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?).
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
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.
Barb did well, placing third in her age group!
|That's a relay baton (age group award)
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).
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)