Almond Bowl Half Marathon

Last weekend I decided kind of last minute to sign up for a half marathon. I was supposed to run 14 miles for training anyway, and running a race is a lot more fun than running alone. Sure you have to pay to sign up, but you get the joy of running with others and you get a free t-shirt!

Since this race was pretty close to where my parents live, my Mom came to support me for the first ever! Usually I am running somewhere far away and she has never gotten the chance to watch me in action. It was great to have a fan and she took lots of photos to boot. We had fun before the race, figuring out where the best place for her to watch from would be. This race was pretty much an out and back race, so she ended up standing at mile 4 (and 9) to watch, as well as getting to see both the start AND the finish! What a great fan/photographer she was!

The race was put on by Fleet Feet and was very well organized. The sign ups were easy, you had the choice of picking up your packet either Friday, Saturday OR Sunday at the race. The volunteers were very helpful, the route was well marked. I even got a t-shirt, although the website warned that if you did not sign up by the 22nd of Oct, you were not guaranteed one. They were long sleeved tech T’s, which I was very happy about. The only downside is that they are orange. At least you won’t get hit by a car while wearing one of these! 

The race was chip timed, but it was a strange wristband type of chip that you put on your shoe that I have never used before.  Hopefully it worked! I still have not gotten my official time!

The race started at 8:15. There was an option for a 5k, Half Marathon, Half Marathon Relay and Full Marathon (two loops). I am not sure what the official amount of people was, but the girl at the packet pickup told me she thought there were about 800 people, which is pretty small. Apparently this was the first year that this race was anything but a 5k. The trail was mostly flat, with a few gradual (and one not so gradual) hills. My initial goal was to treat this as a training run and to try to keep it under a 9 minute mile (less than 2 hours total).

I started at the front of the pack. People were passing me, which was fine, but I think it also makes me want to run faster. My first mile was 8:03. I remember thinking, “stop being a gazelle!” I thought that I needed to slow down so I would have a negative split and that there would be no way I could keep up this pace. But it felt surprisingly good. So I decided then and there that I would try to keep it under an 8:21 pace, which was my last race pace.

And that is what I did. The only mile that I had over an 8:21 was mile 5. I am not sure why, since it was not a particularly hilly mile. Nor was it as bad as miles 5.5 - 7.5 which were on a dirt/gravel road and had rocks, mud and puddles everywhere. The race was well supported. For the spectators, there were plenty of easy access viewing points. There was water every two miles, except between miles 4 and 8. There were Gu stops at miles 5 and 10. The only thing I did not see were any port-a-potties. Other than that, I would say this was a well-organized race.

I am not sure what my final official time was, since they still have not posted it online (the other only thing I would complain about for this race). However, my Garmin (which I didn’t stop right at the very end) put me at 1:48:21 and the time clock, which you can see in the photo below, put me at 1:48:10. I think that time should be pretty close, as I went over the chip timer pad pretty early on. I may have shaved 3 seconds off that time. Either way, it’s a NEW PR!

Using the time on my Garmin, this makes my average pace 8:13.

After the race, there was a band, turkey wraps, chips, sports drink, bananas, apples and cake. I partook in one of each. Of course that did not stop me from having a huge burrito a couple hours later! This was a good race in a great location and I would recommend it to anyone else looking for a fun 5k, half or full marathon.

What did I feel good about?

Pace-wise, I think that setting a goal and then sticking to it really works for me. I also counted the number of girls that were ahead of me when we got to the turn-around (16) and then as the rest of the race went by, my goal was to pass as many of them as I could (6). Even though this does not mean I was 10th, since many of the people starting after me may have still had a better time, this is another way to set goals and try to reach them.

Fuel: I usually do not use fuel on a half marathon and I did not carry any with me, but Gu was given out at mile 5 and around mile 8, I decided to try a “sip” of it. I only had two small mouthfuls, NOT the entire packet, which has made me feel sick before. It was good! The mocha flavor (with caffeine) actually is not too bad. Who knew?

Even though there were water stops, I carried my own water. I only went through about 10 oz. (out of the 16 I carried) but it was good to have it and know that I could get a drink when I needed to.

What would I do differently?

As you can see, I am wearing pants. Next time, NO PANTS! Also, my long sleeved shirt came off around mile 3, so I would probably bear the cold and go with no sleeves either. Maybe arm sleeves and gloves with shorts is the answer. I always mess up on clothing.

Have you run any races lately? Do you prefer big races or smaller ones? What fuel do you use when you run? Do you set fitness goals for yourself? What are they?

**All photos on this post were taken by my mother**


  1. Nice work on the PR! You have gotten so speedy, Miss! I am impressed! I can't wait to see how you do on marathon day!!

    I like middle sized races. Small races are sometimes unorganized! And I like spectators to keep it interesting!

    I use Gu, I like vanilla and chocolate. I don't eat the whole thing at once usually either. I take a bit here and there. Depends on my mood. That seems to work for me!

  2. Congrats on your PR!

    I do at least one (usually a 5K) race a month. As someone who mostly runs solo, I like running with other people. Cliff Shot Bloks are my fuel of choice lately.

  3. Congrats on a PR! i use GU chomps or clif shot bloks for races, they weem to go down and stay down. i love carrying my own water. So much easier than fighting your way through water stops and you can have it when you want it!

  4. Congrats on the PR! That's awesome. You're so speedy!!

    I ran a spur-of-the-moment 5K over the weekend. It was super hilly so I walked more than I wanted to but I still did it. :) Since I don't run for long amounts of time, I don't usually carry any fuel.

    I LOVE big races. As a slow runner, it can be hard to run small races where everyone is speedy and you're always at the back of the pack. Large races means lots of walkers which means I don't feel so bad about my slowness, hehe. :)

    My current fitness goal is to run a 5K without stopping. I've had a love/hate relationship with running and it's on the love side right now so I'm trying to keep at it and get better at running.

    Anyway, great job on the PR! I can't wait to see you rock your marathon.

  5. I'd love to get myself to the point where I just go "Hmmm. Half marathon? Sounds like a great training day."

    Glad it went so well!


Thanks for commenting! Any suggestions, tips or praise you have is always welcome!