Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Drake Road Races Half Marathon Recap


This was the 49th year of the Drake Road Races, which are held in conjunction with the annual Drake Relays. The Drake Relays are like a small scale version of the Olympics...athletes from all over (elites, collegiate, and high school divisions) gather in Des Moines, IA and take their turns competing on the famous blue oval or within the confines of the accompanying field on the Drake University campus.

This was my fourth time taking part in the festivities. I did the 10K in 2013 (recap HERE), and the half marathon both in 2014 and 2015 (recap HERE). This year, the half marathon course was completely different than it had been in recent years (at least for the two times I had run it)...which means an automatic course PR (am I right?).





Leading up to the weekend, the weather in Iowa had been less-than-ideal. The temps had plummeted, the wind was nonstop, and the rain had become a daily occurrence. The forecast for race day showed rain and cold temps (with a "high" in the low 40's), as well as that good old wind. Imagine our surprise to awake on Saturday to partly cloudy skies and learn that the anticipated rain had been pushed back to late morning!

Barb (my runner gal pal) and I made the hour-long trek to Des Moines, arriving before 7:00, which gave us plenty of time to prepare for the 7:30 race start. We headed into the Knapp Center to stay warm and use the bathrooms. Having anticipated cold and wet conditions, I was dressed in a tank, a thermal layer, capri's and a light weight rain jacket (which also acted as a bit of a wind-breaker).
Ready for the start line
Historically, this race had been known for its hills...namely a couple of big hills in the final miles. With the change of course, there was no  pressure to beat a previous finish time because this was all new territory for me. And, let's not forget, it was in my best interest to run this as more of a training run and not be concerned with seeking a new 13.1 PR (I know...famous last words, huh!).



The race began promptly on time. The first few miles (which were pretty straight and flat) felt great, but I wasn't quite sure of a race strategy. I had lined up in front of the 2:00 pacer, and I thought I'd try to stay with him (or slightly ahead of him).  It didn't feel like I was going too fast, but I could tell that I'd need to slow down before too long. My first mile was well under a 9-minute pace, which is a bit too fast (for me) right outta the gate (with another 12 miles between myself and the finish line).

Although the air was damp, the temps actually felt nice for running. I briefly considered tying my jacket around my waist...but near the 4-mile mark, as we changed direction, the wind was in our faces...and the jacket stayed on for the rest of the race. This part of the course was my favorite, though! There were several twists and turns in a beautiful historic neighborhood, littered with many stately houses and several residents cheering along the route.

It was somewhere in the fifth or sixth mile that I could feel myself slowing down, involuntarily. We had a 2-mile uphill stretch going north on Cummins Parkway, and with the wind, it felt like forever. I just kept my head down...not only to distract me from the looming hill, but also to keep my hat from blowing away. I remember pulling over for a cup of water, and as I was walking through the water station, the 2:00 pacer (and his crew) passed me. Just like that, I could feel my spirits start to sink just a little...

The next couple miles were tough. I was not gunning for a fast finish, but I was hoping to at least finish near the 2-hour mark, which is kind of my 13.1 benchmark. Having the 2:00 pacer cruise by me was a little disheartening. Coupled with my momentary feelings of despair (humor me for a moment while I try to articulate my "drama queen" synopsis of the situation) was the reality that I had not trained for a 13.1 "fast finish." Instead, I have been training for a 26.2 distance...and that's an entirely different ball game. Although the pacing is similar, it needs to be a little slower in order to go twice the distance. Everything in my world would be alright if I did NOT finish at (or near) that 2:00 mark. Even thought that's my reality, I still had a difficult time acknowledging it...even on a cold and windy morning, in the middle of a half marathon course.

Thus, I continued onward. My sense of direction was all out of kilter, which made for several miles of frustration. I had glanced at the route map, but had not studied it. We had no sunshine, so I didn't have that as a guide, either. I kept thinking we were going due north long after we'd changed direction. Add to that, the wind had picked up, and was a real force to be reckoned with in the final 3-4 miles.

