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Napa Valley Marathon - Run

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Napa , California
United States
Napa Valley Marathon
50F / 10C
Total Time = 4h 38m 3s
Overall Rank = 995/2000
Age Group = 45-50
Age Group Rank = 101/122
Pre-race routine:

We left for Napa on Saturday morning, after having breakfast and getting my family packed up. The trip was fairly uneventful, and we arrived around 12:00 PM. We found the Napa Marriott, and went through the registration process. All marathoners received a nifty backpack, with the Napa Valley logo on it, which was very cool. The Expo had lots of vendors hawking their products, the best seller of the day was rain ponchos (due to the nasty weather predicted for race day). We then headed north, to Calistoga, to find lunch and our hotel. Stopped for lunch at a neat little brewery/restaurant, and had a great meal. We then continued on to Calistoga, and our hotel.

We had made reservations at the Comfort Inn, which is at the far northeast side of Calistoga (and only about a ¼ mile from the starting line). We got checked in, and then hooked up with my brother’s family, and took a drive along the race route (my first time seeing where we would be running). The race website had a profile of the course, but the vertical scale on the map didn’t really do the hills justice. None of the hills were incredibly long or steep, but just about the entire course was “rolling”. Made a mental note to myself that tomorrow might be a long, long day.

For our pre-race dinner, we made reservations at a small Italian restaurant in Calistoga called Bosco’s. The Manager was very gracious, and accommodated us even though the expected size of our group changed several times during the course of the day. As can be expected, every restaurant that served pasta within 50 miles was packed with runners and their families. We had a great dinner, and I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone in Calistoga.

Race day (Sunday) started out really early for me. Due to snow issues at work, I was up at 1:00 AM both nights previous. Of course, this had reset my internal clock, and I woke up at 2:00 AM and absolutely could not get back to sleep. I finally just got up, packed up a bag full of goodies, and drove the course to stash it at mile 20. In the bag I put everything I felt I possibly could need – Tylenol, GU’s, a Power bar, Vaseline (for chafing issues), an additional bottle of Accelerade, and a can of Red Bull. I drove out to mile 20, and stashed the bag along the roadway.
Got back into town around 5:00 AM, and stopped at the only place open (little gas station on the west side of town) and bought a cup of coffee and a newspaper.

Event warmup:

By 6:30 AM, we were out walking towards the starting line. I had my fuel belt, with GU’s, my bottle of Accelerade, some fig Newton’s, and some gummy bears in my belt. I had a three-dollar poncho trying to keep the rain off, and my sweats over my running clothes. . My clothing for the day consisted of a sleeveless Nike dri-fit compression running top, and second dri-fit long-sleeved running shirt, and my Race Ready compression shorts. For gloves I just had a simple pair of cotton gloves, and socks I used a pair of Bolga socks, which I liberally powdered up before putting them on. My shoes were Nike Air Pegasus, again which I dumped lots of power in. To hopefully ward off blisters (especially with the rain) I carefully body glided up the sides on my feet.

We got to the starting line, and wow, what an incredible site. There was a line of yellow School Buses that must have been 15 or 20 long, and literally hundreds of runners milling about. They had a line of about 20 or 25 port-a-potties lined up, each with a line of 10 or 15 people waiting. There was an announcer, trying to talk to the group, but he was virtually unintelligible over the roar of the crowd, the rain and the wind.

After taking a few “before” pictures with my brother, I stripped off my sweats and we were ready to go. The announcer and the race sponsor droned on and on about something that no one in the crowd could hear. All of a sudden, the race started and the crowd started moving. We purposely put ourselves towards the front of the pack – knowing that without chip timing, we could lose a minute or two being in the rear of the pack. Being in the front of a crowd of 2000 amped up runners is pretty incredible. You definitely did not want to trip, fall down or have to stop for any reason!!!

  • 4h 38m 3s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 10m 37s  min/mile

My brother and I started out together, and ran the first mile or two together. About the end of the first mile, I started to warm up, and I got tired of hearing the poncho rattling in the wind so I ditched it. I completed the first mile in 9 minutes, 45 seconds, and everything felt really good. The pace felt sustainable, and my breathing was perfect. About the second mile my brother pulled in front of me (as I expected him to) and within 10 minutes he was out of sight. Good, I thought to myself, now I can just run my race, and if he blows up at the end fine, I’ll outsprint him to the finish. If not, at least I do not have to worry about him coming up behind me.

