Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monster Dash Half Marathon 2013 (On Fire in a Tiny Trash Bag)

Monster Dash Half Marathon - Minneapolis, Minnesota (13.1 miles)
2:14:35 PR - maybe?!
Average Pace 10:17/mile

Well, I was going to hold this recap until the official race photographers posted their course shots, but after seeing how many photos I already have... screw it!  If I get more cool photos later, I'll do a follow up post with action shots.  Enjoy!


Ok, ok - let's just start this recap by clearing the air.

Yes, I ran 2 half marathons in less than 6 days - I finished Mankato just before noon on Sunday, October 20th, and started this race at 8:30"ish" on Saturday, October 26th.  (More on the "ish" in a bit.)

No, I don't recommend that most runners attempt this...  unless you've got enough mileage in that it's easy for you to do, which I did. 

And also, following a training program like this is no different than doing an extended training plan for a full marathon, so I thought it might be interesting to try and see how my body handled running higher miles back to back.  Apparently, it went ok.

With the above statement, I feel like I've put in a responsible qualifier for this recap.  I'll end this premise with a:

"Run smart, my friends!"


Alright.  Down to business.

Let's start by talking about the race and my history with it.  First of all, for those of you who don't know, Monster Dash 2012 was my first ever half marathon.  Remember this costume?

Yes, I ran a half marathon in that.  Yes, I learned a hard lesson about furry, hot costumes with very warm head pieces.  Let's just say unless it's sub zero outside, I'll never be running in that hat again.

Anyway!  By running the Monster Dash Half again in 2013, I celebrated my 1 year anniversary in the half distance.  And my progress has been amazing!  Check it out:

Monster Dash Half 2012 - 2:43:41
Minnetonka Half 2013 - 2:43:29
Chicago Half 2013 - 2:28:04
Mankato Half 2013 - 2:15:03

Not to toot my own horn, but I've shaved just under half an hour off my half marathon time in a year.  That's the equivalent of running about 2 minutes faster per mile.  Granted, some of that speed is due to mastering running the entire distance (versus bonking and walking the last 2+ miles).  But, regardless, progress is progress!

Also, as it stands, I think I managed to PR on my back to back half marathon weekends.  There was some issue with "electrical interference" for my chip start time, but by estimating my start time based on my GPS and my friend's registered chip time (who started mere seconds behind me), it appears I may have PR'd for a second weekend in a row!  I'm literally on fire.

I guess that means I picked a good costume for this year's race?

And since you can't see it well in that photo, check out this close up shot:

Which means, I have one question for you:

Yeah, I'm a dork. 

But whatever, I thought it was a cool concept.  I mean, I'm supposed to look like I'm running so fast that flames are shooting off my back... cool, right?  Let's just not talk about all the test "runs" I did in my upstairs loft at home, with my husband watching, and the lights on at night (which means I'm sure the whole neighborhood saw me running a 10' distance back and forth in our balcony window, for two nights in a row). 

And thanks to my sister, who pointed out that my husband likely continued to say the "flames" weren't flapping just to encourage me to keep running around.

Actually, double thanks to my sister for comparing me to her 5 year old, who likes to run around their kitchen island with a superhero cape on and ask if the cape is flapping because he's running so fast.

Ugh.  I get dumber every day.  I'm now on the same level as a 5 year old.  At least I'm having fun, I guess?

Moving on... let's talk about race day.

A handful of us from the gym had talked about carpooling for this race, so we met up at the gym and piled into one car.  After we all got situated, off to St. Paul we went.

Upon arrival, we took a few group shots before heading to the start line:

Wow, what a group of hot ladies!  So hot that one is actually on fire.  *Ba-da-bing!*

What you don't see in the first of the two pictures is that I am holding a banana peel in one hand and a trash bag in the other.  On our walk to the start, I tossed the peel and proceeded to put on the trash bag as a temporary windbreaker.

Oh, yes.  Another interesting lesson was learned by Natalie on that walk... apparently other racers don't use a tall kitchen trash bag as a race day windbreaker, unlike me who did not realize the difference.  (Of course you're welcome to also use a tall kitchen bag if you want your costume to look like you're a caterpillar in a cocoon.) 

Simply put, the bag was a wee bit snug. 

Let's just say my walk mantra was "Don't trip, because you can't catch yourself!".

Sigh.  I'm always good to be the butt of everyone else's jokes.  At least I'm ok with people laughing at me.

Trash bag aside, we made it to the start, where we all huddled up in the crowd and waited... and waited... and waited...

Eventually, the gun that was supposed to go off at 8:30 finally went off at about 8:40.  Since we were in about the 10:00/mile pace area, we slowly meandered up to the start in about another 10 minutes.  I wasn't terribly surprised by the 20+/- minute delay, races of this size never seem to start exactly on time... although the roll out process could have gone a bit more quickly.

Somehow, in the crush of people, I ended up losing three of my friends before I crossed the mat... and then promptly lost my last partner before I even hit mile one.  I can't imagine why that happened...


I mean, it's not like the crowd was more than... oh... 50,000 people??!!
All I could think was, oh well, I guess I'm running solo again.

