2015 Napa Valley Marathon Race Recap

My 3rd attempt at the marathon distance I knew was not going to go well.

Race summary:  Point-to-point race, beautiful scenery though some people complain that it is all the same (lots and lots of wineries).  Rolling hills for the first half of the race, a few small hills towards the latter part of the race.  Spectators are sparse and scattered to certain intersections (you run on the same road for most of the race and there isn’t a way for spectators to get to the side of the road).  Weather during this time of year is usually good (March 1, 2015) – this year’s race started at a good temp but was hot by the end.  Good swag – duffel bag, long sleeve tech shirt, medal, food at the end, shuttle to the start line.

About 1 month before the race, I went out for an easy 3 mile run (I actually elected not to run a 13.1 race/training run because of heavy rain).  About 1/2 mile into my easy run, I felt a strange pain the lateral aspect of my right knee.  I figured it would work itself out as I warmed up and continued and finished my run.  Later that evening, my knee continued with an aching pain.  In the past, I’ve had knee pain during runs but they usually subsided during regular daily activities and walking.  Over the next week small amounts of knee pain would crop up during daily activity.  The following week I stepped out to see how the knee was doing.  I made it less than 1/4 mile and the pain resumed.  With my history of small aches and pains, I had in the past been able to run through knee discomfort.  This pain was different and would make it impossible to continue running and make walking hard as well.  I decided to take as much time off as I thought it would take for my knee to recover.  Luckily I had already completed my 20 mile long run the week before my injury.

Speaking with my running buddy in OH, she mentioned that she had knee pain and used KT tape for her first marathon.  A week before the NVM 2015, I purchased some KT tape, watched the video on how to apply it for knees and went on a run.  I made it 3 miles with minimal to no pain.  That run convinced me that I should still attempt to do the race even though I know my fitness had dropped from not having run the previous 3 weeks.

The Expo was held at the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa.  Packet pickup was very smooth.  There was a small room with vendors and tables for some other races.  NVM is known for their duffels that each runner receives with their registration.  This year they were celebrating the 1976 Olympic marathon team (Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Don Kardong) – hence the following duffel:

NVM also provided a long sleeve tech shirt (again with the 1976 Olympic theme):


I think they went a little overboard with the Red, White, and Blue theme.  Previous year’s duffels were a nice looking purple and grey that I would have no problem using for short trips.  I haven’t traveled much with the above duffel because it is a bit…something.

The race

The race starts in Calistoga and winds its way through the historic Silverado Trail to the city of Napa.  The finish line was at Vintage High School.  Since this was a point-to-point race, they offered parking at the high school with a bus (actual school buses, made me feel like I was back in middle school) from the finish line to the start.  It took almost an hour to make the 26 mile drive and by then my bladder was about to burst.  When we arrived at the start, the buses parked on a side-street and no one knew where the actual start was (they had yet to set up the below start line when we arrived:


Nobody knew where the porta-potties were either.  The race start was located in front of the Solage Calistoga (a resort hotel).  Many people contemplated relieving themselves in the shrubbery of this resort but there were signs warning us not to do this.  Eventually someone with NVM pointed out that the porta-potties were about 1/8 mile north of where we were all standing.  Because of the early start time, the sun had yet to rise and no one could see them.  Just my luck, the porta-potties still had their zip tie locks on them.  Luckily there was one runner who had some nail clippers that kindly went down the line and popped the zip ties.  During this time, they erected the above start line inflatable and we were getting ready.  This was the 2nd marathon that I’d be running with my good friend KT.  I’ve been lucky the previous few years to have her living relatively close because we run with similar paces.  I told her that depending on how my knee held up, she may have to go on without me.  Temperatures started out in the 40s and were to warm up into the 70s by the end.

Just prior to the start

With my knee taped up, we were off.  I’d been training with two different Saucony Guide shoes.  Most of my prior races had been run in various Saucony shoes.  I think part of why I did suffer an injury though was because I had been alternating 2 Saucony Guide shoes and therefore they were using the same muscles.  (Since this race, I started rotating between 3 shoes that are all very different).  This race remains on paved roads and starts with rolling hills for the first many miles.  My right knee felt good and we were keeping our usual pace.  There were many views of various wineries and the hills in the background.

Around mile 13, I started to note my right knee giving me a small protest.  As we continued between mile 13 and 14, I told KT to go on ahead as I needed to take a walking break.  This is where the wheels fell off my race.  I had made it to the halfway point around 2:22:18.  After walking for about a mile, I attempted to start jogging/running again.  However, my right knee yelled at me that it wasn’t going to cooperate.  So then I was relegated to a brisk walk (luckily my knee was okay with this).  I started to play a game in my head as to how fast I needed to walk to make the race cut-off (6 hours).  Through miles 14-25, I would attempt to run.  Each time either my right knee would say “NO” or my left calf would cramp.  My mind told me that since I hadn’t been running for 1 month prior to this, my body was not ready to tackle this distance and length of exercise.  I resigned myself to walking.  The highlight of the race is that around the 20 mile mark (I may be wayyy off as the sun had put me in a heat-induced daze and I was parched), there’s a B&B that hands out home-made sorbet.  Luckily even with my slow pace, they still had plenty as I passed.  I had 2 different flavors and they were fantastic.

The last few miles of the race are through residential neighborhoods in Napa.  I continued my walk and received dirty/disappointed looks from the photographers who were surprised I didn’t even attempt to jog/run as I passed them.  I didn’t care what they thought, I just wanted to be done.  Finally I came to the last 0.2 miles and KT was there, she encouraged me to run it in and I managed to run the last 200 yards to the finish.

The finish line amenities did include showers (in the school gym), massages (did not partake), and hot soup and some other snacks.  I had some soup and water and then parted ways with KT.

My official finish time was a disappointing: 5:43:32.  This race and result made me want to do another full marathon to show I can improve on my time.

The center of the medal spins.  The medal again celebrates the 1976 Olympic team.

I most likely would not run this race again mostly because if I were to do another full, I’d want to make it unique.  The lack of crowd support and somewhat monotonous scenery don’t give me enough incentive to do the race again. But I am glad that I did the race.




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