Tag Archives: Minnesota Half Marathon

Race Report: 2014 Minnesota Half Marathon

A lot of people question the value of the Minnesota Half Marathon.  However, after the race this year, this event should be considered a staple of the Midwest outdoor racing circuit and anyone within reasonable driving distance should put this race on their calendar.

I have often felt that this race rejuvenates my confidence as a skater after the Chicagoland Inline Marathon, as I haven’t been able to keep up with the main pack at that race since I have raced it.  Coming out of the Chicagoland, I was aggressive with the two weeks of training I had getting ready for this race.  I like this race, generally, even if it is only a half marathon.  The road conditions are decent, there aren’t a lot of big hills, and the pace is pretty fast.  This is a local race for Minnesota skaters, and it usually draws a big crowd from the local speed skating contingent here.  This year was no exception.

I got out of the house and on the road by the time I had planned, but didn’t get to St. Paul, where the race took place, until 7:15 AM.  The race was scheduled to start for the Open Wave at 7:33 AM, so I was very late.  The line for parking was long, and I still had to get to packet pick-up and get my skates on before getting to the start line.  The gear drop was also in an odd place.  Thankfully, one of my teammates from Team Rainbo was kind enough to drop my gear bag for me at gear drop while I got my skates on.  When I checked in and got my bib, I didn’t get an ankle chip.

I made it to the start line, but just barely before the National Anthem.  I got in with the group of skaters in the open group, but was shuffled a couple of skaters back from the start line.  The conditions were tight, and it took a bit to get across the start line.  At the start, the pace was predictably fast through the turn around.  The main group filtered out after a couple of miles.  We had a solid group through the first half of the race.  Oddly, at about mile 5.5, I was pulling the line and found myself alone.  I looked back to see the line dropping off behind me.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold that pace through the rest of the race, and opted to let the line catch me.  We rotated out, I continued to draft, and as we approached the turn around a couple of skaters got away.  Cale Carvell gave chase, and caught the group on the flyer.  The line broke up a bit up the hill to the turn around, and I opted to see if I could catch the flyer. It took about a mile, but I managed to reel them in.  Unfortunately, the rest of the pack came with us.  The last couple of miles were very fast.  I managed to duck in behind Roger Olson and hang on to the finish.  We were cruising into the final sprint, and I looked to my right only to see one of the other skaters closing, so I shot my right foot out to cross the line first, finishing in the top 5 for the wave, first for my age group, and 33rd overall, finishing in 42:02.30.  Full results can be found here.  The open wave was lead by Matt Melanson, Cale Carvell, Roger Olson, and myself.  However, the official results list Dan Stietz as finishing first, though I don’t know we ever saw him in or around the main pack, and he finished about 3 seconds ahead of the pack.  There was some great racing in the open division this year.

Inline Skate Minneapolis‘s race report from the overall event can be found here.  Kelin Dunfree pulled out the overall win, followed by Rob Bell and Alex Fadek with Hernan Diaz and  Team Rainbo’s Steve Meisinger rounding out the top five finishers.  Kaari, over at the Longtrack Life also pulled out her inline skates and raced the event.  Her race report can be found here.

My technique was better in this race, but after watching the video and observing some of the other skaters, I can say that the big problem with my technique is where my center of gravity sits over my skates.  The other fast skaters have their center of gravity further back over the heels of their skates.  Mine tends to be over my skates.  I noticed this after the Chicagoland, but this certifies the problem.  I have been working on this aspect of my technique.  I need to get my balance and weight farther over the heels of my skates, and I will continue to work on this body position.  The big benefit of doing this is it forces me to push out to side more effectively, thereby transferring power to the ground more effectively to generate more speed.

The race was a little slower than last year, but my finish result was better in the main pack.  While there was a little hiccup with the timing because I didn’t have an ankle chip, the race organizers were very accommodating to add my time to the final results.  My helmet camera video follows:

I used DashWare to make the gauge overlay for this video.  This process is shockingly more cumbersome than using CycleCam.  CycleCam creates the gauge videos with just the use of the Garmin TCX file.  However, it doesn’t have very many options for gauges.  DashWare has considerably more gauge options, and the gauge designer is very powerful, though not entirely user friendly.  DashWare, though, is designed to make the entire video, start to finish.  DashWare has options for titling, but isn’t very capable as an editor.  I had to make a background to make the green screen so I could use chroma key to overlay the gauges on the camera footage.  I like the gauge options, but you have to render the video with audio in DashWare then edit the camera video and gauge video in Lightworks.  I am going to keep working with DashWare to see if I can construct a viable workflow.  I will have a review of DashWare specifically in the near future.


