Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crashing through the wall at the Des Moines Marathon

Personalized bib numbers; always a nice touch!

I woke up to 37 degrees the morning of the Des Moines Marathon. I know this because I went out to my car and checked the thermometer. You know how The Weather Channel has their "Local on the 8's" where you get the weather forecast for your area? My parents who live in the boonies get this segment with a forecast tailored for them. Apparently Des Moines (or at least the cable provider for my hotel) does not. Instead I got the temperatures for various cities across the country, Des Moines not included! In any case, it looked like it was going to be a good day for running.

The hotel I stayed at was ideal. The Renaissance Savery was the host hotel, and it was right at the start and finish line. Stumble out the door and you are on the race course. The lobby was absolutely jammed with people trying to stay warm before the start of the race! I wandered out to the start line with about 20 minutes to spare.

Yours truly at the marathon start (thanks to the nice lady who offered to take my picture!)

At 8 AM, we were off like a herd of turtles. The first few miles were shared by the full and half marathoners on narrow city streets, so the quarter were a little cramped. We ran past the beautiful gold domed Capital building and made our way through the downtown area.

After three miles, the half marathoners split off to the left, which freed things up considerably. Miles 3 through 8 threw a surprising number of hills at us (and here you thought Iowa was flat!). This was the rather upscale section of Des Moines, home to the Governor's Manison and other expensive residences. While nothing was incredibly steep, the hills were lengthy and gradual. At one location I looked off to my left and took in a rather nice view of the river valley. We must have been on top of "Mount Des Moines!"

The course leveled out significantly after that. Around the 9 mile mark, I saw one of the leaders coming back in the other direction. He was past mile 15. Of course, he and others were eventually stopped by a train near the finish, so that would allow me to make up some ground on him! :)

Mile 12 provided one of the coolest parts of the race - we entered the Drake University campus (gorgeous, by the way...the trees on campus were the prettiest along the route, displaying spectacular shades of orange and red) and got to do a lap around the track, home of the famous Drake Relays. This was especially fun, since my Dad was here decades ago competing with his college track team. A great experience for any runner to get to run on the blue track!

Also, I saw a digital thermometer on/near the campus that said 42 degrees. The temperature was staying perfect!

I crossed the half way mark in a hair over 2 hours and 1 minute. That was almost 4 minutes slower than the midway point of my Fargo race. I figure those early hill had an effect, but I was also trying to pace myself better so I had something left at the end. I was feeling very good and liked the pace I was keeping, so I tried to stay within that comfort zone.

I actually made the background of one of the photos in the Des Moines Register slideshow!

Spectators and aid station volunteers were great all the way around. I heard lots of personal words of encouragement being directed at me with several folks shouting "Go blue!" in reference to my shirt. There were even some guys having an early morning happy hour near the 14 mile mark with a couple of bottles of hard liquor on their table! Aid stations were on the ball, well staffed, and quite enthusiastic.

Best sign I saw on the course from a spectator was around mile 15 - "Janet, run like there is a yarn sale!"

Miles 16 through 18 - beautiful. Here were left the residential areas and entered a trail that would lead us into the Water Works Park. The trees were turning pretty shades of yellow and orange, and we ran along side of a river. It reminded me a lot of my trails that run by the creek near my place.

In the open area of the park, the south wind was raging between miles 19 and 20. But after mile 20, we turned to head back to the city, so for the most part it would be helping us back to town.

I was still feeling remarkably good. I had been popping two Clif Shot Bloks every 4 miles, and I took water or Gatorade at every aid station except for the first one, and I was feeling like I had something left in the tank. Miles 21 and 22 came and went, and we started the counterclockwise lap around Grays Lake. This is where I started passing a lot of people. Several folks were in full on "shuffle mode," and I felt like I was clipping along.

Around the lake and heading for home, we crossed the George Washington Carver bridge over the Raccoon River and made our way into the downtown area. I passed the 25 mile mark and was still doing well. I felt like I crashed through the proverbial "wall" like a clumsy party guest. I was maintaining the pace I wanted, I didn't crap out, and I was feeling great about how my race was going. In fact, as I was passing some folks down the home stretch, another runner (a gentleman with a very thick foreign accent) shouted to me enthusiastically, "Looking good, buddy! You are running strong!"

We turned north on 4th Street and headed to the finish, which was only a few blocks away. Always nice to see the finish line in sight! I ran past lots of cheering folks, (as well as the big Templeton Rye party bus that was parked downtown!) and I crossed the line in 4:07:26. (Results here)

My time was over three minutes slower than my marathon PR, but in some cases this was a little more gratifying just because I managed myself so well. I felt good the whole way around. I finished strong. My stomach didn't feel like crap afterward. I was quite happy with my performance and time. And aside from some minor stiffness in my legs, overall I came through this in good shape.

The race is well organized (anyone who got held up by the train might disagree, but that wasn't the fault of the race!). Aside from being windy, you couldn't have asked for a nicer day. And the course was really quite gorgeous with fall colors busting out everywhere. As I have said before, anyone who thinks Des Moines in not pretty has never been there.

A fun event, a successful race, and a nice way to cap off another season.

Loving this marathon stuff,

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