Race summary: Point-to-point race (starting just outside of Napa and finishing in the heart of Sonoma). Course is mostly flat running on country roads through various vineyards and wineries. Decent on-course support with water stations every few miles. Spectators were scattered throughout the course though not as much support as you’d get at bigger races (such as Rock’n’Roll races in the bigger cities).
In a YOLO moment, my friend KT and I decided to try to sign up for the 2015 Napa to Sonoma half. This race fills up every year usually within an hour of registration opening. It also tops many race lists for must do race or races to travel for. Since I live not too far from Napa, I figured it’d be worth it to see if we could register.
Luckily I was off work the day that registration was to open. KT, however, was not. She gave me her info so that I could try to sign us both up for the race. As I anticipated, the registration web site was very slow and sluggish. I managed to get myself registered within the first 15 minutes. However the site became super congested and I could not get KT registered. I even tried using my cell phone to see if I could get on that way. Somehow I did manage to register her about 45 minutes after registration opened. I believe the race filled up by about 1-1.5 hours.
The race weekend coincided with celebrating my MIL’s birthday so we were to make a weekend of Napa. This was my first time staying at a B&B. I must say that I was quite impressed with it. We stayed at the Beazley House, which is the oldest B&B in Napa.
They had fresh homemade chocolate cookies all the time (yum!). At checkout, they also provide you with their cookie recipe because it has been requested by so many patrons.
As this was my second race after my strange knee issue (see NVM 2015), I was running this for fun and didn’t have any specific time goals. This worked out because since we were having a celebratory weekend, I knew that I’d be eating/drinking in a way not conducive to running. Two nights before the race, we ate at Solbar at Solage Calistoga, which is Michelin starred restaurant. I must say it was a tasty meal. The night before the race I wanted to semi-carb load and we ate at Oenotri. This was my 2nd visit to Oenotri and I was very pleased with it – homemade pastas with in-house made charcuterie. While I only had 2 cocktails, I knew this may affect my race.
Packet pickup: Hanna Boys Center. My biggest complaint with this race was the packet pickup. They chose a location that could not handle the traffic – parking was a nightmare. They then had everyone lined up (~10 rows) in a small gym so you couldn’t even tell which line you needed to get in. The lines weren’t clearly marked with the bib number ranges (they previously had emailed you your bib number). I was able to pick up my bib within about 5 minutes. However, I was picking up KT’s bib number and waited in line for about 45 minutes to get hers. There were various vendor booths and nothing too special.
Race morning I ran through my usual routine and was dropped off at the race start (Cuvaison Carneros Winery). They had a decent amount of porta-potties at this location and it was a nice setting for a race start.
I felt fine at the initial outset except the very beginning starts with an uphill about 1/4-1/2 mile. This really drained me and I started feeling the effects of having some drinks the night before. After only making it about 3-4 miles into the race, I told KT that I would need to slow it down and for her to go on without me. This was going to be a long day. The weather (middle of summer) started to warm up. We ran through mostly vineyards and other rural/farm type lands. It wasn’t the most scenic race. There were scattered populations of spectators. I just kept telling myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The last few miles brought us into Sonoma and then we finished at Sonoma Plaza.
The post-race is what makes this race. As part of the finishing amenities, each runner receives a wine glass. There are numerous (~30+?) wineries with tables set up and pouring free tastings (most places had one red and one white) and you could enjoy as much as you’d like. This was a little strange because it was still well before noon and here you are sipping on wines. Since I was dehydrated and wiped from this race, I only sampled from 3-4 different wineries. Some tables also had some snacks such as cheese (and who doesn’t love some cheese!). The medal also was fairly neat in that it was multi-functional (wine stopper, wine corkscrew, bottle opener.
Finish time: 2:24:26
This was my 2nd slowest half-marathon, only faster than the very first half that I ran in 2010 when I had some setbacks (shin splints, knee pain). Overall can’t complain since I had done some serious celebrating prior to this race.
It was a fun experience though I don’t know that I’d run this race again since it has been the costliest half-marathon race I’ve done. But I can mark it off my list!