Avenue of the Vines Half-Marathon Race Report

I didn’t even sign up for this race until Wednesday. It has been a little over seven months since my heart attack, and while my training has been going well, I only had one run at this distance – and managed only a 10:13 pace.

Still, I was coincidentally scheduled for another 13-miler on Sunday, so why not run it with 553 other people? The Avenue of the Vines Half-Marathon is held in Lodi, California, and if you like long, flat straightaways for miles on end, this is the race for you. The entire race is on paved surface, past vineyards and, unfortunately, a whole lot of cows. There’s a half-mile stretch around mile 5 that will definitely speed up your pace.

The weather in northern California this time of year is usually very mild, bordering on hot. But today was overcast, with threats of thunderstorms and temps in the mid-40s. Fortunately, the great downpour didn’t hit until after the race, and the conditions were just about perfect for running.

I didn’t have a time goal. I just wanted to avoid a three-mile death march at the end. So I started very conservatively.

Mile 1 – 10:50

Mile 2 – 10:29

Mile 3 – 10:22

A lot of people at the back of the pack do a lot of gabbing – even the ones wearing headphones. I prefer silence, so I was motivated to pick it up and find some solitary space as the crowd thinned out.

Mile 4 – 9:54

Mile 5 – 9:56

Mile 6 – 10:00

I was simply cruising at this point. My heart rate was in the mid-120s, so I had some room to move. I was also spurred to run hard by a guy in front of me who was wearing a t-shirt that read: “No excuses, just run.”

He was walking.

Mile 7 – 9:40

Mile 8 – 9:29

Mile 9 – 9:34

I hit the halfway point at about 1:06:54, which if could average 10-minute miles the rest of the way would have put me on track for about a 2:13 finish. Better than my worst, but if I picked it up a bit, I knew I could end up with a sub-10 pace for the whole race.

Mile 10 – 9:16

Mile 11 – 9:05

I felt GREAT! Sure, I could have been kicking myself for being too slow in the beginning, but let me tell you, there is nothing like the feeling of blowing past people with three miles to go. I’ve been on the other side of that too many times, and I could feel the seething hatred. Now I started to pick targets.

“That guy’s too fat to be in front of me.”

“Her form is falling apart.”

“That old dude is probably in my age group.”

Mile 12 – 8:54

Mile 13 – 8:22

I have pretty light footfalls, and I absolutely ninja’ed a guy with about a half-mile to go. He damn near went sideways as I rushed past.

Finish – 2:06:54. 260th of 554. 26th of 36 in age group.

Hard to describe how great this was. This was my 15th half-marathon, and I think it was my third-worst finishing time. But I haven’t felt that free and easy during a distance race in years. I ran the second half in one hour flat, for a 7-minute negative split.

The finish line goodies were inside the Woodbridge Winery, where I received a souvenir wine glass, about a half-ounce of a fair zinfandel, and a delicious spicy veggie wrap.

I have an echocardiogram scheduled for Tuesday. I’m interested to hear what they say about my progress, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be bad news.