Tag Archives: Minneapolis Minnesota

Pike Island’s Trails

I would take a nice trail run any day over running the roads.  Trails are my friend as this picture so elegantly shows! It is a little hard for me to hit the trails very often since we only have 1 car and I prefer to run in the mornings.  However, Pike Island is easy to get to via public transportation and even via bike.

Part of Fort Snelling State Park, Pike Island sits at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers just south of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.  On Pike Island itself you have a variety of options for running. See the maps here.  The easiest is a 5k loop around the outer edge of the Island – but there are little cut through trails to make 1 and 2 mile loops.

It is pretty scenic as you run along the rivers.  I think every time I’ve run there I’ve seen some wild animals – deers, squirrels, rabbits, but no pine martens! The trail is very flat and actually pretty wide too.  It might narrow down in places but is wide enough to mostly run 3-4 wide throughout. The trail is a mix of soft surfaces but is pretty safe for the ankles and has no technical elements to it.

Another great thing about this run is that it can easily be extended.  Want to go really long? You can head north up to Minnehaha Falls and connect into a variety of trails from there, although this is a paved trail.  More of a mid-distance run, you can run around Picnic Island and Snelling Lake.  Part of this segment is on pavement, but most is still trails and Picnic Island has grass stretches. You can also connect with bridges (with pedestrian lanes) that cross either river and connect with trails on the other side.

I enjoy running at Pike Island and have used it in the past to recover and reconnect with my reasons for running.  The worst thing about running here is that it is so close the MSP Airport, with almost continual flights over-head.

Parking Note: You must pay to park if you enter through Fort Snelling State Park. It costs $5 to enter the park or a valid State Park Permit. Then follow the main road to the Visitor’s Center.  However, if you enter from Historic Fort Snelling on top of the bluff there is no charge for parking.  Park in the main lot and run towards the fort and then follow the trail down the hill to Pike Island.

There is also some interesting history associated with this area:

To the Dakota [Native American tribe], Pike Island in Fort Snelling State Park was and is a sacred place. It is where the waters of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers meet and the Dakota believe it is the very center of the earth and arguably the place where Minnesota began.  WCCO

During this time[Dakota War of 1862], more than 1600 Dakota women, children, and old men were held in an internment camp on Pike Island. Living conditions were poor, and disease struck the camp, killing more than three hundred. Wikipedia

Despite the mixed history I enjoy running here, what do you think?

[tags] Pike Island, Fort Snelling, Minneapolis, Running Routes  [/tags]

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Race Review: City of Lakes 25K

Yes, that is a 25K or 15.5 miles.  My longest race ever and before this training cylce my longest run ever was a 15 mile hike/run in Yellowstone, when I worked out there one summer.  We could not have asked for a much better day for this race.  The temperature was in the mid-50’s with overcast skies.  It was pretty humid and actually rained while we were eating breakfast shortly after the race. The sun was out during my warm-up but disappeared for pretty much the entire race. The race appropriately loops around 2 of the many lakes in Minneapolis and makes for a great spectator event.  My official time was 1:48:49 while my watch was at 1:48:40 (this was not a chip timed race).  That was good enough for 131st overall and 27th in my age group.

This is the 27th running of City of Lakes and is a pretty fast course.  Four men’s age group records and 2 women’s records were broken today. The race is billed as “a middle distance trial for those running the newly created Twin Cities Marathon and other fall marathons, or for those looking for a fall, middle distance running event.”  It lives up to its name with 984 total finishers.


I received my bib number in the mail a few days before the race.  I was a little surprised, but I didn’t really do a lot of research about the race.  With a mile seperating the start and finish lines and registration at the finish line this was pretty helpful.  I didn’t have to go to the registration table.  We parked on a street about half-way between the start and finish and my wife went towards the finish and I went to the start. I wore gloves for my warm-up but decided not to wear them. I waited in line to use the bathroom for 15 minutes and never got to use it so that I could start the race on time (see below). I wore my singlet with shorts.

Race Time

I thought long and hard about the race plan.  I have been pushing my body pretty hard for the past month or so – taking my “recovery” weekends and racing over them.  So I thought that my body could handle a nice marathon pace effort and it would give me a good chance to see how the pace felt for a longer distance.  That means that I would run at 7:15 pace or 1:52:38 overall.  I thought that if I ran that pace and felt strong in the last 5-10k then I’d pick up the pace and anything under 2:00 would be acceptable for this distance.

