Fellow BibRave Pro and friend, Bradley, and I drove down to Battle Ground, WA, last weekend for the North County Wine Run. This was my first wine run despite there being a few popular ones a few hours drive from where I live. I had heard such great things about wine runs so it was time to try one for myself!
The race had two options: half marathon, or 3-person half marathon relay. The half marathon costs between $65 (early bird) and $90 (last minute) and the relay costs between $135 (early bird) and $180 (last minute) for the team.
Bradley and I were both running the solo half marathon option. BibRave’s Julia and her boyfriend Dylan came up from Portland for the race as well. It was fun meeting them in person and *spoiler alert!* Julia finished 2nd overall woman!
I knew going in that this race would be only two weeks after finishing the TransAlpine Run, a seven-day stage race in Europe. But it was a fun wine run and I figured worse-case scenario I could just walk part or all of the route. The course was, after all, open for four hours.
As it turns out, I amazingly managed to avoid injuries at the TransAlpine Run and my legs felt surprisingly good. I went for a 10k run on Thursday (two days before the wine half) which was my only run between the two races. It went well but left my legs feeling a little stiff and an 8-hour drive on Friday didn’t do much to help the situation.
Package Pickup & Swag
After a half day at work and an 8-hour drive, we missed the Friday night package pickup arriving with only just enough time to check into our hotel and go to sleep. Luckily for us the race offers same day package pickup so we woke up extra early for that. The pre-race email gave clear instructions on where to park (about 1 km away) and that there would be a shuttle, however, we opted for a warm up jog to the start line.
The package pickup had no line and we breezed right through. They gave us our bibs, timing chip, bonus goodies, and a race t-shirt that said “run now, wine later” on the back. We also got stamps on our hands to signify we are of age and can partake in the wine samples. In addition, we received a wine glass after the race to be used for sampling the wine and then taking home as a souvenir. Runners could choose between a full glass of one wine or four smaller samples. Bradley also discovered a card for a free wine tasting in the packages and we stopped to check out another nearby winery after the race. Overall, I was impressed with the race swag and goodies!
Most importantly, the medal was really cool! It was fully 3D in the shape of a cows head and can be attached to a wine bottle and used as a spout. I had yet to try this feature out but I definitely will next time I break open a bottle of wine!
I give the race huge bonus points having photographers on course and making the photos accessible on social media for FREE!
Course & Aid Stations
The race started at the Rusty Grape Vineyard and went through two other vineyards where the relay exchanges were located.
The route reminded me of a local race in Langley, BC, that I’ve run a couple times – the Fort Langley Historic Half. Oddly enough, it’s the only other half marathon that I’ve managed to squeak by in under 2 hours. Both races are in scenic farm country and are surprisingly hilly.
The aid stations offered water and Gatorade. One may have yelled out that they had gummy bears too, or was I just delirious? That sounds too good to be true. But I was on a PR mission by that point and couldn’t stop, even for candy.
The two wineries had tiny wine samples in addition to the regular aid station stuff. I tried a shot of white wine at the first vineyard because after all, it was a wine run and I didn’t want to miss out on the full experience. However, I needed more hydration so I washed it down with blue Gatorade which was a strange combination.
There were fields along the way that had cows, which were all mooing, and horses. I also heard a few roosters. Later on the way back to the car, Bradley and I stopped to take photos of some goats and little pigs.
I had one issue with the race – traffic control. The roads weren’t very busy but they also didn’t have shoulders. The race had set up cones along the very edge of the road which forced runners ta little closer to traffic. There were signs posted about the race and most vehicles were great moved nearly fully into the other lane to give runners space … but some vehicles didn’t seem to care.
At one point an impatient U-Haul decided to squeeze between runners on the side of the lane and a car in the other direction instead of waiting 30 seconds for a safe opportunity. It’s mirror came uncomfortably close to my head.
On the last 4 km everyone was running against traffic (like you are supposed to) but then the cones were on the other side, so we all switched over. It felt it was way more dangerous with traffic approaching from behind us, especially as we hit a big hill and some stopped to walk and others passed.
The North County Wine Run’s post-race party was definitely top notch. They provided a post-race meal of pasta, which was vegetarian (yay!), and Caesar salad (not sure what was in the dressing, but close enough to vegetarian for me!). It was simple but delicious – way better than the usual post-race food of bananas and bagels, or if you are a lucky, a couple pancakes. And the best part was no lineup! I guess this is because it was not a huge race at just under 200 half marathoners and 50 relay teams and the race has nailed down their serving game.
We picked up our free stemless wine glasses that were branded with the race logo and headed over to the bar. The race offered all runners their choice of one full glass of wine or four samples of different wines. I had a couple tiny samples just for the sake of tasting them but I couldn’t really partake in the wine unfortunately because I was driving back to Canada afterwards.
The vineyard was a great setting and had a few areas with picnic tables set up where runners could enjoy their food and drinks.
I’m not sure if I realized how far of a drive Battle Ground, WA, is when I signed up for the race. Washington sounds so close but Battle Ground is near the Oregon border, just outside of Vancouver, WA. With Seattle traffic, it ended up taking 8 hours to drive down on the Friday but only about 6 hours to drive back on the Saturday. Luckily I had Bradley to keep me company!
We met Julia Montag, who works for BibRave, and her boyfriend Dylan before the race. We were all decked out in our BibRave orange ready to rock the race. We split up to get into our respective starting positions. I opted to start just behind the 2:15 pacer.
My plan was just to have fun and take it easy, however, right off the start line I felt good. I passed a few people feeling strong and eventually passed the 2 hour pacer as well. In the back of my mind I kept wondering when I would hit the wall and die a little but I decided to go for it and see what happens.
I ended up behind a guy about 5K in who was keeping a good pace and decided to try to keep up with him. I wondered if my constant footsteps behind him was driving him crazy. If it did, he never said anything.
As we left the second winery we had a brief conversation and then I took off in front. I couldn’t remember exactly what my half marathon PR was but I knew it was just under 2 hours – somewhere in the 1:56-1:58 range. With about 7 km left I was pretty sure I could beat it if I pushed myself.
There was a short but steep hill near the end that I sprinted up and then just a couple kilometres of downhill left. I manage to pull off a clock time of just over 1:55 and a chip time of just under 1:55, beating my previous PR by two minutes!!! Wahoo!!! Julia came in second overall woman and Dylan and Bradley both rocked it too!
Bradley and I went for lunch after and I realized that I placed 2nd in my category but only due to the fact that they pulled the overall women out of the running, of which there were two in my category. So technically I was 4th overall in my category but damnit, this doesn’t happen often so I was going to get my medal!
We drove back to the vineyard and there were just some race and winery staff left. I explained the situation to a man, not sure if he was the race director or another staff member, and he was excited to give me my medal. He insisted I go get my phone from the car and when I came back he was holding a microphone … oh god.
He had me stand on the podium for what I thought was going to be a photo but turned out to be a video while making an announcement to basically no one. The remaining people on site were pretty far off to the sides and I’m sure where wondering WTF was going on. It was hilarious but also awkward!