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!|
|The morning plank (at 4:00AM) while the chai was heating...|
|Let's just say the bus ride was bUmPy|
|off in the distance (13 miles and change)...the finish line awaits in downtown Des Moines|
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|
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?|
|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|
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|