Living the Race Anxiety Dream! Napa Valley Marathon 2014

I had an amazing training season leading up to this marathon.  I  joined Gilbert’s Gazelles to try to get some more speed and it really seemed to work.  All of my long runs went well, with plenty of energy to pick it up at the end.  I ran a 22 miler, two 20 milers and at least three other 18+ mile long runs.  I had my crew: Laura Andi, Mark, Kevin, Jen, and Hayley and Rob (who were always a bit ahead of the rest of us).  It was gonna be great!

So I was pretty freaked out when my IT band went nuts on the final long 12 miler taper run just one week before the marathon.  I did what I usually do when I sense an injury- first I tried to ignore it.  I ran the 3k on Monday. That did not work out very well. I determined that I was much less likely to do myself any good if I continued to run on a tender drumstick the week before the marathon, so I rested from Tuesday on (thus missing some great group pictures and I’m sure a terrific pre-marathon speech from Gilbert). I foam rolled, stretched, massaged and taped my IT band, hoping it would heal up by the marathon.

Phil and I flew out of Austin the Friday before the Sunday marathon. Our flight left Austin at 11:30am and was supposed to arrive in Oakland at 2:30 (got there about 3:00pm), but I forgot to take the time change into account (so really 5:00pm Austin time)when I thought about eating.  I bought some coffee at the Austin airport, but no real food,  Then, somehow, by the time I arrived at the rental car counter in Oakland, I had lost my credit card.  The only credit card I packed for the trip…

While Phil paid for the rental car, I frantically tried to call the credit card company to get them to cancel the card, but every friggin’ number I called required my account number before it would let me go any further, even the “lost/stolen card” number.  WTF?  Might the fact that I am called the lost/stolen card number give the bank a clue that I may not have the account number available?  Apparently not.

Phil came up with the brilliant idea that we visit a local branch of the Big natiOnal bAnk to cancel because I can honestly say, in my frantic state this would likely have never occurred to me.  The bank branch was very helpful, but by the time we got the card canceled it was after 4:00pm California time (6:00 Texas time) and we hadn’t eaten really anything all day.  Since we were in Oakland we decided to go to a big chain restaurant where we could sit but also keep an eye on the car.

After eating, we jumped into the rental, set the Garmin for the hotel, and off we went into California Bay Area rush hour traffic! Not really having a clue where we were going, but confident in the Garmin (anyone who has ever been on a local ride or run with me knows that I generally have absolutely no idea where I am or which direction I am heading in – even in the town where I have lived and worked for 20 years).  Within a half hour, I was not feeling well AT ALL. It was about 45 degrees outside and I had the window all the way down with head on the arm rest while Phil offered what support he could, while quietly freezing to death.

Within an hour, I was projectile vomiting out the car window (while going 65 on the highway – sorry to whoever was behind us).  We found a gas station where I was able to clean myself up a bit (and clean as much of the inside of car as I could with just paper towels).  Back on the road, I was still nauseated and we had to pull over several times.  At one point Phil questioned why the hell we were not at the hotel, yet.  While I was dry heaving out the window, he determined that the Garmin had apparently been set to “tour of California” or “How to go in the complete opposite direction of Napa”.  We were now 2 hours away from the hotel (whereas at the airport we were only 1 hour away from the hotel).  Lost credit card, violently ill, and can’t find the hotel – the proverbial Race Anxiety Dream, but I was living it.

We got to the hotel sometime around 8pm, but I still could not eat, so I drank some water, took a bath and went to bed confident(ish) that tomorrow would be better.

Saturday was better.  While I had a low grade headache probably from being so dehydrated and starved. I was able to drink a bunch of water and eat some good carbs at lunch.  Funny thing is that I didn’t bring any extra sport drink, electrolytes, or carb/protein bars because I couldn’t imagine needing them the day before the marathon.  If I had been thinking straight I would have at least bought some Nuun from the Expo, but instead I drank water.

For dinner I had some (but not all) of the leftovers from lunch and some graham crackers.  Again, if I was thinking straight, the total amount I ended up eating on the day before a marathon after a day of fasting should have concerned me.  In my defense, I was also in constant “trying not to freak out over the situation mode.”  But, in fact, until I wrote this out I hadn’t realized how little I had to eat considering the calorie/hydration deficient I needed to make up.

That evening I laid out everything I would need for the marathon, then got to bed early after setting the alarm for 4:15am.  I slept like a rock.

And woke up before the alarm on Sunday morning feeling pretty dang good.  It’s gonna be great!

I had a bagel with PB&J (my standard) and a half bottle of water and a half bottle of Gatorade. I applied some KT tape to my IT band, then some more to hold that tape in place, then more to hold that in place – then took all of it off and tried again.  Am I the only spaz who cannot get that stuff to stick where it is supposed to? Anyway, after going through about $13 worth of KT tape, I had three strips applied that seemed to want to stay in place.  I put on my super hero knee socks, superman blue sports bra, running skirt, Austin Marathon 2012 T-shirt and neon yellow Saucony Outduels, hoping my outfit would exude confidence which I could then reabsorb through osmosis.

You can file this under “do as I say, not as I do”.  The bra and running shoes were both brand spanking new, but we all know NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY!  However, the old kicks were likely the cause of my IT problems and I could not image that wearing brand new same exact sneakers could be worse than wore out old kicks for 26.2 miles.  Let’s just say, I was having a similar issue with my favorite sports bra and the new one felt great on the one run I had worn it on.  I figured a bit of chafing would be better than 4 hours of bouncing.

Set to race, I boarded the bus to the start line without incident and was in a pretty positive state of mind about the race.

