Race Review: Frozen Half Marathon

You know the race will be interesting when the website offers this warning:

Extreme Weather

This is a cold weather race! Temperatures have been at or below zero for this race in the past. Hypothermia could be a definite concern. Make certain that you are dressed properly for conditions on the day of the race. In case of extreme weather conditions this race could be canceled or shortened. All entry fees are nonrefundable. An accurately measured 1/4 marathon course may be used as a short course option. Check with active.com for up-to-date weather information and changes in the race schedule.

The Securian Frozen 5K and Half Marathon is a part of St Paul’s Annual Winter Carnival.  Well sadly, we had those “extreme” weather conditions and the 1,200 pre-registrants got the following e-mail from Mary Anderson, race director.

Hi All,Just a note to let you know that the half marathon course has been shortened to approximately 6.5 miles (or half of the marathon distance) for tomorrow. The start time will remain the same at 9:00am.

The 5K race will go on as scheduled and start at 9:15.

The half marathon turnaround is just East of 35E on Sheppard Road and will be at the break in the median there so that runners can go westbound on the way out and eastbound (or with traffic ) on their way back.  We will move the water stop to this point and will be serving individual bottles to the runners. This should make it easier for volunteers.

Thank you participating in the 2009 Securian Frozen 5K and Half Marathon!

A wise decision given the fact that the actual temp was officially -15 with a wind chill in the -20’s. The morning broke with a clear blue sky and lots of shining sun, so that helped make the race bearable!  There was some confusion about the actual course distance.  The e-mail clearly says 6.5 (6.55 would actually be a half of a half) but the announcements coming over the PA system in the registration area kept calling it a 10k (which is obviously 0.35 miles shorter than half of a half).  My Garmin called it 6.46.

Attire? Yes how in the world do you dress to race at those temps? Well ultimately the same as you would to run in those temps!  Unlike warmer weather where you could wear less layers, it was vital to keep everything nice and warm. I actually wore the attire mentioned here, minus the silk balaclava and adding a pair of goggles.  I wore mid-weight smart wool socks, duct-taped shoes, tights, wind breaker pants, a singlet, long-sleeve dry-fit, long-sleeve cotton, under a wind breaker jacket, gloves, an ear band, and fleece balaclava.  I got a new pair of “fog-proof” goggles, but I steamed them up within the first mile.

Pre-Race We were able to park in the Securian building’s parking lot for $2 in downtown St Paul, which was great.  Take the skyway over to another building for packet pickup and then stand around and wait. Unfortunately all of the indoor restroom facilities were closed to the public so you had to venture out to the porta-potties lined up on the street.  We did a little warm-up jog and then waited for the race to start.  The directors were nice to wait until all the runners lined up, but it was a chip race so they should have just started instead of punishing those of us who followed directions!

The Race Almost immediately you go down a hill (about 200 feet in 1/4 mile) from downtown to the river. The race is an out and back along the Mississippi River on Shepherd Road.  The first mile came up pretty quickly and I came through in 6:35.  I tried keeping my goggles on because the wind was extremely bitey at this point and hurt my face, but I couldn’t really see out of them so I shoved them up on my face.  I tried to settle into a pace that would work for the whole race and picked some people to try to stay with.  A guy was reading splits at the 5k turn around, which was a little weird but I came through mile 2 at 7:08.  The course was a little hillier than I had expected since it was on the river flat.  They weren’t anything monstrous, but definitely steep enough to tire you out a bit.  I wasn’t really cold anymore at this point although the layers were making it hard to keep up a fast pace.  I came through mile 3 at 7:23.  The turn around point came pretty quickly after mile 3 and there was the race’s only aid station.  Dedicated volunteers passed out bottles of water – caps already off.  People were taking them, I did not.  Maybe I should have, but I didn’t feel like messing with my balaclava or spilling on myself! 22:34 at the turnaround.

I was actually starting to get tired at this point.  I was also getting really hot and raised up the balaclava and un-zipped my jacket a little.  This helped regulate the temps as the wind was solidly at my back.  Sadly I don’t think the added push of the wind helped my times too much and I came through mile 4 at 7:03.  Now I was beginning to get really tired and couldn’t wait for the finish line to arrive.  I was a little disappointed when I looked at my watch and saw that we were only at 4.5, yuck 2 miles to go.  Around the 5 mile mark we saw the 5k runners.  Fortunately we were on a divided road so they weren’t in our way yet (this usually isn’t a problem due to the half-marathon being farther and the 5k starting 15 minutes after us).  I came through mile 5 at 6:58.  I tried to pick up the pace because I was tired of getting passed, but I was also plain tired!  One of the 5k runners was wearing capri tights and the bottoms of her legs were bright red, looked painful.  I actually took my gloves off because my hands were sweating, my feet too but nothing you can do about that! I came through mile 6 at 7:25.  The last bit was straight back up the hill.  We joined the 5k runners.  I stayed way off to the side so as to not get stuck behind them and passed a lot of people up the hill which was a nice feeling! I may have passed a couple of half-marathoners on the way too and finished hard into the biting wind for the finish. 3:02 for the last 0.46 miles.

My official time was 45:31 (7:02 pace) [the website said 7:21 pace, but my Garmin and weblog both said 7:02] and good enough for 96th out of 661.  (Official results)  Evidently the 5k isn’t scored so I don’t know what the total turnout was.

Post-Race I hadn’t heard my teammates cheering me into the finish and I didn’t immediately see them so I wandered back into the buildings to get my post-race food and finisher’s mug! Then I wandered back out and got some pictures of people, including this great one of Mark Deters! I finally caught up with Nathan and we headed home.

A pretty crazy race day!!  Did you run it, what were your thoughts?

Local  News pieces:

Pioneer Press

[tags] Half Marathon, Race Review, Securian, Winter Carnival, St Paul, Frozen 5k [/tags]

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