Miles 2 through 13 were perfect. I held my 10 minute pace plus or minus 15 seconds per mile, took a gel about every 40 minutes or so, snuck in a fig Newton or a gummy bear every once in a while, with sips of accelerade in between. The rest stations had Gatorade and water, and I tried to alternate between the two or mix them if I had both available. At the half way point, I remember looking at my watch and my time was 2 hours, 6 minutes. I remember thinking, wow, I’m four minutes ahead of my goal time. This is going to be easy!!!

About mile 13.1, I hit an uphill section. I struggled a little bit going up this, and walked just a bit at the crest to keep my heart rate in check. By mile 14 I had lost a minute of my “banked time”. Every mile after that, it seems that I lost about 30 seconds or so (my mile times increased to about 10 minutes, 30 seconds).

Mile 18 was a short but fairly steep uphill. About this point is when I realized that this was not going to be quite as easy as I had earlier thought. This is when I met up with a nice Irish gentleman, from San Francisco. We ran together for a couple of miles, and it was nice having a little conversation to distract ourselves from the wind, rain, and all the small little leg and ankle issues that were starting to become more significant.

At mile 20, I picked up my bag that I had stashed. I wolfed down the banana, and starting working on the Red Bull. About mile 20.5, the course begin a long, fairly steep downhill. This is when things started to get difficult, and I remember trying to take small, careful steps to keep from hurting myself going downhill.

I went through an aid station somewhere around mile 21. Lots of little kids handing out drinks, which I politely declined. One of the kids, about 12 years old said “he doesn’t need this stuff, he has a Red Bull, and Red Bull Gives You Wings!!!”. Who says marketing doesn’t work on kids????

About mile 22 the course flattened out, but the damage was already done. My legs felt like lead, and pretty much everything hurt – from the bottoms of my feet, to my ankles, to my knees, to my quads and hips. I remember thinking to myself “going slower will not make this route any shorter” and trying to encourage my feet to turnover faster (to no avail).

I was now trying to run in between the mile markers, and then walk for a minute or so at each marker to try to recover a little bit. God, it seems that those miles took a long time to click off.

At mile 24, I knew that nothing short of being run over by a bus was going to keep me from finishing, which was a great mental boost. I remember thinking, this is only two miles, you can do that in less than 16 minutes. That “boost” lasted for about 5 minutes, when I found myself walking again. About that point, I remember thinking, Hmmm, I have this cotton-mouth thing going on. Is that a sign of dehydration, or a sign of too much water (hyponatremia). I couldn’t remember which malady it was a symptom for, but it gave me something different to think about for a mile or two.

Mile 25, I remember thinking, OK, only 1.2 miles left, let’s run the entire distance. Again, that lasted about 5 minutes, when my legs and my mind gave in to the walking demons. Finally, I could start to hear the announcer and the crowds at the finish line, and I told myself that you will not walk until you get to the finish line. I sucked it up, concentrated on just putting one foot in front of the other, and tried to block out the other issues. My left ankle was now on fire with every step, and every joint from my hips down was screaming at me to stop. I reached the 26-mile point, and finally knew that I could run the rest of the way. While I did not even pretend to sprint the finish, I did try to regain a little bit of composure, and try to look like I was not in as much pain as I was. Just before the chute, I saw my wife and son, which was a great uplift, and then into the chute. A nice lady took my arm, and walked with me for 20 or 30 feet, asking me lots of questions. I guess she was a “catcher” to make sure that the runners were OK before releasing them. I seemed to have confused her a little when she asked me where I was from – I told her Chico, because no one knows where Durham is. Of course, my race number said Durham. After a quizzical look, I guess she figured that I was geographically challenged, but capable of not falling down so she led me over the medal girls. They put the medal around my neck, wrapped me up in a space blanket, and headed me down the chute, to the waiting family, bathrooms, showers and food.

