Latest reviews by Chris

"1st Ever Half Marathon"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

Well looky there, I finished my first 1/2 marathon!!! When this year started, I never in my wildest dreams believed I would be running a 13.1 race. I started running seriously in March of this year and have now met quite a few great new friends who have a passion for running. It was through their encouragement that I decided to sign up for this race. The unfortunate part was I had been training mainly for 5k and 10k events up until 5 weeks before Urban Cow. I figured no big deal, I'll find a training plan and modify it for my needs to get me to ready for the race.

This race was like many in the Sacramento area with a packet pick-up at Fleet Feet. The store itself was packed with other runners get last minute gear for the race, but the packet pick-up process was quick and painless. The packet didn't include much outside of your bib, a New Balance race shirt, and an Urban Cow drawstring bag to hold all your swag in.

Parking for the event was great since there is plenty of free street parking around the park and you can also park at the Sac City Junior College stadium. The walk from either location isn't far, maybe a half mile which gives your legs a chance to loosen up a little bit anyways. By the time we arrived at the start area, things were well underway with announcements, last minute check-ins, vendor’s booths, etc. We wandered around for a bit and before you know it, the announcement was made for the 1/2 marathoners to start lining up. A quick speech by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and then the singing of the National Anthem, and we were off.

Based upon my training runs, my goal was a sub 2:00 time (9:09/mile pace), so I figured I'd just keep the 2:00 pacer in my sites. I planned on hanging with the 2:00 pacer for the first couple of miles and seeing how my body felt after that. If I needed to readjust my game plan based on how my body felt, that's what I'd do. As usual with any race, unless you are an elite and up at the front, it's pretty crowded for the 1st half mile or so and this race is no different. As we crossed the start/finish line I started my Garmin and we were off. I could see the 2:00 pacer sign just ahead of me to the right and things were going well. Then somehow as I made my way through the initial traffic of the start, I lost sight of the pacer. I checked my pace and I was right on track at 9:08/mile, so where was the pacer? Mile 1 takes you through one of Sacramento’s oldest parks, William Land Park, and it is beautiful this time of year. The park houses a nine hole golf course and an abundance of trees. Mile 2 and 3 take you through the established neighborhood of Land Park. The homes are all well-kept and many residents are out on their yards cheering on the runners. I just kept on chugging along through mile 2, then 3, still wondering where the pacer was. After running mile 2 at 8:57/mile and mile 3 at 9:07 and still not seeing the pacer, I finally figured out I must have past them while fighting the crowd at the start. I thought, this will work out fine, now I just need to keep them behind me and I'll get my sub 2:00 finishing time. Then all of a sudden, somewhere between mile 4 and 5, there the 2:00 group was and I couldn't keep up with them.

The organizers of the race did an excellent job with the aid stations and positioned them about every 2 miles. Since I learned on my training runs that fluid consumption is critical, I’d already made up my mind that I would grab something at every aid station. Each aid station had both water and an electrolyte drink available.

Now with this being my first ½ marathon race and my first run longer than 12 miles, I knew I had to take my finish time in stride. So as they passed me up and I couldn’t maintain the pace with them, I had to remind myself to just enjoy the run and take in all of the sights. Everything from the other people running the race, to parts of the city I’ve never seen before, to the views offered of the Sacramento River, Tower Bridge, State Capitol building, etc. Those are all things you get to see as you run miles 4 through 7. Even after the 2:00 pace group passed me, I was maintaining a pretty good pace and my sub 2:00 was within site, mile 4 – 9:00, mile 5 – 9:14, mile 6 – 8:54, and mile 7 – 9:18.

Miles 8 through 11 find you running through Miller Park and around the marina and then up onto the delta. This stretch was a little windy and didn’t really provide any great scenery. The only nice thing about mile 8 was that there was an out and back section where I could now see how far behind the 2:00 pace group I had fallen. My best guess is I was about 1:30 to 2:00 minutes behind them at this point. It was a bummer to see I’d fallen this far back, but at the same time I was enjoying myself and the race. I clipped off mile 8 at 9:18, so I was still pretty close to my overall goal time of 9:09/mile. Miles 9, 10, and 11 find you up on the Delta where you are exposed to some pretty good wind coming off of the river. My friends had warned me about this and suggested that I try and run in a pack of runners to block the wind and save some energy. So with the knowledge they provided me about the upcoming miles, I found a group of runners and tried to tuck in behind them, but I soon realized that they were not running at or near my goal pace, so I had to move around them and continue on by myself. Running by myself provided me time to look around and enjoy the views of the Sacramento River even further. Mile 9 is when I started lagging behind my goal time as my Garmin read 9:25. I kept churning away, even though my left quad started to tighten up. As I was approaching mile 10, I thought to myself there’s only a 5k to go, you can do that no problem, you run those all the time. So I grabbed another water at the aid station and my split for mile 10 was again a 9:25. As I finished the water, something happened, all of a sudden for the 1st time all day, my body started to hurt. I had to walk for a bit. Frustrated with myself, I quickly got back up to speed, but could still only muster a 9:53 for mile 11. Mile 11 does find you coming down off the delta and then running slightly uphill back into the Land Park area. This hill, even though very slight, really slowed me down. I had to walk quite a bit through this mile and finished up mile 12 at 10:41. After having a little talk with myself and grabbing some water at the next aid station I was able to get back on the horse to finish out strong. The final 1.1 miles find you weaving your way back into beautiful William Land Park to the finish line. I was able to rattle off the last part of the race at a 9:00/mile pace to finish at 2:04:27. It was 4:30 slower than I wanted to be, but for my first half marathon and only training for about 5 weeks, I’ll take it!!!

The post-race festivities included sandwiches, fruit, chocolate milk, waters, and for those over 21, BEER!!!! Overall it was a great experience and the course is pretty scenic. I’ll definitely be back next year trying to beat my time and set a new PR.

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