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Napa Valley Marathon

March 8, 2010

I am back from Napa! What a wonderful fun-filled weekend getaway. I feel like I’ve been neglecting this blog lately on the food-side, but no worries, I will be back posting more delicious and easy recipes soon!

This past weekend a couple of friends and I ventured up to Napa Valley for a much needed mini-vacation. I was a little worried about the weather, but it turned out to be a beautiful sunny weekend, perfect weather for running. We planned our Saturday pretty much around the wineries and the amount of wine we could consume in one day. My friend Ann actually had 10 wineries lined up!  Of course we didn’t hit up all 10, but we managed to get in a few of the most popular ones before we all decided we had enough wine to last us the entire month and call it quits. Oh yeah, and I also had to be up at 4AM the next day for the marathon, so I tried not to overdo it with the drinking. But it’s a little hard when you’re surrounded by barrels full of wine…

Luna Vineyards

We hit up the expo before for my bib number and race swag. This has got to be the coolest goody bag ever-we got to choose between a duffel bag or a backpack. We used these bags for sweat check the day of the marathon. I choose the backpack just because I have a ton of duffel bags already and the backpack would be nice to take on a hiking trip. This alone made the race entry worth it! Oh yeah, at the expo I also found out about a new challenge, Lake Tahoe Marathon. Not just any marathon, but the Triple Challenge (3 marathons back to back to back, Friday-Sunday). And if that isn’t enough for you, there is the Double Dare (2 x 75 miles) which is twice around the Lake. If running 100+ miles isn’t your thing, this is a great chance to get away for the long weekend because there will be kayaking, swimming, biking events as well! Sounds like my kind of vacation, check it out here. I might do the marathon Friday, biking Saturday or rest, and the final marathon Sunday.

I was a little worried about this race because there was a strict No Headphones policy. They had sent out an e-mail to all participants clearly stressing this issue and it was also reinstated on the website-“Course officials will be monitoring the starting line and the course, and there will be a USATF Referee monitoring the finish line. You are subject to disqualification should you choose not to follow this policy.” 😦

Since I’ve never run any distance race without music before, I decided to take the chance and bring it with me. Can you tell I don’t like following rules? I hid the wires underneath my shirt and had my long sleeve shirt zipped up to hide the headphones when I wasn’t wearing them. I actually went the first 10 miles without music before I thought I needed a little something. It was on so low I could hear my feet hitting the ground. Ann dropped me off at the finish so I could join the rest of the runners and take the shuttle to the start. Once at the start, I met up with Andrew and Monique as we talked through pre-race jitters and enjoyed the perks of a small race (only 2,500 runners). We pretty much lined up right behind the start line, barely any difference between gun and chip time.

I started off going way too fast and since there were no pace leaders, I had no idea how fast I was going out. My Garmin takes a long time to adjust to my actual pace, so it was telling me I was going at a 10:30 pace which was impossible. I kept up with Monique because she was shooting for a BQ and I wanted to finish in 3:30. Turns out, I was going under 8 min/mile for the first 6 miles of the race. Doh! I always tell people to go out 30 sec-1 minute slower than goal pace to allow your legs/body to warm up, so you can pick it up in the end with negative splits. Negative splits are when you run the 2nd half of the marathon faster than your first. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to my own advice as my pace kept dropping throughout the race. I was hitting between 8-8:30 until the halfway mark. Every time I passed through a crowd of spectators or saw cameras, I took off my headphones and tried to hide them, just in case they catch it on camera and use that against me. I probably counted only 4 other people who were wearing headphones, so I decided to just take them off for the rest of the race. Although, I don’t think they actually pulled anyone out because of it, all the warnings were enough to scare “most” people away from wearing them. Except me, of course.

The scenery was beautiful, but the race was also very very quiet and sometimes lonely. Since the race was so small, there weren’t that many spectators around, and frankly, after 20+ miles of seeing vineyard after vineyard, I was getting  a little bored and wished I had music to distract me. At one point in the race, I chatted with an older man which made that mile fly by until he left me, but overall, it felt like a pretty long race. I counted down the miles (new race tactic: instead of counting up, start counting down, totally mental thing) until I saw my friends who were waiting at Mile 18 to cheer me on. Courtney actually jumped in with me and ran Miles 18-26 with me which was really nice to have someone there. And since she’s a speedster, she had no problem running at my slow poke pace. I don’t think she even broke a sweat the entire 8 miles!

