Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Dam to Dam & the Big Picture


One of the valuable lessons I have learned through my (almost) 12 years of running is to keep my eyes on the big picture.

Although Dam to Dam is my favorite event every year (sorry, that's only the 126th time I've mentioned that in a blog post), it's not always my goal race. Sure, I always hope to run it strong and stay ahead of the game with fuel and hydration. I also have enjoyed a few PR's at unexpected times. Since this race is always right after Memorial Day, though. It's a relatively "early" event in regards to summer racing...so I usually have other bigger events on my summer roster.


Such was the case this past weekend. Most of you know I have marathon #7 (Grandma's Marathon, Duluth MN) happening on June 17th (YIKES.....that's really getting close!). Although I have no grandiose plans of nailing a BQ, I am hoping to run those 26.2 miles better (and hopefully a tiny bit faster) than I did in 2015.

Although I had a fun experience last time, I had some pretty adverse race day conditions (race recap HERE) and less-than-ideal training (more details on my 2015 training HERE).
My Race Day Preview (I'm not a cancer patient, but I know several people who are, and wanted to honor them)
That said, Dam to Dam was here and I had to be careful with my game plan. The temptation is always there to try for a PR, but I knew this would not be the year to go for it with the marathon looming two weeks later. Although two weeks would be sufficient time to recover from a half marathon, the risk of injury (in running the race too fast) would be too great. And the weather wound up becoming a last-minute game changer.

All week long, the weather was looking rather dreadful. The temps would be moderate, but there was rain and thunderstorms in the forecast. It was looking pretty bleak still on Wednesday, but by Thursday, the storms had shifted to the afternoon (leaving us with scattered showers). On Friday afternoon, though, all the rain had been pushed back even further, leaving us with sunny skies (as well as very hot & humid temps) in the forecast.
The forecast om Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday
To say I was ecstatic, would be a drastic understatement. Now, I don't LOVE the extreme heat (or humidity), but I can handle it. I'll run in the heat (over rain) any day.

Gotta get that plank done!
The day started off with a plank (just like any other day LOL), and we were on the road by 4:30 a.m. to make the hour-long trek to Des Moines. Although the race didn't start until 7:00, we had to arrive early to find parking and catch a shuttle bus to the start line (Dam to Dam is a point-to-point race and  all runners need to be on a bus; the last shuttle bus was departing at 5:45).

Just off the bus...The hubby, me, Chuck, and Barb
Our bus got us to the Saylorville Dam around 6:15, giving us ample time to use the porta-pots, walk around, chat with some friends, and warm up. The hubby and I drove up with Barb, and met our friend, Chuck, in the parking ramp.

A very neat thing about Dam to Dam is the start line (on a dam, none the less). Off in the distance, 13.1 miles away, we can see the Principal Tower. It's pretty mind-blowing to know we'll be near that tower at the finish line in downtown Des Moines.

Can you see it?
Although the temps were in the mid 70's, they didn't feel too bad. I could tell the air was humid, but manageable. The start line is on the east end of the dam. Since the race is chip-timed, we took our time walking across the dam to the start line (to avoid the crowded race start). We heard the race start, but didn't cross the start line until at least 10 minutes later. We didn't see a timing mat, but assumed there was a timing device somewhere near the announcer's stand.

Barb, Chuck, and I started the race together. The hubby had not trained with us, and wanted to run his own pace, so we lost him early on. 

The first couple miles are always a zig-zag exercise because the road is so crowded. Also, since we didn't line up with our usual pace group, we were in the company of runners who were slower than us. In a way it's annoying trying to get around everyone, but it also helps us to avoid starting out too fast. 

I still wasn't quite certain how fast (or slow) I'd be running. We were hoping to stay around a 10-minute pace, which usually is very comfortable and manageable. Since the temps were warm, the race officials had repeatedly cautioned everyone to run easy and NOT overdo it. 

