2018 Shamrock’n Half Marathon Race Recap

2018 Shamrock’n Half Marathon Race Recap

Last weekend I ran the Shamrock’n half marathon here in town.  I had previously done this race 5 years ago and actually PRed it with my only sub-2.  I hadn’t even done much speed work and somehow just mentally pushed myself to a sub-2.   This year I had no time goal and just wanted to run a decent race.

Race overview:  Easy packet pick-up, good amount of porta-potties at race start, flat and fast course, good weather, nice finish line amenities.

The night before the race I had my usual pizza pre-race meal.  Initially we were going to eat at Federalist Public House, but it was packed and so we ended up just getting the pizzas to go.  Race morning came early as per my usual.  I hadn’t realized that this race fell on daylight savings time until the week before the race.  So with the “spring forward,” I was getting one less hour of sleep than usual.  I didn’t sleep quite as well because of anxiety of the time change but probably managed a decent 5.5-6 hours probably, which is a lot better than when I first started doing races.

In the last 5 years, technology has really taken off and this year for parking you had the option of reserving a spot in one of the local parking garages/lots before race day.  On the web site they didn’t list the parking structure I previously parked in that wasn’t too far from the race start/finish.  I made the decision to park in Old Sacramento, which was about a 3/4 mile walk to the race start.  I chose that lot because it meant not having to take the freeway and also I was hoping to avoid traffic and it was a success.  The trek from the parking lot to Raley Field and the race start took me across the Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge
Pyramid building & Sacramento River
River Walk


The morning was shaping up to a beautiful day though I did see that fog was going to be present for a decent part of the early morning.  I didn’t really mind it though it did obscure the view of the river for much of the race as we ran along the bike trail.  One thing I remember from the last time I ran this race was that they had a good amount of porta-potties.  As I tend to need them multiple times before a race, I was quite appreciative of this fact.  I never had to wait in line for one, which is unheard of in races.

Yay porta-potties
Raley Field

The start of the race takes place just outside of the Raley Field, home of the minor league River Cats.

Race start

They instituted a wave start to try to alleviate congestion on the course (much of the race takes place on a narrow two lane bike trail) and I was in the 2nd wave.  The waves were separated by 15 minutes so I didn’t start until 8 am.  This was nice because it meant I could sleep in a little more than usual and also gave me more time at the start.  They had a gear check (you actually picked up the bag there and they took your warm clothes, etc).

Right after you start the race, you cross the Tower Bridge into Old Town Sacramento.


Old Town Sacramento is a touristy area where they’ve preserved the “old time west” feel and have a lot of kitschy little shops and restaurants.  Part of the roads are cobblestone and not flat.  A lot runners would swerve into the parking spots because they were asphalt.  I stayed the course and toughed it through the cobblestone.  The course was a little different from the one I had run 5 years ago.  Rather than coursing through the northern parts of Sacramento, we instead headed south.  A good chunk of the course overlaps with the Urban Cow half marathon (which I’ve done numerous times) so I was familiar with some of the terrain.  As mentioned before, a good chunk of the run was on fairly narrow trails so there were times where I was either swerving around people or just following people somewhat closely.  That’d probably be one of my gripes about the race.

My right knee had been feeling strange – some pain mostly when I would hyperextend the leg – the week before the race.  I wanted to just get through the race without injuring myself.  Surprisingly the knee felt good through much of the race.  I was debating doing a run-walk method as I’ve done in the past.  I ended up starting a run-walk method around mile 7, where I would walk for 1 minute after each mile completed.  I started off behind the 2:10 pace group and ended up passing them around the mile 5 mark.  They overtook me again by mile 9 and then I kind of followed them for the rest of race (usually within about 1/4 mile of them).  The 2nd of the race takes you all the way down to Land Park, which is a huge park in south Sacramento that has the zoo and some other cool sights.  This park is also the start/finish area for a good number of local races including Urban cow.  It was a little strange to run through the park and then back out of it since I was so used to finishing there.

Towards the latter half of the race, the sky came out and the fog cleared.  A few miles before the end of the race, you run by the Capitol and across the Tower Bridge again.

California Capitol
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge with some fog still

The last mile and a half is a bit deceiving because you cross the bridge (and Raley Field is immediately to the left – this is the finish line) but then have to hang a right and run along the river.  Then you come back to Raley Field and have to run around the parking lot before finally finishing on the field.  The finish line is near home plate.  It was fun to be able to run on the warning track/foul line area of Raley Field.

Raley Field
Me looking haggard

The other cruel thing they do is making you climb up the stairs to get out of the finisher’s chute.

