194 days: What happens in Napa…

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Just shy of 6 months until the big day, and so far we’ve raised $4,012!

2013 has been quite a wild ride so far. All-consuming work activities kept me from training.. but I had a half-marathon (Pasadena Rock ‘n’ Roll) and marathon (Napa Valley) planned within two weeks of each other, straddling the big project review at work.

The 13.1 turned out surprisingly well considering I was severely underprepared.

So, how did the 26.2 turn out? Apparently, what happens in Napa doesn’t necessarily stay in Napa! Race report time!

I went into the marathon with adjusted expectations. This race was originally going to serve as my PR race and another qualifying slot for Boston… but that wasn’t likely going to happen without any serious training for the past 2 1/2 months. Heck, I didn’t even plan on finishing – Lauren was going to be waiting at miles 9 and 19 to be my own personal sag wagon.

We headed up to the Napa Valley on Friday morning – made our usual first stops at Gott’s for some sandwiches and at Hope & Grace for some vino (hey, we had a wine club parcel to pick up!). We capped it off with a wonderful night with our friends at the Oak Knoll Inn – the most serene and lovely B&B you could ever hope to find in the Napa Valley.

Saturday was the usual – an early start at Lava Vine (another wine club pickup – hey, don’t judge us!), some lunchtime carbo loading at Redd Wood, and dinner at Mustards. Then off to bed early for the big day!

Race day was supposed to start off cool – the forecast called for 37 degrees at race start – but warm up to somewhere around the 60’s by the time I would finish. I had arm and calf sleeves ready to go to keep me warm early, and cool later (I have sun sleeves made from a fabric that has a cooling effect when you wet them down). When we walked out the front door toward the car at 5:30am I was expecting to be met with a wall of cold air. Surprise! It was actually about 50 degrees! Change of plans!

The drive up to the race start in Calistoga was uneventful – just a long line of cars and buses filled with marathoners making the early morning journey. We parked, hiked about a mile to the start line, took care of some last minute business, shed the warmup gear and jettisoned the no-longer-required arm sleeves, and waited for the starting gun.

Normally the night before and morning of a race I get a case of nerves. Perhaps because I had very low readjusted expectations for this race I was eerily calm. No nerves. No edginess. I think I just wanted to get this thing done. The gun sounded, and off went the herd of runners down the Silverado Trail.

Sporting a new kit for this race! You could see me coming from miles away... and no sleeves today! It was much warmer than expected.

Sporting a new kit for this race! You could see me coming from miles away… and no sleeves today! It was much warmer than expected.

The first few miles are rolling hills and felt great. I was ticking off miles at a 7:00 minute pace and made friends with a guy from South Carolina gunning for a 3:07 Boston qualifying time. We ran together for a while, but I felt really good and picked up the pace on mile 4 to 6:45. I then made friends with a lady from Santa Cruz gunning for a 3:05.

Santa Cruz and I kept each other company for a while. Lauren was waiting at about mile 9.5 at the Pope St crossroad. Santa Cruz had some friends waiting there, as did South Carolina (as I found out later – he was a bit behind us at that point). The next few miles were more of the same; our pace was dialed in and we were on cruise control. South Carolina rejoined us and we were ticking off the miles without issue. We reached the halfway mark at about 1:33 and change – not bad considering I finished the R’n’R Pasadena 13.1 just two weeks prior at 1:29! Things were great!

At mile 14 they were handing out gels – I grabbed for a couple but fumbled the handoff. I had to stop and pick them up. I grabbed some fluids, but fumbled that handoff, too. I fell a bit behind Santa Cruz and South Carolina and wasn’t reeling them back in… in fact, they were gapping me.

Miles 0 to 14 I was dialed in at comfortable 7:05 pace. That started to fall off now to 7:15 at mile 15, creeping to a 7:46 on mile 19 where Lauren was waiting at the Yountville Cross Road. This was my planned bailout point for the race – where I had anticipated I would call it quits. I didn’t feel great, but figured it was just a phase that I would get through. I decided to soldier on, hoping to regain my mojo at mile marker 20 where the road turned downward.

