Boston 2018 here I come!! Yesterday’s race left me with a flashy new PR of 3:20:15 and the second half marathon of my race was a PR, what?! How does that happen. I need to run more halves!
Anyway I wanted to take you through this race if any of you are considering. I have run it two times now and I saw do it!!! Off the bat I love it because it’s smaller and there are so many volunteers so anyone is there when you need them. It’s 1500 runners. Also their swag is amazing! They give you bags and a shirt. This year you could choose from a backpack or a duffel, I chose the flashy backpack!
Plus this course is very picturesque, you almost forget the pain when you are looking at such amazing scenery, almost!
So let me take you through race day. I woke up at 3:30 am, mainly because my brain is on east coast time and also because I was starving. I decided now would be a good time to eat. I have a sensitive stomach and always over analyze eating. However I eat superhero muffins a lot before running so I knew that would be safe. Not even lying I baked superhero muffins the night before my flight and brought them with me! I also had some warm water with lemon to wake me up. I went downstairs and hung out in the lobby listening to music until about five when it was time to catch the bus. We were staying in Napa which was perfect and I could hop on the bus at the hotel next door, super convenient!
It started pouring the second I went outside for the bus. In my head I was telling myself it would pass but I really wasn’t sure. Luckily they have a bag drop with all your new swag bags at the start so you can pack a bunch of layers and not worry. This race is so organized! We started our trek up to Calistoga at 5:15 and got there around 6:15, for a race start of 7am. It was still raining, I got out to head to the bathroom and noticed snow on the mountains in the distance. I was going to take a picture but I was too cold haha. I headed to the bathroom and then got on the warm bus for a little longer.
I can’t really say I did a running warm up because I didn’t. It was so cold I decided I wanted to focus on keeping myself warm. I hopped off at quarter of seven and was still wearing all my layers trying to determine the best race outfit. I decided on my original plan of a tank, shorts and compression socks. Luckily it was no longer raining and it was slightly warmer.
Someone at a winery yesterday told us that since you run down the valley from Calistoga to Napa on the Silverado trail it is warmer at the start and gets colder as you go down. It was hard for me to notice since so much time was going by between my destinations but I would say I believe him.
The first part of the course is rolling hills which I actually love. I find just flat courses harder for me, I need the variation. I would say the hardest aspect of this course is always the cadence of the road. It really dips down on the sides which makes it so you are kind of running on an angle. Also since the race is point to point it’s up to you to even out the leg that’s getting the extra work. Luckily the entire road is closed for runners except for emergency vehicles and bikers. Anyway back to the course, rolling hills at the start, I would say until you get to mile 10 at least, but then there are a few more. There is a nice downhill when you get to 20 and then it flattens out quite a bit.
So I started out the race alone, I mean I traveled from New Hampshire, definitely wouldn’t run into a friend, but that’s how I like to race. However this course is a no headphone race so when it starts to get tough at mile 18/20 you want someone there to distract you and talk to you and trick your brain into keeping up the effort. I will say this was my smartest race, I ran conservative in the beginning and then at the halfway mark I made some friends. I noticed these two runners who were around me most of the time, their names were Angela and Mark.
I went up to them and asked them their goal and they say 3:25 and I was like ah me too! And they told me to join their group and tag along. They were trying to keep their miles around 7:40 avg, perfect. We picked out a few sections to take it back to 7:50 to save our energy for the end. When we got to mile 18 it started to literally hail on us. I should have mentioned it turned out to be nice and pretty sunny but with clouds, up until the hail! It was so strange but kind of awesome to experience. Luckily it was little hail and not golf balls!
Angela had the idea that going forward each one of us would lead a mile to distract ourselves. It was perfect I think it seriously got me through the race because I focused on my next mile to lead and not how much more to go. We did that all through mile 24. My best friends Sophie and Walker also showed up around mile 23 on bikes and distracted us from the pain as we ran. Angela said they get friend of the year, I completely agree. Walker took, probably very unflattering, pictures of my pain!
Seeing Sophie helped a ton, it always does when you see a familiar face. She biked next to me the whole remainder of the race. Until she realized it’s probably not recommended to bike through the finish 🙂 I really picked it up and ran a 6:58 last mile and 6:04 last .4 miles. I think that’s because of Sophie’s pep talk and since she Road a bit ahead of me so I was basically chasing her! I left my friends for the end but you have to run your own race. I was getting choked up at the end and my breathing was suffering because I knew I was going to crush my previous time, which made me almost hyperventilate because I knew I was so close to being done. But I tried to focus and chase a few more people down. Then I was done, and my legs were in so much pain, but I did it. I did something I never would have thought I was capable of when I started running marathons in 2015 and that’s why I am hooked on running.
My friends crossed the finish line shortly after and were amazed at my kick at the end and so so happy for me. It’s amazing when you meet strangers during a race and the pain and beauty of the marathon just brings you together. Everyone I passed at the end was cheering me on and telling me to go for it. It always makes me so inspired and almost choke up. I realize that’s why I race. I do it for myself but the experience itself is always so humbling and inspiring. Runners are amazing people and I love to be surrounded by them.
But for now I look forward to sitting on the couch for a while and not moving!