Napa Marathon Report

on Saturday, March 8, 2008 at 2:34 PM

Sorry for the delay. I have a lot of things that I wanted to document so sorry for the length. Much of this is really for my own benefit as I did a couple of things which I want to try and recall for later.

Just some background info about the expo. Fairly small. Only seemed to have local vendors from around the napa region. I ended up buying a pair of Asics 2130's for $80. These shoes are about $50 more expensive in Canada and that's before taxes. I had a flexibility test done. My hip flexors and IT Band are tight, which I already knew. I also had a lung test. My lung age is 30. Race kits were a nice heavy duty gym type bag in a choice of two colours. Had a few samples and a water bottle in there. Also got a long sleeve technical T-shirt. Pretty good swag for the fee that was paid. Pasta dinner was fairly standard fair. Salads, bread, pasta. They also had wine and beer . It's the first time I've attended a race organized pasta dinner so I'm not sure if the presence of alcohol is standard fair or not. Here's a pic of that steve had taken of me and him at the Expo.

Night before the marathon, I found myself at Target buying a few things for the following day. Bought some garbage bags, some bottles of gatorade, some masking tape and some multi coloured labels. The garbage bags were for warmth on race morning which I could toss if need be. I would only need one, but they obviously don't sell garbage bags in one-packs. The remaining items were for the gatorade. The Napa marathon has a unique feature in that they will place bottles that you give them at special tables every 3 miles or so. Usually you would only see this for elites at most marathons. I decided that I would carry a full bottle of gatorade with me at the start and have another full bottle waiting for me at the half way mark. I was able to handle this last fall so I decided I would carry a bottle for the whole race. Back in 2006 in Chicago, they seemed to have aid stations every mile and each aid station was long enough that I could get two cups if I needed. I wanted to try and simulate that liquid intake that occured in Chicago but since Napa only had aid stations every 2 miles, it would be necessary for me to carry my own. In any event, I wasn't sure how many people were going to be using the "bring your own drink" table so I bought a bunch of things to make a little pink flag for my gatorade bottle so I would be able to pick it up without searching too much. Just before heading to bed, I used my foam roller and The Stick to give my legs a good working over. Focused on the hamstrings and the quads. Retired at about 10:00pm

So race morning I got up at about 4:00 and started munching on a bagel with peanut butter and jam. I also downed one gel and some water. One benefit to staying at the host hotel is that they would bus us directly to the start line. In practice you didn't really need to stay at the host hotel since they didn't check to see if you were allowed to get on the bus or not. My bus was one of the first to arrive which meant we got first crack at the portapoties.

I packed 7 gels which as it would turn out was way too many. One of them was for comsuing just before the race. Of the remaining 6, I think I only ended up comsuming 3 of them. I also brought along some salt pills. I had carried 6 of them in a little plastic pill box. I've been reading that loss of electrolyes can cause cramping and so I wanted to try and avoid any cramping issues by taking these salt pills.

Standing around at the start, I found myself being quite cold. It was probably around 7 or 8C but the wind was really whipping around. I had stripped out of my warm up gear and put on the garbage bag and was wandering around trying to keep warm. I used the facilities one last time about 5 minutes before the race start.

The Start
The Napa marathon isn't chip timed, so in order to get a good time, you need to actually be close to the front which would seem to be a bit of a drawback but when you consider that no timing mat at the start also means you don't actually have to cross the start line, it evens out in the end. By the time I had finished my business, the start line was packed so I ended up starting to the left of the start line with a whole bunch of others. I didn't actually hear a gun or anything go off, but I jsut saw everyone start running so I started also. First mile I try to take it nice and easy. Didn't want to start out too fast. I was carrying too much crap in my shorts and it felt like they were going to fall down. I grabbed the draw string on the shorts and yanked on them. I would end up having to do this throughout the first half of the race. Goal for the race was 7:27 mile splits. I notice while I running that the wind which was really blowing around at the start is almost directly at our backs. Pass the first mile at 7:27. Exactly on pace.

Mile 1: 7:27

I decided to take a swig of gatorade after every mile since this is what I tend to do on my long runs. I was using a Poweraid bottle since it had a nice flip top on it. I had some trouble closing it at first and started to worry about wasting energy. Nerves I guess. Sometime during mile number 2, I start to pull off the garbage bag which I had started the race with. I had warmed up sufficiently and figured I would no longer need it. Since the first aid station was just after the two mile mark, I could toss it then. It was a bit tougher than I thought since the garbage bag was really stretchy. Got to remember to buy cheaper garbage bags next time. When I had finally got the garbage bag off, I realized that I had forgotten to take off my neck warmer and put it in my warm up bag. I really didn't want to toss it since it's the only one I have. I thought of maybe wrapping it around my leg or my arm or shoving it down my shorts or something, but I ended up deciding to just leave it on my neck since that's where it's designed to be. Here's a pic of me in the early part of the race. You can see the neck warmer. I like this picture cause both my feet are in the air and it looks like I'm motoring right along. Do mile two in 7:18.

