Destination Races Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon

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In May, I descended upon Leesburg,VA with 7 of my running buddies for the Virgina Wine Country Half Marathon put on by DestinationRaces.com.  My second of three “wine” themed running events.  (Wine Glass Marathon 2012, & AnotherMotherRunner.com RagnarRelay Team – SanFran to Napa ..in 5 days!)

While I have professed, not to be a fan of “corporate” races much preferring small regional races.  I was pleasantly surprised by the phenomenal race, with a very regional feel,  put on by DestinationRaces.com.

Its really hard to believe that only 47 miles from our Nations Capital is the heart of Virgina’s wine country.  Loudoun County has to be one of America’s best kept secrets.  It was quaint, and absolutely beautiful.  Rolling hills, numerous wineries, horse farms, and lots of open green space.  It reminded me of Napa Valley, CA.  Perfect setting for a 13.1 mile run!

We were fortunate to rent a condo in downtown Leesburg walking distance from cute shopping and dinning. Staying in a condo vs. a hotel was a huge perk to the weekend.  We arrived Thursday night from Raleigh to a full refrigerator and a gourmet spread of food! Rebecca, arriving from Nashville, got in early enough to take care of all the shopping and prepare dinner.  Rebecca, our resident planner and foodie ROCKs!

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After an awesome dinner, KMac presented us all with customized hand crafted crowns.  There were many laughs, as we each tried to guess our individual crown theme.  Our weekend was off to a great start!

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Pretty impressive group photo with iphone photo timer

Friday, we ventured to the expo to pick up our bibs.  The expo, very small, was easy to find and navigate. We were able to get our arm bands for the post race wine tastings.  This eliminated the need to carry our id on race day.( one less thing to forget)With race bibs in hand, we were off to visit some local wineries.

cheers

Dry Mill Vinyards

Vinyard #2...wine not as good but the vinyards were beautiful.  The grapes were just coming out.

Vineyard #2…wine not as good but the vineyards were beautiful. The grapes were just coming out.

We had a great afternoon!  Our day was not over yet as we had a dinner invite from our buddy Leigh’s college roomate who lived in Leesburg.  What a brave sole inviting over 7 complete strangers, who have been tasting wine all afternoon,  for dinner.  She completely rolled out the red carpet for us.  We had a wonderful time and were so grateful for her hospitality. I am so sad we left without a picture with her.

my fav pic!

my fav pic!

Pre-race dinner

Pre-race dinner

Perhaps its time for water , nuun, and bed!

Perhaps its time for water , nuun, and bed! Beautiful Flowers!

Race day! The race started and finished at Doukenie Winery.  There was plenty of field parking only a short distance from the starting line.  Porta potties and wash stands galore so the lines were minimal.  Always a plus! Navigating to the start line was super easy!

Pre 13.1! Doukenie Winery

Pre 13.1! Doukenie Winery

Starting line

Starting line… tree lined drive into the winery.  Beautiful setting for a race.  Sure beats the typical asphalt and buildings

After some brief announcements and tribute to local mother runner whom had recently passed away we were off!  The course was very well marked  and staffed along the  two lane country roads.  I was very impressed that the course was monitored by State Motorcycle Police. In several places along the route, the opposite lane was not closed to traffic.  Any oncoming cars were given a police escort to pass the runners.  In all my races, I have never seen this done.  I certainly appreciated that and hope I will see that in future races.

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The course was rolling hills through, farms, ranches, estates, wineries.  Majority of the course was on asphalt with a small piece on dirt road.  Very peaceful.  I really enjoyed the course.

Ashleys PR! Ashley, and avid tennis player, got talked into  joining us 5 days before the race.  Her first 13.1 and come to find out her first distance over 3 miles! She initially told us 4 miles but later admitted it was only 3!  Crazy girl!

Ashleys first of many PR’s for the day! Ashley, and avid tennis player, got talked into joining us 5 days before the race. Her first 13.1 and come to find out her first distance over 3 miles! She initially told us 4 miles but later admitted it was only 3! Crazy girl!

Hiddencroft Vinyards wine shots

Hiddencroft Vinyards wine shots

Midpoint on the course around mile 6-7, we ran through Hiddencroft Vinyards who had  wine, water, band, and porta potties.  Wine is definitely not what I want to drink 6 miles into half marathon but it was just a little taste and really we had nothing to lose ( at least we hoped not).  It was all part of the experience!

imageThe course was wonderful!  I cannot say enough good things about it.  Definitely a race you want to run, enjoy, and take it all in.  It was the perfect race, despite our varied paces, to stick together and enjoy as a group.  Rebecca and Becky wanted to race so we told them to take off and enjoy.  We would be pulling up the rear and getting Ashley across the finish line of her first half.

