I have run the American River Parkway Half Marathon in Sacramento four times now. It is a local race, it supports the trail that I regularly run in, and I can easily bike to the start. I wasn’t expecting of the best of times at this race because I had run the Ruth Anderson 50 miler the Saturday before. However, my legs were feeling pretty good, so I wasn’t expecting a bad time either.
I had grabbed my bib and stuff before the race, and this year we got a shirt (which always matches the medal), a water bottle, and a re-usable bag. Last year we got a license plate frame, a sticker, and a REAL water bottle, not the silly “handteen” as it is called. In reality, I shouldn’t complain. I have too many water bottles (I don’t think I kept last years), I have a license plate frame already, and I have too many of those bags. I like shwag, but I usually don’t keep most of it. However, last year’s sticker is on the car.
On the morning of the race, it was foggy and cool, in the 40s, which is near perfect running weather. It was so good and my legs felt so good that I decided to run (and walk) to the race start instead of biking.
I made it to the start just to watch the walkers start their half marathon. See, the nice thing about this half marathon is that there is a dedicated walker’s course, and the finish line stays open until the last walker comes through (same with the runner’s course).
I did the usual runners routine for the next 30 minutes. I used the port-a-potty, I stretched, I chatted with other runners, and was getting a feeling for my legs. The warm up run to the start felt good, and I felt great, so I figured I would shoot for a course PR, which would be about a 7:50 pace. At the race start, they announced that this race has raised over $250,000 for the American River Parkway, which is pretty cool. Since I am a regular user of the parkway, I am happy to support the cause.
Another nice thing about this race is that there are signs about every ¼ mile with a fact about the parkway, or some funny saying “pizza, pasta, pizza, and pasta are your four food groups.” There were some really funny ones on the port-a-potties at race start.
I started out pretty good, too good in fact. By mile three, I realized I was pushing it a bit much, and had been running about a 7:30 pace. My legs and calves were starting to hurt. I wore my Asics, because I felt good that morning and wanted to be fast. I probably should have worn my Hokas, maybe compression socks too.
I was doing pretty good until the half way point, then things took a bit of a turn, which I will get to. I slowed down to about an 8:00 pace. I figured I could make some time in the last mile. Lately, I have been pushing my last mile, even during my ultras, so I knew I could make up some time. But my legs were hurting, so ended up taking some more walk breaks. I also had to poop. Usually I could hold it, but I wasn’t so sure. So with 3.25 miles to go, I darted into a port-a-potty, relieved myself, and got back out running. It was at this point that I realized I hadn’t taped my nipples up again. And wearing a white shirt in the misty weather, it looked really bad.
I took my last walk break with 1.6 miles to go and then decided to push it to the end. I really pushed it with a mile to go, knocking out a sub 7 minute mile in that last mile. Even with spending a few seconds checking on a runner who cramped up in the last half mile, I dropped my Garmin pace from 8:07 to 8:00. The family was at the finish for me, which was awesome, as I love my family. They also had bounce houses for the kids to play. I grabbed some food (though the Dashing Son ate my cookie and the Dashing Daughter ate my orange).
Now, while I am happy with my pace, this race had some serious issues, especially based on the three other times I have ran this race. The first problem was that there weren’t any bag pipers that usually start the race by walking through the runners. This year it was a high school drum team. They did fine, but they were no bagpipers.
The next big problem was the mismarked course. The first two years, the race was essentially an out and back. Last year, it was a lollipop, where we ran out, crossed the river, ran a few miles, and then crossed back over. This year, the somehow combined the two courses by making us go to the farther turn-around point, and then cross the river. It added about a kilometer (0.6 miles) to the course. I thought the course looked weird when I looked at it online, but I wasn’t sure. But when I hit the mile 7 marker when my Garmin said 7.68, I knew something was up. The official distance was 13.75 miles.
This screwed me up mentally, as I knew it would be impossible to finish at my goal time. I took some extra walk breaks that I probably wouldn’t have done, and I may have tried to make it to the finish before I pooped. I probably shouldn’t have let it get to me, but it got to a lot of other people too. Like that guy who cramped up in the last half mile. He should have been done. He would have been in the buffet line cramping, but he would have been done.
My last little gripe is the medal, and I will admit it is a bit petty. Here is this years medal.
It’s pretty cool, and I like the skunk. But here are the four medals I have gotten for this race.
Notice how they all have the race date on the medal? This years race only had the year. Also, the medals are the same, but with different critters, trees, and flowers. In the last three years, the animal is yellow, the tree is green, and the flower is yellow (or orange). This year it was all backwards. And while I do like the skunk on the medal (and the shirt), it was a bit of foreshadowing of how the race was going to go.
Now, while the race this year was long, there were no bagpipers and the medal was slightly off, I will run it again next year. It is an inexpensive half marathon that supports a trail that I use very regularly. I am sure that they will have it right next year.