Monday, 2 March 2009


Woke up yesterday morning in my own bed with a marathon to run that day. First time I've done that in nearly 4 years. The last time was 2005 when I ran San Francisco for the second time. This time it was the Napa Valley Marathon...and it was a doozey.

The weather-guessers on television had been calling for lots of race-day rain for over a week. My hope was they were wrong again...and for a few minutes I thought my wish had come true. My first glance out my living room window to the pavement below revealed a bone-dry roadway. The dream was shattered about half an hour later, when I stepped out my front door, into a downpour, for the 45-minute drive to Napa.

At Napa's Vintage High School we boarded yellow Blue Bird school buses for the 26 mile ride to the starting line in Calistoga. As I looked out my bus window all I could see was the spray from beneath the bus tires, looking somewhat like a big ship's wake, slicing through the bounding sea.

I've done other marathons that included bus rides to the start and they've all been fairly noisey, with runners sharing their PR's, their hopes for setting new ones, and talk of just how nuts we distance runners are. THIS bus was way too quiet.

I knew it was cold outside, but it was not affecting me. My seat on the bus was directly over the heater, that was cranking at full blast. I just might have lost a couple of pounds right there had I not been forced to change seats. If you can't stand the heat...

The race started dead on time, sending 2000 runners south on the Silverado Trail, into the chilly mist and unrelenting rain. For the next 23 miles we would see nothing but the lush Northern California wine country. The grape vines are bare now. The rolling hlls are nearly unbelievably green. The winery chateaus are testimony to grace and granduer, if not a little O-T-T. The course is, in a word, undulating. It is also, overall, downhill. At the same time it has some significant climbs, especially getting to mile 20. Have I mentioned it was raining?

The rain didn't bother me much, other than the weight it added to my Austin Marathon shirt. The only near-mishap I experienced was an early case of jogger's nipple at about mile 10. The rain-heavied shirt managed to work my nip-covers off. Long streams of blood were visible. Went to first aid and had Vaseline applied. Problem sorted. A few miles farther down the road I noticed the rain had washed the evidence away.

At the half way point my Garmin said 2:25, and I felt pretty good about that time. I knew that if I kept that pace up I'd PR again. I last PRed at CIM in December (4:56). Now I was looking at a possible 4:50!

At mile 17 I unwrapped, and devoured, my customary English Mars Bar. Always a big moment for me. And, yes....if the people from Mars are reading this, I WILL accept a sponsorship. Have your people call my people.
Coming down out of the hills for the last three miles the end was nearly in sight. My pace was still good but I did feel like I was losing steam. I held on for as long as I could before I took an extra long walk break at about mile 25. Got to talking with another runner for just a little too long. Came rolling across the finish line at 5:01. No PR but still my second best time in 24 tries.

Next up is Salt Lake City, one of my faves. I've run it twice before. Right now I have a 5 week break. Very welcome after knocking out 3 marathons since the end of January.

Next on the blog...the social side of marathons...and messing with Texas!!!

Gotta run!

PS. Special thanks to Brian B. for the finishing photo and the post-run burger and beer!


Laura said...

Three words: you inspire me!

Kim said...

3 down already? You're 2 ahead of me. My next one is in a little over 3 weeks.

Glad you got through the rain and hope your nipples are recovering!

kch said...

Another fine job, Michael. Hope you're enjoying your well-earned rest week.

leslie said...

I contacted Mars about your 12 months 12 races project and sent along this blog post. Who knows? Maybe they'll get in touch.

In the meantime, keep up the great work and congratulations!