I gripped my fiancé’s hand with such a fierceness that I almost felt like I was pulling his entire left arm out of its socket. We had completed a grueling half-marathon earlier that day and my feet finally gave out after imbibing and lamely tempting to rehyrdate with a thousand other souls at the post race festivities. The tent and wine tasting tables were being broken down-a clear sign that the party was over. I had pulled off my running shoes in a desperate attempt to relieve the pain that was coursing through my lower body (despite my sincere efforts at numbing it through my many trips to the sommeliers “relief stations”!)
We were making our way back to the car and to the sweet respite that Linda at Dreamgivers Inn in nearby Newberg, Oregon would be providing us. But it really all started back in February when my beloved had the idea to once again combine a half-marathon and our summer vacation. Being both lovers of the outdoors and good wine, Oregon seemed the perfect destination. Fueled By Fine Wine promised to set itself apart from all other half-marathon events we had previously entered and run.
And let me tell you, the course alone will be different from anything you may have previously experienced! Think hills, vineyards, gravel roads, more vineyards, gopher holes, hills, hills and more hills and one last vineyard at mile 12. Oh, did I mention the heat? An unusually warm day with a forecast of 92 degrees Farenheit. At the start, my fiancé remarked, “This makes the Mad Marathon look easy.” Surely, it looked that way since we immediately began climbing a steep hill which could have been more easily approached by crawling up it. Relief was soon found at mile one when we made a turn into our first vineyard. Hah! Not so much. Gopher holes galore and then the climb up and out and up again. At mile 2, my legs had a mind of their own as I began a running ascent of this hill:
Our friend Eric doesn’t think the photo is accurate based on the angle of the shot ( I am standing at the bottom sir!), but I am sure you get the idea. At this early juncture, I began to walk. My fiance’ continued his run and I gave up all romantic notions of running and finishing it together. But I was determined not to give in. Better to have a PW (personal worst) than a DNF (did not finish). So onward I chugged with others who appeared to be readjusting their racing strategy as well. Run as much as you are able and hike the hills. Purely survival in nature for this course. And the views are stunning! Many runners brought their cameras and were taking photos along the way. ( We waited a few days and visited the wineries that we passed on the course instead.)
Even so, the going was rough. It was hard to separate myself from the searing pain on the outside of my thighs as I ran both up and down the roads and paths. When it became nearly impossible to move, that’s when I walked. And even though my pace was snail like I never felt that the course was endless. The miles ticked away quickly and with 5k to go, I met a lovely young woman who became my companion for the remainder of the race. Stephanie and I chatted about everything not related to running ( food, love, bits of our life stories) and encouraged each other through the thunder and lightning storm that appeared with a vengeance at mile 11. We finished together in a downpour with me looking very definitely worse for the wear!
My body was no doubt done in by the Dundee Hills. It took three full days to walk normally down the stairs at the inn. And I will admit that I lost it in a fit of tears on Monday afternoon (the day after the race). A moment of worry about aging and my continued ability to both compete and recover well. A soothing bath back at Dreamgiver’s soothed my aching legs. And the rest of the week was spent enjoying early morning coffee on the front porch followed by a scrumptious breakfast.
And there’s nothing like the hair of the beast to provide one with a full physical recovery. A hearty hike up the ashen and snow covered (!!) paths of Mt. Hood took care of any remaining stiffness.
Please don’t get the wrong idea. We did not summit this beauty; we leave that for the experts. But we did enjoy high altitude climb in the sun and a delicious late lunch at a local pub.
The memories of this vacation will live on in my heart and mind. But with each step I take in my future runs, I will carry the dirt of the hills with me.