Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Diva's DC Wine Country Half Marathon Race Report, Part 2

After two hours in traffic, we were finally parked around 8:15. We found the start line and immediately hopped in the potty line. They had roughly 20-25 porta johns's for races (there was a half marathon and a 5k) with a combined total of nearly 4,000 female runners. Fortunately there were woods nearby, and ladies made very liberal use of them. Of course, while we stood in line a guy in blue jean came out of one of the porta john's in front of us. Seriously!? It was all I could do from saying something. Everyone's nerves were frayed enough as it is.

As we stood in the bathroom line, we continued to listen to the announcer estimate when the half might actually start. First he said 8:30, then about 8:50. Finally, at 9am, we were off. Yes, a 90 minute delay, and nearly 3 hours since I had eaten breakfast. Not a great combination.

Now, I admittedly knew nothing about this course. The description online simply said “The route starts and finishes downhill and is softly rolling in between with only 2 areas of uphill running where you will gain less than 90 feet over 2 miles in each of these two sections.” I looked at the elevation chart online and it seemed pretty manageable. Admittedly, hills generally don't scare me off. A friend warned she had heard that there were large sections of gravel roads. Surely the race organizer would have mentioned this, right?

The first clue something was amiss - the start was actually uphill, now downhill. It was rolling hills on a narrow dirt and gravel road. Even being the back of the pack didn't spare us from the crowd. It didn't even begin to thin out until we were past mile 1. About mile 2.5, I looked ahead and saw one of the largest and longest hills I've ever run before. It was full of a sea of pink going up it. I muttered "Oh, shit." under my breath. Betsy heard and wanted to know what was the matter. Not wanting to freak her out, I just said "Oh, nothing. Nevermind."

It was clear when we got to that hill that our run/walk intervals were out the window. It was time to stick to walking up the uphills and running the downhills. The good news is that we did actually get to run down this hill as well, and make up some time. That was just the start though, because then the gravel came.

The roads were not heavy gravel, more like dirt with some loose rocks. They were uneven though. It was hard to find a flat surface, and the angle was immediately making my plantar fasciitis unhappy. I did my best I could to run down the middle of the road where it was least rutted. Fortunately, the field had spread out significantly by this point, so we had plenty of room to move around. I hated weaving like that though, knowing we were just adding to our overall mileage.

We kept to our intervals as best we could, and when that didn't work went back to the walk the uphills/run the downhills plan. Finally, by around mile 8, everything from the morning hit us. Walking the rest of the way was the name of the game.

The scenery in some places was gorgeous. I definitely would like to spend some more time exploring the area and the wineries. However, we spent about a mile and a half (roughly 10-11.5) in a large subdivision. While many of the neighbors were out cheering, and really encouraging, this made already hard miles extremely BORING. My cousin found a bonus to this situation though, hoping into the model home to use the bathroom. Smart woman. Betsy and I were both mentally and physically done.

Finally we were out of there and back on the road leading to the winery - the one we had sat in the car on for so long. The plus side was that we knew the mile 12 marker was fast approaching. Soon we were turning into the winery, and back onto gravel roads. We soon discovered that the finish (on a different part of the winery grounds than the start) was of course uphill as well. At mile 13 we were given a boa and tiara to wear as we crossed the finish line.

We crossed, and it was over. Waiting for us were sparkling cider, green bananas, stale bagel halves, and chocolate chip cookies (which I couldn't eat). Keep in mind that we hadn't eaten since about 6am and it was now pushing 12:30. There was also no fuel options of any kind on the course.

Betsy and I met up with the rest of our group, chatted for a bit, and then it was time to venture back to the hotel. We were already over an hour past checkout time.

We hoped in the car and began our next adventure.

To be continued....

Miss Part 1? Find it here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Diva's DC Wine Country Half Marathon Race Report, Part I

Well, hello, dear readers. I hope you've all been well during my prolonged absence. Don't worry, nothing has happened to me to cause me to vanish for awhile other than laziness.

I'm still plugging along. I did cut down a bit on races this year, focusing on quality over quantity. I completed 4 halfs, mostly local, during the first half on the year, some were good, others not so good, but all were learning experiences.

To kick off the fall racing season, a few of us decided to run the inaugural Diva's DC Wine Country 1/2. More importantly, Betsy, with our encouragement, selected it to be her first half marathon. Having wanted to do a Diva's event for some time after hearing friends talk about the organization's races in other states, we jumped in with both feet when registration opened in early January.

I trained for this in conjunction with the Annapolis Ten Miler, which was three weeks before.This included lots of hill training during the heat of the summer. I've noticed over the last couple of years that I always feel strong for fall races as a result, a nice confidence booster.

Race day was Saturday, 9/14/13. With no race morning packet pick up, and the race taking place in Northern Virginia, we all decided to take Friday off and head to Leesburg after morning rush hour. The race expo opened at 11, and we were there not long after. It was held in a large ballroom at a local resort conference center. It was small, but decent. I'm glad we were there early, as I could see how it would get difficult to move around in there as the day wore on and crowds grew.

This was a girls getaway afterall, so after a quick lunch it was off to the outlet mall! And yes, we shopped til we dropped. We popped into the hotel to pick up our keys and headed off to dinner. Soon it was time to get back to the hotel and settled in for the night. Alarms went off at 5:15am, and we were on the road by 6:15am. Our hotel was 12 miles for the race start. Plenty of time to get there for a 7:30 start, or so we thought.

Halfway into the drive we started crawling in traffic. We started stressing as we saw the clock, but knew there was nothing we could do about it. A friend already on site txt'd updates as she walked around trying to find out information. Among the things she was telling us - the Sheriff's office couldn't find race staff onsite and threatened to pull permits, staff began to guess at what time the race might be able to start, and finally, that the race announcer thanked those present for following race instructions and thereby implied that those of us stuck in traffic had not. Not cool.

By this point we had been stuck in traffic for an hour. Had I been traveling alone, I admittedly would have turned the car around and headed back to the hotel for a hot shower and some breakfast and then headed home. Finally, race organizers posted on facebook that the race start would be delayed until everyone could get parked. One of the problems was that the two lane, country road everyone was stuck on was the same road we'd be running on in the opening miles.

We continued to inch along and began to think of the implications of a race start. Among them, the fact we last ate around 6am, so fueling for this was already off to a bad start. Also, our hotel check out was noon. We had not packed up before leaving since we figured we'd return no later than 11:30am and could grab quick showers before heading for home. Knowing we'd be finishing around the 3 hour mark, any kind of delay was going to make this extremely tight.

Finally we turned into the winery's main entrance and were directed to parking near bag check. It was about 8:15am. Yes, almost exactly 2 hours from when we left the hotel. Our first mission was to find bathrooms and find out when the race might actually start.

To be continued.