This race was supposed to be Tyler Lu’s Boston Marathon qualifying race. However, a scholarship weekend retreat took him away for the race so I paid the fee to have the entry switched to my name and the distance changed to a half marathon from a full one. We were introduced to this race by our friend Sarah who had used this race to qualify for Boston herself. The race takes place just north of Sonoma in the Santa Rosa region of wine country. The idea of a weekend watching auto races at Infineon, Shakespeare under the stars at Buena Vista Vineyards and running in one of the fastest half marathon courses could not be passed up.
The entry fees for this race range from between $40 and $135 depending on what distance and when you sign up. There is a 5K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon on race weekend. The half and full runners get a tech t-shirt, jacket, bottle of wine and medal for their money. That is not a bad deal. The location also cannot be beat. Just past the most touristy spots and nestled in the valley between the mountains.
As always, I recommend people plan their race calendars way in advance and take advantage of early registration discounts. You can also check RunTri.com for detailed analysis of many races and where you are likely to get the most bang for the buck on major events.
I have to say, this race had one of the best expos I have ever attended. The pick-up was spread all around DeLoach winery. Doing so allowed you to explore every corner of the property as you picked up your bib, shirt, wine, etc. The place itself is very beautiful with easy access from all around Sonoma. The vendors offered the usual assortment of race supplies but the wine tasting in the barrel room really set this expo apart. We all received a special blend bottle made for the runners. The relaxed atmosphere really helped take the pressure off and helped us with mingling with other runners and event organizers.
Well, it was a very interesting time for us leading up to just before the race start. Many of you may know that the Napa/Sonoma area got hit on Sunday morning at 3:20 am with a 6.0 earthquake. It was my first time ever experiencing one and it really was like a roller coaster without harnesses. So, that experience had me a little concerned with how the race would go; especially if we would experience any after shocks during the run. The race director was very good at communication with us any updates all the way through the start and they brought out extra safety personnel to patrol the course in case there would need to be a sudden stop to it all.
This course has been billed as one of the top qualifying courses for The Boston Marathon. It is predominantly flat and almost a net downhill. The location can get hot but the race starts early enough that it usually is not a problem. It has very few turns and is essentially an out and back along a river trail. Plenty of water stops along the way and extremely peaceful. You pass farms, vineyards, parks, and more along your way. I was very pleased with it.
I can attest that the course is indeed fast. I think it is in face faster than the San Jose Rock n’ Roll half, because it has fewer turns than the San Jose race. I did remarkably well when considering that I only had a week of dedicated run training. I was just 5 minutes off of my half marathon PR. My focus this year has been triathlons so my running has taken a back seat to swimming and cycling. I can imagine that with dedicated training I could have beaten y PR by up to 5 minutes.
The After Party:
The after party and race day expo were pretty good. There was a beer garden and plenty of goodies to be had. Most everyone was just happy to have finished without after shocks and were more interested in talking the earthquake than the race. We left the party early to get down to Infineon Raceway to catch the GoPro Indy Car race that day.
The only complaint I have about the race is the lack of the race is that there were no water bottles available at the end of the race. It was not the hottest of days but a bottle of water would have been very welcome after 13.1 miles. I know that California is under a sever drought, but you can’t hold races without water for participants after a summer race. Other than that, I loved every thing about the race. We really made a weekend out of it and went to watch “The Taming of the Shrew” at Buena Vista Vineyards, had brunch in downtown Sonoma, watched Indy Car racing at Infineon and did a little shopping. I can 100% recommend this race to anyone looking for a great destination half or full marathon.