The race directors had setup two signs on trees next to the starting area one for 7 and the other 9 for people to self-select a starting place.  I started right behind the 7 marker and went out at what felt like a pretty easy pace. The start has a quick series of 2 hills and then flattens out.   The crowd was pretty thick so I was suprised when I came through the first mile in 7:05. Okay, not too fast “slow it down a little”.  I felt like I had slowed down and was suprised again to see mile 2 come at 6:58. Ok, so still a little too fast – let’s try slowing it down again…  A quick uphill, waterstop and down to Lake Calhoun – still feeling comfortable.  Mile 3 6:53 and through the 5K in 21:32.

Ok so I’m still running faster than planned, but the 2 guys next to me are talking about their pace being dead-on their race plan.  Hmm… I’ll run with them I guess and see what I can do.  I had taken water at the stop and was a little suprised to see another water stop so quickly – so I skipped it.  The 2 guys took water so I waited for them to catch back up and fell back into rhythm with them.  We came through mile 4 in 6:59. Still feeling good, but it felt really cold running in this stretch and I never really warmed back up.  It wasn’t cold enough to worry – just enough to make your hands cold. Mile 5 was in 6:58. At the 5 mile mark 3 runners from some of the “fast teams” were standing around talking – can’t remember if they were wearing numbers or not, but strange.  Back through the waterstop and up and over the hill back on Lake Harriet.  Still Mile 6 was 7:04 and 10k in 43:07 – this 5k was 21:34.

Around and around we go heading past the starting line. I continued to run with these 2 guys and we came through mile 7 in 6:59. Passing the starting area we hit the 2 quick hills and going up them I seperated from the guys I had been running with.  I was planning to catch their race numbers so I could look them up later, but was expecting to drop them here.  I don’t think the pace was comfortable anymore, but it wasn’t strenuous either so I decided to continue with the rhythm.  I came through mile 8 in 6:57.  Overall crowd support was pretty good.  There was a lot of people in the area between the two lakes and a smattering of people around the course.  Passed the finish line again and back into the area between the lakes.  The mile marker was right before the waterstop.  Mile 9 was 7:00 and through the 15k in 1:04:41.  This 5K was 21:33.

I decided to pick up the pace to put some distance between myself and a few women I just passed! I also thought, I feel good let’s see what I can do.  It felt like I picked it up a lot so I was a little disappointed(?) to come through mile 10 in 6:53, but I knew that the clock was still under 1:10 – so I was sub-7.  That small pick-up hurt more than I expected it to and I soon realized that 10K is a long way to pickup the pace! Examining my pace chart, I did it the hard way – hitting 6:28 for a few seconds and then slowing down and yo-yoing a little bit around 6:45 pace.  The next mile I continued to speed up and slow down – hitting 6:36 but never slowing below 7:15.  Another water-stop, around the top of Lake Calhoun and through mile 11 in 6:57. I don’t remember much from the next mile except thinking that I still had a long way to go! Mile 12 in 7:01 and through 20k in 1:26:19 and this 5k in 21:38.  Interesting that the 5K I tried to pick-up the pace in was actually my slowest 5k up to this point.

The last time through the waterstop and over the hill and less than 5K to go.  Just hold it together Cross and you’ll do great.  I saw a clock somewhere in here (may have been the 20k sign) and realized that a half-marathon PR was in reach.  Mile 13 was 7:04. I got a half-marathon PR!!!!! in 1:31:something. They had an official clock there and I don’t remember the exact time.  I can’t get my Garmin to given me the time either – but it was faster than my 1:33:22 from 2 weeks ago.  Credit to Chris Taylor for saying I’d hit the PR! Excited about the accomplishment I knew that I just needed to hang in here and not blow up.  Up to this point I had been taking a Clif Shot Blok after each 5k, however I decided not to after the 20k (rookie mistake!) and Mile 14 was 7:13. Stay calm, you are doing great. Relax and stay focused.  At this point one of the guys I had run with earlier caught back up to me and encouraged me to stay strong.  We came through mile 15 in 7:06. Ok, that’s good pick-up the pace and give it everything.  I don’t know, something magic happened – I guess knowing the finish was so close it was like a jolt and I picked up the pace – hitting 6:22 pace according to the Garmin.  That hurt – backed off a little and got passed by a guy wearing headphones.  Can’t let that happen surge to catch him and try to pass – hitting a 5:28 and he switched gears and took off.  Crap I can’t keep this pace to the finish anyway so I eased off and finished in 1:48:40 for a last half-mile in 3:25 (6:25) pace.  I was a little tired, excited about my time and overall performance, and disappointed for a second about getting out-kicked at the finish.  The last 5k was in 21:49.


