Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon

The inaugural Santa Barabara Wine Country Half Marathon. Starting in scenic Santa Ynez, the course passed through the quaint town of Los Olivos before finishing on Copenhagen Drive in the heart of historic Solvang.

Race day, the sun didn’t rise, a grey, flat and decidedly cool (early 50’s Fahrenheit with a slight breeze) sky greeted the 2000 or so runners in sleepy Santa Ynez on Sunday May 13th. I had unfortunately not had the best of warm ups despite getting there early I spent too long in the lines for the porta-potties, so my warm up consisted mainly of jiggling about on the spot; it was cold and I needed to pee, followed by a short ¾ mile run and some stretching. I managed to score a place near the front of the runners and after several cries of “two minutes to go”, we went. Rounding the first turn we were greeted with a series of roller coaster up and downs, at this point I wonder if driving the course the day before would have been a good thing, later on I realize it would have not.

I had set my Garmin Forerunner with an 8min/mile pace alarm, this would give me a 1:45 finish and I am armed with my trusty Goalpace G-Band to allow me to check on my mile splits. I am determined to run my own race as this will provide me with the on-target benchmark for my projected 4:00 for San Diego in June and 3:30 for San Francisco in July (there I have publicly said it). Miles 1 through 4 pass by and my splits are on target: Mile 1: 7:52 / Mile 2: 7:41 / Mile 3: 7:33 / Mile 4: 7:52

This is for a total elevation gain of around 175’. At this point I am about a minute up on time, so far so good, although my right calf is just letting me know its there and my right groin, which I have been fending away from injury with copious amounts of ice, sends me a couple of gentle ‘yoo-hoos” along the way. Mile 4 through 6.5 gave us a few more rollers and as we round the bend we are given a view of the “corkscrew” a series of switchbacks over a quarter mile for a elevation gain of 180’, now my mathematics is pretty poor but I am told that’s a 14.5% grade – I know now why I was glad I had not driven the course the previous day. So onwards and upwards we went, it actually wasn’t that bad, I passed the lone hand-cranker who was turning quite purple; he obviously sailed past me on the way down, reached the top went over to be faced with roughly the same slope going down. Now as everyone runner knows downhill’s are really just as bad as uphill’s, my quads certainly can vouch for that. I remember reading that you should lean down the hill and I can say that this does seem to make things easier. I am bang on with my splits: Mile 5: 7:46 / Mile 6: 7:52 / Mile 7: 8:02

Mile 7 through 11 was downhill all the way dropping 425’, this was in the back country and behind fences either side of the road we were treated to majestic views of horse ranches, fruit orchards, lavender farms and vineyards. At 11.5 we had our last ‘bump’ of 100’ over a quarter mile; I just want to say this is how the course was described on the website “…the first six miles of the course is relatively flat, then after a short hill climb at mile 6 the final 6.5 miles are mostly downhill and fast…”, just so you know why I keep talking about elevation.

There is some truth to the last word though as I picked up some speed: Mile 8: 7:12 / Mile 9: 6:59 / Mile 10: 7:07 and Mile 11: 7:15. The last mile saw us entering Solvang and to cries from the local crowd I rounded the last bend and sprinted over the finish line. Chip off, Medal on, finished; Mile 12: 7:51 Mile 13+.1:7:35.

Some stats; Mile 9 was my quickest mile, and thanks to my technologically quipped body I can tell you that for that mile my heart rate was lower by 1 beat per minute than my average for the race of 163, my max bpm was 183 during the sprint finish (interestingly (or not) this is 2bpm above what the maximum for my age should be 220 – 39 = 181), I also spent 80% of the time in my 80-90% heart rate zone of my max heart rate (181).

Results: I had aimed for a steady 1:45 to project onto next month’s marathon target of 4:00, I actually finished in 1:37:32, 7.5 minutes under my target and giving me a sub 100 minute time – needless to say I am chuffed to bits.

Lessons learned: Run your own race, tempting as it is to be a quick starter this is folly, set your pace in advance and stick to it.

I seem to have my pre and during race nutrition dialed in, this comprises:

•1.5-2 hours before: 10fl oz of ‘Naked’ Superfood, I get whichever one on the shelf has the most carbohydrates, although the green one is a little unsightly in the wee hours mixed with Optimum Nutrition Whey protein powder
•1 hour before: Cliff Builder Bar from the freezer, as it’s frozen it takes longer to chew
•During last hour: 20fl oz bottle of Amino Vital

During the race I rely on what I can carry, I know what I like and I am not a big fan of Gatorade, so in either a Fuel Belt or my Fastdraw Plus I have Accelerade along with CarbBoom gels. I need to be more consistent with my gels and have them earlier than when I feel I need them, currently every 8 miles, probably every 6 will work better.

Finally you can always go a bit faster, I was mentally expecting to be puking on my shoes at the end and wasn’t.

This is the MotionBased map for the race as downloaded from my Garmin Forerunner, I do not know why it only measured it as 12.95, I can only assume that it is because of the "disrupter"; they are never 100% accurate so people cannot reverse engineer the actual sallelite's location.


  1. Congrats on the pace. That's great! I love hills, but going down always makes my hips hurt. Nice report. :)

  2. Thanks for letting me konw about this report. I'm looking foward to this race. My grandparents actually live ON the race course - so it will be cool to pase their house.


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