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)



Birthday run

I woke up early on a Sunday morning to get a run in before it became too warm.  Somewhere along the way I went from sleeping in really late (especially in college) to waking up early without any alarm.  Nowadays I wake up automatically around 5:30 am on workdays and between 6 and 7 am on weekends.  For my birthday I knew that I wanted to get an outside run and for that I had to get up early.  I have been mostly logging treadmill miles because of the heat wave that has been plaguing Sacramento.

Once outside I came across a momma turkey and two poults (young baby turkeys).


I thought that was a good sign of my first outdoor run in awhile.  I decided to head on down to the river and see what was up.  It is so peaceful when you get out there on a weekend early morning.  I imagine most/many people were still in bed or getting ready for church.

The river was flowing fairly high compared to previous years.  The day was turning out to be a beautiful one (albeit still warm by mid day).


I ran across the Guy West Bridge, the mini-replica of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it so empty and managed to snap this pic with no one else on it.



I made my way back and finished off with 4 miles.  It was good to get out and my foot felt okay after my run.  It was also my 3rd straight day of running and this morning my foot felt just fine.  So hopefully I’m on my way to recovery for my left foot.  Below is me and my old mug.  I have moved up to another age group for most races though it doesn’t make too much of a difference because I don’t think I’d ever be competing for an age group award since I’m not a speed demon.




Kyoto Day 2-4 (Japan 2017)

Kyoto Day 2-4 (Japan 2017)

We awoke on our first full day in Kyoto with some big plans.  There were quite a few locations we wanted to tick off our boxes in Kyoto and we only had so many days to see them.  We decided to head over to the Imperial Palace as it was supposed to be prime sakura (cherry blossom) viewing.  There is a web site that lists the various locales within Kyoto and the status of the cherry blossoms in that location – ranging from peak viewing to not blossomed.  The Imperial Palace was a short subway ride and walk from our AirBnB.

The Imperial Palace actually sits in the middle of a very large park.  Upon first entering the park, you could see that others had the same idea of checking out the cherry blossoms.  With it still being mid-morning, the lighting was actually quite good for picture-taking and so we did like the other tourists and posted in and around the trees.  We didn’t actually go to the front of the Palace and elected to check out the Shirakumo Shrine, which is located towards the south-eastern portion of the park.

After the Imperial Palace, we took the subway and went to Nijo Castle, since it was relatively nearby.  This castle was built in 1603 and is a current UNESCO world heritage site.  There were quite a few large tour buses parked out front and so I figured it’d be crowded.  This time we actually did pay the entry fee and walked through the castle grounds.  They had a few buildings you could walk through and also some well cultivated gardens.  What I noticed about the tourists is that a lot of them were from mainland China (they have a certain twang to their speech) as well as Japanese people who apparently were touring their own country.


Since it was getting to be lunch time (actually a little past), we hit up Nishiki Market.  This is a labyrinth of small alleyways, some of which are lined with many different shops and food places.  You could pick up some street food (think octopus legs on a stick, sake sampling, etc).

Since I’m a big fan of cooking, I had thought about getting a Japanese knife, since they are some of the most coveted.  There was a shop that the wife had looked up where they will engrave the knife for you after you purchase. IMG_20170405_120626IMG_20170405_120556

I picked out a multi-purpose knife and had them engrave my last name in Chinese character.

I had done quite a bit of research on various eateries throughout Kyoto.  There were a few that were located in the Nishiki Market area though we ended up not going to them.  We found this Udon noodle joint that looked like maybe it was a chain.


Nevertheless, there was a line almost out the door and it appeared to be all Japanese people so I saw that as a good sign (like in the U.S. when you go to a Chinese restaurant and most of the patrons are Chinese or same with Mexican food, etc).  I wasn’t sure how it was going to go ordering because you had to order a specific type of bowl and then noodle/soup.  Luckily it worked out and we got some delicious, quick, and relatively cheap food.


