On Wednesday, July 4th I ran the Red, White & Boom! race in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Matt really loves the Twin Cities and I’m lucky that he has exposed me to the area. We’ve visited multiple times over the years and keep coming back because we have such a great time.
When we visited in 2011, we signed up for the Red, White & Boom! half marathon on a whim after searching for a race to run while in town. It was only my second half marathon at that point. Climbing to the highest point in Minneapolis mixed with temps in the 70s at 6:30am (and approaching 100 during the day) made it a rough one for me. Since then I’ve been hoping to try it again in hopes of redeeming myself and having a better experience.
I always have a week off around the 4th of July, so when I saw that Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers (my favorite band) were going to be in Minneapolis on the 3rd, it sparked the idea of another trip. Matt is too busy at work to take the full week off with me, but he agreed to take a couple days off so we could make the trip. I was really excited – combining our love for the band with a race in one of our favorite cities sounded like a great vacation.
Unfortunately, a couple things didn’t go quite as planned. Matt’s knee has been in bad shape lately and we knew he probably couldn’t try the 5K he’d signed up for. On top of that, while we were in the Detroit airport waiting for our departing flight we received an email informing us that the half marathon was cancelled due to heat and humidity. I was really bummed. However, the 5K would go on as planned and they added a 6.75 mile option. At least I could still do something. Like most races, Twin Cities in Motion has a no refund policy. They are going to offer a $25 discount for a few of their races over the next year to half marathon entrants. I’m not sure that I’ll get back to town to put it to use, but I’ll keep it in mind in case we come back for this race next summer.
We flew into Minneapolis on Monday afternoon. One thing we love about the city is that we can take light rail from the airport to downtown. The downtown is very walkable with plenty of hotels. We stayed right by the concert venue and it was only a few blocks away from a light rail stop. We grabbed a late lunch at HopCat then walked a good mile or so to the packet pickup at a high school. One thing I love about this race is that they offer Brooks t-shirts. Some races provide cheaper shirts that I don’t like as much, so I really appreciate that Twin Cities in Motion gives out high-quality Brooks shirts.
We headed back and suffered a bit in the heat. There’s been a nasty heatwave at home and it was the same in Minneapolis. High temps combined with humidity made it a sweaty walk. We stopped by the Twins’ shop at Target Field for Matt.
Eventually we went back to the hotel, grabbed dinner later at a 24-hour diner, and enjoyed walking around town. We ended up walking at least 8 miles by the end of the day. Matt was able to manage it despite his knee issue, but it helped confirm that he shouldn’t try to run.
It was rainy and dreary when we got up on Tuesday, but luckily it cleared up enough to check out a mini golf course at the Walker Art Center. There was a rooftop course created by artists and we had a lot of fun.
We also stopped by the Sculpture Garden outside the art center long enough to visit the famous cherry spoon.
Evening rolled around and we grabbed dinner at a cool place next to the concert venue. Then we went to see Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers at 7th Street Entry. I saw the first incarnation of the band back in ‘97 and have seen them many times since, but have never met the full band. We sprung for the pre-show meet and greet to finally change that.
As always, we had a blast at their show. It was fun to see them in a new place, especially in a little room that only held 250 people. Standing on my feet for five hours probably wasn’t ideal race prep, nor was getting four hours of sleep that night. I knew I’d manage somehow, and I wasn’t quite as worried since I’d be running just over a 10K rather than a half marathon.
The hotel was 1.5 miles from the start of the race and I decided to jog there. I left just after 6am and tried to keep it easy so I wouldn’t be a sweaty mess before starting the race. That was difficult since it was already in the mid-70s with nearly 90% humidity.
When the announcement came out about the half marathon cancellation, I questioned why. They didn’t cancel the race when we ran it in 2011 and it had been just as hot. I realized the humidity mixed with the heat was the big factor this time. It was downright gross for running. I knew how bad it would be since I had suffered through a bunch of runs in similar conditions in the week leading up to the race.
