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.

Progress update, or “why I should have had PT earlier”

My intention was to keep my blog updated on progress mainly so I can look back on this time if it can help me in the future, but as usual the intention has not turned into action. So, here’s the last month in summary, and now I hope to update more often.

It is clear now that I should have gone to Physical Therapy sooner. The weakness in my right hip probably got worse over the last year as I continued to run with the ankle issues. PT has been working to get rid of my Achilles tendonitis and to strengthen my right hip. I have difficulty finding the time for the exercises every single day but I am gaining strength, and the Achilles problem is getting better.

This past week I decided to run a couple of 5k races, partly because I wanted to see how fast I was, and partly just because I have not done any speed work for a while. On Saturday it was the Pancreatic Cancer 5k in Edison where a 6-year-old girl beat me (she happens to hold the world record for 5 and 6-year-old girls). My time was about what I expected given the circumstances (21:40). My Achilles hurt in my warm up and a little early in the race, which is pretty typical now. My second race was the first RVRR Summer Series race of the year. As it was hot on the day I decided to take it easy but it’s easy to get caught up in the race and soon it turned into another speed workout. This time there was no Achilles pain at the start, but there was after the race.

I finally decided I need to apply my coaching toolbox and set myself a plan to get back to form, so last night I planned to run an easy few miles with RVRR. Early in the run I realized that my cadence seemed low (at least for me – historically I’ve run at 195+), so I wondered if that could be causing issues and spent the rest of the run trying to keep my cadence over 190.

Will it make a difference? I’m not sure, but I ran longer than planned (4 miles instead of 3) and mostly felt good so I will try to maintain that. At around mile 3 I did wonder if my Achilles would hold up as I could feel some pain creeping in, but it ultimately didn’t cause any problems and felt reasonable when I stopped.