My Napa Valley marathon finish
Before I write a trip recap, I thought I would write a quick race recap. This was my second time running this race (last year was the first) and it is truly my favorite marathon thus far - in my short 6 marathon history.
The race is well organized from start to finish: the small but well-represented expo, the race swag, the volunteers and staff, the showers, massages, bag check, and post-race nutrition are all stellar. I will do this race many times, I can’t guarantee I will return in 2017, because that really depends on other travel, work, etc., but it’s a great possibility that I will be back as soon as next year.
Now, on to the important part! I knew to expect rolling hills for the first 6-8 miles; they’re fairly big hills for this Chicagoan, where there are no hills, but they’re not killer. Anyone with good fitness can tackle them. For a first time marathoner who doesn’t run hills at all, they might present a small challenge, however the last 18-20 miles are not hilly, so that makes up for it.
This race excels in the number of aid stations, there are 13 of them. You can expect hydration every 2 miles and it is fantastic. I carry a handheld bottle with me and I refilled it 5-6 times in the last 10 miles of the race.
Although this is a rural race, the crowd support is pretty great and you see familiar faces at every crossroads. The Silverado Trail is closed to traffic for the race, but another highway that runs from Calistoga to Napa parallels the trail and there are many roads that connect the two. As a runner, I appreciate seeing the same spectators.
The finish is particularly great because it’s at Vintage High School in Napa and the spectators all convene there where there is ample parking. The course’s last mile is through neighborhoods that become increasingly populated with people out in their yards cheering the runners on and making a party of it. Even this year, with the on and off rain and a torrential downpour in my last mile, there were dedicated spectators out cheering on the runners. Thanks to them for sticking it out along with us!
Mentally, I was much tougher for this race than any other marathon. I was well-prepared, well-hydrated, and properly fueled. Race day conditions were my ideal temperature of high 40’s at the start and a high in the low 60’s with alternating sun and clouds. There was rain but the valley needed it so I’ll give it a pass.
I also felt like this race was the first marathon ever where I felt really strong - I had some moments of self-doubt for miles 16-20, and then I pulled it together for the last 6. The last 10k is always the hardest, for me and for many others. I just always have to tell myself to “run one more mile” and then I can decide if I want to walk at the next mile. I only walked for less than half a mile this whole race and it was while I was eating my Clif Shot blocks. I couldn’t chew and run at the same time towards the end, haha.
I ran a 5:00:01 in 2015 at this race, and I was really disappointed that I didn’t finish in less than 5 hours, especially since I was SO CLOSE. This year, my goal was 4:30 and I reset that goal mid-race to under 5 hours. Somewhere around 20 miles I looked at my watch and realized 4:45 was doable. My official finish was 4:44:20, just over a 15 minute PR. I am very happy with that, better things to come!
My next marathon is in Riga, Latvia on May 15.