We last left off as I was settling down for an all too short 5 hours of sleep. I didn’t sleep all that well, as I never seem to do so before races, because I wake up every hour to check the clock and make sure I haven’t overslept. When it was finally time to get up, my adrenaline kicked in and I got all my gear on, made sure to put on plenty of sunscreen, and made sure I had everything for Team Challenge. We had to wear 2 wristbands during the race, one for the complimentary transportation and one for the admission to the wine tasting after party. There was also a ticket on our race bib that entitled us to one engraved wine glass…didn’t want to pass that up!
Another thing I got for this race was a PaceTat, which is a temporary tattoo that gives you what your splits should be if you want to finish at a certain time goal. They are really cool! More to come later on this
The night before I had heard some commotion going on outside our door, but I didn’t check to see what it was. When I opened the door to leave, I was met by a fun surprise. My team members had decorated my door with a sign and streamers!! What a great surprise!
I grabbed a half of a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter that brought from home and headed down to the lobby to meet the team. The coaches did one last review of their race tips and we boarded the bus for the 30 minute ride to the race site. The night before, Coach Janis warned us that there is a lot of grass and dirt at the site. There were huge storms the day before, so there could be mud and the grass was sure to be wet. She advised us to grab the plastic garbage bags from the wastebaskets in our hotel rooms to put over our shoes for when we arrived to protect our shoes from getting wet. Brilliant! Most of our team did this and we received a lot of strange looks when we got off of the bus, but later while waiting in line for the bathroom in the wet grass, everyone thought we were geniuses! It really did help to keep my shoes dry and this is a tip I will keep with me for all future races.
The team gathered to do some warm ups and get some group photos in before the race. We also got to here some last minute tips from Jeff Galloway, which was really cool! This was my small runDisney tie-in to this race. The event was held at Doukenie Winery and it is an absolutely beautiful setting, especially first thing in the morning when we arrived. There are horses, ducks, a large pond and of course sprawling fields of grape vines. It is truly breathtaking. In fact, this whole area in Virginia is a hidden gem. I never knew there was wine country there.
Before we get to the race, I do need to comment on the bag check situation there. This definitely wasn’t a Disney operation… There was a table set up for bag check and the volunteers were handing out white garbage bags and Sharpie markers to write your name and bib number on the bag. They then took your back and put it in the (wet) grass behind the table in no particular order. Yikes! I was so thankfully Barry was coming after the race with all of my things so I didn’t have to check anything. This must have been a nightmare to collect at the end!
At about 6:30 am, we headed down to the starting line, which was in the driveway of the vineyard where we waited and waited and waited. For some reason the race was delayed by half an hour. There were rumors floating around that there were still some buses heading to the site from the host hotels, but there was no official announcement. There were no corrals or pace markers when we got down there, so the team just picked a spot about mid-way in the starting area and waited. Since there was such a delay, many of the runners took this time to take a bathroom break in the vineyards next to the race start. Let’s just say that the grape vines don’t provide much coverage and I saw a lot more of some female runners than I would’ve liked!
We faintly heard the starting bell at about 7:30 am and began to move. While the start was pretty disorganized, I was kind of happy about the delay because it it gave Barry enough time to get to the race. He was on one of the aforementioned buses. He was waiting right after the starting line and I was able to get a good luck kiss in
So here I was running in Virginia. I started off really well and was doing a 3/1 minute run/walk combo. I was feeling great. The course was beautiful and I saw some fun things along the way. I almost took a detour to the Pygmy Goat and Miniature Horse farm and I found my new home…the Black Cat Manor!! There were also a TON of Team Challenge supporters out on the course cheering us on, which really helped.
Yes, things were going great…until mile 5. This is when the gravel started. We were told that there was only about 1 mile of hard dirt road with minimal gravel. Oh no…this was 4 MILES of gravel and the road was very uneven. I got numerous stones in my shoes, which I had to stop and take out and this also caused a very uncomfortable blister to form on the ball of my right foot. I have never had blisters on the bottom of my feet before, but I also haven’t run on 4 miles of gravel before so we were in uncharted territory. By the time I got to the end of this stretch at mile 9, I was not a happy camper. I saw one of my coaches just before the end of the gravel and she helped push me through, which was a huge help.
The last 4 miles went by fairly well. My calves started cramping up towards the end, but I pushed though. I was determined to finish the race in under 3 hours and I was getting very close to that not happening. The gravel really slowed me down so I had to make up some time. This is where the PaceTat really came in handy because I could compare the time to my Garmin and make sure I was still on pace.
As I was coming up to the end, I was surprised by an old co-worker who lives in the area and came to cheer me on. This really picked up my spirits to get to that finish line. Miraculously, I saw a group of my team members and my 2 coaches right in front of me and we all finished in one big group. Coach Janis ran next to me right up to the finish line and yes, I finished in under 3 hours! 2:59:17 to be exact. I sure know how to cut it close I was so happy to see Barry right there at the end cheering me on and taking some great photos! It makes such a difference to have a smiling, familiar face at the end after doing something so challenging.
After the race, we had to go directly to the Team Challenge tent to check in. This is to ensure all runners are off the course and so the coaches for each team can come in. This is also where I got my Team Challenge finisher pin and etched wine glass. Then, my first priority was to get my sneakers off, deal with this blister and get my compression sleeves on my calves. I found these awesome Blister Treatment bandages from Dr. Scholl’s that were phenomenal! I highly recommend them. After I got my legs squared away, it was time for some food. Team Challenge hosted an after party for runners and their guests where we chowed down on burgers, grilled chicken, potato salad and fruit. It was a great post-race spread.
Once I was refueled, it was time to check out the wine tasting! We received these fun commemorative wine glasses that we were able to use in the wine tasting area. There were probably about 6 different local wineries there offer a variety of wines. I wasn’t blown away by the wines in Virginia, but it was a really good time.
Overall, this was a fun race experience. Running with Team Challenge was an amazing and rewarding experience. Plus, I’m really happy that I met my goal of finishing in under 3 hours. The course was not my favorite and because of all of the gravel, I’m not sure I would return unless the course was changed. It’s a shame because the area is beautiful and the after party was a lot of fun. We’ll just have to wait and see. All I know is that half marathon #2 is successfully under my belt and I can’t wait to do the next one!