Monday, March 4, 2013

Some Quick and Raw Napa Valley Marathon Reflections

Thank you for your e-mails, comments, and words of encouragement and love in regards to the Napa Valley Marathon that was yesterday.  I'm not quite ready for a race report.  In fact, I very well might never want to really share this race in detail.  I do have lots of thoughts and a big bag of feelings that I'm carrying around.  Maybe more with this race than any other race in my life. Lots of emotions right under the surface here. But more than I can process fully right now.  This post will be very raw, probably random, and sharing a few "off the top of my head" reflections as they come. Then I'll check out of my hotel, enjoy the rest of my day in beautiful Napa, and carry my suitcase of lessons home with me as I move on to new moments and memories that life has in store for me.

Thoughts from my Runninghood Facebook post this morning:

"Post Napa Valley Marathon. Beautiful evening for wine and reflection. Thankful that life continues to give us lessons in the most unexpected of ways. The marathon is perhaps one of the greatest teachers in my life. Somewhere out there on that 26.2 mile course are lessons meant for us whether we are ready for them or not. As my friend Heather says, every marathon is different in that it so often parallels our life at the time. Always something to take. Always something to give up. And in the end, we are wiser and stronger for it. Life is beautiful like that. And so is the sport of running."

  • It's great to be in Napa.  Thankful for the opportunity I have to run marathons, travel with friends, and grow in the process.  What a gift.  
  • I will say briefly and more later that I would still recommend this race to others.  The expo, swag bags, organization, and environment were all wonderful.  And this year was focused on Honoring Women in Marathoning.  Ah, that in itself was so so inspirational.  But that will be for the next post.  Met lots of famous runners and walked away inspired beyond what I expected.  
  • Things don't always go as expected.  That's life.  That's how we learn.  It's how we choose to deal with the things that happen that matter.  
  • This race was far from what I expected or remembered from doing it before.  
  • SLEEP.  I have a lot to say about this topic.  I'm a person that needs sleep to function on a mental and physical level.  We all need it.  Some more than others.  I just know how I feel after not getting sleep and then just trying to be a mom the next day.  Let alone run 26.2 miles.  I've had a bit of trouble sleeping well lately.  I think it has to do with all that is going on in my life right now with moving to NC, planning for places to live and where my kids will go to school, tapering for a marathon (makes sleep tricky for me just in the lower exercise), etc. etc.  I know people say that the night before a race doesn't matter so much in regards to how you perform but rather it is the night before the night before.  I agree that that night is more important but I disagree that the night before doesn't matter.  It sure as heck matters when one doesn't get more than 30 minutes of sleep.  I was in bed a bit before 9.p.m and without exaggeration, I didn't get more than maybe 30 minutes of sleep the entire night.  I wasn't stressed or worried.  I wasn't even thinking of the race. My brain just wouldn't shut off to sleep mode.  I think the marathon is extremely mental.  Without sleep my mental game is so so so bad.  Not making a ton of excuses but I do know in my heart of hearts that without a doubt no sleep the night before the race affected me GREATLY.  Frustrating.  
  • My mental game was the worst it has ever been.  I'm ashamed of the thoughts that went through my head during that race.  So not a champion mentality.  I struggled more than I've ever struggled in a race.  
  • Wow, "fast course"....this term is so relative.  I didn't realize how deceptive elevation maps can be.  I know I'm not alone in saying that there were way more hills than I ever remembered.  I wouldn't describe this course as "fast" or "easy" course.  I suppose on another day I might but not this time.  
  • Road Camber.  HOLY Slanted roads.  My hip is screaming a bit today.  Hard to get away from it.  There was no running tangents AND avoiding the camber.  You needed to choose one or the other or both. 
  • I'm amazed how deathly slow one can feel and be at the end of a marathon and still end up with a decent time despite it being one of the worst races ever. Starting strong definitely helps with this but ending poorly really messes with the head.  And heart.
  • Funny to think that I would have qualified for Boston if the standards were what they were 2 years ago.  Not that that was my goal at all.  I had much much bigger goals than that. And I don't mean that to disrespect or offend anyone that is striving for that.  This is personal.  We are all at different places with our goals and efforts in marathons.  But at mile 22 I did have a conversation with myself about the whole thing.  I said "Well Amanda, if you run 8 min mile pace from here to the finish, you can at least run a 3:35 and qualify for the next Boston even if you have no intention of running it."  Hmm, that conversation didn't last very long before I decided that I just didn't have the mental game to do anything but finish.  
  • I hate disappointing people.  Probably one of my biggest fears.  Fear of letting others down.  This was tough for me when I fell apart yesterday.  
  • Every mile after 13 was a mental battle for me.  Almost all 13 miles of that second half was filled with ugly self defeating thoughts.  Where the hell did those come from?  Definitely disappointed in myself.  Some self-defining moments in there.  
  • As much as I felt defeated, I also felt like I allowed myself to let go.  I guess this might be how this parallels my life right now.  I went easy on myself.  And that's okay too.  At one point in the race I said "Okay Amanda.  This is killing you.  No sleep has left you exhausted and weak.  You promised yourself you'd have fun.  Look around.  Soak up this beautiful country and reevaluate your goals.  Just finish.  Use this as a run.  It's okay." 
  • Then back to the self defeating talk.  So ugly.  So not proud of that.  But a lesson in there somewhere.  
  • Finishing was all I had yesterday.  
  • Lots of tears afterwards.  Lots of processing yet to be done.  But that's one of the best things about marathons...they teach us about life.  About us.  About perspective.....
  • And in the grand scheme of life, gosh, we have it good.  We CAN RUN.  Just being able to be at a race like this and spend the money on a weekend away to indulge in a race through the Napa Valley. Um, not much to complain about.  
  • But definitely MUCH going on within this head and heart of mine. 
  • Where am I at with running and goals? Hmmm, not sure.  Not sure I want to race for a long while.  But that might change.  Boston is still on my radar for fun.  But we'll see.  That's up for discussion.  Just don't know what I want to put into that right now with all that is going on in life.  There's a lot on my plate and I might just need to let things go a bit.  Running is best when I can have it as fun right now.  Boston is a perfect place to do that.  Just to see my friends, enjoy a beer or two the night before, get a good night of SLEEP, and soak up the long 26.2 journey from Hopkinton to Boston and then home to my new home of Asheville, NC.  So much ahead of us.  Excited to see what life has to offer.  
  • And glad to have a day here in Napa of quiet reflection where it is okay to sit with my hurt feelings and wrap myself up a bit.  What is silly and small to others can be HUGE for the person who put so much thought and hopes into something.  And that was this race for me.  I had some big goals and some big confidence in myself in regards to them.  I started this race in the best place I've EVER been mentally and I ended it feeling defeated.  And that's okay.  Our feelings are ours to feel.  They are ours to process and chew on as we need to.  And then we move on and pick ourselves back up.  And almost always we are better off for having failed.  Besides as a friend sent me last night:  "failing is not falling down...failing is staying down."  I'm not a person to stay down for long.  Not at all.  

