Last Saturday I completed my 2nd half marathon post-injury and, well, just let that photo above be an indication to you how pleased I am. I didn’t even think about my foot once during the run. I was too busy looking for the right photographer to capture this move:
Cartwheels around mile 10. I may not be fast but I have FUN!
One of the reasons I had so much fun at this race is the fact that it’s located in Yamhill County, where I now live, and features many of the small towns that make up my new life in Oregon: Carlton, McMinnville, Lafayette, Yamhill, & Newberg. These roads, these vineyards, this is where I run! LUCKY!
Let me tell you more about this race and why you need to come run it with me next year! Sit tight, because I’m going to share with you the:
- Experience on the course itself
- Perks of being a VIP and why I think it’s worth it
- Great value of the wine tasting Finish Festival
- Lots and lots of photos
Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon
As I’ve mentioned before, I got a free VIP entry into this event as a running blogger. Of course I’ll share my honest opinions, but I must warn you…I was wined and dined and am totally a smitten kitten. You can do a lot of races quick and dirty; arrive day-of to save on travel and head home straight away to avoid additional expenses, etc. Sometimes that has to be done, but THIS is NOT the race you want skimp on.
This is a destination race, and if you make a weekend of it and do it all, you will have one hell of a time! Well, if you like wine. If you don’t like wine, don’t do this event. Or do it and just let me taste your free wine for you. That’s the best plan.
My Goal for the #ORWineHalf
This may be my 20-something-th half marathon, but it wasn’t a goal race. I planned to hit a 10:30 average pace, run strong on the inclines, and enjoy the experience of running VIP in Oregon Wine Country! I finished in about 2:21, or an average of a 10:39 pace. I got photos, enjoyed the scenery, and experience as much as I possibly could. Mission accomplished.
Running the Course
Truth is… several mile markers were not in agreement with my Garmin. Not saying my Garmin is gospel (in fact, I know it’s not), but I was surprised that a few mile markers came well before or long after my mile splits. This played tricks with my brain. The sign below was more like 1.5 miles from the finish. Maybe the tractor guy moved it….
Is it “hilly” like everyone says? Kind of. There are many VERY runnable hills. The first 6 miles had a lot of up and down, but no steep, soul-crushingly long inclines. This year the road was a bit torn up at the half way point due to construction so we had a touch of extra gravel around the relay exchange section.
Miles 7 to 8 or so had this beautiful long stretch of gentle decline and a wine aid station to boot! Bring an extra water bottle to collect some free wine for later! Haha, just kidding. I mean, you can try and see. The sampler cups were tiny sips, though. Easy to try on the run.
Miles 10ish to 11ish were slow for me. Earlier I wrote about concerns over this gravel section and possible dust. Click here to see that post with the course map and pictures I’d taken before the race. Good news is the dust wasn’t an issue! Still, I had to fight to keep my head in the game.
This is my “focus on your breathing” face. It’s not pretty but it’s totally mandatory. I figured I ought to share this lest you think I always look awesome when I run. I often look quite silly.
The VIP Experience Pre-Race
Okay, before we get to the big finale, let’s talk about the VIP experience at this event and why you’ve got to put it on your bucket list and in your savings budget. Let’s talk pre-race perks.
The race expo was held at the Evergreen Museum in McMinnville where the SPRUCE GOOSE lives! VIP runners get GREAT stuff; a whole can of some kick ass coffee, sunscreen, jerky, water bottle, an awesome unbreakable beer pint, and run fuel. I know for this race it’s tempting to do an early packet pick-up or pay to get it race-morning, but even though this is a small expo, it’s fun and worth getting in early because…wine!
Yes, you get to start wine tasting at the expo! No time to waste, folks.
The Pre-Race Dinner was held in Newberg this year at The Allison Resort & Spa. The dinner itself was a great way to get to know the people behind Destination Races and learn more about the local wine country scene. This is also when we heard from Alexi Pappas, Olympic hopeful and filmmaker. I wrote a whole post about what she said here. Of course, we also got to meet another local wine maker, Boyd Teegarden of Natalie’s Estate Winery. It’s something special to have the wine maker himself leading you through a tasting.
Do you HAVE to buy the VIP race package to go to this dinner? No. You can purchase a pre-race dinner ticket separately as a Race Extra, but once you add up all the extras, you might as well just be an official VIP all the way through the weekend.
The VIP Experience on Race Day
At the race start, VIPs were able to go inside the Stoller Winery tasting room (which I show photos of here) and use real restrooms, eat bagels and sit down and relax. It’s a small thing, but I felt totally relaxed and warm before the race!
At the finish festival, the VIP area has a full spread of breakfast foods, wine, beer, shade, seating, and your bag! This makes hanging out at the finish for a few hours tasting wine feel doable. And trust me, you’ll want to spend at least an hour sampling wine at the finish! I’ll get to that in a second.
The Finisher’s Reception is the last Race Day VIP perk I have to mention. A few hours after the race, we were showered and smelling good and sipping wine at Gran Moraine vineyard in Yamhill. Again, you can purchase a ticket for this separately as a Race Extra. Talk about a GORGEOUS vineyard with excellent Pinot Noir! They had small bites and we got to walk in the vineyard on a mini tour of the estate. This was yet another great opportunity to learn about wine, appreciate how it’s made, and ask all my silly questions from someone who really knows they’re stuff.
Big Finale: Wine Tasting At The Finish
So. Much. Wine! If you run the race, you get a glass and all tastings included in your entry. If you don’t run the race you can buy a glass and taste all the wines anyway for $30. Normal tasting room fees around here range from $10 to $15 for a flight (4 to 6 wines on average). The Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon Finish Festival features 25+ wineries pouring at least two wines each! It’s a really good deal; wine glass + over 50 tastings + race + race medal + overall experience.
So yes, plan on staying for at least an hour after the race, if not more, to sample the amazing Oregon wines that have grabbed the attention of the wine world. There are lots of other fun things to do at the finish, though. Prizes to win. Beer to drink. In fact, J found his sampler!
Run the #ORWineHalf because:
- It is a BEAUTIFUL area of Oregon.
- You definitely get your $$$ worth.
- You love wine or want to learn more about it.
- This race highlights and celebrates the local communities.
- I live here and you want to come see me.
- It’s so much better than a girl’s weekend in Vegas.
- You’re ready for a VIP race vacation.
- All your friends are doing it and this kind of this is so fun with friends.
Convinced? I sure hope so. I think I’ve even convinced my husband to run this next year! This is our new hometown. This race features so many of the things I love about the fact that we bought a home here and will start a family here.
Come see how great it is!