Right after the first mile came a category 5 climb that hit my legs pretty hard. This was followed by a welcome downhill through some great vineyards at Sokol Blosser. But again, that downhill meant we were nearing an uphill. Lo and behold, mile 3 came with another category 5 mile climb. The course leveled out briefly and I was quickly passed by our blogger Brian near mile 5 as he embarked on his Chasing Champions charity running (he started 10 minutes after everyone – and still ended up in second place). A quick downhill was welcome, but gave way to ANOTHER crazy uphill – a 2.5 mile category 4 climb that included a ridiculously steep climb at Archery Summit Winery. Luckily by around mile 8, we (more or less) had pinnacled and spent the rest of the race on downhill and relatively flat stretches – except for a hidden uphill out-and-back within a mile of the finish and a short jaunt to the finish line at Stoller.
Despite my paragraph descriptor above seeming like whining (no pun intended), I was so impressed with the race course. Sure it was a challenge, but it really made for a great story and I feel tougher for having powered through it. The support on the course, like always, was impeccable. From local police and volunteers blocking off some roads to the wineries passing out water and Gatorade, everyone was great. The fact that I ran the “same” race twice in 3 years, and the course was entirely different makes it exciting and keeps me wanting to come back to see what they will have on tap in future years. Back in 2014, the race started at Billick Park in Dundee and hit wineries along the “north” side. This year, the race featured a bunch of the more “southern” wineries. Speaking of which:
Wineries and Views: While the event always does a great job with showcasing local wineries, I found this year exceptionally mesmerizing. Though I only live 25 miles or so from the hills, I don’t do near as much wine tasting as I should (darn kids). This year’s race went through about 11 wineries (if my counting was correct):
- Stoller Family Estate
- Sokol Blosser Winery
- Durant Vineyards
- DePonte Cellars
- Archery Summit Winery
- Nysa Vineyard
- Domaine Drouhan Winery
- Armonea Vineyard and Winery
- Vista Hills Vineyard and Winery
- Domaine Serene Vineyard and Winery
- Winter Hills Estate Vineyard and Winery
They were all incredible and I want to return to all of them. Each and every one. Some were immaculate and some were more subdued with unbeatable views of the surrounding valleys. While it was amazing to take in this location while participating in the sport I love, I know that experiencing them with a glass of wine in my hand would also be incredible. You best believe I will be returning soon.
After Party: Following the race, I stuck around for the wine tasting after party. It started to rain near the 2 hour mark, but that didn’t dampen spirits as the wine tasting was all held under a large tent. With Dundee Hills AVA wineries were pouring some of their best into our logo wine glasses, all was right in the world.
It’s amazing how a well-organized event, unique and challenging course, and a fun post-race experience can really leave a lasting imprint on your race running memory. I have no doubts that this will continue for years to come, and it is certainly a race that everyone should check out.