Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dam to Dam 2018 - An epic ending of an era

Dam to Dam 2018. #39Forever. The 39th (and final) Dam to Dam.

Although I had been looking forward to this race, I was also kind of dreading it as well.

To give you a little bit of insight (in case you've never, ever, heard me mention this race), Dam to Dam is the one race I look forward to the most every year. It was my first-ever long distance event (in 2008), and it started me on a whirlwind of distance running and racing that has kept me quite happy. Not only did I run D2D in 2008, but I have returned every year since, making 2018 my 11th consecutive appearance on the Dam.

my babies.... ;-)
Why would I dread this event? The race officials (and their extensive committee of volunteers) decided it was time for this event to come to an end. They announced, back in the fall, that this 39th D2D would be the final hurrah of the race as we know it, and they'd take it back to its original distance of 20K (it had been modified to a half marathon distance the past five years). A marketing firm stepped in, a short while later, and snatched up the opportunity to continue the race in 2019 (and hopefully beyond), but the race will have a different name and (most likely) the course will be altered. Not a bad thing, but it will not be the D2D that we all have come to know and love.

Anyways, registration opened up at 6:00 a.m.on March 14th (my birthday, ironic?) and the 8,000 registrations sold out in a couple of hours! They decided to add an additional 1,000 spots, and those sold out about an hour later. Yes, there were a lot of loyal runners who didn't want to miss out. A special twist to D2D 2018 is that our youngest daughter wanted to run it as well, as a birthday gift to me (sigh).

So, fast forward to race day.
Doesn't everyone begin their race day planking before departing the house?
The weather had been looking most ugly. We're talking rain beginning around 4:00 a.m. and continuing all morning, with the heaviest rainfall expected at 7:00 a.m. (start time!). The hubby (who was unable to run due to his injured knee) volunteered to be our driver, though, because he didn't want to miss out on the action of this final Dam race. We picked up Barb (my running partner), and the four of us were on the road around 4:30 for the hour-long drive to Des Moines.
The daughter, myself, and Barb...waiting for the next the rain
Being a point-to-point race, all the runners are shuttled out to the Saylorville Dam, north of Des Moines, where the race begins. The last shuttle bus departs downtown Des Moines around 5:45. Our bus got us to the Dam around 6:30. The rain wasn't torrential, but it was steady.
Buses, buses, hundreds of buses....
Although there are (literally) hundreds of school buses, they are merely shuttle buses and there is no where for them to park. They drop off the runners, then pull out and head back to retrieve more runners. Once off the buses, it's every runner for him (or her)self. We made our way to the extensive line of porta-potties....and waited and waited in the rain. Several of us were questioning whether runners were legitimately doing their business or just staying inside to keep dry.

We heard the start time had been delayed, but we weren't sure why. There was speculation of lightning, but none of us saw anything. The daughter, Barb, and myself  (and several thousands of other runners) huddled under the trees in the forest area. Thankfully, we had umbrellas and rain gear with us.
At least one of us is finding the humor in the situation 
When we got the go-ahead to head to the start line, the weather had really gotten crazy. Not  only was the rain still falling, but now the wind was blowing like I'd never seen. It looked and felt like a hurricane...there were discarded umbrellas, ponchos, and various debris flying everywhere as we made our way across the dam to the start line. Of course, in true runner fashion, several of us were laughing at the ridiculousness of everything, and reminding each other that we paid good money to be there.

The daughter had decided she wanted to run alone, so I gave her a hug and wished her well as we crossed the start line. This was her first race, ever. She had not even run track, so her running experience was only in recent months while training for this very day.

The hubby was gonna be near the 4-mile mark, so the plan was for us to hand over any "extras" we didn't want to keep with us. I was gonna leave the umbrella with him (if I didn't toss it).

So, we were off! As usual, the first mile is pretty crowded. It's a little frustrating,  but it does keep me from starting off too fast.

It was somewhere just after the 2-mile mark that I noticed the rain had stopped. Not sure if the rain was for sure done, or if it would be down pouring again later, I decided to remove my makeshift poncho (actually, a dry cleaning bag) and save it...just in case. Trying to shed a plastic bag with sticky (already sweaty skin) is not an easy task. I had to pull over and gently peel it off my shoulders and back, so as not to rip it. 

Also, I had attached my watch around my fuel belt (under the dry cleaning bag) in an attempt to keep it dry. As I started back running (with the dry cleaning bag all rolled up nice and tight in my hand), I tried to unbuckle my watch to put it on my wrist. Have you ever tried to run and unbuckle a watch with wet fingers?  That's not an easy task either. I had to pull over again and use both hands to do so.

Back on the road, I hadn't even ran a 1/4 of a mile when I noticed my bib was flopping all over the place. Since I'd had the dry cleaning bag over it earlier, I had only pinned the top of the bib in place. With the bag gone, and the psycho head wind, my race bib was on the verge of ripping I had to pull over for a third time to secure the bottom edge of it. Seriously? I don't know how much time I lost with those three tedious stops, but with the less-than-ideal weather, I had thrown out any hope of attempting to PR anyways.


