New Prague Half Marathon Race Report

>> Monday, May 14, 2012

I hit the road for the 45 minute drive to New Prague at 5:40 on Saturday morning. As I got close, the countryside started to look like this...

... and I knew I could like this race! These are the kinds of roads I grew up on!

I got my race packet and then did this:


I actually tweeted that photo, and then a twitter follower tweeted "Mental note: Don't ask to borrow Steve's phone." Love it. :)

I ran into Jeremy, a former student who I talked into signing up for the MDRA "Grand Prix." We chatted for a while.

I also ran into Scott and his wife pre-race. I don't know Scott that well, but he's got a big smile, and I usually like "big smilers." Scott was the guy who was really hurting at the end of the Human Race 8K who I was TRYING to catch:

Scott and me at the 8K in March

We were both wearing the SAME thing for this race. Scott was going to treat it as a long training run without going too hard, and shoot for around 1:30. I was shooting for sub-1:25, so I was hoping I could finish in front of him and earn more Grand Prix points.

I ran into lots of "race buddies," and Jeremy and I worked our way to the starting line.

A cool, overcast morning - PERFECT for racing!

I was hoping to run the first half with "one gear left," and then I wanted to really race hard for the last half. I wanted to enjoy myself, but I was going to make myself suffer too. My brother-in-law Mike let me skip his college graduation ceremony to do this race, so I HAD to race hard to make it worth while!! (I met up with him after the ceremony to celebrate with family.)

We lined up and got ready to race. Here was the course we were about to run:

Out of town with a big (boring) 10 mile loop.

I took off in the top 10. I didn't know if that was crazy or not... should I be up there? First, second, and third were already way out there on their own, and a big pack of us soon took up position vying for 4th. About a half mile in, we had spread out a bit, and I was running in 7th.

Oh, and a cool thing about running a "small town race" is that there wasn't a biker who was leading us. No, not a motorcycle cop, a regular car, or even a cop car. There was a big ole firetruck with it's lights on leading the way! Awesome!!

MILE 1: 6:17. "Good starting pace! Nice place to be!"

Over the next mile, I passed a guy to move into 6th. I still didn't know if this was where I should be or not. I felt good, but I didn't know if I was pushing the pace too much.

Coming up to the second mile marker, there was a 6-8 piece polka band playing on the side of the road! I gave them all a wave, and they were all smiles!

MILE 2: 6:12. "Really? I'm HOLDING this?"

We had a bigger climb in front of us. First was WAY the hell out there. I climbed and ran up along side of 5th place. We chatted for a moment and knew we'd maybe hit the breeze a bit more in the closing miles. But we both agreed that it was a GREAT day for a race!

MILE 3: 6:17. "OK, time to assess everything... can you maintain this?"

We curved to the south, and I told myself to ease up a little up the next hill. But it didn't show in my next mile split...

MILE 4: 6:17. "Really?!? OK, so my 1:22:51 half PR would have had WHAT for mile splits?... Damn it, I hate doing math during a race!"

I realized my PR was at about 6:20 pace. I was NOT thinking PR yet, but I WAS curious as to what I could do. I was still just a few seconds behind 5th who was just a few seconds behind 4th.

MILE 5: 6:13. "These 5 miles have been fast, and all within 5 seconds of each other! That's a GOOD SIGN!"

MILE 6: 6:14. "What was that thing that Uncle John was talking about at Easter? ...about races where it just feels 'right?'"

My wife's Uncle John (former collegiate runner) and I had a nice chat about running on Easter. He talked about those runs where everything just feels dialed in, and you hit the finish line having given it your all, but you still feel fantastic. I had no idea what he was talking about. He spoke of races / runs where everything just comes together and it feels like you could go forever. I was miles from the finish line, but I thought I might be experiencing that for the first time.

MILE 7: 6:10. "Good God. I'm still doing this!"

At this point, we'd made another turn, and we were running the south edge of the course. I ran up along side of 5th place again, and we said hi. The sun had JUST come out, but it was at our backs, so we weren't going to start overheating.

MILE 8: 6:18. "When can you make your move?!?"

We were still running in the middle of nowhere on rolling hills. The mile 8 marker was at a short flat spot between 2 decent little uphill stretches. We were getting ready to make the turn back north towards town. I actually had a smile on my face when we made that turn. I was 8.5 miles into a 13.1 mile race, but I felt like I was having one of those "perfect races" that Uncle John was talking about. Don't get me wrong: I was breathing hard, I didn't know if I'd "bonk," I had a right-side side-stitch, and my feet were killing me, but it still just felt amazing.

