Monday, October 21, 2013

Running the Monster Mile +12.1

Saturday morning I ran the Monster Mash Half Marathon.   

I woke up early - too early - to a dark, cold, overcast morning.  A quick check of the weather showed 47 degrees and cloudy for the 7:00 AM start of the race.  My decision was made...I would wear a long-sleeve running shirt, and was glad I'd packed one. 

The day before, on my way back from lunch at a really great little café, Countrie Eatery, I drove over to the Dover Speedway to get a photo of Miles the Monster.  Pretty cool guy!!

So on race day morning I walked from my hotel to the base of the Miles statue and milled about with the other runners.  Out here in the open, it was chilly and the garish spotlights had turned Miles into an ominous specter looming over and dwarfing all of the runners clustered around his base.

The start line was inside the Speedway and at exactly 6:50 AM we were all herded into the speedway park and onto the race track.  This was pretty damned cool!!  The track is a mile long, hence its name, The Monster Mile.  A person just can't appreciate how steeply banked a race track is until he's standing right on it.  Wow!

Soon we were turned loose onto the track to run our first mile of the race.  We all ran pretty much single-file around the track, staying on the level portion as much as possible.  Many runners had their cameras and cellphones out taking photos, and many others clambered up to the top of the banked track to take photos and to have their photos taken.  I overheard one runner say, "Just getting to run on this track was worth the $80 race entry fee."

First mile of the race inside Dover Speedway - the Monster Mile!

Under the bright lights inside the Speedway!

By the time we'd completed that first mile inside the race track and got off the grounds of the Speedway, we'd run 2 miles.  Then it was off toward downtown Dover and around the state capitol building.   This was really cool!  It was one of the rare times when I wished I had a camera with me.  Delaware was our nation's first state and there's a lot of history here in this town.  We ran past the old, original state house first, a beautiful brick building with classic colonial lines, including the massive chimneys on each end of the building.  I love that style architecture.  Then we turned a corner and began our running tour of the current state house.

The route took us around the Delaware State House.  Very cool!

Once we circumnavigated the state house, we headed away from downtown and out into the countryside.  There was pretty much nothing out here but soybean fields.  But the roads were beautiful, the route scenic, and there was no traffic.    We were pretty much out there in the middle of nowhere for several miles.  But as promised, they had water/sports drink stations about every 1.5 or 2 miles and there was no need to have porta-potties out there...there were plenty of places along the side of the road to duck into the bushes to answer nature's call. 

Monster Mash Half Marathon route - data from my GPS watch

At mile 11 the route finally turned toward the finish line back at the speedway.  I was pretty much used up by this point and was no longer running, but I did try to keep a good walking pace - sub-15 minute mile pace.  In the last mile, the route rounded a bend and then we could see the speedway ahead of us.  Up a bridge over US 1, down the other side of the bridge, and then onto the Speedway grounds. 

Earlier in the week a friend who's also a runner told me she was coming for our lunch get-together after the race, but that she might jump in on the race as a bandit to run with me.  I never did see her along the race route, so assumed she decided sleeping in was the better idea.  But a few minutes after I crossed the finish line, there she was!  We hugged and then waited around to hear them announce the overall and age-group winners. 

First place in my age group!!
photo, courtesy Kirsten Talken-Spaulding
As they started the announcements, I realized that the age groups were in 10-year increments, not the usual 5-year increments, and I thought there was no chance I'd place in my age group.   But we hung around anyway, and sure enough....they got to the female, 60-69 age group and unbelievably, I heard the announcer say, "In first place, from Pearland, TX..."  I couldn't believe my ears!! 

Early in the race I fell in step with another woman and we ran quite a ways together and chatted.  I began to edge ahead of her and then lost sight of her in the second half.  Then, there she was!  She came up to the announcer to claim her second-place age-group award, coming in just a few minutes behind me, and we hugged and congratulated each other!  That was a sweet moment!   As I started back toward my hotel, she offered me a ride.  That was even sweeter!

A friend who lives in the Annapolis area called a lunch get-together at the really great BBQ restaurant, Where Pigs Fly.  It was only a mile from the hotel, which was great, since it gave me plenty of time to clean up and check out.  We had a great turn-out of folk, some coming a pretty good distance.  Many surrounding states were represented:  NY, NJ, PA, MD, VA.

Showing off the bling at the lunch get-together
photo, courtesy Dave Greenberg

The food was excellent!  I had pulled pork, sweet potato fries, and 'fried' apples (more like apple pie filling).  Our table ordered an onion ring loaf which is a huge wad of sliced onions packed into a loaf-shaped bundle and then deep-fried.  It was actually the perfect accompaniment to the pulled pork.

We all said our goodbyes and I headed toward the Baltimore Airport and the Hilton Garden Inn for my last night of the trip.  I checked in, moved my bags into the room, and then got back into the car and drove to Ellicott City to meet a friend for a fund-raiser event called "Paw Crawl" to benefit a local animal shelter.  Ellicott City historic district was very quaint and judging from all of the cars that were clogging the very narrow main street, very popular.  With friend Nancy's directions, though, I easily found the parking lot behind Ellicott Mills Brewing Company and, with perfect timing, she pulled in right next to me.  She and her dog Louis took me on a walking tour up to the top of the hill where the courthouse commands a great view of the town and the river below.   

Ellicott City, originally named Ellicott Mills, is an old historic mill town, and the mills still stand today, either as repurposed buildings or doing similar work.  Nancy told me that there was once a large flour mill here.
Nancy and her pet, Louis

We had a brew at the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, as other participants of the Paw Crawl began arriving and milling about.  I had an interesting seasonal brew that was supposed to have pumpkin and spices undertones.  While I couldn't pick up any of the pumpkin undertones, the fact that the bartender dipped the rim of the glass into a mix of sugar, cinnamon and allspice, certainly made the beer interesting and enjoyable.  The group began to move on to the next pub, but Nancy and I had both had enough.  Besides, her faithful dog Louis was waiting out in the parking lot in her car. 

I headed back to the hotel, a very easy and short drive from Ellicott City, and I quit for the had been a very long day!  Tomorrow morning I'll fly back home to Houston.

The race bling:

What the map looks like now:

Next up:  a needed month long break from running until Norfolk and Charlotte in November.


  1. Way to Go Barb !!! Another 1st place award for all your work.... so inspiring...

  2. WOOHOO!! So awesome you got the first place medal. Very nice.

    Way to go!!

    - Did you ever get my return email? I sent it from my regular email a few weeks ago.

    1. I did not receive your return email. :-(