Kevin Pool brings a personal record of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 33 seconds into this year’s Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon. But Pool, a member of the River City Rebels Running Club, isn’t content with that time.
Listed as one of the elite entries, he wants to go even faster, and will try for a time of 2:19 during the March 6 Napa Valley Marathon, which is conducted on a USA Track & Field-certified point to point course, starting at 7 a.m. in Calistoga and finishing in Napa.
“My workouts have been going well,” Pool said in a phone interview from Folsom last week. “I think I’m better prepared now than I’ve ever been to take on a 26-mile race.”
Pool is looking to go 2:19 or under that time, which would qualify him for next year’s U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials. The 2012 race will be held in Houston on Jan. 14, on the same course that Pool ran to a 24th-place finish in a PR time of 1:06:30 during the USA Half Marathon Championships on Jan. 29. It was the first race of the 2011 USA Running Circuit; the USARC is a USA Track & Field road series.
“I ran a pretty solid time on what I didn’t consider to be an especially fast course,” said Pool. “That’s a pretty competitive field for a U.S. Championship. I was glad I got to experience that and certainly would like to be on the line next January as well.”
Pool will be making his first appearance in the Napa Valley race, which starts on the Silverado Trail near the intersection of Rosedale Road. The 26.2-mile road course, considered fast and offering stunning views, runs the length of the Silverado Trail and finishes in the parking lot area of Vintage High School on Trower Avenue.
He’s familiar with most of the course, as he ran 21 miles of it on a recent training run. He was able to see first-hand some of the rolling hills during the first few miles.
“I go into it hoping to achieve the Olympic trials standard,” he said. “I selected the race for a couple of reasons. It’s a good location for me, it’s close by, I won’t have to travel a lot. I’ve heard that it’s a great, well organized event. It’s a fast course, assuming the weather is good.
“I’ve heard great things about the course, about the atmosphere, pretty much everything about it.”
Three men and three women will qualify from the Trials to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. The deadline to qualify for the Trials is just 30 days before the event.
Pool’s gut tells him he can go 2:19 or faster come March 6. He’s done his training work and is prepared.
“I’ve worked hard for it. My fitness has never been any better than it is right now going into one of these things. I focus more on what I want to accomplish personally, and if that results in me winning the race, then that’s awesome. I obviously have high goals, but it should be more relaxed for me, because I don’t have to travel much, I’ll be in town for a few days before the race.
“I think there’s a lot of reasons to do a smaller event like this as opposed to traveling a long way for maybe a bigger race.”
The 33rd annual marathon has a sold-out crowd of 2,400 participants, who will join VIPs, including Olympians Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Magdalena Lewy Boulet. Also on hand will be Dick Beardsley, the fifth fastest U.S. marathoner of all-time and the NVM course-record holder (2:16:20, set in 1987).
The Road Runners Club of America has again selected Napa as its Western Regional Marathon Championship. It’s also a qualifier for the 2012 Boston Marathon.
“It’s a great course — you get caught up in the scenery around you,” said Pool, 28. “I’ve seen pretty much what it’s all about, so I have a good feel for it. There’s a nice, gentle roll to a lot of the course, but it’s not severe hills. There’s a distinct difference between Calistoga and Napa, so you kind of see that transition over the course of the race.”
Pool has never qualified for the Trials. But he’s also run just five marathons total, achieving his PR at the 2009 California International in Sacramento as he placed ninth overall. It’s been his goal now for five years to make the Trials; he’ll need a 5:18 per mile pace at Napa to do it.
He won the Erie (PA.) Marathon in 2007, clocking 2:25. He’s also run Chicago twice. He ran 2:23 in his last marathon, which was at Chicago back in October. It wasn’t the time he had in mind.
“Things kind of went downhill for me,” he said. “It wasn’t what I had set out to do. It was kind of disappointing for me, to train for five months for that race and then have things go so poorly.”
So many things have to go right to get the kind of time you want. You need to feel just right, you have to stay on top of your pace, you can’t afford an injury. The weather — good or bad — can be a determining factor.
“My last marathon, most of those things went wrong. That’s just part of the sport, that’s what makes the marathon such a challenge — a lot can go wrong in the course of several hours,” he said. “You can be feeling great at one point and then something can go wrong mid race and you have to kind of deal with that and still be able to soldier on.
“You just kind to have to focus on your own preparations and being ready to go, and then when the opportunity to really get after it and run a great time is there, you need to take it. I’m hoping that this weekend will present that kind of opportunity.”
Pool is sponsored by Brooks, an athletic apparel company. He is the event and program manager for the Sacramento Running Association, which puts on road races of varying distances.
He was a two-time NCAA-Division III All-American in cross country and an All-American in track (5,000 meters) at Allegheny College (Meadville, PA). He graduated from Allegheny with a degree in environmental studies.
The NVM features a sports and fitness expo on Friday, from 1 to 6 p.m., and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Napa Valley Marriott. A marathon college, a speaker/seminar program that consists of a “faculty” made up of respected running authorities and celebrity runners, is Saturday.