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.

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.

Grape Gallop 5k

I recently posted about being contacted by the organizers of the Grape Gallop. A few weeks ago I went along to their 5k at Alba Vineyard.

The race start was 10am and I arrived at about 8:50. When I got there, it was clear that the race was going to be relatively small so I would have been okay arriving a bit later, but it was a very pleasant morning so having a bit of time to look around the course wasn’t a bad thing. I walked the first half mile, and later ran with my kids up part of the longest hill (yes, it’s hilly) as a bit of a warm up. I was being cautious because I didn’t know how my ankle was going to react (on Saturday I started a short run only to stop within a few steps because of it).

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

All the organizers and other participants were very friendly. It looked like there might be a couple of relatively fast people. One in particular approached me early on, a young guy who clearly knew a bottle of wine was at stake for the winner and was there to get it. I was able to reassure him that I was in no shape to keep up with him, and likely would not have been able to even at full fitness.

The race was two loops through the vineyard on gravel/stones and grass. As a side note, with many of my shoes, as they are minimalist, I would have had problems with those stones, but I had with me a few options and my latest pair – the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG – were perfect for this.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

During the race my ankle held up reasonably well, but lack of overall fitness showed. As expected with the small field of participants, the race split – the fast guy there to win pulled easily well ahead from the start, and I possibly went out being a little overenthusiastic. I felt okay though, and I was in second with a decent gap opening up between me and third place.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

After the first loop I wasn’t looking forward to the big hill again. My lack of overall fitness was definitely kicking in and I knew I was going to struggle up it the second time around. At this point I was just hoping to be able to hold on and not get caught by anyone else so I could claim the second place.

There were a lot of walkers and run/walk participants taking part and that meant passing them on the second loop. This wasn’t a problem because there was plenty of space for passing.

I did hold on, and the third and fourth place were a couple who were running together, including the 1st place woman. My time was 23:50 which is my slowest 5k since my very first, but given the tough course and my recent issues, I was happy with that. First place was 20:05 (he had run a 5k the day before in the 18s). The first place woman came in at 24:18.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hume

After the race, you pick up your wine tasting glass (if you’ve paid for that – you can enter for less without the tasting) and tote bag for carrying wine bottles. The set up was great for socializing with the other runners, and was very relaxing.

I’m not sure if any results get posted for this event, or even if they were even recorded outside of the first place runners. The race was not chip timed, which brings me to what to expect from the race.

  • Don’t expect competitive field – it’s more like a community event (and I actually really appreciated that).
  • Don’t expect awards/medals – outside of first place male and female there are none. The first place runners got a bottle of wine each.
  • The course was well-marked, but no volunteers were out on the course other than at the end of the first loop to make sure you took the correct split there. This includes the water station (you help yourself from the table if you need it). I did hear that some people may have gone down the wrong way at one part of the course but didn’t see that myself – it wouldn’t have cut much off, but if it ever gets to be a more competitive event, that could be an issue.
  • You will get a scenic course – very scenic.
  • There had been some rain during the week and some parts of the course were soft. I imagine very heavy rains could make some areas very muddy.
  • If you like a small race feel with very friendly people, this is definitely worth a look. I imagine bringing friends to make a day of the wine tasting and food truck festival would be a fantastic day out. I was there with my wife and kids and grabbed some food before we left (we had other things to do later so didn’t stick around past 1 – food festival started at noon). There were not many food truck options. I don’t know if we just got unlucky as I did spot a Facebook post from someone disappointed by the fact there were not as many options as previous festivals at that venue.

In summary, this was a fun event you can make a day of with friends or family and I recommend it for that. I would hope that if it were to grow and attract competitive runners they would introduce more awards to recognize more than just first place (based on the participants that were there, it makes sense to keep it small).

I can’t help but feel the race is a bit too expensive. $35 for a “designated driver” entry (no wine glass/tasting) is a bit higher than most road or park 5ks that have more costs incurred by road closing. For example, I am a race director for the Highland Park 5k, which has an early entry fee of $25 (if you include the $10 entry to the food truck festival as a race cost then it is a similar price, but still without road closing costs). Admittedly those races tend to have sponsors which help to keep the cost down, but if you’re choosing what races to do based on your spending budget, it may put this one lower down your list of choices.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, it was fun, but with the caveat that it’s best planned as a day out with friends.

If you use discount code RUNNJ17 you will save $3 off the registration fee.

Not racing

It’s been a lot longer than I intended between posts. In that time there have been ups and downs, and with the Newport 10k imminent I have to decide whether to run. So far, I have not been able to run the NYC Half, Garden State 10 mile, or the NJ Half this past weekend.

There have been times I’ve been able to run the 10k distance with only minor irritations, but now 3 miles seems to be my limit. I’ve started Physical Therapy (finally) so I’m counting on that to get me running again but obviously with the race this Saturday there’s not enough time.

It’s a shame that, as a blog partner, I may not run it this year but I hope I’m back in time for the Newport Liberty Half (as I’m writing this there is still a bit of time to get the discounted entry for both races) – maybe I’ll run slowly and see how it goes.

My next post will be a review of the Grape Gallop – the post is almost ready but I’ve been delayed by not being able to find my daughter’s camera to use her pictures.

Cautiously coming off rest

I hadn’t meant to leave it this long to update on progress. Originally when I signed up for the Newport 10k again as an official blog partner, I was hoping that the race might be my comeback. In my last blog post I explained why I was taking some time off.

I was stretching, doing core work, riding the Halfbike, doing classes at the gym, etc. in the meantime but my muscles remain (seemingly) as tight as ever. A couple of weeks ago I was very surprised to notice that my ankle was slightly swollen again. How was that possible? If I had run I would have put it down to that again, but this time I hadn’t been doing anything out of the ordinary and it’s been a couple of months since I finally shook that off.

The swelling didn’t last long, but I decided it was enough to call for a visit to the doctor. He sent me for some blood work which all came back clear and is sending me to PT, so we’ll see where that leads.

In the meantime, if it’s not the running causing the problem, I might as well get out to run again. I started by keeping it short, with only about 2.5 miles at a time (about when my lower back starts aching slightly), I’ve extended runs this week to just over 3 miles, with one run of almost 4.5 miles but my Achilles tendonitis has returned.

My speed won’t be there for Newport, or any other race I’m signed up so far, which includes the Grape Gallop on April 23rd (see my last post for a coupon code for any of the 3 Grape Gallop races this year), but it looks like I will probably be there if I can keep things under some sort of control.