Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two Rivers Shuffle fun run report

Do people post "fun run" reports instead of "race" reports? Why not? Then again, do must people do 30-50 mile “fun runs” without the support an organized race provides? Be it stupid, or otherwise, I seem to have a few twisted friends that do, so here goes.

First off, see the nice video of pictures of the run taken by participant Joel Button on the posting after (below) this one.

Several folks couldn't make the inaugural event this year due to various reasons ranging from injury, bad timing with training schedules and all the way up to a sudden case of pregnancy (congratulations Katie!). The three of us that did make it to the "starting line" (Joel Button, Peter Grimes and myself) were admittedly not quite far enough along in our training schedules to feel too comfortable with the 30 mile plan. None-the-less, we decided to simply see what happens and take things as they come. We parked the car at the old historic Fort Snelling site, fueled up, talked about stretching a bit and I complained about what seemed like early stages of a stomach virus.

We sauntered down the initial steep hill to the warm up section for the day: Pike Island, a flat, gravel and sand run around the perimeter of the island bound on each side by rivers; the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Peter is on a “run as fast as I can go at that moment” binge as of late so that meant 8-8:30/mile “warm-ups” for the start of our 30 mile day…Joel and I complained under our breaths, then a bit more loudly, far too early in the day. Peter just smirked.

We rounded the island then headed off on ½-mile of asphalt below the Fort, under the Highway 5 bridge, then caught the start of the best section of trail for the day: single track, technical, hilly hiking paths along the proudest lines of ridge and river bed you can find at the Minnehaha dog park/Minnehaha Falls Park. This section is a real jewel located in the Twin Cities. It’s moderately tough and very beautiful. Joel nearly started to cry with joy and I fought off my morning’s nausea effectively as this is the type of terrain I live for; a perfect distraction. We ran up and down, over and under, left and right, scrambled up and under sandstone cliffs. Peter mentioned something about having already peaked on the island once we got onto the more friendly trails along the Minnehaha Creek. Payback is a B@*$#. I couldn’t help but feel like I was peaking at that moment, however, and knew that it was FAR too early to feel that way.

We took a nice quick break at the outlet of a major stormwater outlet at the confluence of the Creek and River where we admired the first of several popular graffiti sites. We then turned up the Creek and chased a Heron up river, passed a painted turtle and a couple stone bridges and crossed over to the other side just below the Falls. The trail moved from fun, moderate single-track to easy, wide terra firma as we headed back towards the river, looking forward to repeating the “North Shore Primer” as I call it: super rocky, rooty, dodgy running. On the second pass through the dog park we avoided the ridge line we took on the way in and stuck to the floodplain. We meandered through the Maple/Cottonwood forest and caught a nice single track below another sandstone cliff face and what I have dubbed Luka’s Couloir and Nancy’s Falls. The first is a cleft breaking the cliff face that Luka (my dog) and his deceased BFF, Toady, used to scramble up in winter with Kiri and I over the years. The second is a nice little waterfall spilling down its gully through the face. This pleasant track follows a narrow shelf 10 feet above the river. It always reminds me of the much grander scene from Last of the Mohicans where the 3 heroes chase the rival tribe up the mountain (“baldy”) pass to save their women in the climax of the film. OK, so I tend to glamorize a bit. Curse of the romantic.

We sauntered back to the car after 9.5 miles of really fun running where we took a 10 minute break to re-fuel. I switched out to road-running shoes for next section as Joel taped and lubed his toes. Peter just shook his head and laughed at our busy behavior, but, secretly, I think it was nervous laughter. Our next section was 15 miles (out and back) and the day was really warming up. We all felt as if we could easily un out of water for this next section so we downed a bunch first, then filled up; Pete and with two hand-helds and Joel with a Joel with his hydration pack. Pete and I were experimenting with Hammer’s Peperpeteum Ultra Endurance drink and, so far, were very pleased.

The second section took us from the parking lot across the Mendota Bridge, and exposed 1-mile long, noisy expanse over the Minnesota River where we picked up the paved river trail to the quaint hamlet of Mendota. We crossed the road downtown and ran below the historic Sibley house to pick up the gravel, flat Minnesota Flats Trail on the Minnesota River’s east bank. This typically easy, gravel trail is wide enough for 2-3 runners abreast and is flat. It travels from Mendota, under the Mendota bridge, through floodplain forest and along expansive wetland complexes. It also travels under the 494 bridge (unreal graffiti and views of the bridges underbelly architecture) all the way to the Cedar Ave bridge where you turn around and head back. This year, after the spring flood, however, sections of the trail were soggy, overfilled with sand and heavily rutted by rogue 4-wheelers making it a little more challenging than typical. Pete seemed to have gotten a bit of a second wind here and exclaimed that running was less painful than walking (we were starting to take short walking breaks from time to time in the heat). Joel and I hung back a bit, but then I started to feel the same way as Pete, so I broke off from Joel and left him to his wise game plan. I caught up with Peter 1 mile short of the Cedar bridge massaging his calves and knees and expressing concern over his knee. I sat with him to take a break and we rested until Joel caught us. We all took inventory of our water supply, the beginnings of cramping, level of fatigue and decided to cut this section short and head back to avoid being without water for 2+ miles should we continue forward. Joel caught his second wind end moved on down the trail ahead of Peter and I as we alternated between running (read: jogging) and walking during the heavily rutted sections. Peter caught up with Joe and then I eventually caught them just as I got a major 2nd wind. I had taken a Gu a downed my last gulp of water 2 miles from the car and was feeling Really good so I ran off at 8 minute pace for ¾ of a mile or so.

We all regrouped at the Mendota bridge for the last stretch back to the car and again excused myself for another mile of 8-8:15 minute pace running. We regrouped at the other side of the river and jog/walked back to the car. We immediately downed water and ultimately decided that the pull of Sea Salt, a restaurant back over in Minnehaha Falls Park, was too great. So we formulated our recovery drinks, changed shirts, drank the drinks and loaded up the car abandoning the last 6 miles for another day (what was to be a crossing over the Highway 5 Bridge to access Crosby Farm for its sweet trail running).

Sea Salt’s fish tacos and Surley beer, courtesy of Peter, were as good as I remembered. We enjoyed hanging there enjoying the recollections of the run, 24 miles and change, feeling very pleased and not overly remorseful of falling short of 30.


  1. Shawn,

    I didn't know you had a blog. Cool. I'll put a link on my blog site. I found it through Steve Grabowski's blog.

  2. Very glad you found it, Joel! I hope you enjoy it!