Tag Archives: races

VA Wine Country Half Marathon Race Review

12 Jun

Let’s just preface this review by saying I love wine. You know that scene in Anchorman where Ron Burgundy is drinking scotch? “I love scotch, scotchy scotch scotch. Here it goes down, down in my belly.” Yea, that’s me with wine. I will take wine over almost another form of alcohol, which makes me a terrible Brit. I’m sure my family will now disown me for choosing wine over warm beer, but I lived in France for a year, people! What do you expect? Although, living in France makes me a bad Brit too.  I need to go stand in queue or do something else incredibly British.

Now that we’re completely off-topic let’s talk about the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon. I really, really, really wanted to love this race. It has wine in the name! What’s not to love? But I just could not do it. I did not like this race at all. Some of my issues were out of the race organizers’ control (sunny and 85 by 7AM?!), but many of the issues could easily have been avoided or remedied. Many, many runners seemed to share my views, so hopefully the race organizers will make some changes to next year’s race.

Packet Pick-Up and Expo

Packet pick-up was held at a country club in the area. Unfortunately, the location of packet pick-up within the building was not very well signed, so we parked approximately 3 million light years away.  We wended our way through the country club maze, quietly mocking all the country-club elitists, and finally made it packet pick-up. A friend had given me their bib for the race, so I went through the bib-transfer process, which fortunately, was quite painless. I was able to pick up my packet and shirt within 10 minutes.

The race expo was small and we arrived at the tail end of it so most of the vendors were packing up.


I loved the shirts. They had men’s and women’s sizes so I wasn’t swimming around in a unisex shirt. And it was lovely tech-tee material, instead of cotton. However, the remaining swag wasn’t great. A cheaply-made tote half-filled with a few coupons. I want my samples!!

Transportation and Start

The race offered shuttle buses from several of the neighboring towns to the start. I was all about taking the shuttle bus because I had no idea where I was going. I triple-checked times to make sure I wouldn’t miss one of the shuttle buses. I showed up at the specified location, early (which at 5:30 on a Saturday morning is a MIRACLE), and there was no bus. A volunteer was stationed in the parking lot and as the arrival time for the bus came and went he frantically tried to call the lead race organizer, the volunteer coordinator, the shuttle company, and finally gave up and called the race’s parent company, Destination Races. No one answered, except Destination Races headquarters, who informed him there was nothing they could do.

As we prepared to drive to the start, the bus finally showed up. We all piled on and trundled off for the race start. Then the bus driver missed a turn, then he missed another turn, and another. And it became quite apparent that our driver had no freaking clue where we were going. Thankfully, we live in an age where we all have little maps in our pockets, so someone pulled up the address on Google Maps and started directing the driver.

About 3-4 miles out from the start line we came to a total stop. We were still roughly 30 mins out from the start time, so we all thought there was plenty of time. Nope. 20 mins went by and we had gone maybe a mile-and-a-half. I got on Facebook and the event organizers posted an update saying there were delaying the start by 15 mins to give everyone time to arrive.

We finally made it to the start about 20 mins after the initial starting time. I sprinted to the porta-potties and ran into ridiculously long lines. People were peeing out in the fields and behind trees because the porta-potty lines were far too long.

I gave up and jumped into the starting corral seconds before the starting gun went off.


Ugh, this course. At first it was lovely. Rolling hills and bright blue sky, with plenty of shade. It was hot and sticky, but as we had just started it did not feel too terrible. It was quite crowded the first couple of miles. There was no wave start, nor did people organize themselves according to expected pace or finish time. So runners were trying to get by walkers causing significant bottle-necking.

About a mile into the race, gnats become an unrelenting issue. From mile one until the finish they were everywhere. Flying into eyes, jamming themselves into noses, clamoring for space in mouths. Just everywhere.

Online it stated there would be roughly 1.5 miles of dirt road. Lies. Total lies. We ran largely on dirt roads from miles 4-9. Running on dirt roads is completely different from running on regular roads, or treadmills. I was not expecting 5ish miles of dirt road and wasn’t trained for it. So nearly breaking my ankle was just super-fun.

At mile 6ish they had a turn-around at a winery. It was essentially single file down and single file back, so again bottle-necking become a huge issue.

