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Race Recap: 2017 Gorgeous Wine Country Relay

Nikki:

If you have a full team of 6 people for this 50 mile relay, everyone runs twice. Our team had 5 runners, so that meant 2 of us had to run 3 legs instead of 2. Since I have had a busy race season, I felt ready to tackle more mileage, so I immediately offered to run one of the extra legs. I took on legs 2, 7, and 11. I knew all the legs of this relay were in the neighborhood of 3 miles, so that would be easy, right? Well, let’s just say I was a bit humbled by the experience.

Leg 2 started at Knudsen Vineyards and the first thing I had to do was run down a long, dusty gravel road. A lot of runners would agree that running on gravel is not a ton of fun, and when you add hills into the equation, it makes it that much tougher to find good footing. Thankfully, the gravel part of the leg went fast and I was out on a paved road in no time. Before I hit the first mile, the hills started. Those hills climbed and rolled through the first almost 2 miles of the 2.72 mile leg and after a small break in the uphill ascent, there were still more hills. It was also hot and there was not a lot of shade anywhere. Honestly, I was just trying not to walk. After that last hill, a bit over 2 miles in, I reached the crest and saw the most beautiful views of wine country before me. This is what I’d climbed for! This made everything before it worth it. There was also a nice gust of wind as I cruised down that last hill, which was a welcome break from the heat of the day.

Leg 7 started at Saffron Fields Vineyards and was 3.19 miles long. I again had to start in the gravel but I didn’t encounter too much hilly terrain until I was close to 2 miles in. However, when the hills came, they came at me hard. There was a point where I looked ahead and uttered a word that I won’t print here. When I was close to 3 miles in, I found myself in front of a couple of choices. There was a long climb up a gravel hill if I were to go straight, or I could go with the curve of the paved road I was on to the right. Since we were told at the beginning of the race that we were to go straight wherever there was doubt, (as volunteers were to be wherever the turns were,) I opted to go up the gravel hill, as much as the other option looked better for my quads. After I’d gotten maybe a quarter of a mile up, a van came up behind me and a volunteer rolled her window down and kindly told me I was going the wrong way. So down the gravel I trudged and back onto pavement for a smooth run down to the next exchange. This was most definitely the most challenging leg for me and like the one before it, it was hot.

Leg 11 came much too soon for me, as I’d forgotten that the rotation was going to be much shorter after everyone finished their second (and last!) legs except me and Teresa, who was set to run the last leg behind me. Thankfully, my last leg was short at 3 miles and all pretty flat. It started at Joel Perkins Park in a neighborhood in Lafayette, and after chatting with a very nice volunteer and comically watching a guy do donuts in his front yard with his pickup, I was off. My legs were tired but I knew I just had to get through it. I traveled for a short time along the highway and then ended up in cow country, where everything was very quiet. It was STILL hot. When I handed off to Teresa, I felt like I was DONE.

After the race, there was wine and food and conversation. Most of what we saw out there was really scenic and I felt very lucky to not only live so close to so much beauty, but also to have experienced it at this race. All of the volunteers were friendly, and it was a small, cozy race where the community spirit and camaraderie felt like a well-loved family event. The wineries that we visited were breathtaking and all of them were so nice to us, opening their doors and welcoming us. Though the heat and the gravel and the hills and the hills and the hills were challenging, it really was a fantastic journey that I would recommend to anyone and do again in a heartbeat.


Geli:

I’ve run a few relay races, and I love the team spirit and the supportive runners all around. The Gorgeous Wine Country Relay was intriguing to me since it was in an area where I hadn’t run before, and I was looking forward to sharing a van with some other bloggers I hadn’t met before. I’m not a very fast runner (solid middle of the pack in most races), so I’m always very thankful for a team team that is there to have fun and doesn’t mind a slower paced teammate. I was late in the rotation and was to run legs 5 and 10. I’m a planner, and part of that is obsessing about course maps and elevation charts before a race. There was no way around the fact that Leg 5 was going to be a hilly one.

