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Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon

by Stephanie Suire on September 15, 2014

I love writing race recaps because it gives me a chance to relive the race a second time, which actually helps me prepare for my next race. Two weeks ago I ran the Oregon Wine Country half marathon and I LOVED/HATED it. The HATE part had to do with the end of the course, which I will get to later, but first I have to give a HUGE HIGH FIVE to the race organizer, Destination Races. They did a great job creating an intimate, unique, picturesque and exciting weekend for the half marathon. If my entire vacation budget was not dedicated to my trip to Paris next April to run the marathon, I would already be signed up for another wine country race in 2015!

Trey and I flew into Portland on Friday evening, rented a car and drove straight to the Inn at Red Hills in Dundee, OR. It was around 8 PM when we checked in and as soon as we dropped our luggage in our room, we went back downstairs to the Babica Hen for dinner. After suffering through the Texas heat for the past few months, we were excited to be able to sit on the patio of the restaurant, enjoy a glass of wine and share a flatbread pizza.

Stoller Vineyards

The next morning we were up early for a 9 AM yoga class at Stoller Family Estate followed by breakfast and wine tasting, one of the race “extras” that Destination Races offered over the weekend. Before we drove to yoga, I asked Trey to stop at the Red Hills Market so we could get coffee (required before my husband is able to talk in the mornings) and some food for a picnic lunch later in the day. Red Hills Market ended up being my favorite place to eat the entire weekend and we went back at least two more times for breakfast and lunch. They sell Stumptown coffee, fresh pastries, delicious sandwiches, cheese, wine, olives and more things than I can list. Trust me, if you are in the area, you must make a stop at Red Hills Market.

Yoga at Stoller VIneyards

Breakfast at Stoller Vineyards

Because it was rainy, we ended up doing yoga in the tasting room at Stoller. I’m not going to complain because our we had sweeping views of the vineyards the entire time and it felt great to stretch after the long flight and drive the night before.  Trey changed out of his yoga clothes before we took our picture, he was more excited for breakfast and wine tasting than the yoga. Wine Tasting at Stoller

By 10:30 AM on Saturday, we were starting our first wine tasting of the day! We tasted 5 different wines at Stoller, since I am normally a red wine drinker, I was surprised that I liked the Pinot Noir Rose.  Because the tasting room does not officially open until 11:00 AM, our yoga class had a “private” tasting that morning.

Domaine SereneGrapes on the vineGrapes in the vineyard

Next we headed to Domaine Serene, which is listed as one of the wineries with the best views in the Willamette Valley region. As soon as we entered the gates, I made Trey stop the car so I could take pictures of the vineyards and the plump, ripe grapes on the vines. They are probably being harvested as we speak, as mid-September is harvest season. Even with cloudy skies and light rain, the vineyard was beautiful.

Bottles of wine

Winery tourWinery tour

We met up with my friend Emily, who was also racing the next day, her husband and her parents at Domaine Serene and chatted while Trey and I shared a tasting of the Estate wines. Another reason we chose to visit Domaine Serene was they offer a free tour of the winery on Saturdays at noon.


Picking grapes

Tasting grapes from the vineyard

During the tour, we were encouraged to tour the grounds and they even said we could taste the grapes right off the vine. Trey was more than happy to taste the grapes, which were a little sour and full of seeds. (I prefer the wine over the grapes). The rains started again so we headed for the car to get dry and decided to drive on over to the race expo at the Evergreen Aviation Museum.

Oregon (298)

The coolest part was all of the planes in the museum, mostly military planes with some dating back to WW II including the largest plane I have ever seen, the Spruce Goose which you can see behind me in the picture above.  The expo was fairly small but it was the first expo that featured free wine tastings!After I picked up my shirt and race bib, we were starving so I decided to skip the seminar for new race participants and find a place to have our picnic.

