This past Saturday was the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon, which was a point to point race from one vineyard to another. I was running this race with a team of ladies from a running message board that I frequent. There were ladies from Virginia, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, New Jersey, Nebraska, New York and Ohio and we stayed in two cabins about 30 minutes away from the race location. Everyone is of different ages, abilities, and points in their lives and running careers, and it was just amazing to be there with such an eclectic group of runners. We called our team the "Cupcake Chasers" and because there were so many of us, we had to break into two teams.
I woke up about 10 minutes before the alarm was set to go off, at 3:50am. Yikes! That was EARLY! I had my usual pre-race breakfast of a toasted sandwich thin, peanut butter and half of a banana. In hindsight, I probably should have waited to eat that on the way to the race because my stomach was growling as we were waiting for the start. My sister, "E", came as our official "Cupcake Chaser" cheerleader and volunteered to drive to the start for drop off and then continue to the finish to cheer and take pics. My friend, "T" and I got driven to the start and when we pulled into the vineyard, we were informed that we needed to be dropped off there because there was nowhere else for my sister to turn around. Begrudgingly, we got out of the warm SUV and walked about a half mile to the waiting area. It was fuh-reezing! (And by the way, there was PLENTY of turn around room...) We found another boardie, "J", quickly after we got there, and I did a few port-a-potties runs before finding the rest of the cupcakes, who had taken the shuttle bus from the parking lot at the finish.
There was a snafu with the shuttle buses so the race ended up being delayed about 25 minutes, I believe. In fact, some runners were getting off the bus and running toward the start as we were beginning our race. I felt so bad for them! I started off the race with an even pace, knowing that my plan was to come in under 2 hours but with a stretch goal of 1:55. In fact, I told my sister that I would do a cartwheel if I came in before my stretch goal - LOL! She said she'd be ready with the camera for that one. I took a Gu about 20 minutes before the race started, since I was already hungry!
I felt amazing during the first few miles and I couldn't believe how quickly I was seeing the next mile marker. It was a gorgeous day and beautiful course. There was a bit of congestion initially but by mile 2-ish, I was able to run without bumping elbows with the other runners. I had my MP3 player on random and was loving the music. A few times, I turned it off, to just spend some quiet moments with God. I thanked him for healing me and asked for his protection and strength as I completed this half.
I took a chocolate Gu at the 7 mile mark, which was 1 hour and 1 minute into the race. I remembered how my aunt had told me that one of the tasks set by her running partner when she was trying to BQ was to run 7 miles in less than an hour. I was darn close to that and felt pretty darn good about it. The hills were better than I expected. Being a Pittsburgh girl, they were nothing compared to what I run on in my own neighborhood. I passed a lot of other runners on the hills and that gave me a tremendous boost of confidence.
Some of the miles were a bit sunny and I was thankful I had the foresight to slap on some sunscreen in the morning. There was some shade but it was patchy. The race had plenty of water stops and I took advantage of all but one of them to get some water and pour a little on my head or back, as well as hydrate. I walked most of the water stops and took a couple walk breaks, trying to do a modified Jeff Galloway technique. I contemplated taking another Gu at mile 10 but didn't ended up doing so. Mile 10 was a pivotal moment for me. I looked down at my GPS and realized that if I kept my pace going, I would finish at my stretch goal of 1:55. I wondered if I could do it. Just then, Ricky Martin's "Cup of Life" came on. "Do you really want it? Do you really want it?" came blasting through the headphones and echoed in my brain. Yes, I thought to myself, I do want this! So, I ran.
There was one last hill in the 12th mile that was a bit of a mood killer, but as I came to the crest of it, I could see the vineyard and knew I was going to make it. I turned left and ran down the crowd lined trail leading to the finish. I was elated as I crossed the line with a time of 1:54:15. That's a PR for me by more than 4 minutes!
The festival afterward was nice. We got awesome medals that doubled as wine stoppers and a wine glass.
I only did one tasting booth though because frankly, the last thing I wanted to be doing was drinking wine after running the race. I couldn't stop grinning until well after the race was over and even now, as I sit here, I am smiling. It was a fantastic weekend and I am so glad I got to be a part of such a wonderful team. The Cupcake Chasers all did great and I look forward to the next race we do together.
And as a side note, I did not do a cartwheel because there was another woman coming in right behind me and the timing mat area just looked a little too gross. I did do an obnoxious leap at the end though so hopefully, someone captured a picture of that.