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Most races these days have free post-race beer and this was no exception.  This year they had Lagunitas brewing.  They also had 3 different beer options to choose from: IPA, Pilsner, and Ale.  I had the Pilsner since it was the lightest.   These were no joke pours as well and I didn’t end up finishing my beer.  I also picked up a burrito – bean and cheese.  It was still very hot even though I had walked around with it for a while before eating.

Lagunitas Pilsner & Burrito
Post-race area

The title sponsor of the race is Blue Diamond Almonds, which is based in Sacramento, so they had tons of sample packs at the finish.  This was fun because I had no idea they had so many flavor options.

Blue Diamond

I almost forgot that I had stuff at gear check so had to walk around the entire field to get that and then back to my car (so probably walked an additional mile after the race).  I got some shots as I was walking back to the parking structure.

Overall it was a good  race and I’m glad to have done it again.  I’m registered for the Buzz Oates RunSac series, which has rewards if you do a certain number of miles per year in a certain number of races.  The lowest mile goal is 40 miles, which can be done if I do 2 half marathons and 2 10-mile races.  I will probably sign up for a few more races this year to do the series.

The run-walk method netted me a decent total time.  In my mind, I’ve had this 2:30:00 time as something I want to stay ahead of for as long as I can.  I’m not anywhere near missing out on that time but we shall see as I get older.

Total time: 2:10:33 (9:58 min/mile)



Whole wheat burger buns

We forgot to buy some bread for the week for lunches and such so I decided I’d give my hand at making a burger bun to use for sandwiches.  I perused a few different recipes online and cobbled together my own version as below.


  • Warm milk – 1.5 cups
  • Egg – 1 large
  • Melted butter – 4 Tbsp
  • Sugar – 2 Tbsp
  • Active Dry Yeast – 1 Tbsp
  • Salt – 1.5 tsp
  • Whole wheat flour – 3 cups
  • All-purpose flour – 1.5 cups
  1.  Mix warm milk, egg, melted butter, sugar, and yeast in a bowl and incorporate  until frothy.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  2.  In a separate bowl, mix the 2 types of flours and the salt.
  3.  Add wet to dry and mix.
  4.  Dump mixture onto countertop and knead for 5-7 minutes.
  5.  Form into ball and place in oiled bowl and allow to rise (double in size) – ~45 min to 2 hours.
  6.  Punch down, pour onto countertop and separate into 8-10 pieces.
  7.  Let rest for 10 minutes before forming into balls.
  8.  Form each piece into a ball and then flattened to get more hamburger bun shape.
  9.  Allow to rise (mine didn’t rise as much as I’d like).
  10.  Apply egg wash to each bun.
  11.  Pre-heat oven to 380 F
  12.  Place in oven and cook for 15-20 minutes (I did 19 minutes).
  13.  Cover with kitchen towel for 15 minutes – I read this is supposed to help keep the bread rolls soft.
Wet mixture
Dry mixture
Dough ball after kneading
My not so even split of the dough into individual pieces
Formed ball – then flattened.  I should have made sure the seam underneath was smooth because it cracked after baking
Egg washed – just before going into oven
Nice and brown

Overall these came out okay.  I was hoping for wider and fluffier buns.  They turned out a bit dense and dry.  I baked them late at night (made them after work) and so left them out overnight to cool and that may have definitely contributed to the drying.  I made 2 of them for sandwiches for lunch today and noted that one of the buns did crumble and fall apart some.  I attribute that to the dryness.  I suspect another part of the denseness may be because I did not knead the dough enough initially to allow for proper gluten formation.  Another problem may be that I did not allow for proper rise times.  Our house typically is fairly cool and during winter time it is cooler, leading to a longer rise time (which I did not have because I have to sleep).

I’ll probably try something similar again in the future but maybe see if I can’t make it fluffier and less dense.


Pizza dough comparison

Last month I tried a new pizza dough recipe.  A few months before that, I had read in Men’s Health about an easy pizza dough that did not require hours of preparation (I had been using a no-knead dough recipe that required an 18 hour rise (more details below).  I am always looking for both more efficient and tasty recipes for pizza dough.  My wife enjoys the one I had been making but I am all for tweaking and improving so I decided to try this new (to me) recipe.  I was fairly certain I had left the magazine in a spot in my treadmill room but lo and behold it wasn’t there.  I resorted to trying to google the same recipe and don’t know if it was the exact one I had read about initially but I went with it.

