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Rock n Roll Discount!
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January 2018
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"Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose." ~C. S. Lewis

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PostHeaderIcon Finding balance in the wine country

Oh Sonoma – you were indeed the charm. Third wine country run, all through Destination Races, and it was the best one for a number of reasons. Healdsburg last October was a great course, but super rainy the night before and pretty wet on the course, plus the bus to pick up 250 of us runners at the Santa Rosa Hyatt never showed so a bunch of us started the race late and stressed (reminder though that no matter what, your time never starts until your chip crosses the start line.) It was my best run time up till then, so that was pretty exciting for me. Plus being able to sip wine post-race and then go back and cheer runners in was a blast. Santa Ynez, well, the hills killed me and I wasn’t in top form for the race mentally or physically.

But Napa to Sonoma – while the Expo was a little trampled on by the time I got there Saturday afternoon, all in all it was a great experience. I’m used to many of my races being Rock And Roll organized and anywhere from 20K to 35K runners involved. So, a smaller race can be a refreshing change as well, can be not as well organized with more glitches which of course can affect the race experience. But to be able to start at a winery my family used to drive by on the way to visit my grandparents and end in the Sonoma Square, creating new memories for a special place, was just perfect. The hills were rolling, the scenery was beautiful and the weather ideal for a race. Granted, I was almost a little disappointed it wasn’t hotter, only from the standpoint of some introduction to what the next two to three races might be like. As a stand alone race though, ideal weather – cool, not too cold, light mist and clouds, opening up to a stunning sunny gorgeous day.

And what a treat for me – my friends Bob and Carl invited me to stay in their guest cottage at their home in Santa Rosa. Just the perfect relaxing way to unwind before a race, get a good night’s sleep and relax post-race. And to have them eagerly support me – getting up at 5am to drive me 45 minutes to the start of the race, knowing they’d be there at the finish line, and they were, so excited for me, it got me even more excited about my time and how the race went. To be able to share details about the race right afterwards and see and hear them get inspired to explore the possibilities for them, I don’t know, it’s hard to put into words, but it was exactly the kind of support literally and figuratively I needed for this race. Not that I’m not capable of pulling of one of these weekends completely solo (hi, Chicago!) but it was really lovely to have dear friends so generous of their time and support in such a positive way. Truly a weekend that that made a difference and was so appreciated.

Granted, the tough part for me was going out to dinner the night before, being told it’s a 20 minute wait, and since we’re in Healdsburg, walking exactly next door for a wine tasting. It took every ounce of will power I had not to have more wine that night than I knew was smart or responsible of me. Thankfully I can pull up the memory of Phoenix in January and practically feeling the ill-self-advised second beer on mile four, thinking “oh, there it is, and hello unwelcome and could’ve-been-avoided dehydration to help me say no, I’ll wait till after the race to have a second glass. But oh, wine country, you make it so hard! Then again, I’m working on finding the balance of better enjoying these race weekends, whether location or friends or both, while still remaining as competitive as I can, as makes sense for me. If there’s any place to work on that, it’s a wine country race.

Great sleep in the cozy cottage, and another early start. Is it weird I’m getting used to 4:30am wake up calls? But I turn on the coffee, get my yogurt and banana bad self moving, stretching it out and trying not to get back into bed. Start my morning of routine, and suddenly get a 4:45am “go get ’em” text which was pretty spectacular – do you know what it does to my energy to know that someone out there made a point to get their ass up, even more a minute, just to send me that text? It’s not all solo out here, I guess. My energy is building and I’m now pretty excited to get this race going, got my racing outfit on, bib number pinned, KT Tape laid on, and my hip and shoulder aren’t too awake yet, so maybe that’s a good sign. Bob and Carl are waiting for me in the kitchen and we’re off. And then here come the nerves! I know they’re considered a good sign, and I take them that way. Never quite sure when they’ll kick in – night before, during the night, when I wake, at the start line or what.

While it’s the wine country and the way to get to most places is really just one road, the traffic isn’t impressive, which is impressive. Not long before I’m in the right-before-the-start ritual of a porta potty line, making conversation with those around (we runners are a chatty bunch!) and dropping the gear bag. Every runner has a story, including the Novato woman who had her ACL scoped in May and this was her first race back, she was just hoping to finish, that was her goal. And that inspired me too – especially when I saw her in he eight minute mile corral! Something just felt good about this race – people were in good moods, the course started with a hill and really nothing tougher after that and great spectators.

And when I say great spectators, it was fun. While this time I did have my music, which I admit I thoroughly enjoyed, occasionally you could hear them yelling for people. People they didn’t know but could yell their names. See, again because it was a smaller race, the bibs had your first name on them. So every once in a while I’d hear “go Gretchen!” or “keep it up Gretchen!” or “Yay Gretchen!”. And crazy enough, knowing full well they weren’t someone I knew, it was awesome. Once I even turned around as a late reaction thinking I knew them, cause I’d just heard my name, but didn’t and I smiled to myself for the next mile. And watching some of the http://www.ccteamchallenge.org/ coaches double back or run with some of their runners, or just stand on the side of the road and cheer their folks on was also pretty inspirational. And the big tall that-guy-would-crush-me runner who stopped to cheer people on, I ran right by him and this big deep voice bellowed out “keep going, Gretchen, you got this!” was awe-some. Hell ya. And the best was coming in down the 12 into the final stretch and some of the elite runners, including a number from Kenya who I can’t believe we’re in this little itty bitty race, cheering the rest of us in, and hearing one yell “Go Gretchen, looking good!” Wow. Talk about making my day. Almost don’t care about my time, the experience was just so good. Wait, is that balance?

Speaking of – yes, was scoping out for mile 10 and trying to spot the wine tasting. When I got that email a few days before the race announcing Gundlach Bundschu was going to be serving wine tasting around mile 10, I thought, you know, why not. I’m talking about enjoying these more, why not. No other race I’ve done before had this, and perhaps no other will (ok, a random bar on the course in Vegas last year served shots of beer, but not the same…) so I got to try it. Got to the mile 10 marker, didn’t see anything and though, “wow, I really just made something crazy up in my head, it was a dream email, not for real?” and the – AH HA! Was a little past mile 10 and at the winery entrance. Now, I wasn’t sure for sure at that point that I even felt like having a taste or a sip of wine – not exactly what you’re craving at that point. And so I ran past, thinking, c’mon, feeling good, playing with your gait, only three miles to go. And then I stopped, and doubled back and grabbed a cup. Again, when else is this going to happen and I just had to try it. Now, it was just a sip, and I wondered if I’d taken more if I would’ve felt it and would it have affected my last three miles. As it was, a couple sips of it did nothing except burn a little going down and for a few seconds. I did see others stopping and I appreciated that we all made the effort. And now I can say I did it. But it was weird, no doubt about it.

So another one down, and already number seven. Race #7 in the 7th month, on the 17th day. All seems appropriately laid out, as it should be. Can’t believe seven are already done, and only have four to go. Definitely in the review and assessment thus far phase. Wondering about my time goals, and how busy life has gotten and how it’s kind of taken me away from the kind of training I wanted to do to get there, and if it’s about getting the 11 done in ’11 and doing fewer next year, but going for faster times. Don’t know, still thinking about it in different ways. We’ll see. One thing I know, is I loved this race, it felt good, it was fun, I had great support and they were totally into it which got me more into it, the course was beautiful, I made some new memories in places I’ve been wanting to, my hip is so far so good one day post, and I all in all it was a great weekend. Thanks, Napa to Sonoma – great set up for a great experience.

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