"This is not the race I had been training for."
That was the mantra I had to tell myself, repeatedly, throughout the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon
. This was the second race for me during the IMT Des Moines Marathon weekend, the first one being the Mercy Live Up Loop
) the day prior. There also was a 5K and Marathon Relay Team option happening as well.
This was my 6th time running the half marathon (I also ran the full marathon in 2014, recap HERE
), and this was the third time the course had changed since I'd been participating. The route had been the same in 2008 and 2011. There were a few slight changes to the start and finish lines for 2012 - 2015. And there were several significant changes for the 2016 event (all of them good).
We left town around 5:50AM to make the 50-mile trek to Des Moines. To say it was a foggy drive would be an extreme understatement.The temps were in the low 60's (with a dew point to match), so the air was very humid. We arrived shortly before 6:00, and were surprised to see so many racers already milling around.
|Barb and I, ready to take on 18 total miles!|
As part of my Route 66
training, my coach wanted me to do a total of 18 miles. She suggested a few miles for a warm-up, run the 13.1 miles, then finish the remaining miles afterward. I rode up with Barb, and she agreed to do the extra miles with me (she's also training for Route 66
, and needed some extra miles as well).
Barb and I did our warm-up (two miles) and headed to the start line. To my knowledge, this was the first year the runners were assigned corrals (depending on projected finish times). I actually like that feature, though it's almost impossible to enforce it once the runners are through their respective course entrances (shame on you if you're one of those who line up where you shouldn't! We know who you are...and so do you).
Oh my, was it ever humid! It didn't rain, but there was mist in the air for the first hour or so. We were warned about all the damp spots on the course, and the air was so heavy that nothing was evaporating. I debated about leaving the arm warmers behind, but decided to keep them on (and was glad that I did). Even though the air was humid, it was a "cool" kind of humid.
Having inadvertently run the prior day's 5-miler faster than expected (or prescribed by my coach), I had a pretty strict pacing plan....I was to run the first eight miles easy (10-10:15 pace), then surge for the next four miles (ideally hitting a 9:00 pace), than running the final mile with an all-out effort (and let's not forget there would still be three extra miles awaiting me after the finish line to complete my 18 miles for the day). Ok then. I got this (I hope!).
|Warm-up done...ready for the start lline|
I was pleasantly surprised how liberating it was to let my usual (9:00ish) pace go. Most races of this distance, I try to run with an average 9-minute pace, and most times I finish around the 2-hour mark. There have been times when I've been able to spank a sub-2-hour finish, and there have been many times when I've tanked and finished much later. For the most part, though, the 9-minute pace gets me happily to the finish line.
I made it to the first mile mark in almost exactly 10 minutes! Although it wasn't my "comfort zone" pace, it would have to do for this race. After all, this was not the race I had spent the past few months training for, and I had no business treating it as such.
Onward! I made it to the second mile mark with a near-perfect 10-minute pace, as well. I still had to make a conscious effort to hold back, but given the humid conditions, it was easier than I expected. By now, the course had us on Fleur Drive, heading towards Gray's Lake.
It wasn't until we were almost at the 3-mile mark that I noticed a water stand. I drank about 8 ounces of water with Beet Boost (right before the start line) and had been chewing PlowOn gum. Paranoid about energy burn-out in the heat, I was going to try a little tweak to my "usual" routine, and gulp down a gel at the 5-mile and 10-mile marks (instead of at the race start and then at mile 6). My hydrating strategy was to alternate water and Gatorade at the aid stations.
We looped around Gray's Lake (for miles 3 and 4) and finished the fifth mile as we merged onto Martin Luther King, Jr Parkway. So far, so good. I managed to stay pretty close to a 10-minute pace without as much effort as I'd anticipated. I was a little nervous if I would have the energy to speed up (as my plan dictated) when I hit the 8-mile mark, though. I had never before run a race like this...slower than "usual" with a 5-mile "surge" at the finish.
I don't remember when the misting stopped, but the humidity hung on all morning. I didn't feel hot as I was running, but each time I stopped to grab a drink, I could feel the sweat running down my arms and dripping off my wrists (I know, eew!).
Before I knew it, I was approaching the 8-mile mark. It was almost "Go Time." Don't forget, I also had done that 2-mile warm-up run, so I actually had 10 miles under my belt at that point. I walked briefly as I took a quick drink. My watch showed my paced had slowed a tiny bit; I should have been at 1:20, but it was showing about 1:25 of elapsed time. Granted, I had walked through the water stations (there had been four of them so far), so that would account for some of that time.
