2012 & 2013 American River Parkway Half Marathon Race Recap

Race summary: Easy packet pickup at the local Fleet Feet.  Flat course running on the paved/graveled river trail along the American River.  The two possible downsides include the narrow river trail and levy as well as the possible heat when the race is run.

One of the huge perks of where we live is that there is the American River bike trail.  The trail runs for 32 miles from Discovery Park in Old Sacramento to Beal’s Point on the southwestern side of Folsom Lake.  Along the river there exists a network of paved bike paths along with graveled raised levies as well as single track  that runs between the paved bike path and the river.  Since moving to Sacramento in 2011, I’ve been using and running along the American River Parkway.  When I saw an advertisement for this race and saw it benefited the Parkway, I thought it’d be a great way to do a race and support the river trail.

Packet pickup as per most Sacramento area races was at the local Fleet Feet in midtown Sacramento.  For the 2013 race, I had signed up early enough that I qualified for a nice little perk – a race emblemed running hat.

One interesting aspect of this race is that there is a runner’s course as well as a walker’s course.  Having two separate courses for runners vs walkers is good because of the course and its width.  Since the race course runs along the American River bike trail levy, it is rather narrow.  If both runners and walkers were to run on one course, it would be so congested that runners would be quite irritated being stuck behind walkers.  Even with the two courses, there were definitely a few spots that seemed congested with just runners.

The races from 2012 to 2013 were vastly different.  The latter race date was moved back a week due to some problem that is evading my memory at this time.  However, this put the race into the first weekend of May.  The temperature in Sacramento in May can be nice or extremely hot.  The 2013 race for me was marred by heat.  The start (and finish) line area provided a large grassy area for porta-potties, various tents (run clubs, other races, refreshments) and plenty of room to spread out and stretch/warm up prior to race start.  One tradition of the race involves a bagpipe group playing just prior to the start.  The runner’s course heads west along the river toward Sacramento State University and Fair Oaks Blvd, while the walkers head east.  As mentioned before, the race start and initial few miles of the course are very crowded and you’re either following someone closely and/or someone is right behind you.  As I wasn’t aiming for a specific time goal either year this didn’t bother me as much.  If you’re thinking of a PR though you may want to line up in the early expected race times (they organize the start line based on your expected pace (6 min/mi, 7 min/mi, etc)).

The overall course is relatively flat save for the few areas where you move from the bike trail up onto the levy, or when you have to take the Guy West Bridge across the river.  The race is an out and back and one change from 2012 to 2013 is that the first year we remained on the north side of the river, while the second year we crossed over on the Guy West Bridge to the south side of the river trail and then came back over on the Watt Ave bridge.  The 2012 race went relatively smoothly and with the end of April weather, the temperatures rose up into the 70s.  The 2013 race was a slog and I really had to just keep telling myself to keep going as the temperatures rose into the 80s and then I think hit 90 by the time I finished the race.  Course support was okay with water and sports drink.  The supporters were scattered throughout and weren’t overwhelming.

Finish line perks at this race include a bag lunch (sandwich, apple, chips) as well as the usual bananas, water, chocolate milk.

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2012 Finish line

My times below are deceptive.  The 2013 race in terms of effort was much more than the 2012 race.  For the 2013 hot race I definitely found my mouth parched and there wasn’t enough water on the course that year for me to stay hydrated.  At one point with about 3 miles to go I felt like passing out.  The other downside was the fact they didn’t come up with a new medal from 2012 to 2013.

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2012 chip time: 2:12:50

2013 chip time: 2:13:00

-StewsCat

 

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Urban Cow Half Marathon Race Recap (2014, 2013, 2012)

Urban Cow Half Marathon Race Recap (2014, 2013, 2012)

The Urban Cow Half Marathon is one of my hometown races.  It started out as the Sacramento Marathon a long time ago, then became the Cowtown marathon.  In its third iteration, the race was renamed the Urban Cow Half Marathon.  However, they dropped the full marathon distance when it was renamed and now offer a half marathon and 5K Run/Walk option.