The starting point for Leg 5 was a gravel parking lot a few mile north of Newberg. The first stretch was pretty tame: paved and rolling. Soon the incline became a little steeper, and shortly after that, pavement ended and I was running on gravel. Through the dust and uneven footing, I somehow eventually made it to the top of the hill near the 3 mile mark of the leg, and I was looking forward to making up some time on the 2 mile downhill. Unfortunately for me, the downhill was also very gravelly and uneven, so that I had to stay a bit slower to feel safe. The redeeming part of this leg was that it was mostly shaded, and a cool breeze blew from the west. Just short of 5 miles, the dust settled after a non-race related pickup truck passed me, and I saw volunteers in bright yellow shirts as a beacon not too far ahead. I handed off to Annette, happy to be done with the beast.

Leg 10 was nothing compared to 5. Starting at the gorgeous Stoller Estates Vineyards, it was entirely on paved country roads past cow pastures and corn fields, and into the small town of Lafayette. The hills were super gentle, and it was a nice short 3 miles. The exchange came into view soon, and I handed off to Nikki for her third run.


Shelly: 

I love the Gorgeous Series Relays. They are well organized and filled with fun, supportive runners with lots of team spirit. The Gorgeous Wine Country Relay was stunning and the weather was perfect the day of the event. It was also fun to share a van with some of the Run Oregon bloggers I hadn’t met before. All the teams were fun and supportive, the views were stunning and the experience was memorable. I was assigned legs 3 and 8, which were spaced ideally and both were very beautiful.

Leg 3 started at Torii Mor and ended at the gorgeous Four Graces Winery. It was fairly short at just over three and a half miles. The majority was downhill on gravel, there was a slight climb near the end, then a quick run through the beautiful Four Graces vineyard, to the exchange point at the winery.

Leg 8 began at Hirschy Vineyard and ended at Monks Gate Vineyard. It was just short of five and a half miles. I was excited when it began on a paved road, however, it quickly turned to gravel. The views were stunning, flowering fields with breathtaking mountain ranges in the background. It had a few small hills, but the scenery was so gorgeous it was easy to get lost in the beauty of it all.

The race finish was a fun celebration. There was delicious food provided by Fuel Mobile Kitchen and lots of wine and conversation. The wineries were breathtaking and so hospitable, opening their venues early for the event and welcoming us.  I would definitely run the gorgeous wine relay again. It was a very beautiful, fun and memorable experience.


Teresa:

Relays can be tough and I’m not talking the running part, but the drama that often ensues, which is one of the reasons I’ve retired from the overnight relays. The lack of sleep and limited personal space can be brutal, factor in ‘hangry’ runners and it can feel like time stopped. That’s why I love the one-day relays, all the relay fun without the relay drama. Our Run Oregon team was thrown together rather last minute, due to schedule conflicts, but we had no problem filling a team and the race directors went above and beyond to make sure we could run. Filling a team was easy, getting someone to captain it, not so much. I agreed to join Annette with the duties since she’s a great organizer and I can be bossy.

I usually check out my legs just as I’m about to go run and the ladies allowed me to stick with tradition. I sent out a note asking what everyone wanted to run and assigned the leftovers without having to look at a single elevation chart. I offered to bring some Tootsie Pops, Geli packed extra water and Annette had the cooler for the van, everything really just came together and the day really was pure perfection.

My first leg wasn’t until Leg 4, which was just under 5 miles. I was a little nervous about getting lost since I have a knack for that, so I tucked the directions in my sports bra, just in case. Shelly passed off to me at Four Graces Winery with the red barn and vineyard in the background. This leg definitely had its share of rollers, but it was nice that it was mostly paved. Even better, that it was well marked and plenty of volunteers along the way. I giggled when an elderly couple out for a walk wanted to know everything about the run, while I was trying to run. I had to limit the chat session to get to the exchange point for Geli. She gave the kind volunteer (also her husband) a kiss and headed out towards Colene Clemens Vineyards.

