Completing my 4th Half Marathon – Reviewing The Minneapolis Marathon (Half Marathon Route) – Part 1

Minneapolis Marathon Race Shirt
Minneapolis Marathon Race Shirt

Note…
This is part 1 of 2 of a post discussing the half marathon router of the Minneapolis marathon. The second part will cover the lessons I learned after completing the race. Overall, I am glad I ran in this first annual race. I can see that this race is going to be very successful in the future.
End Note…

Yesterday morning (May 31st), I completed my 4th half marathon running in the first annual Minneapolis marathon. I want to say that the race organizers, Team Ortho did an excellent job of putting the race together, promoting it, and making it a success. Overall there were about 5,000 runners in total (3,500 in the half, 1,500 in the full). I overheard many people saying this race will only get bigger. I tend to agree. The race has a couple factors going for it and it will no doubt continue to steal runners from races such as Grandma’s marathon. Now let me talk about the race itself…

Running Conditions…
The running conditions for this race were excellent with the weather being in the 60s to start out and getting to the 70s by the end of the race. The wind was very calm with a slight breeze. It was very windy the day before the race and I was a bit concerned that the wind would be factor in affecting the run. Thankfully, there was a very calm wind to make the run more enjoyable!

Course
This race started in downtown Minneapolis near The Depot, ran by the Gutherie, and worked towards the Mississippi river. The majority of the race from mile 5 to the finish was spent running along the river. For the half marathon, there was a turn around between mile 9 and 10 which meant running back towards the finish line. The course contained a lot of up and down hills from mile 7-13. This is a part of town I had not previously visited during 4.5 years of living in the twin cities. While I enjoyed running by the river, the up and down nature of the hills was killer on my body. I have run a half marathon in San Francisco and run in general in hilly cities like Seattle. I would say the hills from mile 7-13 were worse than what I experienced in San Francisco. It is partially my fault for not reviewing or driving the course before hand, I guess I like surprises when it comes to running.

Cool things the race organizers did…
I was extremely happy with the goodies that race participants received. Besides getting the standard finisher’s medal, the race let you keep the race chip and finisher’s of the half marathon received a technical running shirt (pictured at the beginning of the post). I read in the registration materials and on the race website that finishers of the full marathon were to receive a jacket. I am glad to see the race organizers at least providing something that runners can use in their training for other events. I’ve done other races where finishers received a t-shirt. While a t-shirt is great to wear and I wear my San Diego marathon t-shirt all the time, I can’t wear it when I am training for other events. A big two thumbs up to the organizers for these things, I hope in future years, the included race items are similar to this year. Here is a picture of the race trinkets I received…

Back of the race shirt
Back of the race shirt
Race medal, race chip, and my bib #
Race medal, race chip, and my bib #

Things that need improvement
As with any race, there is some room for improvement. I can think of two things that could be improved namely – replace the sports drink and have a gel station for one part of the half marathon. The sports drink during the race was called Hammer Heed. Maybe because it was not cold or maybe I am just too picky, but this stuff tasted nasty! I kept drinking at least one cup through the aid stations because I wanted to get the calories from the drink. I like gatorade, powerade, and accelerade the best when it comes to sports drinks during a run

My other suggestion for improvement – having gel on the route for the half marathon – I know this sounds like a nit-pick as well. Many serious runners with more knowledge and experience than me would probably argue and state if you’re only running a half that this is not necessary, but I’ve also been in race where there was energy gel provided at mile 10 during a half marathon. I suppose this all comes down to dollars and sponsorship.

Verdict
For this being the first time of having a marathon race in Minneapolis during the month of May, Team Ortho, did a fantastic job! They deserve serious props and kudos for planning and putting on this event. Also, a huge thumbs up for the race shirt, chip, and medal! While I found the up and down nature of the hills challenging and more difficult than what I experienced in San Francisco, I enjoyed the course running along the river. I would encourage Team Ortho to look at changing the course for next year as there are many interesting parts of Minneapolis (hey maybe running through Block E or different part of downtown would be cool). I can definitely see this race being a success in future years to come!

If you ran the race, please feel free to leave a comment discussing your thoughts. I’d love to hear what you thought about this race.