By this point, it was also blazing hot and we had lost most of that fabulous shade from the start. To compound the extreme heat, at the water stations they were only handing out tiny cups of water and Accelerade, which by the way is disgusting. I was carrying a water bottle, but had finished it by mile 8 and was having to grab 3 cups of water at every station. The water stations, like the start and the turn-around, also created serious traffic-jam issues. Anyone with time goals at this race was probably SOL.

Finish Line

I crossed the finish line and went in search of the world’s largest water bottle to consume. But, instead of full-size water bottles all they had at the finish was the little tiny cups of water and more Accelerade. I asked them to fill up my water bottle with ice and then dumped several cups of water in it. Naked Juice also had a stand and was handing out samples so I grabbed one of those. There were no bagels, or muffins, or pretzels. A volunteer handed you a small plastic baggie at the finish line with a sample-size sunflower butter packet, an apple and a banana. Not cool. I want carbs and I want lots of them after a half-marathon. I was already hot and tired and sore, and now cranky was added to the list due to a severe bagel shortage.


Not even going to talk about this. The pictures were… they were just. It was horrible. All the ways to look unattractive while running.

I have no plans to run this race again next year. The entry fee was steep given how many issues there were. I ran the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon two weeks before this which has a cheaper entry fee and is far better organized. If the race organizers’ make some significant improvements, and make sure to have bagels, then I’ll consider running it. But I’m discovering that half-marathons in the summer months equals nothing but pain and suffering.

Who had a great race experience lately?

Anyone else had a hideous race experience?


Run Me Home 5k Race Review

10 May

One day, I will actually post a race review within a respectable time frame. Today is not that day. But hey, I’m still under the two-week mark, so, win!

I loved this race. There. Review over. Thanks for reading.

Kidding! But, in all seriousness, this was a fantastic race. It was my first 5K (why, yes. I have run 3 half-marathons, a marathon and a relay race without ever having run a 5K. Good life choices, people!), and my only real hope was to finish and not embarrass myself too badly (speed demon, I am not).

I’ve avidly avoided 5ks throughout my short running career for a two reasons. One, I simply prefer longer distances. But two, I’m not fast. I am certainly faster than I was a year ago, but I get a little rage-y when I read posts by bloggers saying things like “OMG, such a slow day today. I could only run 7:30 miles”. Excuse me? You could manage only  7:30 miles? Quiet, you. If I all-out sprint I can reach that sort of pace. Jealous, much? Totally not at all. Not jealous at all.

But it was the teacher’s first race and try as I might I could not convince him that a half-marathon makes a great first race. So 5K it was. I hit up runwashington.com, a great resource for races in the DC area, and 10.2 seconds later we were registered for the Run Me Home 5K.

Packet Pick-Up

We picked up our packets on the Friday before the race. Packet pick-up was held at a small, local running store in the area. The process was a breeze. Because it was a smaller race, there only 2-3 people in line ahead of us.


Smaller races typically don’t have the major swag that larger races can acquire. This race still had nice, albeit cotton t-shirts (in yellow, my favorite color!), and a few coupons to local restaurants.


We didn’t arrive until just before the start, so I can’t say much about the entertainment. They had enough porta-potties to manage the number of runners participating. Even with 5 minutes to go before the start I was able to grab one without waiting in line.

The event had three races. A 10K, which started first, a 5K, and kid’s fun run to wrap it up. The start was a free-for-all, but as the race was smaller it wasn’t too bad. If we had arrived earlier we would have been in a better starting position, but as we arrived with just a few minutes to spare we ended up towards the back of the start and spent the first few minutes weaving around those who were walking.


The course was lovely. It started at an elementary school in Leesburg so you spent the first 3/4 of a mile on the road. The course then wended its way to one of my favorite places to run, the W&OD Trail. The race organizers did a wonderful job blocking off traffic while we were running on the road so you never felt unsafe. It was a semi-out-and-back course. You turned around on the W&OD Trail (probably around mile 2 or 2.25) but once we exited the trail the last 1/4 mile ran up a different road to the finish (start line and finish line were in the space spot).

Finish Line

For a smaller race, this one had a fantastic finish area. Plenty of food options (bananas, donuts, danishes), water, and freebies. There was also a trivia game taking place, but we didn’t partake. The party atmosphere was definitely in place and I wish we had stuck around a bit longer.


