Napa Valley Marathon

7am this morning was Napa Valley Marathon. As planned I got up at 3am. I must have woken up a couple of times before 3am. I must have not slept well, but I couldn’t really feel it. I got up and ate a fried egg and turkey burger with cheese. By the time I was done, clock was already at 3:45am.

I picked up my pre-packed bag, and headed out. Thankfully rain had stopped. When I got in my car, and got on the empty freeway, I started to think about what I was about to do: Running my first marathon. I’ve never ran beyond 20 miles. Will I be able to hold up?

On 680 north, there were barely any cars. At one point I was the only one on the freeway cruising toward Napa. It felt quite peaceful.

By the time I got to the Trinity High School, there were lots of cars getting into the parking lot already. It was around 5am. Good. Everything was working out as planned. So far so good.

I followed the crowd, and got on the next available bus. There must have been a dozen school buses. Once I got on the bus, I could feel the energy. Runners from different parts of Bay Area, all of whom were committed enough to get up extra early on Sunday to get on this bus, were all anticipating the 26.2 mile run. And I was one of them. How did I end up here?

Light came on. I must have dozed off. All of sudden the school bus lights felt blinding as if late night airplane had just docked to a gate, and turned on its lights. It was still dark outside. My watch was showing about 5:50am. Still more than an hour to go until the marathon starts.

I got out to use portapotty. I’d learned the hard way that it’s essential to empty yourself before starting a long run. Any discomfort in the bowel would ultimately stop the running no matter how determined the runner is. Plus it’s not fun having to look for portapotty while under pressure. Fortunately there were many portapotties available in the back of the start line.

As Sun came up and day had gotten brighter, it felt much nicer. Still there were no rain, wind was calm, and temperature was at around 50. Perfect day for running.

Race started 7am sharp. I began running. It felt great. My opening pace was right on my target at 8:15. In fact, my pace has been great all the way up to mile 18. But starting mile 19, I started feeling cramps on my both calves. It started as muscle twitches on my calves, toes, and soles. And I could soon feel that my legs were getting wobbly, and started to lose power.

That was practically the end of my race. Once I felt my calves were twitching, I started to resort to slowing down to walking pace, then running a few minutes, then walking again. My pace dropped to 10 or 11 minutes.

When I struggled through the last 7 miles, I had spent more than an hour just to complete the last 7 miles. Every mile was taking me 10+ minutes to complete.

By the time I got in, race clock was at 4:02. It’s a total far cry from my personal target, which was 3:40. Had I kept up my pace, I would have been able to come close to my target. But by mile 19, my legs were not moving as I desired.

Maybe it’s time to try salt pills to avoid muscle cramps.

For now, I have to recover. My muscles and energy have been totally exhausted by 26.2 miles of pounding. Yet my mind is fresh with all the runners that I saw on the road. It’s time to reflect on what I learned.

-Jae

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