Spectacular beauty. Challenging hills. Superb setting. Exceptional wine. Amazing race.
I am thrilled I was able to participate in the Inaugural Youngberg Hill Half, which took place on Sunday, May 17 in McMinnville, Oregon. Being a huge fan of wine country races, I knew I had to get Youngberg Hill Half on my race calendar the minute I saw the race appear.
In addition to the half marathon, the race offered a 10k and 5k distance, which provided a great opportunity for everyone to be able to participate in the distance that suited them the best.
I registered for the half marathon, but let me tell you … when I was driving up the road to to reach Youngberg Hill Winery, where the event start and finish line was located, I began second guessing my sanity. After pulling off the main road, the 0.84 mile hill to reach the winery had my shaking in my running shoes. It was steep. So steep, in fact, I have never witnessed a hill so ominous before. Sure, I’ve run up a hill or twelve in my life; but this sucker was freaky-impressive (read: really darn steep and really, really long). After the race, I remembered that the elevation profile for the event mentioned this hill had an officially “Category” rating … How do the “Tour de France” bike riders do it!?
After reaching the crest of the hill, I was able to secure a parking spot very easily. The packet pick-up area was located outside under a large, covered tent. Tables were set-up to allow participants to stay dry and get ready for the race.
Who likes races that have flush-toilets available pre-race? I do. The Youngberg Hill race participants had access to four flush toilets and a porta-pottie prior to the race. Just before the half marathon start, at 9 a.m., the line for the restrooms started building up; however, the line was not ridiculous and everyone made it through just fine that I saw.
The three events had staggered starts. The half marathon participants left the start line at 9 a.m., 10k participants
next at 9:15 a.m., and 5k racers took to the course at 9:30 a.m. This spacing was ideal, and allowed for a smooth, non-scrunched, stress-free start for all events.
The half marathon began promptly at 9 a.m. I love and appreciate when a race begins on time. Events like these are chip timed for a reason, right? Everyone has their own start and finish time – if folks are a couple minutes behind, let them start when they get to the start line; don’t hold up all the other runners. I’m very opinionated about this, sorry.
The first 0.84 mile (remember that number from a little bit ago?) was sure quad-busting, but good. We had to get to the top of that hill, now it was time to run down it. Let me tell you — it was as steep in portions as I thought it would be, too. I love a challenge, so this race was starting off great.
After reach the bottom of the winery entrance, it was time to turn onto the quiet, peaceful rural roads surrounding Youngberg Hill Winery. The roads were narrow, but traffic was calm. Participants were pretty well spaced out after coming down the steep decent. As the course was an out-and-back for all events, there were turn around points along the route. At the first turn around point for the 5k participants, was aid station 1.
After passing aid station 1, I was getting anxious to see some wine country farm animals (I love animals)! Sure enough,
shortly hereafter on the course the animals were all coming to life. First, we passed some cows. Then some chickens and roosters who were being really noisy. Aid station 2, and the 10k turn-around was tucked in this section of life-stock rich land. And, probably the place along the course where the most selfies were taking place, by the alpacas who were being throughly entertained by all the participants.
While the entire course was full of rolling hills (note: I did not say ‘gentle’ rolling hills … ), I pretended I was just out for some quick hill work. Courses similar to this, will not a lot of straight, flat stretches, are some of my favorite courses to run because they are challenging, rewarding, and at the end of the event, you know you earned that glass of post-race wine.
Nearing aid station 3, and the half marathon turn around point, it was exhilarating to see the first place overall finishers zooming back for the last half of their race. When it was my turn to officially make the turn-around and start heading back to the start line, the energy from participants on both sides of the turn-around point were so happy, enthusiastic, and cheering each other along. This, right here, is why I have become a huge fan of out-and-back courses. I used to dislike them; now, I just adore them.
Now, retracing our steps back to the finish line, I started counting the snakes along the road. There were a number of
them, but mostly dead. Yuck. The aid station volunteers and course marshal’s were still as friendly on the way back as they were earlier. It was nice to feed off their positive energy tackling the rolling hills back to the ominous final ascent to Youngberg Hill Winery, and the finish line.
It seemed like the route back was faster, and, before I knew it, I saw the entry gates to Youngberg Hill. The course marshal at the entry point to the winery was so very friendly, and provided words of encouragement to everyone passing by and beginning the challenging climb to the finish line. The final 0.84 miles were now all mine to tackle. The descent worked my quads well, now I wondered what the ascent had in store for me. Well, let’s just say it had a lot of walking in store for me. That’s right, walking. Holy moly, let’s just sum it up like this: “finish line, where are you!?”
Cresting the last really steep hill, I had the finish line in sight. Next thing I know, this runner, who had just crossed the finish line moments before, comes running back down the hill. What in the world?! It was Elba, Get Bold Events race director, coming back down the hill to cheer runners on the course tackling that final 0.84 mile climb. Impressive!
Now, it was my turn to make it across the finish line. I think I stole a little bit of Elba’s energy to get me across the
finish line a little bit faster, too, which was nice. After crossing, I could hear the age group and overall award winners being announced, so I headed up to the tent to hear results. Co-race director, Tina, was announcing winners and handing out beautifully, hand decorated wine glasses to recipients. Post-race refreshments were available here, too, including cheese. Cheese and wine – and running. I’m in heaven.
I proceeded into the winery to participate in the wine tasting that was taking place. I tried the Pinot Gris and it was divine.
I absolutely loved my time, from start to finish, participating in the Inaugural Youngberg Hill Half. The setting was spectacular, pre- and post-race logistics were skillfully put together to make it stress free for participants, volunteers along the course were A+, and the finisher medal for the half marathon was delightful.
Yes, I will be adding the Youngberg Hill Half to my 2016 event calendar. I highly recommend you do so, as well. For race results from all events, click here. Make sure to choose the event distance you want results for. And don’t forget to check out the photos, too.