It was near the 3-mile mark that I noticed the Principal Tower (again)...a tiny bit closer than it had been when we were approaching the start line. I decided to pull over and snap a quick picture of it...in the 10 years I've been running Dam to Dam, I have never taken pics of the Tower as it gets progressively closer (though I have thought of doing so every year).  
At mile 3....
It was around the 4.5 mile mark when the route veered off in a new direction. This year, the route was altered due to construction, and it kind of messed with my mind. Having run this race the previous nine years, it felt strange to not be on the old, familiar road for the entire race. 

This new route also had us in direct sun for the majority of the race.  So far, the temps weren't feeling too miserable. I was careful to grab water at each of the water stations, and my energy felt fine.

Barb, Chuck, and I were still hanging together. The new route also had a very long stretch, headed due south, for nearly three miles. Thankfully, there were a couple of hills in there to break up the monotony. Although it was strange to be on a different route, it also was interesting seeing new sights and landmarks. 

I had taken my first gel around the 2-mile mark, so I gulped down another one near the 8-mile mark as well. I noticed the Principal Tower had gotten remarkably closer and that our little detour on the "new course" had led us back to the "old" course, and it felt good to be back in familiar territory.
Near the 8-mile mark
Other than the water stations, I had not taken any walk breaks. Everything felt good (even the hip that has been a little wonky off and on since my last marathon). My pace had stayed consistent (around 10-minutes) and my energy was holding strong. 

I think it was near the 10-mile mark when Chuck and Barb had started pulling away from me. The temps were starting to feel warmer, and I was progressively getting more thirsty between the water stations. Barb and I had planned to run 5 extra miles after the finish line (to get in 18 total miles for the morning), but I was starting to have doubts about that happening.

Although my pace had stayed constant, it was slower than usual. I knew the weather was not in my favor, nor was the timing of this race for a faster finish. Although I was running this race as a training run, I still had it in my head that it was race. I typically can run a half marathon in two hours, but that's under ideal conditions (and not with a marathon looming in the very near future). As I approached the 11-mile mark, I noticed the Principal Tower again. I snapped another pic of the Tower, and decided to walk for a minute. I realized that it was getting more difficult to keep my pace, and I had nothing to gain by pressing onward. Besides, my hips were starting to ache a little bit.
Another shot of the Tower...near the 11-mile mark
The course had another little detour in the final two miles that I hadn't noticed (even though I had seen the course map prior to the race). Fortunately, this part of the route was flat, but my mind had kind of checked out and I could feel my body suddenly wanting to quit. I made it to the 12-mile mark and decided to walk again, briefly. 

I was able to run most of the final mile at a decent pace, and did get a little kick of adrenaline right before the finish line (which, incidentally, was also in a different place than it had been in previous years). I saw the clock at the finish line, and it said 2:33:xx.....WHAT???? Then I remembered that was my gun time, and we had taken our own sweet time in crossing the start line. My watch showed 2:22:50, and 13.33 miles. Certainly one of my slowest half marathons ever, but it was another finish line! Given the circumstances, and all of the walking I had done in the final miles, I was satisfied. There were a lot of people passing out and collapsing at the finish line, so I'm quite content I had the sense to ease up and not push myself.

I was very disoriented, though, after I had finished. The layout of the food tables was different (due to the finish line's change of location), and I didn't see Barb or Chuck anywhere. I knew the hubby was behind me, so he wouldn't be finishing for awhile. I couldn't find the porta-pots (because they were also in a different place LOL) and I was wanting to sit down somewhere, anywhere. 

I texted the hubby and told him I had finished. I kept walking around in a daze, looking for Barb and Chuck. I finally found the porta-pots. As I was walking back to the food area, the hubby called me, telling me he had just finished as well. Eventually, I found him, and we found Barb and Chuck a few minutes later.

As we stood and talked, I suddenly felt dizzy and light-headed. I asked Barb if she still wanted to run the extra five miles, and she shrugged her shoulders. I told her that I'd need some water, and that I needed to sit down. I found a spot with some shade and almost collapsed onto the grass. I didn't feel faint, but I knew something wasn't right...I had some more water and a little bit of food and felt better after 30 minutes or so. Needless to say, the five bonus miles never happened.
I felt much better after some down time on the grass
It turns out, the company who provides the chip timing had a family emergency that morning...so there were no chip times. I know my finish time, per my watch, so I'm fine with everything (although my "published time" will be way off). Oh well.....I was never in contention for prize money (or even placing), so the lack of chip timing doesn't really affect me anyways.

