Minnehaha 5 Miler Trail Race - Plus a Brewery Extravaganza

On Labor Day weekend I ran a trail race on a whim. It was the Minnehaha 5 Miler Trail Race put on by Western Reserve Racing at part of their Tents & Trails or Dirty Trails series over Labor Day weekend. It seems I've been spending a lot of time at races in Northeastern Ohio this year. First it was the Pro Football Hall of Fame Half in Canton in April. Then in May I paced the Cleveland Half Marathon one weekend and raced the Medina Half the following weekend. In July I volunteered and crewed at the Burning River 100, where I discovered the Summit Brew Path and its bounty of 14 Akron/Canton area breweries to visit. For the holiday weekend, my real goal was to finish my Summit Brew Path. With a free room from Hotels.com, I decided to make an overnight of it, hitting up some breweries on Saturday and others on Sunday. I figured I'd find a pretty place to run on Sunday morning before heading out to the breweries. When my friend Chase mentioned the Minnehaha race, it took me about 10 seconds to register. And lucky for me, I saved $5 with a volunteer credit for my time spent at Burning River packet pick-up. There was no way this wasn't going to be an awesome weekend!

Ready to run a dirty trail!

Saturday Breweries

I got a late start driving up on Saturday, but there was still plenty of time to achieve my brewery goals. I hit a record number of 7 breweries that day. I only needed Scenic Brewing, Mucky Duck Brewery, Hoppin' Frog Brewery, Two Monks Brewing and Aqueduct Brewing (these guys have a river flowing through their basement!) for the passport, but later I met Chase at two additional breweries (R. Shea Brewing, which I'd visited back in July, and McArthur's Brew House, which wasn't a passport eligible brewery). Don't worry, I only had one or two 4 oz. tasters at each place and this was spaced out over several hours, so I was plenty sober and safe. After McArthurs, I said goodbye to Chase and drove to my hotel in Hudson and laid out my race gear for the morning.

Loved the Hoppin' Frog taps, and I also bought a cute logo pint glass that I really didn't need
The Goodyear Blimp hangar was a sight on my Akron brewery tour
At Aqueduct brewing, the stream in their basement - really cool!

Sunday Race

Early Sunday morning there was rain. In fact, it had rained all day Saturday too. I wondered how muddy the trails would be, but it didn't matter...I was going to run no matter what. And the rain stopped a couple hours before the race started at the relatively late hour of 9:30 AM. I drove to the race site early to get parked and pick up my packet. We would be running at Camp Manatoc, a Boy Scouts camp that is not normally open to the public. This was a once-a-year opportunity to run the trails in this part of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Several runners had done the marathon or half the previous day, and some of them camped on the property overnight. The camp dining hall was serving up breakfast for the campers. I had brought my own apple to eat before the race.

Main entrance to Camp Manatoc
Camp Manatoc dining hall
Inside the dining hall, where post-race festivities were held

When I checked in, Kelly told me I would have to wait until after the race to receive my hat, if there were any left. This was because I registered so late. I liked that this race gave out a hat instead of a shirt; that was kind of different and fun. Kelly assured me there would be some other premium for me if I couldn't get the official Dirty Trail Series hat, but I was crossing my fingers for that hat. At some point I found Chase, and then I found Jeff, who had volunteered with me at Burning River packet pick-up. More accurately, Jeff recognized me first. He had run the half marathon the previous day and was volunteering for the 5 Miler. It was nice to see a friendly face. I made my final race preparations, then gathered with some other folks to watch the kids race at 9:00. This was no toddler run; these were bigger kids and they had to run a 2 Miler! Shortly after the kids finished, the 5 Miler started. Incidentally, there were some kids in that distance too.

