July 7, 2014

ZOOMA Napa Half Marathon Race Recap

The ZOOMA Napa Half Marathon was without a doubt one of my favorite races.  I certainly didn't run one of my best times, I positive split the race in a major way (whoops!), and I woke up after having a nightmare that my Garmin was dead when I started the race.  But those snafus didn't stop me from having an otherwise magnificent race morning!

Cyanne and I woke up at about 6:00 to give ourselves plenty of time to be on the shuttle around 7.  We stayed at the Napa Valley Marriott which was the host resort for the race and added many conveniences, like the race shuttle leaving from our hotel.  I was definitely nervous before the race, mostly because I didn't feel terribly prepared, mentally or physically speaking.  I had run two 10 mile training runs before this race but neither went terribly well and my mental focus wasn't exactly where it needed to be.  I mean, hey, we were in Napa!
Race shuttle selfie!
Cyanne and I boarded the race shuttle at 7:00 and were quickly dropped off at the starting line area to find some hot air balloons over the vineyards.  Pretty fantastic!
Hot air balloons over the race starting area
And one more!
We milled around for a while before the 8:00 race start.  It was warmer than we expected so I ended up leaving my long sleeved throwaway shirt in my check bag because I really didn't need it.  The race announcer kept everyone pumped and shared important announcements.  With only 1,000 runners for both the half and the 10k races, it felt very intimate and also low key.  I was totally digging the vibe.
Bag check area with awesome volunteers
Pretty soon we were moments away from the start so Cyanne and I grabbed a photo and parted ways to start with our respective pacers.  Given that I wasn't feeling terribly confident about my preparation, I decided to start with the 2:00 pacer in an effort to control my speed at the beginning of the race course.  Note that this would have been a reasonable strategy had I not crashed and burned the second half of the race!

As the race started, I tried to keep my nerves at bay and settle into a comfortably easy pace.  The first two miles ticked away.  It was pretty easy - we were running down roads lined by gorgeous vineyards. I caught myself a few times with a goofy grin on my face, just grateful to have the experience to run this fabulous race course.  I slowly pulled away from the pacer, bringing down my pace to 8:55ish for the coming miles.  Miles 3-5-ish offered some shade as we ran down a residential street that also was dotted with grapevines.  As we turned a corner with vineyards all around and Tom Petty's "American Girl" playing on my shuffle, I smiled with pure joy.
While I didn't take this photo during the race, this was essentially
the view for the entire 13.1 miles
The second stretch of the race course (approximately miles 5-10) was much tougher.  It was completely flat but offered little shade and respite from the hot sun.  After I saw Cyanne and we gave each other cheers and high fives, I started to slow.  And I started noticing other girls start to slow as well; I had been running a pretty consistent pace with many of them so it made me feel a little better that I wasn't the only one struggling on the back half of this race.  From miles 7-9 I was hurting pretty bad and not feeling very confident so I got some support via text from Mom and Megan.  Around mile 11, I was able to rediscover my mojo and finish the last few miles much stronger.

The last 2 miles had some hills but they were a gradual incline so I don't remember it being much of an issue.  I tried to look around and soak up the incredibly gorgeous scenery that this race course offered over the last few miles.  As I made the turn to the finish line, I heard the announcer call my name and with much relief, I was handed a medal and a bottle of water.  I immediately chugged the water and then grabbed another bottle of water and a banana in search of some shade.
Happy with another half finish!
I stretched and chatted with some other girls, mostly lamenting the tough back end of the race course and noting that we all seemed to struggle.  A few minutes later, a fellow reader, Melinda approached me and we chatted for a while.  She gave me some great suggestions for wineries to hit post-race and we shared tales of our Old English Sheepdogs.  It was fabulous to meet her and I'm so glad we snapped a quick photo!
Happy ZOOMA half finishers!
I headed back to the road hoping to catch Cyanne before her finish and I was happy to spot her bright pink skirt headed to the finish.  I ran in with her and we both noted the challenging end of the race…a consistent theme here!  I was proud to see my friend cross the finish line and enjoyed our post-race celebration.

The Muscle Milk team was set up with yoga mats, foam rollers, and of course, Muscle Milk, for post-race recovery which was fabulous.  We both took advantage of the mats for stretching and I tried some of the vanilla Muscle Milk.  I wasn't a huge fan but I drank about half the bottle in a weak attempt to refuel with some protein.

We were easily able to retrieve our bags and catch the post-race shuttle back to the Marriott, where ZOOMA was hosting a post-race pool party complete with food, wine, and live music.  Is there anything better?!  I grabbed a wrap sandwich and Cyanne and I found the wine tasting booths.  I tried a Chardonnay from Goose Cross and she tried a red.  A few minutes later, it was going straight to my head so I decided to stick to water and wait until I had rehydrated for some vino!
Cheers to a fabulous half marathon!
I really loved this race.  For an inaugural event, it was incredibly organized.  The pre-race communications were fabulous and the race offered some great perks of bigger events - free runner tracking, FABULOUS swag (more on that in another post), a really friendly environment and great pre and post-race parties.  

I would highly recommend this race for anyone who is interested in a women's focused event in a fabulous destination!  Cyanne and I chatted about making this an annual race trip.  Napa, anyone?


  1. I can think of only a few places in this world that could be more beautiful to run a race at than the Napa Valley! What a gorgeous setting for a race, and I'm sure the scenery helped get you through those last couple of tough miles.

    I've heard so many great things about the ZOOMA races, so I'm not surprised to hear that their inaugural event in Napa was as great as it was. I would love to get back to Napa someday, and who knows, maybe I can get a trip to align correctly with this race!

  2. Major kudos to you! I heard that it was a beast of a course! Don't you love when you're running along and all of a sudden realize you've got a goofy grin on your face? Also, American Girl is one of my FAVORITE running songs. It's a perfect cadence... really, it's just a perfect everything. :)

    And of course, I love seeing you and Cyanne together!

  3. i love zooma and really loved being an ambassador this year. it looks like you girls had a great time! congrats :)

  4. This race looks gorgeous! I have never been to Napa but would really like to go. I might have to try this one out next year! Congrats on you race! :)

  5. Wow, it sounds like Zooma really knows how to put on a race!! I love your wine-colored skirt!

  6. Awesome job! I live here in Napa so this would be a local race for me... definitely on my list for 2015! :)

  7. I'm in! That sounds like a super fun race. We've only been to Napa once, but hey, ANY excuse to go back is a good excuse in my book! Congrats :)

  8. I'd love to go to Napa one day! I'm really looking forward to the Zooma Cape Cod race, glad to hear it's well organized!

  9. It looks like you had a lot of fun! I love that there is a wineglass on the medal and that they had protein shakes and a pool party for you at the finish. Plus a shuttle from the hotel is great- I always stress about parking and getting to the start on time at races, so that takes that stress away.

  10. We were both thinking about you while you were running this race! Sorry the back half was tough but great job pushing through. The medal is gorgeous!

  11. looks like you both had a wonderful time! i would love to run another race in wine country.

  12. I would LOVE to run in Napa.
    And then explore/adventure after.

  13. OMG Christine, what an amazing race!! Wish I had been able to do this one!! Hopefully I can convince my hubby to go next year!!

  14. You girls are adorable! What a fun race. Sorry you had a rough patch, but way to stick it out and finish strong. I would definitely be interested in heading to Napa for this one :) I mean, a racecation that includes wine? Yes, please!