Monday, August 24, 2015

The Hard Cider Run 5K

The Gettysburg Hard Cider run was a lot of fun and very well organzied. I really didn't know what to expect at all, and was pleasantly surprised by the entire event.  Hauser Estate Winery is a beautiful location and had plenty of room for all the participants, vendors and parking requirements.

The winery is located at the end of a very long entrance road up on a hill surrounded by its vineyards and its apple orchards.  They grow all their own apples for their Jack's Hard Cider which was flowing generously after the event.

The view from the winery itself is stunning.  There is plenty of patio space to enjoy a beverage and a small plate and look out over the hills.   You can see the line of cars trying to get into the event in the following photo.  If I can suggest anything it would be to arrive about early and be in the first waves (9am, 9:10am, etc.) so that you can beat the masses.

View from the Winery patio area

The run itself takes you around the estate through the fields, around the orchard and through the rows of grapes.  It is a trail run, and the terrain is hilly, grassy, rocky and has a few potholes.  The course had an elevation gain of 425 feet over the 3.1 mile course.  One of the climbs was insane at about 75 feet in less than a tenth of a mile; I pulled my wife up that one.  The course had one water stop just short of 1.5 miles with water.  At the end of the course were bottles of water, bananas and your finishers medal which is a nice treat for a 5K.

Strava Map of the 5K Trail

Here are some photos I took along the way of the apple trees and the vineyards.  It was a beautiful day with unseasonable cool weather and a bright clear sky.

Vineyards at Hauser Estate Winery

Apple Tree for Jack's Hard Cider

After you passed the first refreshment tent, a larger tent provided you a cider glass and you could select your preference for a free glass of Jack's Hard Cider.  They had four varieties to choose from.  I had the dry, and my wife had the semi-dry.  We enjoyed them both.  They were cold, light and very refreshing.

They had three food trucks on property providing lunch fare.  A wood fired pizza oven was our choice.  They were made to order and they have several varieties to choose from.  While pricey at $10 each for a personal pizza, they were delicious.  I had the margarita and my wife had pepperoni.  They also had a pretzel truck with fresh soft pretzels, pretzel dogs and sandwiches with pretzel bread.  The last truck provided boardwalk style fries with sandwich options like burgers, ruben's, etc.

One of the things we liked best about the event was that the line for runners to get their glasses and free cider were positioned far away from the band, food trucks and sitting areas.  This made the event feel very relaxed and enjoyable.  While there were thousands of people at the event, it didn't feel overly crowded at all, whereas the Destination Virginia event was crowded with all of the facilities very closely positioned.

Between the band stage and the food trucks were a few craft vendors and other related race information booths.  One of the vendors makes clocks, lazy Susan's, wine holders, and other items from used wine aging barrels.  They are amazing to look at, and of course we had to purchase a half barrel wine holder for the house (see photo below).  The maker, Eric, and his wife Jessie also make candles and soaps.  He is based out of Williamsport, MD and is hoping to open a store front soon.  You can read more on their Facebook page for Canal View Candles.

Half Barrel 12-bottle Wine Holder

Overall this was a really fun event.  Some folks got some amazing times given the conditions, but for me this is an event suited for enjoying the scenery and watching your step.  I wouldn't expect to set a 5K PR here, but certainly would expect to enjoy the views, the food, and the cider.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Leesburg 20K

The Leesburg 20K run by Potomac River Running (@PRRunning) was a great event.  Starting and ending in downtown Leesburg, VA in the Marketplace Square area, it is really easy to get in and out and parking was plentiful.  With a start time for the 20K at 7:30am you don't have to get up and out of your house too early.  The weather cooperated and was a cooler 62 degrees (or so) at the time of the start.

Most of the race takes place on the W&OD Trail which was shaded the majority of the way.  This was a nice surprise as the sun started to run during the event.  The event is basically an out and back on the trail with a few short runs on the roads going out and then back into Leesburg proper.  What was surprising to me was that the overall elevation climb was about 480 feet according to Strava.  Most of this was on the first half of the course with the last half net downhill.

Strava Map of Leesburg 20K
I tried to take advantage of the net downhill last half as I started to realize the first half was all up hill. I was conserving my energy at the start which was a change for me.  Like a lot of runners, that don't compete, I usually come out of the gate too fast.  I tried to stick to 8:00/miles and was doing well at first but as the climb continued from miles two through five I started to slow down and averaged closer to 8:30/mile.  By the time I turned around at mile 6.7 I was already tired from the miles during the week and a 4 mile walk the previous day.  I wasn't able to exploit the downhill at all and finished the race with an average of 8:39/mile.  This is actually off pace for me so I was a little disappointed, but I had been pushing my milage hard the last two weeks, so I should have expected a slower time.

The scenery along the trail was really beautiful.  As I mentioned it was mostly wooded/shaded and you passed several beautiful farms and homes along the way.  I saw several resting areas with picnic tables.  The trail would obviously make a great place for cycling or long runs.  By the time we got back into Leesburg on the trail the sun was in our faces and the temperature was on the climb.  You can tell from this photo how much sun there was.

Coming off the W&OD Trail in Leesburg, VA

The water stops were plentiful (about every 1.5 to 2 miles) and were very well staffed with volunteers from local cross country running teams and other folks.  Each stop had water and Gatorade and one of the stops had gel.  They lined both sides of the trail and were about 15 or so deep on each side so it made grabbing a drink fairly easy.  All the runners at this event used great running etiquette which is always great to see.

The last climb up to the finish line is about a tenth of a mile and had a great crowd cheering on the runners.  While we were doing the 20K they also had a 5K and a kids fun run, so there were lots of people hanging around to enjoy the event.  My wife ran the 5K and really enjoyed it.  The 5K started and ended at the same spot, and shared some of the 20K course after we left, but was more of a loop versus an out and back.  I came across the finish line with a chip time of 1:46:38 which was respectable I guess, but certainly not my best.  My half marathon PR is currently at 1:44:36.

My wife took this shot of me finishing

The post race food was great, but I really didn't stay to take advantage of it.  I grabbed two small waters and a gatorade along with a pack of crackers and headed to Starbucks for coffee and a sandwich.  But they had lots of muffins, bagels, snack bars, fruit snacks, and I think I saw beer kegs.  And of course one of the best things about all PR races is the amazing free high resolution photos.  I do a lot of races and for the most part the photos are way over priced and mediocre at best.  The one above of me coming off the trail is a photo from the PR Running Flickr site.

Overall I would highly recommend this event.  It is a great course, well run, and the 20K distance is unique.  I heard a few people comment that the medal last year for the 20K runners was a lot nicer than this years (last year was larger and a little more complex), but even for a medal freak like me it was fine.