Napa Marathon 2019

Napa Marathon (#61)

The weather in Napa was not good leading up to the race weekend.  CA had experienced heavy rains and major flooding.  The Russian River had peaked 13 feet above flood level.  Some towns in the Napa area were completely flooded and people had to be rescued.  We kept our eyes on the weather. We received an email from the marathon that they were closely monitoring the weather and would keep us posted if they were going to cancel the race.  We were going to CA either way as our flights and accommodations were already booked. (I packed my umbrella)

When we arrived in San Francisco, CA it was overcast and raining.  We picked our rental car and we were off to Sonoma. Just to north of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge on Route 101, was the first area that I could  see the flooding in the valley.  There were road closures and detours everywhere.  The open fields on both sides of the Highway 37 that crosses the valley were now lakes. Some westbound sections of the highway were completely under water. It was pretty scary.  When we finally got to Sonoma, we received an email from the race that the river was expected to drop below flood levels and the race was still on!  YIPPEE!

The Expo:  This year they added an inaugural half marathon and also reduced the expo from 2 days to one day.  I anticipated the worst at the expo with the additional runners doing the half and only one day to pick up the race bibs.  Much to my surprise it wasn’t any more crowded this year than last year.  I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have as many vendors as last year: No protein bar samples, no ice cream, no cheese boards, no cold brew coffee, no facials, or chair massages.   This year something new added to the agenda was a cooking demo from the Cliff family Chef that was really good! We took advantage of the free breakfast after the shake run that we attended Saturday morning.  He made porridge and muesli with tons of yummy toppings:  Honey, nuts and a huge assortment of fresh fruit.  After our snack, we poked around and saw our friend Less, the race director from the Maui marathon, then headed outside to the beer/wine tasting. 10 am. LOL.  I was good, I only tried one wine!  I wanted to make sure I was hydrated on water and not wine for this race.

One of my favorite perks of this race is we get a nice waterproof backpack/duffle bag to use as our bag check.  We drop the duffle bags at the start and the finish is at a high school where you can grab your duffle bag to change and take showers.   Unfortunately, we found out that the school shuts the water off on the weekends so we weren’t able to shower!   We were only able to change and clean up a bit.

Shakeout run: The shakeout run was similar to last years with cool raffle prizes consisting of hats and bottles of wine.  We were so close to winning too! They remembered us from last year as the CT group running for Reggie’s 60th birthday too which made it pretty cool.  I saw the guy we ran with in San Francisco.  He was “the dude” that ran with us for quite a while from mile 18 on.  He had turned into “the Voice” last year as he would relay my answers to Kim when I had nothing left to yell ahead.  Kim would yell back “Jeanne are you okay”? Then I’d whisper, “I’m fine” but only loud enough for “the dude” to hear and he’d relay it back to Kim.  “She’s fine”! It was so funny, last year we noticed him at the expo when we were volunteering and then bumped into him on the course.  This year, different marathon, we bump into him again! What are the chances???

The Start:

We got on the school buses in Napa and headed 26 miles to Calistoga.  It started pouring as we headed there.  We were able to sit on the bus until the race started which helped us from getting soaked.  The rain finally let up and we got off the bus to use the port-o-lets.  It was just starting to get light too.  The lines for the port-o-lets weren’t too bad.  They placed them about 4 feet from the tar which created a “moat” of mud.  To get in, you had to jump or just step in the mud and get dirty.  I did notice someone threw a heat shield down on the ground in front of a cluster of port-o-lets.  When it was my turn, I just stepped in the mud.  I didn’t want to take the risk of slipping and ending up on the bottom of one of the “Honey Buckets”.  We headed back on the bus until we had ½ hour till the start and decided to use the facilities one more time.  This time the lines were crazy long.  I kept looking at my watch nervous we’d miss the start, or the gear check would be closed.  We ran back to the start and dumped our bags on the bus.  We got there with only 3 minutes to spare. I looked around and noticed the “dude” from San Fran again.  He was with the 3:30 pacer.  Kim said that he told him that he was hoping for 3:30. 

The Race:

The race started, and we hung with the 3:35 pacers.  The pacers were Allen who was holding the sign as high in the air as he could and Erin  who  was monitoring how fast we was going.  They were a bit fast.  I can’t tell if it’s because Erin was chatting non-stop with a young blond girl about their successful races and how fast they were.  I know that I run faster when I start chatting too.  As the miles chimed I kept looking at my watch and noticing their 8:10 splits were closer to 7:56-8:00 minutes miles.  At the half way point we were on target for a 3:30 marathon.  I didn’t want to push it as I haven’t been training for speed – and this technically was to be used as a long run for Boston (without snow).  We slowed our pace down and kept the pacers in our distance.  I could also see “the dude” starting to fall back toward the 3:35 pacers too.

