Name of the race: Grape Gallop
Where: Alba Vineyards, Milford, NJ
Date: May 9, 2015
Time: 10:00 am
Distance: 2 miles (a little short) & 3.5 mile
Terrain: Cross-country, grass, hills, gravel road
Race + Wine Tasting
Early Bird (by September 10)
Pre-Registration (by October 8)
Day of RaceDesignated Driver (No Tasting)
Pre-Registration (by October 8)
Disclosure: I received a free entry in exchange for spreading the word about this race and to blog about my experience.
Swag: Short-sleeved tech shirt, no-stem wine glass, swag bag
Post-race Food: Cheese and crackers, granola bars, bananas, water, and wine
Performance: Overall 1st place for women for 2-mile race
Weather: 68 degrees, 78% humidity
One way to guarantee a good time is to outright win the race! Thank you to Robert, the race director of Grape Gallop, for letting me win the race. I kid, I kid. There was no shenanigans from Robert or anyone involved in the organization, but I was completely surprised and thrilled when I ran toward the finish line and a couple people scurried in front of me to hold out the tape.
When I spoke to Robert in order to get more info about the event, he warned that the course was tough. He wasn’t kidding. There were two different races – 2-mile and 3.5 mile. The two-mile course took you around and through Alba Vineyards. The 3.5-mile course had an extra loop after the 2-mile course for the additional distance. He warned that the terrain was not a flat road race, but true cross-country running on grass, mud, hills, and gravel roads. Yup, all true!
Ben and I woke up on the earlier side to drive to Milford, NJ. There was free parking available at the vineyard.We arrived around 9:30, quickly got the race packet and waited around for the race to start. They lined all of the runners at the start line and requested that the slower runners move toward the back and the faster runners move toward the front.
Then we were off!
This was my first experience running cross-country. I immediately noticed that it was much harder running on grass. I wasn’t sure what exactly my race strategy was going to be for this race. I hadn’t been running or training much lately, so I’m a bit out of shape, relative to prior levels of fitness. As the front running males charged ahead, I decided to go out and run hard and just try to hang on. There was a single female in front of me and I decided to go out with her. I followed her for a bit. At around a half mile into the course, a great big hill awaited for us. With the exception of the lead guy running, er, charging up the hill, all of us immediately stopped running and vigorously hiked up instead. At this point I passed the other woman and became the front running female leader.
I’d never been in that position before, so I was enjoying running out front and worried that I was exerting too much effort too early in the race. But I had no way of knowing who was in the 2-mile race and who was in the 3.5 mile race and where all the other female runners were because I never look back in a race. I interpret looking back as a sign of weakness because I’m concerned where everyone is and don’t trust that I have the speed or the energy to pull away if someone comes up beside me. I stubbornly looked forward no matter how tempted I was to look back.
The hill was something. It had a 200 ft elevation change over .7 mile. It was steep. Once I made it up the hill I picked up the run again. At around Mile 1 I got a sideache, so I slowed down. A female runner passed me. I had no way of keeping up with her so I let her. Around Mile 1.5 or 1.7, another female runner passed me. I really wanted to keep up with her, but I was tired (definitely went out too fast), so I let her go reluctantly. Her bouncy ponytail tauntingly waved good-bye to me.
The course continued to be interesting. After the big hill, there was a downhill (thank goodness). I ran down the gravel road carefully. I didn’t want to fall and do a face plant on that type of ground. There were more turns and another incline right before the finish line. At this point, I was so done and happy that I signed up for the two-miler. I couldn’t imagine running another loop.
I saw the second woman who passed me run to the right at the turn off point. The two-mile racers ran left to go to the finish line and the 3.5-mile racers ran right to go on their second loop. I had no idea where first female runner was. I didn’t know if she was doing 2-miles or the 3.5, so I figured at worst, I came in 2nd overall.
As I ran to the finish line, I heard Ben cheer for me. I ran as hard as I could down the straightaway. Two people scampered in front of me to hold out the tape. As they did this, I deliriously realized that I was going to be the overall 1st place winner for the 2-mile race. I blindly threw my hands in the air. I could barely see from all the salty sweat dripping down my face and into my eyes. The feel of the light banner being stretched across my abdomen was the sweetest feeling in the world. I did it. I finished first!
Never did I ever think that I would win a race. I was completely thrilled that I came in first. First. Not a 1st place age group, but first overall female. FIRST.
Ben came over and we got some cheese, crackers, and wine to enjoy while waiting for the award ceremony. There’s something fun about drinking wine before 10:30 in the morning. All of the wines were made at Alba Vineyards. They had an assortment of red, white, and dessert wines for you to try. My favorite was the blueberry dessert wine. It tasted like a lovely blueberry sauce. I would definitely love to cook with it.
While waiting around for the awards ceremony, I got a little cold, so we went back to the car to grab a jacket. Of course, while there, I could hear them starting and my name being announced. I sprinted back and yelled, “I’m here! I’m here!” And just like the finish line, I sprinted toward the announcer. I made quite the grand entrance.
I won a bottle of wine (Old Mill Red). I’ve gotten wine at races before, but just small bottles. This was a proper full bottle. We haven’t drank it yet, but looking forward to enjoying it with a juicy steak later this summer.
I thought Grape Gallop was a lot of fun (it’s not just the winning the race talking here). It’s nice to do a different type of race, rather than always sticking to road races. The wine tasting and the beautiful grounds at Alba make Grape Gallop worth traveling to. On Oct 10th, Alba will be hosting another Grape Gallop, where it’ll be a proper chipped race with overall and age group awards. This one was a fun run with a clock at the finish line and only overall winners. I imagine the vineyard will look even more beautiful with the fall colors.
Have you ever ran a cross-country race?
Ever win a race outright?