Anne Amie

Patio at Anne AmieAnne Amie view

Wine Tasting

Anne Amie was hosting a wine dinner for race participants that night (another fun race weekend extra), but it sold out before we could get tickets. Since I heard it also had beautiful views of the Willamette Valley, we decided it would be the perfect spot for our picnic.  And Trey did not have to twist my arm to convince me to do another wine tasting.  The patio had breathtaking hilltop views and the sun was starting to peek out from behind the clouds, making it one of my favorite stops of the weekend.

Around 3 PM, I realized that I needed to STOP drinking wine if I wanted to be able to race the next day.  We headed back to the inn and I took a nap before meeting Emily and her husband for dinner at Red Hills Provincial Dining, an intimate restaurant located on the ground floor of an old craftsman house whose owners live upstairs.  After carb loading (and drinking tons of water), we headed to bed to get some sleep before the big race.

Sunrise on race day

Pre race at Stoller

On Sunday morning, it was time to run! The half marathon started at Stoller Estate, so Trey and Emily’s husband drove us to the vineyard and dropped us off around 6:15 AM.  The sun was rising when runners were scattered across the lawn waiting for the race to begin. It was around 55 degrees, cool but not windy or cold, and we had plenty of time to visit the line of porta potties and warm up a little before walking down to the start line. Emily and I decided to start out together, then decide if we wanted to split up during the race. I was going to run intervals, 4 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking. Since Emily attended the race seminar on Saturday, she saw the elevation chart and knew that we had a challenging, hilly course ahead of us.

Start line at Stoller

Sunrise in Oregon

The first few miles were fairly easy and I paced us at around 10:00 minute miles, Emily joined me in my intervals so I would count down “3-2-1″ when it was time to take a 1 minute walk break. When the hills started, we lived for those walk breaks. It felt like the first 7 miles were all hills.  Whenever we were struggling with a hill, we would remind ourselves to look around at the vineyards, orchards and wineries we were passing on the course which is why I LOVED this race.

Oregon Wine Country half marathon

Vineyard views

wine tasting on the course

We ended up running together the entire race and at mile 8, we finally reached what I had been looking forward to the entire race… shots of Pinot noir!  A wine country race would not be complete with a wine tasting on the course. Emily photo bombed my Pinot picture but you can tell she was just as excited as I was for the wine.

At mile 10, we reached the part of the course that made me HATE this race – the gravel.  Miles 10-12 were on a gravel road through some vineyards and orchards. Not only was it hard to run on the gravel but we had two emergency vehicles pass us on the course, kicking up dust and moving us to the side of the road where the gravel was big and loose. At one point, I was trying to run uphill in the gravel and it felt like I was going NOWHERE, Emily was walking next to me as fast as I was trying to run. My calves started to cramp up and we were getting tired and grumpy.  When we finally reached the end of the gravel and had one mile to go, I think we both wanted to give up and walk the rest of the way so we tried to give each other pep talks and keep running intervals.

Finally we could hear the music and the announcer at the finish line, so we knew we were close. After we turned the last corner, we could see the finish line ahead and agreed to run the last half mile.  I had to stop once to stretch my calves again (they were in knots) but we finished strong. Emily even mentioned that she did not leave anything out there on the course, she had no energy left when we crossed the finish line.

Finish line

Me at finish line

Both our husbands and Emily’s family were cheering for us at the finish line, they were so excited but we were both exhausted and trying to put on a smile for our spectators. As soon as I drank some water, I changed out of my running shoes into flip-flops and put on compressions sleeves to help my calves. The finish line included a wine and music festival with wine tastings from the surrounding vineyards.  Emily and I earned our wine (and wine glasses).

Emily and me

Trey and I hung out at the wine and music festival for about an hour, so I was able to visit about 5 different winery tents. My only complaint was there were not enough food vendors at the festival.  Although the runners were given some post race snacks, after running 13 miles I wanted more to eat than a Cliff bar and an apple. I only saw one food vendor among the 25 wine tents at the festival, so we decided to head back to the inn so I could shower and grab some lunch. We also had to check out of the inn, as we were heading up to the coast for the next few days of our vacation. I will give you one guess on what I ate before we left… lunch from Red Hill Market!

Check back on Wednesday, where I wrap up our trip to Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast and our afternoon in Portland…  


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