More to come about the Napa Valley Marathon....

Thank you friends.  Much Love,


  1. Thanks for opening up and sharing here. I almost like how this may never be reported. I have to mirror your fear of disappointing people. I had to keep it covert on my last post, but it is very real event though I work on it daily.

    Hope you get some sleep and some healing from this experience.

  2. Oh wow, I love that quote about how the marathon teaches us life lessons and often parallels what we're going through at the time... each one is a giant leap of faith and an adventure, for sure. So sorry things didn't go as planned- the marathon is the hardest race to experience that, with such a long time preparing for it... hugs, friend!

  3. Amanda, I was thinking of you all weekend as I was enjoying the clear, cold and beautiful weather in North Carolina. I kept thinking about how much you are going to love living in Asheville and what an adventure awaits your family once you get there.

    I know you must have been so disappointed with your race yesterday. It seemed that your mind was in such a good place lately and whatever goals you had were within your reach. But the marathon can certainly be such a heartbreaker. We can do everything right but can't prevent a last-minute injury...or a snowstorm...or a heat wave...or even complete lack of sleep the night before the race.

    I am like you in that I NEED my sleep. I like to get a good 8 hours of sleep a night and love to get more (if possible) when I'm deep in training. Not only do I believe my body needs it but I think my mind does, too. I get very stressed out when I don't get my sleep and my mind completely falls apart -- convincing me that I can't get done whatever I need to do that day. I agree with you 100% that you can't discount the sleep needed the night before. Maybe you will do fine if you only get 5-6 hours sleep but I couldn't possibly be strong mentally with only 30 minutes sleep. And anyone who has run a marathon knows a HUGE part of it is mental! You were in shape to run an amazing marathon but your mind wouldn't cooperate.

    I love the quotes above and I know you will never stay down for long.