I met up with my wife and son, she was in tears, and I was pretty close to it. I really couldn’t talk – I was very choked up with emotions at what I (and the other 1400 runners) had just accomplished. Seeing all the race supporters, yelling support for total strangers, seeing runners using every ounce of reserve strength they owned to cross that finish line, was absolutely incredible.

Now, I am looking forward to resting for a few days, and then gradually starting some easy workouts – as I build up for the summer racing season. My next adventure will likely be some variation of the Chico Wildflower (Bike Ride), and then the Lake Oroville Triathlon coming up on May 13th.

What would you do differently?:

I ran about the best race I could have expected to run, given my level of training. My fueling, drinking, and race day execution were flawless. Only huge issue was not enough hill training, and I simply did not have enough time (especially with my ankle injury) to get that in. I missed a 24 mile run and a 14 mile hill run because of the injury.
Post race
Warm down:

The school campus where we were at was a surreal sight – literally hundreds of beat-up, wet and exhausted runners with silver space blankets wandering around in an almost zombie-like state, with that unmistakable “I have just run a marathon and can not move my legs” shuffle. I did my own shuffle over to the cafeteria, and picked up some soup and a roll. I met up with my Irish friend, and congratulated each other on finishing. I found an empty picnic table and I attempted to sit down so I could stretch – and found that I could not sit down. I finally had to have my son move next to me, so that I could hold on to his shoulder, and let myself down with my arms, rather than my quads (which were done for the day). After some stretching, a second cup of soup and a shower we headed back to the car. That 100 yard walk to the car seem like an eternity, but eventually I got there – and wrestled myself in using my upper body.

The trip home was pretty uneventful. Our first stop was a Jamba Juice, where we had smoothies and sourdough pretzels (yummy). Then we stopped again in Williams, for a Subway Sandwich. We made it home by about 3:00 or so, I took a short nap, then my wife made us a wonderful steak dinner. By 8:00 or so it was lights out, and I slept better than I have slept in a long, long time.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

I needed additional long runs and especially long hill runs - everything thing else was good.

Event comments:

This is the largest race I have participated in (approximatly 2,000 runners). The organizers did a great job, on everything from the Expo to the finish line, they thought of everything. The CHP did a fantastic job of traffic control, and everything (as far as I could see) went off without a hitch (in spite of the nasty weather).

Last updated: 2006-03-06 12:00 AM
04:38:03 | 26.2 miles | 10m 37s  min/mile
Age Group: 101/122
Overall: 995/2000
Performance: Good
Course: Starting at the far north end of the Silverado Trail, head south (into the wind and rain) for about 24 miles. Then we took a right on Oak Knoll, or something like that, crossed a couple of funky bridges, then headed into the High School Campus and the finish.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2006-03-06 5:36 PM

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Durham, CA
Subject: Napa Valley Marathon

2006-03-06 7:34 PM
in reply to: #362543

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molto veloce mama
Subject: RE: Napa Valley Marathon
wow. sounds like a good race!
2006-03-06 8:16 PM
in reply to: #362662

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Extreme Veteran
Tokyo, Japan
Subject: RE: Napa Valley Marathon

Well done Dennis!!  Sounds like you had a great race.  I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who gets emotional after endurance events.

2006-03-08 9:43 PM
in reply to: #362543

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Durham, CA
Subject: RE: Napa Valley Marathon
Autumn and Travis,Thanks for reading my lengthy race report - I figured that a guy doesn't get to run one of these every weekend, so I kinda got carried away with it!!!Thanks for the comments,Dennis
2006-03-10 6:32 AM
in reply to: #362543

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Woodbridge, VA
Subject: RE: Napa Valley Marathon
I remember my first HIM, as I was walking back (more hobbling ish) I was pretty teared up with emotion also, great race!!!
2006-08-13 9:56 AM
in reply to: #362543

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Bellingham, Washington
Subject: RE: Napa Valley Marathon

Very good race.   I've yet to run a big race in bad weather/rain.  Don't know how I would react.

Sounds like a very good race to do in the future.

2006-08-13 11:16 AM
in reply to: #362543

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Virginia Beach, VA
Subject: RE: Napa Valley Marathon
Great race!!! Congrats! And an awesome race report.
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