Destination Races: Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon Recap

I decided to sign up for this race at the beginning of the year because it looked like a great way to see more of California and to spend a romantic weekend away from the city. I visited Santa Barbara briefly last year, but never went beyond it. So, I was really excited to explore the area.

ImageWe left Los Angeles at 3:30 pm on Friday and were in Solvang by 6:30 pm. (Leaving at 3 pm, could’ve saved us extra 30 minutes that we spent in traffic). I needed to stop by the expo which closed at 7 pm in order to pick up my bib. Right after the expo, we met a friend for dinner at Fitzpatrick’s Tavern. Eating before a race is always a problem because it’s difficult to predict how your body will respond to the meal. I wanted to get pasta or burger, but shepherd’s pie looked too inviting and I decided to get it instead. All I can say is that it was very oily. I ate all the mashed potatoes from the top, but left half of the beef untouched. I still felt hungry, but decided not to overeat and go to sleep early. Next time, I am going for pasta.

The race was at 7 am, which meant that I had to be up at 5 am. I was able to go to sleep around 10 pm and got about 7 hours of sleep. I signed up for this race in the beginning of February and at this point most of the hotels in Solvang were already booked to my surprise. The closest hotel that I was able to find was in Buellton, a nearby town about 7.6 mi away from the start line.

At 5 am, the morning of the race, the temperature was 49 F. It probably climbed to 51 F by 7 am, but I still felt really chilly. I didn’t want to get to the start too early because I didn’t want to take any extra clothes. We left the hotel at 6:35 am and I made it to my corral at 6:55 am, which was just perfect. The race started right after 7 am and I crossed the start line at 7:06 am being in the 2:30 hrs corral.

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The first 4 miles seemed really easy. At the very beginning we were greeted by a gorgeous sunrise.

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I passed 2:15 hrs corral and felt that I was doing really well for some time.

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I purposefully barely touched any water in the morning because I didn’t want to make a stop at the porta-potty, but alas, by mile 4 I realized that I couldn’t go without it. There were about 7 people in line. I thought that the line would go fast, but I should’ve realized that it would mean a 7 min wait. I waited for 2 mins, lost patience, and ran on. Fortunately, there was another porta-potty at mile 5. I might have wasted 4-5 mins there, but it wasn’t too bad. After standing still for a few minutes I started feeling cold and took a mental note not to stop again.

I reached mile 6 without a problem, then turned the corner and saw a huge hill ahead, the Corkscrew Hill.

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I remembered reading about it on Yelp, but didn’t realize it would be this big. I kept running forward for as long as I could, then started walking and running interchangeably. Luckily, just around the corner the road went downhill I darted forward as fast as I could because I didn’t want to lose time.

The views were stunning.

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I didn’t drink any water until mile 9. Didn’t feel that I needed it, but now was concerned about becoming dehydrated. I know now that it would not have been an issue, given a cool weather, but didn’t want to risk it.

By mile 11, I was ready to start walking. My longest run during training was 10.75 mi, and that was 3 weeks prior. I tried to go for a longer run the following week, but hurt my knee and only got to 10 miles mark. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that the finish line was only 2.1 miles away. These 2 miles were the most difficult, but I gathered all my strength and kept on running. Stopping was not an option. I felt that if I stopped, I would not be able to pick up the pace again.

During the last mile my legs were barely moving. It was really important not to give up. I made it to downtown Solvang and I was relieved to be cheered on by the spectators. I made it to the finish line in 2:24:20 hrs. Pretty happy with my result. The average time among 1777 women was 02:26:23 hrs. 

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We spent the rest of the day exploring Solvang and the surrounding areas of Santa Barbara county.

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On our way back home to LA we stopped for a dinner at Los Agaves, one of the best Mexican restaurants in the area (according to Yelp) and had salmon tacos and ceviche tostada. The portions were really generous and the food tasty and flavorful.

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Final thoughts: Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon turned out to be a great getaway idea. Very relaxing atmosphere. Beautiful course. It had an impressive female participation of 70%. Great for single guys! 😉 One of the couples got married right after the race. The bride and her bridesmaid wore matching dresses by Oiselle in white and purple. Both looked really cute.

I didn’t partake in the wine tastings after the race because I decided that going for a swim was more rejuvenating than drinking alcohol, but if you are into wine, there are plenty of vineyards and wineries in the area in addition to the organized event. I loved the experience and highly recommend it.

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