Strangely enough, I was dreading writing this recap the most. Why? Because I want to be as honest as possible, but not be completely negative about the race. I figure though I should just dive into this recap and let my experience be just that, my experience. If it helps you decide if you want to register for this race next year, so be it, but spoiler alert for the end of this recap: I have a feeling next year will be better and I will get to that point in a few.
To begin, I had seen an advertisement for this race weekend come across one of my social media feeds perhaps back in March. To me it was "local" (2 hours was close enough for this mom of 4 to just drive in race day), it offered some great events (workouts and yoga), shoes (I don't even wear ASICS) all for the price of $250. Pricey, yes, but I guess in comparison to RunDisney and all that they were offering, I thought not too shabby. With that being said I could not afford it, but put it on a growing bucket race list. By April, I was seeing race Ambassadors post about entrance giveaways. I told Dave, if I win, I am going and going to try to do as much of what is being offered as possible. Who cares if I would have run a full and a half in the two weeks prior. Run for fun! Low and behold, I won an entry! I was beyond excited, but that came crashing down when looking for hotels. Ummmm, can we say pricey? Even staying almost an hour away was ridiculous. I just kept telling myself that it was a free race entry so I could swing it. Regardless, it was still a sticker shock.
The race weekend came faster than I had anticipated and I had done nothing to prep for it in terms of reading up on where to go and what not, but really how could I? The website was not fully up and running with adequate information until about 2 weeks prior. Really. Maybe a little more, but not that far in advance of race weekend, not even the course. With that, I already was feeling wary about the logistics of this inaugural race, but it was ASICS, a big name shoe company. Also they had Destination Races heading it with them. They had to have their shit together, right? Well....
I drove up early Friday morning, traffic leading to Charles Krug Winery (the hub) was insane, but once I got there I tried to look for signs on where to park and jump right into the Workout Challenge class. Signs? None basically, just guest parking and an arrow to 5 spaces. There was one car parked. I thought, "Oh crap. Did I miss it? Is no one here?" Another car parked next to meet and the three of us got out of our and started to walk. Luckily we were stopped by a helpful employee who told us we needed to keep going and park in the back. Aha! That's where all the cars were! I met up with my Sister-in-law, Stephanie and we headed back to the lawn area. It was beautiful. I little chilly and overcast, but considering that we were about to work our butts off, the conditions were perfect.
The workout itself was awesome-sauce! I had searched Youtube the night before for videos by Anna Kaiser to see if I was in over my head. What I found were exercises I do at home every now and then so I felt I wouldn't look totally out of my element aside from the fact that I have little coordination, but hey I could give a good chuckle to those around me as they watched me with two left feet. She started off with a great little upbeat warm up, breathing and then boom, right into cardio. She was like the Energizer Bunny. She talked the whole time - jumping, running, punching, you name it. When the hour hit, I was ready to fall on the floor. Nope, she just kept going and going. OMG, an hour and half nearly of cardio and muscle specific exercises. All great but here is what I learned:
1. She kept saying she was working muscles typically not utilized during running. Well, I use all my muscles during running woman! Every part of my body works hard. Lol.
2. She had a great body. I could see her abs from the way back. I decided right then that this mom of 4 admired those abs, but not enough to work my ass as hard as she must work to get those abs. I love my cake...ice cream...cookies...
3. Why were these exercises so hard when I do them at home? Oh, right when I get tired at home I reward myself by taking a break and replenishing "calories".
Now here is the "downside" or perhaps better said, other experience of the workout. There were a ton of cameras. They were not taking pics of me or hardly anyone else NOT in ASICS gear. At one point, I just followed them with my eyes and saw them zooming in on about 4-5 specific girls. All in ASICS gear though. Sometimes the ladies would stop doing the routine and "pose" for the camera dong a specific skill. I found it odd in some way. The instructor even called out names, to assist with form, encourage ladies "You got this! ______, You are working hard!". Yet, it was the same girls those cameras focused on. Since I had just arrived to Napa and this workout was after the morning Yoga, I though perhaps they had met her prior or maybe they were part of her workout group. I would later find out there was a specific reason for all this ASICS specific video taping, instructor support, etc.
After the workout, I actually enjoyed wine. Yup, I was spent and this momma who doesn't normally drink decided that at 10:30 in the morning it was ok to have a little white wine. It was good. Surprisingly, I took a picture of the bottle and just might buy a some for the house. It was so fruity. Mmmmm, delicious. With that, my sister in law and I headed out and took the short drive up from the winery to the "expo". I use this lightly because they had about 5 vendors, of course a ASICS pop up shop and then bib pick up. Now to get a more detailed description of bib pick up and a similar experience, click your way over to Carlee's recap of ASICS. Thank goodness her and Dre were there with me or else I would have thought my weekend to be almost a waste. I will say this about the bib pick up, it was chaotic. There were no lines or signs to let someone know where to student to get bibs, shirts, shoes. I just stood behind someone hoping I was in the right place. At one point, the woman behind the solution table looked at me and asked if she could help. My response, "I don't have a problem yet to come to your table, but it's not looking promising I won't be there soon". Now, I wasn't rude when I said this. I laughed and so did she. But hey, like I said it was a hot mess of people in there. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the drawstring bag provided and they gave socks too. Although the shoe distribution area could have been better run. No smiling, no identification of who to ask, just someone popping in front of my face with the first words, "Ok what shoe and size?". How about a "Hello. How are you doing?" Since no formal greeting, I decided to be honest back and said "No clue what I registered for. I don't wear ASICS shoes so what do you have that is light and for a neutral runner in a size 8.5?" She didn't seem offended and gave me a box. Here's what they could have done better:
1. Have a sign! A sign where to get shoes. Heck a sign where to line up
2. Have the ladies passing out the shoes, be clearly identified
3. Mark our bibs. I made note they never asked to see a bib or ID. I could have gone to the second woman and got another pair of shoes if I wanted. It would have been easy to get multiple pair since there was no checks and balances.