It was near the 11th mile when I caught up to Eric, a friend I frequently see at other races. He's a lot faster than myself, but he was walking when I approached him. I jokingly told him, "you can't stop now!" He laughed and started back into a run. We wound up running most of those final miles to the finish line together. I don't know if it was me pushing him, or him pushing me, but we got it done. I was able to run the final mile pretty strong considering how cold it had gotten with the wind.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I felt extremely euphoric (and a huge sense of relief!) to be done. And, I felt a little light-headed. I knew Barb was somewhere ahead of me, so I assumed she had been finished for awhile, though I didn't see her anywhere.

Eventually Barb found me. We grabbed some Gatorade and spent a few minutes stretching and trying to warm up. By the time we'd finished the race, the temps felt a lot colder and the wind was blowing like crazy. It was starting to rain lightly as well. Brrrr.

Barb did well, placing third in her age group!

That's a relay baton (age group award)
I finished in 2:05:58. Even though I was in the 2:00 range, it's a little disappointing not being a little bit closer to that (self-imposed) bench mark. My stats show that I was 11th out of 29 in AG, 175th out of 381 females, and 534th out of the 857 half marathoners. Overall, I am happy with my finish time. As you can see from the elevation chart, the route only had a couple of tough hills, but there were plenty of rolling hills. There also were a few long and flat stretches...which get boring. But, that also makes for a great challenge because it's mentally tough (at least for me) to run a long stretch with little change in terrain.


\
As far as my splits go, it's obvious where things started going downhill. Again, the fast start felt great, but it came back to bite my buttocks. I did walk briefly (maybe 10-15 seconds?) in the 9th and 12th mile, and I usually walk through the water stations when I grab water (maybe for 5 seconds).

1-8:50                 8-9:33
2-9:08                 9-10:16
3-9:09                 10-9:49
4-9:00                 11-9:52
5-9:12                 12-10:12
6-9:43                 13-9:48
7-9:52               (.18)-1:39

As I said, overall, I am happy with how everything played out. Sure, I'd love a faster finish (who wouldn't?), but I'm thankful for being able to run the race feeling strong and capable. Those 13.1 miles were the most consecutive miles I have run since Route 66, and really didn't feel that difficult. I did have a little discomfort in the final miles...I could feel the start of a blister on the "bunion" area of my right foot (and that happens almost every long distance run), and a couple of my toes felt a little blister-like as well (which also happens at most races...it's not the shoes or socks, but the way I grip my toes LOL #myreality). 

Doesn't everyone want to kiss Spike, the Drake Bulldog mascot?
So, onward! I have another half marathon, the inaugural Des Moines Women's Half Marathon happening this next weekend, which will be my 35th 13.1! Stay tuned...the weather is looking awesome for that race!


What are your thoughts....Have you ever ran a race but treated it like a training run? What's worse, rain or crazy wind? Do you prefer a flat race course, or do you like having a few good hills thrown in to break up the monotony?

I'm linking up with Deb for the Wednesday Word, and today we're chatting about Imagination! For most of this race, I had to keep  imagining that the wind was NOT as bad as it felt (LOL)

Also, I'm linking with Suzie and Rachel and Debbie and Lora for the Running Coaches' Corner

And with Nicole and Annmarie and Jen for the Wild Wednesday Workout



43 comments:

  1. I think wind is worse than rain, but both make for rough racing conditions! I am used to hills but still don't like them in races. A little change in elevation is nice because then you can benefit from the downhills, but steep climbs later in a race are challenging. You did great, especially with this just being a training run! It can be hard to go into a racing environment and not feel that same pressure to race or hit a certain mark. Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree...the hills are a nice break, and the downhills are a great reward!

      Delete
  2. Great job and that finish time is good considering the conditions!

    Sounds like the conditions I'm looking forward to for my half this weekend. The forecast earlier this week looked promising but now we're looking at cold and windy. With hills. Oh well, that's what I've been training in!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes, Momma N likes to keep us challenged, doesn't she?

      Delete
  3. Rain is bad but I think that wind is worse, especially when you are running toward the wind! Great job battling the weather and finishing the race!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that wind was brutal int eh final miles when all of the steam is running out...