Our afternoon was then filled with more travel (subway, foot, subway).  The first stop was Fushimi Inari-taisha.  This is the main shrine of Inari.  The main thing about this place that stands out is that it is on a mountain and they have this walkway that is filled with hundreds (if not thousands) of Torii gates.  The Torii gates are the bright orange structures that most people have probably seen if they’ve looked at pictures of Japan.  This area also was packed with tourists and it felt like we were sardines at one point within the hillside of Torii gates.


I thought we could make it to the next area by walking so convinced my wife we should hoof it over.  We made our way on foot over to Rengeoin Sanjusanjendo in eastern Kyoto.  This temple is famous for its statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy.  In the center is an 11 foot tall seated Senju Kannon.  Surrounding this statue are 1000 standing statues of the Senju Kannon.  There are numerous other deities housed in the same building.  Unfortunately picture-taking is not allowed in the main building.


It was getting to be closer to sundown but we hopped on a bus to get to one more temple, Kiyomizu-dera.  This was up on a bit of a hill.  Because of cherry blossom season, they were gearing up to do some sort of night event that you had to purchase tickets for.  This temple was also undergoing construction.


We didn’t stay for whatever “special event” was going on that evening but headed back to our Air BnB and then found some dinner.  I tried the Kyoto style sushi, which is different than traditional.  They use more preserved fish since they’re not a coastal city.  I wasn’t too impressed with the small joint we went to but I’m sure it can be much better.


I was still hungry after dinner so picked up some snacks for before bedtime.

Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up feeling hot and also with some tummy issues.  I then proceeded to be up every hour or so to use the bathroom.  My entire body was also very hot and I suspect I was having fevers.  So the next day (Day 3 in Kyoto) I stayed in the AirBnB while my wife went out and explored on her own.  She did bring me this fairly tasty box from the local convenient store.


Even though I was still hitting the bathroom every 20 minutes or less, I decided to try to venture out a little bit in the late afternoon with the wife.  We elected to try taking a bus over to the Philosopher’s Path and also Higashiyama Tisho-ji.  The weather was a bit overcast and it had been raining throughout the day.  I am glad that I went to Higashiyama Tisho-ji because the views of the gardens were something else.  It looks like a postcard.  I had to find the bathroom a few times there so we didn’t stay too long and then it was back to the AirBnB for me.

The next day (Day 4 in Kyoto) was a complete wash for me as I was down and out.  I have nothing to report from that day since I didn’t leave the AirBnB.  I continued to have GI issues though the fever had abated finally.  I don’t know what it was that I contracted.  I thought at first it may just be a food poisoning type situation but the fact that this disease persisted for the remainder of the trip and even back in the States means I suspect it was something more infectious.

Up next, Miyagima Island and Hiroshima and the final day in Tokyo.


Happy Global Running Day!

I remember when they called it National Running day.  While it was a work day, and a long one at that, I still wanted to get in at least a few miles.  Getting some In N Out for dinner helped spur me to get off my butt and run.  I wound up getting 3 miles on the treadmill.  It was also a good night since the Warriors beat the Cavs in Game 3 of the Finals.

I’ve not been doing a ton of running since the Big Sur Marathon.  I’ve still had weird foot pain/soreness after I run.  Sometimes it is sore even after just a long day on my feet.  I’m just too stubborn to call a doc and schedule to be seen.  Ah well, we’ll see how it goes.

Here’s a pic of me from the Austin Half Marathon many moons ago.



Tokyo last day and Day 1 Kyoto (Japan 2017

Tokyo last day and Day 1 Kyoto (Japan 2017

I lost my original post for these days.  Oh well, I’ll just re-start it and not try to re-create the old one that I had made.

