Whine and Run and Wine and Run and Wine and Run and Wine and Run and Whine! A recap of the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon

You get all that? Yeah, figured not. So here’s how this all fits into my running of the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon on August 31, 2014.

Whine: Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED the 7am start. To be honest, I wish all races started at 7. With 2 kids, it’s nice to complete a race and be back home when they are just starting to wake up. Even though I reside in Salem, which is quite a simple jaunt on the backroads of the Willamette Valley, I still woke up at 430am. Whine. I just wanted to give myself plenty of time to get parking in Carlton, board the bus to Stoller Vineyards, and enjoy my VIP experience at the start line. But still- 430am…

Run: After enjoying some coffee and a banana (I skipped the delicious looking muffins) and REALLY enjoying a private bathroom in the beautiful Stoller Valley tasting room, we took to the starting line. I was chatting with fellow blogger Anne as we started heading down the vineyard hills. While I would have been better off closer to the start, I was too engrossed in conversation (and frankly lazy) to try to push my way through the wall to wall bodies. The start was actually more of a walk (through the start line) and jog (for the first mile) before getting into an actual run. But honestly, I didn’t care. I was out there for a nice stroll through some beautiful countryside and was really ambivalent towards my pace. As it turned out, starting out slowly probably ended up helping my time more in the end (I’m a notorious fast starter).

The first half of the race was awesome, and while not hilly by any means, the elevation varied more than I was anticipating. Not enough to really throw much of a wrench into any running – but enough to keep things interesting. The town of Lafayette brought locals to cheer us on and made me want to move there immediately. I need to go back and explore there. While the sun was still low in the sky over the first 6 miles, the roads were well-shaded and featured us passing a few B&B’s as well as the local monastery. What a cool area.

Wine: Like Maryalicia mentioned in her recap, there was wine halfway through. The small, yet flavorful white wine were a fun little diversion from the miles of running. And speaking of “fueling”, I was very impressed with the aid stations along the course. They seemed well spread out and volunteers made sure that everyone was getting their fill.

Run: Leading up to the little wine pit-stop, and following it, there seemed to be a never-ending streak of gradual downhill. It was so straight that I forgot where I was for a second. Considering my Fueled by Fine Wine race, mere miles from here, was so hilly that I am still feeling the after-effects, it was hard to believe that we were in the heart of Oregon Wine Country.

After turning off of Hendricks Road, some mini-hills returned and the temperature picked up. There weren’t nearly as many trees in this stretch either. Even though this section was made to seem more challenging than the previous few miles (likely due to the fact miles 5-7 were ridiculously flat), the views were not lost on anyone. Farmland and wheat fields stretched out as far as the eye could see. Wineries were perched on distant hills and the shone reflected off silos and farm equipment.

Mile 10 took us off the paved roads (by the way, I’m not sure I saw more than a single car pass me in the span of the first 10 miles), and into a gravel section. This running surface instantly makes any run harder – especially when you are over an hour into a workout. I was luckily able to make up some ground over this section on a runner who I had been trailing for miles. As we hit the pavement for the final push to the end, I utilized my momentum to push past him with a quarter-mile to go.

Wine (and beer): Following the race, I immediately made a beeline for the Lagunitas Brewery booth. I had pre-ordered a logo Silipint which came with a free pint. I then hit the VIP area, which was pretty darn awesome. I re-fueled with some shrimp, breakfast burrito, a mimosa and another bottled beer. Yeah – I wasn’t putting my VIP entry to waste. I stood on the grass outside of Ken Wright Cellars and watched as the runners came through the finish line and receive their medals. It was awesome.

Run: My wife doesn’t typically come to many races. With two young kiddos in tow, packing them up to watch me finish has lost some of its luster (there’s not really a lot of enthusiasm after 26 completed halves – I don’t blame them). However, my wife pawned the kids off on family and headed to Carlton so we could partake in the Wine and Music Festival afterwards. We ran to get out wine glasses and immediately hit the wineries to try their best Pinot Gris.

I was thankful that there were so many friendly winemakers on site to talk about their bounty and deal with over a thousand tired, smelly, and hot runners. That’s dedication right there. We ended up purchasing a few bottles from Carlton Cellars.

This was a great environment to strike up conversations with other runners from around the USA. Destination races clearly does what it sets out to – bring runners from elsewhere to experience the local flavor. We met people from Atlanta, Jacksonville, and New Zealand in just a few short hours.

Run: As the wine tasting and music drew to a close, we ran over to grab a bite to eat at the Horse Radish restaurant. It was packed with runners (as I’m sure most restaurants were that weekend) and more courteous Carlton-ians dealing with the smell of nasty, sweaty humans.

Whine: It wasn’t really til about the time that we sat down to eat that I realized how AWFUL my post-race refueling was. 2 beers, 1 mimosa, a ton of wine, and ZERO water. Yeesh. The world was getting a little hazy and my tummy was feeling the effects of my bad decisions. My wife got to hear me complain until after I got some real (delicious) food and water in me.

Overall, this race was top-notch for me. Yes, it is expensive and the general “complaints” that people have ( mostly centered around charging for DOR bib pick-up, generic wine glasses, and “just-fine” race shirts) really paled in comparison to the over feel of the race and the beautiful course. Not that I needed more convincing, but Destination Races made me proud to be an Oregonian. Thank you for providing another reason to add to the list. This is who we are and this is what we do.  We rule. No whining.

About Author

Matt Rasmussen lives in Keizer, Ore. with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys watching hockey, going to as many breweries (618) and wineries (152) as he can, and all things Canada (he was born there). Matt was raised as a baseball player and officially transitioned over to running in 2010.

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