Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Race Recap: Napa to Sonoma Wine County Half Marathon AND Vega Sport Product Review

Spoiler alert: I met Meb!

I had to get that out there first, because it was a HUGE perk offered by Destination Races at this event. Actually, it's all thanks to Krave Jerky, the second best thing to come out of Fairfield (I'm the best...ha!).

Rather than a mile-by-mile recap, I want to start with the good and the bad of this race. The race, overall, is a mixed bag. I admit to being the type of consumer who can buy into hype. Tell me this race is likely to sell out, and I'm there at my computer constantly refreshing the screen until the race opens.  After my second time running the event, though, I have to wonder if it's really worth it.

Destination Races are beautiful, but the two I've done, one in Healdsburg and the Napa to Sonoma (twice), aren't actually destinations for me (#napaproblems).  I can, potentially, run these courses, or ones much like them whenever I want.  Keeping that in mind, the good and the bad of the 2014 Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon.

The Good:
  • The course is lovely. The weather held - even the light sprinkle at the end felt good, rather than irritating. The first hill, "butt-burner," is a jolt, but the remainder of the course offers enough hills to keep my mind and body engaged without overexerting my mental stability (because, really, running hills is all about the mental game for me).
  • Plenty of water stops - The water stops were approximately every 1.5 miles, and while only water and accelerade were offered (no gu or other similar products were offered due to the littering problem), I didn't mind.  I had my new Vega Sport Endurance as well as a tried and true gu to see me through.
  • Road Closures - Any streets with traffic were well managed by local police, and I really appreciate that I didn't have to deal with any cars zooming by me like I did when I ran the Healdsburg race a few years ago. I appreciate details like this.
  • Crowd Support - Since this race is chock full of folks running with Team Challenge, there is LOTS of support out on the course. People are cheering and smiling and ringing cowbells, and all of that good stuff. It kept me motivated.
The Bad:
  • The price. This is a pricey event, and it's hard to justify continuing to pay for it when all I *really* get is a good time (though that feels good).
  • The swag.  They bring in big names to the expo, but I didn't even get to hear them because the main speakers were talking during my son's naptime, when I needed to be at home. I know this isn't an issue for the actual intended audience of event, those who traveled from out of town.  That aside, the swag-bag is seriously limited. This year, all three main items, the shirt, the medal, and the glass were just plain unattractive.
  • Again, the swag. So, the ugly shirt is one thing, but what was a bit painful was seeing what should have been the official race shirt (graphic of runners in wine country) for sale at the expo. Why do you want so much money from me?! The shirt on the left is the 2014 shirt, the 2013 shirt (much prettier, if you ask me), is on the right.
  • The wrong info. didn't happen to me, but I know that a number of runners had timing issues - their start times were listed as the same as those at the front of the pack, which was 1-2 minutes off.  Mainly, the wrong info applies to the "charm" attached to the medal. says I ran the race on July 21, when in fact, it was July 20. Details. details.
  • The crowd. I know that they limit the runners, but they don't seem to limit the crowd at the wine-tasting event after. For the second year, I grabbed my glass and headed back home to fill it, rather than waiting in incredibly long lines or incredibly small portions of wine.
My Race!
For the first time, really ever, I felt properly hydrated and properly fed leading up to the race. I paid attention to carb intake and wasn't hungry at the start. Just in case, I ate one of my raspberry Vega Sport Endurance Gels about 20 minutes before the start of the race. I kept up with my nutrition needs throughout the race and had both the endurance gel and a gu during the race. I overheard someone at the expo talking about adding nuun to water the night before the race, and I thought about how I am always thirsty on race mornings (getting up at least two hours before my normal time has a tendency to do that to me). I hydrated with nuun on Saturday night and again on Sunday morning before leaving the house.  

One other big difference? I had a new race belt! I so enjoyed NOT having my old belt (an amphipod that could never quite adjust quite right to my waist size) and instead ran with something new from fitletic. Mentally, I need to know that I have fluid at the ready, so I wasn't quite ready to use my flipbelt (I'll try that out on a shorter run), but the fitletic belt has a nice, elastic connection that really made it possible for me forget I even had the thing on! Huzzah!

When the race began, I felt good, even going uphill, so I kept with it. My pace was steady for almost all of the race, with two exceptions. The second mile took less than ten minutes, and the eight mile took 11:26.  Other than that, I remained within 15 seconds of my desired time and finished with an average pace of 10:42.  I know that, someday soon, I'll be able to go faster, but for now, I'm just thrilled that I was able to complete 13.1 miles in 2:20:43. My first half marathon was just under 3:00; I've come a long way in three and a half years, and I want to just keep getting faster!

My Nutrition
I talked a bit about this already, but I received Vega Sport Endurance Gels the week before my race as samples for review. I know that it's bad race ju-ju to try out new things on race day; so, I ate one of the gels before a long walk I took during my taper week. Since I had no digestive issues, I decided to try out the gels on race day.

I believe that this plant-based gel stuck with me just fine and helped me to be a faster, steadier runner. I will, for sure, use the rest of my pack. I would like to try a different, flavor, though, as the raspberry wasn't quite on the mark when it comes to flavor. I LOVE raspberries; so, I may be a bit pickier than some when it comes to that flavor in products. The taste was a little me. I can see where someone might pick up "raspberry" in the taste, but it's not one that I overall enjoyed.  The pomegranate gu I had during the race, though, was yummy.   

Like I said, I'm going to work through the entire review box, and maybe my thoughts on flavor will change. I like that these gels are plant based and have no artificial ingredients - especially no high fructose corn syrup - so, taste aside, I felt good about putting it in my body!

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