      Delete
  4. Having a friend to run with at the end is so helpful especially during a hard race. Nice Job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree...even though Eric and I weren't chatting, just seeing him out peripheral vision was SO encouraging & motivating

      Delete
  5. I'd take rain over wind anyday!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Congrats on a strong race! The weather lately has been horrendous, although today looks good finally. Seems like everytime I've raced in rain there's been wicked wind as well. Ugh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, the combo of wind and rain is NOT fun

      Delete
  7. Wind and hills is a tough combo! You did great. It is good to remember that you're in marathon training mode and not half marathon mode. It took me a while to realize that during my last cycle. I always had to remind myself at the start of a half that it was a training run and not a race-race, you know?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know...and it's tough to stay focused on the training and not get caught up in the "race."

      Delete
  8. Congratulations - you did fantastic! The wind is definitely the biggest challenge for me and that's hard enough on its own - add some hills and you've got a really tough race on your hands. I'm glad you didn't have any major discomfort or injury concerns!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HA! Compared to Route 66, this was a breeze (no pun intended)

      Delete
  9. I agree with everyone else, wind is so brutal! I live in a windy city, so it definitely pushes mental boundaries when we're running.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. and sometimes the wind is so nasty,it's hard to figure out which direction it's actually coming from

      Delete
  10. Congrats! That time is amazing!!!! Wind in our area is killer, I completely agree! Way to get it done!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think you did a damn good job with a 2:05 finish during marathon training. Great job!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Congrats to another great finish! With the weather you did fantastic! I don't like the wind or rain! Nice that you found someone to pace with near the end, I am sure you were a big help to each other!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even though we didn't chat much, it was nice having a familiar face (and a friend) with me in those final miles

      Delete
  13. Congratulations on a great finish for such difficult conditions! I'm like you, give me some hills any day over flat. I just can't deal with long straight flat distances. I need the variation to break things up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. UGh...most people seem to embrace the flat courses, but I prefer hills. Not big, non-stop hills, mind you but a few hills make for a more interesting experience

      Delete
  14. Wind is the worst! I'll take rain over it anyday!
    Congrats on a great finish inspite of everything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks!! I agree...wind is a tough dragon to slay

      Delete
  15. I ran a 15K as a tune-up race for an upcoming half marathon but ran it as a training run with the goal of staying at my half marathon goal pace.
    Not a fan of strong winds - my goal pace usually gets thrown off by it.

    Glad you found someone to run with at the end and help you to a strong finish!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I could find more 15K's...they're pretty rare around here

      Delete
  16. I do find a flat course mentally challenging. But hills are tough too! You did great. No matter what your intentions going into a race it's hard to not want to run fast once you're there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! It seems that no matter what kind of course I'm on (flat OR hilly), I get annoyed by it in those final miles LOL

      Delete
  17. Congrats on your race!. I think both conditions are awful but I would think the wind is worse! I prefer pancake flat races. I do not like hills at all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The hills can be a challenge, no doubt, but at least they break up the "boring" (at least they do for me) ;-)

      Delete
  18. It's always great running into friends on a race course! Congrats on the finish!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! Friends definitely play a big part!

      Delete
  19. Congrats! I haven't run any where close to a 2:05 recently but hoping to change that. I think wind is the worst and cold rain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cold rain is horrible! I can tolerate a little bit of rain on a hot summer day, but anything under 70-degrees is NOT enjoyable.

      Delete
  20. Weather plays such a huge role in our race day performance, and when the weather is less than ideal it makes it so difficult to run a strong race. But even with the poor weather, you still ran a great race. Way to go!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks ;-) I was lucky the weather wasn't much of a factor until the last few miles

      Delete
  21. I like flat & fast. And it's a darn shame most of my races are hilly!

    I don't like rain, but it's certainly easier to run in than battling winds -- been there, done that.

    My last half was definitely a training run. :) The next one isn't a goal race, but it's not a training run, either.

    There's always something to be learned from every race!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think it's great using races as part of the marathon training plan to break up the monotony. Oh wait, didn't I say pretty much that exact same thing on your 5K recap? LOL I hear you on the pacing for marathons versus halves. They're two entirely different beasts!

    Thanks for linking up! It's always fun reading race recaps!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Great job and awesome finish time, Kim! Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete