October 7, 2010

Urban Cow Half Marathon (Race Report)

I had intended to get this race report up earlier this week...but for some reason I've just been exhausted. The race was awesome though so it's time I share the details! I didn't get a chance to mention on here what my goal was for Urban Cow...but to be honest, I was a little hesitant to put it out there because it was a bit of a jump for me. But at the same time I wanted to set my sights higher than usual to see what I'm capable of if I really push myself. I settled on 2:05 for a couple reasons. First, it would be a big PR (8 minutes), second it would be require a pace I'd only run for shorter distances, and finally because there was a pace group that I could run with. I felt it was realistic enough, but would certainly not be easy.

I was a bundle of nerves Saturday evening, and I only let myself divulge my goal to a few coworkers, with the hopes that it would motivate me to push hard come Sunday. Race morning, after snoozing my alarm a couple times, I was up and sleepily going through my usual routine. My mom and I left about a half hour before the race start, but since it was local we got there with plenty of time. She dropped me off at the start in William Land Park and I made my way through the crowd to the start area. I spotted a coworker and chatted briefly, then I found the 2:05 pace group and lined up!
inaugural "Urban Cow" (formerly the Cowtown Marathon)
 start/finish line
: )

Right on time the race director blew the horn and we were off, winding through the shady park. The first mile was pretty crowded so we had to pick up our speed to lower our average pace right off the bat. My main goal was simply to hang on to the pace leader since I suck at keeping an even pace (at any speed). I had my music and cruised through the first few miles. I spotted my dad a couple times during the first half of the race, and I also saw several coworkers scattered throughout the course. Seeing friendly faces so often certainly helped keep me pumped! The course was great - lots of nice, shady neighborhood stretches, a couple miles on the levy along the Sacramento River, and a couple winding parts through parks. There were enough turns to make things interesting, a fair number of spectators scattered along the way, and literally pancake flat! Although this was a local race for me, I'm not familiar with the Land Park area it took place in, so it almost felt like I was running in a new city, too.
the crowd ready to go!
 runners winding through shady Land Park
 hanging close to the 2:05 pacer...

Several times throughout the race I had mental battles with myself or used tricks to psych myself out. I wasn't struggling to hold the pace, but I had to really focus to keep it up. I just never let myself fall behind the pacer, and most of the time I actually tried to stay a bit in front of her. At one point, to pass the time I found myself trying to identify other runners shoes (one of the side effects of working in a running store). Halfway through I reminded myself that I'd made it that far and I just had to hang on a little longer - less than an hour! The last few miles I knew if I just kept pushing I had it in the bag, so I dug deep and actually picked up my pace a tad. I saw my coworker Heather around mile 11 which gave me a final little boost. Soon we found ourselves back at William Land Park for the last mile, which seemed to go on forever. I broke away from the pacer at this point, and made a break for the finish line. I smiled as I crossed the line, and when I looked down at my Garmin I realized I had actually come in just under my goal: 2:04:06!!
 all smiles around mile 4 : )
i did it! yay for a new PR!

Immediately afterward I got my cowbell medal (cool, but just imagine thousands of these making noise at once!), grabbed some food, and found my folks. I felt ok, but I couldn't stomach any of the free food. While I was lying down in the grass someone almost stepped on me and when I looked up I was happy to see it was fellow (hilarious) blogger Ron! We had exchanged emails earlier in the week and I had hoped to meet up but I hadn't see him during the race. I was glad we found each other despite the crowd - congrats on another race, Ron!
the infamous Ron and I

I'm so happy with how this race went. Not only did I set a 9 minute PR, but I finally experienced a race where I achieved something I wasn't completely sure I could do. I moved out of my safety zone and challenged myself and it felt great! I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes, "Life begins on the edge of comfort." My splits were ridiculously consistent - I'm talking within a few seconds of my 9:30 goal - but I have to give credit to the fantastic pacer. In fact I only glanced at my watch a handful of times during the race. It was nice to be able to just run instead of compulsively checking my watch. Now that I accomplished this goal, I can't help but wonder what else I'm capable of. I couldn't resist putting my new PR in the McMillan Running Calculator to see what I could possibly do in a marathon, and was surprised to see 4:21 staring back at me. Perhaps I'll have to adjust my goals for MCM in a few weeks...
my unique (and slightly annoying) cowbell medal

My mom and I hung around for a while after the race then I headed back home to enjoy the rest of my day off. My dad and I decided to go out for brunch, which meant I made the crucial mistake of waiting a couple more hours to eat. I've really got to work on this recovery thing! Legs felt pretty good this week, but like I mentioned earlier, for some reason I've just been exhausted. Next up is the Long Beach Half next weekend, and after my performance at Urban Cow I think I'll have to reevaluate my goals for that, too! But first, tomorrow morning I'm doing my last big long run before Marine Corps - 20 (hopefully awesome) miles!
mom and I post-race
Urban Cow: a race like no udder : )

Congrats to everyone who ran Urban Cow on Sunday, and kudos to the race management for a great, well-organized race. And a quick shout out to Tim, a local reader I had the pleasure of meeting last week at work who had a fantastic race!


  1. brilliant my friend...congratulations. love the shirt. !!

  2. After reading this post I realized I had left my goodie bag in the back of my car and had never even looked at the shirt.

    I was a real pleasure meeting you and congratulations on a well run race.

    All the best,


  3. Congrats on a great race Rachel, ever so much closer to that 2 hour mark, but what a great PR jump!

    And thanks for the shout out :)
    Good luck in LB.

  4. Great job...that is a big step. Good luck in Long Beach and have fun in So Cal.