Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dam to Dam 2016!


Anyone who has been following my blog, my Facebook page (Running on the Fly), or knows me personally has heard me speak (fondly) of Dam to Dam. It's a nearby event (Des Moines, IA), and this weekend marked the 37th anniversary of the festivities and it was my 9th consecutive year of lacing up and taking part.

There are many reasons why I love this event:
1)-it was my first-ever distance race (Recap HERE)
2)-the course is unique, challenging, and scenic
3)-the registration is very reasonable ($40!)
4)-the tribute to Iowa armed forces personnel who have since left us
5)-lots of volunteers, entertainment, and spectator support

Dam to Dam previously was a 20K distance, but in 2014 the course was lengthened to a half marathon distance.

I have had a wonky heel the past couple weeks (you can read about that HERE). It's really been  nothing major until a short 1.5 mile run on May 31 (putting me at the 100-mile mark for my monthly miles).Ugh. I believe it's a heel spur, which can lead to Plantar Fasciitis if I'm not careful (been there, done that...last summer). The irony is that it doesn't bother me (much) when I'm running (mid-foot strike), but standing or walking is another story (full-on heel strike).

Going into this race, I utilized some caution....two days of rest (from running), colorful sports tape, not-so-attractive PF compression sleeve, periodic icing, and intermittent massaging. And ZERO fancy, sparkly sandals (desperate times, desperate measures).

All taped up and ready to run!
Race day morning, all appeared to feel fine and be in working order. I was able to walk (in my running shoes) with almost no pain or discomfort, so I was optimistic running would (hopefully) be a non-issue.

The morning plank (at 4:00AM) while the chai was heating...
What's unique about Dam to Dam is that it's a point-to-point course. Hundreds (and I do mean HUNDREDS) of school buses are lined up to escort all the runners out to Saylorville Dam (hence the name Dam to Dam). The race begins at 7:00, and the final bus departs downtown Des Moines at 5:45. We live an hour away, so we had a 3:30AM wake-up, and left town at 4:15 ((yawn)).

Let's just say the bus ride was bUmPy
We arrived at the Dam around 6:00AM, so we had plenty of time to use the porta-pots and walk around. I especially love the start line. Even though the 2-lane road over the dam is narrow (with not much of a shoulder) and is very crowded....the view is amazing, especially on a beautiful morning. You can see the downtown Des Moines skyline ever-so-faintly in the distance.

off in the distance (13 miles and change)...the finish line awaits in downtown Des Moines
Barb and I lost Pat at the porta-pots, and weren't able to find him back. I knew we'd all meet up at the finish line, so I wasn't concerned. Barb and I hung together for the first mile or so, then we spread out as the crowd of runners started to thin out. My foot had been feeling alright and I did not want to take any chances with 13.1 miles on my agenda, so I knew I'd be running my own race and not forcing myself into a faster-than-desired pace.

The first few miles always seem to go slow...you know how it is....lots of weaving and dodging fellow runners in a tight, narrow space. Seriously, people, can't we all cooperate with the pace-marker signs? Unless you're an elite, please honor the signs--and YOUR speed. The race is chip-timed, so there's nothing to gained by pushing your way to the front (there, I feel better already #rantover).

The weather was absolutely beautiful, in fact, I'd say it was about as close to perfect as it could possibly be. Temps were in the mid-70's at start time, with a very gentle breeze. If it wasn't for my foot, this would have been the ideal day to try for a PR...the Dam to Dam course has an "overall" downhill grade, especially in the first seven miles or so. There's a good hill, at mile 8, and then there's a few rolling hills for the remainder of the race. There's also a pretty steep, though curving, hill right before the 13-mile mark.

The miles were going well, but I could feel my heel. It wasn't really hurting, but it certainly felt a little "off." Somehow (again!), I hit a foreign button on my watch and I couldn't see the time. I could see my pace, but I prefer to see the elapsed time ticking. I could tell I was running pretty steady, though.

The first seven or so miles are through the countryside. There are porta-pots at every water station, but there's usually a line of runners waiting. Around the fifth mile, I started feeling like a potty stop would be a good thing, but I didn't want to wait several minutes in line to do so. I knew we'd be entering civilization in a couple miles, so I knew I didn't have much time remaining to to utilize the "natural surroundings" (plenty of trees, bushes, tall grass, and brush).