No big deal, there were plenty of costumes to look at, so I wasn't too upset to have lost my friends.  After all, that's why we agreed to a post-race meeting spot.

Speaking of costumes, here are a few of my favorites that I passed along the way... (thanks to Facebook for letting me "borrow" photos others posted):

Yes, everyone above ran at least a 10 mile race, if not the half option, in those costumes.  And, the guy in the house costume?  Yeah, he BEAT ME TO THE FINISH of a half marathon.  *Face palm*

These ladies were a personal favorite of mine.  I ran behind them for about a mile or two.  Every time a young spectator was offering up high fives, they would toss the kid a mini whoopee cushion and yell "Whoopie!  Have a whoopie cushion!!"

Interestingly, I saw plenty of "minions" (from Despicable Me) this year - it must be the hot new costume trend?  Of course, there were also lots of Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman/woman, Skeletons, etc.  You know, the classics.

Another interesting costume I saw was a couple - the guy dressed as Richard Simmons, and the girl dressed in an obnoxious hot pink and blue 80's leotard outfit and wearing a side ponytail.  I know that description seems like no big deal... but imagine being the girl... and then imagine wearing the leotard over the top of running pants... and THEN imagine that leotard is a thong cut and is wedging your pants up your butt for a 10+ mile run.  I was so ... intrigued when I saw this ... that I didn't know what to say.  Luckily the woman running next to me did, because she looked at me, saw my face, and we both burst out laughing.  She added "Well, I wouldn't be doing that.  Not in a million years."  Ah, good laughs.

Because of all the costume gawking I did, I don't really recall much from one mile to the next.  I do know that the race started out VERY slow for me, since I was mentally tired from Mankato the week before.  Honestly, I started this race with the attitude that I wasn't in the mood to run.  But somewhere around mile 4 or 5 I passed the first on course "entertainment" (read: DJ), and they were playing "Thriller".  For some reason, I decided to start dancing, waving my flaming arms in the air, and my pace seemed to triple (as you will notice by my "fastest" mile in my split report below).  From then on, I just ran... and didn't think twice about being tired again.  Or at least not as much, anyway.

By the way, the course was pretty, if you're wondering.  It started by having us run down St. Paul's Summit Avenue, which includes lots of beautiful old houses and plenty of trees.  Eventually, we turned left and ran along the river, which was also very pretty. 

I did pity a private home along this stretch that was having construction done.  They had one lone porta-pot out front for the construction workers that was very likely "utilized" by no less than 1,000+ runners as the herd passed through. 

I can just about imagine the construction worker's reaction on Monday when the come back to work to that:

As we traveled along the river, the scenery eventually became more "urban" looking and less wooded the closer we got to the 10 mile finish line.  This area of the course is the least favorite of mine, but that's ok - I didn't mind PASSING THE 10 MILE EXIT and thinking in my head "lazy suckers" the entire time.  LOL!

Just past the 10 mile finish, you go through the tunnel on Shepard Road... I think it's under 35 or 94?  I'm terrible with directions, sorry.  Either way, that is FOR SURE my least favorite part of the course.  All the school buses that shuttle 10 mile finishers cruise through the far side of the tunnel while the half runners pass through, and the exhaust trapped in the tunnel is DISGUSTING!  I think I sprinted through that stretch simply so I could breath again!!

After clearing the tunnel of death and getting about 1/2 mile down the road, it came - my nemesis.  Although this course is mostly downhill, right around the 11 mile mark, you have to climb a hill on your way through to the final stretch.  In 2012, I remember bonking just at the base of the last "hill" on course.  Right around mile 11.

This year, I came to the base of the hill and said - F YOU! 

And I climbed it without breaking stride, continuing straight on to the finish.  Didn't.  Even.  Stop.  Running.

PRIDE!  I haz it!

Using the 12 mile water stop as my motivation, I kept powering through after the hill.  I knew my gym was sponsoring that last water stop, and I couldn't wait to cheer at them as I ran by.

But wait a minute - when I got there I was rudely surprised.  I thought they were going to put something special in my water.  What's special about putting water in my water? 

Losers!!  WAY DISSAPOINTING!!  (Kidding - and given that the 5K runners independently rerouted themselves in order to have a second water stop at the 12 mile marker, which is very obviously not part of a 5K route might I add, my friends unfortunately had a surprise rush of an additional 1000+ "runners".  So, I'll forgive the lack of "special".  This time, anyway.)

Besides, I realized I had no time to spare on yelling at them for that... because I was calculating in my head and... even though I wasn't trying to, I thought I might PR again!!  Onward! 

Mile 12.5...

I start looking around me to celebrate with my fellow runners and become vastly disappointed.  Everyone is plugged in and listening to music.  Do they realize how much they are missing by doing that?!  Bummer.  Regardless, I am still super excited.

Mile 13...

Just before I pulled into the finish area, I pass a group of 4 girls dressed as firemen.  I couldn't have planned it better myself.  Four firemen chased a girl on fire to the end of a half marathon.

And then...