With all this being said, I will look at the chaos from the event employee perspective. There were more runners asking for "stuff" than volunteers. Without the proper preplanning, I can imagine they were just trying to get runners in and out.
It was such a great day, that we decided to hang out around the vendors and snap some pics. I got to talking to the woman behind the Girls on the Run (GOTR) table. Turns out she lives in Napa. Dre had mentioned that she was at the Deena Kastor dinner the night prior (so jealous)and heard that ASICS didn't even come close to selling this event out. No one knew what the official numbers were, but participants were few. With overhearing this, GOTR vendor asked why I thought attendance was low. I made the comment I thought publicity was lacking. She added that she only heard about the race recently, had no idea about the course and she LIVES in Napa. Things were starting to formulate in my mind: specific people being photographed, lack of advertising (in my mind), no local signs up announcing the race in the area, I started to wonder the effort that went into this race.
I headed down after lunch to the hotel, met up with Carlee and we shared stories of how bib pick up went. Sad that we had similar experiences. Again, her recap here. An hour later, we made the long, traffic drive up to Charles Krug for yoga. That also was wonderful. I have never done a "formal" yoga class so I naturally went to the back. Carlee and I were asked to move to the front for pictures, we thought it was for a brief time, but we ended up staying the entire time. Since I didn't have my camera, no pictures were taking. Too bad because it would have been hilarious. Oh when he asked to do crow pose, I nearly laughed out loud.
Once again, however cameras were clicking away, but only for specific women. One of which was right next to me. Twice, they were right in her face, with her ASICS gear head to toe, and she obliged by doing yoga positions that the entire group was not doing at the time. Completely staged. It made me giggle a little, but since i experienced the workout in the morning, I was't surprised. I wasn't surprised that again certain names were being called out to show support. However, unlike the morning, the Yogi and his assistants were excellent in making their way around the crowd and helping everyone fix form. It was a great experience and if only I could afford and have the time to do a yoga class on the regular I just might.
Carlee and I headed back down to find a place to eat. Besides the company, the best part of the evening had to be dinner. We sat next to four people, two couples who were quite tipsy. Silverware slamming, yelling, crying, drunken sharing to neighboring tables all were witnessed. Best part? These weren't 20 somethings having a dramatic spat, they were well into the latter years of middle age. Oh, the things to be heard. After dinner, we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for race day.
Early race day morning, Carlee drove up to the finish line since she had to be a rode warrior and make her way to Socal right after for 6:30 dinner plans. Needless to say, she made it with 35 minutes to spare, but this is Carlee and if anyone can do what seems the impossible, she can. Ok, back to race morning, I got up and left a little later than I wanted because I got distracted by white hair. Ok, I digress, but as I was brushing my teeth, I saw the glimmer of something silver and spent nearly 10 minutes trying to get that sucker out! WTF? I know I'm no spring chicken, but white hair be gone! I got ready, jumped in the car and made my way to the Meritage hotel to meet up with Stephanie and Dre. Again, lack of signs. There was no sign telling runners where the shuttle would be and when the shuttle came the driver actually asked us where we thought they wanted him to park. Planning fail, ASICS.
We made it to the start line with 50 minutes to spare. It was pretty quiet. Stephanie, Dre, Carlee and I started to wonder how many runners there actually would be. My bib was 266, so I joked that perhaps only 300. Hmmm, sad part is I was almost spot on. There was about 303 runners in total. Yikes. Not to mention, perhaps 25 or so of those spots were giveaways of some sort. Again with the pictures, ASICS rocking peeps only. Carlee and I were asked again to come to the front, this time to the start line and do a jumping pic, but hey we weren't wearing ASICS! LOL. Ok, I had a tank on, I had made some last minute effort and found a clearance tank to wear to the race. So they took an upper body shot and found ASICS friendly runners. Made Carlee and us giggle, me a little more since it was a perk of having a bright personality for a friend near me otherwise no one would ask for me to be in a pic.
The race was about to start, surprise, surprise almost everyone at the start line had ASICS on. The biggest part was Alysia Montano and Deena Kastor were behind us. OH. EM. GEE!!!!!! Carlee took a selfie of us, I look crazy, need to practice my excited face as to not scare little children. The national anthem was played, they took the obligatory preface pics with a camera, video and drone; and we were off!
