The second annual Mercy Live Up Loop 5-mile Race happened this past Saturday morning, and I was there. I ran it last year (2016), but under much different circumstances (I had the Route 66 Marathon happening a month later, and had not spent the summer recovering from surgery). This year, having just returned to running, I was eager to see what I could do.
I had spent the entire week prior stalking several weather apps and sites, hoping for good news...but all were in agreement about the forecasted rain and potential storms headed our way for the weekend. Thankfully, the temps wouldn't be too cold (upper 50's), but the rain looked inevitable.
|This is what the weather app showed as we were driving to Des Moines|
***I have run the Half Marathon in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016
***I ran the Full Marathon in 2014
***I ran the 5K in 2015 (as part of the 5K/13.1 Combo)
***I ran the Mercy Live Up Loop 5-mile in 2016 (as part of the 5 Mile/13.1 Combo)
This year, due to that unfortunate surgery in late June (and subsequent recovery), there wasn't ample time to train for anything other than the 5-Mile race ((Womp Womp)). Ironically, though, this also was the first year for me to ever snag an Age Group award (more on that later).
It wasn't until we were just outside of Des Moines that we first saw rain (I live an hour from Des Moines, and we drove up that morning). It wasn't a torrential downpour, but it definitely was more than "light mist." The hubby wasn't running, but came along as my chauffeur (and also planned to run a few errands while I ran my race). I waited in the car until 7:30 and decided to make a run for it and hang out under the cover of the Principal Park stadium (the race started at 8:00). I had brought a dry-cleaning bag along, so I slid that over my head and headed towards the stadium.
I wasn't really sure what I should shoot for in terms of goals for the race. I knew I could run the entire five miles, but should I try to push my pace a little? Or, should I take a few brief walk breaks? How would my knee feel if I just ran "by feel" and didn't worry about pace?
The first mile was a bit crowded (as most first miles of races are). There weren't many walkers to dodge (I believe they were instructed to line up towards the back of the pack), but there were a few tight turns as we made our way around (the outside of) the ball park and out to MLK, Jr. Parkway. This was a route I have run many times, for various other races, so there were no unknowns to worry about.
The first mile felt good, and I debated about pulling off the dry-cleaning bag since the rain had stopped. I decided to leave it on...just in case. A short while later, we turned south (on Fleur) and made our way towards Gray's Lake Park. Before long, I was passing the 2-mile mark and glanced at my watch (it showed 18:30 for elapsed time)...dang! I was clipping right along.
I decided to grab a water at the water stand (right at the halfway mark) and walk for a few seconds as I drank it quickly. I wasn't feeling fatigued, but I was feeling a bit warm (under that plastic bag). Right after the halfway point, the route turns left, rounding the southwest corner of the lake. The course then continues east, along the south edge of the lake, eventually veering out of the park on a trail that runs parallel to the Raccoon River.
After passing the 3-mile mark, I started thinking about walking. I wasn't running fast, but I was running faster than I'd been training. There were a few slight curves on the trail, and I finally decided to take a short walk break near the 3.5-mile mark. I knew there would be a couple bridges we'd pass before eventually crossing the river (and then we'd be right back at Principal Park, where we'd started).
Eventually, I spotted the final bridge (in the distance), and saw the stadium across the river. I did one final brief walk (maybe 10 seconds?), and took off towards the bridge. It had started sprinkling a bit, but nothing crazy. I still had the bag on, so I wasn't worried about getting wet.
I could hear the announcer calling off runners' names as they crossed the finish line...and before I knew it, I had finished. Thankfully, nothing hurt and everything felt great! My watch showed 46:51 (official chip time was 46:48)! Last year, I ran this in 45:03, so the fact that I was less than two minutes slower (with not much training) was a great feeling!
After I grabbed my printout, I noticed it said I'd placed 3rd in my age division. Really? Seriously? I know the printouts don't always reflect the final results, so I asked one of the volunteers. They directed me to the information/check-in table. The volunteer glanced at my printout and congratulated me, and said they'd be mailing out the awards after everything was finalized (there wasn't a formal awards presentation).
It turns out, the printed "on-site" results did hold true and my 3rd place age division finish was confirmed (#happydance). This is a pretty flat and fast course, obviously. The 1st place guy finished in 29:12, the first place gal finished in 35:21. There were 406 total finishers and the average finish time was 53:54 (which includes runners and walkers). My stats showed I was 3rd (of 21) in my age group, 52nd (of 251) for females, and finished 109th (out of the total 406 participants) overall. I'm good with that.
My splits tell an interesting story...
Mile 2...9:04 (no wonder I was so hot and thirsty)
Mile 4...9:49 (a couple of short walk breaks)
Although I don't feel like I've completely gotten all of my "mojo" back, I'm pretty satisfied with my "rallying back" efforts thus far. I ran this race pretty much "by feel." I glanced at my watch periodically (mainly at the mile marks), but wasn't trying to maintain any specific pace.
The swag is unique, for this race, in that we receive stadium blankets. Seriously, I really do not want anymore shirts (tech or cotton), so the blanket is a nice feature. Participants in the 5K (which was held on Sunday) receive racing gloves, and the half/full marathon participants (also on Sunday) receive 1/4-zip jackets (specific to their event).