13.1 Done! Ashley is a Half Marathoner!

13.1 Done! Ashley is a Half Marathoner!

After crossing the finish line, we pick up our wine glasses and headed to the tasting party.  Admission to the tastings was an additional purchase which included a commemorative Riedel stemless wine glass.  Fellow runners who have done this before came prepared with picnic foods, blankets and chairs.  Great idea if we do this again.  We enjoyed our first pour but all agreed none of us were feeling drinking wine that early and  after running.  We would have much preferred a beer.  We were disappointed that the brewery that was supposed to be part of the tasting was nowhere to be found.  My only negative comment about the entire event.  We did not linger too long at the tasting before we decided to take our celebration back to the condo. Plus, we did not want to worry with a  designated driver.  I believe the race offered shuttles from the local hotels but we did not utilize them.

Riedel Glass

Riedel Glass

 

Cute metal with a removable wine charm

Cute metal with a removable wine charm

Great race!  I was very impressed with DestinationRaces.com. I would definitely consider another one of their races.  This race was fantastic. It was the perfect setting for a relaxing, laughter filled weekend with my crazy friends.  Thanks for the great time ladies!  I cannot wait until our next adventure.

 

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Inaugural race in injinji toe socks. While cozy, and helpful I still developed a blister. Clearly, only a minor piece to blister free running. I love the socks….my new go to!

 

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Ultra REDEMPTION ACHIEVED… CedarIsland40!

Redemption has never felt so good! It was personal! I had nothing to prove to anyone but myself!

42.54 miles complete!

10:01:21!

I did it!

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Redemption Smiles & Bunny Ears!

CedarIsland40 was my ultra redemption race. This was my opportunity to learn from my previous defeat,  push my mental and physical comfort zone, and succeed. To succeed, I had to put in the work.  I was the only thing that was going to get me across the finish line and I had to be ready! I owned it!

I committed week one of 11 to nail all my training workouts and stick with my program. While, I did not make every single workout I am very happy with my efforts.  I can honestly say in my 5 years of running, I have never taken training so seriously.  It felt good, and gave me the confidence I needed race day  I knew I had put in the work and that I would cross the finish line.

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Race Shirt and Pre-race carb load…just one:)

Katherine  (KMac- my awesome friend who accompanied me to the race) and I volunteered at packet pickup that was  hosted in a private room at Sammy’s Seafood House and Oyster Bar.  It was great to mingle, meet, and eat with some of the fellow participants. I was in awe of the ultra runners I would be sharing the course with.  Participants ranged from ultra virgins to ultra legends. Everyone was super nice and very supportive.

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KMac and I at the start! Little fuzzy but it was not even 5:00am yet

Big Thanks to Kmac who sealed my race strategy down for me. I knew I was going to do a run walk segment but had not given much thought to what that would be. Thankfully, KMac suggested 10 min run/2 min walk.  I loved it and immediately programmed the interval into my Garmin.  This was my saving grace! AWESOME!

Jason, Garrett, and I ready!

Jason, Garrett, and I ready!

3:50 am wake up call came super early! We picked up two fellow runners Jason and Garrett, whom we met at packet pickup, and headed to the starting line. Jason and Garrett were very trusting individuals to rely on complete strangers to get them to the start of the race! We were happy to help!  The minute the doors of the car closed they were no longer strangers but our newest friends.  Jason  was running his first ultra to celebrate his 40th birthday.  Wow! The Irony of that was surreal since my first ultra attempt was for my buddy’s 40th birthday…and we all know how that turned out 🙂  Garrett, signed up two weeks before the race and decided to join his buddy!  No training outside of a single 3 hours run.  He does not even like to run!  Now that is a good friend!  Crazy but good!

5:00 am the race was started with a “ready, set, GO!” by my adorable niece Chloe. Headlights bobbing in the darkness we were headed from Morehead City, NC to the Cedar Island Ferry (42 miles)

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The sunrise was beautiful…but hard to capture

The temps were mild, warmer than I had desired but we were off to a good start and feeling great.  Around mile 2, Ashley and I fell into step with one another. I inquired about her race strategy and shared my plan.  She liked my plan and that was the start of our 40 mile journey together.  Ashley, a seasoned ultra runner, is also a good friend of my sister Amy, whom was the race director.

