Friday, September 20, 2013

Race Recap: Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon

A couple of weeks back was my 3rd Half Marathon this year. After training for 2 spring races this year I struggled a little keeping up momentum and motivation to continue training throughout this summer (in the past I've always just had one goal race, which has been in October). Added to which my big GOAL for the year was to get a sub-2 hour Half Marathon which I acheived and blew out the water on my first race of the year at the Run for Water Half. For now I'm not in a place to set a new goal and train for it, so I was left a little purpose-less!

Still, full marathon training last year has really put things in perspective for both my mind and body. My body is very graciously managing with my long training runs even if they have been a little sporadic over the summer months with no aches and pains and the ability to just carry on my day as normal, and given that a 'short run before work' last year was 13.1 miles, then mentally I'm reminded to shut the heck up and RUN! Seriously running a marathon puts everything in perspective, and makes me realise just how much stronger, and braver I am both mentally and physically.

But back to the race recap!

It was the inaugural Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon - the latest in the Destination Races series. These folks sure know how to pick a good race course! (I guess the clue is in their name!). it really is all about 'destination' with others races in their series in Oregon, Virginia and Napa/Sonoma.

The race started at 7am from the gorgeous Vibrant Vines winery in Eastern Kelowna, with the start line wedged between the rows of vines. There were around 1000 runners on a damp and grey morning, but the high spirits and cheerful race announcer kept the mood upbeat. We set off and meandered our way through the countryside, through vineyards, lavender fields, and past some seriously high-end houses which are always worth a good ogle at!, all the while enjoying the stunning views of Kelowna and Lake Okanagan in the distance. The course had an aggregate downgill grade, but in the early stages there were a few sneaky steep uphills too! Around the 9km point was a relay transition area (a 2 person relay was another draw to this race for many). Being a 'wine country marathon' this was of course located at a winery - and so despite it being before 8am I felt duty-bound to sample some of the Tantulus Vineyards Riesling on offer!

Since this was a point-to-point course, it was also around the transition area that we finished the last of the uphills and it was downhill coasting from here on out! Once we left the hills of East Kelowna we got onto the flat and for me it seemed more challenging than usual since I'd got comfortable with the last 2-3km of gravity assistance! We ran along a couple of km's of the Mission Greenway - which is a lovely gravel path following the creek and then as we met the lakeshore it was the final 'push' to the finish line (it was still 8km away, I'm just saying it was pretty much a straight line from here following the lakeshore!)

The race finished in the park next to the Delta Grand Hotel - also the host hotel for the event. We were presented the most ginormous medals and handed a commenorative wine glass which was soon to be used at the after-race party - wine tasting on the lawn! About 8 wineries were there with tasting booths and we just wandered the area samping the grape juice! And I've gotta say - our start line hosts Vibrant Vines poured me my favourite of the morning - the 2012 Oops White Blend! - we'll be heading over there again soon for another visit!

Overall I LOVED the race course, but I'm incredibly biased of my gorgeous hometown! The Wineries, Lavender field, Orchards, Creeks, Lakeshore - it was 13.1 miles of delightful scenery with some wine tasting thrown in for good measure!

I had a good strong start, and seem to be one of those fortunate to not struggle with downhill running so I did take advantage of the gravity! But later in the race I was just spent and I listened to my pace slow by the mile. In the end I finished in 1:56:44! I had a sneaking hope I might do well on this course, but the uphills caught me out, I hadn't trained to PR so really I can't be disappointed - and seriously it was only 5 months ago I would have been elated with that time - it's still a sub 2-hour so I am happy (and I did stop for wine!!)

As for my overall opinion on the race I do have a couple of bug-bears. As we crossed the finish line we were handed a bag of food - no picking or choosing what you want here. Firstly giving us a bag is an excellent idea - it's so awkward trying to hold onto food when your limbs haven't started functioning again properly, your starving, thirsty and there's a dozen things to pick up. However, this is my point. There wasn't a dozen things to pick up. The bag had an apple and a sample sized protein bar in it. That's IT! Are you kidding me?! First bug-bear - seriously lousy post-race nutrition. And given that we were all about to start wine tasting at 9am, probably on empty stomachs after 2-some hours of running I think it's bad form - no bagels, no bananas, no pretzels, no candy, no chocolate milk....

The expo was very small, and since it was a Saturday race was only open on the Friday. Obviously Destination Races are a commercial enterprise but the quantity and space dedicated to their merchandise was overwhelming - and $10 for a small event poster! The race t-shirt I also found a little disappointing. They did provide men's and women's sizes - so plus points there, but the sizes seemed pretty off. I've always been a women's small and yet this thing swamped me! Sadly it's one for the back of the cupboard - I don't think I'd wear it again. (and it's V-neck - and I've decided after getting my second v-neck race t-shirt they look like football jersies on me - not a look I'm fond of!).

But this is not to say I wouldn't do this race again. Did I mention how spectacular the course scenery is?! Check out this cool course video in case you're in any doubt! (hey I live there!!)

I'm linking up to Jill's Fitness Friday this week!

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