Any race where I: a) don’t get hurt and b) don’t have GI issues, is a good race.
This was my fourth running of this particular race, what I’d consider one of my hometown races. I took last year off just because…I think partly due to injury but also possibly just from burnout. Since I didn’t have much on my race docket earlier this year, I figured I’d sign up for this race on a whim. I’ve always enjoyed it and the free post-race beer, plus you get a cowbell!
Summary: Well organized race with little in the way for major gripes. The race packet pickup is at the local Fleet Feet, which has 3 days of pre-race pickup (and they had race day packet pickup this year as well). I elected to go on the first day (Thursday) of pickup right after they started (noon) so there was no line though the volunteers were still gearing up for the crowds. This year every runner was given a nice tote bag (think grocery bag).
This is definitely helpful because earlier this year California banned plastic bags from supermarkets. I guess there is still controversy as to whether or not the plastic bag ban really helps the environment, but we’ve bought into it and have been using reusable grocery bags for even before the ban.
I was a little nervous about this race only because I hadn’t properly trained for it. A few days before the race I looked back at my training log and realized my last long run was back on August 19th (10.6 miles) and then after that my longest run was 7.5 miles at the beginning of September. So I knew that I was definitely not going for a good time or going to push myself. I also decided I was going to try a run-walk method that I had been reading up on. I attempted this once in a regular run in September.
The night before the race I had my usual pizza except this time I made it. I also elected not to have any alcohol, which is unusual. Typically I have a beer the night before a race. Also unusual was that I actually slept pretty well. Again, usually before races I’m nervous and don’t sleep well – waking up every hour to check the clock to ensure I don’t oversleep. This time I had about 6 solid hours. I woke up and did my usual pre-race things – hitting the bano, having a bagel with peanut butter and just relaxing. I also decided this time to head over to the race later than previously (it is about a 15-20 minute drive to the race start).
I had a feeling that since I was heading to the race later than usual there would probably be a line on the freeway at the race exit. For this reason I checked the map before heading out and elected to drive past the exit for the race and use the next off ramp and loop around. Good thing I did because there were cars stopped for at least 1/2 mile on the freeway itself waiting to get off. I found some street parking and walked over the William Land Park (the start and finish line). They had a U shaped setup for their portapotties and even though I was there only 40 minutes before the race start, I found one with no line. By the time I came out though the lines had started forming. I walked around and there were numerous tents set up – from same day registration to various running groups and etc.
They had a two wave start for the half marathon. The first wave took off at 7:30 and was for people expecting to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. I had signed up for wave 2, which actually only took off 5 minutes after the first wave so not a long wait. The early part of the course (~ the first 1.5 miles) weaves its way through the actual park before dumping into the residential areas just north of the park. I felt a little strange walking after just the first 5 minutes so decided I’d start my run-walk race plan around the 15-20 minute mark. Now everyone knows that runners are a supportive lot and while I do appreciate it, sometimes it can be annoying. Pretty much as soon as I started my 1 minute walk break, I had a runner come up next to me and pass me the whole time saying “come on man, you can do it!” and other such cheers. Now I know he meant well, but I had a plan that I was following and not like you can explain that as the person saying it is already 20 feet ahead of you.
From the residential area, the course took us into the industrial part of Sacramento just south of the downtown area. We also ran by the Front Street Animal Shelter and then north into downtown Sacramento. We then made our way to Old Town Sacramento. Old Town is kinda a kitschy throwback to the “wild west” days. Cobblestone floors, wooden walkways and such. In years previous, we ran down the main street on the cobblestone streets. This year (maybe last year too but I wasn’t there) they altered the route so you didn’t run on the cobblestone at all (not sure if this was due to liability or what). Then we reached the halfway point of the race as we ran southbound along the Sacramento river. We following a bike trail down the river until we were dumped back into the residential area near Land Park (the start/finish).
Surprisingly I felt really good with my 5 minute run-1 minute walk method all the way up until about mile 9-10 when it started to become a little bit harder to maintain my running. I aimed to maintain a run pace of somewhere under 10 min/mile pace and typically was hitting around 9:40 min/mile. I was proud to maintain that overall speed because of my lack of proper training. With no run longer than 7 miles in the 6 weeks leading up to the race, I knew that my legs weren’t technically ready for 13.1 miles.
That last 0.1 miles always gets to me. I was doing an easy jog from miles 11-13 and then when I saw that finish line, I go into auto-pilot and start running quickly (aka sprinting). In previous races, I’d walk through the finisher’s chute after collecting my medal and start picking up the usual post-race refreshments (bottled water, bananas, bagels). I remembered to bring a plastic bag with me during the race so I’d have something to store the post-race goodies. This year’s bounty certainly did not disappoint. I picked up a bottled water, can of coke, 2 chocolate milks, some Kashi GoLean bars, and some pop chips. They also had fresh strawberries and individual serving granola things. This spread was a lot better than previous Urban Cows. The highlight of my finish for this race is the beer garden.
This year’s beer was from Lagunitas (previous years it was Lockdown Brewing, which is located in nearby Folsom). I picked up my free beer and also they had some chips out to snack on.
And a few minutes later…
Finish time: 2:07:35 (9:44 min/mile overall pace). I am extremely happy with that time given my conditioning going into the race.
Here’s my collection of cowbells thus far (I don’t have any specific plans to do this race again since I’ve done it so many times and I want to try to do new races I’ve not yet done).