Packet pickup is at the local Fleet Feet store in midtown Sacramento.  I like local races because the packet pickup process is usually fairly quick.  It helps that they have two days of packet pick ups (Friday and Saturday) before the race.  This is a non frills pickup and isn’t an expo by any nature.  Usually you go in and pick up your bib, t-shirt, and sometimes a small bag (not actual swag usually, just flyers for other races and products).  One year they had perks for people who signed up early (first so many runners) and in addition to the shirt, you received a handheld water bottle with the urban cow logo on it.

In the 3 years I ran the race, the course remained about the same.  The start and finish line are in Land Park (a large well-known park south of downtown Sacramento).  This is a nice start/finish area since there is plenty of room to have all the fun things for a race (lots of booths, tents, and beer garden at the finish).  Parking is also not terribly bad as you can park around the park and there are neighborhoods nearby that allow free street parking.

The first mile+ of the race courses through the park and then you head north into the neighborhoods.  These streets are lined with a variety of houses from the early 1900s to mid-century modern to more contemporary houses.  Typically the race is run the first weekend of October, which is great weather here in Sacramento.  It starts in the 40s or 50s and does warm up but not too terribly by the time the race is done.  After heading north through the neighborhoods we moved into a more industrial area of Sacramento just south of downtown.  You pass by the big Blue Diamonds almond plant as well as the Front street animal shelter.  After this we found ourselves in downtown Sacramento between the “sky scrapers” (aka taller buildings of the city – not really sky scrapers).  We run just west of the Capitol building so you get a nice view of it around 5.5 miles into the race.  Finally the turnaround takes place in Old Sacramento.

I feel like all somewhat big cities have an “old” part of their city.  Usually its very touristy and has some kitschy stores.  Sacramento is no different and has a bit of a Western theme.   There are some nice restaurants in this area and it also sits right on the Sacramento river.
We then continue south along the Sacramento river, passing by the famous Tower Bridge.  From miles 6 to 11, the course runs on a bike river trail along the Sacramento river.  This is a nice change of pace from running in city streets except if there are a lot of runners can get congested because the bike trail is fairly narrow.  Eventually at mile 11 we make our way back to regular streets and head north and then east back towards Land Park.  The last mile of the race is run through the park and that’s when you know you’re close.

I like the finish line because there’s always a large crowd of people cheering and they announce names of people as they reach the end.  The finish line refreshments are usually good – bottled water, chocolate milk, bananas, bagels.  The big perk is that all participants over 21 receive a free beer from a local microbrew.  When I ran the races, it was Lockdown Brewery from Folsom, CA.  Another unique part of this race is that the finisher’s medal is a cowbell.  Each year it is a different color.

Overall I like this race because of a few things:

  • Good weather – usually, global warming may change this though
  • Relatively flat course – the course is almost entirely flat except for a few areas where you have to climb short hills (in the city).
  • Good crowd support and course support
  • Easy packet pickup
  • Free parking
  • Free beer!!

I’m registered to run this race again this year after taking last year off.

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-StewsCat

2014 School Ghoul Los Alamitos 5K Race Recap

In honor of Father’s day I thought I’d do a race recap for the one race that I ran with my father.  This was a small local race in my hometown and since my sisters’s kids attend the school district they knew about the race.  2014 was the year my father turned 70 and so in honor of his birthday our family decided to participate.  Both my sisters and their spouses elected to do the 5K as a walk and my dad and I decided we’d try running the 5K together.  I hadn’t done a 5K in awhile but was looking to run with my dad and not for a specific time.  The fact that he was running (not walking) a 5K at 70 tells you something about him.