So it was our last day in Tokyo and at the awesome Park Hyatt.  Before leaving Tokyo I wanted to try to get at least one run in while in Japan.  I decided to head up to the fitness center in the Park Hyatt.  This is located up on the 47th floor.  If you’ve seen the movie Lost in Translation, there is a scene where the main characters are swimming in this pool.  I didn’t get any pictures because you’re not supposed to take pictures in the gym area.  To actually get up to the fitness center you have to go through their spa (and actually tell them you’re a guest to get up there).  They have a row of treadmills that face outward towards their floor-to-ceiling windows.  You have this great overlook of the city and being so high up you get a bird’s eye view.  It was a nice way to wake up for the day.

After sadly leaving the wonderful confines of the Park Hyatt, we made our way back to Tokyo Station by way of Shinjuku station for the ride over to Kyoto.  Prior to taking the bullet train (Shinkansen), we needed some lunch.  Within the underground mall area of Tokyo Station is Ramen Street.  This was our first experience with ordering from a vending machine.  So you walk up to a vending machine and can choose the type of Ramen you want (as well as any extras such as extra noodle, meat, other things), put money in the machine and then it spits out a ticket.  You give the ticket to the attendant and wait in the line outside the restaurant.  Once there is an open seat, they take you to it and then your food shows up.  This place also had a paper bib for you to wear in case of splatter from the ramen.  It was very tasty.


We had reserved some seats on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto.  We had obtained the JR pass when we first arrived in country.  This 7-day pass allowed us to ride on the bullet train and other JR trains without paying during that time period.  We did not get the fancy JR pass that allows you to take the fastest bullet trains (they’re not faster, they just have less stops so your trips are shorter).  The distance between Tokyo and Kyoto is 514 km (or 319 miles).  If you took a regular train or a bus, it would take a LONG time.  The Shinkansen gets you there in about 2.5 hours or so.  I definitely recommend that as a way to get around Japan.  They have restrooms and on some trains also have a person with a cart of food/drink (including beer) that walks by every so often.  Most people bring their own food onto the train to eat.

We arrived in Kyoto and after a transfer ended up at the train stop nearest our Air BnB.  We had never stayed at an Air BnB before so didn’t exactly know what to expect.  Our hosts were great in communications before our arrival.  The place we were staying is closest to the Higashiyama train stop.  I believe our hosts actually had multiple small units in one building.  We quickly obtained our keys and found our way into the small studio.  While it was quite cozy, it had everything you needed in a place when on vacation.  The Japanese are great about fitting everything into a small functional space.

Our AirBnB was located near the Heian Shrine.  In fact, you could see the large Torii Gate of this shrine from the balcony of our AirBnB.

Torii Gate from our balcony

By the time we had settled into our place it was dinner time.  Our hosts were kind enough to leave us a list of local eateries along with what they had there.  Since we weren’t going to the surrounding areas of Kyoto known for their Okonomiyaki, we went to a local place that had it.  They had a set 2 person course menu where you split a Okonomiyaki, sauteed noodles with vegetables and meat, cooked radish, and a pork egg omelette.  I also had a highball (mix of Suntory whiskey and club soda).

Pork Omelette
Yam…I think
Stir fry

The Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake dish that can have a variety of ingredients.


Overall I thought it was good and very filling.  After dinner, while the sun had already set, there was a local temple that you could walk through.  They had lights set up so that you had a different perspective of how temples/shrines look like in the dark.  The Shoren-in Monzeki Temple was just a short 5 minute walk from our place.  By far this one of our favorite temples to visit.  Maybe it had to do with the lighting in the dark but also because you really walked through the grounds and absorbed the feeling.


Also behind the temple were some of the giant bamboos.  These are truly stunning – I’m glad that I was able to see it because I wasn’t able to make it to the bamboo forest in the later part of the trip due to my sickness.


We stopped at Lawson’s, one of the largest convenience store chains in Japan, on our way back to the AirBnb to pick up some water as well as some snacks and beer.  They have an ice bar that is “soda” flavored, which they also have in Taiwan and I got one just for kicks.


The long day of travel was finally over and we hit the sack.