Shelly passed off to me at Monks Gate Vineyard. The winery was kind enough to allow us to use their port-a-potty and had $1 testers. All day long I asked the wineries if they would be at the finish line to test and this was no exception. I needed to be ready to run and it was pretty warm outside, so I stuck to water. Not only could you see your runner coming from quite a distance, you got see the gravel hill that would start your 5ish miles for Leg 9. There were some small sections on busier streets that kept me focused, plenty of gravel and more than enough hills. One volunteer teased that I was a ninja runner sneaking up on him at the top of a hill and I still can’t believe he couldn’t hear me breathing as I was panting. Sections of this leg reminded me of the Oregon Wine Country Half, some rural spots, some neighborhoods and a finish at Stoller Winery. Since it was out to the winery and back in towards town, we got to see other runners, including a Waldo. It was too hot for me to dress up, but I still love seeing costumes. The volunteers at Stoller Winery were the most enthusiastic bunch I’ve ever seen. It might have something to do with the hill you have to finish on or maybe they just felt sorry for me, either way the cheering was much appreciated. I passed off to Nikki and celebrated with a taster of Rose.

I had noted during the day that it was so nice to be out in the fresh air, wineries to enjoy and such a peaceful feeling. I thought the volunteer was teasing when she said something about Leg 12 going by a cow or pig farm, but I soon found out she was not. We had gravel and wind and smells of the country. On a positive note, the last 4-mile leg was mostly flat. We ran through Carlton, once again familiar sections from the Oregon Wine Country Half. Town was bustling, but navigating was easy with the bright yellow volunteer shirts lining the way. As I rounded the corner, a volunteer used her walkie-talkie to announce my bib number. The girls were ready and waiting and we got to cross the finish line together. A few hiccups throughout the day, but overall the Gorgeous Series Wine Relay only added to my affection for one-day relays. I might be a little biased, since the Gorgeous Relay race directors are local, support local and take a genuine interest in their runners, but I think they put on the best one-day relays around.

 
Annette:
I had the privilege of starting our team out on our adventure by running leg 1. The adventure began in Dundee at Argyle Winery with our wave consisting of about 8 other teams. I had no idea how much of an adventure I was in for. After a brief run-down from the RD, we counted down and headed out. It wasn’t long before this slow runner was in the back of the pack. I tried not to get stressed about it and take it at my own pace, but I was running faster than usual with the pressure of falling behind. Soon we were being directed by a volunteer to turn into a neighborhood that was straight uphill. I was expecting a hilly run, after all, we were in wine country, but this hill was a doozy. It wasn’t long before I could hear myself wheezing when I exhaled. I wanted to slow down to catch my breath, but I was going so slowly that it would have meant walking. I had to keep running! I had just gotten started. I kept an eye on the girl running in front of me and that kept me motivated to continue running. As I wheezed my way up the never ending hill, a van came downhill towards us and stopped by the girl in front of me. The next thing I knew the girl was getting in the van! I was shocked and a little upset that this runner would be bailing on her first leg. Then suddenly a guy from the van was telling me, “Get in!” WHAT? I had flashes of my childhood and being told never to get in a vehicle with a stranger. Sensing my hesitation, he said, “C’mon, everyone is in here!” Still in a state of confusion I just stood there. I wasn’t sure which would be worse, getting in a van with a potential serial relay killer or continuing up the worst hill ever. It wasn’t until he told me, “The volunteer sent you guys the wrong way,” that I snapped out of it and squeezed into the van with the rest of the runners for a ride back down the hill and to the location where we had been sent off course. At the corner, we all poured out of the van and headed towards leg 2 – in the right direction! While that off-course hill really did me in, I am so thankful that there were people out there that were keeping an eye on the course and realized that we needed to be rescued. My 2nd run – leg 6 – was longer but less hilly than my first. Even though I was being circled by scavenger birds, that I’m sure were just waiting for my death, I made it to the next exchange in one piece and had a good time overall.
The Gorgeous Wine Country Relay was small, but well-staffed and well-organized (except for that little snafu at the start.) I appreciated that the RDs were out on the course checking in on teams and encouraging runners all the way through. The atmosphere was great, the running was challenging, and the scenery was amazing! I would definitely recommend this relay and I would run it again.
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About Nikki Mueller (142 Articles)
I'm a mother of two boys who is a certified group exercise instructor for Baby Bootcamp in SW Portland. I have two young boys and am actively involved in their co-operative preschool. I led a relatively inactive life throughout my 20's until I discovered the world of fitness and running. I ran my first marathon in 2006 and haven't looked back since.

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