The Polar Dash 2016 Race Recap

For some reason, it was extra hard to get excited for this year’s Polar Dash and I’m not even sure I know why. The weather wasn’t even a factor. After all, it has already been a mild winter for Minnesota. I knew the temperatures would be well above zero which is a huge plus. But I think it was the motivational factor that was exceedingly low this year.

Since I volunteer so often for Team Ortho, this was a freebie for me. I earned my race entry. And since I signed up for the Yeti Challenge (10K, 5K, and 1600m), it was a pricey one, too. There is also the option to run the Super Yeti Challenge, which is the Half Marathon, 5K, and 16oom, but I always refrain from doing the half marathon on New Year’s Day. Mainly, because the weather can be so flaky, and running 13 miles in sub-zero weather scares the hell out of me.

I had my bib already. In fact, I collected it at the previous Team Ortho run, the Monster Dash. All I had to do this day was show up. It was at a different venue than previous years. This made the parking a lot less stressful, but added in the question of road conditions, since the run would be half on road and half on walking trails. Since we had just had a bit of a snowstorm, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Sleep wasn’t too much of an issue for me the night before. Yeah, it was New Year’s Eve, but this being the 4th consecutive year of the Polar Dash Run meant no celebrating for me. And since my husband has been fighting the Christmas Crud, I’ve taken up residence in one of the back bedrooms. This is actually a bonus for me, because they aren’t heated, so my peri-menopausal self has been enjoying the 52° sleeping conditions. Plus, with a 9:30am start, I didn’t have to awaken pre-dawn. In fact, I woke with the sun at 7:00am-ish. Sometimes, though, a late start can be more of a hindrance than a help.

My husband decided to accompany me, despite a despicable chest cold that he has been suffering with for over a week. I knew it would be pretty chilly for him to be standing in the cold for so long, but since he discovered that the race venue was just around the corner from our favorite Mexican market, he was ready to tag along, providing we made the pit stop on the way home.

Despite an unexpected detour, Google maps got us there at 9:00am-ish, enough time to zip right into a parking lot across the street from the park. I prepped in the car, and my husband wrapped me up in his jacket and heavy mittens before heading over to the start line. Already, the half marathoners had started, and he was concerned that we were late but I reassured him that my start time wasn’t until 9:30am.

It didn’t seem particularly crowded this year. In fact, numbers looked rather low as compared to previous years. And I didn’t notice as many familiar faces. But the new venue was nice. It was the same venue as the Chocoholic Frolic 10K that I just ran in November. There was an actual building to warm up in, with tents on either side where the water and food was housed, and plenty of seating available. It was definitely a step up in that respect. Again, it wasn’t brutally cold, but even with temperatures in the teens and an obvious lack of sunshine, it wasn’t particularly comfortable either.

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We were out at the start line around 9:20am and there was no delay in the start time. We were off at 9:30am on the nuts. I saw my husband ahead of me getting some pictures. It was a narrow course to begin with so we had to jockey for position a little before it opened up around the 1/2 mile mark. After that, it was smooth sailing.

I started off slow. That is always a good thing. In fact, it probably saved me this run because my lungs were quickly affected by the chilled air. Since it has been a rather mild winter thus far, I’m far from acclimated to running in the cold. Already I could tell that my chest would hurt later in the day. Once I warmed up a bit, the feeling subsided, but it did play a part in my recovery.

The run went well. I didn’t push anything. I just ran to run. I knew there would be no PRs and I didn’t feel like attempting one, either. Since the field was so small, and I wasn’t running amoungst a group of people, I didn’t feel compelled to give it my all. I just wanted to give enough so I could run the remaining two events later that morning.

The route wasn’t icy at all, but there was one area with major pot holes and slush galore. The volunteers did a great job of coning the area off and giving us plenty of warning, but we still ended up hopscotching around the obstacles. That was near mile 2, and since it was an out and back, we’d pass this area again on the way to the finish.

The half marathoners were just finishing up their first lap at this point. They’d have to repeat the route for the second half of their run. I was excited to see Gina of RUN GINA RUN on the course. She always spots me from a distance, but this time, I spotted her, too! She looked strong, and was running at a great pace. In the meantime, I was just trying to stay calm and keep my breathing in control.

