The Napa Valley Half Marathon is my fastest half marathon since Run Local Santa Barbara Half Marathon. Right after the Run Local Half, I sustained a back injury. Then an ankle injury. Then I got sick and had a lingering illness for months that made it hard to breathe while working out (hard). I wasn’t in “peak” fitness even before the Run Local Half. My half marathon PR is 1:22. But I felt like I was getting faster and towards that goal.
In December, I decided to add longer runs back into the mix. I knew endurance was something I lacked, and I felt like, if anything, long runs could help my training. Then after the Rose Bowl Half Marathon, I was inspired to continue fundraising for the McCourt Foundation and I decided to run the Los Angeles Marathon.
Marathon training has *actually* been fun for me this time around. It’s a different type of training, but it’s helped increase my endurance.
I decided the Napa Valley Half Marathon would be my last “big” workout before the Los Angeles Marathon. We always hope to get faster during a training cycle, but after traveling home from a ten vacation to Hawaii, I found myself tired the week before. I nixed a workout because my body “didn’t have it,” and I opted for easy runs.
Before the Napa Valley Half Marathon:
Napa is now about 6 hours from me in the desert. The race finishes within a mile of my old house. It’s always hard to go back to Napa, mainly because we didn’t get enough time there. My friend, Brittany, decided to run her first half marathon since becoming a mom. So we made it a girl’s trip up there. The ride up there was chaotic. We left Edwards after work around 3:30 and stayed the night in Fresno (about halfway). The following day I locked my key in the car and thought we might be stranded (I was also standing outside my vehicle barefoot). Luckily, we worked it out, got pancakes from Batter Up Pancakes, and headed north. Picking up bibs at Napa Valley Half Marathon was easy, and we were in bed between 7-8 pm for a 4 am wakeup.
The following day, we woke up at 4 am and were out of the door by 4:30 am. That morning I found it hard to eat my breakfast. I just wasn’t hungry (which is extremely rare for me). I have the same breakfast (a waffle with peanut butter) every morning, but that morning I found eating challenging. I ended up eating about half and having half a cliff bar on the bus ride before the race.
The last Napa Valley Half Marathon bus leaves at 5:15, but the race doesn’t start until 7 am. We got to the Napa Valley Half Marathon half marathon race start around 5:40. It was torrentially raining. I knew it could rain, but I didn’t realize it was torrential rain (yes, the same as Boston 2018 or Shamrock 2016/2017.) Luckily it stopped raining right before the race, and didn’t have torrential rain during the Napa Valley Half Marathon.
Napa Valley Half Marathon Race:
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. Driving 6 hours to a race is less than ideal, but my body was also tired from traveling and catching up on work. I was just tired. I respected that and told myself it would be at least a nice view in Napa, The Napa Valley Half Marathon started at seven, and I focused on running my race. The goal for the day was to do 20 miles (2 before and five after). I ended up with 19, which was fine. The Napa Valley Half Marathon is a point to point course with a few small uphills in the beginning but the rest is flat.
The Napa Valley Half Marathon’s first mile goes uphill and back down. I ran a 7:10, which I was pretty pleased with. I told myself if I averaged a 7:10 pace for the entire race; I would be happy. But I had no idea if my body would feel towards the end. Even at the race start, I felt a little dehydrated.
The next few miles of the Napa Valley Half Marathon cover some rolling hills. Nothing too steep, and I ran a 7:01 and 7:14. I was pretty familiar with the Silverado trail, as I’ve driven it what feels like 100 times. You can’t really run there on a normal day, just because it’s fast traffic (I think the speed limit is 55 mph) and narrow shoulders. I knew there were some hills, but nothing “too crazy.”
I grabbed some electrolytes around mile 3 and just pressed on. The next few miles felt easy, and I felt like my body was loosening up. I ran a 6:55, 6:55, and 7:06. I reached the halfway point of the Napa Valley Half Marathon around 46:20 and thought, wow, if I continue this way, I could run a 1:32.XX. My history has not shown negative splitting as my strength, but I felt good.
Around mile 7 of the Napa Valley Half Marathon, the headwind picked up. We had been running into the wind the entire time (the downside of point-to-point courses), but it picked up in the last half of the race. Miles 8-10 felt like they were “taking forever.” You can see the race miles away. I like the idea of point-to-point courses, but sometimes they can get lonely.
I went to grab electrolytes at the next stop but spilled them mostly on my gloves. I probably could have used more electrolytes, so I was slightly bummed. It started sprinkling rain, but I just pressed on.
I found myself slowly catching a few people of the Napa Valley Half Marathon. I was running a lot in no man’s land with not many people around me. I just focused on the next person in front. I was moving much faster than people around me (and I wasn’t picking it up either), but catching people that had probably taken it out too hard (usually me).
After mile 9 of the Napa Valley Half Marathon, I counted down the race. I could have been happy if it was a 15k that day. Around mile 9, I thought, “just 30 minutes to go”. It was getting windy…fast. I ran a 7:02, 7:11, and 7:13. Mile 11 of the Napa Valley Half Marathon was the hardest because it was a complete headwind. I felt super defeated and honestly like I was running an 8 min mile. I was surprised when it clicked off at 7:13.
Mile 13 went back into the headwind, and I ran a 7:07. I focused on finishing. Despite being so close to my old house, I never ran the way of the course (mainly because I opted for hills). Once we were in the neighborhood, I just pushed until the end. I averaged 7 minute pace for the final bit and finished in 1:33.14.
Napa Valley Half Marathon Thoughts:
It’s hard to be upset at my fastest time in a year and a half. It was not a “perfect” day, but I ran well. It was also a nice confidence boost for the LA marathon coming up. I was also super happy for Brittany who ran a 1:36 and is only 8 minutes from her PR.
I look forward to tapering and seeing what I can do at the Los Angeles Marathon.
Questions for you:
Have you run the Napa Valley Half Marathon?
What is your favorite half marathon?