This past weekend was the Napa-to-Sonoma half marathon which was the final event of the season for Team Challenge. And once again, the weekend exceeded expectations. My parents also got to experience the weekend as they didn't get to go to Virginia, so I'm glad they enjoyed themselves.
I guess I'll start with how the week started, not on Thursday, but on Tuesday. I received a frightening call from my best friend, Stephen Ivanoski, who was supposed to be running in Napa. He told me he got in a terrible car accident. Needless to say he was unable to run or travel due to injuries sustained in the accident and he was very upset he couldn't run, especially after all of his hard training. It was very scary but he is recovering nicely and I am certain when he is healthy enough he'll be able to complete his goal of running a half marathon. I am so glad he is okay and he was in Napa in spirit as he was discussed many times. The unlucky circumstances came at bad timing but we are all very fortunate the crash wasn't worse. The half marathon which was going to be run for my father and Timmy Wright, was now being run for Ivo as well.
So with a lot of concern regarding Steve, I left NYC on Wednesday night and went straight to Logan Airport, Boston to boarda 7:30am flight. I got a nice sleep on the plane ride over and arrived to the Hyatt in Santa Rosa, California. I did a 50-minute run after checking in and enjoyed the scenery my first time in Cali. After this, I went over to my parent's hotel which was in Napa and was a very nice hotel. The first night we just had a dinner but nobody from Team Challenge arrived yet so it was an early night.
On Friday, I went for a run early in the morning due to jetlag and then walked around Santa Rosa for a while, which was a nice, quaint little town. Later on, I met up with Alison Rosenfeld and Craig Comins who are the Team New England coordinators and have been a HUGE help since way before day one of this season. We took a bus to the VIP dinner where my parents were already. The VIP dinner was for any Team Challenge participant who raised more than $7,500. It was very nice to meet some new people and see some people from Virginia again. We took some pictures of the beautiful scenery of the vineyards, mingled, tried some wine and enjoyed cheese & crackers. It was a great event and our family was honored as the number one fundraiser. After the event, we ate dinner with Alison and Craig at the hotel restaurant, Brasserie Bar. The dinner was good and we had great conversations about everything, especially reminiscing over the unbelivable season.
The next morning started very early as we did a group run with everyone staying at the Hyatt. I ran with mentor and this year's Las Vegas coach, David Conner, and met some of the other participants. I then went to the race expo to pickup my race number, and despite being a small expo, it was pretty cool. I was able to meet some other teams and enjoyed the Sonoma town center. After this, myself, and committee members Alix Marcus and Tiffany Ko all went to my parent's hotel for a bit. We came back to the Hyatt for a mandatory team meeting. Team New England was small in Napa with only 12 runners, but big in heart! I received a very nice gift of Napa-to-Sonoma apparel, including socks which matched my shoes and jersey. After the meeting, we boarded the bus to go to the inspirational pasta party. The event was outside which was very well put together. Staci Brown was enthusiastic and got everyone pumped up for the race and inspired. It is nice to hear how the money is being used, and the fact that all this fundraising is making a legitimate impact. President, Rick Geswell gave a few words before they announced the top fundraisers. The highlight of the weekend by far was when we were introduced as the top fundraiser. Not by anyone in Napa, but a video speech from my six-year old friend, Timmy Wright. When we were called up I wanted my parents, Alix, and Tiffany to all come up but I could only pressure my dad to come up. After this, Pearl Jam lead guitarist, Mike McCready gave a nice speech. He was very open about having Crohn's. We took some pictures with him after and he was a genuine, down-to-earth person who just happens to be an extremely talented guitarist. The next day he ran a 2:11 for his debut half-marathon and my father and I joked with him about raising more than him. After the pasta party, we chilled in the Hyatt lobby for a while, before getting to sleep.
The next morning began promptly with a 4:30am alarm clock. I headed down to the lobby and ate a light breakfast while meeting some more Team Challenge members. Team New England took team pictures before boarding the busses for Napa. I did some pre-race activities including warming up with Steven Millard from Team Illinois. Some Team Illinois members warned me that he would definitely be a contender and I was starting to feel the pressure as a lot of the CCFA speakers made me sound like I was a better runner than I am. There were some very elite runners in this race so Millard and I started a little bit back in the pack. We ran together for the first 8 miles and then I started to pull away a bit. I had a sip of water at mile 9 and immediately after had the worst side cramp I have ever experienced in my life. I kept trying to breathe it out, but I had to come to a complete stop and massage it out. Massaging it relieved it but it still lingered around until the finish and definitely threw me off my rhythm. Here are the splits for the race:
7:04 (1.1 miles ~ 6:20 mile)
1:22:15 (6:16 pace) 17th Overall/1st in age group
I wasn't fully satisfied with the finish because prior to the cramp I was definitely looking to pick it up and catch the next guy, but instead I was looking over my shoulder for the last few miles which is an unwritten rule of what not to do during a race. After the race, I met some more wonderful people, got a massage, ate a bit, and was very well-received at the Team Challenge after party. I'm glad my family was there to experience it as well. After this, we went to an In-N-Out Burger to see what all the craze was about. It was good, but not great. For the rest of the day we hung out in the lobby/pool/bar area and talked about the race, fundraising and everything in between with a lot of people. Everyone was pretty tired but we managed to make it through the night and even went out into the town for a bit. We went out to the fire pit for a little while, and ended the night in the lobby with Rick, Craig, Team Challenge manager Kathy Boggan, Alix, and Tiffany. We discussed how far we've came, how great the weekend was, and many other things.
The next morning we said our goodbyes to everyone after breakfast. Some people were staying a few more days and some were leaving that day as well. It's always sad to leave these things because they are great events and the people are all amazing. However, I made sure to say "see you later" to everyone because I know I will see them at Team Challenge events in the future.
Now that the season that began in late-December is officially over, what's next? Many things are on tap actually. Team Intestinal Fortitude will have a meeting in early-mid August to discuss planning out for next year. My running will continue as I am doing the Falmouth Road Race in two weeks and if time permits, I will do the Bay State Marathon in Lowell, MA this October. A big Team Challenge event coming up in December is the Las Vegas Rock N' Roll Half Marathon. My sister Alix has got involved with running so she wants to do this as well. I will do this if time allows as well and maybe Ivo will be able to do it as well, unless he wants to do next year but I definitely want him to come to an event to make up for this one. We most likely will not go all out on fundraising because we just went hard since December. However, an option we can do is raise the minimum, carve that out for Vegas and then continue fundraising for the Spring/Summer season. We don't have any official plans so I don't want to make that seem like the definite plan yet. We will also celebrate that night as this has been an incredible journey so far and it is well-deserved. I also decided I will apply to become a mentor in the spring/summer season. I can't do it for this upcoming season because I'll be in NYC all fall but I definitely want to be more highly involved next year, so hopefully I can become a mentor.
Eight months, $162,000, a marathon, two half-marathons, many friends, many experiences, and a whole new perspective on life later, all I can say is thank you to everyone who made it possible. It's been an incredible ride and I definitely want to be involved with this until there is a cure. Anything is possible!!!