Arriving at the race site I had a half a banana, then ran into Kevin and Laura while waiting in the port-o-john line.  It was cool and humid, and I went back and forth about whether to dis my jacket with my dry clothes or try to hand it off to a friend once I warmed up.  I decided to keep the jacket, and Kevin and I went to drop out “sweat bag” (aka post race/dry clothes bags).

Allow me to take this moment to tell you about the swag bags (which we were also using as “sweat bags”) from the NVM.  They are really nice, purple and gray Asics gym bags and they were filled with samples of tons of stuff from protein power, to KT tape, to clif bars, to various lotions and sport sprays.  Very impressive.


By I digress…

By the time we got back from dropping our bags the whole crew had hooked up and we were just waiting to start running.

We got off to a slowish start at the congested starting line, but soon Rob and Hayley were pulling ahead of us.  Almost immediately, I determined I should have dissed the jacket, so I tied it around my waist knowing Michael would be at mile 3 1/2.

I felt pretty good at the start, but it did not feel as easy as I had hoped it would.  I didn’t feel much like talking , and if you have ever run with me you know that I usually can’t shut up, which is why I will resort to telling 100’s of jokes when I run out of stuff to say.  But before I could even get started, I was told not to start telling my pirate jokes, which was just baffling.  I mean, who doesn’t want to hear jokes while running for 4 hours? (So this pirate walks into a bar with a steering wheel in his pants.  The bartender says “Hey, you know you have a steering wheel in your pants?”  The pirate says” Arr, it’s driving me nuts!”).  See?

Anyway, I was keeping quiet and to the back of the pack, and just happy to be there, so early on I suspected this was not going to be a great race.  I readjusted my goals, and ran on.  I drank the sports drink I had in my 10oz bottle and took gels every 4 miles.

The group stayed on our planned pace per the MARCO Pace Calculator, but while everyone was excited to pick up the pace at mile 8, I knew that was not happening for me. I was certain that this was a nutrition problem.  Nothing hurt. I may have had 99 problems but an IT band ain’t one of ’em. By mile 7ish I dropped back to a 9:15 min/mile , and was by myself .


Ok, I mean there were obviously other people around, but I had been dropped by all my friends (although I could still see them).  This was about the time I started cursing the “no iPod” rule. I took a gel and was able to comfortably hold the 9:13-9:18’s and thought that if I got a second wind, I might be able to pick it up at mile 18 and finish at 4:00 hours.

I took another gel at mile 12, but by the mile 13 hill I was walking… with my eyes closed… and I wanted to cry.  I actually had the wherewithal to ask myself, “If someone told you that during their race they were walking with there eyes closed and wanted to cry, what would you tell them?”  So, even though I had just eaten, I ate something – another gel and a big swig of sport drink.

At this point I was getting depressed. I had run a very conservative 2:02 half marathon (I think I’ve only ever run the Decker Half slower), and I was bonking, and I was only 1/2 way through the race.


I started reevaluating my goals again by looking for a SAG van.  Seriously, if there was a half marathon option I would have been all over it at that point.*

*While death before DNF and all that, I have to say that upon reflection, had I DNF’ed at mile 13 I could have used Napa as a taper run, then run the Beaumont Marathon this weekend.  By finishing Napa I have eliminated any ability to do another marathon this season as I do not have enough time to recover then train for any of the upcoming marathons:  Beaumont or the Bearathon in Waco, or the Big D Marathon.  Just sayin’ maybe a DNF isn’t always such a bad idea.

So I started making deals with myself. OK, just get me to mile 18, if you can get to mile 18 you can finish this thing.  From mile 13-17 I was averaging about a 10:o3 mile, then I got to the long awaited mile 18. Second wind, baby!  Mile 18 was an 8:55.  If I could just keep up this pace…

Well, that didn’t last very long.


By mile 19 I was back at the high 9:40’s, where I remained until mile 22.   Then the wheels came completely off.

You know how in the MARCO calculator it tells you that you should now be passing other runners and things like  ‘More and more “runners” are starting to walk on the left and right of you. Some of them are doing stretching exercises on sidewalks, against walls of houses, trees, etc. But you maintain your speed…’  All I could think was “Argh!  They’re talking about ME!” and “All these people think I started out too fast.”  “Dang it! Stop judging me!!!”

judging tree

I did all I could to keep running which pretty much meant maintain a 10:30 pace through mile 24, when I was finally able to see the barn door and picked it up to a 9:35 for the last mile.

My overall time was 4:15:28 at a 9:46 min/mile

I had been able to run the Rogue 30k at 9:05s (and up hill into the wind for the first half), Decker at a 8:58, and the 3M 1/2 at an 8:52 after running a 6 mile warm up, so I really did expect great things from this marathon.


Also, I will be writing a sternly worded letter to the makers of my superhero knee socks as they totally did not give me super powers.  One high note: the new bra and shoes, while not normally recommended on race day, were a resounding success.

Post script:   The final insult –  We left Napa on Tuesday morning and arrived safely in Austin before 5:00pm on Tuesday evening.  However, when I went to retrieve my luggage, my bag had been run over (and from the looks of it, quite possibly the luggage car… then a truck… then the plane) and destroyed.


It’s never felt so good to be home.


About jredtripp

Triathlete Extraordinaire!
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One Response to Living the Race Anxiety Dream! Napa Valley Marathon 2014

  1. Jess says:

    What a colorful reinactment of your disappointing race. I Really enjoyed the read! Wtf: So this pirate walks into a bar with a steering wheel in his pants. The bartender says “Hey, you know you have a steering wheel in your pants?” The pirate says” Arr, it’s driving me nuts!”). And where ever did you find that judging tree? It really seems to be judging me as well! Great report, You Rock!

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