Quicker pizza dough ingredients:

  • 6 cups AP flour
  • 2 1/4 cups room temperature water (recipe called for cold water)
  • 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  1.  Add 3 cups of flour and 1/2 tsp yeast to 2 1/4 cups of water in a large bowl and combine
  2. In a separate bowl, mix remaining 3 cups of flour with the salt.
  3. I then added in the flour mix to the flour-water combination (from step 1) and kneaded it within the bowl for about 5 minutes.
  4. I let the dough rest – covered – for 30 minutes.
  5. The dough was separated into 4 (relatively) parts and 3 of them saved in saran wrap and frozen for later use.
  6. I split the dough into 2 balls and made pizzas from them.


What I liked about this dough recipe is that the dough had developed a decent structure.  It was amenable to the stretching process and I felt like I could manipulate it without it easily tearing.  The downside is that there wasn’t a lot of gluten/gas development within the dough (due to the short time of sitting).  This resulted in a pizza dough that was relatively flat upon baking.  It created a thin crispy crust – kind of like a cracker instead of bread.

Taste-wise the dough was not bad.  It was a decent pizza but the dough didn’t really stand out much.  It was more about the sauce and toppings.

In contrast to the above, the following week I made my more usual recipe for pizza.  This dough involves sitting overnight (more like 18 hours) at room temperature to give the dough time to work on itself.  This is a “no-knead” recipe so there isn’t a ton of work on the dough itself.

No-knead dough recipe

  • 350 g AP flour
  • 245 g warm water
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 12 g salt
  1.  Mix 1 tsp acive dry east in 245 g of warm water and let sit for about 5 minutes
  2.  Combine flour and salt.
  3. Add water mixture to the flour mixture and mix until a cohesive wet dough is formed
  4. Let sit, covered, for 14-18 hours at room temperature
  5. I poured the dough out and made a rectangle and divided this dough into 3 relatively equal size balls.  One ball I wrapped in cling film and froze.  The remaining two I rolled into a ball shape and placed in a bowl and let that raise for 1-2 hours.
  6. I then used each dough and stretched it into pizza shape.


As you can see from the above pictures, this time the dough’s crust had a decent rise on the outer rim.  The dough also had a more chewy texture compared to the quicker dough.  The flavor profile of the overnight dough also developed more, almost like a sourdough.  You could eat just the dough (without the topping) and it has its own taste (vs the quicker dough).

Verdict: Overnight no-knead dough.

For now I’ll continue with the no-knead dough.  I just need to remember to start it the day before I am going to make pizza.  I’m not always great at pre-planning but that is the goal.



2017 Year-end wrap-up

2017 Year-end wrap-up

I know that I haven’t posted anything in quite a long time.  Honestly I ran out of steam.  With the way that this year has gone (from everything in the world to everything in my little world), I just lost all motivation to post.  I drastically decreased my baking though still kept up with running (just not to the degree I had been doing it earlier this year).  I didn’t have any races after my Spring ones so didn’t feel the urge to run a ton and post about it.  I did work on increasing my running intensity (doing intervals on the treadmill and outside), which I think is good for my overall fitness.

There have been a lot of other big things going on such as re-doing our entire kitchen and taking up a new hobby.  Since I know this blog isn’t really read regularly or even much at all, I’m going to jot down some notes/thoughts from the past year mostly so I remember it.

Early 2017 involved some big changes at work with new co-workers that I worked with closely.  I enjoyed it as I got to put on a different work hat — that of being a mentor.  Also there were a ton of staffing changes and something I’ve started to be more comfortable with, which is change.  I’ve always been the type to like everything to stay fairly constant.  Change is/was always a scary word to me.  I need to take the advice of my father, who has the philosophy to “go with the flow” (of the river…or life).  I think that at least with regards to work, I’ve become better at adjusting to changes.

The highlight of the early part of 2017 was two-fold.  Japan (see posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6) and the Big Sur Marathon.  While I was sick for the latter half of the Japan trip, it was still such an amazing place to visit and great experience.  The Big Sur Marathon was a bucket-list marathon and I’m still amazed I got in on the first go around with the lottery system.  Even though I bonked (and didn’t have the best taper leading up to the race due to Japan), I still enjoyed the experience overall.  Most likely I’ll never do it again so it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.  Plus you can’t beat visiting Monterey/Carmel.

The latter half of 2017 was focused mostly on the kitchen.  At some point I’ll probably put up some posts about it since it was a big part of the year.  I’m happy with the outcome and glad that it is done with.

Sneak peek

A trip down to San Diego at the end of the year was a nice way to cap it off as well.  Again, I somehow was sick for this trip as well so even though I didn’t feel the greatest, I still enjoyed it because it is San Diego!


