Race Report: 2021 Moustache Run Half Marathon

>> Monday, November 29, 2021

One of my top 10 memories from a race happened at mile 4 of this race, so be sure not to miss it!

After not being able to race a half marathon at the end of October, I finally got to fit one in this past weekend! And it barely happened.

Henry is COVID positive in our house. He was sick on Monday and had a cough on Tuesday, but he's been back to his zippy self since then (he caught it 10 days after his first vaccine, so it could have been extra light as he already had some protection built up for it). It got a little spread around his classroom - this damn variant is strong as there were ZERO student-to-student transmissions around his school since the start of COVID 21 months ago until about 2 weeks ago. He tested positive on Tuesday as Charlie and I tested negative. (Shockingly, that was my first ever COVID test!) I was on the phone with the MN Department of Healthy on Friday, and she assured me that I can go about my normal life (unless I have symptoms), including a half marathon. To be extra cautious, I was going to be masked and keep away from everyone at the race, and I took an at-home COVID test the night before the race:

Clearly negative.

I waited to register until race morning in case I felt the slightest bit off. If I was starting to get sick, a half marathon would suuuuuuuuuck. But I slept GREAT and woke up 30 seconds before my 5:55 alarm. Nice. It was time to race.

The last 0.1 miles of the race course at 7:20 a.m.

Out of the "Machine Shop" after registering.

Sunrise looking back over 35W.

I tweeted this saying "Nothing like stepping foot into a freshly-wrapped porta potty on a cool morning."

Traditional pre-race selfie.

Beautiful morning light hitting downtown MPLS across the Stone Arch Bridge.

I'd be running across that bridge in about 2 hours: I'd be coming from the downtown side and I'd have about 3 blocks left from this point.

I walked back to my car and stayed warm for a while. I tweeted while I was there:

I was in the "Tutti Fruttis!"

Parked 2 blocks from the start (which was around the "main" of Main Street).

People gathering pre-race. Looking back from the starting line...

... and looking off across the starting line.

Chatting with Jared pre-race (with a sweet stash!).

THEE Rick Recker came over to say hi.

About 60 seconds before the start.

Ready to go!

Notice the guy in the blue in those last 2 photos (#4134). He'll be making an appearance later in this story.

"3... 2... 1... GOOOO!!!!!!"

No one "shot out of the cannon" at this race. Two people kind of took the lead, but not by much, and then there was a big pack of us behind them. After a few blocks, I was settled into 6th place, but with no one really pulling away:

I looked up some splits in the car just 30 minutes before the race: 6:30s would put me at 1:25:something. I don't know that I made that a goal necessarily, but at least I'd have some frame of reference. So when I felt like I was taking it SLIGHTLY easy and still turned in a 6:07 first mile, I didn't know what to think.

• MILE 1: 6:07.

We climbed a hill to cross the Mississippi. I had passed someone on a small hill before that (the guy on the left in that last photo), but someone passed me going over that bridge. We chatted for a moment as it randomly started to sleet for 2 minutes!

• MILE 2: 6:33. "That's more like the splits I'm expecting..."

Lead 3 up there, and 4th and 5th in front of me.

Nearing mile 3, I lost a spot to move back to 7th.

• MILE 3: 5:56. "OK, that's probably short! The next mile will be long."

(I also fumbled with my phone a lot to get it back in my sweaty mitten - I had to stop trying for a second by the time I got up to the mile 3 marker in that last photo so I could take my split, and then keep working it into my sweaty mitten.)

Coming up to mile 4 is a memory from a race that I will never forget. It was quite a moment! I was running in 6th (I had passed the guy right in front of me in the last photo), and I knew there was a chance that a few of the runners in front of me would turn around at mile 4 as that's the 10K turn-around. Suddenly I saw the 3 leaders maybe 1-2 blocks in front of me ALL turn around. "Whoa, now I'm in 3rd JUST behind the 2 leaders!" But then both of the guys in front of me swung wide to the outside of the course... "Wait... they are both turning around too?!?!?" Suddenly, I had taken the lead and was chasing the lead police car!!!!!!

Unsexy selfie from the moment I first led a half marathon!

Here's the overall race course if you're wondering
how the 10K runners could turn around at mile 4.

• MILE 4: 6:06. "Alright, that wasn't a long mile! 24:43 after 4 miles when 6:30 pace should be 26:00. Time to not worry as much about my splits and just try to hold the lead!"