As I have said before (numerous times), this is my favorite race every year. The weather is almost always unpredictable, though. This was the hottest Dam race on record (according to post-race news), but I have also run this in rain, and various levels of hot and humid (as well as cold and damp). I have seen and experienced everything (except snow) in the past nine years. The point-to-point route takes us along the Iowa countryside, through scenic neighborhoods, and we finish in downtown Des Moines, among the urban dwellings of the city. 

My finish time is a bit disappointing, mainly because I know I can run that distance a good 20 minutes quicker. I also know that most of the other runners had slower-than-usual finish times as well, due to the extreme heat. As much as I love the heat, I do appreciate the opportunity to acclimate to it...and this heat kind of came from out of nowhere, without much warning. 

Thankfully, I'm not one of "those runners" who is focused only on finish times. I simply do not have it in me to push myself when I feel the slightest bit "off." When my body is fatigued, and my form/gait starts to waiver, I either slow down or stop. The risk of injury is too great, and not something I want to gamble with for the sake of my ego.  I have that marathon happening in 10 days after all.....and I want to make it to the start line (still) uninjured.

Besides, every finish line is a victory, right? 
My 10th Dam medal
Have you ever pushed yourself, under extreme race day conditions, and regretted it? Have you ever fainted or gotten sick at the finish line? Do you have a favorite race that has had to change its route?

** I'm linking up 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

38 comments:

  1. So true! Whenever I'm having a rough race, I always say the same thing "Every finish line is a victory". Too many times I've seen people need medical assistance during a race so I'm always thankful to cross that finish line.

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    1. I totally don't get jeopardizing one's safety by trying to run a race (in the extreme heat) like they would if it was cooler. Totally not worth the risk (in my opinion).

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  2. Congratulations Kim! Great job knocking out another half :)
    I have been very ill in the heat...a few times I stayed sick overnight, so I have learned to take it easy in the heat. Your body will thank you on marathon day for scrapping the extra miles.

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    1. I have never gotten sick, but have been flat-out exhausted. The dizziness was a new thing for me...glad it didn't progress to anything worse.

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  3. Ugh heat like that would do me in in a second. Way to play it smart and listen to your body!

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    1. Thanks! I just cannot force myself to overdo it...especially in risky conditions (with the heat).

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  4. Way to tough it out and that medal is awesome!!

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    1. Thanks! It felt great to cross that finish line ;-)

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  5. Running in the heat for me is WAY worse than rain. Let's pray for overcast next saturday! :)

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    1. Well...I had over two hours of rain the last time I ran in Duluth LOL....I'd kind of like a little sunshine ;-)

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  6. Its so hard to race in the heat when you're not used to it. I don't think Ive ever pushed myself to the point of feeling sick. If its my goal race I will push through quite a bit of discomfort but I always try to remember that overall health is more important. Good job being smart about it!

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    1. I agree...I can do a little bit of discomfort, but have never pushed beyond that to the verge of getting sick

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  7. It definitely takes some time for me to get used to the heat each year. I am glad you mentioned that about not always being able to push yourself in the heat. I have trouble doing that too and I sometimes feel bad about it. You are also right that every race is not a goal race. Congrats on your well run race!

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    1. Thanks!! My mind just will not let my body "push it" if there's something going on....I guess my subconscious is pretty powerful LOL

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  8. I feel you on the shockingly slow race times. I just had one myself and it left me scratching my head. BUT -- I was *not* racing. I was using it as a training run so it is what it is, right?

    And I would also run in the heat/humidity over cool rain any day!

    Great job!!

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    1. The race director and officials were very diligent about warning everyone about the heat...it's too bad people need reminding to put their own health & safety ahead of their finish time

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  9. Oh, a different race course would mess with my head for sure. They changed the Lawyers Have Heart course last year, but it was a huge change and I was prepared for it. Racing in the heat is no joke - sounds like you were on the verge of heat exhaustion. Glad you recovered ok!

