Napa Valley Marathon 2015 Recap and Review

Wow! I’m super sore today from yesterday’s race. I’ve never been this sore from a race, so it shows me that I really need to respect the distance and go into it with a proper amount of training.

Some things went weirdsies before the race and I knew that I would not be running a good race (something around CIM time). First, I got food poisoning. Having to be in the bathroom all the long day two days before a race is NOT the way to go. I tried to do a shake out run of two miles and I could barely get through it. All of my electrolytes were out of whack and I was dehydrated. I adjusted my goals and thought about just trying to break 4 hours.

Second, February was not a good running month. I was hit with severe laziness and fatigue and I didn’t get in enough training. In addition, I was like 10 pounds heavier o__O (still ate as if I was running 45-50 miles per week). Whoops.

As I thought about it more, I wanted to pace my friend (or at least just run with her) and take a lot of pictures along the course. This race does NOT allow for you to wear any earbuds, so it could get kind of boring without a friend. Since I knew I wasn’t going for my own goal, I wanted to see if I could help her with a PR.

Saturday, we headed up to the expo and got our duffel bags and tried some Clifbar samples. [Expo, pre- and post-race photos courtesy of Linh!]: 10923455_10203384712888486_4360577128527352533_n 11038397_10203384713048490_1734622110523535299_n

That’s right, friends. We each got a duffel bag (along with the race shirt and medal). Pretty good swag, yeah? We then sat in the court yard and carbo-loaded and drank some beer and wine. Normally, I wouldn’t drink alcohol before a race, but I knew that I wasn’t trained for this one, so I was just going to enjoy myself (those tastings were free!).

In the evening before dinner, we checked out the course and I got excited for how scenic it was… though slightly nervous about some of those hills.


In the morning, we grabbed some coffee and bagels, got on the bus, and made our way up to Calistoga, where the start line is. Ran into some other RunningAddicts while we were getting ready for the race: 11021147_10203384719808659_7029931476214471717_n

Then after a very quick warm up, it was time to go! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yup, it’s somewhat crowded for the first few miles, but it really leans out later on. BTW, the weather was perfect for a race! The skies were clear and it was sunny and cool. Here are some sights from the run: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

During this whole time, Amy was continually running strong! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She was so patient with me as I complained about things that were hurting. I think the extra weight I was carrying was really making me sore… that and the fact that I didn’t train enough for it. My hammies and butt were SO sore from mile 10. Respect the distance, folks. You can’t just roll out of bed being untrained and run a fantastical race, and my sore butt was reminding me of it with every step, haha.

Oh! And a first: I had to go pee as soon as the race started. This pretty much never happens to me. In fact, I need to go pee pretty much the whole race. I don’t think my body was taking in the food and liquids, contributing even more to making my lead legs becoming even more tired. That food poisoning thing was just NOT cool. Oh, well 🙂

Anyways, we started taking walk breaks around mile… 17? And this long hill definitely needed to be broken up with some walk breaks (it was on our way up to mile 20, I think): OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once we got down, things really flattened out and we just had to keep chugging ahead: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Around mile 23 or 24, they were giving out homemade sorbet: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think I got a peach-flavored one and it tasted SO GOOD because it was nice and cold (and the temperature was probably high 50’s and pretty warm at that time). Finally, we turned a couple of corners and we saw the high school (where the finish line is). What a beautiful sight: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Amy is always really good at the finishing kick, and we crossed the finish around 4:18:XX. Linh fortunately got some awesome finish line photos! 1461241_10203384727928862_254913996420180779_n 10299021_10203384731568953_7444884147784989413_n

[BTW, we found out later that Amy PR’d by a couple minutes. HOORAY!].


Okay, some things about this race:

Registration: It sells out pretty quickly, so you definitely can’t get in if you decide to run it a couple months ahead. I think they take around 2500 runners? Not 100% sure, but it’s definitely a smaller field.

Music: No headphones are allowed! If you are someone who MUST have music on your run, this is not the race for you. There are race officials on bikes all along the course and your bib number will be written down and you’ll be disqualified if you wear headphones.