Between mile 19 and 20 there is a gradual climb, the last hill on the course, climbing up past some wineries before descending down to Stag’s Leap. I made it up the hill, slowing down but grinding it out, only to implode once I crested the hill and reached the downhill stretch that starts right at mile marker 20. Who implodes when you reach the downhill stretch? I was now slowed down to a consistent 8:00 pace between miles 20 and 24, stopping every now and then to stretch, with a quick visit to an aid station restroom. The wheels had come off…

I made it to the Oak Knoll just past mile marker 23… they were handing out sorbet, cheering us on, waiting for me to come by – it was all I could do to wave, grab a cup of water and Gatorade, and slowly trudge away.

The last few miles of this race are mentally difficult. The roads are straight. And long. And you hurt. I felt like I was running backward – by mile 25 I had slowed all the way down to an 8:20 pace and was occasionally getting passed. That doesn’t happen to me… and there was nothing I could do about it. I had nothing left in the tank. The last mile or so I simply willed my way to the finish line, scraping together a 8:00 pace.

This was the only race where the adrenaline of the finish line didn’t give me a kick. I always have a finishing burst left over for the end of the race and the finishing chute; all I had left in me for this race was a slow shuffle to the finishing line, a dispirited shrug of my shoulders, and the obligatory point to my LIVESTRONG visor as I crossed the line.

Finishing time: 3:20:33. 146th out of 1,757 finishers. 7:40/mile pace over the 26.2 miles.

All I wanted to do after crossing the line was sit and pout. I’ve bonked in races before, but I always rallied and finished strong. My first 70.3 triathlon last May in Napa, for example, I bonked on the run yet pulled myself together to get a 9th place overall finish. But not at this race. I bonked and stayed bonked. All I could think about after the finish line:

  • I was on an early pace to break my PR of 3:07 that I set in a monsoon in Huntington Beach in 2008.
  • I felt great for the first 14 miles, and was easily on pace to qualify for Boston.
  • At 13.1 miles I was only 4 minutes slower than the 13.1 race I finished two weeks prior.
  • And then I completely derailed.
  • I didn’t have anything left in the tank for a finishing kick.
  • But, most damaging of all, I stopped. I simply stopped running several times… not because my body gave out on me… but because I allowed myself to stop.

After the race I posted this to Facebook:

Done. 1:33 at 13.1. Felt great. Started to fade at mile 14. Imploded at mile 20 and struggled to bring it home. Got in at 3:20:33. Heartbroken, but I’ll get over it.

Yes, I was sad that I was on pace for a new PR and for a Boston qualifying time but ultimately fell short. But I was heartbroken because I had exposed something in myself that I didn’t know was there: mental weakness.

Physically I finished this race. But mentally I failed.

I can sit and pout about that, and lament the omen that this brings for the even more arduous 70.3 and 140.6 season ahead – that I now know there is a seed of doubt in my head that has never existed before. Will I let that eat away at me? Or will I use that as fuel to feed a renewed fire?

I guess we’ll find out.

Fundraising update: together we raised $172 for the Sarcoma Foundation of America as part of the fundraising challenge and my matching donation for this race. Thanks to all who gave! Some fun fundraising events are coming up soon. Hint: wine tasting at casa Duda-Oram. Stay tuned!

Conclusion – all was not pouting doom and gloom after the race. After a shower and a rest, I finally got the second wind I couldn’t muster during the latter stages of the marathon and headed out for a lovely tasting at Paraduxx, a fantastic cocktail at Lucy in Bardessono, and capped it off with a feast at Bottega. The day definitely ended on a high note!

Bottega is fantastic. And this dish is our favorite: potato dough raviolo (singular for ravioli) with a runny egg inside and topped with brown butter sauce and shaved black truffle. A-MAZ-ING.

Bottega is fantastic. And this dish is our favorite: potato dough raviolo (singular for ravioli) with a runny egg inside and topped with brown butter sauce and shaved black truffle. A-MAZ-ING.

This entry was posted in Challenge Recap, Race Report, Sarcoma Foundation of America. Bookmark the permalink.

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