Temecula Wine Country Half Marathon Race Report

There's me, off to the right (facing) side in the white compression socks. Definitely NOT out in the very front this time ;) Photo credit: Finisher Pix

There’s me, off to the right (facing) side in the white compression socks. Definitely NOT out in the very front this time 😉 Photo credit: Finisher Pix

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.

Hang on folks, there's a downhill round that bend, I promise! (Photo credit: TJ Nelson/Destination Races)

Hang on folks, there’s a downhill round that bend, I promise! (Photo credit: TJ Nelson/Destination Races)

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.

Team Wilson Creek

Team Wilson Creek

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!

That's some good lookin' gear, right?

That’s some good lookin’ gear, right?

Photo Credit: Finisher Pix

Told you it was a beautiful morning for a run! (Note: this is not the Asics gear since I wasn't able to get it until right before the race start) Photo credit: TJ Nelson/Destination Races

Told you it was a beautiful morning for a run! (Note: this is not the Asics gear since I wasn’t able to get it until right before the race start) Photo credit: TJ Nelson/Destination Races


On pacing

Most runners have their own favorite mantra. Anything from “you can do it!” to “stay strong!” or “believe.” I have mantras like that too. However, I also have a rather different mantra tucked away for when I need it. That is: “don’t be an a-hole.”

You see, when it comes to speedwork, tempo runs and ok, also to races, I have a tendency to want to go out too fast. I was reminded of this cardinal sin twice in the course of this week — reminders that also caused me to resurrect the aforementioned mantra.

Now, the manta itself varies. It can be anything from “slow down, a-hole” to “if you go out this fast you’re really going to look like an a-hole” or, “don’t be such an a-hole, Caroline”. At any rate, you get the idea.

Now what, you might ask, prompted me to bring back this motivational mantra?

The first incident was a review of some of the recently released photos from my latest race, the Lake Hodges Trail Fest 50k. In it, I can clearly see a lovely image from the start line. My feet, suspended in the air, determined glint in my eye, and — oh, yes indeedy — there’s me, out in front of the entire pack of my fellow racers. Yep, the whole darn field. Now, it’s true that I’ve been working on my speed these last months, and I’m thrilled to have seen significant improvements. However, it’s at times like this that that I need to remind myself ahead of time that when, inevitably, I am passed by any number of runners, I really should have pulled out that old “don’t be an a-hole” chestnut right from the start.

Out in Front Lake Hodges

I know I am not the only one. We are all flawed humans, muddling along and doing our best in this world, in all of our flawed-messy-ness. I take comfort from the fact that as runners, most of us can say: been there, done that. As runner obstacles go, though, this one seems especially tough for me, at least, to learn from.

Which brings me to the second reminder I had of the need to always keep the “don’t be an a-hole, stupid” mantra close in mind. Yesterday I ran a simple workout designed by my coaches: 2 x 3 miles (with warm up, drills, strides and a cool down, of course). The prescribed pace: 6:08-6:15.

Now, it’s been a while since I did a workout like this, and I darn well know that my fitness has improved. In fact, I know that I can crush this workout! Yep, this workout is going to be effortless! No effing problemo people! Just wait ’til you see what I got!

Yes. It’s at this point, going in to the workout, that the “don’t be an a-hole” mantra can be particularly effective. It might even prevent you from opening with a 5:55 mile. And ending the workout with a 6:32 mile.

Reporting workouts like this to your coach can be embarrassing. At this stage, I certainly have enough experience under my belt to know better. My bad.

Don’t let this happen to you, folks. Next time you’re tempted to go out too fast, just remember: you’re probably going to end up looking like a … Well, you know.

Ps. In the spirit of fun and great love for the amazing job my awesome coaches do, I’ll end with this video. It helps to illustrate the point that, yes, we can all be guilty of the going-out-a-wee-bit-punchy pacing sin. Respect.


A Fresh Start

It can be tough for a gal who spent 18 years in damp England, 10 in blustery Chicagoland and the rest in yes-we-still-have-seasons Northern California to adjust to living here in sunny SoCal. We’re located in Temecula, which is essentially a desert climate. Since we moved here in January it seems every day has been dry and at least 80 degrees, with a daily average of between 90-105 for months. I’m sure there have been a smattering of cooler days mixed in too, but trust me when I say they are a rarity.

With this in mind, I find myself utterly overjoyed that the last week has brought with it some (gasp!) clouds, and yes, even a night of rain. I’m nowhere close to running in long sleeves yet, and I did peek at this week’s forecasted 90+ degrees with an audible sigh, but I can feel winter approaching in the cool morning air and I’m oh-so-ready.

I feel refreshed in another way too. After battling a glute strain coupled with a very angry and painfully inflamed hip bursa for weeks, I finally feel that I’ve managed to get to the bottom of the matter (ha, ha), resolve it, and I’m back on track feeling better than ever. I literally got to the point of wondering if I might have a femoral stress fracture, it was that sore. You should have seen me hobbling after both of my most recent races! Thank goodness the diagnosis was much less serious.

Following my last race, I took a full five days off from doing anything at all and sought treatment. I’ve tested it out on a few shorter runs and it feels brand spanking new. Not that my enthusiasm for running was ever remotely flagging (ask anyone who knows me — it’s a borderline obsession), but there’s nothing like the simple act of running pain-free to reinvigorate. It’s given me a fresh perspective, reinforcing how thankful I am for this gift of running.

There are a lot of exciting races on my schedule for the coming months and I can’t wait to kickstart the next round of intense training in cooler — but always runnable — weather. While I prefer a slightly less subtle nod to the seasons, I’m grateful to be in SoCal at this time of year. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to Christmas with palm trees, but the autumn trails sure are fabulous and, in my book at least, that makes up for a lot.

Finally, in watching yesterday’s NYC Marathon, I was reminded of how very fortunate those of us in milder climates are not to be constantly battling the more frosty elements. A quick search on Runner’s World reveals plenty of articles about how to deal with running in frigid conditions, which I scanned with curiosity. Screws in shoes to get traction on ice? Articles with titles like, “Will My Lungs Freeze On a Cold Run?and “Tips For Running in Sub-Zero Weather.” Thank goodness not to have to deal with that! Here’s to cold nights, sunny days, and dreaming of a time when I can finally justify pulling out a pair of gloves to go for my midday run.

SoCal in the fall. Which is a little hard to distinguish from SoCal in the summer. Or any other season.

SoCal in the fall. Which is a little hard to distinguish from SoCal in the summer. Or any other season.