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Napa Valley Marathon Results

The forecast called for rain.  I went back to my own blog entry on how to run in the rain but found I had written absolutley nothing to help myself.  I had never run a marathon in the rain.  But I had trained better for this race than maybe any other marathon.  My last outing at the Silicon Valley Marathon was very mediocre (3:51); the one before that I ran CIM with bronchitis (4:39).  I was determined to have a good race this weekend.napa-in-the-rain2

It never stopped raining.  Looked like this the entire race. 

I entered my recent 10-mile and half marathon times in the VDOT Calculator.  It’s based on the training methods of famed running coach Jack Daniels andI had heard this calculator is eerily accurate.  I was surprised but delighted to see it suggest I train to run a 3:21 marathon.  It’s just that I had never imagined running 3:21.  My original goal was to run the Napa as a training run for the PCT Skyline to Sea 50K on April 26.  I had a series of 50Ks planned to prepare for the Transrockies Run in August.  My marathon PR is 3:47–not very fast.  Two nights before the marathon I actually dreamed I ran a 3:32 marathon.  And my running coach had suggested I go out at 8:15 pace.  If I didn’t hit the wall, I could run a 3:37.  So I wore a 3:37 pace band.

I drove up to Napa on Saturday afternoon, got lost, and ended up paying the toll twice to get across the maze of bridges in the north Bay.  Lots of my running club friends were running different distances of the PCT Sequoia Trail Run in Oakland.  I drove through Oakland glad that they all had decent weather and dreading the idea of running a marathon in the rain the next day.

I made it to the Marriott Hotel in Napa Valley to pick up my race packet.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover the very nice schwag at this event, a choice between a backpack and a duffel bag.  Both were very good quality, and I chose the duffel bag.  I ran into Bernadette and Alan from my local running club.  They were both running the marathon in honor of family members who had recently passed away.

From the Marriott, I drove farther north to Calistoga, checked in at the Bear Flag Inn ($180), a quaint little B&B a mile north of downtown Calistoga.   I met up with my friends Charles and Lesley for a pasta dinner in Calistoga.  Charles was running his 83rd marathon.  I’m quite certain I have never repeated anything of this magnitude 83 times in my life.  Charles had also run the Napa Marathon several times before, so he was a fountain of information.

I woke up at 2:30 am. to the sound of rain and instantly knew my plans to run a PR were gone.  I buried myself under the warm blankets and tried to go back to sleep.  I reluctantly crawled out of bed around 4:45 am. and went to the kitchen to find some coffee.  Proprietors Dennis and Marjorie were already busy getting breakfast ready.  I let them know all I wanted was my bagel with honey that I had brought with me.  Dennis gave me a Napa Valley Marathon pin.  And I met Claire and Julia.  Julia was running her first marathon.  You never forget your first one.  Coffee in the kitchen, a race memento, good conversation, and my morning was off to a good start.  Except that it was raining.

I showed up at the start line about 15 minutes before the start.  It seemed obvious the rain was not about to let up, so I found it amusing how many people were trying to stay dry.  About one minute before the start, Dean Karnazes walked right by me.  He seemed to remember our meeting in January.  I was curious to know if he was turning a simple marathon into a 100 – 200 mile affair as he had done so many times before.  Ah, but not today.  The rain even kept Dean from running more than necessary.  I asked him what pace he planned to run.  He said, “I don’t know,” as if he really didn’t know.  “Maybe 3:45.”  I thought hey, maybe I’ll run a few miles with Dean, and just like that we were off.  Dean shot out surrounded by a small fan club and I followed.  But I quickly realized he was doing about a 7-min. pace, much faster than 3:45.  So I backed off, thinking maybe he’ll slow down.  I never saw him again.  Dean finished in 3:22.

I took the first few miles well under 8-min. pace, considerably faster than the 8:16 pace prescribed on my pace band.  But I felt very comfortable, and my friend Charles was running with me.  He had bet a friend $1500 he could run 3:30.  That’s not a typo.  Not $150.  One thousand five hundred dollars.  So I knew he wanted to do well.  Charles had explained at dinner the night before that he developed a cramp in his leg on his very last long run the week before.  Very strange for such a veteran marathoner.  He couldn’t figure it out either.  But we were both comfortable going out at a pretty good clip for several miles.  Charles ushered me through the first two hills but stayed 20 – 30 yards ahead of me.

Then around mile 8, Charles slowed noticeably and I caught up.  Something was wrong.  I figured it was his leg, but there was nothing I could do, so I kept my pace, passed Charles, and just hoped he could manage through whatever was bothering him.  I was 3 minutes ahead of plan by this point and feeling very comfortable, so I just kept the pace.  I had never gone out so far ahead of my goal pace, but I was really confident in my training over the past few months, so I decided to gamble.  I reached the halfway point in 1:43, well under a 3:30 marathon.  I knew I couldn’t keep that pace for the second half, but really didn’t think I would hit the wall.

