The 2012 Securian Run Half Marathon

>> Monday, January 30, 2012

Saturday was the Securian Run Half Marathon (the 2nd race in the MDRA Grand Prix series that I signed up to race this year). Pharmie signed up to do the 10K, and Henry was going to go hang out with Auntie Steph and Uncle Jon.

I got our bottles ready early in the morning:

Yes, mine's the pink stuff. Shut it.

That's my "Roctane Drink" in my "Jen Harrison" bottle, and Nuun in Pharmie's QR CD0.1 bottle. Oh, and speaking of "Roctane Drink"... there'll be a giveaway of that in the next few weeks, along with some sweet shades...

Anyway, Pharmie and I got to the race and started taking off our winter jackets to leave in the car. Two nice folks (named Amanda and Jeremy) popped out of the car next to us in the ramp and said "Hey, we didn't know we be parking next to YOU! We follow your blog!" We chatted for a moment, and Amanda took a pre-race photo for us:

Yep! Rockin' the "Tutti Frutti" shorts for the race!

We ran into SOOOOO many other local "race buddies" as we walked around pre-race! I almost don't want to start listing off who we ran into because I'm sure I'd accidently miss 1 or 2 people! I warmed-up a bit (on a 21 degree and slightly breezy morning), and I found some porta-potties being set up for the Winter Carnival parade. Sweet! There were 50+ porta potties, and not a line in sight! I peed, and headed back to the starting line.

I bumped into LOTS of people I knew at the starting line, but I chatted with JMatt and Tom the most. If you're a local, you may have seen JMatt before. He races in a FULL SUIT sometimes. Here he is a few years ago finishing the TC Marathon in his suit:

And here's a photo that has both Tom and JMatt in it:

Tom with the shaved head, JMatt to the right, and... is that...
2x IM World Champ Macca in the middle?!? Why yes. Yes it is.

Their race plan? Start off around 6:45 - 7:00 / mile pace, and pick it up near the middle. That was pretty much my race plan, so I was going to stick with them!

"On your marks..... GO!!"

Off we went. We headed up the long, gentle hill along the river. JMatt looked at his Garmin near the end of the first mile and said to Tom, "Ok... NOW we're down to 6:45 pace..." We started a little strong and hit mile 1 in 6:38. We turned to head around Rice Park where the Winter Carnival takes place. We immediately saw fireworks and heard big booms! Everyone cheered! Unfortunately, they fired the fireworks again when we were less than 100 feet away from them, and JMatt and I nearly died from the BOOM! We hit mile 2 in 6:39 and got down to the river.

Photo from last year's race report when I ran with my camera
(it was sunnier this year)

We were chatting with each other and other runners now-and-then. We ran miles 3 and 4 in 7:02 and 7:03. I had hoped to keep all my miles under 7, but that wasn't bad. I have to admit... I WAS thinking about trying to up the pace. But I didn't know what I could do being I've been running less lately, and I didn't want to "blow up" before the end. Luckily, miles 5 and 6 were faster: 6:39 and 6:45.

We had been running out INTO the wind since mile 2. And there was a pack of runners forming behind us. In fact, the 1:30 pace group had fallen-in right on our heels. We were the "wind breakers" for everyone! JMatt joked that we needed to start a paceline and everyone needed to take their turn in the front.

A bit later, JMatt asked me "Steve, how are you feeling? You're our barometer here!" I smirked and said, "I'm OK... But I'm starting to think 'stupid' thoughts..." I think JMatt knew what I meant - I was thinking of speeding up a little. He said "Oh, I LIKE 'stupid thoughts...' Ha!"

During all of his, Henry was having a good time with Auntie Steph and Uncle Jon:

Henry feeling his cousin kicking in Steph's tummy (she's due in April)

Cheesy dudes!! :) Thanks for taking care of him Steph and Jon!

Anyway, back to the race...

JMatt and I (and maybe Tom, but I couldn't tell) took a gel around mile 6. After getting that down, we had a final long gentle-ish uphill to tackle before the turn-around. (It was partway up that hill that we got incorrectly turned around last year at this race making it only 11.6 miles. I was chatting with some folks near that point, and when I asked Kirt how he was doing, he said "Horrible! Where's the early turn-around this year?!" Ha!) I was going to work up that hill a bit. I slowly pulled to the lead of our pack, and slowly started to up the pace. We hit mile 7 in 6:45. I thought that was pretty good considering that long hill. Shortly after, we rounded the cone at the turn-around. That's when I started hammering. I found another gear. We were now running WITH the wind, and it felt like I had no wind-resistance at all; I was running the same speed as the wind. I was going to make this next mile FAST. I was pulling away from the pack I was leading. At mile 6, I was 1:48 behind my "best of all possible races" goal pace (which would have me finishing in 1:25:13, or 6:30 / mile average). I lost a little ground with my 6:45 mile 7, but I WAS going to take a bite out of that over this next downhill mile!