Mile 2: 7:18

During mile 3 is when I really start to notice how much the wind at our backs is really helping us. This wasn't some sissy breeze but a really strong wind at our backs. There were a couple of gradual hills and I could swear that the wind was actually pushing me up the hill. Someone close by remarks about this and it was at this point that I started rethinking my goal. Hit the mile 3 marker in 7:25.

Mile 3: 7:25

So it was at this point that I decided that I would try for 3:10. Since the course is pretty much a point to point course in basically one direction, the wind was going to be at our backs for most of the race. I was already a bit behind pace due to the slower first few miles, but with the downhills coming up, I was sure that I could make up the time. I also started to notice that there is a severe camber to the road. On the straightaways, it wasn't so bad since you could run down the centre of the road, but the camber around the turns was quite severe and you couldn't compensate for it by running down the centre cause the whole road was sloped. Kinda like a turn in a nascar oval. Not quite as severe, but definitely noticiable Do miles 4 and 5 in 7:05 and 7:06 respectively.

Mile 4: 7:05
Mile 5: 7:06

After mile 5, the mental math indicated that I had basically caught up to where I wanted to be. I would now try and focus on running 7:15 splits the rest of the way. By this point, I had gotten a feel for the people running around me. Some had gone out too fast who were breathing hard. I knew they would fade. Others seemed to be moving right along. Next three splits were pretty much on pace. I took my first gel during mile number 7 to coincide with the aid station. Next 3 splits are pretty much on pace.

Mile 6 : 7:14
Mile 7: 7:09
Mile 8: 7:09

Even though the course as a whole is a net downhill course, the first half rolls up and down. There was a woman (who ended up winning the masters category) who would pass me on the uphills and then I would pass here on the downhills. You can see here in the background of the picture. We would flip back and forth throughout the race and would end up finishing withn 10 seconds of each other. During mile 10 is when I took my first salt pill, again to try and coincide with the aid station. It was kinda awkward since I had to tuck the waterbottle into my arm pit and pry open the pill box and then try and extract one pill from the very small box while I was wearing gloves without spilling the rest, all while doing 7:15 pace. I took my second gel shortly before the 12 mile mark. The next couple of miles through to the half are a bit on the slow side, but I'm still on Boston pace. I pass the half mark at 1:35:18.

Mile 9: 7:15
Mile 10: 7:20
Mile 11: 7:20
Mile 12: 7:25
Mile 13: 7:16
Half mark 1:35:18

Shortly before the 14 miles mark, I run through the aid station and pick up my gatorade bottle with the little pink flag on it. I turn down the offer of fluids since I had the gatorade bottle, but in hindsight I think I should have taken some water. It was shortly after this that I started to encounter the feeling of a side stitch. I don't think it was a true side stich as much as a stomach problem. I had really been overloading on the electrolytes and I don't think the stomach contents were quite dilute enough with the salt pills, gels and gatorade I had been taking. It was at this point that I decided that Boston wasn't in the cards. I could still run, but there was a small feeling of stomach unwellness. I continued on to the 16 mile aid station and comsumed only water at that aid station. Upon reconsidering my goals, I figurered I would try for the orignal goal of 3:15 or at the very least to try for a PR. I knew that my PR pace was 7:31 and since I had run the first half at 7:15 pace that I would try and maintain at a minimum 7:45 pace the rest of the way to average out to 7:30.

Mile 14: 7:19
Mile 15: 7:15
Mile 16: 7:47

I had a 3:15 pace band on so I knew what times I needed to stay ahead of that. I ended up slowing down a bit for the next few miles, partially to account for the few small hills and to partially try and recover from the stomach cramps. It was also during this time that the sun started bearing down on me and i was getting a bit warm. The first half of the course had some shade, whereas this portion is all out in the open. I think I took my second salt pill somewhere during these miles.

Mile 17: 7:57
Mile 18: 7:32
Mile 19: 7:56

Passing by mile 19, I was still 70 seconds ahead of 3:15 pace. Mile 20 had the longest hill of the marathon which consisted of a one mile gradual hill. This mile was done in 8:18. Mile 21 contains the remaining bit of a hill and then is followed by a downhill. Mile 21 was done in 7:45. I passed the 21 mile mark at 2:36:18 which is exactly the time I needed to be on 3:15 pace.