Aid Station 1 Ashley and KMac

Aid Station 1 Ashley and KMac. Ashley sporting her LUNA Sandals!

I had planned on running alone and was totally fine with that. As extroverted as I am, it is shocking to people that know me well that I am perfectly content running alone.  Partnering up with Ashley was a race day bonus!

Cedar Island 40 route along coast of NC

Cedar Island 40 route along coast of NC

The course while very remote ran through beautiful coastal tidelands and marsh. The views were absolutely beautiful.  There was definitely more traffic than I anticipated and was unnerving at times but nothing we could not handle.  We got a friendly honk from an 18 wheeler and a wagging finger from a grumpy old lady.  One passerby was so curious as to what we were doing she slowed down to inquire.  When we told her we were running 42 miles she flipped out!  She screamed  “You go girls!” and drove off.

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Prius escort!

We had been warned of a one lane, wooden plank bridge along the route.  As we approached the bridge we contemplated what our strategy for crossing would be.  We certainly did not want to get taken out by a car on the bridge.  Before we could finalize our strategy, my brother-in-law Lee, whom was monitoring the course appeared and escorted us across the bridge.  We felt like running royalty. Perfect timing!

Bridge Selfie!

Bridge Selfie!

We ran over several bridges and the views were always breath taking! It was also a great excuse to stop and take a “selfie”.  This was the first of many!

"Color Run" drive by!

“Color Run” drive by!

On course support was often and entertaining! We never felt abandoned as Amy and her volunteers did a great job of monitoring the course and keeping an eye on the participants. I almost  fell over in laughter when Amy and my niece drove by spraying silly string and shouting Color Run!  It was everywhere. It was a great pick me up!

"Color run" silly string

“Color run” silly string

The coastal towns along NC 12 are very quaint.  It was a nice change of scenery.

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Too cute not to take a picture of.

Not everything was cute.  While the natural beauty of the tidelands was pleasant, there comes a time when enough is enough!

Dire Straits....

Dire Straits….

My picture, while hazy, is a perfect representation of the steamy slog through a portion of the course called “Dire Straits”.  Its long,winding, barren, asphalt that seems to go on forever.  We survived!

Popsicle Delivery mile 24!

Popsicle Delivery mile 27!

As temperatures rose ( into the upper 70’s) and we grew tired we would often wonder what we were seeing up ahead on the road. We saw plenty of mirages while we were anticipating the next aid stations.  Fortunately, Heather’s Edy’s Lime Popsicle delivery was not a mirage! We deemed it Heaven on a stick!  It was the best Popsicle I have ever had in my life!

Heaven on a stick!

Heaven on a stick! Note my FroggToggs Chilly Sport around my neck!

The Popsicle delivery was such a wonderful surprise and a much needed pick me up!  Diligent with our 10/2 run/walk segments, we decided we would walk and enjoy our Popsicle! Ahhhhhhh!  I have to mention my last minute decision to pack my daughters FroggTogg Chilly Sport towel was a true life saver!  I had never used this towel or anything similar before but my gut told me to pack it and give it a try.  AMAZING! Why have I never used this towel before?  This is now part of my MUST HAVE gear list and will never leave home without it for warm runs.  It really stayed wet and cool.   I rolled up ice in it at one of the last aid stations for the super cooling effect.

Whoo hooo the end is near...kind of

Whoo hooo the end is near…kind of

Neither Ashley or I ever checked the mileage on our watches. We gauged our distance based on the aid stations having a general idea where they were.  I figured we had a long distance to cover and we would get there when we get there.  It was rather exciting, when the road side signs got close to single digits.

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It was hot but we ran on.  Both of us were feeling great and enjoying the run.  We had great conversations but also spend a lot of time running in silence.  We stuck to our 10min/2min run/walk segments and consistently fueled and took our Salt Sticks every hour.  The sun was out in full force so we also applied sun screen every few hours.  It was great having company and an accountability partner.  After running hours, upon hours in the heat your brain function slows and you need a little help from your friend to stay safe. We laughed that Ashley was a running traffic cone in her BRIGHT yellow and orange shirt.  A perfect selection for the day.    I kept my Amphipod Xinglet around my waist ( I wore it correctly before the sun came up).  Its so light I did not even know it was there.

