Rochester Half Marathon Race Report

>> Monday, August 27, 2012

Or, "Trying a New Race Strategy"

Or, "Crash and Burn Baby Burn"

I hit the road at 5:30 on Saturday for the Rochester Half Marathon. It was another "MDRA Grand Prix" series race.

Overly excited for 5:30 a.m.

I pulled into Rochester, found a free weekend parking ramp, and then found these:

Much. Better.

I did the normal stuff pre-race: I warmed up about a mile, stretched my tight muscles, had a PowerBar about 90 minutes pre-race, ate some Sharkies to keep me full, and popped a gel about 20-30 minutes pre-race.

Former student Jeremy and I weren't sure what this race was going to hold in store for us. Neither of us felt great, but we were both hoping for a decent race. (And for some Grand Prix points!)

Lining up, I introduced myself to Michael Bjornberg who I've seen at a TON of other races over the years (he's a Grand Prix racer too). A speedy looking guy told me he was hoping to finish in 1:16. And I noticed that I had "Rochester Multi-Sport Royalty" lined up just behind me: Mario Minelli, Joe Moyer, and Ruth Brennan-Morrey. I've known Mario for a few years, I've been seeing Joe and his wife at races for years, and I first saw Ruth race earlier this year: I saw her finish along side the speedy DUDES in the first 5K run at the Cinco DU Mayo Duathlon in 17:xx! She finished 4th OVERALL at that race.

We were all getting ready to run this loopy course:

"On your marks.... GOOOO!"

I was on the heels of the guy who had just told me he was hoping to run around 1:16, and there was an ARMY behind me. I was running in 2nd, and it felt the the rest of the racers were right on my tail. I eased up and let some people pass, because I felt like I MAYBE was going too fast.

• Mile 1: 5:59. "WTF STEVE?!?! THAT'S A BIT TOO FAST, DUMMY!"

Truth be told, I had thought about going out pretty hard at this race. At the New Prague Half Marathon where I unexpectedly set a PR 3 months ago, I felt GREAT all race, and I kept holding back a little because I didn't believe I could maintain that pace. But even if I attacked this race, sub-6 was too fast to start off.

I chatted with Eric P in the 2nd mile (someone I'd seen at a lot of races), and we found out we were both shooting for 1:22 - 1:23. "Let's get down to 1:22, and let's catch Kirt up there" Eric told me. Kirt Goetzke (another Grand Prix racer) went out hard and was running in 2nd. Nice to meet you Eric, and nice chatting with you!

We were rarely running a straight line. Here's what the first 2 miles looked like on my Garmin:

• Mile 2: 6:06. "Still a bit fast. Are you going to have another surprisingly awesome run like at New Prague?!?"

A few people passed me, and one of them was Ruth. She gave me a typical triathlete warning of "on you left" when she was ready to make her move. I told myself to "race for Grand Prix points" around this point in the race - I wanted to keep Eric and Kirt in my sights to try to catch them in the final few miles. Honestly, I thought I could get another 1,000 points by being the first MDRA Grand Prix racer like I was at New Prague.

• Mile 3: 6:11. "Better. But I'm feeling a little worked."

Eric was about a block in front of me, and Kirt was about 2 blocks up there. I was running in about 7th overall. I got a friendly "GO STEVE" from Pattie who was working an aid station! Thanks Pattie!

• Mile 4: 6:23. "I'm starting to hurt. Oh... goodie... here comes a long uphill."

We had a long, steady climb, and then we got to go down the hill on the other side. But that hill took more out of me than it should have. I was NOT having a "surprisingly awesome run" like at New Prague. This was going to get ugly.

• Mile 5: 6:41. "Damn. The first 5 miles have gotten slower and slower. That never happens. And when it does, I'm toast."

We climbed another longer hill before turning around at the top and coming back down. Kirt was running with Ruth, and as they were descending on the other side of the street as I was still climbing, Kirt shouted something like "Just cheat Steve and get over here!!" Not a bad idea. Not. A bad. Idea. (I didn't do it though.) I cheered and threw my hands in the air for former student Jeremy when I saw him on this little out-and-back.

I climbed this hill better than the one at mile 4. At mile 4, I felt like hell and I was wallowing in self pity. Now at mile 5.5, I told myself to "work the hill." Looking at my pace from my Garmin, you can see where the hill at mile 4 killed me, and you can see that the hill at mile 5.5 seems invisible because it didn't affect my pace:

• Mile 6: 6:31.
• Total time at mile 6.55 (halfway): 41:28. "That's on pace for a 1:22:56 finish, but I doubt I can hold on to this." (T.W.S.S.)

I took a gel just before an aid station at mile 7 HOPING that would help, and I saw Mario right behind me. (I was surprised [and a little proud] that I hadn't looked back over my shoulder until that point!)

• Mile 7: 6:34. "Well, my pace is leveling off, but it needs to be faster!"

Mario passed me back in the wooded area (to put me into about 10th), and he said "only about 5 miles left!" I responded "that's about 4 miles too many!"

• Mile 8: 6:36. "My feet hurt. My right side has a major stitch. But my heel feels OK. And my heart does NOT feel like it's about to explode through my chest."

If it's not one thing, it's another. How rarely does it all come together. It DID for me at New Prague, but it wasn't happening on Saturday.

I was trying to tell myself to let Mario go! I was holding onto his tail, and I needed to just ease up a little so I didn't die. My competitive nature wanted to keep him in my sights, but my body was not happy with me doing that! At the next mile marker, I told myself I got to walk.

