"Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Destination Races, Santa Barbara Wine Country Half as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"
Run all the miles, drink all the wine…if this is your race motto, then you definitely want to add this to your bucket list.
Destination races brings a well run half marathon race to Santa Barbara Wine Country. Taking place in the Santa Ynez valley, the course starts in Santa Ynez, heads up to Los Olivos and ends in Solvang. It’s a picturesque course, will the last four miles of mostly downhill, and views that sooth the workout your quads are getting.
My weekend started with a drive up to Santa Barbara region from LA on Friday afternoon. Passing the ocean front views, heading over the mountains, I made my way to the valley town of Solvang for packet pick up. Solvang is a quaint little town with a heavy Danish influence. There are Danish bakery’s, more windmills than I could count and did I mention wine…yes so many wine tasting shops. The city park was transformed to the race day staging and pre-race expo. Packet pick up was very easy and without stress, there was even free parking in the city parking lots (major perk of small town races). The town was filled with tons of runner energy. Everyone was walking up and down the cobblestone streets, exploring shops, taking selfies with windmills and sampling wine.
Since this was an out and back race, they offered shuttles from the finish line area to the start. Since my hotel was closer to the finish area, I took advantage of this shuttle. Anticipating a large crowd, I arrived early so that I would insure I made it to the start line with plenty of time to grab some coffee and relax before kick off. To my surprise, there were numerous shuttle buses race morning and I was headed to the start line about 5 minutes after I arrived. One of the coffee shops in the town were the race began was open for runners, serving coffee and light pastries. This was another huge perk, as it we all know how hotel coffee just doesn’t cut it for race day. After my coffee, I made my way to find other Bib Rave pros to wish them well. I found them easily, as well as a couple other friends from the Oiselle Volée team.
The race began just as the sun was rising, and wow, what a beautiful start. The first 7 miles were an uphill climb. The course ran by numerous farms and vineyards, any many of the owners were out cheering for the runners. I saw cows, horses, and even goats. There were plenty of aid stations on the course. All were stocked with water and about every other one had Nuun hydration (yes another big perk). Then I hit an area referred to as the corkscrew. Don’t let the punny name fool you..it literally is a winding hill that goes round and round until you reach the top. However, once you reach the top, you realize you are in the most beautiful vineyard with a completely surreal view. From there the majority of the course was downhill straight to the finish line.
Now to the wine or aka the good part…the finish line fest. As the race finished, runners were guided through post race water and refreshment areas, and received their medal (which doubled as wine glass holder). I easily made my way through gear check then headed to the post race fest. Since the fest was held in a large park, there was plenty of room to hang out and talk to race sponsors at their booths, sit down and enjoy some lunch or head into the wine tasting area. The wine tasting party, had about 13 or so local wine vendors sampling all sorts of wine. The vendors were patient and seemed to enjoy the opportunity to tell a bit about their wine with each sampling they poured. For those not into wine, there was also a beer vendor with a few flavors of brews to sample. The festivities got packed pretty quickly, so once I sampled what I was interested in I headed out of that area. However, there were groups of friends who were hanging out, sampling wine and all seem to be having a great time despite the growing crowds. There was also a band keeping the spirits high and plenty of room at the finish line to go back and cheer runners in.
Overall I loved this race. It was very well organized, great energy among the runners. Even though it got crowed, I also thought the post race wine party was absolutely great. I will definitely be adding this one to my running rotation and next year hope bring a group of friends to enjoy a runners version of a wine tasting weekend.