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    1. In 2014, they changed this race from a 20K to a half marathon, but that only involved a minor adjustment near the end of the course to add that extra 1/2 mile or so. This change was a little more involved...and it was kind of eery LOL I'm just glad we started and finished in pretty much the same place.

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  10. You know how I feel about testing fate--it is NEVER worth it. I tell all of my runners, and you know I told you this: If you make smart choices, then you are successful.

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    1. Thanks ;-) I just want to smack the runners who think they have to perform at 110% no matter the circumstances...and then I have to roll my eyes (subtly, of course) as they whine about their injuries

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  11. That's rough :( The weather can be such a factor in our performance and sometimes, there's just no way around it. However, it's great that you were able to keep your eye on the goal and remember the big picture.

    I have gotten sick at races before. It's never fun. Usually, I feel better afterwards, and I've never needed medical attention for that.

    I had one long run a few summers ago where I really got myself in trouble I decided to do my long run with bridge repeats and it had to be the hottest, most humid day of the year. I was about 12 miles in when I finally had to sit down on the curb and call my husband. I was still 2 miles from the car, and I was a mess. Nauseous, shivering, goosebumps, clammy, etc. I didn't want to bail on my run, but I knew that if I started back up, I would pass out. I fortunately had some money with me, and was able to buy a gatorade in a Dunkin Donuts on the route, and then walk myself back to the car. It was ugly. :(

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    1. I have had a few instances of the chills and exhaustion...but the dizziness was freaky.

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  12. It looks like a really pretty course! And it sounds like you were smart not to push harder given the heat and the fact that you ended up feeling dizzy afterward! I'm glad a bit of food and water did the trick :)

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    1. Another factor was the limited shade...the rerouted course had us in full sun for probably 90% of the race (maybe more). I love the sun, but even I knew it was too much of a good thing since I hadn't really had a chance to acclimate to it.

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  13. I can see why this is one of your favorite races - there are so many great sights to see during the race. Kudos to you for finishing upright The weather always plays such a huge role in running.

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    1. The weather is always a huge factor. And, the best we can do is deal with it...because we certainly cannot change it LOL

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  14. Any race where you cross the finish line is a victory. Beside you have bigger fish to fry - the MARATHON!

    Only once after a hot summer half did I feel like passing out. It was very scary. Now I hesitate to run summer half marathons.

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    1. I don't mind running in the heat because I know to respect the warm conditions.

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  15. You know my motto: finishing is winning. Still, I do get a little bothered by finish times that don't meet my expectations. I'm just so type A!

    I'm so glad I didn't run this one this year! Maybe next year, but only if you order up some cooler temps!

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    1. Well, I ordered up "dry conditions" and sunshine...the hot temps kind of came as a package deal.

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  16. Glad you were okay eventually! I've had 1 nasty run (mud hero) a few years back and was so dehydrated afterwards ( and was nursing my 6 month old at the time). Bad combo! My upcoming half is not going to be my best time but it finishing it will be a big win in my books!

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    1. Finishing is always a win! No matter how slow or fast, it still is 13.1 miles!

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  17. I'm going to have to keep that in mind, next may

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    1. Dam to Dam is always the Saturday after Memorial Day...I think it's June 2nd next year

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  18. I've had my blood pressure drop after a warm run like that. It produces a very disorienting feeling. Glad it cleared up pretty quickly. Nice job even if it was a little slower than you hoped for.

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    1. I had not thought about my blood pressure...that might be what it was. It was really weird, very disoriented. UGH!

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  19. Ugh. I HATE humidity. It's my nemesis. I'll take rain over that almost any day (expect humid rainy days are bad, too). I had a scary asthma attack during a race last summer and my blood pressure dropped just above the danger zone where the medics would have been forced to send me to the hospital (I had to get medical help in the ambulance at the finish line). This was last summer, my son was barely two, and to this day, he STILL talks about how mommy was sick and had to go in the "annieblance" and he was scared.

    Congrats on your finish, even if it was hard! It's always nice to have those favorite races that you run year after year and PR or no PR, you crossed that finish line and that's worth celebrating!

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    1. Yes, this is a race that I gladly do every year. I've had a lot of interesting experiences, each one unique LOL

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