Fortunately, there just happened to be a half-marathon the day after the big anniversary dinner. AND - it was only 20 minutes away from where we were staying. It was as if the Race Gods said "And Kristine shall cross California off from her quest to run in 50 states." It was perfect. So I signed up.
The race was the Healdsburg Half Marathon, which is part of the "Run Wine Country" series. They have a duathlon and three half marathons as part of the series. Basically, as the name implies, you run through wine country. I have no clue how the other races in the series are, but let me tell you - the Healdsburg Half rocked.
Probably the prettiest bib number I've ever received.
We went to the expo on Sunday. Most expos are in a convention center or a hotel ballroom. The Healdsburg Half Marathon's expo was held at the Kendall-Jackson winery. They even had a special wine tasting for runners picking up their packets. Well done, KJ, well done.
My race expo was prettier than your race expo.
It was a small expo, but with the wine tastings, I don't think anyone cared.
Packet pickup took all of five minutes. I bought a couple of GUs and a new race belt so I could carry my phone with me on race day. (Sidebar: I generally don't carry my phone or take photos during races. It's actually a GIANT pet peeve of mine when people STOP in the middle of a race course to take a photo or futz with their music. BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS, PEOPLE! But I figured that I'm never going to do another half out here and I wanted my camera in case I saw something cool - off the race course, of course.)
After packet pickup, we headed back to the family reunion and did the family thing until the next morning. Unfortunately, I got in a little later than I would have liked the night before a half, but it was fun to hang with my family.
Race morning started at 5:00 am for a 7:00 am race start. We weren't 100% sure where the race started, other than it was in the center of Healdsburg. Fortunately, Healdsburg is small enough that we didn't need any more information than that. We parked on the street and just followed the other runners to the start. It was around 6:40 by the time we got to the start. There were some runners milling around, but it was pretty cold - in the 40's. I think most people stayed in their cars until the last possible moment. It was also dark. Really dark. I had asked the volunteers at the expo about starting us in the dark, and I was told not to worry; that there would be plenty of sunlight for us to run. At 6:50 and still no sunrise, I wasn't quite sure I believed them.
Taken about 10 minutes before the start of the race. No sun to be seen.
Sure enough, right at 7:00, the sun started to rise. Within 5 minutes, we had plenty of light to see, which was perfect because that was when the race started. 3-2-1 GO! And we were off! We headed out of Healdsburg and into wine country. I have no words for running in this area other than it was just stunning.
Sunrise over the vineyards.
The course was great. It was rolling, but nothing too hard. If I hadn't just raced Goosepond 70.3 the week prior, I would have thought about going for a PR. Well, I actually DID think about it because I felt pretty good - a complete turn-around from last week's disastrous run. But then I looked over to my right and saw the sun rising over the vineyards, and I HAD to stop and take a photo. Bye Bye PR, but totally worth it.
The only issue I had during the run was around mile 8-9. The balls of my feet started to hurt. Bad. I was using relatively new Newtons during the race and I was questioning my decision at this point. At the mile 9 rest area, I loosened my laces and Voilà! No more pain! It's amazing how a little change in laces can make such a big difference.
After two hours of feeling like I was running in a post card, we headed back into the Healdsburg Town Square and across the finish line. I was then given one of the coolest medals ever.
Love the finish line with the wine barrels.
It's a wine stopper AND a medal.
After leaving the finishing area, I found Dudley and went to get something to drink. Here's what's funny. Rather than the usual bottles of water, sports drink, chocolate milk and soda most races have, this race only had a small cup of water offered at the finish... And then you got a wine glass and were ushered into the wine tasting area where 10 local wineries were having tastings for the racers (and friends of racers for $20).
Runners drinking wine at 9:00 am. Why not?
They did have some post-race mexican food for the runners there as well (which was quite good), but come on - this race was all about the wine. The race winners even got special bottles of wine as trophies.
I absolutely loved this race. Those of you who know me are probably thinking, "wait a minute...Kristine doesn't drink wine!" And I don't. And I STILL loved this race. That's how cool it was. It would be a perfect destination race for a group a friends. My only regret is that we didn't have the chance to really check out the City of Healdsburg, because it looks really cute. I would definitely do this race again, or check out one of the other two half-marathons in the RunWineCountry series. They put on a good show.
Healdsburg Half Marathon: 2:12 gun time / 2:06 watch time. Six minutes of photo taking. ;-)