Sunday, August 10, 2008

(Celebrity?) River Runnings

When we finished our race last weekend I had learned something; Wisconsin and Minnesota are pretty places! I had no particular reasons to think otherwise, but after spending several days up there I was duly impressed. But first things first - on August 2nd, we ran the inaugural River City Ramble Half-Marathon in Red Wing, Minnesota, a town of 20,000 people (and probably half that many hanging flower baskets) on the Mississippi River about 50 miles SE of the Twin Cities. Its claims to fame are Red Wing Shoes and Red Wing Pottery - both of which played roles in our weekend race activities.

As for the race, we were impressed and pleasantly surprised by the weather. We had expected midwest heat and humidity, but it turned out almost pleasant. The race started and finished at a very scenic Park on the River then transitioned to a walking/running/bike path for the rest of the out-and-back. It was through a valley, generally shaded and only nominally uphill for the first half, but then that same downhill for the return which, psychologically, still makes a difference. We managed times that, although still short of our PRs, were pretty good.

What made this race special for us was the hospitality and welcome. We had coordinated some things with the Race Director and he ended up with our "story". He put us in contact with a writer for their local paper (Red Wing Republican Eagle) who did a story on us and our "quest". The story - with a front-page lead-in, ran the day before the race. (Yes....we came home with a number of copies! from 8/1/08) Since the race didn't have any finisher's medals, the Race Director presented us two pieces of Red Wing Pottery during the awards ceremonies - it was kind of cool!

This trip will be among our favorites for the pre- and post-race travel and activities. (It was also our first without Rachel, who stayed with her Aunt Kathy in Chicago. That was kind of weird - and we kept wondering why she wasn't in the back seat!) We spent an afternoon in Madison on the way up, visiting the Capitol and Univ of Wisconsin. This gave me my first taste of the lakes the area is so famous for, as Madison sits between two very picturesque lakes. The next day we spent a leisurely day traveling 60 miles on a National Scenic Highway along the Mississippi River between La Crosse and Red Wing. The river, the bluffs, the forests and the scenic hamlets contributed to this being a great drive. Even managed a hike up onto Brady's Bluff at Perrot State Park with some sweeping views of the river valley. In Red Wing after the race, we visited the pottery store and the factory shoe store - leaving with 3 more pairs of shoes than we came with! Later, in the Twin Cities we inspected the Capitol in St Paul and spent a few minutes in their magnificent cathedral, followed by a Twins baseball game in the Metrodome (very interesting venue). On our return day Karen insisted on seeing the Mary Tyler Moore house in Minneapolis - and, of course, I obliged (nothing spectacular, but the residences/estates in the area along Chain of Lakes were pretty amazing) and we later stopped at Devil's Lake State Park near Baraboo WI - another scenic gem - with a hike to Balanced Rock and Devil's Doorway. All in all, I learned that Wisconsin is worth a visit - even if they CAN'T claim to have any decent skiing.
As for any profound thoughts - isn't discovering Wisconsin enough?? I might only add a thought about expectations - which you have read here before. They can be powerful obstacles or enhancers to performance. Although we expected dreadful weather - I think we were prepared and, as a result, were able to take advantage of pretty good conditions. The moral - don't let expectations dictate performance.
Nineteen down - thirty-one to go!


Carl & Karen said...

Boy, I figured prominently in the pictures this time, huh! Guess you take a better pix than I do...or you're just biased about your subject :>)

Another wonderful trip--such a fun way to see the country. Anytime anyone wants to join us...Buggy, if you can do a tri, you can do a half!! Here's a deal--one complimentary trip for any Carl Johnson (or former Johnson) progeny who runs a 1/2 with us (hint--you may want to start training for Hawaii...).

Love, Karen

Super Daysh said...

Love the farmer tan Dad! ;) Sounds like a fun race. Emily thinks our next reunion should be up there (or next mini-one). I guess they have like 5 waterparks there or something like that- and they are family friendly- like the one in Colorado. I think that would be fun! Thanks for the fun blog post and the cool pics!

princess jen said...

Those are gorgeous pictures! I love hanging flower baskets. I wish I could get them to grow for me. I'm glad you had such a fun time. When are you planning on going to Hawaii?

Sara and Company said...

Wow! I guess I can talk to you now seeing that you are famous! Tee hee! That is great! Sounds like a beautiful area. And it was so great to see you at the wedding. I can't wait to visit more with you this weekend. I'll need to get directions to your house. Fun times!

Mythreesons said...

Those pictures are indeed beautiful. Who'd have thunk Wiconsin was so pretty? I'm indeed motivated to make it our next destination for the reunion... and it's not 5, Daysh! It's like 30 in a 30 mile radius. Or in other words, heaven. Beautiful recap Dad. I could really tell how much you enjoyed this race.