Saturday, June 13, 2009

It's not easy being cheesy at The Udder Run

A couple of weeks ago I saw a uniquely named event on a race calendar, and I thought it had to be something special. As the great orator and former Viking Randy Moss might have said, "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing that only happens every so often." I needed to do this. I am talking about The Udder Run.

Saturday morning I hopped in The Silver Hornet and headed to the southeastern Minnesota town of Goodhue, which is located in beautiful farm country approximately half way between the Twin Cities and Rochester. Goodhue is in the midst of Volksfest, their annual town celebration.

Many of you know I grew up in a small town, so let me tell you about small town celebrations; if you've never been to one, they are a good time. At least here in Minnesota, these annual events tend to draw folks from all around the area. There is always a parade, perhaps a carnival, and they usually crown a "Miss (insert name of town or festival here)" to reign over the festivities. You can also find things like car shows, golf tournaments, art and craft shows, bake sales, talent shows, live bands, good food, and many typically have a "fun run." Goodhue has been holding The Udder Run (a cleverly-named race sponsored by the local dairy producers and related organizations) for 26 years now.

Yours truly outside of the school in Goodhue

I arrived in Goodhue, and the town was rather active. Downtown was blocked off for various vendors, a car show was being set up, and the race preparations were underway at the school. I checked in and had some time to kill, so I ventured across the street to watch a couple innings of the softball tournament that was underway. And let me tell you, the trash talk was pretty lively for 8:30 in the morning!

(True story: years ago back in my hometown, the softball tournament during our annual summer festival featured the highly coveted "beer trophy" which was presented to the team that purchased the most beer over the course of the weekend. It was a huge trophy with a can of Old Milwaukee mounted to the top. I can't imagine this practice is still in existence and I am pretty sure it has since been discontinued. Something about dozens of out-of-shape ex-jocks staggering around the high school ball field on a Saturday afternoon was none too appealing to the townsfolk. Anyhow, seeing the softball tournament today reminded me of this. Back to the race...)

The Udder Run is a 5 miler. It runs briefly through a residential area and then does an out-and-back down a county road. The newly crowned Miss Goodhue rang a cowbell to start the race, and we would be off.

The walkers lining up at The Udder Run

It was a cloudless day, and it felt hot. I am guessing it was close to 70 at race time. Also, almost the entire first two miles was gradually (and on a couple of occasions, not so gradually) uphill. I didn't feel very fast because of this, but I managed to keep a fairly steady pace. One of the young high school hotshots who went out too fast was walking by the mile and a half mark, and I cruised on by. Call me shallow, but it is fun passing those younger than me! :)

The route along the county road was pretty, passing green fields and a stately farm with a gorgeous red barn near the 2 mile mark. It was downhill to the turnaround point, and then uphill to the 3 mile point. But from here on out, it would be a blissful downhill jaunt most of the way to the finish (sweet!).

Approximately a half mile from the finish there was a family sitting in their yard watching the race. A young kid had a sprinkler in his hands and was offering to spray the runners. As I approached, I shouted "Hit me!" and he turned the sprinkler loose on me, much to the delight of the spectators. That felt great! I was really warm by now.

The finish was back at the school, and I crossed the line in 36:34. Not my fastest 5 miler ever, but the pace was only 50-some seconds slower than the time I posted at the ever so slightly shorter (and flatter) Human Race 8k back in March. Given the hills and the heat (good grief, listen to me complain about 70 degrees!), I am pleased with my time.

There were only about 70 runner in this race, so this will look more impressive than it really is. But I finished 12th overall, and I placed 2nd in my division. Right in line with the dairy theme of the race, my prize was a block of cheddar cheese! I tucked it away in my cooler for safe transportation home, and I am envisioning my prize melted over some tortilla chips with homemade salsa in the very near future.

Say cheese! My prize for finishing 2nd in my division.

OK, so let's break this down; I preregistered for the race, so the entry fee was a ridiculously cheap $15. For that, I got to run a fun little small town race in pretty farm country, runners got treated to a more than generously portioned root beer float when they finished, and I ended up winning some free cheese. I also figured (correctly) that a race named "The Udder Run" has to have great T-shirts. I came home with arguably the coolest race shirt in my collection.

My super cool shirt from The Udder Run

They also had a display at the race featuring their awesome shirts from past years!

How can you not help but love these small town races? Nicely done, good folks of Goodhue. Thanks for a fun day!

Tonight's dinner was the semi-regular post-race tradition of Chinese takeout (some excellent Mandarin beef & kung pao chicken from Ming's Garden). I thought I should celebrate since it is not every day that I place in my division! :)

On to the next,

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