Race Report: 2013 Minnesota Half Marathon

This post could also be titled “How the Chicagoland Marathon should have gone.”

I came at this race only two weeks after the Chicagoland Inline Marathon with only five training sessions.  I was hoping to get more miles in on skates, on my bike, or some dry land work, but life gets in the way.  I had a lot of apprehension about the race because of the limited training and limited preparation time.  Coming out of Chicagoland, I was disappointed by a time I was hoping would be better.  I couldn’t figure out if I didn’t train enough, if there was a diet problem, or if I just wasn’t in the shape I was in last year.  These feelings compounded a bit going into the Minnesota Half Marathon.  This race tends to feel like the late season litmus test going into the last 6 weeks before the Northshore Inline Marathon in September.  Last year, I finished the Minnesota Half far better than I could have expected, setting a new personal best for a half marathon distance at just over 43 minutes.

I had one goal going into this race:  to stay with the main pack.  I didn’t want to get dropped from the pack at all if possible.  Last year, they left me at mile 9.  This year, my goal was to finish with the pack, but going in I would have been happy to last longer than 9 miles, and make it past the last turn-around point on the course.

I was nervous at the start, and on the video you can see me rocking back and forth.  We didn’t have any problem getting into St. Paul to stay with my sister-in-law this year.  The weather was great, and the trip is now only an hour since we live in Rochester, Minnesota.  This basically makes this race a local race for me.  My wife and sister-in-law decided to run the 5k at the event this year, so I was out the door at 6:30 to head to the race for a 7:34 AM start time.  I got there, found parking, paid for parking, and by the time I got to the location of gear drop-off, it was just after 7 AM.  I got ready, dropped off my bag, but didn’t have time to warm up because they called the skaters to the line for the start.  I was nervous because of my lack of training, my goals, and my result at the Chicagoland Marathon.  One of the odd things about sport performance is the degree to which the mental component matters.  I knew what I had to do, and once the countdown for the start of the race hit 0, it was all business.

I skated the race on the same gear I skated the Chicagoland, and this race included the same wheels and bearings from last year’s race.  Everything worked out very well, and even though there are now considerably more miles on my 2012 Bont Black Ops 87a 110mm wheels, they are wearing well, continue to roll well, and are very smooth over rougher surfaces for such a hard wheel.  My new boots and frames did excellently as well in the conditions.  My new boots (2012 Bont Zs) are starting to break in very well, and get more comfortable every time I skate them.

The first part of the race was similar to last year.  The front starters and fast skaters took off and set a fast pace.  We were cruising at around 20 miles per hour headed to the first turn-around point.  I stuck with some of my teammates, and the first trouble in the race really didn’t spring up until we caught the slower duathlon skaters.  We had to maneuver through a small group of slower skaters, and the slower skaters basically covered the course from about a half mile in to the first turn-around point at around 2 miles into the race.  Once through the turn-around, there weren’t any obstacles in front of the main pack.  The dynamics of the pack were similar to last year, in that they were all over the place and the front of the line wasn’t calling hazards.  There weren’t any major surges in the pace except for on the hills, which are mild and short by comparison to the hills on the Chicagoland course.  The pack cruised along, swapping positions with skaters coming up on one side or the other of the line.  We hit the big hills and I just hung on for dear life, working hard to close any gaps that opened in front of me.  I kept checking my Garmin to see what my heart rate was doing.  It is interesting to watch the video now to also see where I was with my heart rate.  It wasn’t as elevated as last year, so I am in better physical condition, at least so it seems.

As we got to mile 9, and were coming up to the last turn-around on the course, I got nervous again because I started to gap the line at the same point as last year.  I could feel my heart pounding in my ears, and decided to push through and stick with the pack as long as I could.  We made the turn around, and with one of my race goals down, I was going to ride it out and see how long it lasted.  However, we turned the corner and the pace of the group slowed.  Not remarkably, but enough for me to catch my breath and recover a bit.  As we headed into the hilly section on the return, there was a skater in front of the one of my team mates that kept letting other skaters in the line.  My team mate decided he didn’t want to let this go on, so he jumped out of the line.  I didn’t want to get left behind, so I went with him.  What was supposed to be a tactical move up in the line turned into a short flyer.  Next thing I know, we are out in front with a gap on the line as we crest over the hill.  My team mate moved into the draft behind me and we started down the hill.  He warned me that the line would likely come flying by us on the down hill.  At that point, I was too spent to care, and just coasted the hill.  The pack caught up, but the surge didn’t happen until we were headed back up the next hill.  Thankfully, the down hill coast was enough for me to recover from the sprint.  As the line went by, I managed to stay with the front 15 or so skaters.