Please check out Part 2 where I discuss my lessons learned from training for this race.

Biking in Des Moines, Iowa and Minneapolis,MN over Memorial Day

Biking in Des Moines

I have a goal of biking 1200-1500 miles this summer. Over the long holiday weekend, I was able to add 50 more miles to my total.

Biking in Des Moines

Although I knew I would be busy being in a friend’s wedding in Iowa, I decided to pack the 7.5fx with me to do some biking. I managed to ride about 30 miles while attending all the wedding activities. My main route took me from the west side of Urbandale to just past Gray’s Lake. I was able to see the baseball stadium and state capitol building before I decided I should turn around.

View of Downtown Des Moines
View of Downtown Des Moines
Downtown Des Moines - Baseball Stadium and Capitol Building
Downtown Des Moines - Baseball Stadium and Capitol Building

Biking in Minneapolis

I returned to Minneapolis on Sunday and took things easy Sunday night. On Monday, I ran 3 miles and went for a bike ride. For the route, I decided to ride around Lake Harriet, Calhoun, Isles, and Nokomis. In all it was about 22 miles. I was able to get some good views of downtown and enjoyed doing some plane spotting by Nokomis.

View of Downtown Minneapolis
View of Downtown Minneapolis
Plane spotting by Lake Nokomis
Plane spotting by Lake Nokomis
Plane getting ready to land seen from Lake Nokomis
Plane getting ready to land seen from Lake Nokomis

75 miles on the trek 7.5FX

Midtown Greenway Sign
Midtown Greenway Sign

It has been about 2 weeks since I first purchased my Trek 7.5 FX and I wanted to talk about my first long bike ride that I took with the 7.5fx on Saturday, May 16. The short story is that the bike did an amazing job getting its owner from the uptown area of Minneapolis to the end of the Gateway Trail near Stillwater, Minnesota. Needless to say, I was still very very exhausted after riding 75 miles that day.

The route that our biking group took was from the greenway trail in uptown over to St. Paul. We cut across St. Paul and eventually found the Gateway trail. This trail took us from St. Paul to North St. Paul to Maplewood to Oakgrove and eventually out near Stillwater. We were planning on biking into Stillwater, but due to time constraints, that part of the trip was nixed. Looking back it was probably good that we killed that part of the ride. Apparently the road into downtown Stillwater is pretty hilly and completely on the highway. I would describe the ride conditions as non-ideal – not only was it very windy, it was also very cold. I didn’t realize how much the conditions would affect my energy towards the end of the ride.

I started out the morning leaving my place to pick up some Cliff bars and gatorade. I was dressed in sweat pants and a sweatshirt. Right as I walked to my car, I noticed it was going to be really cold and windy. This put me in a bit of a conundrum…do I wear my running pants over the biker shorts or do I wear biker shorts and hope that the sun comes up and I warm up during the ride. I pondered this thought as I bought my cliff bars and returned to my house to get ready for the ride. In the end, I decided on a compromise – I would wear biker shorts, running shorts over the top, a long sleeve running shirt, and a hooded sweatshirt over the top. This worked out fairly well except the sweat shirt did nothing to protect me from the wind. During the ride, Erica, Matt’s fiancee, told me to pick up a wind wall – basically something that does a better job of protecting you from the wind.

I biked the 5.7 miles to Matt and Erica’s place and everyone got ready to go. My ride to the uptown area took me along Minnehaha Parkway, across 35W, up Lake Harriet and Calhoun. As a new bike owner and lacking some necessary supplies, Matt and Erica let me borrow some gloves which I am very thankful that they let me borrow. My hands were pretty cold on the ride up to their place because of the wind and air temperature. The ride would have been pretty crappy if I didn’t have my hands covered.

