First off, what an incredible race! Unquestionably one of my best yet - not so much time-wise (official time 2:21:14), but just the overall experience. Let me explain...
My alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 4:15am since we had to drive up to Solvang and the race started at 7am. Jackie and I headed out in the dark, wondering just how crazy we must be to be up that early to run : ) I was really anxious about getting there, finding parking, and catching the shuttle in time - more anxious than I was about running! Turns out my worrying was for nothing because we found prime parking a block from the shuttles and immediately were on our way to the start! When we got there we still had just over an hour to kill. The start was kind of in the middle of nowhere next to a gorgeous field that seemed to glow in the early morning sunrise. We took some pics, hit up the porta potties a couple times, and hung out in a "barn" to stay warm. I also ran into a bunch of people I know - seriously everyone was there! Soon enough it was time to go and we were off!
Jackie & I
I loved this tree!
Sunrise over the meadow : )
Ready to go!
Crowd of runners waiting to start.
Within the first few miles we already encountered some rolling hills. Nothing too bad, and at least we had some downhills, too. During this first part we ran along green and yellow fields, farms with horses galloping around, ranches, and lovely houses. From the beginning I was constantly checking in with Jackie and let her dictate our pace. It was nice to focus on someone else in a race and not be so obsessed with pace and time for once. Plus I carried my camera and had SO much fun taking pics throughout the race. I ended up taking over 100 pics!
Approaching the first big hill...
Pretty orchards : )
Around mile 5 we hit a cute little town (Los Olivos?) with a big crowd of spectators, then it was back into the country! At mile 6 we hit the hill. You could literally see the road wind up the hill and see the runners at the top...where we would eventually be. We kept going up for almost a mile, taking short walk breaks when we needed to, but when we finally got to the top we were rewarded with amazing views of the valley below. And then when we came around to the other side of the hill, we got an even more amazing view of green orchards stretching into the distance. At this point I started smiling and didn't really stop until the end : )
All smiles despite the climb : )
It kept going and going...
The view from the top!
Happy to finally be headed down!
I don't know about this wagon...
The second half of the race was when I had the most fun. I was feeling really good and our pace felt easy. Considering that it used to be my "fast" pace, it seems like I might just be improving : ) I made sure I kept asking how Jackie felt, and she was feeling and looking good. These miles I also seemed to be obsessed with the scenery, especially all the trees! The majority of my pics were taken during this part of the race. I even stopped briefly to take a quick pic of a lone cow : ) At one point I mentioned to Jackie how it was funny that it was called a wine country race and yet we hadn't passed any vineyards, but I spoke to soon. As soon as we turned the next corner we were surrounded by them! There continued to be some rollers but the majority of this part was flat. I zoned out a bit to my music and tried to absorb everything around me. It was great!
The first of many tree photos - I loved them!
Yellow wildflowers : )
A nice guy offered to take our pic!
Spotted: a cow!
Roses : )
When we hit mile 10 I decided to make a video to celebrate! I was just in such a good mood at that point : ) I think at this point Jackie knew we were close and got excited to finish so we chatted away the next couple miles. We were literally out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by beautiful countryside : )
Surrounded by countryside.
So happy : )
We continued to enjoy ourselves and I told her when we hit mile 12 we would pick it up as much as we could to see what we had left with the justification that "we can do anything for one mile". So when we saw the 12 mile marker she turned up her music and took off! Just as we were really cruising, however, we hit some final rollers - go figure!
I love this one! That's us!
The road ahead...
A lovely downhill : )
Jackie at mile 11!
One more to go, time to pick it up!
We pushed on and finally made the turn back into downtown Solvang and sprinted in to the finish. We collected our (hideous) medals, grabbed some water, and tried to get away from the crowd. I felt fantastic and I was so proud of Jackie for finishing her first official half! We eventually made our way to the finish festival in cute little Solvang Park.
We did it!
Solvang - finish line in the background!
At the finish line festival.
Holding my wine glass!
We ran into my former TNT coaches at the Team tent and chatted for a bit before I went to collect my souvenir wine glass. I decided to skip the wine tasting, however, in favor of getting some food - we were both starving! After wandering around the adorable streets of Solvang we settled upon a little Dutch restaurant called the Red Viking (haha!) where I ordered the most delicious omellette of my life! My mouth waters just thinking about it : ) When we finished eating hit the road back to Santa Barbara, where I took a much needed nap and spent the rest of the day being lazy. I definitely recommend doing this race - it was a truly incredible experience on so many levels!
Solvang is so cute! I loved this windmill : )
Nom nom nom.
p.s. Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, especially mine : ) She's my mentor, my biggest fan, my best friend, and an incredible woman. Love you!
♥ ♥ ♥