Sure enough, mile 8 clocked in at 6:08. "NICE!" But that good feeling didn't last long. Mile 9 was 6:48. "What? I didn't slow up THAT much!" I was a little disappointed, but I felt better as soon as I hit mile 10 in 5:43! So mile 9 was long, and mile 10 was short! (That's happened a lot at this race - the mile markers can be a little inconsistent.) If I was running 6:30s (my AMAZING race goal time), I would have been at 1:05:00 at mile 10. Well, I was only 1:14 behind that pace!

Side note on my "race:" Before the race, Michael told me that him and I were "called out" on Chad's blog. Both Michael and I blogged that we'd like to be around 1:28 with 1:25 being our "great day" goal. Chad called us sand baggers and said "I'm betting they'll both break 1:25." (The 3 of us all raced together at the Meet of the Miles.) But during the race, the BIGGER STORY FOR ME was that Michael and I were both doing the "Grand Prix" series. So the more people I beat in the Grand Prix, the better my scoring would be. At the turn-around, Michael was about 2-3 blocks in front of me. I tried to keep him in sight, but I was NOT gaining much on him. For the final 5 miles, I made him my rabbit.

Mile 11 was downhill, and it was fast too: 5:56! But after that mile, we leveled out and I was hurting. I was depressed that there were still 2 miles left. I gained a LITTLE on Michael, but not much. And I was pooped. I knew my next mile could be a bit slower.

Another photo from last year's race report,
in the middle of the "lonely stretch" before downtown.

Sure enough, mile 12 was 6:13 - still a good pace, but maybe not a pace that would let me catch Michael. The great news was that I KNEW I was going to "winter half marathon PR," and I was only 24 seconds behind my CRAZY goal of 1:25:13 (6:30/mile ave). For a moment, I thought I MIGHT even be able to break 1:25!!.....

.... until THAT hill.

There's this killer 1-block hill that runners have to climb to get back up into downtown with about a mile left. I was TRUDGING up that hill thinking "Nope... not going to BREAK 1:25... but there's Michael at the top! Still go for him!" I was now under a block behind Michael! (But yeah, I know... if I was about 2-3 blocks back at mile 7, and now under a block behind him at mile 12.3, I'm running out of time to pass him.) Rounding the second-to-last corner by the Farmer's Market, I was just over a half block back.

I pushed and pushed, and TRIED to catch Michael. But I couldn't get him. He got me by 9 seconds. Nine. Freakin'. Seconds. I did the final 1.1 miles (including that hill) in 6:58 (6:20 pace).


Steve Stenzel, #1215, 30, M, St. Paul
6:30.99 / mile pace
21 out of 830 overall
5 out of ?? in the 30-34 age group

5 race notes:

• It was a "winter half marathon" PR by nearly 3 minutes! I ran a 1:28:05 about 3 years ago in Rochester, and I WOULD have ran a very similar time to this 1:25:22 last year if the race hadn't been cut short. So officially, it's a "winter half marathon" PR by nearly 3 minutes! (My actual half marathon PR is 1:22.)

Guess what Michael's finishing time was. Just guess. Yep, Michael finished in E.X.A.C.T.L.Y. my "dream time" of 1:25:13. What are the odds?!? I would have LOVED to have made up those 9 seconds, but I'm super happy with how I did. Michael told me after the race that he knew "me and my 4:53 miler legs" were coming for him, so he knew HE had to work! I love that we worked off each other! He was surprised I got THAT close to him, and told me I must have had a KILLER second half. Which brings me to my next point....

The race wasn't a TRUE out-and-back, but doing some math based on my mile splits, I figured out just how much I negative split the race. I ran the first half in 44:31 (or 6:47 / mile), and I ran the second half in 40:51 (or 6:14 / mile). That's a pretty extreme negative spilt. And I KNOW the second half was so fast partly due to trying to catch Michael! (Along with the wind at my back.) So thanks for the pull, Michael!