My fueling plan was to slam a Honey Stinger gel at Miles 3 and 8. I had eaten part of a HS waffle on the bus ride (and had oatmeal before we left town), so I didn't think I'd need anything at the immediate start of the race. There were water stations at approximately every two miles, so I sipped on my gel between the 3rd and 4th mile until I could grab a water to wash the last of it down.

It was easy to spot the hubby (right before the 4-mile mark). I handed over the umbrella, and kept going.
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Still clutching the dry cleaning bag, I gave up the umbrella LOL
Overall, I was feeling pretty good. That right hamstring/piriformis was being a bit of an annoyance, though. It's been kind of angry and cranky ever since my last half marathon (which was the end of April), so I know that was part of the problem. Also, with the pre-race huddling, I hadn't warmed up as much as I should have (my bad), so I'm sure that didn't help.

An interesting part of this race is around the halfway point, the route crosses Interstate 80. It's always fun running across the big bridge and seeing all the vehicles, many of which have drivers honking and waving.
Crossing I-80
One of my favorite highlights of the race, though, is Memorial Hill. This is a long hill, right before the 8-mile mark. It is lined with numerous flags, each of which represents an Iowa service member who has lost their life since D2D's inception in 1980. They always have bagpipers providing music. A lot of the runners are walking (because the hill is a lot bigger than it looks in the picture). Myself, I think it's an awesome tribute and make it a point to run the entire length of the hill...any discomfort I'm feeling is worth it to honor these fallen heroes.
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Approaching the hill....
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... about half way up the hill... 
...and....Ahhh, cresting the hill....
After we finish Memorial Hill, we're pretty much done with the Iowa country side and back in the city limits. Miles 8 and 9 take us through some neighborhoods, and there are non-stop crowds of people in lawn chairs along the course, supporting the race.

By the time I reached Mile 10, now back in downtown Des Moines, the clouds had parted and the sun emerged! I had brought along my sunglasses as a rain shield, but also as a wishful thinking strategy...and I'm glad I had them with me. The temps also had started to climb a bit.

Finally, near Mile 11, I could feel my hamstring releasing a bit. Usually, it feels better after 3-4 miles, but not this day. Knowing I only had a little more than a mile remaining, I could feel my legs moving faster.

Before long, I turned the final corner and spotted the finish line. Although I had hoped to run this with a sub-2:00, I finished with a 2:07. Certainly not my fastest 20K (my PR is 1:55), but all things considered...the crazy rainy/windy start, numerous stops with the rain gear "stuff," and my somewhat angry hammy...I'm fine with everything. This race was not about me or PR'ing, it was about the final D2D, and it still was a Dam great experience.
And look who was at the finish line? Herky, the University of Iowa's mascot! Go Hawks!
I found the hubby a short while later, and then Barb found us. 
Another Dam race with Barb!
I had no idea when the daughter would be coming in...I tired texting her and calling her, but she didn't respond. Having never been to this race, she would have no idea where to find us. Barb and I planted ourselves a ways from the finish line and waited...and then we saw her. I ran out and called her name and started running with her, telling her how proud I was of her, and encouraged her to finish strong.

As we approached the finish line, she asked if the photographers would be taking her picture...and she wanted to hold hands as we crossed. We grabbed hands and I could hear her screaming as she pulled my hand in the air. We crossed the finish line, and I gave her a big hug as the volunteer gave her the medal. Talk about a proud mom moment!

So proud!!!!!
As I have said (for all 10 of my previous D2D races), this is such a great event! I have run this race in every kind of weather (except for snow)...there's been rain, wind, cold temps, and hot temps. It's only fitting, for this final D2D, that we'd have a little bit of everything.

The swag is always pretty sweet, too. Not only did we get tech shirts (in gender-specific sizing), but we also received running socks. And, they totally outdid themselves with the finisher medals this year....the red trim sparkles when the sunlight hits it, and the engraving on the back brought me to tears, literally.
Isn't it a beauty?
So, that's my story. Dam to Dam 2018 certainly was an epic ending to a fabulous era. I'm so grateful to have become a runner and that I had the privilege of running this event for the past 11 years. If you'd like to know more of the history of the event, you can check out the Dam to Dam website HERE.

Have you ever had an event that drew you back year after year? Ever run a 20K? What's the worst race day weather you've ever run in?

I'm linking this with Marcia and Patty and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run
**I'm also linking this with Debbie and Rachel and Lora for the Running Coaches' Corner.


  1. Wow, what an experience! Congrats on finishing in those conditions with everything you had going on! And congrats to your daughter on her first race!

    1. I had to laugh at everything...the weather, my "poncho stress," the stubborn watch, and then the flopping bib. It certainly made the day interesting!

