As soon as I heard about the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon a few years ago, I new I wanted to run it, so I put it on my running bucket list.
By a stroke of luck, I was at my computer AND had funds available to register for Napa to Sonoma when registration launched on December 1 last year. (December 1 also happens to be Hunter's birthday, and let me tell you... he was NOT excited about being told he was running a 5K as a birthday present.)
When I broke my ankle, I pushed hard through recovery to make sure I'd be back in good form for this race: I had already missed 3 races because of the stress fracture, and I wasn't about to lose this one, too. Every Pilates worked out I grimaced through and irritatingly scaled CrossFit workout from April through early June was done with one goal in mind: regaining my running fitness quickly and finishing Napa to Sonoma in good form, time be damned.
I ended up finishing with a decent time: 3:07, which I'm pretty proud of, all things considered. I finished pretty happy with minimal soreness and received tastings of cold rosé and white wine for my efforts.
Read on for the good, the bad and the ugly from the race.
With the record highs, I had to rethink my costume strategy. Since this was my first half marathon since the ankle injury, I wasn't about to wear boring clothes. Luckily, I have a Silhouette, Target had an extremely lightweight tank top and my friend Stephanie has been telling me to make a shirt with Tyrion's quote from Game of Thrones for months.
All-in-all, I think this getup was one of my favorite looks for a non-full body costume. A man came up to me before the race and told me it was his favorite shirt at the race, and for other Game of Thrones fans, it was a hit. (Plus, I can wear it to CrossFit and trivia back-to-back on Wednesday nights.)
I have two major complaints about how this race was managed. One is the bad, and one is the ugly.
The bad is that everyone had to be bused to the starting line, but they weren't running enough buses so the race started 10 minutes late. Since it was already nearing 70 degrees at the start, that 10 minutes was a difference between finishing in 86 degree temps and 84 degrees. It may not seem a lot, but after 13 shadeless miles, it was awful. My last three miles went from 13:30/mile to 15+/mile. It was hot and awful.
The shadelessness of the course was only exacerbated by the fact that the roads were in bad shape. You had to navigate around potholes the size of Delaware, try to take advantage of the shade you had, avoid getting hit by cars who ignored the road closed signs, and run towards the nice Sonoma residents with hoses. It was like half marathon dodgeball. (If you are thinking about this race don't try for a PR. If it happens, good, but the course isn't as flat as Destination Races advertises and the hoard doesn't thin out for four miles or so.)
Additionally, you had to straight up salmon through everyone already at the start line to get to the port-a-potties because the bus dropped you downhill from everything. It wasn't a big deal, but I really had to pee, and walking through ~2K people to get to the bathroom wasn't an experience I particularly enjoyed. At least it was a really pretty upstream walk to the bathroom.
It ended up being a good thing I threw all expectations other than finishing out--race morning ended up being close to a record high for Napa, and not one, but two water stops ran out of water during the race. Yes, you read that correctly: there was no available water for runners in the middle of the pack and back for 6 miles. Luckily, I always carry a small water bottle in my Sparkle Skirt pocket, but I noticed many of my fellow runners without water. I told some other runners that if there wasn't water at mile 8, I was calling 911--we had already been passed by 3 ambulances and I found it unacceptable that Destination Races hadn't prepared for enough water with the heat.
Luckily, that wasn't necessary, but I feel really strongly about sharing this with anyone considering doing a Destination Races event in the future: absolutely carry your own water to get you between stops, just in case.
Was I happy I did it? Yes.
Would I do it again? No.
Was the wine good at least? Meh. Paso Robles is closer and cheaper.
On the plus side, I got this sweet picture for $15.