It was just before Memorial Hill (just after the 7-mile mark) that I made a command decision to pull over and take a walk in the woods. It was over and done in less than 30 seconds, and I guarantee it would have taken much longer had I waited in line for a porta-pot.

Memorial Hill is pretty incredible. It's a big hill, maybe close to a mile from start to finish, It starts out gradual, but becomes pretty challenging as you make your way towards the top. The hill is lined with American flags, and each flag honors an Iowa service person who has lost their life (while in service) since the first Dam to Dam (1980).

About halfway up the Hill...and we have some walkers
 As we finish the Hill, the route is then on city streets (most of which are lined with intermittent crowds of people). Quite a bit of the first part of the course is on open roads, so there's not much for shade. The temps had been slowly climbing, as well as the sun, so a little bit of shade felt good.

My foot continued to feel a little strange, but around the fifth mile I could tell it was loosening up (about time LOL). As mentioned, the remaining miles have some gentle hills, which I really don't mind. The hills are mild, and they actually are a good break from the constant "flatness" of the first several miles. A lot of runners prefer a flat, fast course....but, really, what's the challenge in that?

I'm not sure where exactly I noticed it, but I could tell I was progressively slowing down. Looking back, I'm pretty sure it was due to my foot. Even though it didn't really hurt as I was running, I still could feel something "not right" with it...and I probably was compensating in some capacity with my gait. (It's amazing how the body does all of the things for our benefit, huh!) I could feel some strain in my hips and calves, but it wasn't enough that I needed to walk.

Near the 10-mile mark, we have a short reprieve on a walking bridge over a ravine....in almost total shade cover. I remember hearing a lot of fellow runners saying,"Ahhhhh" as we entered this cooler segment of the route.

Then, as I was approaching the 11-mile mark, I realized that my foot was feeling a little strained as well. I decided to take a quick walk break. I hadn't walked much up to that point....through some of the water stations, and a couple brief 10-second (or so) stints in the ninth mile.....and a PR definitely was not happening anyways. I made it to mile 12, and decided to let myself walk a few more times.

Sometimes, I don't know if walking helps or hurts. I know I can walk hills faster than run them (depending on the grade), but sometimes walking makes my calves seize up, which, in turn, makes me  feel more tired. I never felt like stopping, thankfully,but my heel was really starting to hurt at that point. I saw the final mile marker  (the end of mile 12), so I pressed on.

I think I walked briefly near the mid-point of that last mile, but was able to run that final (curving) hill before turning the corner and (somewhat) sprinting (as best I could) to the finish line. I should add, that final jaunt up the hill is pretty exhilarating because the street is lined with tons of people, there's a local dance/drum troupe doing their thing, and the energy from the crowd is over the top. It's impossible not to smile on your way to the finish line as you high-5 some of the kids along the way.

My ninth Dam medal...isn't it sweet?
And just like that, I was done...in more ways than one. A little child handed me my medal, I grabbed some water and hobbled (no exaggeration!) out of the finishers' chute. Slowly.


I found Barb, and Eric. A short while later, Kevin and Mary found us. Then Pat found our little gathering, and Dave!
Eric, Barb, Kevin, Mary, me
Myself with Eric, Dave, and Barb
We're afraid to sit down...because we might not be able to get back up
Despite the wonky foot/heel issues, I consider this race a triumph for me. PR be damned, I love this race so much, I honestly do not care (much) about my finish time. Of course, a faster finish would have been great, but this is not the race where I want to be all-out focused on pace/stride/splits....the route is too beautiful. Actually, although my 2:09:51 finish wasn't even close to a 13.1 PR, it was good enough (barely!) for a course PR. Although I have run this race faster (when it was a 20K), this was the fastest I have run it as a 13.1 distance (a minor technicality, but I'll take it).