I stumbled through the chute letting them take my number, getting a few dixie cups of water.  The big prize at the finish was a “beer stein” or a glass mug with the race logo and sponsors on it.  And picked up my cookie from Great Harvest Bread Co. of Linden Hills and it was delicious.  Other post race food included banannas and apples. Booths from Saturn Cars (got a cow bell) and Sister Kenny Sports & Physical Therapy Center (got a little band aid holder) rounded out the party! I picked up my bag and got some dry clothes on.  We waited around for the rest of our team to finish and went out for breakfast.

A Few Criticisms

This was a great race pretty much all around.  I was very surprised that a race of this size and caliber didn’t utilize timing chips.  I know it saves a few bucks and I only lost 9 seconds from my official time and watch time, but I’m sure the people at the back of the pack would appreciate knowing their actual time.  If you want to be a tune-up for the marathon, people should get to know their official time for 25k.  The other minor criticism is the amount of porta-potties.  There was still a line at the start of the race (another good reason to use chips).  I was waiting in line, but decided to skip the bathroom to make the start (I was in line for 15 minutes).  Ok, so another little nit-picky detail but the plastic cups weren’t the easiest to drink from while running (not easy to squeeze the top) and they were pretty small to be drinking fromat the finish.

[tags] City of Lakes, 25K, Race Review [/tags]

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Running the Minneapolis Riverfront

One of my newer favorite places to run is along the Minneapolis Riverfront. It is about 1.5 miles from my house which makes it a good place to run for any distance run, plenty of scenery with the Mississippi River, cobblestone streets, dirt trails, mill ruins, and much more.  From my house I also get to run by the Metrodome – where the Vikings and Twins play.

The official riverfront website describes the area:

The Minneapolis Riverfront District is many things to many people. To some, it’s a giant archaeological dig. To others, its a playground of dining and nightlife. And to yet others, it is a maze of beautiful parks and trails.

The picture is from a recent 10 mile run and you can see a more detailed map of the area. I often run this route in the other direction crossing over the Stone Arch Bridge first.  On this particular run I never actually crossed the bridge since I extended it and ran through the University of Minnesota.

Surface Type Before I take you on a tour of the above route a quick note about running surface.  Most of the run is on some type of hard surface – road or sidewalk. Along much of the West River Parkway you can find a single track cow path that has been worn into the dirt between the walking and biking trails.  There is a section on the west side of the river there is a short section of dirt trail that follows a small cove. Crossing the bridges provides some elevation change, otherwise it is mostly flat.  After crossing over the river you can run on grass and dirt trails for awhile as you jump onto Boom Island and cross over onto Nicollet Island.  After a short period of dirt trails at the beginning and end of the Island the rest of the run is on sidewalks or roads.  This might be one of the best runs from my house for getting off the hard surfaces.

Step-by-Step Guide to the Sights and Trails There are a ton of things to see along the way. The downtown skyline is always present in your view. But my route mostly skirts the downtown area running by the Metrodome, before turning onto West River Parkway. From here the trail splits, you can go straight down to the river (and come back up later) or stay up on the top of the bluff.  Either way you see the Guthrie Theater and Mill City Museum. You can cross the pedestrian/bicycle only Stone Arch Bridge or continue on the West side as we will do here. You are now running along the St Anthony Falls Heritage Trail, which takes you into First Bridge Park before the trail crosses the Hennepin Ave Bridge.  We’ll stay on the West River Parkway and run past the Federal Reserve Building and through a stretch of turtle trail.  Lots of turtles are scored into the sidewalk on this stretch. From here you begin to run under a lot of trees and a more natural scenery.  You can stay on the paved trail or take a short detour on a dirt trail that follows the little inlet with two bridge to choose from (I prefer the shorter one because it makes a better loop) and can continue along the trail until it forces you back up into a little park area.  A nice benefit of running the Riverfront is the ample supply of water and occasional port-a-potties! Both have come in handy. Finally, we get to cross the river via the Plymouth Ave Bridge which drops you onto Boom Island.