  2. Congrats on this and all the other D2Ds you've run. Sounds like a fun race!

    1. There's a reason I go back every year and talk non-stop about it ;-)

  3. I understand why this race is so special to you and now so probably even more since it was your daughter's first! I had to laugh about the route I-80 pic. Even though we live several states away from eachother,I live right near route I-80! Makes the world seem a little smaller, no?

    1. Absolutely! I think we take I-80 most of the way to our daughter's place in Hanover ;-)

  4. All that weather sounds crazy. When I was walking to the corrals for Tink 2years ago, it was raining and I was worried it would be like that the whole time. Thankfully it subsided before we all started, but trying to stay dry was tricky.

    1. It was looking like we'd have that wet and windy weather all morning, but ((thankfully)) it mellowed and cleared ;-)

  5. Congrats to you and your daughter! I've never run a 20K - I don't think there are any nearby. And what crazy weather - I love that you were running with the umbrella.

    1. This has been the only 20K I've seen in Iowa. When they made it a 13.1 (2013-2017), it just didn't seem like the real Dam race LOL

  6. Aww... that's great that you were able to run with your daughter for her first finish line! Congrats to both of you, especially with that crazy weather. That's pretty cool that another company is taking on the race and it will continue in some form at least.

    1. I sincerely the new company does this race justice. The current race was all volunteer-based, but that won't be the case with the new company, which is a for-profit. I hope they don't lose the integrity!

  7. So cool that your daughter decided to run your favorite race with you. I love it! kudos to her to taking on such a big challenge. Congrats to both of you! Bummer on the crazy weather though. I bet you do it again next year even though it's a different race.

  8. That's so sweet your daughter wanted to run this for you! Crapola weather aside, it sounds like a fun race. How cool to see the evolution of the medals over 11 years.

  9. Ugh! It is not fun waiting in the rain. Plus your hubby was a real trooper (mine usually won't come to the start if the weather is ugly, although he'll usually meet me at the end even if it is.

    And how nice to have that memory of running it with your daughter as your first race together!

    Never run a 20k. And my worst races have usually been due to heat.

  10. That's so sad :( It's hard to see a beloved event come to an end, or even change hands. I hope the new one is just as great, if it's possible.

    Worst weather: Thanksgiving Day 5K last year. It was just a cold, torrential downpour. I ran the whole thing in a garbage bag and I hated every second of it LOL!

    I have had a few races where the heat and humidity was also incredibly terrible and hard to get over (races where people were passing out and needed medical attention). That's more the norm here.

    I love that you and your daughter were able to run in together. That's the best!

    I've never done a 20K, but that sounds pretty cool!

  11. what an awesome recap Kim!! I still can't believe what you guys had to deal with on race day! I am sorry this event has ended for you as it's obviously a great race if it's something you want to do every year. how awesome that your daughter participated in a 20K as her FIRST race!! You did great too considering conditions. I know it's not your PR but still. I love Memorial Hill and the Flags - and I think I would do the same, just power up the hill knowing that others had to sacrifice for me... surely I can "sacrifice" my comfort and run up the hill!

    worst weather ever: there is a 3 way tie - Egmond aan Zee Half Marathon (can't remember the year, but a few years back) rain, super wind (because it's RIGHT on the sea, first 7KM on the beach), lightening, and did I mention wind? omg the kind that brings the rain sideways and cuts right through you. And that was AFTER the delayed start because the weather was too bad *rolls eyes* . #2 Milan Marathon (few years back), TORRENTIAL rain THE ENTIRE marathon, luckily I was part of a relay and only had to suffer for 12KM and #3 In March I was supposed to do the Stevensloop Half Marathon with cold and headwind THE ENTIRE TIME; I got my first DNF when I stepped out at 10K because I'd had enough.

    I haven't done a 20K but there is one in Paris I'd like to do :)

  12. what a great way to end that last race! I love that your daughter decided to run it too.

  13. Congratulations!!!!! You did awesome especially with the crazy weather you had to deal with for that race. My brother-in-law ran it and he took video of the start, I could not believe the wind and rain. Way to go, I am sad that it was the last one and I couldn't do it. I love that your daughter did it too :)

  14. what a wonderful race that you could do with your daughter! I've had a race delayed because of lightning and run in rain, hail, heat, and subzero temps. We runners are crazy.

  15. Aww, I love this recap! Sounds like a wonderful way to end an amazing D2D experience. Congrats to you, Barb, and your daughter. :)

  16. What a crazy ride! Glad you were able to finish! Thanks for sharing the journey with us!

  17. What an amazing experience! Congrats to you, that's such an accomplishment!

  18. What a great experience to have with your daughter! Congratulations!

  19. So cool that your daughter ran too, though you can't seem to catch any weather breaks this year. I had one of those proud mom moments with my son a few years back, at the La Jolla Half Marathon. One of my favorite race photos is of us crossing the finish line hand in hand.

    So, maybe next year you can come do Rock 'n' Roll San Diego with me!

  20. So bittersweet and kind of cool running in the last race of your first long distance. Congratulations on defying the conditions.