My Splits tell the story:
mile 1--8:56     mile 8--10:00
mile 2--8:56     mile 9--10:01
mile 3--9:10     mile 10--10:11
mile 4--9:15     mile 11--9:39
mile 5--9:22     mile 12--11:00 (lots of walking)
mile 6--9:11     mile 13--10:13
mile 7--11:00 (potty stop)

I could acknowledge the heat (and slight humidity) as a factor, but I really didn't feel like it was unbearable. I had water at all of the water stations, and never felt dehydrated. My energy never felt like it was failing. My body did feel tired towards the end, though. I do think my gait was off, and that affected my entire body's mechanics. I have another half marathon in a few days, so I really didn't want to go all out on this race...which is why I took those walk breaks. I had nothing to gain by being a hero, so I did my best to race consistently, but also conservatively as well.

And, speaking of consistency....not only did my pace remain somewhat consistent, this is an event that I have consistently enjoyed the nine consecutive times I've run it. I'm linking up with Deb from Deb Runs for the Wednesday Word link-up...and today's word? Consistent!



Do you have a favorite race you have gone back to and run several times? Have you ever felt victorious despite not getting a PR? Do you get a major surge of adrenaline as you approach the finish line?

Side note....I dedicated this race to the memory of a friend and fellow runner, Michelle. She left this world back in August, but I think she was with me on Saturday at the Dam. You can read a bit more about Michelle in a tribute I wrote after she passed away (Tribute link HERE).

Before the race...and after








46 comments:

  1. My foot was aching in solidarity as I read this recap. Glad you were able to tough it out. Now rest that foot!

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    1. Thanks, Wendy ;-) The foot is feeling much better...I might test it out tonight for a mile or so, but I've stayed off it. It's mainly the heel....being a real "heel" if you know what I mean.

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  2. Racing is not always about getting PRs. Sometimes its about taking in the scenery and enjoying being in the moment. Congrats on running a strong race, even with your foot.

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    1. Absolutely, it's not always about the PR's (at least not for me).

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  3. I hope your foot is okay now, take care of it!
    That course looks gorgeous, I can see why you've done it over and over again.

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    1. The foot is definitely okay at the moment...not great, but much better than it was on Saturday ;-)

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  4. Tell your foot to stop this nonsense! I'm sorry that you are still dealing with it! What a beautiful race course! And I totally agree with your reasons for running it.

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    1. Not the best timing for a wonky foot to have attitude...but, it's feeling much better.

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  5. You are a tough one. The course looks beautiful. I can see why you love it. And you rocked it.

    I ran a 5k each year for sentimental reasons. Yes, I have felt victorious many times. (PRs are rare) For ex, my last half that I finished even though it had be cancelled due to the heat.

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    1. I truly treat each finish line as a victory...whether it was a horrible race full of struggle, or a new (or close) PR...the finish line represents closure, and it is,indeed, a conquest to cross it.

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  6. wow. this looks like such an amazing race! so beautiful and that strip of flags is chilling. Congratulations on a great race, PR or not! thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you! This race has so much sentimental value to me, since it was my first "big" race. The course really is unique...countryside, hills, flat stretches, residential areas, bridges, and the urban downtown ;-)

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  7. PF and foot issues are the worst. Mine started aching reading this lol. Sounds like such cool race and glad to hear you made it through. Rest that foot!

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    1. I've been a very good girl, staying out of my running shoes (except for that brief mile on Monday). Nothing to gain but further wonkiness if I persist to get miles before my 13.1 on Saturday.

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  8. Congrats on the race! And bigger congrats for listening to your body and not trying to push too much. I hope the foot feels better!

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    1. Thanks!! The foot is feeling much better ;-)

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  9. What a fun and unique race! I love that you've been able to run it so many years in a row!

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    1. It is a great race...and I think I've had every kind of weather (except snow)...cold, damp, rain, wind, heat, humidity (sometimes all on the same day!).

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  10. way to go!!

    Sounds fun even with the hill!!

    You are so good at listening to your body....great job on that!!

    Sorry to hear about your friend Michelle, I am sure she is smiling down on you!

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    1. Thanks ;-) This race is a totally fun race....which is why I am leery of ruining it by trying to spank a big PR. I'd rather enjoy the race and not stress about all the "details."

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  11. Congratulations on your race and still finishing strong despite your heel pain! My race from last weekend is starting to turn into an annual tradition too, though I don't know, I start to get bored if I run the same race too many times!

