I went into Sunday’s NorCal half marathon with a general idea of what I wanted to do (PR!), but with only one strategy in mind: keep under 6:55 per mile. Looking back at this plan, it probably wasn’t the wisest. The speed work was there, but not completely in the shed. Thus, I relied on pure mental gusto, thinking about Reno, and my buddy Katie who I ran with. So without further ado, I present to you the NorCal half marathon race recap.
Saturday, I was purely excited. Sunday morning, the nerves set in. I over-carb-loaded on Saturday (two bowls of pasta too many), and could barely finish my normal bowl of pre-race oatmeal. But I was sure to get my green tea down for a swift kick in the pants.
The fantastic Chicken Face drove Lola and I down to San Jose, where we were quickly bombarded by the oohs-and-awes of Lola onlookers. To her credit, it was her second birthday and she was in her hand-made birthday outfit. But I digress…soon, we met up with Kristin, Katie, Alyssa and Alysyn, engaged in the usual pre-race banter and took to the start line.
Three…two…one…we were off! Like that, my legs were moving, my heart was pounding and it didn’t stop for 13.1 miles. The first portion of the race weaves through downtown San Jose and proved to be quite fun. Katie and I seemed to stay silently together the entire way and while the miles felt longer than normal, I could feel myself pushing every moment of the race.
The good news was that I was having a great time running and smiling throughout downtown. Highlights included seeing Chicken Face as we looped back past the start – SMILE!
Soon, Katie and I came to a paved trail that weaved throughout a park. While the weaving wasn’t ideal, it was still on pavement and the park was easy on the eyes. Easy shmeezy. Only a few miles later, the sweet streets ended and we hit the gravel that we were warned about…DUN DUN DUNNNNNN. I can credit the start of the gravel to the beginning of my demise. Not used to the uneven terrain, I was feeling uneasy and I could see that Katie was getting frustrated as well. Woops-ankle-roll-here-woops-ankle-unsteady-there.
When we saw the leading male pass us on the other side, it could only mean one thing: we would have to loop all the way back on the same gravel trail. OH CRAP! We had no choice but to keep on trekking and the gravel felt never-ending. Where was the turnaround? Where were the other runners? Why is it getting so hot?!
By the time we reached the turnaround, the tight U-turns slowed us down to a sluggish trot and it seemed to kill any momentum we had left. We had to physically and mentally pick our spirits back up to face the gravel race to the finish. At this point, I could feel my legs belt out that they had had enough. My energy wilted to the place where you have to dig deep. Everything inside of you begs to walk for just 30 seconds or perhaps slow to a still admirable 7:30/mile pace. While slogging through the final miles sounded appealing, Katie was by my side reminding me that there was only two miles to go in the now intense heat and we could do it…no problem.
I thought about Chicken Face, I thought about my family, and I thought about the young man who had cerebral palsy who died in the Reno Air Races this week. My tired legs were nothing in comparison to the pain his family must be feeling and I would push it through for all of them.
We finally looped past the other runners, this time with the dirt kicking up in my face reminding me why I desperately need to invest in sunglasses. When we finally reached the 13 mile marker, I looked at Katie and said, “Ready?” She replied, “Ready…” and we gave the last 100 the every bit of speed that we had left.
We crossed the finish line together in 1:30:22 — 1st in my age group (if you remove the elites, which they did), 6th female, 25th half marathoner overall and a new PR!
We later found out that the first female crossed the finish line in 1:19 (take that in for a moment…1:19!!) and the second place girl had qualified for the Olympic trials! Why were such elite runners racing in an inaugural, local event? I can tell you: the prize money! This race is one of only a few local races that offer actual prize money for placing overall. Nota bene: offer cash and the elites will come.
Overall, this race was tough. The heat was intense, the gravel was challenging and the u-turns were tight. But when I look back at the race, everything turns to a rosy-colored hue. What’s life without a good challenge? The race was well organized, the first half was scenic and flat, the medal was a solid keeper and plus, the first place age group prize was wine!
I guess it’s like the oh-so-wise @TinyBuddha said on Twitter today, “There are always two choices. Two paths to take. One is easy and its only reward is that it’s easy.” ~Unknown
A big thank you to the NorCal half marathon folks for having me and happy running!