Sunday, April 15, 2007

We’ll “Rundezvous” at the Fort!

Trail running in an historic location on a gorgeous spring day in Minnesota; how could it get any better?

Today I participated in the Pike Island Rundezvous (not a typo) 10k at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul. Fort Snelling is an 1820 military fort built on the bluffs where the Mississippi River and the Minnesota River converge. This fort became possible due to a fairly one-sided land deal brokered by Zebulon Pike as part of America’s westward expansion (hence the name, Pike Island, where the deal took place). In 1962, it became a Minnesota State Park, and there are miles of trails and plenty of wildlife for people to enjoy.

Historic Fort Snelling

We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day. At race time, the temperatures had to have been in the upper 40’s and approaching 50. The sun was shining, and there was a light breeze. Ideal weather for running.

Also, it proved to be ideal weather for bird activity. The birds were singing away on this day, and I saw countless chickadees, the red-bellied woodpecker was everywhere, pileated woodpeckers, and all sorts of ducks and geese. I even saw a new spring arrival, the brown creeper who was busy creeping up an oak tree near the starting line.

The race was a smaller event (perhaps a few dozen runners at the most) that runs counterclockwise around Pike Island, with the Minnesota River on one side, and the Mississippi on the other. A lap around the island is about 5k, so the race consisted of two laps. The trails were fairly wide, dirt trails, with some crushed rock and a few sandy areas, but they were also very flat.

Amazingly enough, I ran into a coworker of mine! He was there because he runs in the season long Minnesota Trail Run Series, and the Pike Island Rundezvous is the first event in 2007. It is not often that I know someone at these races, so that was kind of fun.

A self portrait with the Minnesota River in the background

The race started and the runners quickly dispersed. Despite earlier warnings that there might be mud, there was really none to be found. A couple of damp areas, otherwise the trails were in fantastic shape, and I settled in at a comfortable pace. From about one mile on, I was following another runner by about 20 yards or so. He was running the same speed I was, so I followed him all the way to the 5k mark.

I finished lap one in 24:09. Feeling pretty good, I decided to increase my pace slightly. I passed the runner that I had been following shortly after the 5k mark and continued on my way.

As I reached the easternmost tip of the island where the Mississippi and the Minnesota meet, I made the turn to head westward towards the finish. I realized I was running all by myself. I could see nobody ahead of me or behind me, which is kind of a surreal feeling in a race.

I crossed the finish line in 47:10, which is my personal best 10k trail race time (it was also the flattest trail race I have run, so I am guessing that has something to do with it!), and I finished 15th overall. Afterwards, I spent some time chatting with other runners. Everyone is excited about the upcoming running season, talking about their plans for spring and summer races. They had a lot of great snacks and goodies back at the headquarters, too (and awesome race shirts!).

One of the coolest race shirts I own!

A quick note about gear; this is the first race I have done in my Vasque Velocity trail shoes, and I absolutely loved them. They were so comfortable, I had tons of grip, and they seem to fit my feet perfectly. Now I have both road and trail shoes that I like very much!

A very well organized and fun event! I had a fantastic time, ran pretty well, and enjoyed the nicest day of the year thus far with a great group of Minnesota trail runners. As I said earlier, how could it get any better?

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