I know photos don’t matter to everyone, but as this was the teacher’s first race I was really hoping for a couple of good shots. The race photographers delivered. They had quite a few photographers (at the start, on the course, at the finish), and we ended up with some great shots including this gem:


Overall, this was a great little local race (and the entry fee was quite reasonable!) If they host it again next year, I’ll be back to run it!


Any DC-area runners, if you’re looking for an upcoming 5K I’m serving as a race director for the Save the Trail! 5K on Saturday, May 25 and would love to see you out there! If you’re interested, you can register here. I promise I’m not too awkward in real life. Ok, I actually can’t make that promise…I’m pretty awkward.

Any favorite race memories?

What was the distance of your first race?

How to Race with Your Significant Other & Not Kill Each Other

29 Apr

When I first met my soon-to-be-other-half (otherwise known as the Teacher because that’s what he does and cutesy nicknames involving a play on the word Husband annoy me), he was, suffice it to say, not a runner. For the first few months of our relationship he was pretty damn hostile to the idea of running. The teacher would happily come out to support me as I raced, but he breathed fire when I suggested the two of us go for an easy run together.

Somewhere along the way, things changed. I’d like to chalk the change up to the teacher’s realization that running is the most super-awesome-fantastical activity ever, and it has all these kick-ass health benefits, and you live longer and blah-blah-blah. But let’s be real, it was the incessant nagging that wore him down.

But anyway, things changed. Now instead of saying  “I can’t run today, I just found the perfect spot for my butt on the couch”, the teacher says things like “Hey, tomorrow is a run day, right? Man I can’t wait!”A few months of steady running later, and we ran our first race together on Saturday (the teacher’s first-ever race, and my first 5k).

Now, you might assume that racing together would be no big thang after having run together the past few months. But no, racing together is a whole different beast. So, a few suggestions on how to race together without wanting to punch each other in the face:

1) Agree on a game-plan before the race. Are you sticking together no matter what? Is one of you allowed run ahead if the other is having a crappy day? Make sure you both know what the plan is, otherwise the ride home will be a little awkward…

2) Read your partner’s body language. Reading body language is not a skill of mine. Oh, you don’t really feel like talking? Too bad! Let me tell you my whole life story! I’m standing too close? Here, let me give you a sweaty hug!

This was an issue for us on Saturday. The teacher usually likes to talk while we run. Mostly it’s me saying things like “Awesome job! Keep it up!” or “I really hate squirrels. Why are there so many freaking squirrels everywhere?” or “We shouldn’t have to run up hills. Hills just shouldn’t exist while you’re running.” So really, really important and exciting things.

On Saturday though, the teacher did not want to talk. I kept trying to encourage him and he kept looking at me like “Stop talking now because I do not like you at this moment.” If I had paid any attention to his body language, I would have shut the eff up instantly. He was clearly “in the zone” and wanted to focus, but I was all let’s-talk-about-all-the-things! So, yea. Pay attention to body language. It’s important.

3) Get to the race with plenty of time before the start. I usually like to get to the starting line 10-15 minutes before the race starts (this only applies to smaller races. For bigger races, especially with wave starts, I arrive about 30 minutes prior to the start). This gives me enough time to use the restroom, mess around with my music, and then line up. It’s the perfect amount of time to prep, but not end up awkwardly standing around trying to look like you know what you’re doing. If I had any common-sense, I would have thought ahead and built in more time for us to prep prior to the start of Saturday’s race. But common sense just isn’t my thing. We woke up a little late, took our time getting ready and didn’t arrive at the starting line until just a couple minutes before the race started. I rushed to find a porta-a-potty and the teacher forgot to take his wallet out of his pocket. Needless to say we were a bit frazzled when the starting gun went off.

4) Anticipate your partner’s needs.  This wasn’t really an issue for us on Saturday as we only ran a 5K. But, the teacher is talking about running a half-marathon with me in the future where we would absolutely need to try and anticipate each others’ needs. Does one of us need a walk break? Do we have gels or gummies for fuel? Do we need water or Gatorade? Training together will help you gain a better understanding of your partner’s running rhythms: when they start to tire, when they need fuel, when they can push, etc. Couples who run together, stay together. That’s just science.

5) Have fun. Seriously. With any luck it’ll be a beautiful day to race, so just relax and enjoy being out on the course together, whether you finish first or last.

Finish Line2.2

Note to self: your stride is horrendous. Fix it.