My father has always been an active man.  As a kid, he and I would play tennis quite often.  He also used to go play tennis with his friends in the early morning hours on the weekends.  During high school and beyond, he became very interested in hiking and so I was often his hiking partner and we spent countless hours on the various mountains around the LA area.  One of the highlights of my time with him involved hiking Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental United States.  Luckily this is in our home state and only a few hours drive away.  A few years after that, I was happy that he was able to travel to Nepal with his friends and do some hiking by Mt. Everest.  I believe they even hiked up to Base Camp (or near it), which is amazing.  I drank the Kool-Aid and became very interested in Everest after reading Into Thin Air and watching other documentaries about the region.

After he retired, he only seemed to be more and more active.  He would swim and run regularly and also do a lot of yard work.  He’s stayed very active through his older years and I am amazed and proud of what he’s accomplished.

This race runs through the small enclave of Rossmoor, an unincorporated area of OC situated in Los Alamitos.  I am very familiar with this area.  Packet pickup was simple in a little community center in one of the parks in the neighborhood.  Since this was a Halloween race, the race t-shirts were a bright halloween orange.

Race morning we walked over from my folk’s house to the starting area (the same park as packet pickup).  There were a number of people out.  The 10K race started about 45 minutes before the 5K so by the time we arrived there were people making their way to the 10K finish.  Eventually it was time for the 5K to start and we lined up and were off.  My dad, who didn’t train for this, and I took off on a leisurely jogging pace (what I’d consider just a little slower than my usual pace).  We ran through the residential neighborhood lined with houses and spectators towards the largest park (aptly named Rossmoor Park) and bisected the park (running right through the middle of it).  At this point we turned around and started to make our way back to the start/smaller park.  This is when I really had to pee but decided since this was such a short race I could hold it.  Around this time my dad also said he needed to take a walk break so we grabbed some water and walked for a few minutes.  He said I could go on ahead as he knew I could keep running if I really wanted to.  However since this race was in honor of his 70th birthday I said I’d stay with him.

He then said he was ready to go and off we went again.  On the way back we passed my sisters who were walking the race with their family (they each had strollers and their little ones in them).  We arrived back at the park and crossed the finish line in 36:11.  It was the slowest 5K I’ve run but the most memorable because of my running partner.  Even though it was a tiny race, they had finisher medals for everyone, which I thought was neat.  After my sisters made it back they started the kids’s races and my nieces participated in that.  It was fun to watch the kids run.  They just do it by instinct and aren’t trying to follow all the “rules of running” that us adults try to do while we’re going off on our run (thinking about gait, form, pace, etc).

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Anyway that’s my father’s day story!

-StewsCat

2014 Davis Moo-nlight Run Race Recap

Race summary: Night race which is a change of pace, mostly flat course through neighborhoods except for crossing a long bridge going over the freeway, decent course support and spectators.  Free beer at the end!

My friend KP over in Davis asked me if I wanted to do this race with her and her friend.  I had never done a night race before and thought it might be fun.  Since the summers are so incredibly hot in Sacramento in the summers, a nice race seemed like maybe a good idea.  While the days are hot in Sacramento, it usually does cool off overnight (though sometimes it doesn’t start feeling cool until well past midnight).  The race’s name would make you think you’re running late at night, but in reality the race started around 7 pm (still daylight at race start).

I liked that they had a same day race packet/t-shirt pickup.  This was at the start of the race.  The race is held on the eastern side of Davis – most commonly known for its university (University of California, Davis).  The race start/finish and other fun things were on the DMG Mori Campus (I guess it is some manufacturing company).  I arrived about 90 minutes before the race start.  I picked up my shirt and bib and returned to my car to put away the shirt.  I met up with KP and her friend and we just hung out until the race.  The people estimated to take longer than 2.5 hours actually started the race 30 minutes before we did.  So we watched them start.  At race start, the temperature was still in the mid-upper 70s.  This is way too hot than I like but I figured since the sun would be setting within the next hour, it should cool off considerably.  This race was unique because we ran over a freeway bridge to get to the south side of highway 80 and run around south Davis.  The course mostly took us through various neighborhoods (with one section of a paved path through heavily wooded areas).  We ran the first half of the race south of the 80 and then re-crossed the 80 back to the north side.  By this time it was almost dark and there were volunteers handing out some glow necklaces.  This was a nice touch since many of us didn’t actually carry flashlights or headlights and at least made us somewhat visible.