• Mile 9: 6:24. "Time to walk."

I completely stopped for just a brief second back there on the winding wooded trails to "do something" at the side of the trail. That made me feel a little better, but it wasn't magical. I walked for less than a minute, and Joe Moyer came running past. We wished each other well, and I started slowly jogging behind him.

Miles 8 through 11 were pretty secluded on a constantly winding trail:

I think I learned I like STRAIGHT trails where I can see people in front of me.

Soon there was an aid station, and I walked through it for just a few seconds while dumping water all over my face, chest, and back.

• Mile 10: 7:19. "Not too bad for having a walk break."

DID ANYONE ELSE SMELL THE GUY SMOKING POT UNDER THE BRIDGE AROUND MILE 10? Come on dude - it's 9 a.m. You might have a problem. And that's not a smell you want to smell when you're working hard.

A super buff, tan dude passed me to put me in 12th or 13th. Later looking at the results, I saw that this buff and tan dude was from Arizona. That makes sense. Everyone from Arizona either looks just like that or is over 65. In my mind.

• Mile 11: 6:42. "I'm walking at the next aid station again... don't try to stop me."

I saw a group of people up ahead along the trail, but then I was depressed when I realized that they were NOT an aid station. I would look over my shoulder every few minutes to make sure I was holding off the guy behind me (who WAS back there!). I knew I wasn't going to catch Kirt or Eric (other Grand Prix racers), and I wanted to make sure no other Grand Prix racers caught me.

I walked through the next aid station when it finally appeared and grabbed 4 cups. Yeah, 4 - I needed SOMETHING. I accidentally splashed the final lady handing water at the aid station. She gasped a little, and I felt bad and started apologizing. I think she felt bad she gasped, and said "No, no, no, don't worry... this comes with volunteering! Good luck!!"

• Mile 12: 7:10. "Alright. Just keep it steady through the finish. Soon this will all be over." (Which is what I'm sure Rhea Perlman is thinking during sex with Danny DeVito.)

We headed towards downtown along that little river seen in the map, and we had some short little climbs here-and-there. We climbed up a little hill to a bridge and turned to cross the bridge. I trudged up the hill and across the bridge. That guy behind me seemed to be closing!

Here's my pace chart from the last few miles, and it shows a lot of what I've been talking about:

(The dip before the final walk break was when I saw the people who
I THOUGHT were the aid station - depressing.)

• Mile 13: 6:32. "Where's that finish line...."

We turned into a park, and suddenly there was the finish line 60 feet in front of me. I was glad this was over - this was a lot of suffering. I held off the guy behind me by about 10 seconds.


Steve Stenzel, 31, St. Paul, Minn

6:32.5 / mile pace
• 13th out of 312 overall
• 12th out of 193 males
• 3rd out of 25 in the 30-34 age group

Quite consistent from 1-7 (besides hill), and then CHOPPY from 8-13. That tells my story right there.

Joe Moyer found me in the finishing area and said "Man, we've all had races like that - that sucks." (Remember, he was the one that passed me when I first stopped to walk.)

I worked my way back along the race course for a bit as I headed back to my car. Just before breaking away from the trail, I saw former student Jeremy and Michael B back-to-back just 300 meters from the finish! Jeremy got Michael by 4 seconds - nice work guys!! And Jeremy got 3rd in his AG! Congrats!!

I got to my car and snapped a photo that summed up my race:


I stretched for a bit before hopping in the car for the 90 minute drive home. I iced my heel for 30 minutes on the way home:

I put my ice on ice so it'd stay icy. Genius.

Driving and icing.


• My slow, agonizing death in this race was mainly because of 2 things. First, I went out too hard. "People" say the fastest way to race is even splits or positive splits, but for me, it's usually negative splits. If I go out too fast, it's over. Second, I thought this race could be like New Prague. But it's made itself very clear that New Prague was one of those once-in-a-decade everything-falls-into-place sort of races, and this race was not.

• I got my worst side stitch in recent memory from lack of core work recently. Just over 5 weeks ago, I tweaked my right shoulder by carrying Henry around all day (OK, not really all day) in his car seat. Since then, it's hurt to do chest or shoulder exercises, so I've cut them all out. It's also hurt to do planks and some other core work, so I've cut those out too. All this seems to prove my 2008 theory of "Want to get faster? Work on your core!"

• Ruth finished 2nd OVERALL in 1:19 at the race!! Beast!

• My heel felt FINE during the race, and it still feels good! I beat the SHIT out of my feet (there may be photos shortly...), my lower back is sore, and my knees ached for a day after the race (which is unusual for me). But I'm happy my heel is in check! I'll take it easy for a bit and hopefully get back at it shortly!

Hugs from Henry out to eat to celebrate his Uncle Dave's birthday yesterday!


Mario 8:13 AM, August 27, 2012  

I knew you picked it up in mile 8! I was hoping that you needed a someone to run with by the way you stuck with me for a bit. Despite your issues, you still finished pretty good.

Steve Stenzel 8:31 AM, August 27, 2012  

Ha! Yeah Mario, I TRIED to keep up for a while... but then I faded. Nice race on Saturday!

SteveQ 10:23 AM, August 27, 2012  

Just had someone find my blog by searching Google Images for "Speedo Guy Butt Start." I checked... it led to a photo of you, so, ummm, thanks?

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