By Mile 18, I was fading pretty fast. My legs couldn’t go any faster and I couldn’t get my pace under 9 minutes. Courtney tried to make conversation and push me along, but all I could muster were yes/no questions and a grunt here and there. Without her, I’m sure my pace would have dropped even more as I was so dehydrated by that time. I think the wine kicked in too from the day before and we were running right into the sun. The water stations were also 2 miles apart from each other, so whenever we passed one I grabbed a Gatorade and a water cup in each hand and Courtney grabbed another cup to hold for me. I totally forgot how long 26.2 miles was, I know that sounds stupid, but at my last marathon, the Goofy Challenge, the miles were just flying by and I didn’t even feel tired until Mile 25. The elevation on this course was also pretty hilly in the beginning. I thought I would be flying down the last 6 miles since it seemed like it was all downhill on the map, but by then, my legs were so worn out that even running on zero elevation was tough. The last mile, Courtney pointed to a girl in front of us and said to keep up with her because she was keeping a steady pace. I gathered up enough energy the last half mile and sprinted my way to the finish. Courtney dropped off at Mile 26 right before the finish.

I was so glad to be done with the race and receive my medal. Official finish time: 3:45:02. Not my goal time, but not my worst time either. I really think I’ve lost some speed since I stopped going to track workouts. Must get back on it. Overall, great race with a nice change of scenery. It’s always nice to run a smaller race and not have to deal with the massive crowd in the beginning and end. The race was very well organized as I got my sweat bag in no time which is unheard of. The medal is pretty bling too, my favorite one so far! It rotates, yes, I am a sucker for cool medals.

Apparently the Eugene marathon also has rotating medals, which I’m actually thinking about doing this year in May since B’s parents live there, but it is right before finals, so that might be a little tricky. Next up: L.A. Marathon next weekend. Now back to back marathons doesn’t seem like such a great idea, but it should be a fun race with tons of friends doing it. I’ve run a lot of the course already so I know it’s fairly hilly in the beginning, but downhill in the end. It is also with 25,000 runners, so I expect it will be a lot different than this race. And headphones allowed! Until the next race…

Garmin stats

9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2010 5:53 am

    Just stumbled across your blog! My hubby and I ran Napa, too, although we are no where near being the “running machine” that you are. It was only our second marathon and we came in at 4:42, which is a PR for us. (not hard to do w/only 2 under our belts!) I had a similar feeling about seeing one vineyard after another as you….it was beautiful though a bit monotonous!
    Anyways, thanks for the re-cap and sharing your experience!
    Happy Running,
    The Lathams

  2. March 13, 2010 4:34 am

    I was so glad to be done with the race and receive my medal.

    As much as I enjoy reading your run recaps more than your recipes, AT, I think maybe it may be time you spent more time in the kitchen. And, I’m still thinking about your Firecracker recap.

  3. Arlyne @acokertx permalink
    March 15, 2010 6:08 pm

    Wow, can’t believe you managed to tour the wineries the day before and still do such a great job at the race. Between the walking and the wine tasting, I would have been dead! I too am used to running with my ipod so I’m glad that most races don’t enforce the no-ipod rule, it would be especially hard for the longer races. Thx for the re-cap.

  4. February 4, 2011 7:36 am

    Awesome post & race! My fiance and I are running the napa this year, it’ll be our first. I noticed that you wore a Garmin in the race. We saw on the website they have some stuff saying no electronics, blah blah blah- did you run into any problems with the race coordinators and your Garmin?

    I have a 405 and I couldn’t imagine doing a run longer than 10 miles without it.

    • February 15, 2011 7:51 am

      Hi Paul,
      Wearing Garmins is OK, they don’t allow headphones. I still wore mine, but felt very iffy about it and had them hidden really well the entire time. They say they will disqualify you if they see you wearing headphones, I probably counted only 5 other people wearing them. Good luck! It’s a beautiful course

  5. February 19, 2011 5:59 am

    I’m doing the Napa Valley Marathon this year as my first marathon in celebration of my 40th! I too am very concerned about running that distance with no headphones. It almost made me not want to do the race. But we’ll see how it goes. I may have to be a rebel as well.

    • February 23, 2011 7:02 am

      Hi Deana,
      The course is beautiful, winding through all the wineries and vineyards, you almost don’t need the headphones. I still wore mine, but felt very insecure with them since barely anyone around me had them on. I made sure to take them off when I was crossing through an aid station and definitely going through the finish line. Have fun!


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