This, my friends, is The Cathedral of Saint Paul in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Monster Dash day. (Photo from race organizer Team Ortho.)
I’ve been in awe of this stately church since I first saw it. It lends a beautiful reverence to the landscape of Saint Paul and seems to keep a watchful eye over the city. I never drive by without noticing it.
Neither of us are even Catholic, but back in our college days JR and I went to evening mass once at the cathedral. I just wanted to experience it, and I was awe-struck.
When I was thinking about races for this fall season I knew a marathon was not in the cards. Two this spring was enough for awhile, but I did want to see what I could do over 13.1. That meant seeking out the right half marathon. The Monster Dash is one of the only late fall half marathons somewhat nearby, and I saw it started at my beloved cathedral. When I found out I had several friends running it too, I was sold!
It was sunny and breezy on Saturday morning, which should be perfect fall running weather. Unfortunately the wind and sun both got intense for me at the end, but at the start it felt beautiful.
I met up with several lovely ladies pre-race, and we chatted about our goals and race jitters.
My friend on the left ran the 5K (while pushing her adorable son in the stroller), so my friend on the right and I headed to the cathedral together about 8:00 for an 8:30 start. There were giant bathroom lines and people everywhere, so we ended up getting into the starting area later than we hoped. The gun actually went off while I was still trying to check my bag, so I jogged on the far edge of the side walk and finally managed to get near the 9:00 minute pace signs as I crossed the start.
The course went down Summit Avenue for the first few miles, and every couple minutes I had a strong urge to stop and take a picture. The leaves were still rich red, gold, and amber, and the homes were magazine perfect. People were cheering in small clumps here and there, and the first five miles all passed pretty well considering the bobbing and weaving. I was running consistent 8:20 miles, and I hoped I could finish in just under 1 hour, 50 minutes.
It was continually entertaining to look around at the crazy costumes people were running in. Throughout the day I saw everything from fairies, witches, and Ken and Barbie to scuba divers, Indiana Jones and the boulder, and Adam and Eve. I also had another friend dressed with a group as the Harlem Globetrotters.
Around mile 6 I noticed the first signs of tired legs, but I spied my friend in blue up ahead which gave me a boost. She was on track to run a big personal best, and I wished her well as I continued trying to run an even pace. It wasn’t working quite as well anymore.
The sun was really beating down, and while it was still a moderate temperature (probably 60 at most) I was feeling the heat. The wind was also picking up in sections, which was cooling but also slowed me down. I feel like such a wimp for complaining about a gorgeous, sunny, breezy fall day, but somehow those things combined for more challenging conditions than I thought.
I was really thirsty at the water stop around mile nine or ten, so I slowed way down to drink a full cup of water and Gatorade. Bad idea. I instantly had a side ache that burned. I tried to breathe deep and easy as I relaxed my shoulders, but it persisted. I tried my second method of defense, which is to push hard on my side. About five minutes later I felt pretty normal, but I knew my pace had suffered.
Mile twelve brought a small hill that felt like a mountain, and I slowed again as I made the climb. I knew at this point I’d missed my shot at 1:49, so it was harder to find an extra gear. I did manage about 8:30 for mile thirteen, and I passed many of the runners who had passed me on the earlier hill. A great section of spectators lined the end of the course as I ran into the finish at the Mississippi flats on the edge of downtown in 1:52.
I was a little (or a lot) disappointed to miss my goal, but I was spent and knew I had run hard. I appreciated the salty chips, creamy yogurt, and cold beer among other things at the finish. :-)
I headed home pretty quickly after the race, and I was amazed at the smooth traffic and parking both getting in and out of Saint Paul. I had prepared myself for bumper to bumper frustration, so I was pleasantly surprised. The rest of my weekend was filled up with farm stuff and household chores, but you’d better believe I was in bed as early as I could be Saturday and Sunday.
Where does this race leave me now?
I just don’t know. On Monday night as I write this, my body is still trashed. It feels more like marathon soreness than half marathon soreness, and I didn’t even run my best time.
I think perhaps my lingering cold and the long fall days took their toll on me this month. I also missed some runs and cut others short due to sickness and just plain busyness, and apparently it caught up with me. Like many races, I find I’m happy with my effort but left wanting something more.
I may take one last shot at the 5K this year, but either way l’m excited to keep putting in the miles and going after more finish lines in 2015.