I tossed my cup and took off. Not quite sure how I was gonna summon the mojo to (all of a sudden) go faster with 10 miles behind me, I tried to just gradually take faster strides. I couldn't quite get a 9-minute pace to hit, but I could tell I was moving faster than in the previous miles.
|still smiling pic from MarathonFOTO|
Des Moines is the capitol city of Iowa, which means our State Capitol resides there. And, like most, state capitols, it is perched atop a grandiose hill. I have run a lot of races in Des Moines, and a lot of those races involve a lap around the Capitol in some capacity. So, I knew what was awaiting me at approximately the 9.5 mile mark. Thankfully, there was a water stand right before the 10-mile mark, so I slammed my second gel, took a deep breath, and went for it.
I knew this would be the toughest part of the race for me. By this time, I now had almost 12 miles done (including the warm-up), I was attempting to gradually up my pace, and I was determined to run the entire route (other than walking through the water stations).
By now, there were a lot of people walking. As mentioned, it was humid. This hill is pretty steep, and this was the 10-mile mark on the race course.Thankfully, I never felt my energy dwindle. I made it up the first part of the hill (on the south side) and around the curve towards the east side....still climbing. After a couple blocks, the hill starts to level out. Next we had a stretch for about half a mile, before looping around and heading back.
Ahh! When I reached the 11-mile mark, I knew I had this race in the bag. I could tell my pace had been gradually increasing, and now I had a substantial downhill to ride for next mile or so. As I crossed the 12-mile mark, I could feel my body spring into action. This was it! The final mile, it was now or never...time to see just how much I had left in the tank.
As I have said several times before, I am not a sprinter. I have long legs and my knees sort of turn inward...which makes for (what I can only imagine to be) an awkward-looking sight. But, none-the -less, it felt great to push to the finish line.
|I did it! I kept to my plan, stayed on pace, and finished strong!|
I made it to the finish line in 2:12:45 (official time), certainly not my fastest half marathon, but it was my second-fastest 13.1 this year (my fastest 2016 finish was on May 1, when I ran the Red Shoe Run Half Marathon in 1:59:58). As much as I would have loved to try for a faster finish, I had to stick to my training plan....and in doing so, I was able to pull off a negative split for the last half of the race. The faster finish time can wait for next year.
A silly little goal of mine is to finish the half marathon before the first full marathon runner crosses the line. So far,so good on that quest! The 2016 IMT Des Moines Marathon
champion, Boaz Kipygo, from Kenya, finished in 2:16:36. So what if he ran twice as far, I still finished ahead of him (LOL).
|Boaz Kipygo, the 2016 marathon champion|
Upon finishing, I spotted Barb right away. I also was able to find, Gina (from Run Gina Run
)! It's always great meeting up with fellow running friends (and bloggers) from near and far.
|It was great to finally meet Gina in person1|
We grabbed a quick snack, slammed some chocolate milk, did a few stretches, and then Barb and I headed back out for those remaining three miles. We kept our race bibs pinned on (in case we decided to go back for more food), and we did notice people looking at us like we were lost (Barb even asked one of them where the finish line was. You gotta have fun with it...how many others ran three extra miles after the finish line?).
I do a lot of repeat races, and the IMT Des Moines Marathon
(and/or half marathon) is one of them. This was my seventh time participating, and I look forward to coming back each year. A lot of people complained about the new course (mainly because it wasn't as flat as in years past),but I liked the change. Granted, Capitol Hill is a beast, but it felt great to conquer that hill (and the downhill was pretty sweet).
The weather was miserable, but manageable. We had continuous cloud cover until after we were finished. Had there been sunshine, it would have felt much worse. Thankfully, I'm used to the Iowa humidity, so it's not usually a game-changer for me. I was a dripping mess when we finally finished running, and I was glad to have brought dry clothes to change into for the ride back home. And my hair...ugh! When I finally got around to peeling it out of the messy bun...it was still a wet mess in spots.
|Scary post-18-miler hair on a hot & humid day|
No doubt about it, this event is top-notch. Great communication, big expo, and awesome race shirts!
|Can you say, "Thumb holes?"|
And, check out the medals! For participants who did a Combo Challenge (also running the Mercy Live Up Loop
the day prior, the medals are magnetized to fit together.
|Aren't they pretty?|
All in all, I am very happy with how things went. Sure, I would have liked to have tried for a faster finish time, but this was not the time or place to do so. Route 66 is what I have been training for, and that's where my focus needed to be. My marathon is happening on November 20th, which means there's only a couple more weeks of distance running...then the taper can commence.
Have you ever done a half marathon as a training run? If so, were you able to treat is as a training run...or did you (accidentally) turn it into a race? Does the heat and/or humidity affect your performance on race day?