This past Sunday I ran in the first annual Uncorked Half at New Kent Winery, presented by Sports Backers. Like all Sports Backers races, it was fantastic and I was really surprised to learn that this was their very first time putting on this race! When you combine running 13.1 miles and drinking delicious wine there's really not much that can go wrong! Read on for my full review of the race (including the course and after-party) and I hope you'll join me next year at the start line!
Expo and Packet Pick-Up: Instead of a normal Sports Backers production with a giant expo at the Arthur Ashe Center, this race was much more low key. I'm sure that's because for this very first year, there were a fraction of the runners that flock to the Monument 10K and Richmond Marathon (I'm talking about 500 for this race... versus 30,000 for Monument!). So the packet pick-up was pretty unassuming and there was not an expo. If you've read my other race reviews you'll know that I'm cool with that. I don't normally spend too much time wandering around an expo so this one was perfect for me! Packet pick-up was held at Once Upon a Vine on MacArthur in Northside. Good news is that this is my favorite beer and wine store... and it's less than a mile from my house, so packet pick-up really could not have been easier! There were tastings set up with Sierra Nevada beer and New Kent wines so that was also nice. And with pick-up on Cinco De Mayo, it was the perfect excuse to grab our bibs, and then head to our fav neighborhood restaurant Mi Jaliso for some tacos and margs!
Accommodations and Travel: Just like any Richmond race that I review, there is ALWAYS something going on in my city! This is an awesome weekend to come in for a race with all of the Cinco De Mayo parties around town. In Northside, you can check out En Su Boca's party on Saturday or any other bars around town. It's also spring in RVA so definitely a great time of the year to wander through Carytown, check out the museums, or head down to the river for the afternoon. The actual race is held at New Kent Winery in New Kent County just up the road. It took us about 28 minutes to get there from the city and a very easy drive. Parking was also a breeze so no need to get there too early.
Course: I had absolutely no clue what to expect with this course! There wasn't an elevation profile on the website so that made me a bit nervous going into it (if there are going to be hills, I'd like to know about them in advance, mental preparation is key!). Despite going in a bit blind, the course was fantastic! It started at the vineyard and went out through the roadway. Now keep in mind that we're in New Kent County, so the roadways are not bustling city streets. In fact, we ran through gorgeous greenery basically the entire time! The roads were lined with huge trees and it was literally like running in the forest, beautiful!
This is definitely a "gently rolling hills" course, with several hills throughout, but nothing too intense... until mile 7.5. At mile 7.5 you turn the corner only to encounter an absolute BEAST of a hill! It seemed to go straight up and last forever (I'm being dramatic... but it was a leg burner for sure). I appreciated the fact that Sports Backers realized how awful the hill was and strategically placed tons of motivating signs with great quotes as well as four or five volunteers to give high fives and cheer, that was awesome and really helped us push to the top! Other than the monster hill, the only thing I would change is the run through the neighborhood. The last roughly 2.5 miles are run through a neighborhood right beside the vineyard. You can hear the music of the after-party the entire time and I would have definitely preferred to have this portion at the beginning, so that you can pop out of the woods and just head straight to the finish line. Definitely not a deal breaker, and I will for sure come back next year to the exact same course, but it's a bit of a mind tease at the end!
Ease of the Start Line: As I said before, this was a very small race, so the start line wasn't nearly as intense as a normal Sports Backers event (aka, police officers checking bibs for corral times). Everyone lined up on their own according to pace and off we went! The start line was right in the driveway of the vineyard so there was a ton of open space, which was a nice change from being crammed into a city street. My only qualm (SAT word right there y'all) was the number of porta-potties available. Think about it, it's a race that includes free wine, so you're going to have a predominantly female running group... and us chicks love to pee right before the gun goes off, it's just in our DNA. So combine a race group that's 98% female with ten porta-potties, and it's just not enough. The line was about 100 deep at all times and we were able to make it in and out and hit the start line literally 30 seconds before race time. Again, nothing that was a deal breaker, and it's also the very first time this race has been put on! I'm sure in the coming years, as the event grows, so will the number of potties.
Swag: This might be my favorite part of this race... instead of a technical tee you get a super cute technical racerback tank! There is an option for a tee but good Lord I probably have at
least fifty and they never fit right so they end up in the back of my closet... so I was super pumped at packet pick-up to see a really cute, dark blue tank top that fit perfectly! My packet also came with a fun little key chain made from a New Kent wine cork, a fun touch! The medals were also great and double as wine stoppers! Loved the swag with this race.
Post Race Party: So, you run 13.1 miles and then what? Well, if you've just finished this race you're heading to the post race party for free wine and free massages. Yep, that's right... a glass of wine and a ten minute massage awaits you at the end, and holy moly it was glorious! Wine was provided by New Kent and there were several different ones to choose from. Your free glass comes in a souvenir glass that you also get to take home with you (because you literally can never have too many stemless wine glasses). The massages were also amazing! There was a bit of a wait but with six tables it didn't take too long, and it was SO worth it! I'm serious when I say that every race should offer massages at the end... it just makes sense!
The rest of the post race party consisted of booths including Sports Backers (where I of course had to buy another tank top... because I'm obsessed with anything related to Richmond and running), Goatacado and Om On Yoga who also provided free post race yoga! Unfortunately it was a bit chilly once the race ended so after we browsed through the booths we headed inside to the winery to warm up... and drink more wine! The tasting room was open and we did a tasting plus each had a glass (or two or three) of our favorites. We even ran into Jo Anna Dombroski, the owner of New Kent Winery! She was a joy to chat with and wanted to hear all about what we thought of the race and the winery (all good things of course). All in all, a perfect post race experience!
One of the other cool things about this race (other than the free massages and wine), is that the vineyard is right beside a fantastic golf course, Viniterra. So while Samantha and I ran and drank wine, Bruce and Brandon were able to tee off at 7:50 AM and play 18 holes! I love that because it was a fun day to then finish up and all get some wine and head to brunch together! I'm so excited that I got to experience the inaugural Uncorked Half and can't wait to head back to New Kent next year for another wine-filled 13.1 miles!