It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

September 05, 2013

Women Rock Minnesota - Race and Vacation

If you want to know how to have a fantastic girls weekend, but a crappy race...well then you are in on.  If you want to know how to PR a half marathon....go find another blog.
Michelle, Meredith and I (all together again)

Several months ago I begged, pleaded and begged some more to get together a group of girls for a girls weekend and race.  You would think this would be a simple task, but getting people to commit to something a few months in advance is tough.

Finally, my good friends Michelle and Meredith agreed to do the Women Rock Minnesota Half Marathon with me in lovely St. Paul, Minnesota.  Michelle and Meredith were also my two Disney marathon pals - where we all finished our very first marathons.  So it was fun to reunite.

Women Rock Minnesota has several awesome things going for it:
  • An all women's race
  • An awesome finishers jacket
  • A ruby and diamond finishers pendant
  • A wine glass filled with champagne (or sprite) awaiting you at the finish line
  • Oh yea, and hot shirtless men handing out your pendants at the end of the race...but I wasn't interested in that.  I'm married to my own hottie :)

Jacket - pretty sweet
In addition to the great race swag, the Minneapolis/St Paul area has so much to offer:
  • The Mall of America (need I say more)
  • The Minnesota Twins and Vikings
  • Terrific Restaurants and Bars
  • Beautiful scenery and just an overall lively atmosphere
  • And all just a 6.5 hour drive from Kansas City
Michelle back the car up at least a half mile on the highway so we could get this picture

We left late Wednesday night and drove to Des Moines, Ia.  We didn't get to the hotel until 11 pm and of course we stayed up chatting until after midnight.  I knew already I was going to be in for a long, but fun weekend.  Of course what would three runners do but set the alarms for 4:45 am so we could get up and get in a few miles in the am.  Well...we did set the alarms, but when they went off we were just way to tired to actually do it.  We reset alarms for 6am and then got up and around....we were still dragging, that's for sure.

We had to get up early because, as chance would have it, our beloved Kansas City Royals were playing the Minnesota Twins in a day game at noon.  So off we headed to the baseball game.  Traffic was a bear and we ended up a little late to the game.  We got there in the 2nd inning and the Royals were already up 2 to 0.  Little did we know that would be the most action in the game.  The Royals ended up scoring one more run in the 2nd inning and won the game 3 to 1.  Minnesota is North and gets tons and tons of snow.  I was totally expecting the weather to be cooler than in was in KC, but no luck.  The sun was high in the sky without a cloud in sight.  The temperature was well over 95 in the shade with humidity over 80%.  To say it was hot, is an understatement.  It was easily above 100 degree "feels like" temp.  When we arrived, a girl behind us said "welcome ladies, it's nice and cool out here" - we looked at her and she absolutely looked like she was melting - like the Wicked Witch melting.  Our seats were directly in the sun, not an ounce of shade anywhere.  Within 10 minutes we were all sweating buckets.  The game was fun, and by the last inning we managed to find some seats in the helped but the damage was done.

When we 1st go down

Within a few minutes....all hair up

Anyone sensing a pattern sleep, keeps getting better.

After the game we headed to a local Pub to cool off and wait for Michelle's friend who lives in the area.  Finally around 5 or 6 we checked into our hotels and showered.  Ahhh....that shower never felt so good.  I think we all had about 6 pounds of wet sweaty clothes on.  Michelle went to dinner with her friend and Meredith and I headed into a cute little area full of restaurants in St Paul.  It was walking distance from our hotel (just under a mile) so we walked.  In the distance you could see this beautiful old church, as well as the Capitol building.  It was really cool.  After a hot day all I could think about was eating something cold.  So we both got the most awesome spinach salads.  It might sound blah but it was amazing.  So fresh and perfect.  Then we topped it off with dessert - of course - some kind of chocolate mousse tower and raspberry cheesecake.  Oh, best stuff EVER!!!  We finally got back to our room around 9 and waited up for Michelle.  Again, more talking and chatting and going to bed late...again.  I'm not used to staying up late - I am in bed most nights by 9:30.

The cool night

And in the day

Again....seeing the pattern....eating, eating, and eating, and walking and walking and not sleeping.