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    1. I keep thinking the day might come when I've run this race one too many times....Nah! It's been a different experience every ti me I"ve run it, not just in terms of finish time, but also the weather, running with friends (last year, a friend and I paced a mutual friend to his first 13.1 finish line), and roadside entertainment.

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  12. Listening to your body during an exciting event can be hard, you should be proud of yourself for treating your body right! Sounds like an awesome race!

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    1. Thanks, I am glad I listened and didn't overdo it. I have several races happening in July, and an marathon to train for after that...no time for stupid injuries that are avoidable.

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  13. Ugh - I'm sorry your foot isn't cooperating!

    Memorial Hill looked gorgeous! What a beautiful tribute. I am so glad you had a great race, and that you love this one so much.

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    1. The foot did alright until the end of the race, but it's feeling SOOO much better now. I'm playing it cool and being cautious ;-)

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  14. That sounds like a great race. Memorial Hill sounds so moving. Sorry your foot acted up but glad you were able to (mostly) run anyway!

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    1. I was very surprised how fast my finish time was considering how much I walked (and that off-road potty stop didn't help LOL). I'm very thankful my foot behaved for the majority of the race ;-)

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  15. Nice work on the race! Heat and humidity (and direct sun on your skin) are definitely a factor, even if you don't feel overly fatigued or dehydrated. I can tell on my runs for sure and I can see the power output differential on the bike, very clearly. I hope your foot feels better. Those walk breaks were probably pretty smart to relieve the foot stress periodically.

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    1. Oh, I can definitely feel a difference when I'm on my bike LOL I went for a hilly 7-ish mile ride yesterday, and I was a very hot mess (and not in an attractive way) ;-)

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  16. Sorry about your foot, great job anyhow! The heat and humidity are definitely not your friend during races or training for that matter.

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    1. I agree, the heat/humidity affect our performance. I'm pretty good at staying ahead of the hydration, so I don't mind the hot weather (much)...and I know to respect it ;-)

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  17. I hope you are resting that foot! Sounds like a nice race :) and congrats on another stellar finish! I have never pee'd in the woods during a race- you sill have to share tips! LOL!

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    1. I'll have to PM you with some details ;-)

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  18. Mid 70s and sunny at the start are not my ideal racing conditions. Clearly.

    I think you can definitely claim it as a PB for this race & congrats on that!

    Other than Vegas, I've never run a flat race. At least, not yet -- the northeast doesn't do flat! I'm definitely willing to find out if I prefer it. Although my last half everyone was complaining about the hills, and I truly thought they weren't at all bad.

    Usually I sprint to the finish -- I even managed it in my last half, when I was definitely dehydrated. On very rare occasions, due to circumstances, I don't.

    I've actually never had to take a potty break during a race, yet, knock on wood -- and I'm out there a lot longer!

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    1. I don't mind the hills, either. They certainly break up the monotony!I also like the challenge...heck, anyone can run a flat course (and finish fast), but throw in some hills and the game changes ;-)

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  19. Great race recap! I know it can be tough when your races dont go as planned. It happened to me last year in chicago. but way to gut it out and listen to your body!

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    1. Thanks! The tough races teach us to be strong. Those finish lines feel pretty sweet when we have to fight to cross them!

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  20. I'm so sorry about your friend.
    I have done a few races multiple times and some have been PRs while others have not. The PRs are always great of course! Well done with a tough race!

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    1. Thanks! The PR's are great, but not always a given LOL Even running the same course multiple times, it's never (EVER) the same race...so the PR is kind of a mute point (that's what I tell myself anyways) ;-)

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  21. I love racing, PR or not. Congrats on your finish! Favorite races are the best!

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  22. I am glad your foot held out for you, but it seems that it needs some R&R now! Great job!!

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    1. Thanks!! The foot is doing much better ;-)

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  23. Congrats on a great race despite a wonky heel! I loved reading your recap. The race I've run the most times is the Marine Corps Marathon - I ran it ten times.

    As always, thanks so much for linking up!

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    1. It's always fun repeating special races...and this particular race (probably due to the time of year) has had almost every imaginable kind of weather (other than snow) on race day ;-)

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