The Hardest Race I've Ever Run (So Far)

It's the start of a new week! Are you excited? I know I am! I have a challenging week up ahead, but I'm ready to be back into my regular schedule, with some hot yoga with friends sprinkled in throughout the week.

I've been getting in my marathon training runs, and this heat wave we're beginning to experience in the DC Area isn't making that any easier!

It's been just about a week since running the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon as a BibRave Pro, and while I've been training and playing volleyball and all that jazz, parts of me are still in recovery. Those parts include my poor left foot, one of my toes, and my dignity. :-| In case you couldn't tell from my post image on the left here, this was not my best race ever. I did not PR. I did not smile at the finish line. I did finish, however, and sampled a lot of wine at the finish line. As an athlete, I have known the old adage that, "you win some, you lose some," for quite some time, and I definitely felt that this was true with last week's race. I learned a lot from this race, and I'm taking those lessons with me into my continued marathon training.

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

I don't want you guys to think that this is going to be an entire post ranting and complaining about this race, because it won't be. I actually enjoyed this race for the most part, even though I was challenged by it. It wasn't a packed field (as has been the case with most other recent races I've run over the last year), the swag was great, the course had beautiful scenery, and it was a well-run, well-organized race.

This race features a half marathon and a 2-runner marathon relay race. The race winds through Virginia countryside, taking you past a number of Northern Virginia wineries. It starts and ends at the Doukenie Winery, which is also where the post-race wine festival takes place.

A few days before the race, I thought I'd double check the distance from my house to the race just before booking a hotel room. I originally planned to stay at a hotel because I thought that the race was about an hour away longer than it actually was. It turns out that the hotel I had settled on would've only saved me 30 minutes on race day. Being frugal, I decided to just go to bed early and drive to the race in the morning. Because I would be driving up in the morning, I determined I should head up to the race expo right after work. This turned out to be kind of crazy, as we had a terrible storm blow through the area, and the roads were absolute madness! This actually made me worried about the state of the course the next morning, but things turned out just fine. I did, however, get to the expo about an hour before it closed, so some of the vendors were starting to clean up.

The Race Expo

The expo was at a beautiful location! It was held in a large ballroom in the Landsdowne Resort, located in Northern Virginia. It was a pretty small expo, but it was efficient, and all of the information I needed was all in one place!

At the Destination Races table, the rep asked me, "do you want a water bottle?" Of course I answered yes (ya girl is always thirsty and loves free stuff -- what can I say?), and he let me choose between two super cute bottles! I ended up with a Camelbak water bottle with the Destination Races Virginia Wine Country logo. I picked up my bib (which was in the shape of a wine barrel), my official race shirt (super cute), and a little bag to put everything in.

I did a quick walkabout of the expo, stopped at a few tables, and then hit the road. I had to wake up early!

Race Day

I felt pretty well rested when I woke up on race morning. I ate a little something, drank some coffee, grabbed my bags, and waited for my boyfriend to show up so that I could drive us up to the race. The drive was pretty easy, and we only hit traffic as we reached the winery.

It was warm for a regular day, but HOT for a race day! I was worried it was going to rain, since there had been speculation on The Weather Channel website all week, so I wore a jacket over my BibRave Pro tank. It turns out it wasn't necessary, because I didn't feel a drop of rain, and had to keep it tied around my waist the whole 13.1 miles. Whoops! There were two parking lots for the race -- one for runners who were leaving right after the race, and another for folks who were planning to attend the wine festival after the race. (We parked in the latter.)

There were a lot of people waiting for the portable toilets (kind of foolishly, because people kept telling everyone that there was a second set that were totally vacant, which is where I headed), so they actually held the start line for a few extra minutes so that everyone could start together. I appreciated that, and since it was a smaller race, it was super considerate.

The Race

Alright, so the race was tough. It was hot and hilly, but the most difficult thing for me was that about 1/3 of the race was on dusty, gravel roads. Right around mile 5, there it was. That long, dusty road. Now, I did check out the race info before the race. I knew that there would be a combination of trails and paved roads, but I didn't really recognize that a trail could be a gravel road, or that it would be such a significant amount of the race.

It wrecked me.

Trying not to step on rocks, and trying not to inhale too much dust (or bugs) made the race extra challenging. Now, don't get me wrong! I love a challenge! But, boy, was I unprepared for this challenge! Needless to say, I did not set a new PR. In fact, I barely even finished the race. I felt really defeated around mile 7 or 8. The gravel road just did. not. end. It was hot, I was tired, and I just wanted it all to be over.

I was defeated.

I kept telling myself, "you have to finish! You better run before all the wine is gone! Your friends came to the race to cheer you on and drink wine! SUCK IT UP, REED!" Yep. That's how I kicked myself in the butt and finished the race. As you can see in the main image for this post, I was not a happy camper as I was nearing the final mile. I just wanted it to be over! With just under a mile left, I saw my boyfriend.

"I'm almost done!" I shouted.

"You better be! They're about to close the course!" he replied.

This made me visibly upset, and internally infuriated. I will not get a DNF on this race after running in the heat, over these hills, and on that long gravel road for all this time!

I started running faster, and crossed the finish line. I didn't smile at the finish line, which I'm pretty sure was a first, I collected my medal, and I looked for my boyfriend and friends. I did a quick body scan, and felt a lot of pain in my hips (this started about midway through the race). I got my dignity back in check, changed my shoes, collected my wine glass for the festival, and took some finish line photos. I was not about to waste this beautiful day by spending it being all salty! Plus, I couldn't change anything about my race performance after the race! And so, off to the wine festival I went!

The Wine Festival

For a small-ish event, the wine festival was pretty big! There were a bunch of wineries represented, and I got to sample some truly delicious wines!

What a perfect day for a wine festival! This was actually my first wine festival, and I loved it! The Northern Virginia wines were mostly sweet, which was nice after the race, especially since many of them were chilled. They also had sangria "on tap," which I sipped after finishing tasting all of the wines.

Before we left the tasting area, I discovered that there were massages being offered to runners after the race. I was so bummed that I didn't know this earlier! Fortunately, I got a chance to try the NormaTec Recovery System, which compressed around my lower body and made me feel SO. MUCH. BETTER. pretty much immediately! The compression definitely felt funny at first, but it really was amazing. I just wish that I could use this after every race!

Once the festival was over, I said goodbye to my friends, and my boyfriend drove us back to Maryland. And boy, was I tired!

Having some time to reflect on my race performance was good for me. It forced me to focus more on my marathon training efforts, and set more realistic pace goals. I would caution future runners to train up on trails, since it's a significant portion of the race, but I did love the scenery, organization, and of course the wine festival.


  1. Great job! I recently did a 10k Trail run and it was so hard, I had no idea and really struggled!! Congratulations on pushing through :-)

  2. The Norma Tec Recovery System looks like serious recovering. Is it compression?

  3. even though it was tough- there was wine at the end!! great job for pushin' through it :)

  4. OMG, way to kill it! I think I would've died with those conditions. Also, a wine fest after a race?! Yes, please!

  5. "You better run before all the wine is gone" Never before have I heard a better mid-race-motivational quote, haha! Great job powering through. I really NEED to do a race at a vineyard, how fantastically fun!

  6. "You better run before all the wine is gone" KILLED ME. Great way to stay motivated girl!