San Francisco's proximity to the Napa Valley is another one of the zillion reasons as to why we love living in the SF Bay Area. However, DD did not choose his first marathon to run exclusively because it was in Napa. He chose it based on a friend's recommendation that it was a fast, downhill course, excellent for beginner marathoners - and it fell pretty much on a date ideal for his goal of completing a marathon before he turned the big 3-0.
Part of the training plan involved running part of the course before the Big Day (March 4th), so DD chose the weekend of his 18-miler, which also conveniently fell on the MLK Day holiday, to head up. For those of you curious about a marathon (or half) training plan, DD and I generally run at least 2 short runs during the work week (3-5 miles each), and make sure to never skip a long run on the weekends. Long runs start at 3 miles and increase by a mile or so a week. If you are marathoning, once you get up into the teens, you can drop down every other week until you reach 20 miles. After DD reaches his 20 miles, he starts a gradual 3-week taper period where weekly mileage gradually decreases to leave him in strong, tip-top shape for the main event.
The Napa Valley Marathon starts in Calistoga by the Solage resort. In fact, DD and I had journeyed to Calistoga once before, a birthday trip in 2010. We stayed a few miles down the road in a quaint, and low-key B&B called Scarlett's Country Inn. We even had a tasty dinner at Michelin-starred Solbar at Solage. Although this time DD had called up Scarlett's somewhat at the last minute. I had my doubts - we had been seen a notice they had on their website indicating that they were taking no reservations in 2011. There were posts on Yelp mentioning an impending closure. To our delight, however, Derek, Scarlett's son, called us back and let us know that he did have availability, that they would allow us to bring Harlow, but no longer offered breakfast as part of the package. No matter - DD and I have a race-day morning bill of fare that consists of a PB&J sandwich, bananas, coffee and GU. Generally no stomach issues from this pre-race graze.
We headed up Saturday night after a stop at REI to purchase some additional water bottles for DD's belt. On the way to the cashier we saw these interesting chocolate bars and could not resist grabbing the Savoury Ramen and Lime and Tortilla-flavoured ones. Ramen was great - you could definitely taste the umami-ness of the ramen mix (soy, garlic and onion powder). Crunchy bits of ramen noodle dotted the rich, dark bar. We gobbled down every bit of it. I was not as excited for the Tortilla-lime. The flavours and crunchy corn bits in the chocolate reminded me a little of Capt'n Crunch with Crunchberries.
For a carbo-loaded meal on the eve of an 18-mile run, we wanted a nearby low-key Italian restaurant that was not too expensive, and chose Bosko's Trattoria after a cursory search. They don't take reservations (for smaller parties) but we were able to get seated right away when we arrived a little after 8pm. DD took carbo-loading seriously, and ended up ordering no less than two (!) pasta dishes: the Godfather (in the top portion of the photo above), a Bosko highlighted speciality that included "Italian sausage, roasted eggplant, garlic, onions & red bell peppers in a spicy herb tomato sauce on spaghetti." His second pasta dish was the Vittorio: bay shrimp, mushrooms and garlic in an wine sauce over fettuccine. Though I myself did not need to carbo-load, having put in around 10 miles already that morning, I nonetheless chose another seafood pasta: Linguine Celafu with cherrystone clams, shrimp and squid in a "tomato calabria chile broth."
The food was fair. The best-tasting dish, we thought, was the Godfather - a great cohesive offering with bright flavours, interesting textures and perfectly-cooked pasta. The Vittorio literally and figuratively paled in comparison, but was a nice break from the other two tomato-sauce-based plates. I thought my own seafood pasta fine - the shrimp were a little overcooked, the clams a tad sandy. I couldn't finish it all, but DD did just fine with his two plates (I do admit to sneaking a bite or two from him).
I had a good portion of my dish left over - it did taste pretty good the next morning (even better than the night before) when I was hungry for breakfast.
What put me off somewhat was the service at Bosko's - it seemed that the server was always pushing more wine or more bread (not free) and dessert. All in all - a decent place to fill up with pasta before a race, but perhaps next time we'll try another establishment.
DD did fantastically the next morning. He got off to a bit of a later start than planned since it was so cold at 7am (30-degrees cold). He finally made it out around 8:30am. I convinced him to wear his jacket and offered to pick it up around 15 minutes after he had started. This worked out well for him. I then subsequently met up with him around miles 11/12, 15 and 17, giving him extra water and cheering him on as he made his way down from Calistoga to Napa on the Silverado Trail. And he was fast! I think at one point I underestimated his speed and totally missed him as he came flying by one of the vineyards. I was a tad scared at first with all the cars zooming up and down, but the shoulder was decently-sized and there were occasional cyclists to keep him company as well.
And after it all, a reward of Gott's Roadside tastiness. DD got a double cheeseburger (another view here) and I chose the Wisconsin sourdough burger with grilled mushrooms and bacon, substituting the BBQ sauce with Gott's special concoction. And I had to have a strawberry shake. We shared Gott's excellent herb-garlic fries. Perhaps wrongly, even if I hadn't gotten around to running the mileage DD did, I still benefited from the tasty aftermath.
The success of this trip and a peek at the course makes me think that perhaps next year, I, too, might make the Napa Valley Marathon my first. We'll see.