I told myself at the next mile marker (mile 9), I'd try to start reeling in the guy in front of me. But just after rounding a corner around mile 8.5, I looked back for the first time all race. There was an orange jersey about 60 seconds back!! That was Scott! He must have been having a great race too - he told me he was going to keep it easy and do a 1:30 "training run," but he was well within striking distance. So I made my move right away. "Let's see what I can do..."

MILE 9: 6:21. "OK, that was our first turn into the wind. Keep this as your slowest mile, and you're golden. You just got 5th place, now go for 4th."

I came up on 4th place soon, and I "tucked in" behind him for a moment to have him help break the wind. I shot around to pass, and he teased: "It's about time you passed! I've heard you back there for a while!" And as I pulled away, he said "Go get her up there!" That's right... HER. Third place overall was female, but she was WAY up there. I laughed and said, "Oh, I'd LOVE to!" ...meaning I'd love to be able to make up that much ground.

Oh, and being I was running into the wind on a cool 50-degree morning, my penis had gone a numb. Yep ladies, it happens. (And it's happened a few times to me in the past - here's a shocking account of the first time I BADLY froze my junk.) Being my 1970s track shorts had probably run out of elastic in the mid-80s, my "stuff" was hanging a bit low and flopping around. It's not uncomfortable, it's just that it's not held TIGHTLY against my body. So it was sticking out all "exposed" to the elements. "Whatever.... this is shaping up to be a great race. Stop thinking about your penis."

MILE 10: 6:11. "Steve, your total time right now is 1:02:35 at the 10-mile marker. You've ran five 10 mile races over the last 2.5 years, and your 1st and 3rd 10-mile races were SLOWER than your 10-mile spilt at this race! You're having a 'magical' run!! ENJOY THIS, BUT THROW THE HAMMER DOWN AND GO HARD!! What can you do?!?!" I was practically laughing out loud at this point at this insane race going down!

MILE 11: 6:08. "PR, here I come! Hold on to this suffering..."

I was NOT making up any ground on the female in front of me. I glanced back at about mile 11.5 (while making a turn) to see if I could see Scott back there in the orange. The two guys who I had passed a few miles back were still just 30 seconds back, and sure enough, I saw Scott in the orange just a bit behind them! I had to hold him off for the sake of earning more MDRA "Grand Prix" points!!

Shortly after that corner was the slowest I ran all race. We had (another) slight uphill where we rounded another corner to come up to mile-marker 12. I was kinda "stomping" and not running well. I hit the mile marker ready to use the downhill back into town, and ready to kill that last mile!

MILE 12: 6:10. "JUST GO!!"

I used the downhill well. I waved at the old lady in the parka standing next to the cop. I ran past a few groups of people on their cool-down jog after running the 5K. I was hauling ass. And my penis was feeling better.

Near the final turn, I looked back just to make sure I was going to hold off the 2 guys that I had passed along with Scott from the Grand Prix series. They were all back there, but they were not going to catch me.

MILE 13: 5:23. "Holy cats. This is a hell of a race!

I booked it to the finish, bent over to catch my breath for a minute, and cheered in the runners behind me.


Steve Stenzel
31, M, St. Paul

1:20:54 chip time
6:10.3 / mile pace
4th out of 356 overall
1st out of 20 in the 30-35 age group

That's a 2 minute PR on a HILLY and CERTIFIED course! I was thrilled!!

I talked with the 2 guys who finished just behind me - the guy 2 spots behind me (50 seconds back) was doing the MDRA "Grand Prix" too! So it was GOOD I caught him and stayed ahead of him! I saw Scott in the orange jersey coming to the finish in the distance for 7th place overall, and I soon realized that it was NOT Scott!!! That wasn't Scott chasing me down! He was farther back there! But this guy gave me a good push!

I cheered former student Jeremy into the finish line AND A NEW PR!!

And Scott was just behind him:

This is the REAL Scott in the orange jersey! :)

On the drive to go party with my brother-in-law post race, I had to stop at Taco Bell to get changed and take "Hobo bath." Here's a photo of all my clothes on the floor of the Eagan Taco Bell bathroom:

And then on my way to Wisconsin, "Life is a Highway" by Tom Cochrane came on the radio:

I've learned I can NOT have a bad day when I hear that song, and apparently it's retroactive to the beginning of the day even if I hear that song at 11:09 am! :) So I turned it up and (poorly) sang along with the 1/3 of the words I knew.

What a great day.


- Take out my fastest mile (which was the final mile), and all of my other mile splits were within 13 seconds!! That consistency helped make that great race possible. I don't know how I did that on those hills!

