Sunday, March 9, 2014

Marathon #2 - Napa!

After running the Columbus Marathon in October, I decided that I wanted to run another one. I should probably seek mental help, but that post is for another time.  Anyway, one night I was up perusing the Internet and drinking wine. (Big surprise, right?) I was dreaming of the places that I’d like to go to, such as my version of mecca – Napa. I had the vague idea that I’d like to run a marathon in an exotic locale, preferably outside of Ohio. After all, Ohio is a lot of things but exotic isn’t one of them. Anyway, I plugged “Napa marathon” into the Google machine and BAM! It popped right up. I longingly looked at the pictures on the website (and may have drooled a bit) and thought to myself “Someday, my happy ass will visit wine country and run that marathon.” And thanks to a little luck, a lot of planning, and miles and miles of training, I found myself on a plane white-knuckling it to California a few days before the March 2 race.

After my wine infused search, I mentioned the race to my friend Natalie, who is originally from Ohio but now lives in Virginia Beach. She told another friend of hers about it, and a plan was born – resulting in a grand total of seven of us sharing a rental car and quaint house in Sonoma. Only three of us were brave (or crazy) enough to try the marathon – Natalie, Billy, and me. In the days preceding the race we took in copious amounts of wine at numerous wineries. I won’t tell you how many, but the fact that my liver is still working properly is a testament to the miracle of our bodies. I did not drink too much wine on Saturday, as I didn’t want to be dehydrated and uncomfortable for Sunday’s running event. Being dehydrated can lead to early bonking (that almost sounds dirty but it isn’t meant to) and that can make those 26.2 miles a hellish nightmare.

Anyway, our alarms went out at 3:40 a.m. on Sunday morning and Tracy very generously drove Billy, Natalie, and myself to the drop-off point where we would get bussed to the start line. It was around 45 degrees and pitch black at 5 a.m. Most people had on long pants, long sleeve shirts, sweatshirts…but not Natalie and I. We were wearing our sleeveless shirts, arm sleeves, and shorts. I could tell that very few of those people were from colder climes (such as Ohio), especially due to the snippets of conversations that I overheard about how the weather was “freezing.” Excuse me? Try living through (and training in) an Ohio winter, people. Forty-five degrees is balmy compared to the frigid temperatures I suffered through in recent months.

The race started promptly at 7 a.m. The sun was up but the sky was still overcast and cloudy. The course took us down the Silverado Trail through some of the most picturesque land in wine country. The course description noted a few hills during the first 6 miles but also stated that MOST of the trail was downhill. That was true to a certain extent, but they did not relate the fact that there could still be hills on a downhill course. Good times. I distracted myself with the views of the vineyards and the incredible homes that lined the road.

During the first 6-7 miles, Natalie and Billy and I had some lighthearted conversation. We may or may not have made fun of a man who mooned a thousand runners when he darted off through the thicket for a bathroom break. (All in good fun, it happens to every runner at some point. I’m just glad it wasn’t me.) I do hope he wasn’t having any serious intestinal issues and that he got out the poison very quickly…especially before he was caught crapping on someone’s front lawn.

Right around mile 10, a light mist started. I mentioned that it felt good (temps were in the 50s by then) and that a little rain whilst running never hurt anyone. By mile 14, I was alone. Natalie had to stop for a restroom break (Porta-Potty, not on someone’s nicely tended lawn) and Billy stopped to walk for a moment. I was tempted to walk with him but I wasn’t sure if I would start running again. By the time I hit mile 15, the rain really started coming down. Bye-bye, California drought.

So there I was, running through hilly terrain in a torrential downpour, unable to listen to music (no headphones allowed) and surrounded by thousands of people I didn’t know. By mile 17, I swore off marathons. My whole body hurt. (This might have been a good thing. The nagging IT band injury that I dealt with during the last 4-5 weeks of training took a backseat to all of the other aches and pains that popped up.) My quads and hamstrings screamed at me with every movement. My feet were killing me and they were cold and wet.  My clothes were drenched and sticking to me. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, my armpits started to feel like a million bees were stinging them. WTF? That’s right, a new level of hell – armpit chafing. I think it’s worse than boob chafing. (And as we know from an earlier post; that is no bueno.) But at mile 18, I heard our friends cheering me on. I managed a smile as they snapped a few pictures and told me to keep going. (At this point I was still hoping there would be wine at the finish line, so stopping wasn’t an option.)

I slogged through the next 8+ miles, exhausted…but also happy. Running a marathon is an odd experience – the pain has a way of making a person feel strangely free. Our friends were at the finish chute, again cheering me on and making me smile. I heard them before I saw them and felt very grateful for their support- Trip, Mara, Tracy, Kristin – THANK YOU.

Crossing over the finish line after running 26.2 miles is an emotional experience. The pain is real, but so is the elation. Each time it is a learning experience. I wasn’t happy about the fact that I was 3 minutes slower in comparison to my first marathon, but after analyzing my performance, I think I know why and how to change it for my next one. Yes, call me a glutton for punishment, the next one is only a month away.
Very few people actually run marathons, and even fewer get the chance to run Napa. For me, it was a dream come true. I am proud to be an Ohio girl, but there will always be a special place in my heart for Napa. And on a positive note, this is the second marathon I’ve ran and I still haven’t lost any toenails. That has to count for something, right?