*Note* There was an untimely delay in posting this, so apologies. Now, read on…
Many months ago, a friend and I decided it would be “fun” to register for a niche half marathon down in Dundee called Fueled by Fine Wine. For those of you who are not aware, Oregon pours some of the finest Pinots on the west coast, touting our own little “wine valley“. The wine scene is one of the reasons I love Portland, it’s only 30-45 minutes away and serves as an excellent venture to go tasting with friends (not that it happens very often, but at least it’s there).
I don’t pay for gym memberships anymore since I hate the gym and time doesn’t really allow for one of those groupon boot camps. So I figured the best way to get in shape was to have an end goal – and FxFW was going to be it. I thought that even if I didn’t do the race, signing up would serve as my “gym membership” that pushed me to at least train for it. Not surprising, my training efforts waned I as I got closer. I am starting to think it’s psychological – that I wind up running less when coming up to a race day so that I have an excuse should I bail. I’m also learning about myself that I never bail. Instead, I tough it out, and usually worse for wear.
FxFW entered into it’s 4th year this year. It was started by a few people who knew how beautiful the Willamette valley countryside was and wanted to showcase wineries with a run. I heard the first year’s course was brutal. They got feedback and since have altered the course slightly every year, albeit every year featurs brutally long steep uphills, various terrain and just-as-steep downhills. This was a decisive moment for “yes beth”. To race or to admit defeat and enjoy my Sunday without the pain. HEYYO YES BETH!
5am came all too quickly and I quietly shuffled out of bed to get dressed. I was roped into driving myself and two girlfriends down so Yes Beth had no excuse to push the snooze button. 5am is an ungodly hour, but it is amazing beautiful out at dawn. Once there and parked, body lubed up, hair pulled back and clothes adjusted, we set off for the start. We got there early, allowing our jittering nerves ample time to visit the restroom before the gun. I moderately pretended to stretch and look bemused but inside I knew the pain that would ensue despite any pre-race stretching efforts.
While I had hit the road in the last 6 months, by the time I reached 10 miles in my training, my body was giving signs of wear and tear. My right hip flexor was strained and my knees were acting up (imagine a sharp pick being wedged into the outside of your knee). I knew 6 miles was my comfortable limit, 10 was where the pain started and I honestly didn’t know what 13.1 would do.
The gun started the race at 7am sharp and as we took our slow start thru the corrals, we could see one giant hill that awaited us just steps out of the park. Nerves and fresh legs were no match for the first hill, so I easily started to get a good pace. We turned into a dirt path of a vineyard and all of a sudden, you could see why people loved this race. The views are spectacular and the course was interesting enough to keep your mind guessing as to what would be around the next turn. Props to the course – while it is hard as shit, it is worth the pain.
Around every hidden turn, runners would be hit with another impressively long hill. Through vines, dirt, gravel and pavement, each mile was a small victory. By the time we reached mile 10, the pain indeed started to effect my pace. By the end (mostly downhill), my knees hurt so much I thought they might just collapse in sheer hate of what I was forcing them to do. But, through the hills and the pain, I finished – with Brooke and Addy by my side.
The race also has been highly remarked for it’s after party, but this is where I have to beg to differ. I don’t know how it was run in past years, but the food post-race was too close to the finish line – I needed another minute before grabbing the calories my body was so desperately needing and I also felt pressure to hurry from the runners coming in behind me. The wine tent did offer ample tastings from numerous wineries – but there was no food apart from that one table near the finish line (not in proximity to the wine tent), and no additional water stations. People had raved about the post-race party in years past but honestly, I didn’t see what the hype was all about this year. No live music, no food, no water. And let’s be honest – on a hot summer day after 13.1 miles, I can only drink so much chilled wine. To this point as well, there was no food and only one water cooler at the start of the race. One sponsor was awesome enough to hand out 1 granola bar to each runner – but for such an early start, I would expect bananas or at least coffee.
As for the swag bag, I liked the tee shirt and the wine glass. The many “free” or 2 for 1 tasting coupons that have to be redeemed within 30 days isn’t too appealing to me though as stated above, I don’t venture to Dundee too often. It’s hard enough for me to get down during the summer months, going down 2x in one month is near impossible. Many of those tasting coupons will hit the recycling bin this week.
Overall – I did it: I completed the race, met my goal of running more overall and truly appreciate the difficulty of the course. The course itself is the highlight of FxFW – so if you’re thinking about it, know it’s damn hard and incredibly rewarding.