The kids race runners take off

We started off on the main road through camp, and we returned to the roads periodically. Some of the road segments were paved and some were gravel. But most of our distance was on single-track dirt trails through the forest. These were beautiful trails, and I hoped that the Boy Scouts appreciated them when they used the trails for running or, more likely, hiking. We lucked out with mostly dry trails. After all the rain I expected mud, but there was very little mud, and it was easily avoided. There were a couple water crossings, but none that got my feet wet, as there were wooden bridges or big stepping stones. But the trails were still a place to exercise caution. Often, the trail bordered a ravine and it was necessary for me to slow down a little bit and watch my step. There was an equal amount of climbing and descending, and I didn't find it terribly difficult, but...I only had to run 5 miles of it.

I'm ready to go, wearing my trail gear: trail shoes, gaiters and Camelbak
Five milers getting ready
Before the runners spread out
Typical section of the single-track trail

I varied my pace based on the terrain and just had fun. I also stopped to take several photographs of the landscape. The temperature and the level of sunshine were perfect. It was a beautiful day for a trail run. At the last aid station I saw Stacey volunteering. I'd met her at the Medina Half, and she is a fellow Sparkle Skirts fan. Another friendly face that I knew, and I don't even call that part of the state my home. I didn't think to get a photo with Stacey until I'd already left the aid station...bummer.

The water crossings were easy due to bridges
That's a waterfall behind me, flowing low at the time
Foliage and flowers

My time wasn't very fast for this race, but I didn't care. I just wanted to go for a run before my brewery visits, and this ended up being a great one. With another trail run coming up this month, I considered this a dress rehearsal. I wore my usual running clothes with the addition of trail shoes and gaiters. However, someone would have done fine on this course with regular running shoes and no gaiters, especially because it was a short distance. I also wore my Camelbak. It wasn't absolutely necessary to carry my own water, as the aid stations had me covered, but sometimes I like to drink when I want to drink and not rely on aid stations. And if by any chance I'd gotten lost (not likely...the course was well marked), I'd have water. So, for carrying water, the Camelbak pack was necessary. I didn't want to take a handheld in case I needed my hands to be free to catch myself falling, or to grab a root or a tree. Good news though...no falls on this trail run for me!

After my finish, I was excited to learn that there was a Dirty Trails hat waiting for me! I took a few more photos, said goodbye to Kelly, Jeff and Chase, and drove back to my hotel to shower and check out. I was in a great mood from spending an hour or so running through the woods and taking in nature.

Yes! I got my hat!
Post-race selfie with Chase - I think we've both taken better pics...oh well

Sunday Breweries & Scenery

Sunday's brewery tour was shorter than Saturday's. For one thing, I found out that one of the passport breweries had closed for the entire holiday weekend. There would be no way to finish my passport. And another brewery had incorrect hours printed in the passport; they were wrongly listed as being open on Sunday. So, there are still two Akron breweries that I will need to visit before the end of the year. The good news was that I was able to get a stamp at Royal Docks Brewing in North Canton, and I really liked their beer and the British theme. And on my way home, I hit up two more breweries that were not part of the Summit Brew Path, but were included in the Ohio On Tap app, so I could at least get virtual passport stamps toward that. Those breweries were Lockport Brewery in Bolivar and Millersburg Brewing in, well, Millersburg. These two were OK breweries, but the best parts of visiting them were the scenic views. Near Bolivar I got to visit the longest covered bridge in Ohio. Near Millersburg, I drove through Amish country and saw multiple buggies on the road. (Drivers - Please slow down and give safe distance when passing buggies!). Directly across from Millersburg Brewing was a beautiful courthouse.

"Bridge of Dreams" is Ohio's longest covered bridge
One end of the bridge, which had horse poop all over the inside of it

View from on the bridge

Proudly wearing my Dirty Trails hat at the Bridge of Dreams
Typical highway buggy view in Holmes County
Bicycle buggies
The courthouse in Millersburg

This was a successful weekend, even if I didn't finish my Summit Brew Path passport. I got to visit several breweries, see a friend, run a fun trail race, and explore new-to-me areas in my home state.


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