Race Review: Zooma Napa Valley Half Marathon

This is the first of many posts on the amazing trip to Napa Christine from We Run Disney and I just experienced.

The Why
I’m not sure this even needs to be said, but a trip to Napa to run with a friend was the perfect excuse to plan a vacation. Napa in late June would mean tons of sun, a wonderful backdrop, and it pretty honestly just seemed like a brilliant idea.

As the date got closer, I knew I wasn’t trained as much as I’d like to be for a half, so decided it would be very much a run for fun race, and because I had so much going on between moving, a still relatively new job that was blowing up, and just life, I’d be lying if I hadn’t thought a few times that it was a terrible idea. Within an hour of landing at SFO, I had no regrets.

The Location
If you’ve never been to Napa, just imagine the perfect combination of Northern California, Tuscany, and Americana. It’s also a great location for a vacation, if you can swing it (more on that in future posts).

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The race hotel was the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel and Spa. It was a great location and great hotel, and the price was not overwhelming. It had everything it needed to be a great race location, and a great spot to tuck away at night or lounge by the pool.

The Expo
As you would expect for a small race, the expo was small, but well done. A local running store was there so I could stock up on fuel, Honest Tea was there for some pre-race hydration, the Zooma gear was adorable (I brought home a great dark purple quarter zip), and Athleta was even there giving away free headbands and Luna bars.

The swag bag had been hyped, and did not disappoint! Great Feetures socks, a gorgeous tech tee, and a ton of other swag made you feel like you were leaving a party, not a race.

A little later that evening, Honest Tea had a Mocktail party for us, which was not well organized, and had no Zooma representation which seemed weird. They had some tasty drinks and gave out free Kind Bars and sunglasses, so I’ll quit whining πŸ™‚

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The Race
With only 1000 people running in total between the 10k and the half, it was not a corralled race. But the start was so well organized, it didn’t need to be. They had a great gear check area, plenty of porta potties, and fun music to get everyone excited.

Christine and I even got interviewed for a video they were making. The guy claimed it was because we were wearing bright colors, but I think it’s because we are just that fun.

As the start grew close, we each found our pacer, and started off.

The entire race is on roads through Napa toward Yountville and back. We passed acres of vineyards, adorable farm houses, and cute neighborhoods. I expected it to be tough with minimal crowd support, but with a total of 8 water/fuel stops, and tons of volunteers there, at road crossings, and police support, there was no lack of cheering and support. It was fantastic.

With a few exceptions, the course never felt crowded, even though we shared one part of the course with vehicles on the road. It was never too busy with traffic, and the locals respected the runners by moving as far away as they could.

My favorite part of this race is that it was an out and back, so you could cheer on other runners for the middle part of the race. It kept my energy high through about mile 8, where I started to fall apart with tight legs, a resulting very tight lower back, and the reality of not enough training set in.

In the end, it wasn’t my worst race, and wasn’t my best race, but I finished it, my 10th half, and had Christine with huge smiles waiting for me when I finished.
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The After Party
At the finish line, the Zooma folks were really well organized. Water, bananas, and congratulations as soon as you crossed. They even had yoga mats, stretching bands, and foam rollers. We stretched, we hydrated, then headed back to the real party.

Back at the hotel, they had music, food (none of which was vegan, which was disappointing), and of course, wine. It was hot, so we didn’t stay long, but they also had massages, yoga, and it was by the pool, so dozens of ladies were recovering poolside.

Overall Experience
I loved everything about this race experience, other than the fact that I should have trained more. The course and location were gorgeous. It was beautifully organized, and added to a wonderful vacation in a way I couldn’t have expected.

7 thoughts on “Race Review: Zooma Napa Valley Half Marathon

  1. Looks like a beautiful course, and the weather was turned on for you for sure.
    There and backs have to be my least fav type of course, but it does have advantages, esp for specators.
    1000 people is a small race, I like smaller races.
    Well done for getting out there and doing it.

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