Because I’m not used to doing a race at night, or running for distance in the evening, my body was a bit confused as to what I was doing.  Luckily I was running with KP (we had left her friend behind as she was struggling to maintain a good pace and told us to just go on without her) and its always easier to run when you have a friend to run with.  Around mile 10, there was a random person on the course handing out orange slices and this definitely helped as the temperatures still hovered in the low 70s and it was hot.

The last half mile took us through a field near the DMG building and this is where it was a bit treacherous as there was no street lighting and we couldn’t really see where we were placing our feet.  I was a bit concerned I may land in a pot hole incorrectly and sprain my ankle.  I was relying a bit on nearby runners who actually did have flash lights.  I luckily made it through with no injuries and powered to the end.

Final chip time: 2:13:16

At the finish, I had my free beer (why else do you do races, right?) and also half of KP’s beer since she wasn’t feeling it after the race.  The race medal was cool because it’s the largest one I’ve had.  It also glows in the dark.

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-StewsCat

2010 City of Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon

Race summary: Well organized, good course spectators and support.  Very long slow downhill followed by uphill for the last 4-5 miles.  Decent race swag and medal.

In honor of Memorial Day I wanted to post about my first half marathon, which was the City of Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon.  I had been running consistently outside since January of 2010 and figured that I had done a handful of 5Ks and 1 10K and the next natural progression was to attempt the half marathon distance.  I was staying with my folks in the OC and this race worked out as perfect timing.

Packet pickup was at Road Runner Sports in Laguna Hills.  After I moved to San Diego, I discovered their lage facility in the SD area and it became a favorite spot to shop and find shoes.  The San Diego location also has their Clearance Store where at the time you could buy new shoes of the previous year’s edition for a lot cheaper (~1/3-1/2 of the original MSRP).  From what I recall the packet pickup was straightforward and smooth, no significantly long lines or anything of the sort.

Race morning turned out to be a beautiful one.  I had to drive about 30 minutes south of my folk’s place to get to the race and the sun was coming up as I drove down the freeway.  The start line was situated between the Saddleback Memorial Medical Center (the key sponsor of the race) and the Laguna Hills Mall, which provided plenty of racer parking for free.

race start
Race start

I was definitely nervous as this was my first race at this distance.  I felt confident that I would be able to finish as I had done a training run of 12.9 a few weeks before.  My biggest concern was still the shin splints.

The race starts out with a short 2 mile run through a small residential neighborhood (I think to ensure they reached the full 13.1) before coming out onto Alicia Parkway (a long stretch of road that was downhill for the first half of the race).  My right shin started to burn about 1 mile into the race while in the residential neighborhood and I thought “This is going to be a long day.”  I slowed down for a few miiles to see if that would ease some of the pain in my shins.

Miles 3-8 were down Alicia Parkway and this was all downhill.  I realized as I reached the turnaround point that I’d have to go uphill for the last half of the race.  The sun had come out a few miles into the race and was starting to warm up.  There was a good amount of spectators and people cheering, which was definitely helpful to keep pushing.  At the turnaround between 8 and 9, we moved onto a bike trail that was paved.  My right knee also started aching around this time and I just had to grit my teeth and keep moving forward.  The bike/run trail took us along the Aliso Creek and wove through parks and other areas.

Coming up to the finish line and finish area, there were a ton of people there cheering which really helped.  Since this was a race close to where my family lives, my parents and sister and her family were out at the finish line.  I was really glad seeing them.  I crossed the finish line and only really recall getting my medal and maybe a bottle of water (at the time I didn’t really check out the other post-race activities).  One neat thing about this race is that you received a 2nd tech shirt after finishing (I had received one at packet pickup as well).

Since my family was there, I didn’t have to take a shuttle back to the mall to get my car.

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First half done!

Final chip time: 2:25:16

-StewsCat