Monday, September 6, 2010

Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 27th Edition
746.7 miles raced; 350 yards swam and 9 miles biked in 2010

Race: Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon
Place: Lafayette to Carlton, OR
Miles from home: 802 miles
Weather: 50-60s; Overcast and cool with slight humidity

I have been looking forward to this trip and race for a few months now.  After I made an out-of-the blue decision that Portland needed to be my next home, I figured I should probably go there and actually see the area once before acting on that decision.  With the Oregon Wine Country Half marathon just south of Portland, I found my reason to make the trip.

Having completed the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon, put on by the Destination Races in late July, I had a feeling this race would present some beautiful scenery as well.  While I feel Napa had more of an actual "vineyard" feel to it, I think I prefer this beautiful course.  Moreover, after taking a break from racing last weekend (only the 4th such weekend since my 202 miler) I was actually feeling like a person who wanted to run again.  Amazing what an extra week can do for you.

First 5k: 7:14, 5:17, 6:52
The race started in between two fields of grapes at the Stoller Vineyards with Mr. Stoller himself firing the pistol to get us under way. My race plan was to hold myself in check and try to run 6:30 miles as long as possible and just enjoy the day.  Slightly overcast skies and a coolish breeze coupled with great racing temperatures to give us nearly ideal running conditions.

After the first mile marker proved to be a little out of place (proven by the second one being equally out of place on the other end of the scale) I was pleased to be right about where I wanted to be.  The lead pack of runners had disappeared off into the foggy mists of the horizon and we all wished them a fond goodbye.

The rolling hills of the first few miles allowed runners to stretch out all of their muscles and really get a feel for the road.  Two women had begin to distance themselves from the other runners including one who had settled into a spot right next to me. I leaned over and gave a quick "Just try to keep in contact with them" type comment. Granted she was not asking for advice and I provided it unsolicited, but she gave a rather gruff comment in return.  Realizing my assistance was not wanted I simply sped up.

On my way to 6 miles: 5:52, 6:34, 6:34

I began to separate myself from just about everyone here as is usual in my case.  Not being the fastest guy on the block I am not often in the lead pack and being slightly faster than others I can often run races completely by myself. As such I was pleased to have one gentleman, Tim, slide on up with me.  He commented on my good pace and I reminded him he was obviously do the same.  "Oh, I am just doing the two person relay with my wife." One Beat of pause "And I am wearing my sister's shorts."  I think even through my sunglasses Tim saw my raised eyebrow.  He clarified that he had basically forgotten his entire kit and was wearing borrowed clothing from top to bottom.  What a trooper! (I met his wife post-race and they were just delightful people.)

Tim soon dropped back and again I was running alone.  Right at mile 6 the race photographers were snapping pictures.  And I mean RIGHT at mile 6,  I commented that they were going to get a ton of pictures of people looking down at their watched if they stayed right at the mile marker but I am sure that advice went over about as well as it had three miles prior to Ms. McGruff.

To Mile 10: 6:28, 6:16, 6:40, 6:51

Beginning a steep climb I could see the second place woman was beginning to drift back from the lead woman.  With prize money, wine and an expensive watch at stake, I was glad I was not in contention for an overall victory and watching it slip away.  I spent the next few miles stalking this woman and after cresting the uphill enjoyed a long downhill until the gravelly portion of the race began.

Wearing my new super lightweight racing flat (6.5oz) K-Swiss K-Ruuz  I was wondering how they would handle the loose pebbles and slightly unstable footing for the next 3 plus miles.  I was more than pleasantly surprised and my LIN socks kept my feet blister free as well. (The previous day I had given away some free pairs of LIN socks and saw more than a few people were breaking them in on race day.  Awesome!)  I passed the second place female around mile 9 and as I turned to wish her good luck saw the third place female had snuck up out of nowhere.  Not the same female I had given advice to earlier, she looked strong and determined and right before mile 10 she was at my side.

Bringing it home: 6:17, 6:34, 6:29, :35

I pointed out the lead female about  quarter of a mile and four people ahead of us and told my new running partner that we had actually gained on her in the last few miles. I wasn't sure if we had enough real estate left to track her down, however.  Learning my lesson about advice giving I then fermez ma bouche (Yep, I know "shut my mouth" from French lessons in third grade.  Thank you, Mrs. Fitzgerald.)  However, as we emerged off of the gravel road around mile 11.5, I realized I had closed the gap considerable on a male runner in front of me.  My competitive juices surged and I passed my female running companion in an attempt to get one spot higher at the end.

Alas, I did not leave myself enough race distance to catch the runner in front of me.  I did, however, on a course that was far from easy, run my fastest half-marathon of the year by one second (chip time depending) of 1:24:39.  Still a far cry from my PR but given my lethargy of late, the lack of competition to really push me forward here and the tougher course than the previous fastest race of the year, I could not have been more happy.  Plus a second overall in my age group gave me another nice bottle of wine to add to my collection!

I then spent the rest of the morning re-meeting runners from other races, from the expo or dinner the previous day or from out on the course we just finished. In a complete role reversal of earlier in the year when I brought freezing cold weather with me everywhere I went, I brought three days (and counting) of sunshine with me to the greater Portland area. (Yep, I claim to have control over the weather.) Seeing all the luscious green trees and fields draped in golden rays of light sure did put the cherry on the Portland sundae.

If you are looking for a Labor Day Destination Half Marathon and don't want to spend it on the beach in Virginia next time, I would highly suggest coming here.  But sign up early, as it is sure to sell out as all of the Destination Races seem to do these days. Rough economy?  Please. Runners say pshaw to that.

*I will add exact times and names of runners when they are posted.