    Enjoy the rest of your time in Napa!! xo

  4. So much to say, so much to relate to, but you said it up above about letting go and reevaluating where you are and where you want to go. I wish I was there. I wish I was there to tell you to shut up and to just pick your legs up. And i wish i was there to hug and cry with you. Amanda, look around you, look at the love. This is OK. This is acceptable. You've let no one down except for your own goals. You are teaching others that this happens and it is normal and it is OK. I don't mean this to sound harsh or dismissing. You have to process this stuff as I know you are. I say it because I was there at the end of my last running season. I know how much this means to you. I know how hard it is to live up to that super woman status we have of ourselves in our minds. I get this. And I know how to get back up stronger and so do you... so much better and quicker than I do. Love to you, friend. Big fat boob grabbing love. :) love you!

  5. I hope to read more about the Napa Marathon, but no pressure if you don't.

    And okay, it wasn't your best marathon. Oh well. You still survived and you soaked up some wonderful scenery and I'm sure wine...well, you better have with the wine. I'm still in awe that you finishd it and plan to do another one in a month. So, as a reader, I'm still proud of you for doing it.

    Sleep is so important. If you don't get any, you are hosed. Simple as that. So, completing this on 30 min of sleep is just awesome.

  6. Okay, I didn't mean for the last comment to come out like I was yelling at you. I really wasn't. In fact, I'm inspired by you and trying to make you feel better.

  7. On disappointing people...and I mean this in the most loving way possible: no one cares as much about you meeting your goals as you do. Or, more accurately, whether or not you meet your goals isn't going to affect the way people feel about you. Disappointed FOR you, not IN you. And I'd venture to say that a large number of your readership is flat out amazed by even your bad race times. So take the time to feel bad for yourself, but know that you don't have to feel bad for anyone else.

    And I get it, bc I've had those moments in races where I want to be able to live up to what others expect of me, but ultimately it's our race to run and the expectations of others are their own concern.

  8. All wonderful thoughts and as always I appreciate your perspective. I'm glad your allowing yourself to process this. In my opinion it is okay to be upset and dissapointed. So many people will try to say "just get over it" or "still ran a good time why are you so put out?" But you trained your butt off for this race and you know you did not execute what you are capable of doing. The marathon is such a unpredictable distance and I am so sorry that you have to go through this. All you can do is pick up the peices and move forward. Forward with pride, confidence, and renewed focus.

    I don't think I need to tell you what I would do if I were you.....but I would sure as heck be re-evaluating my goals for Boston. You've worked your butt off, you deserve to prove to yourself (you have nothing to prove to anyone else) what you are truly capable of. I really hope I'm not coming accross harsh here because that is not my intent. But I think you should take a week off and then consider racing Boston. Not for anyone else but for you because you deserve it!

    I promise I am shutting up now.

  9. Thanks for posting this. I think any runner can relate. I've never thought about how races tend to mimic our current lives. Remember that is so true....failing is staying down not falling down.;)

  10. I really like what Kate said...I tell myself that all the time. My races matter to me (as little or as much as I let them to) but not to other people. Sure, people are supportive, and dear friends care as well, but they care mostly about how I feel about the race, not about the specific time. This is exactly how I feel about your race. I know you are a 3:15-3:20 runner right now. The 3:40 race time does not change that for me. At all. You did not need a "time grade". What I care about is how you feel and I hope that you will be able to put this race in perspective. I am proud (and I felt happy) that you were able to enjoy Napa after the race. I loved seeing your big smile on Facebook in the couple of pics that you posted:)
    I don't think marathons are like least they are not for me. Not being able to push through as much as you'd like in a race does not mean that you would not be able to do that in life. You do do that in life, on bad or good days, when it matters, for your kids, for your family, for what is of utmost importance. I've had a bad marathon in 2010 - shooting for 3:20 and got 3:40. And you know what, I was not less tough during that race, heck, I worked harder than in any race before; it was just a bad day. We all have them. OK, stopping the ramble now. Lots of love to you !

  11. Sorry it didn't go like you wanted. It is so hard, we wrap so much time and energy and heart and soul into our training. All for one event. It is bitter disapointment when it doesn't go like we think it should. I am still trying to process the ass kicking my first marathon gave me. Not sure I want to commit to that again soon though I know it will.

  12. Amanda! You are amazing. Never forget that, or let a race put any doubt in your mind about your abilities. I struggle every time I run just to get through 5 minutes without walking. It's a battle every day, and I usually want to beat myself up. But I make myself stop, tell myself that I can keep moving forward, and things will be better. Self bad talk is one of the worst things we do to ourselves, and it is so hard to shut that voice out. But you can. And you will. And you will continue to be awesome, and remember all the lessons this race had for you.

    Sending lots of hugs!