You know - a lot of people didn't like this medal.  I kinda did, sorry!!  And speaking of swag, I also kinda liked the sweatshirt this year (that, again, many did not like) - with the exception of the crappy thumb holes that looked like someone just used a razor blade to create. 

And you know me and skulls... so I did something I NEVER do and actually bought an additional race shirt at the expo.

But ok, back on topic.  No more swag talk. 

Let's look at my GPS reports instead.


Not too shabby, eh?! 

If you compare my GPS to how I did in Mankato, you'll see at Mankato's mile 13 I clocked in at 2:13:02.  Therefore, I think it's fair to say that although my final time is "estimated" due to the "electrical interference" at the start, I got a PR.  My true time might not quite be what the chip time shows, but what's a few seconds margin of error, right?

After I grabbed my medal, I manged to snag a snack bag that is definitely not up to Team Ortho par.  One small bag of potato chips, a mini nut roll and ... two rolls of smarties candies, seriously?  Gross.  What about a healthy banana or apple... and why isn't there a bottle of water for me at the finish?  A shot glass sized cup of water after running a half marathon is definitely not enough...

No matter, because as I pulled into the finish line, I saw one of my friends who ran the 10 mile, so I hustled over to her and then we squeezed into the nearby Caribou to warm up and await the rest of our group. 

BTW, she didn't ride with us.  But check out the costume.


As "Carrie" and I warmed our cockles in Caribou, the rest of my carpool gang trickled in.  Sadly, although my friends all seemed to have fun during the race, they mentioned that the finish line had totally run out of food and that dampened spirits at the finish.  (I hear shortly after we left, they ran out of finisher medals as well).  At least we had snacks and water to fall back on in the car - which is where we promptly headed, and then packed up for home... celebrating two potential PR's in a car of 5, and laughing about costumes and mishaps on course as we chattered on the way home.

And that's the story of how race bib # 37 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon... but I don't know when because winter is coming to Minnesota sooner than I want to admit... what will I do until next year?!


Before I go, I'd like to add to the food shortage comment above with this statement:

As far as I know, the finish line supplies (food and medals) for this race ran out with 1-1.5 hours left of open course time.  While I was not personally impacted by this error, I do find this to be extremely poor planning.  For the premium price we paid for this race, Team Ortho should have done much better.

Unfortunately, the supplies running out was only one of the many blatantly apparent issues with this race, all of which I omitted from this recap but did document in my post race feedback forms (I add the "s" because I have filled out other feedback forms for races they held earlier this year). 

I find that Team Ortho is having a lot of reoccurring problems from race to race, and that has become a large enough issue for me that I'm re-evaluating if I ever want to participate in a Team Ortho event again.  In fact, in the 2013 racing season I've come to wonder if Team Ortho really cares about the quality of their race as much as they do the quantity of participants they have.  I can only say this fairly because I completed two of their races last year and three this year, and I have noticed a significant decline in quality, and yet a tremendous push by them to register more, More, MORE participants. 

I know they are aware of the issues because I've seen racers post constructive feedback and complaints on their Facebook page race, after race, after race - and yet the problems seem to be getting worse rather than better. 

What upsets me most is that Team Ortho does nothing to acknowledge the problems or state how they will improve them for future races.  Which leaves me to wonder if they have their head in the sand or if they simply just don't care.

So, while I don't want to let this negativity distract from the fun I had at the race, I do think it's important that I add this to my recap in case someone is considering booking this race in the future. I also did not want to relive this negativity while remembering the fun I had at the race - which is why I saved this until the end.


  1. CONGRATULATIONS on PRing in the half marathon for the second weekend in a row! You really are on fire!!!

    I laughed out loud when I read about you doing test runs upstairs with your flowing flames for all the neighbors to see, similar to your nephew (I would totally do the same thing, btw).

    There were some really amazing costumes out there! It's hard for me to fathom running a race in some of those. For example, I ran a 10K a few years back where there was a guy running in a full goalie mask. That must have seemed like a good idea for the first K or so, right?

    Bummer that the organizers had such bad food and ran out of food/medals so early. I have heard a lot of negative comments about Team Ortho in general. I've only done one of their races (the Get Lucky Half Marathon in Chicago two years ago) and while it wasn't horrible, I wouldn't run it again. But I do say that there are SO MANY races out there to pick from, that there is really no need to do any race that we're not super excited about!

    1. Thanks!! I'm super happy that I'm improving so much in my running lately. Maybe some day I'll even beat your pace? (LOL! You're so speedy compared to me).

      The whole costume thing is really amazing. When I was looking at everyone's costumes Saturday, I found myself analyzing them for uniqueness and functionality, especially given my unicorn fiasco. I definitely could not run a race in a goalie mask, BTW. I feel like I'm suffocating even thinking about it.

      As far as Team Ortho goes - a person I was talking to earlier this week really said it best "Team Ortho is a great organization, and I love what they stand for, but I just can't help but think they getting too big for their own good." I agree with that statement 100%, and really do hope they figure out how to balance quality and quantity... since I'd LOVE to keep participating in their future races.