I had a complete brain slip and forgot to put my nuun in my Nathan vest.  Luckily I did drop some tablets in my first 2 liters of water so I did have some early on.  Just none for water refills  The Salt Sticks did the trick! Thank God!

About an hour behind us were Jason & Garrett! We got updates from the course monitors that they were having a blast!  Wondering what those two goof balls were doing pushed me to get to the finish line as I knew they would have some great stories! They had no worries about time they just wanted to have fun, enjoy each others company, take in the sights, and finish before the cut off.

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Jason & Garrett….having a blast every mile! They texted pictures to Amy, Race Director, along the route.

Take note of Jason’s super cool camouflage shades! As the sun came up, Jason realized he forgot his sun glasses.  He thought he would  quickly remedy the situation by popping in one of the very few convenient stores along the route and buy a pair. Easy enough, all convenient stores at the coast have sunglasses right?  Well, not this particular store. Oops onto Plan B!  While most would simply do without,  Jason was on a quest for survival.  No glasses officially for sale the next best thing was to buy them off one of the customers. Yep, Jason purchased his glasses right off the face of a lady in the store for $20! Resourceful!

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Garrett’s first marathon distance!

Sometime after mile 26.2,at one of the aid stations, Garrett realized he had officially run his first marathon! Pretty darn impressive for a guy who signed up for his first ultra two weeks prior and his training consisted of one three hour run! YOUTH! Way to go Baby G!

Because running 42+ miles is not enough, in an effort to break the monotony Garrett decided to throw in some push ups…or perhaps they were burpees! Either way just crazy!

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Great form! Little aid station fun

Finally, we made it to the last manned aid station and knew we had 9 miles to go.  Hitting the single digits felt great! It was HOT , we were tired, but still enjoying the run.  We made good time and caught up with some fellow runners and had a surprise visit from KMac, whom dressed in running clothes, was there to run in the final 5 miles with us! Such an awesome surprise and a wonderful pick me up for both Ashley and I.

My favorite on course picture!

My favorite on course picture! All smiling with 5+ miles to go! ( Lee, top right was driving the course in air conditioning so of course he was smiling.  The rest of us were running)

The final miles were long.  Likely the longest and slowest 5 miles of my life.  We were elated to make it to the last aid station! 3 miles to go!

The "lonely tree"  final aid station and Jason!

The “lonely tree” final aid station and Jason!

Jason and Garrett,  recognized the tree at the last aid station as the “lone” tree on the CedarIsland40 web page and took the opportunity to snap a photo.  I had no recollection of the tree. I love that they captured this photo. Not sure how Jason was able to get up. If I laid down at that point in the day I would be staying until someone picked me up.

Ashley and I REALLY enjoyed Katherine’s company on our final miles to the finish line. The fact she surprised us made it even better. 8+ hours in, a fresh perspective was greatly welcomed.  She encouraged us, filled us in on the runners who had finished, those who had not and generally everything that was going on.  We took a brief pit stop to take our picture with a HUGE Crusty Crustacean whom had seen some hard times.  At that point in the day I felt like I could totally relate to this poor fella.

Kmac and I with Mr. Crustacean..missing some appendages clearly needed some love and attention

Kmac and I with Mr. Crustacean..missing some appendages clearly needed some love and attention.

Ashely and I giving Mr. Crustacean kisses!

Ashely and I giving Mr. Crustacean kisses!  I had some serious Guy Fieri hair going on!

We were so close! Ashley alerted us that if we pushed through and ran the next 1.5 miles without walk segments we could potentially come in under 10 hours.  Secretly, 10 hours was my goal/desire second to  JUST FINISHING.  We agreed to push through and run it in.

Amy( Race Director & my sister) with Ashley and I at the finish!

Amy( Race Director & my sister) with Ashley and I at the finish!

I was so excited to almost be finished.  My accomplishment of ULTRA REDEMPTION was so close I could literally taste it.  Where the hell is the finish line? I was running slower than ever and thought the finish would never been in sight.  Kmac informed me we would take a right just ahead.  The right hand turn finally came, I saw the FINISH LINE! My emotions immediately swelled, on the verge of hyperventilation, I declared I could not breath.  Ashley assured me I could breath.  It was at that point, I decided we were going to sprint it in! Ashley, whom all day, was trying to decide who was crazier me or my sister(Amy) yelled “YOU are crazier than your sister” and she sprinted with me across the finish line!