We headed up to the greenway, a bike trail that goes through many different parts of Minneapolis. All of sudden Erica said “Stop” and needed to check her tires out. After examining her back tire, she determined her tube had a hole in it and needed to be changed out. After spending some time trying to figure out how to change the tube ourselves, it was determined the best course of action would be to ride up to the nearest bike shop and get a tube changed there. Apparently the tube is pretty tricky to change on the tires that Erica uses. The guy at the bike shop showed Matt how to change it and told him how he wished he was biking to Stillwater instead of working. I had taken my camera with me instead of my sunglasses so this gave me an opportune time to snap some photos…

One Bike Temporarily Out of Commission
One Bike Temporarily Out of Commission
A view from the Minneapolis Greenway Trail
A view from the Minneapolis Greenway Trail

After the tube was changed, we were back in business. We headed towards St. Paul. The ride down Summit Ave was nice, easy, and down hill. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how down hill it really was which would play a factor in the return journey (along with the wind). I only wish I was better at taking pictures while riding. (Hopefully I can get better at this and provide more pictures). After a bit of biking through St. Paul, we reached the Gateway trail. I was able to snap another picture as we hit a stop light on a minor detour for construction on the trail….

Picture of part of the Gateway Trail
Picture of part of the Gateway Trail

As we continued to stay on the trail and go through parts of North St. Paul, Maplewood, and Oakgrove, I took in the change of scenery in the neighborhoods and people. There weren’t that many people on the trail either biking or walking. We did see a couple people riding horses as we moved further outside of St. Paul on the trail. Another notable siting was the group of juveniles that were being escorted along the trail. I am not sure if they were out for community service or exercise, but this was definitely a surprising group of people to see along the trail. This also sparked an interesting discussion about Erica’s experience mentoring an at risk student. We made a couple of stops for the restroom and water breaks along to the end of the trail just outside Stillwater. Erica and Matt were a bit concerned that I wasn’t drinking enough water. Looking back and after getting tips from my cousin, who lives and breathes bikes, I should have probably been taking in more liquids. We got to the end of the trail and turned around to make the return trip.

On the return trip, Matt and I were pretty hungry. Fortunately for us, there is a burger king on the way back that we stopped at to get food and water. I had chicken nuggets, fries, and a glass of water. Matt ordered a burger, fries, and some coffee. I thought this would be enough to get me back to Minneapolis. Little did I know the effort that would be required once we would hit St. Paul on the return trip. As we were leaving burger king, I asked Matt about how far we had left and he said “about 20 miles”. Little did I know that it was actually closer to 30 miles!! Thanks Matt!

As we were getting closer to the twin cities, it was nice to see familiar land marks. Seeing these land marks increased my confidence and belief that I would make it back to our starting point in uptown. During one of our stops, I was able to snap a distance picture of St. Paul….

We're getting closer to civilizaton...a distance view of St. Paul
We're getting closer to civilizaton...a distance view of St. Paul

Once we got off the Gateway trail and back on the streets of St. Paul is where the “fun” began. It was pretty much nothing but hills for the next 3-4 miles. On the way down, I didn’t even think about what it would be like to bike back up these hills. Additionally the challenge of biking in the wind and the cold made it even more difficult. The bike up Summitt Ave contains many stop lights. Everytime I made it near a stop light, I was sort of hoping that the light would turn red and let me have a little rest. This didn’t happen…every time I hit a light, it was green and I continued pedaling up hill!

We eventually made it back to uptown. Everyone was pretty tired. Erica gave me a ride home. I was exhausted and very appreciative that I wouldn’t have to bike home. I found this ride to be both fun and challenging. I also learned a few things about the bike and what upgrades to immediately consider. First, I am going to pick up pedals with clips and biking shoes. I am going to do this in the next week or two. Matt was nice enough to let me have his basket pedals, but I can see the advantages of upgrading to the pedals with clips. Second, I am going to pick up a handle bar upgrade. One of the things I noticed was how tired my arms and shoulder were after maintaining the same position on the bike for so long, it’s probably a good idea to pick up this upgrade. Third, I am going to get a saddle pack so I can carry a spare tube with me in case I have problem with an inner blowing.

One other thing I learned was how many calories I was burning and using from biking. We stopped at burger king for the quick refuel before heading back to the cities. When I got home, I drank a lot of water, ate spaghetti, and eventually I decided to order a thin crust pizza after my nap. Being a runner and knowing how much energy running can take and comparing the energy is take to bike, this surprised me a little bit. The only thing I wish I had done better was to take more pictures. I promise to get better at taking pictures from my bike as the summer progresses.

I Like Breakfast Group: Breakfast at The Strip Club in St. Paul, MN.

