This was a very fancy race, and the early morning shuttle was one of many super fancy-pants add-ons, and by fancy, I mean I don’t own a car. This add-on was, despite the $20 or so price tag and 4:00 AM wake up time +cab cost (apparently Trimet doesn’t run that early? What is this, Somalia?), totally worth it. I met some really sweet girls from Seattle who were literally hopping around the hotel lobby with gobs of pre-coffee energy because this was– wait for it– literally their very first half marathon. The enthusiasm of baby marathoners is so contagious; chatting with them, I felt like someone had handed me two dozen roses. It was wonderful to talk with someone so excited to race long distance for the first time over someone else who was a bit jaded and rounding the bases on their 50th state. I bet you can pick them out in the picture above.
And about that whole jaded thing– I’m far from 50 states material, but I’ve been feeling incredibly jaded about running lately. I just show up and am in essence the Queen of Gut-it-Out. Other than my trips to the barre, I never train; I just joke that I’m racing my way into training shape. That’s a pretty cute joke until I feel like I’m about to cry my way into a coffin because I’m on the precipice of passing out in a city I’ve never visited before, hours from anyone I know. But this race was going to be different– the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon, put on by Destination Races, hails itself as a treat with the motto “Reward Yourself.” I can get behind that. August was the last month before I was scheduled to have a week-long trial in Multnomah County, aka the last time it was certain I would be seen outside of my office or my bed, so the last day of the month should be a treat.
I arrived in Carlton, Oregon at Stoller Winery (truly one of the prettiest wineries I’ve visited, even if I’m not a fan of their vegetal-imbued wines) with the sun still below the horizon. My quiet bus companions and I hiked up the long, gentle hill to the glass-walled winery to get our bibs– another $15 add on for race-day packet pickup, although in retrospect I’m sure they would have let me grab my digits and pins even if I hadn’t shelled out the extra funds. After waiting in line for maybe 10 minutes, I finally arrive at the front of the line and find out…. they don’t have my bib. Say what? Apparently I had VIP admission and didn’t even know it. What was I doing waiting in lines with the plebeians? Bring on the NICE. Mama needs a cup of coffee and a pastry and a REAL bathroom. I ran into fellow blogger Matt Rassumussen, who had already found the VIP way and looked very settled in. Here are your pastries, he gestured grandly from inside the heated, enclosed winery with concrete floors and top-to-bottom glass garage-style doors in a high-ceiling venue. Here is the coffee, juice, and the bananas of the gods. For the habitually poor planner like me, it was manna.
As Maryalicia and Matt have already told you, the course itself was pretty straightforward. Point-to-point; very sunny; decently warm after the old day star came up; not as hilly as its unforgiving but gorgeous cousin, Fueled by Fine Wine; and well-staffed. I’d forgotten my security blanket that day, aka my 24 ounce insulated water bottle that I ALWAYS bring to races, but shockingly enough I never missed it. There were enough water and fuel stops that I felt good the entire time I raced, despite having a delicate stomach that prefers tiny sips of water every half mile over waterboarding myself at every aid stop along the course. I walked a decent portion of this race. While it wasn’t incredibly hilly or desperate, I was lonely and a little out of shape, finishing in 2:32:46. But who cares or even remembers a race right after it’s over? There was a VIP section waiting for me somewhere, right after I took my sweet wine-glass-shaped medal with an equally awesome wine marker dangling from the bottom.
After crossing the finish line, I weaved my way through a huge wine-themed after-party village. This was big. This was– dare I say– huge? It looked like someone had set up a decently sized festival and I just so happened to wander into it after finishing a half marathon. There were custom stemless wine glasses, SiliPints (pint glasses made of silicone so you can take them on picnics and/or not break them), plenty of free snacks, and two wine tastings from each of the dozens of wineries present at the after party. I only grabbed a few wine tastings before I found the VIP alcove and retired to my semi-permanent position on a shaded bench surrounded by all-you-can-eat shrimp, oysters on the half shell, ceviche, 10 Barrel beer, and local wine served by truly blissful volunteers. Sometimes volunteers really phone it in (hey– you get what you pay for), but these folks acted like I’d paid them personally to look after my well being after making the poor decision of running a half marathon completely unprepared. Perhaps the best part was a short massage by Jennifer Wyant of Blissfully Kneaded. As I lifted my completely renewed body from the massage table, I looked around and– wait, what? The VIP section was closing? Was I being kicked out? Was I seriously that slow of a runner that at 2:32 I couldn’t spend more than a plate of fabulous seafood, a bathroom break, and a 10-minute-massage and ok, well, maybe like two drinks worth of time in here? Alright. Just as well. My shuttle bus back to Portland was leaving somewhat soon, so I guess it was time to go find out where in this huge wine village my future 90s-carpeted nap palace was departing from, anyway.
See you next year, Oregon Wine Country Half (next year, I’ll finish faster and all your shrimps will be mine).