Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dear 2011 Fueled By Fine Wine Half Marathon

I was wrong about you, Fueled by Fine Wine half marathon. I was wrong when, a few days ago, I e-mailed a friend who ran it alongside me last year:
Back in my day, the Fueled by Fine Wine half-marathon was difficult.

Last year's course --

Kids these days have it so easy. This year's course --

Having run the event today in 1:43:44 (7:55 mile/min), I now realize you maintained your humbling, mind-boggling level of difficulty despite the course changes. As it was last year, so this year: no race has ever given me a stronger urge to stop and rest along the way.

This year's version managed to begin breaking spirits from the very start, when we looped through lovely neighborhood streets of Dundee, Oregon along a path that only a sadistic track coach could dream up. I exaggerate not at all when I report that very fit looking runners were already reduced to walking within the first two miles. Subsequent miles had us passing over hill after hill on a thorough sampler of ground surfaces found in the Willamette Valley: asphalt, concrete, gravel, grass, dirt, and the tractor ruts of tilled fields. I adore that those surfaces did this to my shoes (today's shoes on the left; a previous generation of the same model, size, and style of shoe on the right, shown for contrast):

Shoes after a race should look like they've been in a race.

As I said, I was wrong. You retain your reputation for difficulty, and that would make you extraordinary and worth cherishing, but you also continue to tower above all other races in my experience in quality of swag (see above for a sample), quality of post-race treats (wine from the very same vineyards we ran through; excellent bread and cheese; fresh strawberries and bananas), and quality of finisher shirt.

On top of all that, I can think of one or two races that match, but none that exceed the natural beauty of your course -- every vista atop every hill looked like a well-composed pastoral painting. I only wish I had been freer to take my concentration off my footing to enjoy it more.

This race's organizers deserve to be counted as the models of all race organizers. The volunteers were unfailingly generous, and as I always say, but with more emphasis: I heartily congratulate everyone who finished this race today.


Carmel said...

You got cheese AND fruit? I was left with just bread...but I finished almost a full hour after you.

That was a brutal, but lovely, race. Thanks for such a great recap. I will share with my friends who may not believe how hard those hills were!

missme311 said...

I love this blog:-) I also ran this yesterday and within the first two miles was thinking "what did I get myself into?!" I'm pretty sure my friends think I'm lying when I tell them how brutal this course was so I sent them this link:-) And though I came in about an hour after you at 2:39:58 this race has been one of my greatest acomplishments EVER! I'm new to running so this was only my 2nd half marathon. It was awesome!

Unknown said...

I teared up reading! Well said as this was my second year running as well. I feel proud to have accomplished what I did for this race and the afterparty was steller!

Dale said...

Carmel, Missme311, Unknown, many thanks for the comments.

I hope I have done my small share toward helping people understand this course *hurts!* It brings pain! And then you go up a hill or two to find more pain. And then steeply down, down, then back up, and up again, and up again, and up again, and -- lo and behold -- there's more pain up there too.

Then finally they let you stop. And yes, Carmel, there was bread -- really good bread. I am sorry you didn't get any.

But wasn't it fantastic in every way? I can't say enough about it. My friends have basically asked me to shut up about it, and I keep telling them I DO shut up about it when I'm asleep.

Congratulations on pushing through this one. Well done. You really accomplished something.

Carmel said...

I got more than enough bread...just no cheese! :) The wine was delicious and the views were spectacular. It was really a unique experience and I'm glad I did it. But yes, there was pain...a lot of it.

Congrats to all of us!

Dale said...

Carmel, of course! My mistake.

Well, the cheese was excellent. Maybe next year.

Dave said...

It was brutal. Can't wait for the next one.