Mile 20: 8:18
Mile 21: 7:45

The next couple of miles though would be my undoing. During mile 22, i felt something in my left foot. It felt like a small stone or something had gotten in there and was rubbing up against the underside of my big toe. It was really starting to bother me. I tried kicking the foot against the ground to maybe try and dislodge it but it was staying fast. I considered stopping to try and remove it, but that would be a waste of time. I continued on. I dumped my half filled gatorade bottle at the 22 mile aid station. Mile 22 was done in 7:47.

Mile 22: 7:47

I had slowed down during mile 23 cause my foot my bothering me. I found that if i turned my foot a certain way, I could reduce the pressure on the big toe, but I was running very inefficiently. Most of the marathon had been run on the Silverado Trail in a southeasten direction. Mile 23 turns right off the trail in a southwesternly direction. Unfortunately, since the wind was coming from the NW, this now meant that for the first time in the race, I would now face a headwind. That first little bit into the wind was hard. Not feeling it at all during the race and then suddenly encoutnering it caused me to slow down significantly. Mile 23 was done in 8:22 which was the slowest mile in the race.

Mile 23: 8:22

By this point, I was pretty sure that 3:15 was not going to be doable and that the PR was looking to be a bit suspect also. Mile 24 continued onto into the wind and then turns southwest again making the tailwind present again. I had mentally decided that once I passed the 24 mile mark, I would try and turn it on to the finish line since it would only be about 15 minutes of suffering to the finish line and the possibility of still PRing. Mile 24 was done 7:56.

Passing by the 24 mile marked, i just couldn't get the will to turn the speed back on. My mind had settled into a comfortable pace with the wind at my back. Mile 25 was done in 7:48.

Mile 24: 7:56
Mile 25: 7:48

Mile 26 then turns back in a southwestern direction which means directly into the wind again. The course then winds through a neighbourhood and then finished at a high school. I thought about sprinting right at the end to pass a guy that was just ahead of me, but I decided not to since I had been using him to block the wind for me in the past mile and I figured he deserved to finish ahead of me.

Mile 26: 8:07
Mile 26.2 1:36 (8:00 pace)

So that's it. My calfs didn't cramp up like they did previously and I didn't have to stop to pee and I ran the whole way so I'm happy with that. I think I handled the on-the-fly change of game plan fairly well. The thing in my shoe turned out to be a bit of lint in my sock that had bunched up at the wrong spot at the wrong time. I'm sure that the PR would have been possible if I hadn't encoutered that at the 22 mile mark. I've got to look out for that stuff in the future.The post race party was okay. They served hot soup with bread and had massages available.

Hmm, looking back, I wished I had appreciated the scenery a bit more. When I took the opportunity to look around, I really think this has to be one of the most scnenic marathons around. I think I spent most of the time worrying about pace and turnover to really look around. If I ever do this again, I would take a camera along and take pictures everywhere.

Spent a couple of days in Napa. Did a couple of wine tastings and went on a hot air balloon ride. Then spent a day in san francisco. I have pictures, but unforunately i tried to upgrade the BIOS on my notebook computer yesterday and the damn thing wont start now. :( I think I'm going to have to pull the hard drive out to get at the pictures.

So I landed Wednesday morning to be greeted by a snow storm. I'm sitting at home right now with about 10 inches of snow that had fallen overnight with more to come. I hate winter.

[edited to replace water marked pics]


Stephen said...

Great report Francis!

How did you like the Balloon ride?
( I forgot to tell you about those)

Sonia said...

hahahaha I hate winter too and I didn't get a week break in Napa!!

Great race report, seems like you learned a lot which is important in your quest to BQ! Stupid shoe lint that really sucks, after 24 miles small things like that really make a difference.

Congrats on yet another marathon under your belt =)

L*I*S*A said...

Great race report and sounds like a beautiful course. Congrats!

yumke said...

Felt like we were with ya. Nice report. Wow, you got a few more months before contemplating on the fall marathon (unless you're considering a May marathon?)

Arcane said...

Balloon ride was fun! Perfect weather for it.

Yumke, you know me too well! I've been thinking about the Mississauga full these past few days. Haven't made any decisions yet.

jen said...

Fran, congratulations. Great race and fun report. You ran a really really strong race and did a great job of re-evaluating your goal mid-race. It can be easy to "give up" completely or to insist on pushing on which could have led to cramping or who knows what. You're a smart runner. Very impressive my friend!!

Great pictures too, it does look like a nice course. Your description makes it sound like a fast course as well. Nice medal and goodies too. I'd love to do this race sometime.

Wishing you a speedy recovery- thanks for sharing!!

Ryan said...

Congrats on an excellent marathon and nice job on a very detailed report. So close to a PR. More evidence that you can get to 3:10 in my mind.

Quinto Sol said...

I also think that a 3:10 is just around the corner. I suggest for your next marathon training cycle you try some longish runs at MP... i.e. 17 miles with the middle 13 at MP.

Nice race, even with the positive split.