We used our lessons learned from Hawaii and started to take supplements around mile 6.  We took salt around mile 11 and made sure we took a honey stinger waffle, so the salt wouldn’t sit on the bottom of our stomach.  We took NUUN and water at every water stop (2 miles).  I want to say around mile 18-19 I started cramping in my right quad which is unusual for me.  I typically cramp in my calves.  I took salt again and then I started getting a stomach ache.  Kim must have heard me breathing heavy and said, “take some deep breaths and get back into your groove”.  I did that and started to feel a bit better.  The cramps in my quad never subsided but my tummy seemed to get better. 

The road had sections that were really slanted like Big Sur.  I think that’s why only one of my legs were feeling the pain.  When we were with the pacer he would switch sides of the road as he crested different sections and I wondered what his strategy was.  Kim said he did that to make the shortest distance between miles.  There were countless wineries that we passed, roaring rivers that used to be streams, and then we got a bit of a head wind.  It started to rain a bit but stopped after a few more miles.  I was never over heated.  I ran with a tank top and shorts.  I took off my arm warmers and accidently threw them thinking it was my throw away shirt. We saw quite a few unidentifiable carcasses and one dead snake.

My legs were really feeling the pain.  Is it my IT band?  Is it my knee? Is it my quad? A stress fracture? I wasn’t sure as the pain traveled around.  I tried to focus on positive thoughts. I was giving myself my own advice that I give new marathoners.  “Jeanne, don’t allow any negative thoughts”, “Jeanne, you should have pain, you just ran 19 miles”, “Jeanne, don’t give up, and just keep moving”.  I thought of the woman that won the Austin marathon that was in so much pain, but she still pushed through (and won).  As much as I wanted to walk, I didn’t.  We did walk through the water stops at the higher miles to take supplements, but we’d quickly start running again.  I remember a woman saying “Hey, when do we turn right?  Is it mile 23”?  I thought holy crap, we have to run another mile before we can start to turn?

Kim would say “Jeanne, you got this”, “Jeanne, don’t give up”, “Jeanne, just keep your legs going”, “Jeanne, dig deep”. 

I do remember him saying “Jeanne, you are on a 3:35 pace (this was around mile 21) and I said, “I don’t care” and I just kept shuffling along.  I figured if I gave in and walked like I wanted to it would be all over.

We finally turned onto mile 23 and there was that blond girl that was tooting her horn with the pacer we‘d seen earlier.  She was not doing well.  We ran past her as we headed into these long and flat sections.  You’d look as far as you could ahead, and you’d see the next turn.  It seemed like forever before we got there.  I started singing “I am the walrus”, then “Rolling down the highway” and then my last resort, I sang “the ant song”.  I started my fit bit stop watch.  I was just trying to get those last few miles done.  I’d think to myself “Jeanne, it’s only 2 miles”, “Jeanne, It’s only 1 mile”.  Those were the longest miles of my life.

Then, ahead there was a young guy that kept falling.  His legs were like rubber and as soon as he stood, they’d buckle.  Thank God a medic ran over to help him.  That’s always my fear – one mile left and then that happening.  If that ever happens to me, please just roll me to the finish! And shut off my Garmin. LOL

Finally, the finish line.  Kim grabbed my hand.  When I saw the photographers, I gave my biggest smile, sucked in my gut and we crossed the finish line with them announcing our names.  Kim went ahead to get his water and medal.  As soon as I stopped running I started to feel sick to my stomach, so I turned right not to do this in front of everyone.  Some wonderful volunteer gave me a puke bag and I went ahead and got sick.  I was scared!  Kim finally noticed I wasn’t with him and saw me getting sick.  He came over and wiped the vomit from my face.  I loved him for that moment.  All I can say is, that’s true love!

As soon as I got my composure back and felt better I thanked the volunteer and said, “Can I still get my medal”?  She smiled, and they put one around my neck.  We grabbed our gear bags from the auditorium at the school and changed.  I checked the results and was so pleased to see I placed 2nd in my age group. That made throwing up all so worth it!  It also gave me my confidence back as the last 2 marathons that I ran were pretty horrible.  My goal today was to just break 4 hours. I finished with 3:39:13 and a nice bottle of Napa wine as my award.  

While waiting for the awards I was able to meet Erin from CA who placed 3rd in our division. It was pretty cool exchanging stores.  I made sure to look her up on Facebook to get the photo of us together with our awards.  There was also a young girl sitting next to me and I asked her if she placed and she said “3rd”.  I noticed she had a Band-Aid on her pinky toe and I said, “I glide my feet and between my toes so they don’t blister”. Kim chimed in and said does that too.  She thanked us as the awards started. They started with the top 3 overall Women's finishers. When they announced the name of the woman that came in 3rd with a 2:52 time, my new blistered friend sitting next to me got up to collect her prize. Holy crap – here I am giving advice to a freaking rock star! 

Post - Shake out Run:

The next day we went on the most beautiful shake out run/hike at the Overlook trails in Sonoma.  It was a trail with a combination of hill climbs, rocks, streams, mud and the most magnificent view when you got to the top.  At the highest point on a bench, there was a Tupperware container containing a book with instructions on it for everyone to sign.  I wrote “Loving life and the chance to be able to see such beauty”, Kim & Jeanne from CT – see you next year!

Kim saw me write that and I am pretty sure we’ll be back.  I just loved that race!

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