I counted my foot-strikes twice throughout the race: once around mile 3-4, and once near mile 7 at the turn-around. Both times, I had 183-184 foot-strikes / minute, which is actually slightly on the high side. I used to be around 165 which was leading to some heel-striking issues, and 180 is ideal. So this was just fine; I wasn't over-striding in this race.

Shortly after I finished, JMatt came through the finishing chute. And Tom wasn't far behind him! (JMatt was within a minute of me, and Tom was within a minute of him!) I think we were all happy with the times we were able to throw down! Nice running with you guys!

I found Pharmie and she was happy with her 10K finish! She finished in 55:50 (9:00 / mile), which was good for 131st out of 358 overall! (Check out her blog for her race report.) We ran back to the car (freezing cold because we were covered in sweat but were no longer hot) and drove to pick up Henry. He had a good morning with Steph and Jon. He zonked out on the way back home:

Once we got home, I "refueled" with some amazing new technology..... technology that pumps the crust full of cheese:

I'll post race photos (of me in the "tutti frutti" shorts running with JMatt and Tom) when they come in! Thanks for reading!

Oh, and if you haven't entered the Gu and Pearl Izumi giveaway yet, click here to enter! I'll be picking 2 winners mid-week!

- CLICK HERE for my 2011 Securian Run Half Marathon Video.
- CLICK HERE for my 2011 Securian Run Half Marathon Race Report.
- CLICK HERE for my 2010 Securian Run Half Marathon Video.


Carolina John 7:15 AM, January 30, 2012  

Wow, a 1:25 only got you fifth in the age group? That's some serious competition! Good job Steve.

Christi 7:49 AM, January 30, 2012  

Congrats on a great race!

Question, when you count strides how do you do that and for how long? Are you counting each foot hitting the ground for a minute maybe?

Steve Stenzel 7:58 AM, January 30, 2012  


I count each foot (each step) for a minute, and I count to 50 . Counting past 50 is hard, so I count to 50, 50, 50, and then whatever more I can get in a minute. During this race, I counted back up to 33, which is 50+50+50+33 = 183.

A lot of people count 1 foot / minute and x2. That's easier. I just don't like "easy." :)

Christi 9:13 AM, January 30, 2012  

Thanks Steve! I will be trying that on my next run.

Coy Martinez 10:25 AM, January 30, 2012  

Congrats on the PR!! Great story too! I can't imagine touching that time. Well, my imagination could but not so sure about my actual legs :)

Chad 12:50 PM, January 30, 2012  

Steve, I had to call you out. You beat me at the Meet of Miles by 1 minute. I figured I'd run around 1:32 for the half and then I come to your site and see this, "6:52 / mile pace = 1:30:01 (what I REALLY hope to break)." Even your 1:28 winter PR seemed well within reach - which obviously it was.

Glad to see you smashed both of those times.

Steve Stenzel 1:39 PM, January 31, 2012  

Oh, BTW, regarding my 2nd "race note" - it MIGHT not have been Michael who said that I must have had a fast second half. I just re-read a comment in a BT thread about the race, and someone had told me that in the thread. I might have thought that was Michael... oops. In any case, at least one person said that I "really poured it on" in the second half. Sorry if I put words in your mouth that weren't yours, Michael! :)

Securian Winter Run 2:48 PM, January 31, 2012  

Thanks for the great play-by-play. You are HILARIOUS! And your baby is adorable.

Mike A 9:43 AM, February 02, 2012  

I agree on the mile markers. I was the 2:00 pacer and was right where I wanted to be at the turn with about 20 seconds banked for the climb on the way back. Then after mile 9 I was suddenly over goal. As a pacer you have to run based on the markers, so I sped up a bit. Suddenly after 10 I was WAY fast. I spent the next 3 miles slowing up to get back to where I belonged. I felt really bad for the runners in the group.

Anyway- Great report and nice race. I think I gave you a little shout out for the shorts when we met you on the course!

Alexandra 12:17 PM, February 02, 2012  

Congrats on the great run! And little Henry is so cute! :)

Alexandra 12:17 PM, February 02, 2012  

Congrats on the great run! And little Henry is so cute! :)

Rocco 8:29 PM, February 02, 2012  

Hi Steve. This was a fun report to read. I live a healthy dose of competition. I was pretty surprised to beat you. January is a really tough time to be in race mode. I bet you crush 1:23 in New Prague.

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