I took a road trip to Rochester, Minnesota a few weeks ago — my first time to the state of Minnesota — to run the TOTALLY NUTS! challenge series of the Minnesota Nut House Challenge. The drive was just over 3 hours from the Des Moines area.
I love multi-event challenge races, so I was ready to get some miles on my legs in my build-up to ultra-marathon training. The half marathon would be my 12th — AND I got to color in another state on my map.
This was the 3rd year for the Nut House series; it’s a small local race put on by Triton Events and sponsored by Active PT & Sports. There are several races that made up the weekend of events: a 5k, 10k, and half marathon; there was a children’s/fun mile run before each of those races, too. While I knew what kind of mileage I was getting myself into by running all three (22.4), I’m SO GLAD that they were not in the order of 5k/10k/half.
The 10k was up first on Saturday morning, followed by the 5k Saturday evening, and the half marathon on Sunday morning. Participants had the option of running a single race or completing one of two challenges: Half Cracked (I couldn’t find on the race website which two events were included for this race but I assume the 5k and half marathon) or Totally Nuts (all three). Before each race, the event also hosted a 1 Mile / Kids Challenge. Kinda wonder if I should have signed up to run a mile, too.
I was working HARD in my 10k in hopes of getting that elusive sub-hour PR (my PR from 2014 is 1:00:39). It was not to be. And then I had to walk during my 5k and was all kinds of miserable (I found a place with gluten-free carrot cake, so I’LL BE FINE). Sunday’s half marathon was no better. But I just needed to finish before it was time to check out of my hotel.
Registration + Cost: I registered in December, and with online fees, all three races cost me $107.75.
Expo + Packet Pick-up: Pick-up was at local running store TerraLoco on Friday (I drove in that afternoon). There was also bib pick-up on race day. No expo for this race, but I enjoyed browsing the shop. For runners doing the challenge races, the same bib was used (thank you!!!). Naturally, I forgot to pick up course maps when I grabbed my bib; thankfully, I remembered to get the safety pins.
Weather: IT WAS HOT. Like, sincerely the hottest weather I think that I’ve ever raced in (if I’ve said that before, I was lying). The “real feel” temp at start time of the 5k on Saturday evening was 92. I set my limit after completing that evening’s race that I wouldn’t run the half on Sunday if it was over 80 degrees. It was close.
Saturday morning wasn’t overly-warm, but the humidity made my palms sweat within the first mile. It was the kind of thickness in the air that sucked all your energy away.
Start Line + Parking: My hotel was about .3 miles away from the start (and finish) line at Soldiers Field Memorial Park. It wasn’t crowded at all, which is always nice. I explored the memorial and then found a shade of tree to hang out and watch the kid’s mile challenge around the track before race start.
Course + Elevation: This race series was all on paved trails. The 10K went one direction and several points was in the woods, so it was peaceful (there was also a portion of the trail that ran along a major road, which was not). The 5K started from the same place, but turned towards the city on the trails. The half marathon was kind of a combination of them both (a little more extended into the parks/woods areas portion of the 10K route).
Aid Stations: Considering this was a small race, I was impressed at how the RD and organizers STEPPED UP to make sure runners were properly hydrated. There was Gatorade available at almost every water stop (if not all of them), AND during the half marathon, there were 11 total stations AND had GU available. Even when there weren’t enough volunteers to support an extra manned water station during the 5K, they left a giant water cooler and disposable cups so runners could self-support.
Finish Line + After Party: Guys. There was a POOL at the finish line. There also was a bunch of kids lined up with super-soakers as you approached the finish chute — THANK YOU!!! There was complimentary bottles of water and Gatorade, and free beer from Grand Rounds (a local brewery; nothing gluten-free in the alcoholic department). Also, also: there were Pearson’s Salted NUT ROLLS candy bars (somehow I went my whole life having never had one!). AND there was hot nuts from a local company (wish I caught their name!).
The races were all timed by MTEC Results — and I got the results emailed to me within an hour of finishing, which included a BUNCH of fun stats! There was a restaurant called Twigs that had a gluten-free menu — I’m talking 4 PAGES FULL of gluten-free options PLUS DESSERTS. I was in fried green beans heaven. I was able to even order a Minnesota-made gluten-free IPA. On my second visit, I had a local cider made with Honeycrisp apples.
Fans + Experience + Charity: With small races, you don’t get much crowd support, but I did meet some wonderful runners on my trip — including a beautiful woman from the Carolinas (doing a cross-country trip with her kids) who told me all about the race’s charity partner, Inheritance of Hope. She adamantly expressed her desire to never run another half marathon ever (she was doing the entire challenge as well). Sadly, she lost her husband to MLS a few years ago and truthfully, I haven’t stopped thinking about her and her family since the race. I didn’t know anything about this charity before meeting her, and I’m so appreciative of her sharing her story. I could tell that she was emotionally connected to the purpose, and she really made me think about “why I run” — prompting me to plan to do another fundraise run for charity next year.
Triton Events gives a portion of each registration to Inheritance of Hope — a non-profit organization that inspires hope in young families facing the loss of a parent to a terminal illness. Through these partnerships with endurance events, athletes can raise funds to support Inheritance of Hope and send these families to Legacy Retreats.
Swag + Medals: There was an individual medal received for each race, and they’re pretty sweet. Though I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t an additional medal for completing the entirety of the challenge (I’m so spoiled), the uniqueness of these medals more than made up for it.
Also, while the t-shirt is a really nice design and SUPER comfy (also, it fits!), I was really hoping for something with the crazy squirrel logo that’s used all over the other race branding because, well… because it’s crazy and I love crazy.
The Great: LOVED the near-instant results email with access to a bunch of race stats.
The Good: Overall, a really fun event – with that “small race vibe.”
The Bad: If I really had to complain about something, it’s that there’s not a lot of the necessary race info on the website — and while this out-of-towner figured things out (and asked questions on their FB page), it could have been better. Also, I almost deleted the race day email because the subject line was about online registration closing.
The Ugly: Another race, another event complaining about the weather. Though this race really stepped up to support the heat!
Half Marathon: 2:23:57
Totally Nuts Challenge Cumulative: 3:56:28 — 58th Overall; 5th in my AG