I got to the start with 20 minutes to spare. I walked around a bit then sat and waited until it was time to line up for the 6:50 start. I had no ambition to actually “race” through the steam bath. In fact, the race decided not to award prize money or age group awards because they didn’t want to encourage anyone to push too hard. I figured I might run around an 8:00 pace at best, which is my goal marathon pace. I found that pace sign at the side of start corral and lined up there.
I couldn’t hear any announcements or the National Anthem if they played it. At some point a horn blew and we were off. I had worried that starting the 5K and 6.75mi runners all at once might make things a bit congested, but the pace signs must have kept people organized and I didn’t have any problems with the crowd. It looks like around 2,000 people finished the 5K and a little over 1,400 people finished the longer race. Several people participated in a relay option as well.
The course seemed to be relatively flat aside from some climbs over bridges and mostly ran along the Mississippi River. The beginning of the race was more of a neighborhood setting while the second part of the race was more of a park-like setting before crossing the Stone Arch Bridge.
Half marathon entrants didn’t have to specify if we were going to run the 5K or 6.75mi race. We could do whatever we preferred and the timing mats would determine which distance we had run. I figured if it was really miserable I could always bail at the end of the first loop.
As expected based on recent runs, I was pretty sweaty after a mile and soon enough the sweat was dripping off of me. Fortunately there was a slight breeze along parts of the course. I wore a hydration belt and drank plenty of GU Brew with extra sodium to stay hydrated. I made sure that my breathing wasn’t labored and I didn’t exert too much energy. I was confident that I could continue on a second loop. 5K runners were told to stay to the left for the finish line while people running a second loop stayed to the right. We ran a second loop of the 5K course with a little extra distance added on Nicollet Island. With a mile or two left, I started to come across walkers from the 5K race. I had to do a bit of weaving through the end of the race to get around them. I am thankful that the Stone Arch Bridge is nice and flat, and I chose to give a big push across the bridge to the finish. That ended up being about three minutes of harder running, and since I’d been so conservative, I still had some energy for that final push.
Although I glanced at my watch now and then out of curiosity, I really just ran by feel. It looks like I was pretty consistent aside from a slower fourth mile. I think that was when I climbed over a bridge and I was extra cautious about taking it easy.
We received an email after the race that said the two-loop course will be independently measured and the distance will be reflected on the race’s results page. I ended up with 6.82 miles. I figured some of the extra distance came from weaving around people or not running the tangents, but maybe the course was a tad bit longer.
I received my medal and a bottle of water after the finish line, then worked my way through the line of treats. I got some chocolate milk, a Clif Bar, a popsicle, and a bag of chips. They had bananas, rolls, and hot dogs as well.
You may notice that my face is bright red, so that popsicle was pretty nice. I dripped sweat all over my phone when I got it out to take pictures. I was drenched. There were some cooling stations with mist blowing from fans that I stopped to enjoy for a minute. I think it was a smart choice to wear a triathlon top and shorts. I was soaked enough that it almost seemed like I had been swimming, so the form-fitting tri suit was more ideal than dealing with a soaking t-shirt and shorts.
I think it was definitely a good call to cancel the half marathon. Although I was fine getting through an hour of running, a second hour could have gotten ugly. There’s no way for the skin to breathe or for the sweat to evaporate when it’s that humid and my body doesn’t handle it well. I’m actually kind of surprised that I managed to run as fast as I did in those conditions. It’s not worth risking the potential medical issues that could come along with people trying to push through the half distance.
There were plenty of fun post-race activities, including a pie-eating contest.
I stuck around for a little bit before I began the trek back to the hotel, appreciating the sights of the city along the way.
I walked half of the way and jogged a bit as I got closer to the hotel. Thanks to the early start, I still had plenty of time to get back to the hotel and shower before we checked out and left for the airport.
Although the weather conditions weren’t ideal and it’s a bummer that the race was shortened, I had a great time. Between the race, the concert, and the rest of our adventures around the city, Matt and I had another fun and memorable trip to Minneapolis.