Ok, so here's the thing about the race, the entire thing was to be run on the shoulder of an already narrow road. Basically 300 runners were pushed into a bike lane and in some instances not even the width of a bike lane. The cars that went by, went whizzing by, enough to wear I could feel a good size breeze at times. We were all moving targets, lol. I joked, almost like a game of frogger. The course itself was "hilly". Not San Francisco steep hills, but inclines that seemed to go on for 400m to almost a mile. I started to count how many times we went "up" and it was somewhere around 6, maybe 7. My legs were not feeling that. I have said before and I will say again, I am a middle of the pack runner (and happy there), so three races in three weekends not to mention about a 2.5 hour workout the day before (cardio/body strength/yoga) had me feeling every muscle in my body. At first, I was a bit consumed by trying to perform close to what I did at Tink the weekend prior, but then I told myself it would make me miserable. So once again, I decided to just enjoy the run, make sure to smile with each step even if it was up hill. Don't get me wrong, this run was a struggle. I felt like I was making lead legs move. The workouts from the previous day was showing. Those muscles she said I don't really use while running...LIAR! My back and ass were on fire! And let me tell you, mile 9.4 to mile 10.4 was all a curved uphill climb. I smiled though, that's all one can do.
From mile 4, I was cheesing it. With each runner I was about to pass, I hovered a little and tried to chat or offer words of encouragement, "You are a strong runner", "Looking good", "A great day to run Napa". Who knows if they were happy I was saying anything or wanted to push me in front of cars, but I kept doing that along the way, up until mile 12 when I just wanted to be done and started to pick up pace a little. I thanked every volunteer on every corner and water station. I even chatted with the photogs bit at some point. I asked them some very pointed questions while running. I had noticed around mile 4 that they were tell runners "Cheer!" "Hands up and smile", "Run together". All runners in ASICS. I never saw them snap a pic of me. I was solo for most of the run, behind a few people or in front and I never noticed, not saying they didn't though. I also heard them say "Blogger" tons. So I asked if they had specifics they were looking for or certain runners. Sure enough the bloggers who were asked to be there were high on the list. Most of the ladies they snapped pics of I remembered from Yoga the day before, they were wearing the same gear. I appreciated their honesty and kept going, realizing that this entire race appeared to be an inaugural promo for next year. Haha! I continued on the course and when I got to relay exchange points (yes a half had 4 people relay teams. I am so doing that next year. Anyone in? I'll do the 2nd leg - less than 3 miles. lol) I gave a few high-5's, I stopped to take some pics, I shouted out to those runners on the opposite side of the road. I even chatted a few seconds with two dads and their sons who were spectating on the course. I didn't take a pic, as a parent I don't want my kids' picture on some random person's social media account. One little boy asked, "So all these people are going to run up that hill?" His dad said "Yup. I thought this would be a good point for us to come cheer them on", it was the base of mile 9.4. He was certainly right.
I finished the race with a sprint and a smile. Like a dork I put my hands up, but alas there was not camera person at the finish line. Darn! I was hoping for another winning finish line photo. After I realized that, I looked for water, but nope just flavored water. So I took pineapple flavor and gulped it down, not too bad. At this point I saw Dave and the boys. I gave them a kiss and hug and set out to get my medal, wine and wineglass. I wish that I would have been able to stay and hang out for some post race eats, but Asher wasn't feeling good and looked worse. We made our way back to the hotel for me to clean up and make the 2 hour drive home.
So here it is people (I know this is a super duper long recap). Yes, I feel they missed some huge opportunities to make this race spectacular. Their lack of friendly service at some points, signage, and inclusiveness made this inaugural race seem more of a small town effort rather than a big company with experience sponsoring big tie races. Yet, after talking to volunteers, photographers, locals, and even witnessing the "behind the scenes" happenings I conclude that any runner not in ASICS was basically fill in, like extras in a movie to make the promo videos look great for next year. It came across as this year being their effort to create the PR for going big next year, or so I hope. Would I do it again? I can't say no, but there would be different expectations. I would obviously go with friends, decide to almost walk the race and take goofy pics along the way, do all the workouts and yoga offered, and drink. Would I pay $250 for it? Hmmmm again for a runner who does not run in ASICS, that's a hard one. Biggest question, would I recommend the race? Yes and no. If you want to have a fun girls weekend of drinking, good weather, and pretty vineyards with a race thrown in for the hell of it, then go ahead. It will be your thing regardless if they improve anything. If you expect to see equitable customer service, well organized (signs and all volunteers knowing what the heck is gong on) events and a safer course, then I would say this is not the race for you. At that point, create your own girls weekend in Napa, go out for a training run in town, drink and daring buy yourself some shoes you will love. It would be cheaper. This is one of those races that has the potential to be so much more than what it was, to be more than just a big long social media commercial filming for next year when I feel the prices will go up. I'm sad that it wasn't more, but you know what I still had a great time. It was just the perfect little 24 hr getaway with some pretty rockin' women. Expensive as hell? Yes! Yet, I wouldn't take anything back because I got to laugh, drink and heck I got a whole bed to myself without a 2 year putting a foot in my face. That alone might make me the biggest winner of the entire weekend!