Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Baltimore 10 Miler

The weather couldn't have been any better, partly sunny and fairly cool compared to recent days.  Parking was plentiful with lots of volunteers helping get cars situated, and a short walk to the finishing village and the starting area.  There were plenty of porta-potties and no lines at all, at least when I made my way through that area.

It was hard to really tell how the finishers village was going to look since there was still a lot of activity setting up the various areas, but the pre-race information provided maps of the area to make finding tents easy once you crossed the finish line.

Starting line at Baltimore 10 Miler
The event started on time which is always import to me, and there was pretty good crowd support along the route.  With the temperatures starting to get warmer this time of year I could have used an extra water stop or two since there we some longer gaps without a stop, but I am sure that was just me.

In general the course is an out and back that starts in Druid Park near the "The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore" with a loop around Lake Montebello before heading back.  The course is hilly, more than I expected, and came in at 485ft of elevation according to Strava.  That coupled with all the runs I have been doing didn't allow for a PR this time, but I had a great time at this event and am now two-thirds done the King Crab Challenge.  Since I completed the Frederick Half and now the Baltimore 10 Miler all that is left is the Baltimore Half this Fall.

Baltimore 10 Miler Strava Map

After finishing the run, I walked through some amazing post race food in the finishing chute.  They had a variety of bars, chews, chips, pretzels and even very cold freshly cut watermelon which totally hit the spot after a warm and humid run.  My only complaint is that I didn't grab two water bottles when I went through the line.  I was far more dehydrated than I realized.

Baltimore Finishers Village

Since you can pick up your race packet/bib from various locations through the greater Baltimore area (I got mine at Sports Authority in Rockville), you get your race premium at the event after you finish.  So, I quickly made my way over to the Men's Medium line and grabbed by 3/4 zip long sleeve shirt.  Nice quality, thin for Spring/Fall, with the Baltimore 10 Miler logo embroidered on the left chest.

After grabbing the shirt I made my way over to the King Crab Challenge tent to get my Baltimore 10 Miler finishers medal.  Medals for the 10 miler were only available to those that signed up for the King Crab Challenge and I saw several people being turned away that were looking to grab a medal.  I even had a few runners ask me how I was able to score the bling, so I let them know the details and encouraged them to sign up for the King Crab next year.  Not sure how to make the challenge more prominent on the websites for the Frederick and Baltimore events, but perhaps there is an opportunity to market it more, I do think there is interest.

Baltimore 10 Miler Finishers Medal

I am not a fan of the free beer after running, but clearly the majority of the runners at this even are very interested in that finish beer.  The line for beer was clearly the longest line in the village, but the live music kept folks entertained as they waited.

After regrouping with my fellow runners we made our way back to the parking area and headed home.  Getting back out of traffic did take about 15 minutes due to the number of folks leaving, but that all depends on how long you hang around the village after finishing.  We passed some other venues worthy of a visit after the race if you have time such as Zoo and HP Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens.

Conservatory as taken from the car

Overall I would highly recommend the King Crab Challenge and even the Baltimore 10 Miler event as a solo event.  It was very well organized, challenging, and included some nice scenery along the way.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Destination Virginia Half (Virginia Wine Country Half)

Wine and running together?  Two of my favorite things...of course!

The first thing I have to comment on is how amazing the venue itself was.  The host winery for the start of the race was Doukenie Winery in Hillsboro, VA.  Seeing the sun rise over the vineyards before the race was a sight to see, and an old farm silo in the middle of grapevines was a new experience.  Very beautiful indeed.

Sunrise over the vineyards at Doukenie Vineyards 
Silo in the middle of the grape vines at Doukenie Vineyards

The race was well organized with regards to parking, plenty of porta-potties, signage and announcements.  They had breakfast food for purchase prior to the start of the race provided by a private catering company and they had free coffee.  The only negative was that the race started about 12 minutes late due to some late arrivals.  Now, this does annoy me, I have to admit it, I look forward to races starting on time, as do most other runners, especially the elite runners going after records and/or money.  Now, if the late arrivals were caused by traffic issues or coordination issues on the part of the event planners/volunteers, then I think they deserve the extra time.  If the issue was these people just didn't plan well, then frankly I think they should miss the race.  99% of the runners were able to make it on time.

Starting line for Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon

The course was a mix of country back roads with some great scenery and gravel.  Apparently I didn't read all the website information carefully and was surprised when I ran on 4 miles of gravel (from mile 5.2 until mile 9.1).  This isn't something I was expecting, and certainly not something I am used too in my own training.  I found that my feet and ankles had a real hard time with this, so if you plan on running this next year, I would recommend some training runs on gravel or trails to work out those small stabilizer muscles.  The elevation gain wasn't over the top, but according to Strava it came in around 440 feet, so there were clearly some hills.  In this case, lots of little ones versus just a few larger ones.

The scenery for the Virginia Wine Country Half was beautiful

The course isn't an up and back, but does share a little over 2 miles of the course (at the start and near the finish). Otherwise you get to see a lot of great country, farms, estates, equestrian centers, a few B&B's and of course the second winery (Hiddencroft Winery) at the lollipop in the map below (almost at the top of the map).  Between miles 5.5 and 6.5 the smell of honeysuckle was palatable.  Hiddencroft Winery is at the half way point, and along with the fluid stop they were handing out small samples of very cold white wine.  I do see a few runners take advantage of it, but I was waiting until the finish to sample all the wineries that came to the event.

Stava Map of Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon

There were plenty of water stops along the way which is always great to see.  But given the weather is usually hot and humid already in VA this time of year, it is almost a necessity.  For todays race we were luck to have mostly cloudy skies, so while it was humid, the heat wasn't unbearable.

There was a large contingent of people at the finish line cheering you on those last few meters which was great to see.  Since this is a wine oriented event, separate tickets could be purchased for non-runners to participate in the wine tastings that started at 9:30AM.  This may have contributed to large number of spectators but it made for an exciting finish.

Finish at the Virginia Wine Country Half

I have to say that the food for the event after the runners finished wasn't all that spectacular.  They had the standard banana which I always appreciate along with water and Gatorade, but otherwise it was small sample packs of gummies, pretzels, etc.  I am used to seeing bags of chips, bars, other fruit, watermelon or even pizza.  With wine tasting starting right away, I was really upset I didn't have any substantial calories to take in and since I didn't realize this in advance I hadn't really brought anything with me.  I will most likely do this race again and so I will be more prepared the next time.

The wine tasting area was very well laid out.  There were about 15 or so wineries pouring, and each winery had between 2 and 4 wines to try.  For those that signed up for the VIP tickets, they had a separate area to pick up their wine glass from the rest of us, and also had access to catered food.

Now, for the important part; the medal.  It is by far the nicest and most substantial medal I have yet received for any of my races.  As you can see from the photo below it is basically a wine stopper on a rope.  It is very well made and very heavy.  So, for those of you that run for the bling, this is one you should try and hit.

Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon Finishers Medal

Overall the event was really fun.  If you plan on attending just remember to bring some extra food/snacks for after the race.  Buy wine tasting tickets for your cheering section of age, plan on getting there early because apparently the smaller back roads do get congested, and enjoy the amazing scenary!

Vineyards during the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon