Not gettin’ it done in Napa…
This morning had the makings of the perfect day for a marathon. The 4:00 AM wake up call was less than pleasant, but I managed to slither out of bed, get ready, and head out the door for the 90 minute drive to the start in Calistoga by 4:30ish. The weather was perfect, right around 40 degrees with clear skies and no wind. Stephanie and I got to the start area just before the road closures began, so we were able to park about 100 meters from the endless row of porta-potties and starting line. After a quick 10 minute warm up I felt pretty good and was ready for a solid day. 45 minutes from the start I downed a Vespa stripped down to my race gear, plus a long sleeve shirt and headed to the bathroom for one last time. If there was one thing I could change about my running, it is my bathroom routine. I swear I need to use the head 3 times as much as any other human prior to a race. I stood around in line for about 15 minutes before I calculated I wasn’t going to make it to the start if I waited any longer, so I made a mad dash for the car to get some toilet paper in order to pull up a tree. Unfortunately, during my little sprint I caught a curb with my left food and fell flat on my face on the sidewalk. Thankfully, I was wearing gloves and ended up unscathed from my embarrassing display. I ended up getting to the start just in time… tucked in to the 5th or 6th row and anxiously waited to get underway. Up in the front row I could make out Devon Crosby-Helms and Nathan Yanko and a bunch of other speedsters. I could also see Stefano Profumo, whom I met at the recent Brazen Bay Breeze 10K. I knew he was shooting for 2:45, and after crushing that 10K he was obviously fit enough to make that happen. I figured if I could just keep him in sight I should be good to go. I would have loved to run around 2:45, but ultimately anything under 2:50 would have been considered a success.
After the national anthem we were off and rolling our way down Napa Valley. About 200 meters into the race, Elvis went prancing by me. It’s a bit humbling when you see a long-deceased music legend scampering by you at the beginning of a race, but knowing it was Ian Sharman… and that he was probably going for another Elvis-clad Guiness World Record… I felt generally okay about it (Ian ended up getting the GWR in 2:40:49). The race was pretty darn uneventful, which is a good thing when running a marathon. I started off a little slow with my first mile in 6:26, but after that was able to click off steady 6:10 – 6:15 miles. Stefano was just in front of me, and I was running with two other guys who knew their way around the marathon; Charlie Johnston of Sparks, NV who has run 30+ marathons in the last 4 years, including a 2:45 at CIM in December, and ultra monster Erik Skaden. I was running with a 10 ounce handheld bottle and a 5 ounce Hydrapak Soft-Flask lashed together and was surprised by how well my little contraption worked. I took my time at the abundant aid stations to refill my bottle every 2 – 3 miles. I was a bit surprised at my consistency and how easy things felt. While chatting with Charlie we got a little carried away and ran a 6:03 then 6:05 mile. A little too quick for my taste, so I eased off a bit and went back to the more comfortable 6:15ish pace.
As in just about every race, Stephanie was poised to help me out wherever she could. We picked a couple strategic spots along the course for her to wait for me and either take stuff I no longer wanted, or give me more fluids and food. I saw her for the first time at mile 9.5 and ditched my gloves. It may have been 40 degrees at the start, but the sun was out in full force now and it was warming up quickly. I was somewhere around 18th place at that point and felt great. I went through the 10 mile mark in 1:02:00. I saw Carl Arft on the side of the road around here somewhere, being the doting boyfriend, and cheering on Donna Tam who was killing it after a successful tune-up at Lake Chabot last weekend.
The rural landscape in Napa is beautiful… or so I’m told. I really didn’t take in any of the sights. I pretty much just stared at the back of whoever was in front of me… I was focused and feeling good. The half marathon went by in 1:21:30. That’s right about what I ran the Bay Breeze Half in last year. My goal started to change a bit while I was on course… maybe 2:45 was possible? After the half my pace slowed a smidge, down to a hair above 6:20. I wanted to maintain this pace until mile 20 then really hammer the last 10K. I saw Stephanie again at mile 16.5. I wasn’t feeling quite as perky at this point and was admittedly a bit lazy as I walked some to give her my handheld and soft-flask… I popped some salt caps and a couple Aleve, downed a little too much water, and was back on my way. I lost a bit of time there, but still felt pretty good about things. One guy passed me while I was being lazy, so that gave me something to focus on. Pass him, get back to a steady 6:20 pace and get this thing done.
At about mile 17.5 I felt a twinge in my left hamstring. Not good… It went away. A couple minutes later I felt a distinct pop in my groin and immediately pulled up lame. I tried to jog a little but couldn’t do it. Thankfully I was at an aid station with a physical therapist who gave me some ice and massaged the afflicted area a bit. After a few minutes of stewing in anger I got up and tried to run again. I made it about three steps before I realized I was being stupid. I sat back down, borrowed a cell phone and called Stephanie to come pick me up. I saw Carl again as I hobbled back to the nearest cross street. It didn’t take long until Donna ran by… you wouldn’t have guessed she was 18+ miles into a marathon. She looked super strong… and ended up running a 3:18. Awesome!
Anyway… I dropped. I’ve dropped out of 2 other races in my 27+ years of running. Once in high school when I fractured my foot and in the 1997 Houston Marathon when I ended up developing a stress fracture in my hip. I’m beyond angry and feel like I let myself down. After the unexpected passing of my father just over a year ago I’ve really tried to focus on running. He was one of the major driving forces in my life and while I’ve dialed in my training, with help of my coach, Howard Nippert, I still feel a bit numb when running or racing. I think about him a lot when I’m out there and while that is a huge motivating factor it also makes me feel pretty empty and sad. In a way, I feel like I let him down today too. I wanted to run well today not only for myself but for him as well (and for little Oreo who we lost earlier this week). I’m trying to look at this race as a positive thing. Sure, I dropped…. but I had an awesome run up to that point.
Take aways from today:
- – I was planning on moving up to ultras after today, but now knowing that I am pretty fit I kind of want to focus on really nailing a half and full marathon… I just need to get and stay healthy.
- – I need to find better road racing shoes. They changed something in the Saucony Kinvara 2… the upper was killing my ankle area and the tread is tearing away from the bottom of the shoe. I only have about 80 miles on this pair and didn’t have any of these issues with the first iteration of the Kinvara.
- – I wonder if the camber of the road had anything to do with the injury. I ran all the corners pretty tight, which meant I was running on an extremely slanted section of road on a regular basis.
- – I need to remember to lube up all the sensitive areas before a race… ouch!
Lots of friends had awesome races today… including Donna and ITR team member Victor Ballesteros who rolled to a 2:37 and won a massive amount of wine for being the first master (5th overall). Congrats to everyone who ran today and to the event organizers for putting on a first class, well organized race. I’ll be back for revenge next year…