In the excitement, I dropped my mask somewhere around mile 4. (I ran the first 1-2 blocks with it on but took it off after we spread out a bit.) I figured on the way back I might be able to find it as there shouldn't be many 10K runners still out there.

Part way up the climb under I-94 / Franklin Ave at mile 5.

Miles 5-10 are my normal training grounds. I was happy to run the middle of the race on familiar roads. What was UNFAMILIAR was the extra cheers I got from anyone around being I was the leader.

• MILE 5: 6:10. "That's 30:53 for 5 miles, which is 5 seconds faster than the first 5 miles of my TC 10 Mile last month!"

I was ready to bleed a little time up that long hill. I spent all summer avoiding hills because of a calf problem, and I only recently started NOT avoiding hills. So I made it a point to actually ease up a little up the hills during the race.

• MILE 6: 6:33.
• MILE 7: 6:04.

Still being in the 6:30s for a "slow" uphill mile felt great. And then posting a 6:04 for the mile after that also felt great. I was really "in the zone" where I was working but not over-exerting myself. This was feeling good!

Still chasing the police car somewhere south of Lake Street.

I was hurting just enough to really be looking forward to the turn-around. And at that point, I saw there was still a solid train of runners behind me: the next guy was within a block, and each runner was spaced out by about a half block or so behind him. And Jared was running back in 5th! I cheered on all the runners for nearly the next mile back, but then I found myself running out of air. So I stopped cheering.

• MILE 8: 6:31.

That mile had a little uphill to the turn-around, and then the turn-around itself. I knew my splits were going to start getting more sporadic as things were starting to hurt more.

About to cross under Lake Street again while gaining on a pack of skate-skiers on the right.

As I passed the group of skiers on the right about 2 minutes after this, many cheered, and one asked "You gonna go 1:20?!?" I said "No... maybe 1:22 or 1:23..." My PR from nearly 10 years ago is 1:20:xx, and I ran just under 1:22 on a short course that was basically this same route back in 2017. I truly had no time goals anymore as I just really wanted to try to win this race! But there was a guy still within a block behind me, so it was NOT a done deal!

• MILE 9: 6:27. "That was pretty flat - no excuse for that being so slow. Speed up!"

Heading downhill towards Franklin, ready to hit the "mile 10" marker.

A gross selfie with a 5K left.

• MILE 10: 6:10. "That's 1:02:40 through 10 miles! I've had 3 or 4 10 mile races SLOWER than that! Nice. Now go!"

That was my last photo. No more fumbling with the camera - it was all about finishing strong now! I tried to use that long downhill, and it (unsurprisingly) ended up being my fastest mile split all day:

• MILE 11: 5:53. "He's STILL back there! Go!!"

I was nearing the turn-around point for the 10K runners, so I was about to start looking for my dropped mask. But the lead police car pulled up to another police car for a second, and then that second officer yelled "I've got your mask" as she held it up. I grabbed it shouting "OH THANK YOU!!!" (Then it hit me that the lead police car tried to say something to me just after I took the lead, but I couldn't hear him. He must have noted something about me dropping my mask. Thanks officers!)

Shortly after meeting up with some 10K runners, we had the nastiest climb all day: from the river flats up under 35W towards Gold Medal Park. That's a nasty climb at a NASTY point in the race. I made the call to ease up a little even if that meant the guy behind me gaining on me. I wanted to have some legs left for the flat section by the Mill City ruins and for crossing the Stone Arch Bridge. If I pushed up the hill, I was afraid I'd be slowly dying over the last 3/4 mile of the race and get caught. I was trying to be strategic. And he DID get close enough to me that I could hear him behind me for the first time all race!!! Yikes!!

• MILE 12: 6:47. "Brutal to have the slowest split so late in the race!"

I tried to hit the little downhill hard under the Guthrie (shown in the photo leading up to mile 3 above). The lead police car pulled up to the Stone Arch Bridge, the officer hopped out, and he shouted "You're on your own from here!" I shouted a THANK YOU and turned on to the bridge. The 2nd place runner was still within a block behind me! That bridge looked long once I got on it, and I knew there was still about 3 more blocks to go once I got across the bridge. I looked back once or twice on the bridge: he was still back there, but he wasn't gaining.

I got off the bridge and made my final turn for the finish.

• MILE 13: 6:07.

I ran through the cheers of some people in the final stretch of the 10K. I hit the line well in front of second place. I had done it!

• FINAL 0.1 MILES: 0:48. "Well, that's not exactly right because I didn't slow to 8:00 pace..."


Steve Stenzel, 40, M, St. Paul

6:17 pace

1st out of 213 overall
1st out of 136 males

I turned around and got a photo of the guy chasing me crossing the finish line:

5K/10K runners to the left, and the guy in blue from
the pre-race photos finishing 2nd just 20 seconds behind me!

He said he gained on me a lot on the uphills, but then "going past the Guthrie you just shot away from me!" he added. I told him he was pushing me hard! It was a race!

Unofficial non-Garmin time.

Race buddy (and pacer at this race) Mike!

Headed home.

Jared held on for 5th! (Three 40-somethings in the top 5! Represent!)


• This was my 2nd or 3rd fastest half marathon! My PR is from 9 years ago at the New Prague Half Marathon at 1:20:54. And then my 2nd fastest was on a similar course to this Moustache Run at the MPLS Halloween Half in 2017 at 1:21:53. But that was also a short course (around 12.85 miles), so I SHOULD have finished around 1:23:09. And speaking of that...

• This distance was right on. I didn't have a Garmin, but Jared had 13.13 miles post-race. And it was a very similar course to the MPLS Halloween Half from 2017, but that finish line was just off the bridge, not 3 blocks farther like we had to run at this race. So it seems to be a LEGIT 1:22:17.

• It was fun getting the extra cheers for being the leader. The majority of the people out on the trail next to River Road would see the police car coming and then cheer for me as I went past.

• Leading the race was a different kind of stress. Yes, had I been passed, 2nd place would have still been great. But I REALLY ended up not caring about my time as I only focused on not being beat. I've won smaller/shorter races, but this was the longest race I've led, and it was stressful! (But in a way that's worth it!)

• I checked over my shoulder SOOO many times. I'm usually fine with just "running my own race," and maybe I'll check now-and-then (although there are many races where I might just check once). But this race ended up having a different purpose: it wasn't "beat the clock and see what I can do," but instead "don't get passed and try to win." I probably looked back 8 times in the last 5 miles.

• This was one of the bigger races that I've won (and the longest for sure). Running buddy Steve Q asked about that post race:

(The "Looney" was a series of 3 races in 2 days and was brutal.)

• I had a little tag burn by my butt. I had the normal issues post-race: my right hammy was a little tight, my left knee was a little achy the next day, both calves felt surprisingly good, and one of my toes might be losing a toenail. But when I showered the night of the race, I dried off and winced as I tore a scab off a wound I didn't know I had. I snapped a pic in the bathroom that night:

Rubbage from my Under Armour tag under my Tutti Fruttis.

Well I'm obviously SUPER happy that I decided to do this race! I'm waiting for some photos to turn up on their Facebook page that I can share (as they've done in the past). I'm hoping my legs heal up and I can get back to logging some miles shortly.


Yearly Late November Ride

>> Saturday, November 27, 2021

Eight weeks ago was the last time I was outside on my bike: it was an easy 2 mile ride with my boys to go cheer on my wife at her 21st TC Marathon. (My last "real" ride was over 10 weeks ago.)

But I got suited up on Thursday to head out into the windy 18-degree morning:

Red "winter running" socks with trail running socks over them.

Three tops: sliver gray lines, then the thick black one, then the REALLY thick brown one.

A turtle fur over my hat, and a fourth layer on my upper body.

I also had 4 layers over my crotch: wind-proof briefs (a STAPLE for winter running), tights, bike shorts, and thicker tights.

It was Thanksgiving morning, and I thought it was appropriate that I came across 14 turkeys:

A selfie with Jamey and Spider-Man.

Here's the text I posted along with those last 2 photos:

This morning was our yearly ride that we wish we didn’t have to do. Spider-Man was with us as always. We shared old college memories lamenting that those years were half our life ago. We were never best friends, but I’m thankful for getting to be a goofball in college with Aaron. #RIPBigPurm #SevenYears

We ride with Spider-Man because Aaron admitted to being the superhero in his obituary.

Seven years ago, I hosted a 24-hour relay fundraiser for Aaron's family, and every year Jamey gets a few of us together to ride in Aaron's honor (here are photos from 2015, 2018, 2019, and 2020 - I missed 2 years in there, but have hit 5 out of 7).

We did a little 8 mile loop before Jamey took off for home:

Hope you are watching your family grow with a smile, Aaron. :)


Friday Funny 2009: "Special Delivery"

>> Friday, November 26, 2021

Lots more funnies posted all day long on SportsAndLaughs.tumblr.com. Happy weekend!!



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