Virginia Wine Country Half – Race Recap!

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” 
-John Bingham


It’s Monday night and I think I might still be on a running high from Saturday’s race.

Rewind to Thursday. I packed up my car Thursday morning and left for Virginia straight from work that afternoon. I was anxious to get to my hotel and start race weekend! I didn’t get to the hotel until around 8, made myself comfortable, and got to sleep at an early hour. I woke up at about 6 AM on Friday (side note: why does this always happen when you don’t have to work??!) threw on some running clothes and met Team Challenge Carolinas in the lobby for a pre-race “fun run”. I didn’t know anyone on the team since they trained about 3 hours from me, so this was a good chance to put some names to my Coach’s faces and talk to a few of the people on the team. We did a very easy 2 miles around the hotel (another side note: who would’ve thought 6 months ago that I would use the words “easy” and “miles” in the same sentence?). My legs were feeling fresh and I was feeling a little more confident in the 13.1 miles that loomed in the near future.

Friday afternoon, my parents finally made it into town and we immediately made our way to Lansdowne Resort to get my bib from the expo and head over to the pasta party. The expo was in a tiny ballroom and was absolute chaos, so I didn’t really get to look around like I’d wanted to do. I did however catch a quick sighting of Jeff Galloway! Super exciting. Immediate regret that I didn’t stalk him down and get a picture with him.

After the quick stop at the expo, we finally met up with Team Challenge Carolinas and made our way over to the “Inspirational Pasta Dinner”. I loaded my plate up with piles of carbs and sat down with my parents and some other runners from our team. I could write an entire blog post on this pasta dinner. When CCFA titled this an Inspirational Pasta Dinner, they weren’t kidding. The best part of the evening was listening to a man from the Southwestern Ohio Chapter speak about why he is a part of Team Challenge. He told us all about his daughter and her battle with Ulcerative Colitis, the depression she had gone through due to the never ending pain, illness, and feelings that she was never even safe to leave her apartment. His daughter finally opted for surgery and was feeling better and decided to sign up to run with Team Challenge. Her dad described the run as a sort of “closure” for her and told us all about their run, including how they ran through the finish line hand in hand. It was one of the most touching stories I have ever heard, I get chills even thinking about it. They also announced top fundraisers at the dinner…the #1 fundraiser this year raised $30,000!! That is AMAZING. Overall, 1.6 million dollars was raised to benefit research for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. I left that dinner ready to sign up for my next Team Challenge race.

After the pasta dinner, we had a quick team meeting to go over everything for race day. Luckily the hotel was having a free happy hour which kept me from feeling too terrified. ;) Then it was time to set out all my race day gear and try to get to sleep early!

who said that running is cheaper than therapy?

i surprisingly didn’t launch my phone at the wall at 4am when it went off

I actually slept most of the night and wasn’t ready to crawl into a hole at 4 AM. I got myself ready and took some extremely important pictures, such as this:

this is what “delirious” looks like

By 5 AM our team was on the bus and headed towards the race. It was about 45 minutes from our hotel…needless to say, it was a struggle to stay awake for the trip to the race start. By the time we made it to the winery the sun was starting to rise and it looked absolutely gorgeous. Luckily this kept me occupied from noticing the hills all over the freaking place.

my phone obviously does it zero justice…but so gorg.

Anyways-this gave us quite a bit of time to stand around and do nothing. It was perfect race weather and was in the 50s when we first got there. Hence: I was freezing my tush off for about an hour.7 AM started nearing and everyone began getting in place behind the start line. The race wasn’t big enough to have corrals, but there were pacers to go off of where you should stand. 7AM came and went and we were all still just standing around. There were no announcements made by race officials and no one really knew why we were still waiting. Luckily, I made a nice new race friend Sam who was also running for Team Challenge Long Island and kept me company until we finally started the race almost 40 minutes late!

ready to go!!

And we were off!! I was surprised about how not nervous/terrified/peeing my pants I was! I started my Garmin, put in my music, and headed out for my very first half marathon. The first few miles were extremely packed with people and I felt like I was running through a maze trying to dodge runners and walkers left and right. I was already having a blast. Swear to you – I don’t think the goofy grin left my face for the first 2 hours of running. I was so excited and proud to be running this race. The entire course was gorgeous – we were running through vineyards, farms, rolling hills, and past some of the most beautiful scenery. The sun was shining and the air was crisp, I couldn’t have asked for a better race morning. The first 6 or 7 miles went by really fast and I felt awesome. The course was relatively hilly, and by about mile 7 it started to take its toll on my running. There were a few steeper climbs and we also started running on gravel – something I never ever do.

hello there, steady inclines.

I swear that downhill at mile 4 never happened. Just sayin.

Anyhow – at about mile 6.5 we went off the loop a little bit and actually got to run through a winery parking lot that had a live band and little shots of wine for a run through “wine tasting”. Of course I took a little shot, just to say I did it. ;) Lets just say that wine + running, not that delicious. This was also the spot where I slowed down and did my first minute walk of the course. I was so proud that I lasted so long before feeling like I needed to walk for a minute.

The next few miles went by relatively fast as well. There were a few tough steady inclines, but every time things seemed to get tough I would see a Team Challenge coach or cheer station and they would give me the boost to keep on going. This was one of my favorite parts of the race. The camaraderie of the Team Challenge runners was amazing.

By about mile 10.5 I was really starting to struggle. My legs were very tired and I just wanted a nice downhill to breeze through. Luckily, I spotted one of our Team Challenge Carolinas coaches and waved her down. The coaches were amazing and were really focusing between miles 10 – 13 to help runners finish up those last few miles and push through. Marissa ran with me until around mile 12 and it was SO nice having someone there to keep me mentally accountable and going. However, miles 11-13 were definitely the longest 2 miles I have ever run in my life. I was ready for the race to be over and wanted desperately to cross the finish line strong. It was finally in sight and I just zoned in on crossing it in under my goal time. As I got closer, I finally spotted my parents and my two friends Kelli & Lindsey, which was such a relief. The goofy grin was back in full force and I finally made it across the finish line!

positive splitting for the win

2:26:52. 3 minutes under my goal of 2:30.

I can’t even begin to describe how it felt to finish this race. (Other than being a little dizzy, desperately needing water, and my calves screaming at me) I felt on top of the world. I have never been so proud of myself.

all the way from OH! thanks Mom & Dad :)

amazing friends :)

This race is definitely in top 5 for best moments of my life. Who knew that I’d be running 13.1 miles when I could barely run 1 mile just 6 months ago? This just goes to show that you can do anything you set your mind to. 

So get out there & do something amazing. Do something difficult. Do something you never thought you could accomplish. 

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5 responses to “Virginia Wine Country Half – Race Recap!

  1. WAY TO GO!!! That was an incredibly tough course for a first half marathon – GReat job!!!! You know that you are just going to have to try the full marathon now — it’s only twice as far, come on you can do it!!! Again Congratulations Kayla!

  2. Nicole Schechter

    Way to go Kayla. I am very proud of you and your blog made me cry. :)

    Love ya,

  3. YAY congrats on the sub 3-min goal time!!!!!
    I hope you recovered well and are having a great weekend!

  4. Congrats on your first half!!! That’s a huge accomplishment, and you killed it! I predict a very speedy race career in your future :)

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