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Napa Valley Marathon Race Report

Okay. First the bad news: this was the slowest marathon I have ever run …… by a bunch. The upside is that I really don’t care. Well, I do, but I don’t. Well….. you know …… whatever… I guess to get the full picture you have to read on. After all, even I’M confused about how I feel about this 26.2 mile journey.
The day began well with a pleasant awakening around 4 am. Resting heart rate was 48, no jitters to speak of but not too excited about the rain. Linda (my wife) and Clemmie (her Mom) and I made the journey from Vallejo to Calistoga without incident. I greased up in an attempt to head off the chafing I anticipated, especially with the soaking conditions. I have to admit, I NAILED this and dressed perfectly for the weather (I suppose after 44 1/2 years I should have this part down). I Vaselined my upper thighs and pits and Body Glided my nipples (I had extreme nipple paranoia). The result: perfection. No chafing, rubbing or irritation anywhere (except mentally).
I easy jogged my way to the starting line just as the five minute warning came about. Olympic Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson said a few words, a gentleman did a fine job singing the Star Spangled Banner (no Christine Aguilera for this crowd) and moments later we were OFF! It took me about a minute and a half to cross the staring line. After a little darting in and out of a few folks, I settled into a rhythm that would pretty much dictate the first eighteen miles or so.
The idea was to forget time and focus on heart rate. My twenty mile training runs had been around 10:15-30 pace with a HR averaging about 144-146. My goal was to run twenty at sub 150 heart rate. Early on that was 9:25-35 pace. The first miles seemed to take forever. A long uphill in the 6th mile presented a bit of a change from the gradual ups and downs that preceeded it. It actually reminded me of the hill exciting the Cherry Creek State Park on the West side, only longer. The rain was steady.
The heart rate pretty much held through fifteen miles or so while the pace slowed a bit to 9:35-45. I saw Linda and Clemmie around 7 miles and again around 12. They had their own level of adventure getting around the course as well. I passed halfway around 2:05:09 feeling confident that I would simply tack on another 2:05 and finish in 4:10. Nice theory but theory and application don’t always mesh perfectly. 
Miles sixteen and seventeen were predominately uphill. LONG, uphills. My HR hung out in the 152-155 range, but the pace dropped to 10:20-30. I was still comfortable. After seventeen, a guy named David came up next to me and after confessing that he had been drafting off me for a half mile (I am an excellent wind block), we began chatting. He said his PR was 4:23 and he was hoping to break 4:20. I told him to hang on and we’d make it.
Somewhere around fifteen, the rain stopped and as a sort of extra added attraction, an annoying headwind took it’s place. Personally, I’d have preferred the rain. The miles dragged from twelve to eighteen. This will sound odd, but the course, while beautiful, was boring.
About a month ago, I picked up a little problem in my right hip. After a couple of weeks, it went away. Thursday, however, it resurfaced during my strength and core work. It was painfully evident the whole way. Nothing real terrible most of the time, but a constant nagging thing. Also at four miles, my left calf tightened. That, as well, would not go away. Other little aches and pains came and went, as they always do, but those two remained steadfast in their annoyance. The other major annoyance, mostly in the first sixteen miles or so, was the pitch of the road. You’d have thought they were banking the curves for a NASCAR race (and there were plenty of curves). This certainly exacerbated my other issues.
I had a rough patch from 20-22, but bounced back with some of my better miles in 23, 24, and 25. I thought I would ride that wave to the finish. Then something strange happened. I’m not sure if I stepped in a hole or tried to accelerate faster than I should have or what, but my right hip locked up. Yep, locked up. I thought of walking or stopping and stretching but it was one of those things where I knew that if I stopped, I would be hard-pressed to get going again. So, I pretty much dragged my leg along the last 3/4 of a mile or so.
My mind RACED and I’m pretty sure I nearly had an anxiety attack. It made what had been a fun, fairly easy marathon, something else. Crossing the finish line I felt relieved, but agitated by my hip. I received my medal, had my picture taken, grabbed some water and found the girls. All of a sudden I was exhausted and a bit disoriented. No fun.
Then out of the blue, I heard the words, “Run Spittle?” and lo and behold it was Aileen, my only “friend” on I couldn’t believe she found me. Unfortunately I was still a bit out of it, so I could not have been much fun to meet. I gathered a little grub, walked to the car, got reoriented and feeling MUCH better and we were off to lunch (we ate at Rutherford’s near St. Helena where the corn bread is KILLER!). I walked a bit while we waited to be seated and stretched as best I could. A few hours later, we were home.
All in all, I suppose this marathon was a success. I never meant it to be more than a return to marathoning after a ten year absence. So, that mission was accomplished. With the exception of the hip, I’m not too sore tonight and expect that I’ll be able to jog a few with Linda in the morning. 
PLUSES: I had very focused training; met some nice people; ran very much within myself at a much better pace than my long runs; attended an excellent event (there are a couple of things I will mention in whatever survey I might be sent but on the whole it was an outstanding marathon); got my ’84 Olympic picture signed by Joanis; got called “Giants color man” three times as I was wearing San Francisco Giant colors; never stopped along the course having no water or chafing problems along the way; got to share the run with Linda and Clemmie, and my sons Matt & Ryan (whose birthday was today) who I texted every five miles; and finished getting to meet Aileen. By the way, I also ran into David after the race who ran 4:25.
MINUSES: The hip lock put a damper on the finish; it was incredibly slow; I was reminded that while I lost 22 pounds in the eighteen week training block, I need to lose SO many more to get anywhere close to where I was ten years ago. 
Side note: outside of the hip thing, my biggest downer was at 19.5 miles I looked at my watch and it read 3:10:30, which was my finishing time at the 2000 Flying Pig – and I had 6 1/2 miles to go!
 WAIT….. that’s not a picture of me….

All in all, I’m happy I ran. I’m looking forward to a speedy recovery time and getting back into the next training block. Not sure when the next marathon will be, but it won’t be too far away. Until next time….. run on!

1 thought on “Napa Valley Marathon Race Report”

  1. Rich, it was easy to spot you. I remember seeing your racing shirt on one of your blog entries. I also remember you passing me as soon as we turned right into the neighborhoods, around mile 23. You were going at a pretty good clip. was gonna say hi then, but before I could even open my mouth, you were gone! Good job on the last 10k.

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