Race Report: Polar Dash Half Marathon (1/1/2018)

The Race

Back in November or so, I thought running a race on January 1st sounded like a good idea. I have known about The Polar Dash for a few years. It is part of the Monster Run Series put on by Team Ortho that includes several other popular races in the Twin Cities (and allegedly Chicago), the Get Lucky race in March and Monster Dash in October being the two I have seen the most about although I had never participated in one of their events before.


The 10-day forecast told me that race morning was going to be chilly and nothing really changed when I got up at 5:00 am, temperature was -10 degrees Fahrenheit. We had had a few days with similar temperatures so I was mostly confident that my racing outfit would work although I was a bit nervous that I was over-dressed given that I would be running harder than my other recent outdoor runs.

I did struggle, however, in trying to decide what kind of warm-up I should do. In my training runs, I usually just start slow and increase the pace as I start to feel the groove but before a race, I’ll do an very easy mile or so to warm up the muscles before the start. But that didn’t seem like a good idea–I also did not want to just hang out it the heated building by the start/finish area. So I ended up spending about 15 minutes outside gentling running a bit and bouncing around.

The Race

The course was basically two out-and-backs along the same road so there were stretches of road we ran four times. It was fun seeing the lead runners after the first turn-around point (plus I was able to count places–I was at 23rd overall at the ~4 mile turn-around). But after awhile I found it mentally fatiguing to be seeing runners headed in the opposite direction, especially when some of the 10K-ers, who started an hour after the half marathoners, started showing up.

But I can understand why, at this time of year, they would want the race to have a smaller footprint–just makes the logistics easier.

But overall, the course was decent. The elevation profile on mapmyrun.com makes it looks like there are some significant hills but they were really just little nubs. The thing I really liked was that we got to run on clear streets for almost the entire race. There was one little stretch of trail that had some icing but overall it was a nice change from the snow-packed footing I’ve been running on the last 4-6 weeks.

My Race

I came into the race with no race-pace work at all so I had modest goals. I was thinking I would be happy to run 8:00/mile pace given the extra weight (both clothing and additional me) I was carrying. I incorrectly calculated that to be 1:45:48 (correct answer is 1:44:48).

I missed my first split but after that I was nailing my splits for the most part–I was just hoping to run an even pace. My Garmin splits were pretty steady: 7:58, 7:58, 8:00, 7:55, 8:01, 7:53, 7:53, 7:51, 8:03, 8:06, 8:12, 8:07, 8:12, (7:34).

Final time was 1:45:49 (watch), 1:45:44 chip. Now my Garmin did measure it at 13.22 miles, which, if accurate, would mean I did run right at 8:00 pace overall. But considering my watch was under my jacket sleeve, I will assume the race distance was accurate and my watch was just off.

During the third mile, I was sufficiently warmed-up that I ended up removing my gloves for awhile and other than a few spots where we caught the breeze, really didn’t notice the cold. My cheap balaclava did ice up on me, however, so I had to spin it 180 degrees to get a fresh, ice-free section to sporadically pull up on the face.

I’ve also gotten much better going out conservatively and reeling in runners over the long run. After the second mile, think only three runners passed me but I picked up almost ten places–not bad when there was only about 115 runners.

I did “race” race a little bit in miles 11-12, a runner I passed tried to hang with me for awhile and I did a series of 10-stride mini-surges for fun. I would pick up the pace enough for 10 strides to get some separation and then see how long it would take for him to re-catch me. Then I would surge again. He was breathing pretty heavy when I passed him so I thought I would drop him pretty fast but he hung on longer than I expected.

While I never got a strong “let’s quit” feeling, I did feel like I was running out of steam a little around 10 miles. Just a like my energy level was dropping. There was water and gatorade on the course and I had a couple of small cups of gatorade but not sure that it helped much.

The Pictures

First, a photo of the medal. I think Team Ortho is known for having triangle medals with stained glass in them. My photo doesn’t really highlight the stained glass too much but it’s  nice, different medal than any others that I have. Be willing to display this when I get around to making some sort of display.

The real reason to run at -10 degrees is to brag that you did it & it is even better to have photographic proof. One nice bonus of this race, is that they had photographers on the course & you get “free” digital photos. They do add a publicity frame but it is reasonably tasteful so I can not complain. The resolution is about 670 x 1000 for the photos.

A couple of early photos.







And then some as I am coming into the finish.

Almost done.

And Done!


I nice race that I’ll consider doing again. Pretty well organized–they actually mailed out the bibs and jackets ahead of time so no need to worry about getting there in time to get your stuff. You get a nice jacket with your signup, I have not run in it yet because I think it’ll be a bit better around 20 degrees than in the negative temperatures we’ve had lately.

Reasonable amount of people on the course considering the weather we had, course was decent, swag was good, everything seemed to work OK. They did have multiple races–the half marathon, a 10K, a 5K, and a 1.8K if I remember right. You could also do multiple races and earn either a “Yeti” or “Everest” bonus medal depending on what three races you did. I was glad to not be that crazy.

And of course, the best reason to race on January 1st in Minnesota is just for the bragging rights and I think I earned them for one month.


I was happy to be sponsored by The Manitowoc Minute, who encourages you to, “keep ‘er movin'”.

2018 Plans

I haven’t officially committed to this yet, but I’m toying with the idea of running either 12 or 13 or 13.1, if I can figure out how to do that, half-marathons (or longer) races this year.

That’s basically a half marathon per month–I’ve got one picked out for February already, the Hypothermic Half Marathon in Eden Prairie. Unfortunately, I don’t have a convenient half marathon in March so if any races was to fly, train, or camel me into their race, give me a shout and see if we can figure something out.