**** UPDATE ****
Tim, the owner of The Strip Club, reached out to me via a comment in the blog. I highly respect this fact. I think it shows Tim does care about the experiences his customers have at his restaurant. I let Tim know that I wasn’t looking for a refund or compensation and that if I return with the group or personally, I will re-review the Strip Club and note my experiences again.

**** END UPDATE ****

I recently met a group of people who enjoy breakfast as much as I do. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and it has been argued that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Every couple of weeks, we meet up on a Sunday to go to different restaurants in the twin cities to celebrate breakfast and catch up with what is going on in people’s lives. Today, the group went to The Strip Club located in St. Paul. This was an important milestone for the group because it was the first time that the group had ventured outside of Minneapolis to try breakfast in St. Paul. Even though I have not been involved very long with the group, I get the distinct feeling that the group prefers Minneapolis and the west side of the twin cities as compared to the east side and St. Paul. This is mainly because everyone appreciates the city life of Minneapolis. I think the majority of people in the group actually live in the city of Minneapolis. Before I go on, let me just say the Strip Club is a restaurant that focuses on creating unique dishes with different types of meat, it is not an actual strip club.

Restaurant Strip Club
Restaurant Strip Club

The location of the restaurant was easy to find especially for someone who does not frequent the east side of the twin cities that much. It was located one block off the Mounds Blvd exit on I-94. There was also a view of downtown St. Paul. Because I only had my iPhone on me, I decided it would be best to walk outside the restaurant and get a picture of downtown St. Paul. Here is what it looked like from just outside the restaurant….

View of downtown St. Paul from the Strip Club
View of downtown St. Paul from the Strip Club

I arrived a little bit early to the restaurant and found the restaurant had several tables together waiting for our group of 10 to arrive. I think its always nice when the restaurant is ready for large parties especially when you call and tell them you will be having a large party. The atmosphere of the restaurant was pretty good with the music in the background and a small upstairs seating area. Our group was seated in the main area. One gripe I and many other people in our group had about the atmosphere is that it was very warm in the restaurant. This could be because our large party or having an open kitchen. It would have been nice if there was some way to open a window or get more air circulating throughout the inside.

Since I was a little early, I ordered coffee as we waited for the rest of the group to arrive. The coffee was good. It didn’t taste like Starbucks or Caribou so that was a welcome change. The wait staff did a pretty good job of keeping everyone’s coffee cup filled up as we waited to order the food. I admit that I took a look at the brunch menu before I stepped foot in the building! That is how much I like breakfast. Several things caught my eye including the Logger’s Tower and Fenian French Toast. Also, since I knew we would probably be there for at least a hour, the North Coast Pranqster’s Golden Ale tap beer sounded worth trying.

The server assigned to our table was efficient and effective at taking the group’s order. A few comments about the menu versus what was posted online. The online menu mentioned an item called Apples and Oatmeal which sounded pretty good, however, the restaurant menu that we ordered from did not have this item listed. Additionally, I wanted to try the North Coast Pranqster’s Golden Ale listed online, but when I asked when beers were on tap, that was not one of them listed. I understand that the restaurant is small and tries to make dishes with fresh ingredients and offer unique beers in limited quantities, but if that is the case, instead of listing the current beer, why not put a note on the menu saying that beers will change based on availability. I really wanted to also try the pork sausage on the menu. I tried to subsitute out the ham for the pork sausage, but my server said she couldn’t do that. She could take out the ham and charge me for a side of pork sausage. I opted not to do this. I ended up ordering the Logger’s Tower which is a triple stack of pancakes, grilled ham, fried eggs, scallions, rosemary, and a side of syrup. For my beverage I ordered a pint of Red Hook IPA beer. Below is a picture of my plate of food without the syrup…

The Logger's Tower - My meal at  The Strip Club
The Logger's Tower - My meal at The Strip Club

The actual delivery of the order took a little while. This was partially due that several people in the group ordered hamburgers that needed to be thoroughly cooked and the number of people in our group. The wait time didn’t bother me or anyone else in the group too much as it gave everyone a chance to catch up. Plus by the time we were receiving our food, everyone was really hungry. Somehow I am always the last to receive my food in large groups, so I was especially please when my plate finally came out.