  13. I have to give you props for even getting out there with a cross-country move LOOMING in the very near future. Our family's cross-country move isn't until the end of May and in no way, shape, or form is my head in the running game (let alone my body... which is still recovering from my January marathon).

    So much of the marathon is mental, and you really do have to be *ON* for things to fall into place, especially at the level you are. You're not just training to finish, yk? The long-term lack of sleep coupled with all that you have going on... It's absolutely understandable how it all played out this way. Not what you wanted though, I know. You worked so hard for that race, and I know that you're disappointed.

    Your heart may be a little broken, but your spirit isn't. Hang in there, Amanda.

  14. Glad to see you posted today:) I loved reading this. I love your honesty. You don't reveal everything but you don't cover.

    Sleep-I definitely think (in what I've witnessed of you) that sleep is just crucial for you. We are different people of course but when I'm very low on sleep I struggle with the mental even more than the physical in some ways. I'm able to function but I struggle more with my WILL, decision making....I eat more crap etc...Relating only as to say that I see lack of quality sleep the night before having an extreme mental effect in a 26.2 mile race for YOU. I wish this had been different for you.

    I laughed almost at "fast course". Gosh, I've been fooled by those words MANY times. Women Rock advertised as fast and net downhill. Hmmmmm.

    Disappointing people.....I'm reading your comments here. Will take that to email.

    "What is silly and small to others can be HUGE for the person who put so much thought and hopes into something." Now, I'm a runner so I obviously don't think a marathon and what goes into it is silly and small but MAN do I ever relate to this statement. Like a kids hockey game...silly and small to most.....You've run like almost 1000 miles in this training cycle or something like that. Obviously 2% of those miles which is this race doesn't define that training cycle but you are surely entitled to some hurt feelings to process! It's just a bummer when something you've put so much time and effort into doesn't go according to plan. Not for a moment do I think you won't pick yourself up. Not for a MOMENT. I do believe you will be stronger for it, I do believe you will grow from this and I do believe it's necessary to cry a little in the meantime.

    So excited to see you in Boston and hear about how awesome Asheville is!!! To cheer you on if you "race", to cheer you on if you "run", to have a beer with you, to give you a hug, to just see my forever friend:)

    So glad you were able to enjoy your trip and spend some time with good friends in beautiful surroundings! Been thinking of you non-stop:) XOXO

  15. I'm sorry about the tough race. We all have have so much on your plate right now! I agree about the mental aspect of marathoning, and right now your mind is full of a lot of things (and no sleep doesn't help!). You're faster than the time you ran, but this race still demonstrates your toughness. I definitely think you are a TOUGH runner! And better races are in your future soon. Thinking of you as you prep for your move. Wish I could come help you pack :)

  16. Running 26.2 miles is a HARD even when everything is working in your favor. Throw in lack of sleep, stress, difficult course, etc and it can feel nearly impossible. When you start off a marathon it's hard to imagine how hard it will feel a few hours later. I remember thinking early on yesterday- this is great, I can do this. Then by mile 24 I felt like death and the pace plan was out the window. My hip is screaming too and I didn't even think about slanted roads...Ughhh.

    Let me know what you decided to do about Boston. I would LOVE to meet you if you do it. It will be my first Boston!

    You are such a strong runner- you just had a rough race. It happens to ALL of us. It's just more devastating when it's a marathon because the miles drag on FOREVER. It is VERY easy to get down on ourselves quickly when the end is no where in sight.

    A former teammate of mine takes a little Benadryl the night before a marathon to help with sleep. He is exceptionally fast so it does not make him groggy. I was tempted to do that this time but wasn't sure how my body would react since I never take the stuff. I guess if it came down to that or hardly any sleep I don't see how it could get any worse. Might as well get some sleep!

  17. Hi Amanda,

    Thanks for this post.

    Sorry things were complicated for you and didn't turn out the way you hoped fully.

    Any day you can run a marathon is, no matter what you might think at the time. a GREAT DAY. And I'm sure you agree 8)

    I think you need better metrics for evaluating your fitness before race day.


    1. Not sure what you mean by better metrics here since you don't know what kind of "metrics" my coach has used before race day that tell him (and me) that my fitness goals were realistic. ? :) Sorry, just not sure what this last statement means.

