The Inaugural Minneapolis Halloween Half Marathon

>> Monday, October 30, 2017

Yesterday was the first running of the Minneapolis Halloween Half Marathon. My sister-in-law Steph and I decided to extend our training for the TC 10 Mile 4 weeks ago and do this race.

Me and Steph.

30 degrees when I woke up, with a windchill of 22. AT LEAST IT WAS DRY!
(We had snow/rain/sleet all day the day before!)

A MAJOR porta-potty row! Steph walked right in to one, and I just had to wait 15 seconds!

Traditional pre-race gross selfie.

I dropped my coat and pants at the car, and Steph used the bag drop. We were already impressed with how well organized everything was at this race - it did NOT feel like the first year of this event. We wished each other luck and I headed for the start of the race. I bumped into sassy Shannon on the way:

Yes, I was heading the the start of the race with my camera. I was going to snap pictures throughout. I wanted to race hard, but I also wanted to have fun.

I kept telling my family "I don't know if I'll be 5th or 50th" at this race. I had no idea how many people would be racing, and how deep the field would be. It was even hard to tell at the start because the 10K and Half Marathon started together. I was surprised to see it WIDE open near the starting line. No one was trying to get up to the front. I spotted a "fast" looking guy, and he said he was hoping to maybe start at 1:25 pace and work down to 1:20 pace. I told him that was my goal too, so HEY, NOW I HAD A GOAL! (I had been saying I'd probably run 6:30s which is 1:25:09, but I also figured I could be faster than that.) Also, with such few people at the front of this race, I knew I could be going out hard! I'm fine letting 50 people who are faster than me go on ahead, but if I COULD possibly be in a small lead pack, I'll generally try to stick with them more. HERE GOES NOTHING!

A bird caught in a 6-pack holder during the national anthem.

As I mentioned in the paragraph above, note how people seemed scared to
move too far up! This was right as the race was getting ready to start.

Moments before the start. Yep, I was in the front row, RIGHT in the middle!

We all counted down from 10, and then we took off!!!!!

Two blocks into the race. We had FIVE lead cyclists! And a lead police car in front of them.

I was in 2nd before mile 1, and I held up my camera and said "SMILE!"
These 3 people right behind me would pass me shortly. The smiley guy
right behind my head was the one I talked with pre-race.

Turned to head over the Mississippi (hill in distance), now running in 4th.

Running back along the river near downtown MPLS around mile 2, back in 6th.
I would hold this position for a while - I saw NO ONE behind me.

SIDENOTE: the leader and the guy in front of me had great legs and butts!

So as I figured being I was running near the front, I was going out FAST. I had to keep telling myself to "let them go" and make sure I was running my own race. Here were my first 2 miles:

• MILE 1: 3:06 + 3:02 = 6:09
• MILE 2: 3:09 + 2:59 = 6:09

Yeah, I should NOT have seen a sub-3:00 half mile split that early in the race!

Nothing changed in the next few miles: I stayed back in 6th and everyone kept slowly spreading out.

• MILE 3: 3:08 + 3:10 = 6:18
• MILE 4: 3:01 + 3:08 = 6:09

Suddenly, I moved up a spot because the 1 female in front of me turned around at the 10K turnaround! She was the overall 10K winner in 37:24:

White sign in the road is the 10K turnaround, and she's coming back with her lead biker.
(With 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the half lined up in front of me.)

Farther up the road. First place was GONE, and you
can see 2nd, 3rd, and 4th spread out ahead of me.

Starting the big climb under I94...

...Still climbing towards Franklin...

...Still climbing after Franklin...

...Finally getting close to the "summit" a few blocks past Franklin.
You can see the yellow speck of 4th place up there just around the curve.

We hit mile 5 near the top of that hill, and I knew that would be a nasty slow half-mile split:

• MILE 5: 3:11 + 3:26 = 6:38

The road leveled off, and now I was on my normal training grounds (I live just a mile across the river into St. Paul). Here's a shot near the start/end of the Greenway Trail, which (depending on what way I'm headed) is either 1.5 or 3.5 miles from home on my normal running route:

We were spreading out - it was getting lonely.

I was ready to see my family up ahead! I was getting hot (I'd had my hat off since mile 2), so I was going to throw them my hat and gloves. First, they saw the leader go by MINUTES before anyone else. Then they saw 2nd and 3rd go by side-by-side:

Near the Lake Street Bridge across the Mississippi.

