Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Napa Valley Marathon preview

NAPA, Calif. - February 23, 2010 - The Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon announced today that a U.S. Olympian, a member of a Team USA gold medal-winning squad, and three U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers are among the top entrants scheduled to compete in the 32nd annual race on Sunday, March 7. They will join a sold-out crowd of 2,300 participants that are ready to race, run, or jog the scenic, 26.2-mile marathon course that spans the length of the world-renowned Napa Valley wine country.

The rolling, point-to-point Napa Valley Marathon (NVM) course is generally considered a fast one by competitors who have run it.

"I love everything about the course," said Dick Beardsley, a world class marathoner in the 1980s. "I've run it more times than any other marathon. It's the kind of course that you can really get rolling on. For runners hoping to qualify for the Marathon Trials, the Boston Marathon, or simply run fast, I don't think you'll find a much better course."

Beardsley holds the NVM men's course record of 2 hours, 16 minutes, and 20 seconds set in 1987, and he is the all-time fifth fastest U.S. male marathoner (2:08:54). The NVM women's course record of 2:39:43 was set by Diana Fitzpatrick in 1992.

This year, Devon Crosby-Helms, 27, of San Francisco will head a strong women's elite field. Crosby-Helms scored her first-ever marathon victory at the 2007 NVM, navigating the fast course in 2:52:49. Since then, she has lowered her marathon personal record to 2:49:51. The lighting designer and certified personal chef has earned more prominence, however, at "ultra" race distances from 50 kilometers (31 miles) to 100 miles.

In fact, with only 3-1/2 years of ultrarunning experience, Crosby-Helms has turned into one of the top female ultrarunners in the world. She has competed on officially sanctioned (by USA Track & Field) U.S. national teams at the last three IAU World Cup 100K races, an international event which is often referred to as the 100K "world championship" of ultra- distance running. At last year's IAU World Cup 100K in Torhout, Belgium, she finished fourth overall while helping the U.S. women's team win the team gold medal. In 2009, Crosby-Helms also set a women's course record at the JFK 50-Miler, the oldest and largest ultra race in the country. She has also earned two USA Track & Field national 50K titles (2006 and 2007) and a national 100K title (2007).

Crosby-Helms will use the Napa Valley Marathon to gauge her fitness and speed as she prepares for the challenging Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run in June.

"The marathon is a great way to get some speed early in the season and then build for Western States 100," she said. "My goal for Napa is just to go out, race well, and have fun. I don't really have any expectations since I haven't raced a road marathon in a long time."

Several women will line up at NVM's starting line with the 2012 U.S. Women's Olympic Marathon Trials race on their minds. In 2008, the top four female finishers at NVM all qualified for the 2008 Trials, which were held just seven weeks later in Boston. The prestigious Trials race, in which about 125 elite U.S. female marathoners compete, selects the three women who comprise the U.S. marathon team at the Olympic Games. The women's qualifying period for the 2012 Trials began with a one-day qualifying window last October at the 2009 USA Marathon Championships, resumed on January 1, and will close 30 days before the Trials race. The host cities and dates for both the women's and men's Marathon Trials will be announced by USA Track & Field within several months. Women must finish a marathon in a time of 2:46:00 or better within the qualifying period for acceptance into the 2012 Trials.

Meghan Arbogast, a marathon and ultramarathon competitor from Corvallis, Ore., is headed to this year's NVM to do exactly that. Arbogast, 48, has qualified for three previous Marathon Trials. Her running accomplishments also include a personal marathon best of 2:45:46 and three top-ten finishes in the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Like Crosby-Helms, Arbogast competed at last year's Wold Cup 100K in Belgium where she placed fifth, one place behind her USA teammate.

"I've really enjoyed competing in the last three U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, and I'm not ready to give it up," Arbogast said. "I know I'm aging, but I want to fight it as long as I can."

Molly Friel 42, of Fresno, Calif. is hoping to qualify for her second Olympic Marathon Trials, and she will use NVM to test her fitness level for achieving that goal. Friel competed in the 2004 Trials where she finished 86th in 2:57:48. Later that year, she ran her personal record marathon time of 2:45:09 at the California International Marathon. In 2008, she was entered in the Napa Valley Marathon, ready to try and qualify for her second Trials, but a foot injury a month before the race forced her to cancel her plans. She is looking forward to another opportunity.

Dolores Bergmann, 38, of Chester, Calif. (near Lassen Volcanic National Park in the Sierra-Nevada mountains) is entered in NVM still looking to qualify for her first Marathon Trials. She was victorious in her debut marathon, running 2:48:55 at the 2006 Newport (Oregon) Marathon, not quite good enough to meet the 2:47:00 "B" qualifying standard for the 2008 Trials. She did not improve in four subsequent marathon finishes. Bergmann has prepared for NVM over the winter primary by training on snowshoes and treadmills with a weekly long road run at lower elevation.

Napa Valley Marathon entrant Abigail (Abby) Larson, 30, of Salt Lake City, Utah has Olympic credentials. She was a member of the U.S. Olympic cross-country ski team at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, competing in three events. Larson began running in college with her cross country ski team at Northern Michigan University where she was a four-time NCAA All-American. Following the Olympic Games, she placed 12th at the 2007 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon/San Diego in 2:53:38, her personal best. Larson no longer skis competitively. She is currently completing a Ph.D. in exercise and sport science at the University of Utah and works as a community and clinical dietitian.

Additionally, three-time NVM women's champion (1997, 2005, 2009) Mary Coordt, 40, of Elk Grove, Calif. is entered, but she is a tentative starter. Coordt has been concertedly training for the Two Oceans Ultramarathon in Cape Town South Africa on April 3 and will wait to see how she feels. Coordt has already qualified for her fourth U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials race.

Top entrants in the men's field include:

- Michael Arnstein (New York, NY), 32, the NVM men's runner-up in 2008 (2:34:07). He ran a personal record of 2:30:59 while placing second at the Palm Beach (Fla.) Marathon last December and hopes to run 2:29 at Napa.

- Kenneth Burgess, 29, (Piedmont, Calif.), a Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard who has a marathon best of 2:40:22 set in Boston in 2006. Burgess co-supervised the search and recovery efforts of TWA Flight 800 in 1996 when he was stationed in Long Island Sound. The international flight exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 230 passengers. He is competing in his first NVM.

- Sean Meissner, 38, (Sisters, Ore.), a marathoner and ultrarunner who won marathons last year at Redding, Lake Tahoe, and Columbia Gorge using them as training runs for ultras. His marathon PR is a solid 2:39:06 registered at the 2006 California International Marathon.

The 2010 Napa Valley Marathon starts on Sunday, March 7 at 7:00 a.m. sharp in Calistoga on the Silverado Trail near the intersection of Rosedale Road. The marathon's fast, USA Track & Field certified (for accurate distance) road course runs the length of the beautiful Silverado Trail and finishes at Vintage High School in Napa. Top runners are expected to reach the finish between 9:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Runners will receive official times up until 1:00 p.m. when the course closes.

Entry slots are still available for the companion Kiwanis 5K Fun Run, which starts (8 a.m.) and finishes at Vintage High School on marathon morning.

Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon weekend includes a Sports and Fitness Expo, Friday, March 5 from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 6 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa. Also on Saturday's slate is the marathon's popular Marathon College, an innovative speaker/seminar program that includes a "faculty" composed of respected running authorities and celebrity runners.

For more information about the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon, please visit the marathon's web site at