Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the North County Wine Run as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
Back in April, I registered for the North County Wine Run and agreed to travel down to Battle Ground, WA with fellow BibRavePro, Brie. This is the story of our Washington Road Trip!
If you want an ‘intro’ to the race, be sure to read my post on 5 Reasons to Run the North County Wine Run. I won’t review them point-by-point, but suffice it to say that the run lived up to expectations!
I met up with Brie at about noon on Friday, and we took the Skytrain from downtown Vancouver to Surrey, where Brie had parked her car. The drive to the border was fine, but we ended up waiting in the border lineup for close to an hour. When we finally got to the kiosk, we met ‘the best border guard ever’ (he proclaimed himself!) – commenting on Brie’s hairstyle, and our upcoming half marathon. And then we were off!
We had a great time! Brie had some fantastic stories to tell, having just returned from Europe, where she run the TransAlpine Race. This is a 250 kilometre trek across the mountains, over 7 days and through three countries. I strongly encourage you to visit Brie (Like the Cheese) and read her blog posts on this amazing experience!
It was about 2pm by the time we crossed the border. Despite an anticipated travel time of about 5 or 6 hours, we finally rolled into Battle Ground at 9:30pm. Yes, that’s right…it took us more than 8 hours to get there (including just one bathroom/coffee/food break). We checked in, and prepped for an early Saturday morning.
It didn’t take long to drive to parking, which was just about a kilometre from the start line at Rusty Grape Vineyard. We waited for the shuttle, which was coming quite regularly – but when we didn’t make it on board, we decided to walk/run instead. Just a little warm up.
Having arrived so late the night before, we did our package pickup on site. This took no time at all.
And if you don’t know them already, meet Julia & Dylan!
Julia is our BibRavePro leader extraordinaire. She keeps us all organized, and building branding opportunities with various products and races (like this one). She and her boyfriend, Dylan, drove up from Portland that morning, and joined Brie and me in the race celebrations. Meeting these two in person was one of the highlights of the weekend!
As start time approached, we seeded ourselves amongst the pacers – although there surprisingly few people in front of me! To be fair, it’s a pretty small race, but I’m not used to being near the head of the pack.
After the countdown, the were off along one of the country roads, and I was soon disoriented, not sure what direction we were headed. It was misty, and the scenery – primarily fields and trees – had a certain sameness to it. I placed myself in the vicinity of the 1:50 pacer. He asked a couple of us if we were aiming for PBs today? No. No, we weren’t.
One of the runners nearby asked if we were going to be running up the hill we’d just run down. Unusually for me, I hadn’t paid any attention to the course map. “I hope not” was my response. My hopes were not to be realized.
I skipped the first water stop, which was only about 3 kilometres in.
The mist lingered. It was peaceful. A herd of cattle watching the runners going by.
Olequa Cellars – the first ‘wine stop’
The course veered off the main road, and briefly turned into a cross-country road through a field. This only lasted for a couple dozen metres, and then there was ‘water on the right, wine on the left’. I was making a decent running effort, so the thought of wine just didn’t sit well. I opted for water. This was the first checkpoint for the relay teams as well.
More fields. A few farms animals. The weather began to clear. I saw a Tr*mp-P*nce campaign sign – first one in real life – which was unsettling. Through the trees, I could see a river down at the bottom of the hill (this turned out to be the East Fork of Lewis River).
This is Ken.
As we approached our second wine stop (again, I chose not to partake), and turned into Heisen House Vineyards, a voice behind me said: “The pack is catching up. Thanks for holding a steady pace.” That was Ken. And for the remainder of the race, pretty much every step, he was right behind me. And I credit him with keeping me on that steady pace throughout. And so I made sure to introduce myself at the end of the race. See him on my heels?
More fields, trees and rolling hills. The race really reminded me of last year’s Fort Langley Half Marathon, except it was a bit flatter. Until the last 2 kilometres.
Remember that hill we went down? We did, in fact, have to climb it again. Looking at the elevation profile, it wasn’t that high – but it was short, and steep. I was breathing so hard I couldn’t even curse. But I stayed ahead of the 1:50 pacer – he had passed me in the last kilometre, but I pulled in front.
A sharp final corner and the finish line was in sight. I gunned it down the final hill and sprinted across the mat. Done!
Very cool, unique medals that double as wine spouts. Perfect souvenir of my very first wine run!
I didn’t know them but they were super friendly. They showed off the three-part relay medal(s) that they had earned.
Brie finished soon after me – sooner than she expected, and pulling off a PB in the process!
We lined up for the pasta party and scarfed our food. Vegetarian pasta for everyone!
Every (‘of age’) runner also had the option of a full glass of wine, or four tasting samples. I opted for the latter – and our pourer was quite generous. Enjoyed this perk!
Both Julia & Brie placed – Julia was the second female overall, and Brie second in her age group! Congrats to both!
Road Trip – The Return
After a quick shower & change at the hotel, Brie & I went for lunch at Rockwood Pub. It was fantastic – great beer, and the most amazing tempura battered portobello mushroom fries you can imagine!
I persuaded Brie to take us back to Olequa Cellars for some wine tasting…and I purchased a bottle of rose to take home with me!
The drive home was considerably less traffic-heavy, but it was still a long trip. I finally stumbled through the door at 9:30pm on Saturday night.
Good wine. Good people. Good weather. Good race. Grateful for this awesome BibRave experience – and a big thanks to the volunteers and organizers of the North County Wine Run!
Chip Time: 1:49:07
Average Pace: 8:20 min/mile
Overall Place: 23/192
Age Category Place: 4/14
Quick Review – North County Wine Run 2016
Social Media: We got some very thorough and helpful email instructions from the race director. The social media was lacking – very little activity on Twitter or Instagram. However, they promptly posted all (free!) photos of the race on Facebook, which is awesome!
Package Pickup: They had pickup opportunities on both Thursday and Friday nights – but with our late arrival on Friday, we had to pick up before the race. Not a problem – quick and efficient – and we could toss everything into a bag for gear check.
T-Shirt/Swag: A fun and fabulous polyester t-shirt featuring the slogan “Run Now, Wine Later” – which might just become my new running mantra. Unique finisher medal, which is a bullhead wine spout! We also got a free branded souvenir wine glass.
Course: The course is ‘rolling hills’ through countryside and fields. Only one really steep hill, cursedly near the finish line, made it particularly challenging. My biggest complaint is that because the narrow and shoulder-less country roads were still open to traffic, some impatient drivers came dangerously close to the runners. A few more course marshals to ward off traffic might have helped.
Although I didn’t partake of the wine on course, I loved the opportunity to actually run through a couple of the vineyards. I’m sure the relay runners ending at those spots were happy to imbibe!
Post-Race: Loved the pasta lunch, with Caesar salad and buns. And then the free wine – who could complain? There were samples of a few other products, and free massages. Because we had to drive home to Canada, we didn’t stay as long as I might have liked, and I suspect the festivities continued late into the afternoon…
Organization: Overall, I was very impressed with how the race was put together. No surprises, and everything seemed to go off smoothly. This was a ‘fun run’ – but put together very professionally. Well done!
Would I run it again? If I lived nearby, the answer would be yes. It’s super-close to Portland, so I’d recommend it to anyone living in that area. Because of the time/cost of travel, I’d probably like to try something different next time. But if you’re on the fence…do it! Make a wine weekend of it!