After running my first marathon two years ago I seriously questioned my sanity. The long hours training, endless hours pounding the pavement, numerous sessions of painful deep tissue massage, all took a toll on my psyche. As I ran into City Park for the final mile of the 2012 Colfax Marathon my legs were seizing up like the Tin Man after a rainstorm. For six months that finish line had been my ultimate goal, as I crossed it emotions poured forth. Tears filled my eyes at the finish.
The rest of my summer was filled getting reacquainted with my road bike, dusting off climbing gear, hiking Mt Sanitas with my dog. Anything, but running. It was hard to imagine lacing up my shoes again, heading down a thin stripe of blacktop, chasing imaginary competitors.
Summer surrendered to fall with its golden glory, and still my shoes sat in my closet. Some days I would think about pulling them out, going for a run, but I would not. I would question my decision; I had achieved a milestone that I thought was impossible, why did I not want to run?
After a great winter of skiing, I started to fell the pull of the road again. Maybe it was remembering all of the solitary hours from the spring before, times I was able to be alone with my thoughts, my own meditation. Maybe it was the impending Boulder Boulder a race I looked forward every year.
I laced up my Asics, and headed out the door for my first training run in almost a year that familiar rush hit me. The knowledge of an impending endorphin rush, the gift all runners know so well helped push me through that first mile. My first run went well, actually great, I logged three miles that first day. It felt good to be back.
As I continued running through the summer, fall and winter I wondered what my next challenge would be? I enjoy having a goal, something to train for, the cookie just out of reach. I discovered my next goal somewhat by accident; I received an assignment to cover several of Destination Races Wine Country Half Marathons.
A half marathon in the heart of wine country? Perfect. The distance does not require the commitment of time that a full 26.2 miles does, I could continue my weekly training while stepping up my mileage slowly. Through February, March and April I increased distance, I was going to run the 7.5-mile second leg in the first race in Santa Barbara, after my wife ran the first 5.7-mile leg of our relay.
Last weekend was the first race, we ran through the heart of the Santa Barbara wine country made famous in the 2004 movie Sideways. Rolling hills, lush green vineyards, and large villas perched on hilltops; the race might have been one of the more picturesque regions I could imagine being in. The finish in downtown Solvang was surreal; the town is modeled after a Dutch town, complete with numerous bakeries, fudges factories, windmills and faux farmhouse style architecture.
Entering the town square for the finisher’s party we were greeted by over thirty wineries pouring samples, a Firestone Walker beer trailer, and live music. This is the way to finish a race.
After the race as my wife, and I lounged by the rooftop pool of the Canary Hotel, a fantastic luxury hotel located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, I looked back running journey over the last two years. It is good to have goals, hell I thrive on them, but the question is, what comes after you reach your personal summit? Luckily for myself I was able to reconnect with something I love, I wondered at times if I would ever find it again.
I am excited for the next race in the series; I head to Virginia in three weeks to run a full half marathon. If you want to run a destination race, seriously look into the wine country series, they are great races in beautiful regions across the country. You can find out more about the races here, Destination Races.