The run was marginally hilly. Hilly enough for me to take notice and change up my pace as we traversed up some small steep inclines, and pick up the pace as we headed back down. I tried to use the downhills to my advantage to pick up a little bit of time here and there.

The final mile or so was on a single lane path, and thankfully there wasn’t a crowd at all. In fact as I crossed the finish, there was pretty much no one there. There was no announcer there, either, so it was a rather un-monumental way to end a race. I gathered my medals, and heard my husband shout to me. He made it to the finish after I crossed. He expected I would finish where we started, but that wasn’t the case. We huffed through the snow and headed back to the heated building to warm up before the 1600m began 45 minutes later.

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I was able to collect my Polar Dash half zip and say hi to the other volunteers and Team Ortho staff. I was also able to hit the heated bathrooms in the building. This was a major bonus. No lines, and heat. YAY! My husband ran into the nurse who gave him his pain shots last week. That was pretty cool that they recognized each other. Afterwards, and when time expired, we headed to the start of the 1600m run.

I quickly lost my husband in the shuffle and realized I didn’t get my sunglasses back so I was forced to run this heat in my eyeglasses. No biggie…but I prefer running in the larger frames. It was short enough, though…and when I saw I crossed that finish in a little over 7 minutes, I was pleased as punch. Again, no fanfare at the finish line, so I collected my medals for Delaney and I and went cross country to look for Steve again. I couldn’t find him, but I ran into another volunteer inside one of the tents. As we conversed, I texted my husband and he found me. We got some photos with the 1600m medals, and he took them from me just before heading to the start line of the 5K. Almost done! And I was ready to be done…and I believe he was, too.

After the 1600m run

After the 1600m run

This time, I got my sunglasses as the sun finally decided to come out. And it made all the difference. It felt so much better to have that sun beating down on my cold legs.

The only thing strikingly odd about the 5K was that we seemed to run in one direction for over 2 miles. I couldn’t fathom how an out and back was longer in one direction than the other. Then I remembered the 10K had the different finish line and realized we must be ending at the same place. But, it still seemed to me that the run would end up longer than 3.1 miles. My runmeter, in fact, clocked it at 3.2 miles and I think that seemed right. I could be wrong…but like I said, the out and back was oddly lopsided.

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I crossed the 5K finish alone…and there was no one behind me. I figured it must have been a pretty good clip. It was under 25 minutes…not bad considering it was run #3. And I was pretty much exhausted. Time to get out of there!

As we headed to get my Yeti Challenge Medal, my husband took a pretty good spill on the ice. Ouch. With his bad back and all. I felt awful! We got him up and brushed him off, and thankfully he did more damage to his elbow than his back. We got that medal and left…sans any final photos. It was a long morning and already after 12:00pm. I was cold, sweaty, and ready to sit in the car for a spell. He was anxious to get to the Mexican market.

All four medals!

All four medals!

When we arrived home, I had him take some photos of me with my medals. At least I got some there. With the few we got at the race, and the few selfies I got, at least I had some documentation that I actually ran my 4th Polar Dash event.

Yeti Challenge Results

Yeti Challenge Results

Yeah, my chest hurt that night. And the next day, my voice was rather raspy. But I learned I placed 2nd or 3rd in each event in my age group, plus I placed second in my age group for the Yeti Challenge! A nice surprise.

Will I do it yet again next year? If they keep it where they had it this year, for sure, yes. I always say this is the craziest run I do all year. But now it has become a rite of passage. It sets me up for an entire year of running. Besides, now I have my Yeti hat. I have no excuse not to.

How did your Resolution Run go? Are you ready to tackle 2016?

 

 

 

 

 

One Response to The Polar Dash 2016 Race Recap

  1. DewMoonDrop says:

    Awesome account. I could see everything. So sorry about your husbands fall on snow. Hope he is not hurt.

    I ran the 15 mile Polar Dash last year. I was miffed that they did not publish my time. I was one of the last few finishers, but within time-limit.
    This year due to other personal reasons I ran a 5K at Lifetime Commitment Day race.

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