This was by far my favorite half marathon I’ve ever ran (and no, I’m not just saying that because I made my time goal )
The race started in Napa county – then you run into Sonoma county. The entire race was on a tiny road surrounded by vineyards and gorgeous landscape.
Since I was running with Team Challenge I didn’t have to attend the race expo to pick up my race packet – the team staff did that for us. When I stopped by later in the day on Saturday to pick up my bib/shirt from our team manager they told me they couldn’t find my bib/timing chip and that most likely someone on another team had it. They had an extra bib for a girl named “Jen” that they gave me to run under.
No big deal right? Eh.. Well, honestly I was a little bummed. I wanted to run under my own name. I had big plans to PR on this race and I wanted it to be listed under my name – not Jen’s.
The morning of the race I was able to talk to the timing chip company and get the timing chip I was wearing to register under my name (Yay!) but my bib would still say “Jen” – which didn’t really matter to me.
Race morning was a little chilly (for us AZ people) it was about 50 degrees – and I made the bold decision to check my sweatshirt and run without it. That turned out to be a fabulous choice. I wish I would have realized I wouldn’t need my sunglasses though! I ran the entire race with them on top of my head haha.
Since this was such a small race (less than 3,000 people), there were no corrals so we could start wherever we wanted. Since Julie, Emily and I had the same time goal, we all started by the 1:55-2:05 sign.
Julie and I both wanted to run this race in under 2 hours. We had trained together quite a bit (before I injured my ankle) so I knew it would be easy to run with her. So the plan was to stick together, unless one of us felt like we needed to go faster (or slower).
I decided to take a Gu about 15 min before the start (and convinced Julie to do the same). It worked really well for me during Pat’s Run so I thought I’d try it again. Oh and it worked like a charm. I think I was on a Gu high for like the first 6 miles!
I knew going in to the race that there would be “rolling hills” and more specifically, the worst “hill” was mile 1 – and about 1/4 mile after the start.
They were not kidding my friends, that “hill” was intense. That’s what we consider a mountain haha. And my butt muscles were screaming – it felt like I climbed 7 flights of stairs!
The entire race had breathtaking views. I tried to snap as many photo’s as I could! How could you not enjoy running through this – and in the most gorgeous weather and no bright shining sun?! Seriously amazing!
For the first 6 miles of the race I felt pretty good! I didn’t have to stop at any of the water stations and we had a nice cruising pace. We were right on track to meet our sub 2 hour goal. The rolling hills were definitely challenging, my legs were sore after the third mile, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t suck up and handle.
This was the single greatest moment during the race – as we were approaching this area these horses ran up to the fence and ran along side Julie and I for a couple minutes. We were in awe – it was like something from a movie.
When we crossed over from Napa County to Sonoma County (not sure what mile that was..) the roads got pretty bad. They were uneven and a little torn up. Since my ankle is injured, its really sensitive to uneven roads so I started to struggle a little with the pain and to keep my balance. Around the same time Julie started to have some pain in her IT band on both legs.
As the miles passed by we were getting more and more tired, but we knew that if we kept up our pace we could do it. It was great to have someone there running with me during some of those moments. At times when either of us thought about slowing down the other would offer encouragement and push each other (and ourselves) to keep going.
We passed Coach Doug at mile 10 and he ran with us for a second – he gave us some words of encouragement and that helped a ton. Even though I said I would drink a sip, I didn’t end up taking a glass of wine – as we ran towards it I could smell it and it smelled awful to me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it down if I took one, so I passed, but Julie took one though (like a champ!).
I actually felt pretty spectacular until around mile 12.5, right when the path turned and brought us onto the main street – a straight shot to the finish line. I could feel myself getting really tired and worn down – I honestly started to question if I could make it the rest of the way. That’s when the tears started…I could feel my body slowing down and like the crazy woman I am, I begged Julie not to leave me behind (not sure where that came from). She assured me she would stay with me and that we were so close to the finish.
My Garmin buzzed about a tenth of a mile early (which was irritating) and soon enough we could see the finish line. As soon as I got a glimpse of the clock I saw it change to 1:59 – I yelled to Julie that we had to speed up so we could make it under 2:00.
At that point I gave it my all went for it. I think my face in this photo says it all (Julies too!) I couldn’t even fake a smile for the photographers – I felt so exhausted!
This was my first half marathon (and my second race) running with a Garmin. I love getting to look at my performance for each mile. So here are my splits:
Mile 1 – 8:49
Mile 2 – 8:27
Mile 3 – 8:43
Mile 4 – 8:49
Mile 5 – 8:41
Mile 6 – 9:05
Mile 7 – 8:55
Mile 8 – 8:58
Mile 9 – 9:34
Mile 10 – 9:17
Mile 11 – 9:14
Mile 12 – 9:06
Mile 13 – 9:19
The last .20 – 1:50
Not very consistent, but too horrible either
Official chip finish time: 1:58:45! That’s under my 2 hour finish time goal!! Just barely but I’ll take it!!
They had kiddie pools filled with ice – I think that may have been the greatest thing I’ve ever seen after a race!
I think it was intended for your feet, but I decided that my legs needed some icing too. I think I sat in it for like 15 minutes. The Team Challenge area also had complementary massages and a foam roller to use – I took full advantage of both! The guy who did my massage told me that he had never seen anyone sit in the pools of ice before – he thought it was hilarious!
Team Challenge had their own area set up at the finish line with a ton of stuff (ice pools, massages, snacks etc.) and they also had an area with a catered lunch set up for the racers (and their families).
Julie and I after the race with our wine glasses
The rest of the finish line area was filled with wine vendors for wine tasting. You could go booth to booth tasting different wines. It was really neat – and a fun way to celebrate running such a gorgeous race in wine country! Lance and I actually ended up buying a small bottle since it was so cool – check out Flasq it’s in an aluminum bottle! We tried the cuvee blanc and loved it.
When I think back on the race I actually don’t remember too much of it. It all kind of seemed like a blur, but I remember laughing and chatting and having fun (with the exception of the last half mile..) We were constantly making jokes about my running alter ego “Jen” who curses a lot more while she is running than Nicole does haha. So I guess that is a pretty good memory to have of the race! I would do this race again in a heartbeat!
The whole experience of running a race with Team Challenge was really wonderful. It was different to have so much support on the course. Coaches and mentors from other teams would cheer for you (or in my case they would cheer for Jen ) as you ran by, they were so motivating and positive. It was also great to see some of the people on my team that I trained with – and to celebrate our accomplishments with friends on the team.
So now I have another awesome new race shirt to add to my collection as well! The front says “wine a little, you’ll feel better”
On a somewhat related side note – I have added a page that lists my playlists under the “running” menu! Feel free to check it out!