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.

St Ives 10k in England

It seems to be pretty normal for me to look for races when travelling, and this trip included a 10k on Sunday. In my last post I mentioned that I may fill my blog with my runs in England, but after that post my Achilles was pretty bad, and being on vacation I decided to take a break instead. There was plenty of walking during the vacation so I was at least active.

So, after 9 days without a run I went along to the St Ives 10k unsure of how it would work out. The morning started with a 3k fun run that my kids entered. They had a lot of fun and got a medal (not at all bad for the very reasonable entry fee).

The 10k started at 10:30am. I didn’t know anything about the course and thought I would take it easy to start to see how my ankle would hold up. Of course, I failed. It seems that racing brings out a need to push myself. At first it felt easy but I knew I would need to ease back a little on the initial pace because I have only run 6 miles a couple of times in recent months.

Soon after the start the course turned up a gentle hill towards an airfield. A left turn took us into a strong headwind and a long straight with a slight uphill grade (I’m glad I didn’t know how long that section would be – sometimes it’s better not to know the course). Of course, we had the tailwind on the way back, but I knew how long that straight section was and psychologically it was tough.

By around 5 miles I was suffering – this photo at the finish shows that. Despite that I managed to finish in 45:32. It’s a long way off my times from even last year.

As for the Achilles, that was painful at the finish but not noticed during the run. The worse problem was the next day (and the day after), my calf, quads, everything were incredibly tight. I haven’t felt like this after a run outside of running marathons.

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.