along those lines.
Ericka was most impressed with BANDI! She bought one, of course. I’m sure my blogger buddies will recognize this. Fashionable waist packs with a flattering, low profile. Awesome!
What NOT to do: Show up empty handed.
There are two things I should’ve known about this event.
1) There is no gu/gel or any other type of run fuel at the aid stations.
2) They were serving Accelerade at every other aid station.
Of course, I came incredibly underprepared. I’ve only partially moved to Oregon and most of what I own is still at my old place. So when I showed up to the race, I had no handheld to carry my own Nuun Hydration (because Accelerade is just not tasty). I had no fuel. I didn’t even have my watch, visor or sunnies.
I’m just glad I had my shoes!
The Course: Rustic pretty.
It started off with a bang, as most races do, at South Coast Winery Resort and Spa. But this race had a bunch of hot air balloons rising in the distance as we took off on the first mile. It was awesome to look up and see these giant, colorful, floating balloons carrying little baskets filled with people.
Race morning was sunny, clear, and chill. Just about 55 or so at the start. Perfect. This time of year should provide reliably nice weather for a race in Temecula.
The views on course were a rustic kind of pretty. I wouldn’t say that Temecula Wine Country is ever outstanding scenery. The landscape is overwhelmingly brown with heavy splashes of green. That being said, I always like to see tidy rows of vines carpeting the rolling hills.
Okay, so let’s talk about my actual run.
Running this race felt like it climbed a little bit in the beginning (up until about mile 4) and climbed a LOT at the end (for the last 3 miles). But from miles 5 to 7 there was a beautiful, extended decline that felt amazing.
My friend Ericka gave me one of her Island Boost packets (God bless her) so I had one life line in this game. My body is accustomed to fuel every 4 or 5 miles so I was nervous that I would crash and burn. Also, I didn’t run at all in the two weeks prior to the race. So there’s that. I used the Island Boost at mile 4 and from then on I ran on mental energy.
My goal was to just get through this race without succumbing to a walk break. Even on the hills. Oh the hills. In the last three miles of the course we had to climb back up to the start. There were a series of inclines that were not individually very long or significant…but when put back to back to back, added up to fun mental game for miles 10 to 13.
The icing on the cake was the last little hill which looked so much steeper than all the rest. It wasn’t very long, but when you’ve just done 12.5 miles, hills in my eyes are definitely less of a big deal than they appear. I sank my teeth into that last hill and was immediately treated to the driveway for South Coast and therefore the finish line shoot.
So of course I found my finish line gear and just had to pass that one last person before the finish. The result was a 2:21 overall time. I know this is not as good as I can do but I’m still super thrilled about this race. I’m thrilled that my body is strong enough to do 13 miles with poor training, fueling and being travel weary. I’m thrilled that my foot is not causing me problems right now. I haven’t ran a half in 2 years. I was thrilled to get a medal at the finish line!
I was SO glad to be done! I was SO glad to see NUUN HYDRATION at the finish line! Why wasn’t this on the course?!
And then to make things even more fun, I got to see my friend cross her first half marathon finish line.
She is an absolute rock star. We ran our own race that day, but she was never very far behind me. One nice thing about smaller races like this is I was able to stay in the finish area long enough to grab some photos of her and not get pushed along. 😀
What is GREAT: The Finish Festival
I went to the VIP Brunch which may have been my favorite part of the event. I believe anyone can pay extra for VIP perks. I’m not sure I would normally consider that worth it…but let me tell you…this spread was literally THE BEST TASTING FOOD IN THE WORLD! I’m sure that had something to do with running for 2 hours.
Then there was no time to waste! Lots of wine to be tried.
I love these bibs they printed for the wineries that were represented.
I have to say the little finish line wine and music festival was very fun. Runners joined their families and sat in the grass, listened to a really good band play live music, and taste a bunch of wines.
What is ALSO great: MORE WINE!
After the race, a few of my girlfriends and I went wine tasting at Leoness Cellars and Cougar Winery. It was incredible to be able to spend a few more hours with my southern California friends before heading back to Oregon for good. A few more awesome moments for my memory bank. I can’t take my friends with me to Oregon, but I am certainly bringing a few bottles of Temecula wine!