NAPA Valley Inline Marathon Race Report

Well…..we just got back from a wonderful 10 day vacation visiting Margo’s sister in Eugene, Or. , and then my sister in Cannon Beach, Or.  at her newly remodeled beach home.  That was followed by a trip to NAPA Valley to do their marathon.  Before the marathon report, I just have to share the story of our travel itinerary.    We had a non-stop flight to Portland scheduled to leave O’hare at 6:30pm and arrive at 8:30pm.   That would give us plenty of time for a good nights sleep so we could get up in the morning and drive to Eugene.   To do this, I would get to the airport on my own, and Margo would leave work a little early, and take a cab to the airport.  It would be cutting it a little tight, but it should work out fine.    Margo had arranged for a cab to pick her up, but it did not show up.   Now the panic started and so she drove to the airport and parked in the long term parking lot until we would return…..$19 per day X 10 days…..you do the math.   She made it in time, and then when we went to check in, the self check kiosk said “Your itinerary has changed”.    We were now on an 8:30 flight that would have a connection in San Francisco…..we would arrive in Portland at midnight!!!   We tried to change things, but there were no other options, nor any explanation as to why this was happening.   We took the flight and had to rush to the gate for the connecting flight…..we got there with only 5 minutes to spare when we were told that there was some problem with the plane and it would be delayed an hour.  1 ½ hours later, we were on the plane to Portland.   We finally got to bed at 3 am.  So much for our nice relaxed, early evening.  More on our travels later.       After visiting our sisters, we took a short flight to San Francisco for the race.   The NAPA race has been around a long time, and we were looking forward to a race that we had never been in.   We picked up our numbers and t-shirts under a tent in a nice park, surrounded by vineyards.   It was very low key, old school race.  No timing chips, no expo, no big signs, just a race.   It was a little surprising, but also kind of refreshing.   NAPA Valley is just one vineyard after another.  It really was neet to make the 15 mile drive from our motel to the race site.   The race was to begin at 7 am, so we needed to get up and get there early.   The weather was perfect….60 degrees, no wind, and slightly overcast.   There was about 170 skaters, which included about 40-50 quad skaters…..many of them were roller derby girls.   There was a lot of anticipation and 7 am came and went.   Things started a bit late but it was okay because everyone was so friendly, enthusiastic, and looking forward to racing on the Silverado Trail.    Because it was not an NROC race, most of the big names were not there.  I liked that because it gave me some hope for a high finish.   I was hoping for a 2nd pack finish.  So……off we go!   Mike Anderson was the odds on favorite and he took things off very, very fast.  The first mile had to be a 24 mph pace.   I basically sprinted the entire time just to hang on.  I was just about to drop off of the 20 person pack when things slowed up a bit and I had a chance to recover.   This was a very hilly course that would be two laps.    The group stayed together for about 6 miles til the first 180 degree turnaround when Mike took off…..there were only 3 skaters that went with him, and by this time, there was about a dozen of us left in the second pack.   Our pack kept up a very hard pace….I was able to hang on to them…..just barely.   At about 18 miles, we were down to 6 of us…..we began one of the toughest climbs of the course.  I was able to hang on to the top of the hill where I expected there to be a bit of a recovery.  Unfortunately for me, the pace quickened……I hung on for a few hundred yards, but then the legs turned to jelly and I just could not hang on.   Damn it!   I really wanted to finish with those guys.   Oh well….I was still hoping that I could stay ahead of the next pack which consisted of about 12 skaters.   I tried…..really I did…..but I could now see that they were closing in on me.   I decided it was a lost cause and basically waited for them to catch up to me.   I jumped on and with about 6-7 miles to go, things were pretty easy.   Some of us started to push the pace with about 2 miles to go.  By the time we were in our last ½ mile, we were down to 4 of us….at the bottom of the last hill, one guy sprinted off up the hill at a pace that I was just not going to be able to do.   I followed the second place skater up the hill, and then with about 200 yards to the finish, I passed him and held him off for an 11 th place overall finish.   I can’t complain, I did about as good as I could hope to do.     We did not have time to wait around and socialize much because  we needed to get back to the motel, clean up, and get to the airport 1 ½ hours away for a 2:30pm flight back to Chicago.   So long NAPA Valley, So long sisters, So long vineyards.    Well…wouldn’t you know it……we checked in…..headed to our gate for our 2:30pm flight with plenty of time for lunch and a celebratory cocktail, and then saw “flight cancelled” up on the monitor.   After a long wait at the service counter, we were put on a plane that did not get us into Chicago and home until 2 am!!!  I gotta tell you, to say the least, we were not happy with United Airlines.   For compensation they gave us two meal vouchers for $10 each…..WHOPEE!  That was basically one cocktail each, and believe me we needed more than that.     Bad travel experience aside, the NAPA race was really a lot of fun and well worth going to.  Skating on perfect pavement through the vineyards of the valley was a unique and exciting event.   Thanks to all the people who helped to put this race on, and hopefully it will continue for many years………..Cale

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