- Even though I was racing hard, I was waving, smiling, and talking to EVERYONE! I waved and thanked most police officers. Around mile 7ish, I cut quick to the right to give a high-5 to a little boy and girl. I cheered for the swim team who was "hosting" the mile 10 aid station. I was so chatty, and I loved it! :) I HATE racing too seriously.

- I chafed the inside of my butt crack pretty badly. It wasn't from the shorts... it was from my butt cheeks rubbing on each other. It looked like a bad diaper rash (yes, I found a way to look at it), and it felt horrible. I NEARLY used some of Henry's diaper cream on Saturday night, but instead I just pushed my boxers up my crack a bit while I slept. That actually helped quite a bit. Everything feels much better now!

- Finally, a big congrats to Mike for graduating from college!! I got to celebrate with him after the race, but here he was just before I saw him... he's with his nephew and niece: our little Henry, and 3-week old Evie:

Congrats Mikey!!

Back with more on this race soon, including what I think helped me blow this race out of the water. I have a few thoughts, but I'm pretty sure I know why I was able to do so much better than I thought. Back with that shortly!

p.s. Here's my Examiner write-up on the race, and there's a slideshow in that link, so check it out.


Lora Abernathy 7:24 AM, May 14, 2012  

Hey, congrats on that time on that terrain.

Angela and David 8:11 AM, May 14, 2012  

Congrats again! I'm the woman who introduced myself to you at the finish. Great to meet you!

TriMOEngr 8:13 AM, May 14, 2012  

Helluva race for sure! Love it when it all comes together like that. Praying to feel like that when racing someday (even without the wicked fast time).

M. Egge,  8:38 AM, May 14, 2012  

Exciting race report! Congrats! This race was my first 13.1 -- very fun to read your account.

Carolina John 8:51 AM, May 14, 2012  

Wow, great race Steve! Congrats on the PR, I know they are hard to come by at those speeds.

Bob Wolter 9:02 AM, May 14, 2012  

Congrats on the PR and a great race! I am the guy you passed at during mile 9. A friend I run with told me to check out your blog for a race recap. Saturday was a "perfect race" for me too, a 4 minute PR, thanks you for pushing me while I was trying to hold you off.

Congrats again on the race!

Unknown 9:38 AM, May 14, 2012  

Great race, Steve! Your race report was exciting to read. It's amazing that you remember what was going on mile by mile - makes me feel like I was actually there! :)

SteveQ 10:19 AM, May 14, 2012  

Congrats on 4th! I've had that butt chafing in 100 mile races and I've tried everything to avoid it (including "Boudreau's Butt Paste!") but nothing seems to help much. And I know about those "days when it all just comes together;" I've had 5 or 6 of them in 600 races... and that's enough to keep me going.

Meredith 10:51 AM, May 14, 2012  

A little Vaseline up the butt crack before a race does the trick, FYI.

Great job on a great race. I love unexpected PRs.

Steve Stenzel 12:25 PM, May 14, 2012  

Bob!! Congrats on a great race yourself! You and the guy right behind you really pulled me through those first few miles - that's for the pace-setting!!!

Joe 2:18 PM, May 14, 2012  

Congrats, Steve! Hell of a race. Most importantly, I'm glad your penis got better.

Oh, and I've had one race like that. Much slower than yours, but it was a half marathon and I got 11 miles of perfection (relative to my training). Enjoy the feeling!

Kathy 8:20 PM, May 14, 2012  

you might want to check some articles that user BarryP has written on running at Slowtwitch. My experience (and that of others, so not just N=1) is that people are finding after lots of frequent slow runs (6 days week) you find yourself PR'ing even though you're not running tempo. I have found that in my last 2 races and I'm not alone. Check out his articles. they're very interesting.

Katie 8:06 PM, May 15, 2012  

holy cats indeed! congratulations!

scottyd 10:19 PM, May 15, 2012  

Steve, nice run! Congrats on the PR! I wish I had been chasing you, perhaps next time. That's good the thought of me chasing you served as motivation.

I was surprised how beat up my legs felt on what was supposed to be a hard training run. I am glad I look better in this finish photo than Human Race.

As an aside, Abby and I did not think it was cold. In fact, by mile 9 we thought it was already starting to get hot. You might want to consider modifying your story on that one. : -)

Nichole Porath 10:05 AM, May 17, 2012  

Steve, stumbled upon your blog through Chad Austin's link -- love it! I was the "her" you were trying to catch :). Super funny to actually read a blog entry and see yourself mentioned (never had that before :)) -- great race, maybe we'll see each other out on the road sometime?

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