January 1st, 2015.
The Polar Dash.
Out of all the races on my calendar, none brings up a sense of dread like this event.
It involves running…outdoors…in January…in Minnesota.
During the past two years, the wind chill during each race hovered around -30F. The roads were as clear as they could get them, but they were never ideal. Black ice was everywhere. The warming tents were nice but rarely even get close to the freezing point. They cut the wind, but they did little more then that.
I do this race since I need an occasional winter event on the schedule to keep me motivated. Also, this race is part of the Team Ortho race series. I do the series every year for the bling, the swag, and the train wrecks. Yes, Team Ortho is good at train wrecks. They never fail to entertain. There was the year that the timing mats didn’t work, so we were asked to simply e-mail them what we thought what our “official” results should be to them. There was the year that we were instructed on an out and back HM to “turn around whenever you feel like it…we won’t be checking…”. Let’s not forget about the canceled marathon because of the CHANCE of sprinkles. Yes, the train wrecks just keep on coming. But, they tend to send me double (or even triple) swag so I can’t really complain.
This year was shaping up to be a train wreck for the ages. They called it “The Yeti Challenge”. There would be 4 races on the same day, and they would be on the same course. There would be a 15 mile race starting at 9 am, a 10 k starting at 9:30 am (after the 15 miler started and hopefully ending before the 15 miler would end). Then they would have a 5k at noon. In between, there would be multiple heats of the new 1500m. Then they would have two challenge events. The Yeti Challenge (10k, 5k, 1500m) and the Super Yeti Challenge (15 mile, 5k, 1500m). All of this with the same bib and the same chip on the same course with multiple races running simultaneously. This coming from the folks that can’t time a single race correctly.
I planned to be there early to watch the carnage. I was hoping that they would supply snacks…
I got there in plenty of time. The parking lot was a distance from the event venue and they had a free “yellow limo” service. This went smoothly. The weather cooperated for once. The mercury was at 22F for the drive in and got up to 35F. We had sub-zero a couple of days ago, and the deep freeze was returning within 48 hours, but we lucked out on race day this year. I would be participating in the Yeti Challenge. 3 races, about 10 miles, four medals, one patch, and one fleece jacket. Despite the Team Ortho screw ups, they got the swag to keep me coming back!
Arriving at the venue, everything was well laid out. The warming area worked (mainly since it wasn’t that cold to begin with) and the roads were mostly clear and dry. The course is the same as every year. It is a scenic out and back along the Mississippi River.The 15 milers went off without a hitch and my 10k started about 30 minutes later…also without a hitch. My feet were cold for the first mile and then warmed up nicely. I never go fast on these races (I just run slowly in the cold when I am all bundled up). These were fun runs and I was not overly concerned about time.
After the race, I got some snacks and hot chocolate before heading to the warming area. They had packet pick up for their next event so I claimed my bib/chip/hoodie for the Get Lucky HM in March. I then went to bag drop and checked that gear and my first medal with the rest of my gear.
I did get cold waiting around for the 1500m. My cloths were drenched and I got cold and stiff very quickly. Starting the 1500m was slow. My legs had really stiffened up on me and I was barely shuffling for the first half of the event. So far, I was disappointed by the lack of disasters. Team Ortho had their act together today! Well, those hopes were soon dashed. The 1500m was long (real long…like 1/3 mile too long…) but they made up for it by making the 15 miler about a mile short. The 15 mile race was certified, so why bother putting the turnaround at the right spot?
1500m: 12:55 (288/632) => not 1500m!!!
There wasn’t much time after the 1500 finished until the start of the 5k and I just stuffed my 1500m medal into a zippered pocket and lined up At the starting line. I didn’t have time to get cold or stiff, but I was getting tired of running the same stretch of road. Bottom line, I didn’t break any records.
5k: 31:10 (573/2079)
Yeti Chaallenge: 1:42:56 (133/337)
Afterwards, I avoided the snacks, went to the warming tent, got my Yeti Challenge medal and patch along with my reclaimed bag drop. Overall, a fairly successful event. That said, I doubt I will run it again. I signed up this year for the Team Ortho series for the fourth (and likely final) time. They are the same race with similar swag every year. They are expensive and I think I will check out other races series in 2016. It will be a little odd not partaking in this New Years Day tradition in the future, but I think I will get over it quickly if the race day tempuratures plummet to -30F again next year…