So, as mentioned in my Hello April post, I had tentatively planned to run a half marathon at the end of last month. I was going to make a spontaneous decision on that at some point. That point was three weeks ago when an email indicated that prices were going up and that, if I wanted a customized medal, I had to sign up now.
I didn’t mention it earlier here or on social media because I wanted this race to be completely stress-free. Not that you guys stress me out or anything, but if you announce somewhere that you’re going to run a race, then you know people are going to inquire about it.
It was nice to run a race and not having to fess up about the results if I didn’t want to. Although, who am I kidding, I probably would have shared my experience either way… but especially now that I snatched up an unexpected new PR.
Honestly, I signed up for this race for a couple of reasons: a) I had somewhere earlier this year put in writing that I wanted to run three half marathons this year and if I wanted to accomplish this goal, I had to get started and get a race under my belt, b) I had been training and felt like I wanted to take another stab at the distance, c) this is a great, mostly flat race course along the American River, and d) if there is a spring race in your city, you have to take advantage of it (because race running in the Central Valley in the summer is brutal, so you enjoy the moderate temps while you can).
Do you guys, who run races, also get this pit in your stomach the night before and think to yourself “why did I sign up for this?”. I have that every single time, but then I am always glad that I ran the race afterward. It’s just so stupid to go through the race anxiety before every race. Even if it’s just for fun, even if you’re just doing this for yourself without anyone else knowing about it.
Ok, I did slip up and told my parents that I was running the race. Which is cool, because they’re awesome cheerleaders and they actually ask me questions about it and they follow along through the race apps or Runtastic tracking. It’s almost like having them right there on the sidelines cheering me on. Almost.
I felt pretty good the morning of the race. I had a solid breakfast of oatmeal with fruit and nut butter. I hydrated well the days leading up to the race and did some carb-loading the night before. I had also worked on my race fueling strategy in the previous weeks (which, in all honesty, I had never done before. At previous races, I usually just made sure I would drink at every water stations, but I didn’t eat during the races. Probably a mistake.)
I am not sure what exactly made the difference, one thing or all of it combined, but I have never felt so “good” throughout a race. I actually had some fuel left in the tank for a little sprint to the finish line.
I did not feel like I wanted to collapse on the ground right then and there after crossing the finish. I didn’t feel dizzy, or like I had to puke, or that my legs were going to give out any minute. I actually felt pretty darn good and that was a really cool feeling.
I am still chasing the sub-2 mark, but I am working on it and I actually feel like I’ll be getting there! My official race time was 2:04:34, I shaved 2.5 minutes off my previous PR and in retrospect, I feel like that maybe I could have pushed myself a little more. Of course, while you’re in the race, you don’t know exactly how it’s going to go, so I focused on feeling comfortable at a steady, slightly slower pace rather than trying to push myself to reach my goal pace and then fall apart at the end.
I know some people are all about the negative splits (because that really means that you approached your race the right way, start out conservatively and then use available energy to speed up later on). My race strategy usually is to keep a steady pace throughout the race, then maybe push a little bit at the end if there is some extra energy left.
It’s much harder for me to “hold myself back” and then “race” to make up the difference later on. Usually, the start of the race is slower for most people anyway due to circumstances. Most smaller races don’t have corrals and even if there are corrals, you’ll still start out running with a crowd of people (unless you’re the lucky person at the front of the start line). The crowds disperse after the first mile or two, but the start is usually slower for everybody and I feel it’s already hard enough trying to make up that difference.
Anyway, long story short: was it a great race? Yes! Would I run it again? Definitely.
Here are some overall thoughts on the race organization:
Registration and Packet Pick Up
You can register either online or in person at the local Fleet Feet Store. I think you could also do a last minute signup on race day morning. I picked up my race packet the day before the race at the Fleet Feet store because it’s relatively close to where I live.
Race morning Amenities
There were plenty of port-a-potties and signs at the starting line.
The race is actually split into two races – one half marathon for walkers and one for runners. While both races share the same starting point, they proceed in opposite directions along the 30-mile long American River Parkway.
This course is great. It’s mostly flat (a little bit of up and down, but very gradually and not bad at all) and you run on a nice, wide paved bike trail for the majority of the race. Around the halfway mark, we turned around on a keyhole loop and there is a short “trail section”, where you run on unpaved gravel and you definitely had to be a little careful not to misstep, but it wasn’t a big deal.
There were enough aid/water station and they were adequately staffed with volunteers that offered both Gatorade and water.
Finish line and Post Race Amenities
Right behind the finish line, you were able to pick up your personalized race medal and there was a photographer that took photos with your medal at the finish line.
There were also free bottled water, sandwich wraps, and strawberries with a chocolate chip cookie at the finish line for all finishers.
The results were up instantly and there was a little tent with computers set up, where you could check your time.
The race photographers did a great job getting pictures at multiple locations.
The photos were available to look at online within 3-4 days. While there was actually a race photo that I liked, I don’t want it badly enough to shell out $13-20 (print-out vs. digital file) for a single image. I don’t know, I feel like race photos should be part of the race fee, don’t you?
Did you run a race this spring? How did it go?