California Running Adventures

GOTR Alachua County’s Amy Hester traveled to California with women’s running group WOOT. The following is a recount of her travels to the Napa Valley Marathon, as told by her friend and travel buddy Jannine. This post originally appeared on the Go the Extra Mile with WOOT blog and has been re-posted with permission

WOOT Goes to Cali!

Jannine Myers

Love, sweat, tears, laughter – and wine! 
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A couple of weeks ago a group of original WOOTers, including myself and Anna, flew from various locations to reunite for a few days and run a marathon together. The last time we traveled to a race together was in 2011, when we all met in New Zealand to run the Tarawera Ultramarathon. There have been other races too, such as the Mongolia 100k and marathon, and the Arizona Rock’n’Roll marathon, but our reunion last weekend in California was the first one since 2011 that all of us could attend.

Since we all flew in to San Francisco on different days and times, we split into three groups and met on Thursday evening at the Eurospa Inn in Calistoga. The marathon we had signed up to run was the Napa Valley marathon, to be held a few days later on Sunday March 3rd. With just a short amount of time to spend together, we endeavored to make the most of it.

 

A glimpse of what it looked like as we ran the marathon

Our first evening was spent in Claudia’s hotel room. One of the members of our group, Stephanie, traveled from Hawaii with her husband Nick, and their four month old son Phenix. Claudia is Nick’s mother, and she drove all the way from Idaho to see her baby grandson, and, cook for us! We had the good fortune of eating at least three meals prepared by Claudia and I am not exaggerating when I say that they were all amazing. So much so, that we have recruited her as our new team chef.

 

One of the meals Claudia prepared for us – the fruits and vegetables were grown in her own garden!

Friday morning was relaxing; we congregated around the closed fire place centered in the middle of the outdoor patio, and enjoyed catching up over fresh cups of coffee and delicious home-made breakfast foods. A couple of hours later, and after a quick change from PJs into running clothes, we set out on a short and leisurely-paced run. The warm sun, the vibrantly colored flowers, and the peacefully quiet streets, provided the ideal setting for a mid-morning run.

 

Lazy morning – cozy fire, fresh coffee, great company

 

Beautiful flowers everywhere

 

Gorgeous rose bushes

 

Quiet, tranquil streets

In the afternoon we drove to the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel and Spa, to collect our race packets and bags. Since the Napa Valley marathon restricts participation to no more than 2500 runners, the expo was relatively small but somehow more accommodating and friendlier. One of the booths was assigned to a Clif Bar representative, who gave Anna directions to the company’s wine store in St.Helena (Velo Vino) – no need to tell you where our next stop was!

 

At the expo
Back row: Tiffany, Amy, Anna, Corinne (Kathleen’s daughter)
Front Row: Stephanie and baby Phenix, Andrea, Jannine, Kathleen

Who would have guessed that the Clif Bar company would branch out and expand their product line to include wines? I’m not sure how good they are, but judging from the jubilant mood of those in our group who took part in the wine tasting, I’d say they rate fairly well.

 

Wine tasting at Velo Vino

From Velo Vino, we drove just a little further north and stopped at the Culinary Institute for dinner. Thank goodness this was two nights before the marathon and not the night before, because I don’t think any of us walked out of there without feeling as if we were in a type of food comatose. That said however, the meals were outstanding (complimented even more with accompanying wine), and worth every calorie and cent!

 

Ready to go eat at the Culinary Institute

Saturday was another glorious day. After breakfast we took a stroll through the main street of Calistoga and turned off on Brannan Street towards the Silverado Trail, which is where the race would start. We were keen to see just how far away the start was from our inn, since we planned to walk there the next morning. Not too bad – it turned out to be no more than maybe a mile and a half away.

 

Walking to the Silverado Trail

 

Look – no lines! If only it were like this on race day.

Race day is always filled with a mixture of raw emotions, and race day in Calistoga was no exception. Some of us were nervous, some of us were excited, and some of us were both! One thing we all felt however, was a huge amount of gratitude towards our awesome support team, made up of Amy, Nick, and Claudia.

Amy injured herself several weeks ago and had to resign herself to coming out as a supporter instead of runner. I think the others would agree with me when I say that her dedication and commitment to supporting us, was equal to, if not greater than our efforts to run a good race. As a supporter, Amy was up around 4:30am on race day, giving us all a big shout-out on Facebook, and then making sure we were all ready on time and equipped with everything we needed.

Other less-invested supporters would probably have slept in and driven out to the finish line later in the morning, but Amy walked with us in the cold air down to the start, wished us all good luck, and then vigorously cheered us on at miles 13 and 16, and again as we approached the finish line. We were able to easily see her in the crowd (along with Nick and Claudia), because she had made neon colored tshirts with the words WOOT Crew marked across the chest (even baby Phenix had his own WOOT Crew tshirt/onesie).

 

Nick and Amy enjoying a much-deserved glass of wine

The race ended in Napa Valley, along with weeks of progressive and deliberate training, and also met and unmet goals. Tears of both joy and disappointment were shed, hugs were given all round, and praise dished out for the amount of sheer sweat and determination required to run a marathon. With nothing left but a few,  final hours together, we did what we do best: we reminisced, we planned, we joked and laughed – and of course, we raised our glasses (a few times) to celebrate what has become a truly unique and special group friendship.

 

Our awesome super-mom! Steph ran 13 miles, then nursed baby Phenix before making her way with Nick and Claudia to cheer the rest of us on at the finish line.

 

Cheers!

Stay tuned for more WOOT adventures abroad…..