Maybe it was the 666 on my bib, maybe it was the fact that there was a giant thunderstorm bearing down on us, but I started praying and running as fast as I could during Fueled By Fine Wine, the hardest, hilliest, dirtiest, most fun and terrifying 13.1 I’ve ever run in my life.
The day started off beautifully enough, a round healthy moon hung low in the sky to the west while the sun chased it down from the east in a fiery sunrise swirl of purple, pink and orange. I picked up my best running friend who lives conveniently on the way to Dundee, though it was early and I wasn’t quite awake. I confess, I turned down the wrong road and had to mentally recalculate my route with my inner GPS.
I was born late so without question I am always late for everything. I fully expected I’d be late to the race, especially after the snooze button and wrong turn. But thankfully I grossly overestimated how long it would take to get to gorgeous Oregon Wine Country and we had time to spare, even with a restroom stop at the Shell station a mere mile from the starting line. Nervous pooper, what else can I say?
We easily parked about a block from the starting line and arrived well before the masses so we could scope out the porta potties and determine that yes, indeed, there was a bag check (though it wasn’t marked as anything but volunteer check in).
Having never run FBFW before I didn’t exactly know what we were up against, but having spent some time in a vineyard before I knew it would be hilly, rutty and dusty. I pointed to the road that we would have to run up to get started and said to my friend “see that? That’s nothing compared to the rest”. Being right never felt so wrong!
The only trouble I had with the event came pre-race. For one, I couldn’t find water. For whatever reason I’m just nervously thirsty, and if I know that I can’t find water I feel like I’m in the desert, desperately parched and then I get a little cranky.
But then I had to pee so it took my mind off the thirst, until I realized the line for the porta potties was about a quarter mile long. I am not even kidding you. I will say this: there were PLENTY of porta potties. The problem was just logistics in how they were arranged and one LOOOONG line for 25 of them.
Me, I would have chunked them up into groups and put them where you could have a line for each porta potty. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. So needless to say I actually ran out of time before the race started so I hoped for better luck on the course.
As luck would have it (did I mention the 666 on my bib?!) the next closest porta potty had a pretty big line and the guy that was in there when I rolled up was in there for a while. So…….. Three minutes into my wait and I was nearly going to pee myself. I hiked behind the porta potty, dropped trou and kept running. Sorry for doing that, and also for telling you, but I must be honest all the same.
By mile three the sun was mocking us with her steamy heat and the uphill vineyard climbs were relentless. My friend asked, several times, why I dragged her into this. At some point, I couldn’t remember.
But let me tell you this: nothing takes your mind of the pain like running through some of the most beautiful hillsides you have ever seen in your life. Truly, I kept stopping to take pictures and ooooohing and ahhhhhing over the scenery. Breathtaking. Gorgeous. Incredible. Unbelievable. Stunning. These are the words that came to my mind as I looked around me throughout the middle section of the course.
Every ascent was initially met with complaining until we reached the next vista view. I became the selfie queen, no doubt annoying everyone around me. And I will say this: my photos do not do the beauty that surrounded us any sort of justice.
Around mile 6 the skies became overcast, and then downright cloudy, taking the heat off of us but still leaving us bathed in hard earned sweat. Aid stations were every 2 miles, well-staffed, with water and Nuun Hydration and some of them also had GU. I have a hate-hate relationship with GU, my entire body revolts as soon as I put it in my mouth. That is, until mile 12, but I’ll save that for later.
I also appreciated the “mobile medics” first aid staff on bicycles checking in to see if everyone was OK. Bless them. The only thing I wanted the first time I saw one was a porta potty and some wine. He couldn’t help. Thankfully I didn’t need their services at all, though around mile 9.5 I was pretty sure I would.
I’m not normally terrified of thunder and lightning. Not normally. But on a day where my race number is 666, it’s Sunday and I’ve skipped church to run a half marathon and drink wine I figured odds were against me for survival. Even if I did pray: “please God don’t let me be injured….please God don’t let them run out of wine before I finish…..” I felt like I was really crossing the line for God’s good graces.
At about mile ten with the storm BEARING DOWN ON US, lightning everywhere, thunder cracking and surrounded by trees on two sides, my fight or flight instinct kicked in, as it so happens I chose FLIGHT. I made my poor running buddy go faster even though she kept insisting her legs were maxed out. Finally she just said “save yourself” and that was all I needed to hear.
I took off as fast as I could and realized if I kept hauling tail I could get in at 2:30, which was never my time goal, but I like even numbers and I knew how far I had to go. I did NOT anticipate the big ass hill to climb at mile 12 before the wonderful descent into the finish line. Time for fuel and water while the skies opened fire on us runners with raindrops the size of which I’ve never seen.
I decided to gag down a GU which happened to be Salted Caramel flavor. O. M. G. Not only did I not immediately gag it up, but it went down like the delicious post-race wine I drank: SMOOTH. And. I. LIKED. IT! I quickly knocked back some Nuun like it was a shot of tequila to chase down the gel. Fuel on board, 1.1 miles to go and knowing I left my friend behind, I hiked up (I couldn’t have possibly run it!) the last hill as fast as I could and then went balls to the wall to the finish. 2:33 on my Garmin. Water? Check. Medal? Check.
I quickly surveyed the post-race food spread, grabbed what I could fit in my grubby mitts and ran back up the hill to find my friend and finish with her. She was just over the last hill when I saw her, we grabbed hands (no, we really didn’t) and finished strong!
Great food spread, short line to get our commemorative wine glasses and then the fun began, tasting and tasting and tasting. NOTE TO SELF: sip & spit is a better way to make sure you have time to try everyone out. Otherwise, you catch a buzz on the first three wineries and sip/spit until you sober up. Then you’ve run out of time and you have to get home before your husband calls 1-800-DIVORCE because he’s been home with the kids while you get fitshaced after running 13.1…..
My final comments about the race are this: wonderful volunteers, incredible course support, great directional signage. All in all, this is a ten out of ten as far as I’m concerned. And here’s where I need to cut myself off (just like Sunday) because I could go on and on and on about how amazing and fun and challenging and beautiful and dirty this race is. And, I’d do it all over again. Next year. I’ll be there. And I’m really hoping I don’t get the 666 bib again.