Wine Country is a Fine Country

This was my first time venturing solo to one of my marathons.  Typically my family or friends go and we all coordinate and take care of each other, but this time it was all me.  My new found independence had me both nervous and excited.  So here I was with Marathon #7 and the great state of California on my radar.  I reviewed the logistics of the course, studied the itinerary so I wouldn't miss anything, and packed my bags.  I was ready.  Mentally and Physically.  This was one race I had trained well for and was very excited to attend.  I'd heard about the lack of crowd support (basically the EXACT opposite of the NYC Marathon), but was looking forward to the peace and connecting with the run.  I'd soon find out that's exactly what would happen.  
Spoiler Alert!!!  I finished!!!!
 I flew into San Francisco and stopped to take in the beauty of the infamous Golden Gate Bridge.
The short drive to Napa had me feeling nervous, excited, and anxious to see what the weekend had in store.  Napa was welcoming with its rolling hills and peaceful overcast.  It had rained a lot over the past week so the air was heavy.  Somehow it just surrounded me and I enjoyed every moment.

Many races now offer VIP packages.  This typically includes extra swag, a tent to hang out in and stay comfortable before the race, food, and porta potties.  Since I was going solo I figured I'd take this option.  The best part was the swag bag which included a bottle of wine.  Wine > T-shirt ANYDAY!

So I picked up my VIP package and got the details for the Shake Out run taking place the next morning.  These shake out runs are typically an easy run the day before the race to keep you loose and for most of us, burn off the anxiety and nerves we have building up.  The shakeout run was GREAT!  We gathered together and they had a raffle to which I won a hat!  I was honored to have a hat from the Napa local running group, Vine Runners!

Napa Valley Shakeout Run Group 3/2/2019
After the Shake Out Run I ventured into the Expo where I picked up my bib, shirt, bag, and visited the vendors.  I always love race Expos.  Seeing all the new gadgets, trinkets, new races, oh and of course, merchandise.  Not wanting to spend to much time on my feet I gathered up some goodies and my race day essentials, and headed back to relax and rest before the marathon less than 24 hours away.  Many runners, myself included like to lay out their race day gear the night before.  It helps give me a feeling of readiness as well as just knowing I have all my stuff!  Nothing worse then finding out the morning of your big race you're missing something!
My race day gear.  I wore my New Mexico hat to represent where I'm from.

All set to go in the morning I headed off to the local high school where we were bussed up to the start line.  The Napa Valley Marathon is what's known as a point-to-point course.  Meaning we start at one spot and end in another.  The bus ride was calm and quiet.  Some people buzzed about the light rain coming in.  Others were eating bananas or other race day nutrition.  It always amazes me just to watch how much effort everyone puts into the race.  I applaud anyone out there putting in the effort!

 I headed to the VIP tent which was warm and welcoming.  There was coffee, water, and some other goodies for breakfast but I was already good to go so I enjoyed the warmth and readied my mind for what the next couple hours had in store.  The day prior I decided to drive the course to have a mental picture and know where I would be at certain spots.  It's not something I typically do as I like to take it in fresh as I go.  But this proved to be helpful as I knew where the big hills and turns would be.

The Napa Valley Marathon was more than I ever could have expected. From the very beginning their entire crew was kind and welcoming.  Many of the team even remembered my name over the couple days.  They really raised the bar in terms of "customer service" and accommodating the runner.

One of the things I loved seeing when I got my race photos was those smiles I had on my face.  Trust me, they were not just for the camera.  I was loving EVERY minute of this run.  That doesn't mean it was easy, but I had it in my mind that this was going to be wonderful and I had the ability to create that for myself!

So how did I do?  I finished and felt strong.  Not completely famished as I have previously.  My training went well and my mind was right.  My vision and sights were on success.  Brief thoughts of doubt came across my mind during the race, but I was able to (through lots of practice on my training runs) place something positive in its place.  So much of the race is a mind game you play with yourself.  If you already know your opponent so well, how can you not play to win?

Long story short, I set a new PR (personal recored) with an official chip time of 3 hours and 32 minutes even.  This was 4 minutes and 7 seconds faster than my last PR.  In addition, this gave me a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon.  More on that later, but my age group requirement is a time under 3:35.  So I cleared that by 3 whole minutes!

Even more exciting than ringing the BQ'd bell was getting to hear my friend Stephanie's adventure on her first half marathon.  I was with this girl from day one when she set her goal to make this race her first half marathon.  She trained hard and did well.  I couldn't have been more proud!!!

The following day I proudly pulled out of my suitcase an "old rag" I received from my dear friend Kim many years ago.  She's from Boston and gave me a "Boston Strong" shirt.  It meant a lot then and even though I ran years ago, qualifying for the Boston Marathon was not something I ever thought I'd accomplish.  Hopeful that I'd achieve this goal in Napa, I pulled out that bright yellow shirt, slapped it on proudly, and made my way to the Clif tasting room for my own personal reward!

Coming back home I felt accomplished and at peace.  Various thoughts ran through my head.  Some of them of doubt if I could have done better, some of them just overjoyed I even had the opportunity to accomplish this goal.  When all was said and done, I proudly pulled out my Napa Valley Marathon tank, my raffle won Vine Runner hat, and went out for a post marathon recovery run.  One of the best parts of that run was knowing this was not the end.  I have so much more running to do and Napa enriched my history and love for running.

With all of my heart, I love you Napa!!!

Course Map for the NVM

Thanks for allowing me to fill your time with my love of this race.  As I take it easy for my recovery week I plan to give you all a review of one product I'm currently trying out.

Whats next in terms of racing?  I have a local 5k this weekend, and to save some anticipation for later, lets just say I'm just over 7 weeks out from Marathon #8!

Please share your feedback with me as I'd love to hear from you!  If you've ran Napa Valley I'd love to hear your thoughts.


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