The pace picked up from there.  We crossed the 12.5 mile mark and the line disintegrated into an extended field sprint.  The guys at the front of the line stayed together, but farther back, it was every man for himself.  I really pushed the pace all the way to the finish, and my speed was considerably higher than what I usually skate.  My heart rate was through the roof, but I made it to the finish.  Officially, I finished with a time of 40:49.88, finishing first overall in the open masters division (age 30-39).

20130803 MN Half Award Picture w Medal

Much like last year, this was a great race, and anyone who is on the fence about whether to attend should take the plunge.  It may only be a half marathon, but it is certainly one of the great races of the year that I have attended.  I am looking forward to next year, and hope to be in the front of the open pack at the finish.  The one thing I would change about this race is the way the duathlon starts.  The slower duathlon skaters are a danger to the faster open group skaters, and this was blatantly apparent this year as we had to dodge several of them during the first 2 miles of the race.  I think this could be fixed with better instructions to the duathlon skaters about staying to the right of the road way .  That notwithstanding, this was a great race generally, and a good race for me personally.  The video of my race follows:

Minnesota Half Marathon, August 4, 2012

I am a little late with posting this race report, but life has been a bit hectic lately.  That not withstanding, this was a great race to attend, though I didn’t perform as well as I had hoped.

The trip to my Sister-in-Law’s was a bit harrowing, and ended with a very slow drive through a monsoon on the highway just before getting to her house.  We made it, but we didn’t get in until around midnight.  The start of the race was bright and early at 7:30, and since I had to pick up my race packet, it meant being out the door by 6 AM to get there for packet pick-up at 6:30.  As a result, I was really tired from lack of sleep and stress from the late night of driving.  Adversity is where you really learn who you are, though.

I got ready and skipped the warm up.  This was a mistake.  I was nervous on the start line, and had a hard time getting focused.  The horn sounded and it was all business.  Once we got going, my goal was just to stick with the lead pack in the Open Division.  I hoped to finish in 40:00.00.  That would have been a great time for me.  Realistically, my goal was to beat my half marathon split from the Chicagoland Marathon, which was 44 minutes.  I finished in just over 43 minutes, and am happy with the result.

Conditions were decent for racing, though it threatened rain all morning.  The start temperature was in the mid 60’s and the humidity was a bit high, but not unbearable.  The ground was dry for the most part, with a couple of wet spots, so everyone opted for dry wheels instead of rain wheels.  I used the Black Ops 87a wheels for this race.  Grip was good and consistent, as was the roll.  I am still really enjoying these wheels.  Overall, we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

The trip out was relatively uneventful, although the skaters at the front of the pace line were all over the place.  They were going slow where they should have been fast and fast where it didn’t make sense to go fast.  They weren’t calling out hazards either, so we nearly took a tumble once or twice because the front of the line wasn’t letting anyone know about road hazards.  I skated with a couple of Team Rainbo members for most of the race, but they broke away to move up in the pace line.  I should have followed suit.  I got stuck at the back of the line when it accordioned at mile 9.  The gap was too big for me to make up, and I skated the last four miles or so on my own.  I managed to keep a good pace for most of that time, but was caught by a group from behind in the last mile of the race.  I jumped on their line and cruised with them.  As we got to the final stretch, I sprinted from the line, hoping to get a good enough gap to finish ahead of them.  I sprinted too early, though, and ended up being passed by the leader of that pace line.  That skater won our division, Advanced Masters 30-39.  I placed second.  Either way, it was a great race, and the video has some good action in it.  My official time was 43:03.61, and just over 2 seconds behind the skater who one the division.  Endomondo has my time for the half marathon at 42:50.  I don’t know what accounts for the difference.  Either way, I will use the official time for the record.  Also, I have a new personal best for a 10k sprint at 19:22.  This was a fast race and a lot of fun.  Average pace was around 18 miles per hour with a top speed of 26.2 miles per hour.

This race I learned that I need to hydrate more before the race because I don’t drink enough during the race.  I also learned that when I am going fast to keep up with a pack, my form suffers, which burns more energy.  In addition, I learned the importance of being farther up in the pace line to avoid being dropped when the accordion effect hits.

The video below is just the race video.  I have an alternative for my video editor and am getting caught up on my video edits.  I will be posting video showing my technique front and back, soon, too.  I am hoping to use this to tweak my form going into the off season so I know what I need to work on in my technique.