This weekend I ran the Nor Cal Half Marathon in Niles, CA. The fast course begins and ends in Downtown Niles, adjacent to Niles Canyon and Mission Blvd. We started on Niles Rd. near Niles Plaza and then eventually got onto a public trail (gravel, dirt, paved) which we did have to share with others, but was nice and flat.
I arrived in Niles really early. So early the start chute was just being inflated. But the nice thing about small, local races is that parking is easy to find. In the case of this particular area, I was able to park (for free), use the restroom, drink my coffee, foam roll, stretch, run up and down the street AND visit with friends before we off and on our way. LOVE these kinds of races. Completely stress-free.
I had really been looking forward to this race because I had a goal in mind. I wanted to finish in under 3 hours, really under 2:55. Every race up until this one had either been for fun (runDisney) or had been a challenge (NWM SF 2012), and had taken more than 3 hours to finish.
Armed with energybits, KT Tape, GU (UPDATE: I NO LONGER USE GU) and my beloved CEP Compression socks - I was ready to go! I started off slow, running only 30 seconds of each minute. By mile 4 I had kicked up the ratio to 1:1 and 2:1 (run 1 minute, walk 1 minute and sometimes run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute). I was feeling fantastic!
The course itself is flat and fast, but the gravel is hard to run on. Maybe I'm just not used it, but it is slippery. Add to that the fact that a couple was keeping the same exact pace as me, but were running side-by-side, making it difficult for me to walk/run without basically having to weave around them. Constantly. That is exhausting! If there is one thing I'd like to ask of other runners it's: Please don't run side-by-side, especially when it's obvious you're blocking the path for other runners.
I did finish in under 3 hours, in fact I finished in 2:49! A new PR!! I was really happy with my time, happy with the run & the course over-all. The best part was running into friends at the finish line, the great food and drinks in the finish area, and this awesome text message from my daughter post-race.
Of course, there is always room for improvement. I think I could have done much better. Something happened, mentally, during mile 10 where I actually thought to myself - wow, it's a 5K from here - you got this! And instead of that motivating me, it shut me down. I ran slower, I walked more often. Physically I felt great, but mentally the last 3 miles seemed impossibly long to me. Has anyone else ever experienced that, and if so, how do you get over it?