    2. This last comments actually annoys me a little (not trying to be mean) in that I've shared VERY little of my training on this blog. Your comment makes it sound like you're saying that I didn't have good enough tests/workouts/assessments for determining if I was capable of a sub 3:20 marathon. I assure you that the "metrics" were there and I am confident that I was prepared physically. There are so many other factors that come into play. Things that "metrics" or no "metrics" will never prepare one for. NOt annoyed with you Paul...just with your choice of words here at the end. Probably not the best words to say to someone that just had a very disappointing race. But I know you probably meant well. Just felt like I needed to express myself here. Thanks Paul.

    3. Amanda,

      My comment was stupidly glib...I was commenting when I was short on time which was a big mistake.

      I know you have a coach..but I also know that figuring out how one can perform on race day is ....welll..."difficult".

      WHat is was *trying* to say was it would be great if there was some way that we could know what our potential was on race day.

      Obviously this is not going to happen ;) and of course that is what makes running marathons (or climbing Mt Evererst etc) so challenging..

      So my comment is really kind of stupid.

      Please forgive me for saying something so stupidly controversial right after your MARATHON.


    4. Ah, Paul, no worries. Please. I was overly sensitive here. Raw emotions after a marathon. I know your intentions were not spiteful. I've met you and know your person. Thank you. Sorry for my overreaction.

  18. Amanda, the fact that you pushed through those tough miles and finished this race is so inspiring and 1000 times more difficult than if it had been a race that had gone as you had planned it. I can't even imagine not sleeping for more than 30 minutes the night before a marathon, I would not even be able to make it to the start line!!!! You're an inspiration.

  19. I love your honestly. I know I'm not blog worth these days but I still read and I have nothing but huge admiration for you. Races so rarely ever pan out exactly as we envision in our heads pre-race, but the fact you can learn more about yourself than when you started is a good day in my book. Well done, girl. So very proud of you!!

  20. Amanda, I thought about you, your race and all of the training you have put in this past weekend. I'm sorry that the race wasn't everything you hoped for!
    I'm glad that you shared your feelings, raw and all!! And, because they are your feelings and goals, they are NOT silly or small but very important!!!

  21. I read this yesterday and saved it to re-read this morning. I couldnt but my thoughts into words. Kate said it best. There is no disappointment from us. I am inspired by this, you could have very easily thrown in the towel and walked off the course, but you didnt, you finished what you started, that alone speaks volumes about you.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, for the record, the disappointment part really came more down to my coach who has done so much for me and worked so closely with me. But he wasn't disappointed at all! As I knew he wouldn't be...that was just me. Only disappointed for me. not in me. :) Thanks for your thoughtful words. I just wanted to clarify that the disappointed part had nothing to do with blog readers.

  22. Hi Amanda! I've followed your blog for a while but this is my first time commenting. I just wanted to pass along something that I realized last year when attempting my first BQ. I think you're 34 but I'm not sure? Anyway, the rules for Boston state that your qualifying time is based off of your age at the time of the Boston marathon, not the time of your qualifying race. So, maybe you did actually qualify since you will be in a new age group? I'm sure that isn't the way you would prefer to do it, but I'll take a BQ however I can ;) Take care!

  23. So much time and energy goes into preparing for a marathon - so much more than any other race - and when the experience is not what you planned for... it is crushing. I know from personal experience. It's a hard lesson to live through and learn. You are much bigger than that one day, that one run.

    Hugs as you process and look to move forward.

  24. That was one tough race! I don't know anyone who had the stars align last weekend at Napa. It was definitely tougher than I remember (ran it in 2007 and 2010) as to the "road camber" and the hills.

    I greatly regret being too frazzled afterwards to remember to look for you! My brain doesn't work or about an hour after a race. It sounds like we both would have been out of it anyway.

    Glad you still recommend the race--I will probably run it again since my family lives in Napa, but it really is dreadfully lonely for long stretches, which makes it a hard race for me. Also glad you got to relax and regroup in Napa.

    btw, CONGRATS if you finished the dang thing. I'll have to wait for your possibly-maybe-recap to say it for sure...

  25. I don't know what's impressive...the fact you had all those emotions during the marathon and gutted it out and completed it or the fact you're willing to put yourself out there and discuss these raw emotions for us all to read! I know those raw emotions that are there after a race that we've trained so hard for...put so much heart, energy, thought, practice into. I am sorry that the race didn't go as planned. Thanks for taking the time to write about it...for those of us that can't write :-) Three nights before a race I will have a really good beer (helps me sleep and helps my tummy.) I always take an Advil PM two nights before the race. Because then I'm guaranteed that good night's sleep. I never sleep the night before a big race but I do buy some oreos for the family and we have a little carb loading session. The kids have come to look forward to those oreos and know why we have them.

    Good luck with the NC move and in moving on from this race and setting your next goal.


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