Race Recap: 2016 Youngberg Hill Half Marathon

View from Youngberg Hill (photo via Youngberg Hill Facebook page)

It seemed like something out of a movie, to get to the end of my street, looking south west and see the race area wreathed in clouds. Quite beautiful, until you realized that the start...and finish line, was at CLOUD LEVEL!  As in, technically in the sky. Which is cool until it is realized that entails a wee bit of climbing. It is expected, seeing as the word 'hill' is in the race title and it is located at a winery, but as I drove the handful of miles to the start area, I was definitely thankful it was a cool and overcast day. Local races are great because they are like reunions, I know practically everyone there. Plus it seemed some Portland friends had made the trip south to sample the clear air and beautiful views of Yamhill County. It definitely took me a little longer to find myself in line to grab my bib as I kept getting distracted by people saying hi. It was cool but not cold, so I warmed up in my singlet, just enough to get the blood flowing. The 1.5 mile downhill at the beginning would limit my ability to start easy so loosening up first was necessary. I am still technically recovering from Boston and was using this as a fitness test to decide how training should go.

After a few minutes are the start, the horn went off and we were running down one of the biggest hills I have ever seen. It leveled off in parts, making it easier to rein in the speed and the views were amazing. I was a little quicker down the hill and ended up in the lead, holding that position for the duration of the race. The course was an out and back heading south west towards Sheridan. It was nicely deserted, I saw a half dozen cars and a few bicyclists. There were three aid stations but I didn’t find it necessary to use them.

Consisting of only 3 turns and the turnaround at the end, the course was mainly gentle sweepers with a few rolling hills, none overly large. The headwind on the way out made it a little tougher. At long last, I reached the turnaround and noticed second place was a few blocks in distance back. As always I enjoyed exchanging cheers, thumbs up, and a few high fives from those heading in the other direction. With about 3 miles to go it was possible to see the winery perched on the hill, and I scaled back the pace knowing what was to come.

Unfortunately, my left calf had been tight and getting a little worse. I wasn’t afraid of pulling it, but it was definitely not a sensation to be experiencing with a 1.5 mile climb looming ahead. The plan was to shorten the stride, keep my head up and arms swinging to reach the top. The first section on the road is mild, I run it almost weekly. The tough part is the driveway, which levels off once before the last steep, long rise. It took some work and thanks to a lot of cheering from the 10k’ers I passed as well as the spectators, I made it to the top and across the short down hill into the finish.

I needed but definitely did not enjoy a quick visit with the physical therapist on site, getting my calves worked on. Then it was time for grilled cheese sandwiches, gummy bears, and a few more cookies than I probably deserved. I also enjoyed cheering in the other finishers and socializing for a good two hours after I had finished.

Sometimes the smaller events are the most fun, and I truly enjoy the rural races the most, hills included. The freedom and beauty of the country is just unmatched. This event was well supported and efficiently done, I had no worries while there. It was definitely nice to enjoy all the snacks while the more sophisticated participants were distracted by the wine. I’m definitely looking forward to coming back next year!

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