Get a cup of tea for a VERY long blog post.
So we’re back from a sun-drenched weekend in Apple Hill. Apple Hill is a region of bucolic countryside just past Sacramento in the Sierra Foothills, packed with apple farms (and vineyards). We’ve been here a few times before, but not stayed over. Two nights there, this weekend, and we’re dreaming of moving there!
The race itself was on Saturday. There’s the choice of one loop at 5k or two loops at 10k. The blossom was supposed to be out in style, and we were to run on trails through apple orchards. It sounded idyllic. I was so excited.
However, the race started two weeks too late. Thus the apple trees looked like this. Oh well!
The race started at 8.30am. We turned up at 7.45 to pick up our numbers. There were a couple of hundred runners and walkers, but parking was amazingly easy and really well organised. There was a lovely atmosphere – everyone seemed to know each other, it was very low-key and chilled. The Husband hasn’t run at all for four weeks, and hasn’t run further than three miles for a year. However he declared that, despite Achilles Tendonitis, he was hoping to run the 10k. I was going to push the Dude on my first ever trail race. Everyone lined up for the start in random order. I meant to start at the back for courtesy’s sake but ended up in the middle of the pack. The claxon sounded and we were off!
The course was beautiful. Seriously gorgeous. We ran through apple orchards, round vineyards, through a patch of cool forest and around a Christmas Tree farm. We ran on gravel, red dirt, fallen pine needles, a little tarmac and grassy trails. We ran uphill (a lot), downhill (a little, and steeply) and on the flat (rarely). I considered running the 5k loop again afterwards to get some photos…but I didn’t.
I got caught in the crowd at the beginning and found it very hard to run. I was almost running on the spot at times, trying not to let my front wheel ram the runner in front. I now wish I’d started much closer to the front, I think that would have actually been the safest move. I was the only person pushing a stroller apart from a family walking the 5k. After about a mile, the trail widened out and I was able to a) run at a decent pace and b) pass the Husband. Obviously this was the most important thing here. After that, I was able to run at my own pace; I think my bad positioning at the start cost me a minute or two.
However it was clear from the start that no speed records were going to be mine today. Pushing a stroller on a 10k trail race is FLIPPING HARD. I was struggling the whole way apart from one blissful, glorious downhill stretch on tarmac where my stroller worked on my behalf and I hurtled past everyone else like a girl on fire! On the uphills, I really had to fight, had to walk up a couple of hills on the second loop, and even had to stop at one point to get water. It turns out I can’t grab and drink water, push a stroller and run at the same time. However, for all the difficulty, I have to say that I loved every second. I have never felt stronger,more badass and more fabulous in my entire life!
Not so many runners did the 10k, so for a lot of the second loop I was on my own (apart from my constantly commenting passenger). However as we came out the (blissfully cool) forest into an uphill stretch in the full sun (and boy, it was hot by now), I had to stop for water. As I stopped, a woman ran up behind me. ‘Let me push for a bit’, she said, ‘You get water. You’re totally inspiring me’. I nearly cried, but instead I thanked her, grabbed my water and guzzled some as she pushed, and then I was ready to take the Dude back, thank her again and run on. As we ran on, another lady passed me and told me what an inspiration I was. Have to say, I felt pretty inspiring at that point. Especially when I passed them a little later. It’s extremely unlikely but if you’re reading this, lady-who-helped-me, thank you!
I was enormously happy to finish the second loop and start the quarter of a mile to the finish line. As I turned the corner, one of the great volunteers shouted ‘Wow, you’re leading the stroller division’. I didn’t know there was a stroller division, and I was the only stroller out there, but that perked me up enormously. Nearly as much as the seriously amazing cheering squad on the final bend, who made me grin like a loon as I ran towards them. And then, mercifully…the finish line. On a downhill (thanks, organisers) so I hurtled to the end.
6.1 miles in 1.05.03 at a 10.39 pace. My slowest 10k ever (I think) but also the race I am most proud of.
As I regained my breath, a few minutes later, the Husband came in. He had done astonishingly well…1 hr 12, and he managed to run about 80% of it. His dream of running the SF Half in June is still alive!
We didn’t get medals for this race but rather cotton t-shirts. I would always prefer a medal but a t-shirt was fine. However they were basically all men’s t-shirts and mine is ENORMOUS. Medals were only for age-group winners. I knew I wasn’t up for a prize since there was apparently no stroller division. (Boo). But you can imagine our surprise when, announcing the winners for the 10k men aged 40 – 49, the winner turned out to be the Husband. We were blown away, but seriously chuffed. The Husband couldn’t believe it, but was so very excited.
But wait, the story gets better.
After the race, we went back to our campsite 20 minutes away, showered, changed and came back to Apple Hill for the Day. Our first stop was Apple Ridge Farms where they were doing hot-dog lunches for $3. I was so hungry that I piled in and ate a hot-dog. It was great. At one point, a group of four runners from the morning arrived. We recognised them and a conversation started, so they came to join us.
It came up in conversation (not that I was incredibly proud or anything), that my husband had won his age group. And then the clanger was dropped.
‘Oh’, said one of them, ‘that’s the age-group where they gave the medal to the wrong guy. The page cut-off made it look like this one guy won, with a time of 1.12 and he got the medal, but our friend won in 46 mins’.
The husband then declared what has become the best one-liner ever.
‘Yeah…I’m the 1.12 guy’.
Shortly afterwards, we made a dash for it – the Husband’s erroneous medal safely hidden in the car. It now hangs, with pride, on our Bling Rack!
So, in summary…the race was fantastic. The course was quite tough but do-able and utterly beautiful. It was well organised, really friendly and a lot of fun. My only quibbles would be that they ran out of swag bags before we got ours and I would rather have a medal than a man’s t-shirt. And there wasn’t a race photographer on the course (that I saw) which is a shame as I would definitely have bought one today. But we definitely want to do it next year. The Husband has his title to defend. Kind of.
A few more little snapshots of a gorgeous weekend!!!!
See you next Spring, Apple Hill. Thanks for a great time.