At mile 14, Verne “Lonnie” Shellhorn caught up with me.  Lonnie won his age group at this event two years ago with a time of 3:15.  This was his 16th marathon.  He was a 2-pack-a-day smoker until he turned 60 and decided to start running!!  He is now 69, and he was pulling me on the second half of the marathon.  Lonnie and I ran 10 miles together.  He schooled me on how to breathe and use my arms.  I wasn’t about to employ new running techniques during a marathon but I was willing to listen to anything he had to teach.  Turns out we’re both very heavy breathers.  I told him we sounded like a couple freight trains.  Other runners were turning their heads to see who was making all the racket.  But it kept my mind off the pain that was beginning to build.

Lonnie and I started walking through the aid stations just long enough to chug a couple cups of water or Gatorade.  Around mile 18, I started to feel a cramp in my right hamstring, so I took one salt tablet and an ibuprofen.  I usually take salt tablets only during ultras when it’s hot, but they always help delay the onset of cramps.  It worked like a charm.  I felt better within a few minutes, and took another salt tablet 25 minutes later.  I was beginning to slow down but focused on keeping my leg turnover going. 

Around mile 20, Lonnie told me he had a kick at mile 24.  Guess what?  At mile 24, he took off and I never saw him again.  69 years old!  Still, I knew I had a good time going for myself, so I dug deep.  Just hold it together and don’t crash now.  I didn’t have the foresight to drive the course the day before, but I had tracked the entire course on Google Earth, so I knew exactly where the final turns were and where to expect the finish line.  I finished in 3:35:49, a full 12 minutes faster than my previous PR.  32 out of 148 in my age group.  276 out of 1822 overall.  Lonnie was waiting for me at the finish and told me I ran a great race.  I don’t even know the man, but his encouragement and friendship out there on the course was something I’ll never forget.  There were times I was sure he was only staying with me to pace me, and I’m not sure I could have done it without him.  Now I know I can qualify for Boston.

I have to put a shout out for everyone involved in putting on the Napa Marathon.  This is easily the most well organized event I have ever done.  The schwag is awesome; I went back for seconds for the hot vegetable soup at the finish; I was able to take a hot shower right after the race; and I waited less than ten minutes for a complete body massage that lasted a full 15 minutes.  The aid stations were well managed, the spectators were noticeably louder than any I can ever remember, and the CHP was on top of traffic control.  I even heard people talking about how the pasta feed the night before was so much better than the average cattle feed.

I love racing because of people like Lonnie.  I get excited for the Julia’s out there who are doing their first marathon.  I have great respect for folks like Bernadette and Alan who dedicate an effort of 26.2 in someone’s memory.  I have incredible respect as well for people like Charles, who finished his 83rd marathon after struggling 18 miles with a pulled muscle.  And I managed to run a PR in the rain.  Everyone has a story.  Uncovering the stories is what turns an event into an experience.

4 Responses

  1. Great job, Lynn!! PR in the rain!! My son, Jacob, got a PR, too–just not at the Napa Marathon. On Sunday, he ran his first race since he joined the Wolfpak. It was the inaugural Jenny’s Light 5K at Vasona Park in Los Gatos. The forecast showed rain and winds of 11 mph. I prayed for no wind and no rain. Well, there was barely any wind (Jacob said there were some gusts at one point), and the rain didn’t start until right before the race. And the temperature was fairly warm. (Thank you, Lord!) He finished in 21:18, which was 2:25 faster than his previous PR of 23:43.

    I have been thinking lately that Jacob might not even be interested in running if I hadn’t have decided to do local 5Ks. Here I am, a slow runner–with ITBS to boot–finishing in the 35 minute range at 5Ks. But Jacob started joining me at races, and now he has really been inspired to run. And Dave Wolfsmith is a great coach. The Wolfpakers are a supportive group.

    My next race is the Wildflower Run. We’ll see how my leg is feeling that day. I have a rule: if the pain gets to be over a “1” on a scale of “0-10”, I back off and slow down. I am working on figuring out a stride that is as fast as possible and has the least amount of pain. Right now, it’s a fast walk/slow jog. I am determined NOT to give up!!

    I continue to keep you and Kevin in prayer as you prepare for the Transrockies.

    Blessings to you!!

    Jody :>}

    • Thanks, Jody! Chopping 2:25 off a 5K time is not just an improvement. He’s probably using a new and improved running form and he has posted a very good time. Vasona is one of my favorite places to run. Jacob will continue to improve with the Wolfpack. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great race report, Lynn. Congratulations on your PR. I relived the race by reading your report!

    Yes, indeed, once I embraced the rain, I had a great time.

    This was Alan’s first marathon, and he pushed through in 4:10.
    His mom would have been so proud.

    I, on the other hand, did what I always do in marathons–have fun! I am happy just to be able to cover 26.2 miles!

    There were groups of dedicated supporters huddled under umbrellas, so I just high-fived everybody, and thanked everyone for coming out. I am so passionate about this sport. Positivity and a good attitude account for so much.

    Thank you for the ‘shout out’ in your blog. We will follow your
    preparation for the Transrockies with interest, and wish you all the very best in your training.
    Bernadette and Alan.

    • Hi Bernadette! Thanks for your comments. I didn’t realize it was Alan’s first marathon. I hope there are more planned for both of you. I will definitely do this race again. And I’m glad we finally met!

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