Unfortunately, Boom Island is no longer an island, but hosts a nice park which includes a lighthouse and access to several riverboats. There is a paved trail that cuts through the park, but I prefer running in the grass along the river, this adds distance and also keeps you on softer surfaces longer.  You’ll eventually get to the Boom-Nicollet Island Pedestrian Bridge which is a cool old-school bridge onto Nicollet Island. Follow this dirt trail until it comes out on the road.  Here you can complete the short side of the island or double backon the road to get a longer and more scenic section. Running along Island Ave will take you along the river but also through some very nice residential sections before going under the Hennepin Ave Bridge and into Nicollet Island Park. I recommend continuing along the river’s edge around the tip of the island and crossing over the wooden Merriam St Bridge. As you cross over this bridge you almost enter another time period as you enter the cobblestone streets of Historic St Anthony Main. Running along this bridge also puts you back onto the St Anthony Falls Heritage Trail. If you want you can go explore the Hennepin Island Hydro-electric plant, but I’d save it for another day.  I’ve never noticed signs for Pillsbury Park, but it is on the map, Father Hennepin Park is well marked and takes you back away from the road.  Somewhere along this stretch you have the option of following the “Lower Trail” section which takes a lot of stairs down to the river. (I wouldn’t recommend taking the lower trail, it is a bunch of steps that lead down to the river – it is neat, but not really worth the effort on a run). As you come up to the Bandstand grab a quick drink of water and make an important decision.  You can cross over the Stone Arch Bridge and complete the loop or head up 6th Ave SE and do some other running. I’ve seen runners do multiple loops along the Riverfront so give that a thought too.  As of this writing you can see the finishing touches being put on the new 35W Bridge from the Stone Arch Bridge or by running up to the 10th Ave Bridge which is just south of where you are currently contemplating.

Whatever you end up deciding this is a fun run to do and gives you a good taste of Minneapolis.  The route as I’ve described it is approximately 4.5 miles long starting at 11th Ave S and W River Parkway and ending at the parking lot on the West end of the Stone Arch Bridge.

All of this is also part of the Mississippi National River Park and Recreation Area.

I should give credit to AEngelsrud for pointing this loop out to me via Twitter.

[tags] Minneapolis, Riverfront, Minneapolis Riverfront, Mississippi River, Tourism, Running [/tags]

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Marathon Training: Week 13

This was a pretty nice week of running with some great weather and camaraderie. This was the highest mileage week of the season and it felt pretty strong. It seems the rest day always comes at the best time! I started running in my new shoes on Monday – Mizuno Men’s Wave Inspire 4.

Monday: 5-6 miles comfortably. 6 miles along the Midtown Greenway, felt pretty good this morning.  The temperature was 57, it was a little humid but at that temperature you don’t really feel it too much.  I just went 3 miles out and back. I ran it in 46:18. The Greenway was a little crowded with commuting traffic, but not too bad.

Tuesday: 8-10 miles at marathon pace. Ran a total of 10.5 miles around Lake Calhoun.  We did three 5K laps and then tacked on a little bit here and there – mostly for water stops. The total run was 1:19:22 (7:32).  Our 5K splits were 23:22 (7:32), 22:57 (7:25), and 22:39 (7:20).  In the last mile and a half we did 6 strides to almost 100% effort for 15-30 seconds.  Those felt really good even as my legs were getting tired from the Marathon Pace running.  It was 80 with no humidity and a nice breeze off the lake.  I went for a quick dip after the run and was almost cold afterwards.

Wednesday: 5-7 miles easy. This morning I ran just with my wrist watch, but I ran the 4 mile downtown course so my 31:45 is pretty accurate.  It had just stormed pretty hard as I was waking up so it was pretty humid and was 67 out.  I felt tired but ok given yesterday’s workout.

Thursday: Rest day! I did rest! I had to take the car to work – can’t carry several cases of pop on my bike!

Friday: 10 miles (some at pace) I decided to run about 10 miles down the Greenway and around Lake of the Isles. Isles is just under a 3 mile loop so I decided to pick-up the tempo around the lake and run home.  The total route ended up being 9 miles. I ran the 2.63 miles around the Isles at 7:20 pace and the overall run in 1:09:30 which is 7:43 pace.  It was 57 but 80% humidity, but it didn’t feel too bad.

Saturday:20 miles. For today’s 20 miler we met at the University of St. Thomas and ran 5 miles out – going backwards on the marathon course.  We turned around, went past UST and ran the last 5 miles of the course before turning around and running to our cars.  So basically we ran the last 10 miles of the Twin Cities Marathon course.  It was a good run with lots of discussion about strategy, especially hitting some of the hills in the final miles.  I ran 20 miles in 2:35:07 (7:45).  It was 60 at the start but humid and the temps rose fairly quickly. If we felt good we could drop to marathon pace at the end.  Well for most of the run we weren’t too far off marathon pace, but in the last mile I did hit a 7:21, despite having almost bonked around mile 18. After the first mile my slowest mile was 8:09 mile 18.

