Why I wanted to run this race:
1. Training for CIM.
2. My first half marathon was in Napa, so wine country has a nostalgic place in my running history.
3. Between this race and the San Jose Rock n Roll Half, I opted for this one for the scenery, the smaller crowd, and the ambience. Also, because AEW agreed to run it too.
4. It was on my birthday. Most (sane) people might think this is a good reason NOT to run a half marathon, but for me, I thought that running a race would make my birthday that much sweeter.
I’ve already had a brain spew about race goals, so I won’t belabor the point. Basically, I wanted to shoot for a sub-2 finish, but would be happy with any PR as long as I ran the best race I could.
AEW and I opted not to get a hotel in Santa Rosa, with the rationale that a good night’s sleep in one’s own bed (and familiar foods the night before and the day of) trumped an extra hour of sleep on race day. However, when the alarm went off at 4am, I wasn’t sure that was the best idea. By the time we hit the road though, I was feeling good from race day energy. AEW, the Gypsy Runner (spectating, not running), and I got there at bright and early at 6am with plenty of time to pick up our bibs and hit the porta potties a couple of times. We also scored a perfect parking space, a short 2-minute walk from the start line, which allowed us to go back to the car to stay warm and to keep the Gypsy Runner from taking a nap. (We’re very helpful!)
At 6:50, AEW made one last trip to the porta potties while I went in search of fellow Bay Area bloggers Cathryn and Angela. I found Cathryn near the 9:00/mile pace marker and we chatted with nervous excitement about the race. Then Angela found us and we took a few quick photos before it was time to walk up to the start line. Even though we didn’t get to spend too much time together, it was still great to meet these women in real life.
Shortly after 7am, we were off! The weather was perfect for running: 50’s and foggy, but less than desirable for scenery purposes. Due to the fog, which was heavy at times, the whole course blended together into a long strand of rolling hills. Here are my splits and the elevation profile for your reading pleasure:
Angela, a super speedster, left Cathryn and I in the dust to eventually finish with a shiny new PR and 2nd place overall in her age group. Since both Cathryn and I were aiming for a sub-2 hour half, we started the race together. However, it wasn’t long before she, too, left me in the dust. Not only did she get her sub-2, she nailed it with a time of 1:55:34! Just as I lost sight of Cathryn, AEW ran up from behind. We exchanged a quick greeting as she passed. Despite the temptation to speed up, I tried to keep my pace in check since my strategy was to run negative splits. However, that strategy pretty much went out the window with the downhill in mile 2 and race day adrenaline. I thought to myself that I would pay for this toward the end of the race, but I was also feeling comfortable with my effort level so I went with it.
Anyway, like I said above, the whole race kind of blended together into one foggy set of rolling hills. After 3 miles, a spectator called out my name. I was very confused — there were very few spectators for the course to begin with, and to actually have a spectator know my name? That was weird. Well, it turned out to my friend LG, who was there to support another friend of hers who was also running the half. It was great to see her at that point and again at the end of mile 8.
I started to feel fatigued after 7 miles; that’s when I knew the 2-hour goal was going to be very, very close. I had written two times on my hand: 1:30 at 10 miles and 1:49 at 12 miles. Those numbers represented the pace for a 1:59:00 finish. At 10 miles, I was behind by 2 minutes due to some extended uphills, but at 12 miles, it seemed like I was closing the gap. However, I did some quick math and it did not seem very likely that I would come in under sub-2. I kept going back and forth between slowing down (since I wasn’t going to get my A-goal) and putting it all out there. I opted for the latter and this is the main reason I felt that this race was a success. I’m proud to say that mile 13 ended up being my fastest pace in the whole race. It wasn’t pretty, or quiet (I was audibly heaving/wheezing at this point), but I did it.
As with any race, the last 800 meters can seem like an eternity. This is where I called in my interval training and thought to myself, “Just pretend this is your last Yasso 800.” And it worked! I was able to keep pushing until the very end.
I crossed the finish line feeling tired, and relieved that I could finally stop running. After receiving my wine-stopper medal (very cool), I found the Gypsy Runner, AEW, and Cathryn and her family. We exchanged stories of the race. AEW, who has been plagued with injuries, came in at 1:49:33, which was at the fast end of her projected finishing times, so yay! More importantly, she was feeling good and had not appeared to injure herself further. As I mentioned above, Cathryn more than killed her sub-2 hour goal, which was awesome. Angela and I didn’t get a chance to meet up at the end, but hopefully we’ll see each other again at CIM.
Post-race, there was food and drinks to be had. At first, I was perturbed by the food options. Instead of the usual bagels and fruit, they had rice, beans, grilled chicken and chips. It turned out to be pretty tasty, to my surprise. I also retrieved a Lagunitas Pilsner from the beer and wine tent, which was refreshing and oh-so-pretty in my Healdsburg Half Marathon wine glass (also very cool).
We then moved on to a local coffee shop, the Flying Goat Cafe, which the Gypsy Runner mistakenly and amusingly thought was called the “Fixed Goat Cafe.” I warmed myself up with a delicious cup of French-press coffee. AEW and I changed out of our running gear because we had exciting lunch plans at Mustards Grill! So it was a very fabulous (birth)day all around.
About the race:
- Organizers: Events with Sole.
- Cost: I think I paid $65 or $75 for registration.
- Distance: 13.1 miles (my Garmin read 13.14)
- Parking: Lots of free, public parking.
- Aid stations: 4 aid stations with water and Gatorade, and I think one had Gu.
- Bathrooms: Plenty at the start, and 2-3 at each aid station.
- Swag: Wine stopper medal, tech t-shirt with a nice design, and a wine glass. Age group winners get bottles of wine.
- Misc.: A well-organized and fun race. A little quiet, but I’m used to that from trail races. Love the rolling hills — keeps things interesting!
Official time: 2:00:37 (9:12/mile)
2:00:37 for 13.14 miles (9:11/mile)
322 feet elevation gain