“Just because it doesn’t go as planned, doesn’t mean it won’t be great”
Late last year I was still flying high from the accomplishments of my first year of running and races. There is so much upside that comes from achieving awesome things. The flip side is that it also helped to boost my ego and confidence. Which normally isn’t a problem, per say, but when you hang out with more seasoned ultra-runners, they can come up with some really BAD ideas (which of course means they are good ones and I HAVE to join in).
So when my dear friend said, “You should totally run the Napa Valley Marathon. It is a fast course and you will crush your PR from the Truckee Marathon.” I of course said no at first, but instantly started to envision and effortless float along a downhill section of the wine country. I have to say the actual course was truly more visually impressive than even my day dream that got me into signing up.
As with most BAD ideas, I feel the need to try to recruit others to be part of my journey. Just before December I had on the hook the brain child of this race idea Adam Kimble, his wife Karen, and to my amazement… my girlfriend suddenly posted on Facebook a training schedule saying she was in. I quickly stole that training schedule as well and we were off to the races (pun intended).
Over the following three months, Olivia and I miraculously found ways to incorporate the long runs into our weekends together. The fact that we live 3.5 hours away and she is a working mother of two amazing kids is really about as much of an accomplishment as completing the marathon itself. There is definitely something to be said about having time together that is totally uninterrupted by silly things such as cellphones, tvs, etc. Some of my fondest memories along this journey were the laughter and lame jokes (always mine, not hers) that we shared as we continued to climb the weekend mileage.
As a planner by profession, the journey this race took proved that you really can’t plan or predict what will happen on the race day or race week. Within the two weeks leading up to race day, Olivia suffered from a knee injury that ultimately forced her to make the tough decision to not run on race day. I can’t begin to imagine how frustrating that must have felt to have put in so many miles (we ran a total of 140 just together on our run-dates, not to mention the runs she did all on her own). But she was such a trooper, never once complaining. Instead she basically focused her attention towards making sure I was taken care of for the race and post-race.
Adding to the mix of twists, Adam was signed up for a 50K the day before Napa. Now if you know Adam, running back to back distances of a marathon or greater isn’t a problem for him, but rather “that will be awesome man”! Well the Wednesday before he got a stomach bug and was literally making the decision to go at the gun minutes before. He ended up running the Way Too Cool that day and finishing 10th overall (you rock brother). But the effects of the race and the advice of his coach post race resulted in Adam not running the full course for Napa, but he would be my “seeing eye runner” for 8 miles (insert Eminem lyrics) of the course and another one of my fonder memories of the race day.
Because all things come in threes, I had had the added pleasure of being in a hurry when I got home from work a week and a half before the race and slipped on the ice in my driveway (the judges gave me a 10.5 for STICKING the landing). Unfortunately I also smacked my shining bald head in the process and gave myself a nice concussion that also made my race start questionable days before the race. Fortunately, my run two days before the race felt pretty good so I decided to roll the dice.
So race morning went for me like “normal”. I ended up super nervous, for really no reason. But it is a good way to get the heart rate going right? The four of us got to Calistoga early and had a nice warm coffee or tea in the coffee shop that had just opened when we arrived. We chatted and had some laughs then headed to the start line. I got there just a minute before the gun went off and started through the pack at a slightly slower pace than I had been running in training. But I was still a little groggy and off, so this was ok. I embraced the pace and decided to go easy in my weave through the crowd. This served as a good warm up, since I really didn’t do much to prepare before getting to the start.
The temperature on race day was PERFECT and started out at 30 degrees with a nice little fog that sort of mimicked my head conditions the week prior. I was amazed at how many spectators were there along the way to cheer us all along. The course itself has very few climbs which seemed to be over soon after they started, and a nice gradual descent followed the course as it winded through some of the most beautiful vineyards. The participants all seemed to be having a good time and were super friendly. In fact I spent several miles running with two gentlemen and had the opportunity to chat about life and running. Eric Townley and Graham Mc Bride were running their very first marathon and were in training for an IronMan. I had such a great time getting to hear about their training and embarking on knocking off their first 26.2 (they both finished by the way. Way to crush it). As the day went on, the sun came out and warmed it up a bit, but always within the comfortable range. The race coordinators really did a great job with the event. The aid stations were nicely spaced with everything you would need (I had the A-Team race crew of Adam, Karen, and Olivia, so I ran through all of the stations). Each station was very well staffed and complete with an awesome crew of folks cheering the runners on. It was impossible to pass through each one without feeling a sudden boost of stoke.
As I mentioned, the race day wasn’t what I had originally been anticipating, but had its own level of awesomeness and lessons to be learned. What was intended to be a social run became a quest for a new PR. I may not have mentioned, but this was only my second marathon (and the first race distance that I had duplicated since beginning running just 14 months prior). So it presented the opportunity to go all out on the course. My time at the Truckee Marathon was 4:40 and I crossed the finish line at the Napa Valley Marathon this past Sunday with a chip time of 4:02:44. Although two entirely different courses, I was beyond pleased with the results for the day. And I would definitely consider running this race again.
Between the course itself, the cool people I met along the way, and how well the race was organized, it is a race anyone would enjoy. Thanks to my dear friends Adam and Karen Kimble for being a part of yet another race of mine. And huge thanks to my lovely girlfriend Olivia, who sacrificed a lot to train with me, but also was so supportive before, during, and after the race.