2017 was also a very big music year for us.  We went to a bunch of concerts and they were all great.  It was nice to attend concerts put on by true singers and getting to hear their talent in person.  We saw: Lady Gaga, Depeche Mode, Janet Jackson, Tori Amos.  As you can see, we have very eclectic taste in music.  All the performances were great and I also enjoyed getting to check out the new Golden1 Arena in downtown Sac.  Not sure what concerts we may attend in 2018.

The mood of 2017 overall was not the greatest.  This is mostly focused on what is happening in the world and more specifically with the United States.  I am not one to get into politics but just wanted to comment on how it has had far-reaching effects on my mental health.  It is depressing to see a lot of what is going on.  I am going to try to remain hopeful that 2018 will be a better year for the world and humanity.

I started this blog at first to document my running adventures (race recaps, etc) and it morphed into a baking blog (a hobby I got into in the last few years) as well as a travel/food blog.  I don’t know what direction this will take in the future but I do hope to get back into blogging more (about what is yet to be determined).

No big new year’s resolutions that I can come up with at this time but will leave you with pictures of two animals that don’t care about world affairs and just enjoy life (as I think we all need to do).



See you in 2018!


Paris Baguette and Back to bread (whole wheat sandwich bread)

Paris Baguette and Back to bread (whole wheat sandwich bread)

A few weeks ago I ventured out to try some new things after a doctor visit.  I had fasted overnight and before the appointment so I could get some blood pulled.  However that left me hungry after my visit.  I decided to try one of our local coffee roasters that has cold brew coffee on nitro.


First impression was that it looked like a beer.  It had a nice foamy head and was nice and chilled.  I must say that when taps use nitro, it certainly makes for a much smoother mouth feel of the liquid.  I thoroughly enjoyed my first cold brew coffee on nitro.  I got the coffee at Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters.  It’s a quaint little coffee shop that is no frills.

With my coffee in hand, I headed over to the relatively new Paris Baguette.   This chain recently moved up here to northern California after I guess it grew big in southern California.  This bakery reminds me of a Taiwanese bakery called 85 Degrees.  You walk in and grab a tray and all the bread/pastry products are out on trays or in cubbies.  You pick what you want and then take your tray to the register to pay and order drinks as well.  I ended up getting a buttered croissant, chocolate croissant, and a croissant with an italian sausage in the middle.  They were all delicious.



A few weekends ago the weather started cooperating with regards to baking.  I also had incentive to make some sandwich bread again.

The weather finally started cooperating again for me to do some baking.  This summer has been incredibly hot in Sacramento.  I saw a graphic from the news that in July, every single day was above average (and we had strings of 100+F days multiple times).  August is supposed to be the hottest time of the year too!  When you are in triple digits, the last thing you feel like doing is turning the oven on.

It has been a long time since I actually made bread that I had to go back and read through some old posts to remind myself of the process.  I followed the following for 50% whole wheat bread.


  • 300 g whole wheat flour
  • 300 g bread flour
  • 150 g whole milk (had it on hand for a friend’s kid)
  • 300 g warm water
  • 18 g salt
  • 20 g honey
  • 10 g sugar (didn’t have enough sugar so added in some extra sugar)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 10 g active dry yeast (I purchased the Red Star brand recently to try)

I was feeling a bit lazy so I just combined all of the above ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Using a spatula, I mixed everything so that it was all incorporated.


I then covered it and let it sit for about an hour.  I found that one of my large plates actually fits almost perfectly over the opening of the mixing bowl I most commonly use.  This is nice so I don’t have to waste some cling film (plus I hate dealing with cling film).


I removed the dough onto my counter after an hour and proceeded to knead the dough using the slap and fold method.  I did this for about 15 minutes until the dough started to come together.


I then let the dough rise for another 1.5 hours or so.


I didn’t take pictures but after the dough doubled, I proceeded with 3 stretch and folds with about 30 minutes rest.  After the last one, the dough was shaped into a log and placed into a buttered loaf pan.


This was the first time I used our new oven to bake some bread.  I elected not to use the convection function for this first time.


I started the bake at 425 F for the first 10 minutes and then dropped to 375 F for an additional ~25 minutes.  The bake took a lot longer than before but I’m not sure if it was due to the dough or the oven.  The outside of the bread turned out much darker than most of my previous bakes but I went with the internal temperature (200 F) to assess doneness.


I had a decent crumb and the bread overall came out good.  We used it for sandwiches for work for the week.