Then they saw me! Henry told me I was in 5th place and
I got high-fives from my boys and niece and nephew!

Jon's pic of me.

I missed this upcoming high-five from Charlie,
and I heard him start whining RIGHT away. Oops. Sorry buddy!

Flat roads south of Lake. And note the snow still plastered to
the trees on the right from the wet snowfall the day before!

I took 2 more selfies while racing. This was the best one.
You ain't seeing the other. You're welcome.

I ate a GU around mile 7 as the road was curving right. I cut to the left side
of the road to throw my wrapper in a trash can. Here's the proof I didn't litter. :)
(The trash can was right between those 2 arrows I added.)

Up one final little hill before turning around.

• MILE 6: 3:21 + 3:14 = 6:35 (that mile started as we were still finishing up the Franklin hill)
• MILE 7: 3:11 + 3:15 = 6:26

So my splits were slowing up a little. Early on after going out hard, I figured this might be how it goes. And I told myself to get a good number of miles in the bag that were under 6:30 pace, and then see if I can still hold 6:30s to the finish. That'd put me well under 1:25.

Here's when I was nearing the turnaround (big truck facing me in the street ahead), with 4th place running back towards me:

Two Care Bears nearing the Lake Street Bridge.

• MILE 8: 3:13 + 3:10 = 6:24

Three things happened after the turn-around. First, we headed back into a wind, which we'd now be doing until mile 12.5. That slowed me up. (It wasn't cold, it was just defeating.) Second, I got depressed at how much was left. At first I thought "Mile 8 - just 5 miles left! Yay!" But then it quickly became "Oh, but 5 miles left of the 10 mile a few weeks back was still along the river. That was a LONG way from the finish yet. Damn." And third, being I was feeling defeated, I basically conceded 2 spots to the 2 guys I saw running not far behind me at the turn-around. I starting thinking "Well, 7th is still decent," because I didn't think I'd be able to hold on.

I was excited to see my family again:

Me coming up from under the bridge in the distance.

I made sure to NAIL both boys with a good high five this time!
Jon and his kids were across the street waiting for Steph.

Jon said "Who wants a snack?" and he was SWARMED!!

Flat empty roads, with lots of racers coming the other way.

Steph was EASY to spot in head-to-toe orange!

Spunky Shannon was just behind Steph. (And Shannon's hubby was on his bike cheering too!)

Steph coming in for high fives back at the kids!

Running off.

Jon's photo of the 4 kids sipping hot cocoa! With my wife with a latte in the background.

Steph running back 2 miles later, with the kids waiting for more high fives.

Go Steph!

Guy running a half marathon in a parka on the left. It was just above freezing,
and there were all levels of "warmth" out there. I saw a few ski masks too!

A pack of Waldos heading out around mile 5 as I'm nearing the mile 10 marker.

• MILE 9: 3:12 + 3:18 = 6:31
• MILE 10: 3:14 + 3:10 = 6:25

I was feeling a LITTLE less depressed. I was starting to figure what my finish time could be, and I knew I could be close to my 2nd fastest half marathon which I thought was about 1:22:50. (My fastest was 1:20:something, and I had NOOO dreams of hitting that.) I really tried to book it down the Franklin Ave hill as I knew we had one final nasty climb after that:

Downhill past Franklin heading towards I94.

• MILE 11: 3:04 + 3:16 = 6:21 (first half was downhill under Franklin)

Screenshot from a quick video race buddy Evan took
of me as I came up the NASTY final hill under 35W.

Elevation profile. Mile 5 is up the Franklin hill, and mile 12 is up under 35W.

• MILE 12: 3:14 + 3:23 = 6:37

Those were SLOW splits so far into a race because of that final hill seen in the elevation chart above. I was now 90% sure I'd be able to post my 2nd fastest half marathon, and I also hadn't completely written off being able to catch 4th place! Here we are (still climbing a bit) passing 10K runners to the right, and the bright yellow speck is 4th place 2 blocks ahead of me:

A quick downhill by the Guthrie before turning to cross the Stone Arch Bridge.
The yellow speck near the middle of the road is 4th place.

GAINING on 4th place on the bridge!

STILL GAINING on 4th place! But the finish was just around the curve up there.
I couldn't catch him. I needed another half mile.