The next morning we did what anyone who has a race the next day would do.  We went shopping.  And not just any shopping.  I'm talking Mall of America Shopping (the 2nd largest mall in the United States and the most visited with over 40 million visitors annual).  It's four stories of shopping heaven.  We walked and shopped for over 6 hours and didn't make a dent in the stores.  We would have loved to have stayed longer, but we had to get to the expo to pick up packets and then make 6:15 dinner reservations.  Our feet and legs were so dead.

Did someone say shopping?

So, a super quick stop by the hotel to change and freshen up and then back out the door for the expo and more walking.  We drove the few blocks to the expo, but walked to dinner.   The expo was smaller than I expected.  The race has over 7500 women in the half marathon, 10K, and 5K and they said there were 90 vendors, but it seemed like to me there were only a handful of booths.....maybe we missed part of the expo?? 

When I registered for this race - several months ago I pre-purchased a Women Rock Tank Top.  When I got to the expo, I was told they "sold out" of tank tops.  I had to go stand in a ridiculously long "gear exchange" line to get my money back.  This was seriously frustrating.  How can you sell out of something I purchased months ago?  Wouldn't you just order exactly what was purchased?  Or if you had only purchased a certain amount - why would I be allowed to order one?  And why couldn't you just give me a credit - why did I have to stand in line FOREVER.  So Michelle and Meredith got to enjoy the expo while I stood in line.  I was not happy about this part at all.  Oh well, like I said, there wasn't much at the expo anyway.

We walked to dinner and had some awesome Italian at Louis Restaurant.  A family restaurant in St Paul for 102 years.  There specialty was Italian sausage, I was not brave enough to get something spicy like that before a race, but Meredith threw caution to the wind and ordered it.  I stuck with spaghetti and meatballs, which were delicious.  Meredith said the sausage was great...I didn't even try it.
Pre-race meal at Louis

We finally crawled in bed around 11 or so and set our alarms for 5 am.  I was completely exhausted.  This race was definitely going to be "for fun".  That was ok, that's what we were here for. 

5 am came way to early, but we were up and getting ready for race day.  It was a balmy 75 degrees and humid.  I knew it was going to be hot, so I had brought my hydration belt with me so I could have water whenever I wanted it.  Race morning came and once I put on my hydration belt, my belt for my phone and my bib# I felt like I just had too much stuff on.  I decided to leave the hydration belt and just get water at the water stops (mistake).

I probably shouldn't show this..but in the pre-race dance tradition....our best Miley Cyrus impression

Much better

Our hotel was just under a mile away from the finish line festival, gear check, etc so we walked.  It was just under a mile to "gear check".  We dropped off Michelle's bag and then walked another 3 or 4 blocks to the shuttle (start and end are at different points).  We waited just a couple of minutes for the shuttle and then were off for what seemed like a 15 or 20 minute trip.  We finally got off the bus and all of us needed to pee.  We were told the start was another half mile.  It was already 7:15 and we were freaking out a little bit.  We had left our hotel at 6:15 thinking that would give us plenty of time.  We found porta pottys and were finally in line for the race about 7:28.  There wasn't much time to spare for the 7:30 start time...well it ends up there was.  The race started about 10 or 15 minutes late.  They said you had to be on the last shuttle at 7:15 - but there was no way the people on that shuttle would have made it to the start at 7:30.  The race was kind of a logistical mess I thought - and really what's the point of having a gear bag if it's back at the finish line and not with you.  They should definitely have the gear drop at the start line.  It would eliminate an extra stop in the morning and would be better for people who wanted to have jackets or whatever with them.

