If you are a runner, and have a facebook page, you have seen “The Reasons Why I Run” by Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal. Either that, or you are living in a cave, or maybe out on a really long run. Well, The Oatmeal created a race to celebrate beating the blerch. The first race was last year (2014) up in Washington (his current state of residence). But in 2015, he put on several more races, and one of the races was in Sacramento, CA, which is where I live.
I have always been a fan of The Oatmeal, and I like to run, and I like cake, so I wanted to do this run. The race offered a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon. I considered doing the full marathon, but with Clarksburg 20 mile run the weekend before, and the California International Marathon three weeks later, I didn’t want to push myself, so I just signed up for the half marathon.
The race didn’t actually publish the courses until less than a month before the race, but the half marathon was very much like the Shamrock’n Half marathon. They switched the loop around, and changed a couple other things but it started and ended at Raley Field (the home of the local AAA baseball team), and we would finish along the third base line.
For packet pick up, you had to pick up the day before, or pay a $5 cash convenience fee to pick up day of. I wasn’t too excited about that, but it kind of makes sense. So I had to pick up my packet (and the Dashing Sister’s packet) at REI the day before. I showed up at 5pm, and there was a huge line, which only got longer. It turns out they only had three or four people checking in folks. The way it was done was that you showed them your printed ticket with its QR-code (the square bar code thingy), or show them the picture on your phone, and they would scan it, grab a bib, scan that, and BOOM, that was your bib number.
Okay, maybe there wasn’t a BOOM, but still.
The only issue was if people were picking up packets for their friends, then they had to scan through their phone for all their friends’ codes.
The nice thing was that while in line, a blerch (okay, a guy in a blerch outfit) was passing out candy. I grabbed a pack of Swedish Fish, because fish are a lean protein, a perfect pre-race meal.
Also, Matt Inman was in the room signing autographs of his book, Exploding Kittens, or whatever else you wanted signed. They were selling a bunch of stuff there too. I have both the book and the Exploding Kittens game, but I did not have anything signed because I had about 15 minutes after I grabbed my bib to get to my daughter’s daycare before they closed.
I did like the idea of how the bibs were passed out, but I think walking up to a booth, telling somebody your name, having them thumb through bibs, is a lot quicker. But I am sure not having to stick name stickers on the back of bibs takes a long time.
It was a decent amount of shwag
The Dashing Son really liked the headband
Day of the race:
The Dashing Sister showed up to the house around 7:15, and we got out the door at 7:30. I had my tea, an apple, and a cheesestick for breakfast. I usually go with a peanut butter honey sandwich or something carby, but I always end up forcing myself to eat it. The apple went down easy, as did the cheesestick. I think that is going to be my new pre-race meal.
We showed up to the field, got some great parking (or so we thought), and went to the start line. We were chatting with some of the marthoners who were starting at 8am, and then we went inside the stadium to see what was going on. First, I used the bathroom. With a full baseball stadium bathroom at my disposal, with its 30 or so urinals and 15 stalls, just for the men, there was no line. In the stadium there were couches set up for pictures.
Blerches handing out chocolate covered marshmallows and bacon,
Plus Oatmeal shwag, and even Matt Inman was there in his green blerch suit. He was taking pictures with folks, but the line was long, so we had him photobomb us.
Also, in the middle of the field was this ramp thing. We were hoping we would be able to slide down to the finish, but it was not to be. They were setting up for some snow thing in Raley Field for the next week. My sister and I chatted, talked to some folks, and then moseyed over to the start for the half at 9am.
My poor sister would have to wait another hour for her start.
I moved my way up to the front, about where I figured the 8 to 8:30 pace would be.
But it turns out they were doing 1 minute waves of about 100 people, and I got in the first wave. Matt Inman was running the half with us, so he was out in front.
The horn went off and we started running. The first mile or so was around the parking lot of the baseball field, and then we crossed over the Tower Bridge into Sacramento (the field is technically in West Sacramento). At the first mile, the Oatmeal guy turned around and was running against the crowd. I guess he wanted to let everybody see him, and I wouldn’t want to run 13.1 miles in a big green bag.
I was planning on taking it easy and having fun during the race. However, my legs weren’t having any of that. They went all Forrest Gump on me, they just felt like running. But it was just first mile, so I was going to just run at a pace that felt good.
We hit the first aid station not long after the bridge. The brochure/website didn’t lie. There was cake,
Plus couches and the magical purple drink. The magical purple drink was not the weird Japanese drink made from unborn panda bear souls (you would know what I was talking about if you read his book or saw the comic online), but was some sort of purple colored electrolyte beverage. I think it was GU brew, but I couldn’t be sure.
The course followed a bike path along the levee of the Sacramento River for a few miles, before turning back into downtown Sacramento. At the turn we had to cross the train tracks, and there was a train coming. Not really a train train, but a track repair vehicle. They were nice enough to stop and let us go through, and they even held up the crossing arm for us.
As we ran down the levee, I passed a taco. Tacos may run through you pretty quickly, but I was outrunning this one. I also saw bacon, eggs, and pizza on the course.
Around mile 4, I started noticing that I wasn’t over on my mileage. In fact, my garmin was saying I was at 3.95 miles when I hit the 4 mile marker. I was hoping that the course marking was off.
We continued to run through town, passed the capital, and the law enforcement folks at every intersection blocking/directing traffic.
Side note: I saw somebody complain that they didn’t get their eighty dollars’ worth out of the half marathon. First, while $80 is a bit high for some half marathons, it isn’t outrageous either (cough DISNEY cough). Second, you need to think about the cost of the marathon. Each one of those officers is getting paid, and they should be. Permits, traffic management, and police cost money.
We left the city streets around mile 7, and hit the American River Parkway. This is where I saw the final marathoner. She was walking, but was still going strong. It was at about mile 8 that the marathoners split off from the half marathoners. They would do 13.1 miles in an out and back on the Parkway. At the mile 8 marker, my Garmin said I was at mile 7.75. I checked with another runner and she was at 7.78 miles.
Over the next mile, I ran with a guy who was approaching his longest run ever. He had never ran more than 15 km (9.3 miles), and was still hanging tough at just over an 8 minute pace. I gave him some advice about running the tangents and how every 5 extra steps you take is 2 seconds added to your time.
When we hit the 9 mile mark, my Garmin said 9 miles. I was happy because we were back on target. When I hit mile 10, I decided to push again for my final 5k.
About mile 11, we exited the Parkway, crossed back over the American River, and headed towards Old Sacramento. The levee trail was freshly paved and was easy running. At mile 12, my Garmin was back to a quarter mile short. I was still hoping that the next mile would be long again.
When we hit Old Sacramento, the hardest part of the course was upon us. Not because of any kind of hill, but because of the planks along the dock that we were running on. The ground was as uneven as many trails, and I had to be careful not to catch a shoe and trip. Also, there were people walking about. There had not been many half marathoners ahead of me (less than 100 over the last 30 minutes) and no marathoners, so there wasn’t a lot of traffic ahead of me to warn the pedestrians.
We left the dock, joined the faster 10k runners and crossed the Tower Bridge again. As we neared the stadium, I pushed into higher gear. My Garmin said I had a half mile to go to 13.1, but I could see the 26 mile marker, which meant there was less than a quarter mile left. We turned the corner, and ran through the back gate of the stadium, passed the locker rooms, onto the field through the center field, and down the third base line to the finish. I pushed to the finish line, and finished well below my time goal.
I grabbed my medal, with the awesomely yellow ribbon, and went through the buffet line.
The cake was goooood.
I grabbed some goodies, took a selfie with a guy in a Blerch suit, and then went off to find the Dashing Sister on her 10k.
I called her, got her location, and ran to where she was. She had rolled her ankle about 2 miles in, and was walking the rest of the way. I split off to let her finish on her own, and met her at the finish line.
When I finished, I was well below my time goal, and had actually ran one of my fastest half marathons. However, my Garmin was showing 12.85 miles at the finish. Even on my most efficiently run half on a certified course, my Garmin showed 13.17 miles. The course was at least 0.32 miles short, or about 0.5km. I spoke to a couple of other folks and they had a similar finish distance on their Garmins. I did read on the Beat the Blerch Facebook page that they had the course mapped by GPS at 13.06 miles.
Overall, the race was good, but not without problems that are common to inaugural races and gimmicky races. Gimmicky races travel and don’t have the local knowledge of the people that organize races. I heard from some volunteers that they had no instructions until the last minute and there wasn’t much instruction when they had them. The quote was “most disorganized race ever.”
I am also disappointed in the shortened course. Marathoners said the course was a mile short. The out and back was on the Parkway, which has mile markers every half mile. You put turn around point 6.5 miles from where the marathoners split off. The course planners used GPS and mapping websites, and they admitted that the half marathon course was short, even by their GPS. Really? You planned the course short? Even certified courses are supposed to be slightly long. Especially when you are utilizing GPS, which is not precise enough to measure a race course. Plus, they used an existing course with a few modifications, it should have been more accurate.
Despite the short course, I did have a good run, and I had fun at the race. I am not really sure I will do the race again, but if I could get a bunch of friends together maybe I will do it. It would be a lot of fun to run in a group, hanging out on couches.