Last year, I did the half marathon at the Davis Stampede, and thoroughly disliked the course. While much of it wound through the Davis Greenbelt, a good portion followed the freeway, which meant less than ideal scenery and no wind (or sun) protection during the race. Because the date makes sense in my training, I signed up to try again this year.
Lucky for me, the Davis Stampede offered a new course for its' 30th anniversary run. The course started out the same, going east out of downtown Davis along 2nd Street, veering sharply to go into the northern neighborhoods. This year, runners enjoyed a more meandering tour of the north east side of Davis, going through a park and neighborhoods, then around the Wildhorse Golf Course. I could gripe about the gravel trail (I prefer paved ground for a road race), but I'll let it be.
Back south through Mace Ranch Park, the course crosses I-80 after the nine mile mark this year, when it previously covered this landmark much earlier. A quick jaunt through Willow Creek Park, and the course goes onto the Greenbelt, enjoying its' scenery (and some underpass hills) until it hits Research Park Drive around 11.5 miles. Then, it is a quick sprint by the Commons, skirting the University, and on to the finish line.
The new course is a big improvement on the previous course. I would still prefer not to go over the killer pedestrian overpass, but otherwise the course is relatively flat. The course support is decent, though the race does suffer from the common ailment of high schooler-staffed aid stations- inattentive beverage handlers all having the same drink or not paying attention to passing runners. I'd recommend it as a first of the season half marathon, or a marathon tune up run.
Now that I've given my two cents on the course, what do I have to say about my race performance? Well, I had a fantastic race, to be honest. I have struggled for the past year to live up to my 1:43:16 PR at the 2010 Urban Cow, and had started to think the race was a fluke and I wouldn't make it to that speed again. I hadn't even made it under 1:45 since that race, with my 1:46 at the 2011 Davis Stampede being the closest.
My lack of achievement in the past year was due to several factors. When I ran the Urban Cow in 2010, I had recently started speed training with my Fleet Feet CIM group, and reaped the reward at that race. After CIM, I slacked a bit. I went to Buffalo Chips workouts leading up to the Napa Marathon, but didn't stick with it for long. Then I tried to go for 1:40 at Urban Cow this year, burned out and got a 1:49.
Coming in to the Davis Stampede, I wanted to get back under 1:45. I've been diligently doing speedwork with the Chips on Tuesdays for months, though I have been a bit slow on my long runs until a few weeks ago. I figured I could do 1:45, so I started out with a goal of running miles between 7:40 (a bit over 1:40 pace) and 8:00 (1:45 pace).
I ran the first five miles between 7:43 and 7:46. Then came the gravel (I think), and I slowed a bit to 7:53 to 7:54 for miles six through eight. On mile nine I did 7:57, and during 10 I crossed the pedestrian overpass, slowing me to 8:05. I struggled to stay on target for a bit, going from 7:56 on mile 11, to 8:02 for mile 12. Then, for mile 13 I got back down to 7:44, and sprinted to the finish at a 6:32 average for the final 0.1.
Throughout the race, I was behind the 1:40 pace group, but far ahead of the 1:45. I felt strong, though I did struggle a bit after about halfway through. I was mostly able to keep on pace, though I did run a positive split for the last half.
I experienced something during this race that I rarely experience. In the last four or five miles, I actually passed quite a few people. Usually, I am the one getting passed while I curse myself for going out too fast. Sure, I was still passed by maybe five people during that time, but that is a huge improvement over previous performances.
Overall, I am so happy to have been able to sprint to the finish with all I had left, and PR by 45 seconds!
My new half marathon PR: 1:42:31!