Finally the race started.  I have been training for my marathon with a 4 minute run/1 minute walk, but for this race I thought I'd do 10 minutes run and 1 minute walk.  I started running and could immediately tell my legs were dead.  I was just so tired, but I was running ok.  I started just behind the 2:30 pace group, hoping my end time would be somewhere between 2:30 and 2:35.  Within the first mile I couldn't keep up with them - even though I was averaging an 11:18 pace (a 2:30 is an 11:26 pace).  I lost them early and never saw them again.  It was hot, and I was sweating within the first mile.  About mile two you finally see a water stop coming up....but what it's blocked off by a line of people and a sign saying - it's for the turnaround.  Not reason it couldn't have been a water stop on the way out and back.  In the heat, this was really, really dumb.  Finally at almost mile 3 you get to your first water stop.  I was kicking myself for not wearing my hydration belt.  The water stops were few and far between.  What makes it worse is they sent out an e-mail a couple of days before the race and said due to the heat they were adding water and going to have cold sponges on route.  There were no sponges.  One girl around mile eleven even said to me "where are those sponges they promised".  Anyway, I did pretty well until about mile 10.  I had maintained my 10 minute run/1 minute walk and was averaging an 11:25 pace overall.  But then I had to go to the bathroom.  I stopped for a porta potty break right around mile 10.  It was so HOT in there I couldn't wait to get out.  We had been lucky to have shade for about the first 8 miles of the course, but this stretch was full sun.  When I exited the porta potty the wheels just feel off.  I suddenly felt exhausted, extremely overheated and the next leg of the race seemed to go uphill forever.  My pace over the last 3 miles averaged between 13 and 14 minutes.  When I finally got near the finish line I didn't have a sudden burst of energy...I just wanted to be done.  I finally crossed the finish line in 2:37:56.  Not so great, but oh well.

Some "hot" shirtless man handed me my necklace and I went to find Michelle and Meredith.  I had intended to get a picture with man and pendant, but was just too tired to pull out my phone.  We got to the finish line festival and had one group pic taken together with shirtless men and then found our respective glasses of champagne and sprite.  Before long we were packing it up and heading straight home to KC.

Cheers to a great weekend!

It was a long and exhausting weekend but it was so much fun.  The race has terrific swag, but in my opinion still has some bugs to work out.  That said I would recommend it.  I think the weather would typically be nice for a race in Minnesota this time of year.  The course was pretty blah with not much to see, but you did have nice shade for the first 8 miles. 

Have you ever done an all Women's Race?  Or have you ever received jewelry instead of a finishers medal?  Have you ever totally blown off a race because you were having too much fun on the trip?


  1. What a tiring but fun time you all had! That's a pretty cool medal for a race. I'm glad you had fun! Keep up the good work!

  2. OMG, so bummed that you were there & I didn't know it!!! Would have loved to meet you. Sorry to hear you had a tough run. I heard from other runners that there were sponges and wet towels (somewhere), but I missed them too. :(

    1. I knew you would be there and actually kept an eye out for you but in a blur of 7500 women it was easy to miss someone. I'm sure we'll cross paths again!

  3. Sounds like a fun weekend, Michael. There is a Detroit Women's Half coming up in a few weeks. They have a "chocolate mile". I haven't signed up for it yet, but I just might. Your entire trip sounds tiring, but fun. Hope your Chicago training is going well!

    1. You should totally do it! Chicago is going well...only two long runs left :)

  4. If I'm traveling - to DC - whatever - I rather enjoy where I am than do well in the race. I'm not winning any prize money I like to take full advantage of where I am. And Girls' Weekends rock! Lots of good things about that race. I like all women races. I have not gotten jewelry. Did it cost a ton? Love the jacket.

  5. Just as well you were there to have a good time because the race alone didn't sound like it would have been that great if you were looking for a time. Sounds like a really fun weekend though.

  6. I have never done an all women race. I would love to do the one in San Diego....maybe next year...
    I have blown races before but not because of fun trips....because of heat and knowing it was not going to be a great day.... I never had a DNF though...
    I am glad you had a great time with your pals!!

  7. I've done a girls weekend, all women's race with necklaces instead of finisher's medals 2x and loved it. It was the same race 2 years in a row...and it was HILLY! Definitely not my best 2 races, but still fun. Glad you had a great time and I love the fun pics!

  8. I did the Zooma half marathon last year on Cape Cod. It's not all women but mostly. And they gave necklaces instead of medals. I thought it was cool. It was a great girls weekend too, no husbands!!

  9. i was really jealous when i saw everyone posting pics from this race, looks like fun! i did a women only 10k in ohio a few years ago, it was fun and unique.

  10. Sometimes having fun is better than an amazing race. Although, I totally understand the wheels falling off during a hot one. . .ugh! Sounds like a great girls weekend, though!

  11. That sounded exhausting before I even got to the race part. :^) Races in the summer....yeah, not PR time.

    But I'm glad it was fun.