Sunday:Cross-training. Rode my bike to the Midtown YWCA, only to discover that the entire pool area was closed for routine maintenance.  “Crap, now what…” As I was biking home I realized, “duh just go to another YWCA.” So I rode to the Uptown YWCA and did my swimming.  I swam 300 total yards and actually swam 100 yards without stopping!

Weekly Mileage:

Running -49.6 miles

Cycling – 32.5 miles

Swimming – 300 yds

Tip of the Week: Stretching is important for marathoners, who risk losing flexibility because of their high-mileage training. Include some stretching in your daily running routine. The best time to stretch is not before you run. Pre-workout muscles may be tight; the risk of injury is increased. Instead, stretch during–or after–your run, when muscles are warmest. Stretching on the off days also makes sense.

[tags] Hal Higdon, Marathon Training [/tags]

Week 13

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Marathon Training: Week 11

A pretty good week that ended with my longest run ever! I definitely started to feel the load of building up the miles this week though, especially on the hills.  The weather has been great for pretty much all the runs so that is really nice.

Monday:4-6 easy miles. 5 mile recovery run. It was nice and slow as I was feeling yesterday’s race. I ran around Powderhorn Park doing laps around the lower level until I got to 3.5 so that I would hit 5 on the way home.  I finished the run in 42:05. The temperature was around 60 with high humidity, but it was cool enough that the humidity wasn’t much of a factor.

Tuesday:8-10 miles with hills. 8.6 miles at Hyland Hills again. This time we didn’t run up the ski hill, but it didn’t matter too much because my body was quite tired.  I really felt all of the previous hillwork and racing on hills during the run.  Hyland is a great place to run because it has a lot of options for hills and flat spots too. 1:08:30 was our overal time on a pretty good evening to run.  We got the run in between some major deluges, so it was pretty humid and around 75. Surprisingly the trails weren’t really that wet.

Wednesday: 5-7 easy miles. I had planned to run 6 miles today but ended up only running 4.  I felt pretty wiped out and didn’t want to push it too hard.  I was suffering a little bit from Olympic sleep deprivation and this run is always pretty tough anyways. I did my Downtown via Park 4 mile loop in 33:22.  It was a nice 61 degrees but 94% humidity made for a nice sweaty run! I seemed to hit a lot of red lights today – which I didn’t complain too much about!

Thursday:Rest Day. I did a pretty good job of resting, but I did bike commute 8.6 miles, but I tried to keep it at an easier pace.

Friday:10 miles. A nice 10 miler to start the weekend off! It really would have been nice to get out on some trails but I did what has become my normal Friday loop of running around the Minneapolis Riverfront – Boon Island, Nicollet Island, and the W River Parkway.  I tacked on some miles running through the University of Minnesota East Bank Campus and made it home in 1:22:20 for the run.  I wanted it to be an easy run as the 20 miler loomed on Saturday, so that definitely fit the bill. It was in the low 60’s and humid for this run as well!

Saturday:18-20 miles. Ta dah, my longest run ever and the route-maker made it a little long, thanks Nathan! Couldn’t have asked for a better day for this run and a great group of about 10 people to run with for it.  We ran almost the entire first half of the Twin Cities Marathon Course and got a waterstop provided by the marathon. We ended up running 21 miles around the Lakes for a pretty decent run.  We finished in 2:45:22 before it got too hot.  Temps started in the mid 60’s and were in the mid-70’s when I got home. We felt the heat on some of the exposed areas around the Lakes but much of the run was shaded! I felt good for the first half and struggled more in the second.  After the last stop at 17.5 I started feeling bad for awhile (I had taken too much water) and finished valiantly with a long slow uphill in the last mile. My hip flexors and toes hurt the worst!

Sunday: Cross-Training. I rode my bike to the YWCA and swam a total of 400 yards.  I did my best Phelps impersonation and failed miserably! I did swim 200 yards without stopping – alternating freestyle and backstroke.  I didn’t feel too sore upon waking up so that is a really good thing! It was nice to sit in the hot tub though!

Weekly Mileage Totals:

Running – 48.6 miles

Biking – 52.2 miles

Swimming – 400 yards

Tip of the Week: Occasional racing may be important for marathon success. Particularly this is true for Novice runners who have raced infrequently–or not at all–before catching the Marathon Bug. One reason for racing is to test your fitness: to get an idea of how fast a pace you will be able to carry in the marathon. Another is to test all your strategies from the shoes you’ll wear to grabbing fluids at water stations. Leave nothing to chance. Too much racing, however, can lead to overtraining, so don’t overdo it.

Week 11

[tags] Marathon Training, Hal Higdon [/tags]

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