On Sunday, May 17, 2015, my husband and I ventured out to wine country, in the picturesque Willamette Valley, for the inaugural Youngberg Hill Half Marathon. Perhaps the word “hill” in the name of the estate should have provided some advance indication of what we had gotten ourselves into.
The out-and-back course started at the Youngberg Hill Winery and Inn, just outside of McMinnville. Despite a cool, light mist early on, the overcast weather proved to be perfect for the challenging race.
In addition to the half marathon, there was also a 5k and 10k that ran the same course as the half. Nearly 100 participants made their way to the 9 AM start, perched more than 630 feet above the valley floor. The view was breathtaking. And frightening. Not only would the first mile drop us more than 300 feet, it provided a preview of the 300 foot elevation gain in the last mile to the finish.
We took care as we made our way down the hill to not blow out our quads and looked forward to, what appeared on the elevation map, “gentle” rolling hills for much of the race. Those little mounds on the map proved to be more than gentle. In fact, I will dare to say that this course was one of the toughest I’ve ever experienced in all of my years of racing. The total elevation gain for the event was more than 900 feet!
The saving grace was the stunning landscape. The route followed paved rural roads, passed beautiful country estates and farms, and rolling green hills adorned with the essence of wine country. Additionally, the event staff and volunteers along the way offered great support and encouragement to the runners.
Knowing what was to come, I was definitely a bit worried. As we approached the nearly mile-long driveway, our strategy became “just get to the top.” It was slow going and we would have probably been able to walk up the hill faster than we were actually running. A few small sections gave way to a brief reprieve before beginning to climb again. Finally the finish was insight.
I was so relieved to finish. And immediately began to profusely apologize to my husband. Not only was it his first-ever half marathon, it was his first EVER race of any distance. While the course is a great obstacle for those seeking that sort of challenge, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Double Dog Dare U Events did a great job with the event, the medals were really well done, and the location was amazing. A portion of the proceeds from the race entries were to be donated to the athletic department at nearby McMinnville High School.
The only thing I was disappointed with was that there was no wine at the finish. Well, there was, but we had to pay the standard $10 tasting fee in the tasting room to sample selections from the winery. After tackling that hill, I think we deserved at least a glass of their best red!
Footnote: Not only did my husband earn an automatic PR, we both finished in first place in our respective age divisions!