The guy in front of me finished, turned around, pointed at me, and smiled. I knew what he was saying. I finished and he high fived me and said "Man, I KNEW you were coming! I was trying to hold you off!" I finished just 11 seconds behind him and I thanked him for being my rabbit. I think it was a mutually beneficial relationship that made us both faster.


Steve Stenzel, 36, M, St. Paul

6:15 pace
5th out of 744 overall
3rd out of 56 in the 35-39 M age group

(Garmin: 12.85 miles, 6:22 pace.)


• About my only complaint for this race was that everyone clocked it as being short. Everyone I talked to had it at 12.85 to 12.95 miles. Rick Recker certified it, and he messaged me the afternoon of the race. He's not sure what happened. NO ONE REALLY CARES BECAUSE WE ALL GOT FAST TIMES, but it sounds like they're still trying to figure out what happened. The race admitted something was off by 0.2 miles in an email later in the day post-race. Starting around mile marker 3, I'd hit the mile marker at x.94 miles (meaning I'd hit the mile 4 marker when my Garmin said 3.94 miles). Then later in the race (maybe just after the turn-around?), it suddenly dropped to x.82 miles at the markers - it didn't slowly "work its way down" to that. So something was off. Oh well.

• Officially, this is my 2nd fastest half marathon! My PR is 1:20:54 from 2012, and my 2nd fastest was 1:22:51 from 2010. If I add 0.2 miles at pace, I "should have" finished in 1:23:09, which would have been my 3rd fastest. (I think I've ran a lot of 1:25s, a 1:26 or 2, a 1:28, and a 1:29.)

• I turned around to check over my shoulder SOOO many times at this race. I almost never do that. But I didn't want to totally leave the guy in front of me and then be in the middle of NOTHING. In the end, I was 11 seconds behind 4th place, and about 90 seconds ahead of 6th place. The winner was over 6 minutes ahead of me in 1:15!

• Steph and I loved this race. The course was great: fun, pretty, but not too easy. It was well organized. There were cones ALL over marking the course (see all my photos above!). The water stop volunteers were enthusiastic (I got BIG CHEERS when I threw my cup in the trash can at a stop around mile 7). Bag drop was a cinch. The announcer was doing a great job. Etc, etc, etc. There was NO sign of this being the first year of this race. The half had 744 runners, the 10K had 443, and the 5K had nearly 1,000, and everything seemed to go off smoothly.

• I didn't hurt too bad after this race. In fact, I hurt a LOT more after the TC 10 Mile 4 weeks ago. I only have 2 possible explanations for this. Either the 10 Mile got my body used to running hard and suffering for a while (not super likely, but possible), or there's a big difference in 100% effort and 98% effort. The last mile of the TC 10 Mile was ALLLL out. I was hurting and still gunning for glory. The last mile of this race was hard, but I didn't go into an all-out sprint. That SLIGHT difference in effort maybe did a lot for my tight calves and beat-up feet. My calves were just a BIT tight, and my quads were a little sore. But I felt good overall!

• Speaking of "injuries" (or at least "aches"), my sore ankle held up FINE. I didn't think about it ONCE during the race, and it felt FINE that evening and the next day. Yay! I still think I'm going to take 1 or 2 weeks off to let it rest up a bit more.

I jogged to my car, put on another layer, and ran back to cheer on the rest of the finishers:

A unicorn finishing the half.

View of Father Hennepin Bluff Park from the Stone Arch Bridge.

Downtown and St. Anthony Falls from the bridge.

Steph coming in the distance!

Go Steph!! She was going to be WELL under 2 hours for the first time!

She said the bridge just seemed to go on forever. I felt that too. :)

The crowd This woman went wild did nothing as Steph entered the chute.
Just around the corner to the finish!

Steph officially ran a 1:55:58, which was amazing!! She had 12.90 miles on her Garmin, so she would have still be EASILY sub-2 if she went the distance. (Around 1:58.) She worked her BUTT off this fall fitting in workouts whenever she could to be able to post this PR! She finished 301 out of 744 and just outside of the top 1/5 of all females! Nice work, Steph!!

We walked back to the car, Steph got some weird foot/toe cramps, and we headed home. The 4 kids were all playing pretty well at my place, so Steph and I chatted with her hubby Jon for a bit before going upstairs to see my wife and the kids. Thanks for spending the morning racing with me, Steph! And thanks for watching the kids Jon and Pharmie!

Now for a few days (or more) of rest.



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