10:01:21! Redemption Achieved! Amy immediately hugged me after I crossed.  I had no words only BIG, UGLY, SOBS, and TEARS! It was an ugly cry like no other but I did not care… I was finally a legit ULTRA MARATHONER! Amy asked if I needed anything and I simply replied ” Just hold me”.  🙂

My  handmade finisher pottery and Mother Earth Brewery Beer!

My handmade finisher pottery and Mother Earth Brewery Beer!

The finish line was awesome with lots of food ( unfortunately I was not up for eating), cold beverages and live music.  It was a beautiful day! I iced my horrific feet then decided to take a rest in the grass and wait for Jason and Garrett to finish.

Horrific blisters! Both pinky toes had weigh bearing blisters that popped miles 30-35.  When the popped my balance was thrown off.  It hurt like HELL but I ran through it.  Ashley thought I had a cramp as i had to grab onto her.

Horrific blisters! Both pinky toes had weigh bearing blisters that popped miles 30-35. When they popped( not simultaneously) my balance was thrown off each time.   It hurt like HELL but I ran through it. Ashley thought I had a cramp as I immediately had to grab her to keep from falling over.

Amy and I with Kirk Cameron! Amy stated she was hoping to talk smack to be as I run this ultra in an attempt to getting back to me for putting peanut butter on her fav Kirk Cameron poster when we were kids.  Unfortunately for her, i trained too well.  No smack talking opportunities.  Thanks to google I found the poster imagine printed it out and surpised her by putting it on her bedroom door.  Many laughs! At one point during the race...she drove by holding the poster ( we could not see her face) and she said Kirk says keep it up! I almost fell over in laughter!

Amy and I with Kirk Cameron! Amy stated she was hoping to talk smack to me as I ran this ultra in an attempt to get back to me for putting peanut butter on her fav Kirk Cameron poster when we were kids. Unfortunately for her, I trained too well. No smack talking opportunities. Thanks to Google, I found the poster imagine printed it out and surprised her by putting it on her bedroom door the night prior to the race. Many laughs! At one point during the race…she drove by holding the poster ( we could not see her face) and she said Kirk says keep it up! I almost fell over in laughter!

They did it! Congrats Garrett and Jason!

They did it…with 24 minutes to spare! Congrats Garrett and Jason!

Post race pic!  Bummed we could not not hang out to share some more laughs but totally enjoyed our short time with these two! Such a great part of the experience!

Post race pic with a photo bomb by Jason’s little cutie! Bummed we could not not hang out to share some more laughs but totally enjoyed our short time with these two! Such a great part of the experience!

Never give up on what you want! Don’t let your failures derail you! Learn from your missed achievements and simply do better the next time! The satisfaction is priceless! 

MANY THANKS!

  • Coach Chennelle, Raleigh Cross Fit, for overseeing my training plan and weekly motivation.  She helped me safely integrate Crossfit into my training plan and kept me accountable for my weekly training more than she will ever know!
  • Bryon Powell, irunfar.com, for writing Relentless Forward Progress A guide to running ultramarathons.  I read every page of this book and loved my training plan! I was also super excited to blog chat with him as he somehow found, read, and commented one of my earlier blog post 🙂
  • Ashley, for covering the miles with me! You were a lifesaver I did not even know I needed!
  • KMac, for insisting on traveling with me to support and volunteer!
  • Amy for giving me the ultimatum to either volunteer or sign up for her race! Sisterly motivation at its best! You did an awesome job at your first Race Director gig! So proud of you.
  • RaceENC, Brandon, Heather, & Amy for  hosting a spectacular race.  The organization, amenities, communications, and course were top notch!  Job well done.  I cannot say enough good things about CedarIsland40 and your successful execution of it!
  • Last but not least my Husband(Dan), family & friends for never doubting my ability and encouraging me!

I have fallen in love with the ultra…just as Amy said I would.  Dimity McDowell sums up my new found love and quest so nicely “Going big isn’t really about the distance. It’s about taking on something that isn’t necessarily a gimme”  Well Said Dimity! Next quest(it makes my stomach hurt to type it)…100k (62miles) at Croatan24, November 8th, 2014!

 

Feet Prep  Supplies - RunGoo, Fixing Your Feet Book, Injinji toe socks, Arbonne foot creme!

Feet Prep Supplies for next Ultra – RunGoo, Fixing Your Feet Book, Injinji toe socks, Arbonne foot creme!