The Logger’s Tower was especially tasty! Even though I stayed with the grilled ham, I enjoyed it. Additionally, the pancakes were cooked perfectly. We actually spent a few minutes discussing various ways to mess up pancakes such as over or under cooking them, having too much batter, or making them too fluffy. The pancakes were made just right. The fried eggs were a nice touch to the item. I am a big fan of eggs at breakfast. What topped off of my meal was the syrup. I am not sure if it is homemade or anything, but it was really good; and was just enough to cover the plate and not leave the food soaked in syrup.

Other people at the table ordered grape fruit which was very large, a caramel roll which everyone sampled, the loaded burger, and the Scandahuvian Smoked Salmon and Potato Hash. I heard positive comments about the grape fruit, caramel roll, and the Scandahuvian Smoked Salmon and Potato Hash. However, our burger expert at the table was disappointed with the loaded burger. He was expecting more for the price. So you might want to avoid the burger for brunch.

After everyone was finished eating, is when all the fun and confusion started. The server put everyone’s order on one receipt. Most of us didn’t have cash on hand and needed to use a credit card. We made the request to have bill evenly split 10 ways. Another thing that the group noticed was that tip was already included. I understand that for large parties tips are typically added in, however, I saw two problem with this. First, the tip was at 20% and second, I saw no where on the menu that tips would automatically be added in for large parties. From the many restaurants, I have frequented the standard practice has been to print something on the menu to make your customers aware of this policy. I personally don’t like it when someone determines the amount I am going to tip. I tend to tip at least 20% when the service is good. So I just see the server short changing themselves on this one.

We all put down our cards and gave the server the instructions to split the bill evenly. 2 minutes later, the server comes back and states they don’t accept American Express. I noticed this fact when I walked into the restaurant and luckily I had a visa on me, however, another person in the group did not and had to have his bill added with another bill. This is not a major strike against The Strip Club, but it is something that was discussed at the table. For the type of establishment that it is, we somewhat expected them to take American Express cards. This was just a minor hiccup compared to the next time we saw the server.

After sometime of a delay lasting 5-10 minutes, our server came out and informed us that the maximum amount of cards that could be processed on a single receipt was 6. I have never actually heard this before. We requested that the receipt be split into at least 2 receipts so everyone’s card could be run through. This seems like a simple request. The delays in bringing the table the bill and the fact that it was very very warm in the restaurant by this point made the entire table want to leave as soon as we could.

After the server came back, I saw something on the receipt that I’ve never seen before. A line item that said “Card Charged” and a line item that said “Cash Back” . Apparently, the server choose a unique way of dividing up the bill. These two line items caused a whole bunch of confusion at the table especially since none of us are used to receiving cashback from a credit card transaction. Unfortunately, the server did not inform us the process that was used to split out the bill and we were unable to determine how it was clearly split out or who owed who money.

The final impression I received was as I was getting my cash back from the server the server made the comment – “I’m f*****”. I can relate that the server was frustrated, but this comment should not have been made in front of a customer. I think it would have been better if the server would have spent the time separating out the bills into 10 individual receipts. I am not sure why this could not have been done.

Overall, the experience at The Strip Club was mixed. I would even say more on the disappointing side. The location was decent and the restaurant seemed prepared for the group. The food was tasty especially the Logger’s Tower, but the overall experience of dealing with the bill and the temperature inside the restaurant made our group wonder if it was worth another visit. I would say if the restaurant can improve how it handles large groups it might be worth coming back again. At this time, even though the food was for the most part excellent and due to the many other excellent establishments in the twin cities, I’m unsure if I can truly recommend The Strip Club to my friends.

My Trek 7.5 FX – 20” hybrid fitness bike

My Trek 7.5 FX – 20” hybrid fitness bike

For my posts regarding my trek 7.5 FX, check out:

– My post about the decision to purchase the 7.5 FX
– My post about the first week of owning the 7.5 FX
– My post about the 75 mile ride with the 7.5 FX
– My post about the upgrades to my 7.5 FX
– My post about some of the things I have noticed while riding the 7.5 FX
Coming soon! Come back and check for my impressions of the 7.5 FX after 500 miles.