Wine and running: two of my very favorite things. Put them together and, seriously, it’s just bound to be a good day (so long as the running precedes the wine, that is).
It had been a busy build up to November 15th’s inaugural Temecula Wine Country Half Marathon. To start with, I’d been working behind the scenes with race organizer, Destination Races (DR), on pulling together a group of local wineries to participate in pouring at the music and wine festival immediately following the race. Yep, that’s right, it was my job to talk to wineries about running. When DR asked me if I’d be willing to help, I thought, well, SURE, this is something I can do!
After getting over a dozen enthusiastic winery pouring partners on board (thank you wineries!), it was time to focus on forming our very own team to run the race. You see, the race has a winery team challenge competition and my husband works for local winery Wilson Creek. He really wanted to win the Reidel decanter team trophy for the tasting room, so he started recruiting employees. I helped out with a group training run and was encouraged to see the enthusiasm as the team came together.
Race day rapidly approached, and with it the race expo. RD Matt Dockstader and I presented the course overview. DR describes the course as the “most challenging” in its wine country series of races. One runner said to me afterwards that it was “the quickest 10k in the county sandwiched by the slowest 10k in the county.” Yep, that about sums it up. Hills from mile 2-4 and 10.5 to the finish definitely test runners, but oh, that sweet downhill and flat from miles 4.5-10.5 sure are fun and fast.
Presenting after us was Olympian Ruth Wysocki, a true pioneer of modern women’s running. Her track career began in the late 1960’s and continued for over 30 years! She proved to be an engaging and inspirational speaker and it was a treat to discover she lives in Temecula.
Race day itself brought with it gorgeous SoCal weather. Lows in the high 50s, but as usual the sun soon warmed things up, bringing temps up to the low to mid 60s for most of the race. As the horn sounded and runners streamed out of South Coast winery, they were greeted by numerous hot air balloons, either just taking off or low in the sky. Truly a beautiful sight.
The Wilson Creek winery team did an amazing job. One of the things that was most inspirational was that the team wasn’t made up of regular half-marathoners or hard core speedsters, but instead everyday recreational or occasional runners. For three of the runners it was their first half marathon. Yet everyone ran their hearts out on the day, far surpassing even their own expectations, and snagging several PRs – and that Riedel decanter team trophy — to boot.
As for me, this was a training run by necessity. Being just three weeks before my next goal race (the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in San Francisco coming up on December 6) meant I was in peak training for that race. The week of the Temecula half included over 80 miles of training, with a tempo run, hill repeats and a 21 mile mountain run thrown in. I decided to run anyway because it made for a great long, hilly tempo effort in the middle of heavy training.
Despite being the inaugural race, I wasn’t going to get away without stiff competition from the ladies side. Elites and stand-out club runners showed up in part due to the $2000 total prize purse for podium finishers (in addition to the yummy wine and other goodies given away to the age group podium placers). Also, let’s face it, coming to wine country for a race is just FUN. For me, I had mixed emotions about starting a race feeling anything less than fresh and ready to roar, but I still had a fabulous time soaking up the atmosphere and knowing that I’d played at least a small part in helping it all come together (end result was 4th female, 9th overall).
Also, a HUGE thank you to Asics, who were generous enough to support me with head-to-toe wear-test gear for the race!