On Sunday, September 4th, I lined up and ran the Wine Country Half Marathon, for the second time.  This fantastic race is situated in my home town, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

The half marathon starts at The Vibrant Vine Winery and it winds through beautiful East Kelowna bench.  Incredible views of the city and Okanagan Lake can be seen at multiple spots along the route.     The race started at 7 am and the announcer stated that there were over 1200 participants!  I was looking for the 1:45 pace bunny but there was none to be found.  My good friend and running buddy, when we get a chance to run together, RJ, was the 1:30 pace bunny, Dustin was the 2:00 pacer and Jennifer was the 2:30 pacer.  There was also a 1:40,, 1:50, 2:45 and 3:00 pacers for this race.

Rob running around a corner, going to his right. He has little blue cotton gloves on, so this is near the beginning of the race.

Looking to pass on the left

It was great to see a bunch of my Kelowna running friends out, ready to race!  The morning was overcast and warm, much warmer than what I expected.  I arrived at the start line about 630 am, not too early to stand around for a long time before the run began.  I was hoping to run between 1:40 and 1:45.  In 2015, I did not run as much as I had in the past.  2016, a brand new year, I am back to loving the running and trying pick up my pace.  Doing a lot more speed work and distance training than I did last year, I was pretty confident that it would be a good race.

Eye of the Tiger and Uptown Funk played and we were called to the start line and we were off.   There is a little bit of a downhill right off the start as you leave Vibrant Vine.  From there, you turn left and you end up doing a horseshoe shaped loop until you turn left onto Hart Road.  The view from Hart road is amazing!  On a clear day, you get a great view of the entire Okanagan Valley, the lake, the vineyards and Kelowna.  I started off at a good pace, just over 5 minutes/km.  Hart road is quite a bit down grade, I hit 4:40 min/km, I thought that was a little bit too quick for me off the bat.  I am much more of a slow starter and like to do a negative split (which I achieved on this race).

From Hart Road, you go down, then you go up.  Up, up, up, take a left on Spiers Road and go up some more.  Turn right onto Todd Road and go up a little more.  Todd Road has some ups and downs, then turn right on to Saucier Road.  Saucier has a slight uphill grade.

Rob is looking right at the camera, waving his right hand. He is wearing little blue cotton gloves, so this picture was taken at the beginning of the race.

Waving to all my fans, lol

There is a lot of down and up during the first 10 km in the race.  Then it comes… It sounds like it is a great idea but you, the runner, really need to take heed of the next section of the race.  You turn right from Saucier Road on to Bedford Road… and so it begins.  I am talking about the downhill section.  It is about 2 – 2.5 km of downhill, not slight downhill but I would say about 6-8% grade.  It is quad shredding, leg pounding, foot stomping downhill.  I was passed by a number of people running down that downhill section.  There was one girl that passed me on the downhill section and by the bottom she was 500+m ahead of me.  I played it conservative on the hill to save my legs for the flat last 6-7 km.   Be cheered along the way by Christy and Vik at multiple locations, they were on their bikes, was great encouragement.

At the bottom, of the ‘great hill’, is the check point, 12.5 km and where the relay change, did I mention that you could do it in a relay, occurs.  Just before the Mission Creek Greenway.  You get onto the Greenway for about a mile, and you emerge on Lakshore Road.  From there, the route is quite flat, you vs. what you did not burn out of your legs going down that crazy, steep, long hill.  I think I passed about 15 people on this last stretch.  You run past Rotary Beach, through the ever popular Gyro beach, caught and passed that girl that flew by me on the downhill, along the big house Abbott Street, past the hospital and take a left on Lake Avenue.  You cross over Mill Creek, through the tunnel, around City Park, which is a great place to hang out, past the Kelowna Yacht Club, , take a sharp left and you are in the finishing stretch at the Delta Grand lagoons.  The official course map can be found here.

You see the back of Rob and the finish line only about 30 meters in front of him.

The finish line in sight

Rob has his head down, concentrating just before the finish line. He is sprinting.

Sprinting towards the finish, digging deep.

My time, on my watch, 1:45:00.  The official chip time, 1:44:58.  I was really impressed.  I finished about 6 minutes faster than I did the year before.  I was very happy with my run.  It was a suffer fest, the last 3 km, which I know like the back of my hand, seemed to be so slow, barely being able to keep 5 min/km pace.

Rob posing with a sign on his right shoulder. The sign says '#Crushed IT'

Posing after the race
#CrushedIt

After I recovered, we, Charlene and I, found the selfie stand and took a couple of pics.

I look forward to running this race again next year and improving my time even more.

How did I survive that long  downhill run and still  have enough in the tank?  With four weeks out from the race, I added in a long hill run.  The run, which I learned from Christy last year, was from McColluch Station Pub, all the way up to Gallagher’s Canyon Golf course and back.  As just stated, it is an out and back run, 5 km uphill and then 5 km downhill section.  With the last km being steep.  It is a great way to practice your downhill running technique.

One issue with running downhill is that almost everybody tends to over stride.  One way to combat that is to try and land on your forefoot when running downhill.  It is very difficult to do, but if you think of doing this one trick, it will increase your cadence and force you to take a smaller step when going downhill, which will lead to less forces going through the body = less chance of injury.  Give it a try and tell me what you think of my technique!