Yup, you read correctly. Two PRs: half marathon and the marathon. Should I count the first half as a PR even though it was not a race in and of itself? Why not, the distance is the same whether it is stand alone or part of another. So 2 PRs, and I couldn't have been any happier. In fact my marathon PR was a whopping 43 minutes faster! I am still in disbelief.
Napa Valley Marathon - 3:52:32 (8:54 pace; 605/1,757)
My mother, father and myself came up to Napa to spend the weekend on Friday, which was a great way for us to not only see Napa again but for me to also case out the course by driving it. It turned out to be on the Silverado Trail, the road the runs north and south on the east side of the valley, a road I've driven several times before. Right away we noticed some mini hills in the first 6 miles, with the rest a relatively flat to a little bit of descent, with another few inclines (such as at mile 19). Run next to the mountains with winery after winery as a backdrop and the colorful mustard flowers peppering the valley a vibrant yellow, what more could I ask for? Well, the weather was much better than expected. Notoriously wrong, the weathermen had this one way off. With a prediction of high 30s to low 40s at the start, I was a little worried. The temp actually turned out to be in the low 50s at the start, but there was a huge wind chill that dropped the temp to about the mid 40s.
Lets back up a day to Saturday the 1st. One of the main reasons I decided to do this marathon was to give myself a birthday present, the 1st being my birthday. So when we went to pick up my bib and goodie bag (yes, an actual duffel back with goodies in it), and the wonderful long sleeve tech shirt I then had to find my parents. To my surprise they had set up for me to have running shoes fitted, which I had never had done before. So now I was going to be able to run the marathon in shoes that actually fit me the way they were surpassed to! And get this, my old shoes were size 11, but they fitted me with a size 12. I guess I should have been fitted a while ago. The 11s felt comfortable, but the 12s were even more comfortable.
Anyway, long winded preamble to the actual day. Eventually I am dropped off about 3/4 of a mile from the start line, since this is a point to point race, and had to rush to get to the start line. Why? Well this "biggest small city marathon" apparently doesn't use chip timing, so the race literally started when the gun went off. With a few minutes to spare I got in line at the port-o-potties when the gun went off. By the time I got back out the start line was deserted, with a few stragglers also going to the bathroom. I was already 3 minutes into the race when I crossed the start line. This was going to be fun because now I was able to take up the rear and see how many runners I would be able to pick off by the time I finished. Something I've always wanted to try, but never had occasion to, and now I was forced to. As much as I was disliking the non-chip timing and my late start, I think this will make everything all better.
I wanted to take an aggressive approach to this race and so maintained an 8 minute pace for the first half, despite the rolling hills in the first 6 miles. We had a huge tailwind and that helped a good bit as well. I knew that I might be starting out too fast but I had recently ran a good amount at that pace and was completely comfortable. Plus I had a plan set up to eat and drink, and through the first half I had stuck by it religiously, and it worked. I came in to the half in 1:47, three minutes faster than my previous half marathon. I had set a PR, but did I set out to aggressively? I don't think it is too good of an idea to set a half marathon pace while trying to complete a much longer run. I guess I will find out.
Miles 14-17 slowed a little, but I was still maintaining an 8:30 or so pace during those miles, so I wasn't worried, but after that I was continually hitting the 9:30-10:30 pace, and was feeling the effects on my calves. I pushed on, knowing that a sub 4 hour marathon was in my grasp. I looked to the left at about mile 24 and lo and behold, Dean Karnazes had just passed me! I had seen him jogging in to the start when I was jogging in, so we started at the same time, so I queried why he was back here at my pace. Take a guess! Yup, he was conserving energy because he was running another 60 miles after the marathon! Ha!
Anyway, I finally came in to the home stretch and tried to speed up and finish strong. With 300 or so yards left the crowd was lined to either side and cheering when my right hamstring seized up on me. How could I cramp up right at the finish line? Luckily I was able to slow it down a little and not let anyone on that I was cramping, but I so wanted to sprint across the finish line! Oh well, you win some, you lose some. And I most certainly won. I crossed the finish line in 3:52:32, 43 minutes faster than my previous best! Okay, I started 3 minutes late and since it wasn't chip timed my "official" time is actually 3:55:34, but I am sticking to my actual time!
Bravo to the Napa Valley Marathon. They did a wonderful job. 12 aid stations with a ton of volunteers. You cross the finish line and there are a line of people there to walk you through the line to ensure our times were recorded accurately. Then you are promptly handed a medal and a water. Shortly after that are a few people literally checking on every runner to make sure that they were okay and didn't need medical attention. They were really looking out for all of the runner's safety, which was absolutely wonderful. The only thing they didn't get right was the location, at a high school. There was no way to gather everyone, so there were booths and various area scattered throughout the school in individual classrooms so you were literally wandering around aimlessly trying to find something, anything. I gave up and walked back to the finish line to await my parents, which were hard to find because the parking couldn't handle to the massive amount of people all coming in to that location.
What a great race, great weather, great organization and a great run for me with 2 new PRs. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend.