Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Race Report: Minnesota Half Marathon

All of my gear ready for the next
morning's race!
There's something about a race that's on a Saturday that makes it seem a little rushed.  Well, in my case, it's primarily because I have to fly to get to these races - and I don't get my bib until the morning of the race.  That was the case for the Minnesota Half Marathon, in St. Paul, MN.  I flew out of New York City on Friday evening, using an airline I've never flown before - Sun Country Airlines - and made my way to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul for the race weekend.  I got to stay with my friend Ruthie and her husband James, both formerly of New York City, who I met through my former gym, Mark Fisher Fitness.  Ruthie and James got married a little over two years ago and shortly thereafter, moved back to Minnesota, where Ruthie originally was from.

I got in pretty late, so after getting my hugs and the lowdown of the weekend schedule with Ruthie, I went straight to bed.  They put me up in their spacious studio apartment that they have above their detached garage.  The following morning I got up pretty early to get myself dressed and out the door for the 20 minute drive into St. Paul for the race.

They even had a step-and-repeat!
As I approached the start area in Chestnut Plaza and Upper Landing Park, just in front of the Science Museum of Minnesota along the Mississippi River, I realized quickly that this was going to be an interesting race, as there was a unique category of racers that got to start before the runners - inline skaters. Inline skates, and in particular roller blades (which actually is a brand), were popularized and made commercially available in Minneapolis in the late 1980s/early 1990s.  Road skating races are popular outside of the US, but have also started to resurge inside the country, in particular in the Minneapolis area and around the Midwest.  Upon arriving, there were hundreds of people rolling around in their skates getting ready for the race.  Apparently there are even ELITE road skaters!  Soon, these folks were getting to the startline to get ready for their gun start.

The Startline...
But before that happened, I assembled with a few other members of the 50 States club for our customary pre-race photo.  It also happened to be the birthday of two members of our group, which was nice.  And I also got to meet a couple members of the group for the first time - some who I had only chatted with online, but never met -- talking to you, Colleen and Tricia!

Soon, the runners were off to get themselves ready to take on the course.  There were no real corrals, just places to line up with pacers holding their signs for expected finish times.  I decided to get in around the 2:10 crew, and see how I'd do.  Sure, I was a little tired from the night before, but it didn't mean I wouldn't be able to race well... We lined up behind the start line, and soon we were off.  The entire course was contained on a closed off Shepard Road, the road through St. Paul that runs alongside the Mississippi River.  For the first two miles, runner progressed northeastward along Shepard, heading out toward more industrial-seeming areas, and running underneath several bridges heading across the Mississippi River to the Concord-Robert neighborhood of St. Paul.
As we progressed further, the inline skaters began to come back towards us on the other side of the road; it was fun to be able to cheer the elite skaters and then leisure skate-racers as they headed back toward the start area.  Our turnaround point, roughly at the two mile mark, was under an overpass headed toward Old Highway 61.  We made our way to our first aid station, roughly 2.5 miles in, and I was THIRSTY.  But at the same time needing a bathroom.  Unfortunately, and this seems like it's always the case, there were minimal portapotties at this aid station, and a line already forming... so I just kept on going, thinking "the start is only another couple miles, and there a LOTS of portapotties there!  I can hold it for another 15 minutes!"

One of my favorite signs seen on
the course...
That was a LONG 15 minutes.  On our right was some train tracks, and several times I thought about climbing over the guardrail and just taking a leak behind a bush or out of sight along a roadside tree.  At about 4 1/4 miles in, we finally got back to the start area, and the 5K runners had just about begun their races from the startline as we hurried past on the other side of the road.  There was an awesome crowd of people cheering us on, but I, of course, made a beeline straight to the portapotties, where I immediately got into one with no line.  Quick 40 second stop, and then I was back on the road again, continuing on down Shepard.  And while this was a straight shot along Shepard, it felt like an eternity.  With the sun beating down on us, and the road tormentingly giving me hills both up and down (gradual, though -- the entire course only had a range of 103 feet of elevation change, with the most steep hill climb being 60 feet over the mile heading toward the turnaround point), we trudged along for more than four miles to the 9 mile mark before turning around and heading back toward the startline.

Over $60,000 was raised for
the Ronald McDonald House!
The last two miles were rough, and I had to walk, throwing off my interval pacing that I was very consistent with through a majority of the race.  I crossed the finish line in 2:22:04, and got my finisher medal - in the shape of the state of Minnesota!  I was burning up, so I headed off to the food and drink tents for refreshment (including having my first Salted Nut Roll!) and some shade before heading back toward the race finish to see off some of my friends who I had seen on the other side of the course after the turnaround at mile 9.

State-shaped bling... my favorite!
I, of course, got to do my Victory Headstand photo TWICE - first, in front of the Science Museum, taken by birthday boy Ray Constantine, and then along the Mississippi River waterfront by Tricia Eddy.  I headed back to my friend's place for a much needed shower and nap, and then went on to discover the Twin Cities for the remainder of the weekend, which included trips to Minnehaha Falls, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (and in particular, the Spoonbridge and Cherry), the Walker Art Center, Lake Calhoun, and the Mall of America; reuniting with family friends from Wichita that now live in the Minneapolis area that I hadn't seen in as much as 20 years; as well as catching two shows - the Guthrie Theatre's THE MUSIC MAN, which Ruthie was performing in, and the touring production of KINKY BOOTS at the Orpheum!  Late Sunday night, I headed back home, and felt fulfilled, having truly discovered the Twin Cities right!

You know it was a good race when there's a corgi sighting.
This is eight-year-old Dylan!

Victory Headstand #1!

Victory Headstand #2!

Amazing lunch at Minneapolis institution, Sea Salt!
Jerk Mahi Mahi with mango slaw, rice and beans,
and tostones; a Thai Peanut Curry with shrimp; and a
Surly Schadenfreude Dark Lager
My first ever Salted Nut Roll.  Like a sweeter and chewier Payday.

With Ruthie, my hostess for the weekend, before her show...

Minnehaha Falls

Spoonbridge and Cherry


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