Course: A point-to-point course, from Calistoga to Napa. It has lots of rolling hills. If there is a relatively steep hill, it’s short. There are some long uphills, but with mild incline. The only ones that really stood out to me were around mile 13 and mile 20. There are very few turns on this course because the bulk of it is on the Silverado Trail. It is wine country so there will be vineyards along the whole course. Lastly, it is a net downhill course and completely flat in the last couple of miles. If you run the first half of the race smartly (and not rocket-boosting on the downhills), you’ll do well in the last few miles.

[Side note: they don’t have pacers for this race]

Volunteers: There were a lot of locals and high schoolers volunteering. They were all friendly and helpful, and as always, no race can be possible without them! So thankful for their time and energy. I also appreciated how there is someone at the end to walk you to the volunteer that gives and medal, and they asked how you are feeling and everything. It’s great that they were trained to ask some important questions (to make sure they can give immediate medical attention if needed). I think all of the volunteers knew how to answer our questions as well… we were never directed to ask this person or that person (meaning that they were trained well!).

Aid stations: there were 13 aid stations along the course. They offered Gatorade, water, oranges, and bananas at the aid stations. I think they also had Clif gels at a couple of the stations. I never really felt like they were far away, but some people may have needed them to be more frequent in the later miles, especially as the temperature rose. There wasn’t a clear medical tent at each station, but I think there were medical staff available at each of them (they were giving out Vaseline and stuff, too). Oh! There was at least one porta-potty at each station (at least in the first half of the race).

Post-race: It finishes in a high school, so they made good use of the gymnasium (massage tables), cafeteria (post-race food: soup, bread, yogurt, fruit), and locker rooms (SHOWERS!… which I didn’t use, haha). The Naked juice truck was also there giving out samples. So yummy after a race!

Overall thoughts: This late-winter race is a good choice for someone who does not like running in the heat. You can come off of winter running/training and kick off the racing season with this race. It is beautiful and can be challenging if you are not that conservative on the downhills (not that you should be braking the whole time). I like the rolling hills and know that it will be way better if I am well-trained. We were blessed this year to have awesome racing weather (very little wind and cool for most of the race). I’d love to do this one again if I don’t do an early winter marathon.

BTW: here is a link to a video showing just how beautiful the course is.


Whether I run an awesome race or not, I am always super joyful and thankful to be able to run. I loved this race experience because I got to run it with a friend AND I got to see beautiful Napa on foot.

What’s next for my blessed thunder thighs?

– Pacing Oakland Running Festival Half (2:00)- March 22nd

– Pacing Modesto Half Marathon (2:00)- March 29th- use code ‘MICHELLEK’ to save $5 off your entry, if you want to join me!

– Pacing Santa Cruz Half Marathon (2:10)- April 12th

– Racing Boston Marathon– April 20th

Lots of things coming up! So excited for this racing season 😀


There’s still time to enter in the free race giveaway!


What is the most scenic race you’ve run? 

What is the worst thing that has happened to you before a race?

What is your next race?

11 responses to “Napa Valley Marathon 2015 Recap and Review

  1. Lovely pics. That’s horrible that you had food poisoning before the race. Sorbet sounds awesome!

    Most scenic? The Sedona Half, which I need to write a race report for.

    I’m also about 10 pounds heavier than I was this time last year. Training has been blah. I am improving, but it’s been slow. I’m thinking Boston could be anywhere from 3:40 to 4:30. My legs complain bitterly after 14 miles.

      • That would be nice 🙂 Hoping that the training will at least make a difference for my fall races. It’s hard training for something as long as a marathon when I know I’m not going to PR.

  2. Thanks again for pacing me. I know it is a lot slower than your usual full marathon pacing time. Deeply appreciated your support. Fantastic writing on your blog with so much details and great photos. Looking at these nice photos now, I realized the course is really beautiful, but when you huffed and buffed, you didn’t see half of it.. It was just a blur …haha. Yup, we should run it again some day!

  3. Looks like a beautiful course! I actually don’t ever run with headphones so maybe I’ll take a look at running this next year. It sounds like you had a great race (and like with all races, learned some lessons for the next time!).

  4. Congrats to Amy!! What an awesome PR! Also, way to power through Michelle! You rock! I had some weird stomach issues that had me in and out of the bathroom a few days before the Morgan Hill Marathon and I know it threw me off! The Napa Valley is definitely on my bucket list! I’ve just heard it’s really pretty!

  5. Pingback: Easing Back Into Running, and SJR Race Giveaway Winner | blessed with thunder thighs·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s