February 8, 2011

Davis Stampede Half Marathon (Race Report)

Reflecting on this race, I think there is some serious truth to the idea that we perform much better than expected when we remove all expectations to begin with. As I mentioned, I signed up for this half at the last minute as an impromptu way to get a long run in for the weekend. I didn't have any concrete goals other than to finish and get to work on time. One of my goals for 2011, however, was to run a sub-2 hour half marathon at some point. I haven't been training specifically for this goal lately as my focus has been on longer, slower runs. I haven't done any speedwork and honestly I just didn't feel like I could hold a 9:09 pace for 13.1 miles.

So when I arrived in Davis Sunday morning, I had few expectations for myself. At the Urban Cow Half, where I set my previous PR, I did so by hanging on to the 2:05 pacer for dear life because I suck at pacing myself. The Davis Stampede had no pacers to speak of, so I took that as a sign that this would not be the day to hit my goal. Anyway, I made it to the start with just enough time to pick up my bib and use the bathroom before heading into the crowd of runners at the start line. A few minutes later we were off, meandering through the streets of downtown Davis. Despite living so close, I had actually never been to Davis before, so it was kind of fun to get a mini tour of it during the race. The first couple miles went by pretty fast and were just run on feel. But when I looked at my Garmin I saw that mile 1 clocked in at a 9:10 pace. The next couple miles were a bit faster, so I thought what the hell, let's see how long this can last!
The course had lots of turns and little loops which I actually really liked since it kept things interesting. Not a ton of crowd support, but everything was very organized and consistent. It was also extremely flat, which certainly was a big factor in my performance. We totally lucked out on the weather, too. It was a beautiful day, if not a tad warm and windy. I kept cruising along, zoning out to my music, and the miles ticked by one after another. In fact, I noticed that my average pace was actually dropping! I tried to stay as consistent as possible, but I only allowed myself to look at my Garmin at each mile marker because I didn't want to be compulsively checking my pace and stressing about it. Amazingly my splits were pretty consistent despite running mostly on feel...imagine that : ) When I got to mile 7 on target to a sub-2 hour finish, I knew I had to go for it. I still felt pretty good, kind of like I was running on autopilot.
During the second half of the race there were a couple stretches where it was a bit of a struggle to keep pushing, but for the most part it felt easier than it should have for some reason. I kept expecting to blow up in the later miles, but it never happened and the miles seemed to fly by. Once I got to mile 10 I did some quick calculations in my head and realized that even if I slowed to a 10 minute pace I was still going to come in under 2 hours. This made the last 3 miles much easier to handle : ) I felt strong all the way til the end, and when my Garmin beeped 13 miles and I rounded the corner and saw the finish, I gave it one last kick and sprinted across the line! I looked down at my watch and saw a lovely number one staring back at me : ) Official finish time was 1:58:12, a 6 minute PR!!
I don't really know what happened out there. I think a combination of good conditions and no expectations played a big role, and maybe my higher mileage, trail running, and ultra training have actually made me a stronger runner. Or maybe it was using Trigger Point on my tight and achey calves the night before. Whatever the reason, I'm excited to check this goal off my list, especially so much earlier than expected. It's also got me thinking about my goals for my next marathon, which I may have to adjust in light of recent events : ) For now, I'm just enjoying the fact that I'm now a member of the elusive sub-2 hour half marathon club!


  1. Awesome job! I think on our long, slow runs it's easy to forget that we're still improving our speed. Sometimes I feel like a snail out there climbing hills at 14mph - so the thought of 9 minute miles becomes daunting again. Until you realize that 13 miles is WAY less than 20, so when you run an actual half it seems...easier? Way to go! I hope I have a similar experience in Moab next weekend (20 miler -- eep!)

  2. Congrats on joining the sub-2 hour half club! I'm hoping to get there myself sometime soon!

  3. Very, very nice. Great job. Chalk this one up to your increased milage and ultra training. Its amazing what the body can do when you do your homework. Keep your focus on weekly milage and you should do quite well at AR 50.

  4. congrats! so awesome you reached your goal and then some!

  5. Welcome to the sub-2 club. Nice race.

    All the best,


  6. I get to meet you beautiful girl!? NO WAY! So happy you signed up for Chicago!! :) Super duper excited, you have no idea.

    We'll be able to commiserate over our 20 milers and our blisters at the same time. Yay.