Grape Gallop – Alba Vineyards race review

Back in April I attended the Grape Gallop 5k at the same place. I wasn’t sure I should run the 3.5 mile Grape Gallop on October 21, 2017 as I have had some hamstring issues but the lure of wine and the fact I had fun last time led me to make the drive.

There wasn’t too much difference between the two events – there did seem to be more people, and this one included chip timing by Compuscore (not that I wanted a record of my time given my current speeds!).

The course is similar – just deviates from the 5k course on the second half of the hill. Be warned, the hill is tough. On the second time round I had to walk a little (and plenty of others were too), although it was still a part of the race where I made up some ground.

It was a beautiful day again, and the atmosphere and organization made it an enjoyable event.

Grape Gallop lists this run as 3.5 miles, but it seems like the course was definitely shorter. My Garmin recorded it as 3.34 miles, and one other runner recorded 3.31. Typically I’d expect a device to record a bit longer than the race distance. The course is not USATF certified (at least as far as I aware) so it could just be that it wasn’t accurately measured. I would imagine the true distance is around 3.3 miles.

This time I couldn’t stay around for the food truck festival, but it did look like it would be a bigger event than the April one.

This year, for many of my running friends the timing was bad because of a cross-country team race the next day, and several other key races that weekend (Perfect 10 was one of them), but hopefully next year the timing will work out better – this is the perfect race to attend with a group of friends.

Don’t run the Half Marathon

It’s in the title, although to be fair, neither my Physical Therapist or my Sports Medicine doctor actually said those words. What they said was that they’re not going to tell me not to, but….

I was in England for work, and had signed up for the Blenheim Palace Half Marathon three months ago, assuming that I would be back to running by then. I decided I would go to the race to at least get my t-shirt, then perhaps I would start the run and drop out when things hurt (the course looped around a central point a couple of times in different directions). After all, it would be a scenic run.

Taken on an earlier trip to the grounds of Blenheim

I cycled there as I had rented a bike for the time I was in Oxford – it was just over 7.5 miles away from the hotel. The race information had indicated that only one bus from Oxford would get to the start in time for the half marathon.

It started to rain on my ride over, which wasn’t supposed to happen that day. The forecast had said it would be dry all day. It wasn’t terrible though, and more importantly it wasn’t that cold.

I had to pick up a number, and I’m guessing they had mailed them out as they had to assign a new number at the check in desk. I imagine there will be a number waiting for me when I get home. I grabbed my t-shirt and found some shelter under a tree. Runners are always friendly people and it’s never too long before someone talks to you, or you start talking to someone else. I’ve always liked that about running.

About half an hour before the start I dropped my bag and did some dynamic stretches in the hope that would help. The race started precisely on time – I had lined up a bit behind the 2 hour pacer thinking that I would likely go out at that pace until I had to drop out.

The start/finish area

So, when did I drop out? Of course, I didn’t. Early on I could feel the pull in my hamstring but it wasn’t too bad and didn’t get worse (in fact, that sensation seemed to fade). I thought I could feel my problem with my right ankle coming back around mile 5 or so, but again it wasn’t bad enough to make me stop.

I felt pretty good at the 8 mile mark. At this point I was passing people who had slowed as the race progressed. Mile 10 was were I ran into problems. My calf muscles were so tight by this point that at times I could barely run. This isn’t entirely surprising considering my longest run this year was about 8 miles, and my average pace by that point of the race was slightly faster than 8:30/mile. I stopped a couple of times, but pushed through. Some of those who I had passed earlier came back past me. In the end I had a time of 1:53:48 which is my slowest half marathon, but also the most satisfying. Despite my issues, I am still able to run 13 miles without my injuries stopping me. I would not recommend running a half marathon with minimal training and a long run of 8 miles several weeks before, and no running at all for 2 weeks in the lead up to the race.

I headed straight for the massage tent which helped a lot (for the price of a donation). I had to cycle back to Oxford, and that was tough. It was slow but I made it without too much problem.

Over the next couple of days my hamstring hurt a little (I’ll be resting until that fades away), and my calf muscles took 3 days to get back to almost normal. I think I need a proper massage.

Newport Liberty Half – spectator view

Since I joined RVRR (which is almost 6 years ago) I have run at the Newport Liberty Half Marathon every year (and have been lucky enough to be a partner blog for the last few years), until now.

Injury now means that I am not running at all, but this is a USATF Team Championship and a lot of RVRR members were running, so I took the opportunity to go along, cheer, and take photos.

It’s surprisingly emotional to be at an event and unable to take part – I found myself wishing that I was running with everyone else as they passed the 1 mile mark (there were over 2500 finishers). I’m not sure I felt entirely the same way by the end – the day was humid and you could tell people were suffering. The EMS staff seemed busy and the vehicles used along the boardwalk weren’t always ideal as there were points where the runners were held up, unable to pass them.

2nd place runner about a quarter of a mile from the finish

RVRR runners waving as they passed by

To see all the photos (of lead runners and RVRR members), visit the Facebook photo album

There will be another follow-up post from a runner’s perspective as Manil completed his first half marathon at this event.

Newport Liberty Half – still time to sign up

If you’ve thought about running a half marathon, or perhaps have worked up to running at least 8 or 9 miles and haven’t thought about it yet, there’s still time to register for the Newport Liberty Half Marathon taking place on September 17. I know this because someone I met through the Raritan Valley Road Runners just signed up.

One of the benefits of being a blog partner of the Newport races is a free entry, which I would typically use myself. Unfortunately when I run about 4 miles or so my calf/ankle/hip (take your pick because it could be any one or more of those on any given day) rudely let me know that I need to stop, so I decided that someone else should use it.

Manil is getting back into running after a 10 month break due to patellar tendinitis. Before the injury Manil was able to run 13 miles so is working back towards that goal. His longest run in the past month was 9 miles but he’s confident he will be able to finish and has a goal of less than 2 hours 30 minutes. This will be his first race too so I’m looking forward to cheering him on and hearing about his experience after the race (there will be a follow-up on this blog).

Good luck Manil!

Back to the Halfbike

Running appeared to be going well, but a 4 mile run on Thursday aggravated my ankle and hip again, so rather than the planned long run on Saturday I decided it was time to bring out the Halfbike again.

If you haven’t read my previous posts on the Halfbike, it’s effectively a standing bike with a larger front wheel and two small rear wheels – balance is key to riding and steering. I am a Halfbike ambassador and have coupon codes for 5% off. I do get a commission for codes used, but as I’ve noted before this does not affect my reviews.

As part of the original sales campaign on Kickstarter, Halfbike was supposed to come with fenders – a year and a half after getting the Halfbike, the fenders finally arrived after a myriad of design and production problems.

I put the fenders on this week, not expecting to ride for a while, but luckily (I guess) it rained overnight so there were puddles on the ground for my Saturday ride.

Attaching the fenders was simple, but putting the pieces together for the rear fenders was not at all. In the end I used a rubber mallet to force the pieces together. The fit was a bit tight.

I wasn’t too bothered by not having fenders as I use it for exercise and don’t care how muddy and wet I get when riding, but I have to admit to not having used it in the rain and I did wonder how far up the front wheel would fling the water, so I no longer have to worry about getting a mouthful.

They seemed to work well – I deliberately rode through the puddles – but I did still get a slight spatter on my ankle so they don’t fully protect you.

My ride was about 10.5 miles and by the end my calves were definitely feeling it.