October 2, 2011

Urban Cow Half Marathon (Race Report)

My morning began with a too-early alarm followed by my usual pre-race routine. I got dropped off at the start to escape the hassle of parking. I was actually a bit nervous for some reason, even though my plan was to take it easy and treat the race as a supported long run (with 4,000 of my closest running buddies). I met up at the Fleet Feet Racing team tent and saw some friendly faces, including a couple coworkers. I didn't have long to wait, though and I was headed to the start line. I lined up with the 2:05 pacer (actually the same woman from last year!) and waited for the countdown. 3....2....1....go!

We settled into an easy rhythm pretty quickly, although the first couple miles were fairly crowded. The pace (~9:30/mi) felt pretty easy and at times I even felt like I was holding back a bit. Funny to think back at how challenging this same pace felt at this same race last year! The first mile we wound through Land Park then around a lovely neighborhood with a bunch of families out cheering, including my former high school history teacher! Around mile 3 I spotted a coworker out spectating, and just after his girlfriend, A, caught up to me and provided some company for a couple miles.

The next few miles were actually new this year and took us into downtown Sacramento which was actually really cool! In fact much of this route had me wondering, where the heck am I?! We actually ran through the downtown mall, past Macy's and other stores and restaurants. Then it was under the freeway via a tunnel with a pretty rad mural into vintage Old Sacramento for a short jaunt. I had sped up a tad to keep up with A, so when we came to the next aid station I let her go while I slowed to take a salt cap.
tunnel art
Old Sac
Around 10k we passed the relay exchange point where I got a quick cheer from a coworker who'd ran the first leg. By this point I was still a bit ahead of the 2:05 pacer but consistently so. I'd warmed up and the pace was feeling even more comfortable, but I kept reminding myself to stay close. My splits were hovering in the 9:20s, and for a while I was hitting back-to-back splits to the second! We continued on to the Sacramento Marina (yet another area of my hometown I was totally unfamiliar with!) with a short out-and-back where I got to see a bunch of other friends/coworkers/customers. The high fives and cheers along this stretch were one of my favorite parts of the race!
Sacramento River & Marina
The next couple miles had us back on the course from last year on the Sacramento River bike path. Sidenote: I spend so much of my training time along the American River, I totally forget about the Sacramento River! It's actually quite nice, though : ) My knee was giving me some trouble for a bit during this stretch, but eventually faded, and my hips were starting to feel sore from the concrete, but I still felt nice and relaxed.

Around mile 11 we left the bike path behind, landing on Riverside Blvd. Spotted another coworker out coaching his team and ran into A again! With just over a mile to go we reentered Land Park and kicked up the pace a bit. The course was running long by a tenth, but we were right on with our time. There was no final sprint down the finish chute for me, but I did break away from the pace group to cross the line in 2:04 flat.

I grabbed my sweet cowbell medal (although not so sweet when they're clanging around the necks of hundreds of runners) and some water and chocolate milk and headed back to the FF Racing tent to get my stuff. I had to work right after which meant no time to stick around and socialize! The top of my left foot was suddenly painful afterward and my right foot was so tight I couldn't curl my toes, but with a quick massage things were feeling better soon. I think this week I'll be doing lots of trigger pointing, massage, and stretching to get myself ready for Chicago!

I was really happy with how the race went and glad I stuck to my original plan and took it easy. Not only was it better for me physically, but I was able to really enjoy the race in a way I can't when I'm pushing myself. I saw so many familiar faces out there, and the new course was a fun little tour of Sacramento, including some new-to-me spots! Best of all, it's great to see myself come full circle from the race last year, running with the same pace group under very different circumstances. I guess I have come pretty far : )

**A note on the pics: I was too lazy to take my phone out, so all were either borrowed from the world wide web, are from the official photogs, or are from last year! I hate posts with no pictures : /

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