Fueled by Fine Wine + Wedding Wonders: The 2014 FBFW Half Marathon Experience

BRFs Sarah Higgins, Erica Rolniak and I pose for the cameras before hitting one of the hilliest half marathons in Oregon to celebrate my wedding day, 7/13/14.

Whether or not I have the time to run in my busy life, some of my greatest memories and most profound moments of self-realization have come while running. Running and I have a complicated relationship, one that vacillates between her being my primary mistress much to the neglect of my actual significant other, and on the other end of the spectrum, pining after running but never pursuing her, looking back at my fond memories of her as the One That Got Away.

Running was also how I found and bonded with one of my best friends in the whole world, Sarah. What Sarah and I have is a battle-tested friendship that can only be measured in the miles of all the races, long runs, and weekday therapy sessions of two runners perfectly matched in pace and pith. As we split a bottle of wine last year over a middle of the night packing marathon before I moved across the country, we promised each other that we would still race together once a year at a beautiful destination race.

When I ran the Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon in 2013, it was my first race as an Oregon resident. I was elated and unprepared, donning my best blue and white Sauconys that would later that day become permanently stained by the red, Jory soils of the Dundee Hills AVA. I think I may have cried that day: I was so happy and so homesick, in so much pain from climbing so many unending hills, and so overcome by the beauty of all the scenic vistas. Other women around me that year stopped to take stunning selfies with their fellow BRFs (Best Running Friend), while I trotted alone through 13.1 miles of  lush winery tracts and lactic acid build.

Photo from Sokol Blosser by Casey Ham

As I crested the last hill that year, I saw my boyfriend smile as he raised a running hose to douse racers running past the Crumbling Rock Winery. We’d met the year before after the Little Rock Marathon, and while it wasn’t love at first sight for me, it was certainly love. He’d moved across the country for me so I could follow my dreams, and here he was in the heat at an still-early hour, volunteering at the race so he could just catch a glimpse of me that day. This was home now, and home would mean something different than it had before.

Flash forward to September, and my boyfriend– Scott– had become my fiance. I’d found an engagement ring in a box inside of one of his shoes, waited for him to propose for three weeks, and then decided that was plenty long enough– I wore it to dinner one night and waited for him to notice. When we were picking our wedding date, I thought back on my promise to Sarah– one beautiful destination race per year with my Best Running Friend. After some brief negotiation with my new fiance, we picked our wedding date around the 2014 Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon and called the fabulous Jeff Knapp at Sokol Blosser to reserve the new, award-winning tasting room for the evening of the race. How can you go wrong with an entire day in wine country? (HINT: You can’t.)

Sunday, July 13, 2014 finally came after almost ten months’ of waiting, and it was time to get married and get my race on at the 2014 Fueled by Fine Wine event. Another 13.1 miles was exactly what my frazzled wedding brain needed after the final push of wedding planning, and the wine tasting afterwards from most of the wineries in the Dundee AVA (probably 20-30 of them) certainly didn’t hurt either. I was reunited with my BRF and a newer-old friend who I’d known for years but never had a chance to spend any time with until she moved to Bend. Erica– the new-old friend– was running her very first half marathon that day, and as she wisely put it, she was looking at the run as more of a 13.1 mile hike with some interim bits of jogging than a full out race– a perfect description of the course.

Erica Rolniak climbs the last, long hill of her first half marathon after already pushing through over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Don’t forget to follow @run_oregon on Instagram and tag your running/walking photos #runoregon for a chance to be featured!

The weather forecast promised a high of 97 F and a 30% chance of thunderstorms– the worst of all worlds– but I was hoping for once that the rain would come while we ran so my outdoor wedding could go on without too much agony for the guests. Meanwhile the course itself promised over 2,000 feet of elevation gain over 15-20% vineyards, 20-30% gravel, and 50-65% rolling (but paved) country roads. Sure enough, a few miles into those deadly hills storm clouds rolled in and gave us a respite from the otherwise unrelenting sun. While I was around Mile 8 and Amy was at Mile 10, the thunder, lightning, and hot summer downpour came. Other than fretting about frying the iPhone in my skirt’s back pocket on my wedding day, it was perfect. The trail portion of the race was done, and the rain massaged the Jory soil coating my body into an effortless and comical fake-bake tan.

The finish line came, the wine tasting began, and I claimed my gorgeous medal with a sweet pink “5” in the center of the logo (it was the fifth annual running of the event) and ultra-classy, stemmed, 21-ounce pinot wine glass. Last year I joked that the pinot glass was the best race swag I’d taken home since I snatched Scott at the Little Rock Marathon in 2012. This year offered an identical glass with the previously mentioned “5” added to the enter of the race logo– swag like this makes you forget little things like lactic acid and all the mean things you said to the hills a few miles ago. When the race isn’t celebrating an anniversary, here’s what that sweet, sweet glass looks like right here.

Then suddenly, my “whirlwind” six-hour foray into race land was over. We’d left Portland at 6 AM, started the race at 7 AM, finished just before 10 AM, tasted wines for just at an hour, and then it was time to attack the hour long drive back to Portland so I could sweep into Blush Beauty Bar for a 130 PM makeup appointment with wet hair and a gently tired body. It was time to start the real magic of the day. Just over a year before, my then-boyfriend had bought me a beautiful pair of blue and white Sauconys that ended up terribly stained in Jory soil. One year later, I would get married in a replica of that same pair of shoes and never be happier in all my life.

© Heather Canterbury Photography

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