Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Drake Road Races Half Marathon 2019


I can do hard things, and I'm quite grateful for the ability to do so.

Case in point - a tough, hilly 13.1-mile jaunt, that had most of my muscles aching (at least from the waist-down). Not only did my body ache, but my mouth was dry. And I was mucho tired at the end.

And I'd do it all over again.

Saturday, April 20th, was the date. The location was the Drake University campus and vicinity (Des Moines, IA). The event was the 51st annual Drake Road Races, and I eagerly took to the streets (along with more than 4,000 others).

Affiliated with the Drake Relays (an Olympic-style event that attracts elites, collegiate stand-outs and high school hot shots), the Road Races offer a 5K, 10K or half marathon to those of us who aren't able to qualify for the other. I first ran the 10K (back in 2013), and returned for the half marathon in 2014,2015, 2017 and 2018.
Sarah, myself, Barb
With a start time of 7:30, myself, Barb and Sarah (who drove separately, but caravan'd  with us) pulled out of town at 6:00 for the hourish drive to Des Moines. We managed to find parking on the backside of the stadium (the start line was right out in front, on Forrest Avenue). A nice perk to this event is access to indoor restrooms, right inside the stadium (both before and afterwards).

Although there was ample time to do a substantial warm-up, I didn't (#mybad). I did a some static stretching (but not enough) and some dynamic "mini" drills (as we waited for the National Anthem), though.
Drake's mascot is the bulldog...need I say more?
The horn sounded, and we were off and running, quite literally. Starting on Forrest, on the front side of Drake Stadium, we headed east for a few city blocks before turning south on 25th. The crowd of runners was thick (the 10K and half marathoners began together; the 5K runners started 15 minutes later), making it difficult to start too fast outta the gate.

Just after turning on Kingman Boulevard, we passed the 1-mile mark. Already, I was feeling thirsty. I'd thought of bringing my water bottle from the car, but had left it behind (#mybad, again), so I was thankful to spot the first water stand a short ways later. The stretch on Kingman is very long and very straight...it's not so bad for this portion of the route, but on the return to the finish line it's rather painful (hold that thought).



Eventually, we turn south on Polk Boulevard, and are rewarded with a nice downhill grade for awhile. There's another water stand (near the 3-mile mark) and the 10K route splits off a short ways later.

I'd had some oatmeal, and some water on the drive over. I wasn't feeling hungry, but I definitely was feeling dehydrated, already. Also, I noticed a weird feeling on the outside of my right knee...an area that had never bothered me before. I wasn't concerned about it, but it was hard to ignore. Onward!

The next few miles have several twists and turns, and numerous hills, through a beautiful historic neighborhood. There's a good hill approaching the 4-mile mark, but the others aren't too steep (though, rest assured, there's plenty of them). I had been hanging with the 2:00 pacer, and we'd been enjoying a lovely game of Leap Frog. After I paused at the 5-mile water stand, though, I never was able to catch back up to him.

I'd eaten a couple Honey Stinger chews around the 4-mile mark, and decided to eat a couple more (already) somewhere in the 6th mile. I couldn't tell if it was an energy drop, or fatigue from the early morning (or the hills), but it felt like something was off. And that outer region of my knee kept reminding me that I wasn't necessarily in charge. Although I felt like I was running pretty strong and steady, I was a little worried about that weird thing going on with my knee...so I gave up on trying to make my way back to the 2:00 pacer. I could see him, off in the distance, but didn't think it wise to catch him at that point.

More turns, more hills. Yadda yadda yadda.

The weather, though. Most everyone knows I love my warm weather, even on race day. The temps were in the upper-40's when we started (and gradually rose throughout the morning) and there was nothing but sunshine. There was a very faint breeze coming out of the east, but it was just enough to feel refreshing.

One of the hardest parts of this course is the hill in the 8th mile, and then another big hill a short while later, in the 9th mile. Ugh. I can't remember if it was in the 8th or 9th mile, but I white-flagged it and walked briefly. I didn't feel like quitting, but things were feeling more tough with each mile.

Making it past the 10-mile mark always feels like a small conquest, even with that l-o-n-g stretch waiting for me back on Kingman. I ate the last of my HS chews  (yes, that's fueling THREE times in the span of 7ish miles....that's how much my energy was zapped) and soldiered on.

Passing the 12-mile mark, especially on this course, felt euphoric. A couple of blocks later, we turned north (back on 25th) and it didn't take long to get back to Forest. A quick right turn and we entered the final leg of our journey...on the famous track in Drake Stadium, known as the Blue Oval. There were plenty of people in the stands, and two of my cousins called my name as I rounded the final curve.
Even though I could barely lift my feet, I was smiling!
And just like that, I was done. A guy in military fatigues handed me my medal. I spotted Barb in the stands (she'd run the 10K), and Sarah finished about a minute after me. I grabbed a bottle of water. And I paused for a moment, reflecting on what had just happened.

It wasn't a 13.1 PR, but it was a Drake Road Race PR on this present course, as of the past three years (I ran the half marathon in 2:02:46, in 2014, when the route was different). My tired and achy body had come through for me again. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but I'm grateful none the less.

My splits reflect a bit of a roller coaster ride, courtesy of all the hills...

Mile 1 - 8:58       Mile 5 - 9:31    Mile 11 - 10:08
         2 - 9:11               7 - 9:08             12 -  9:40
         3 - 8:56               8 - 9:58             13 -  8:57
         4 - 9:25               9 - 9:25              (.12 - 1:27)
         5 - 9:27             10 - 10:25


So, even though this is traditionally a hilly course, there's something about the challenge of it that brings me back (almost) every year. With all of my 10K racing in March, and the Cherry Blossom 10-miler a couple weeks ago, I didn't really do any specific training for this half marathon. I think all of the 10K's worked nicely into prepping me for the 10-miler, and that 10-miler came at a perfect time before this race. An interesting thing I noticed is that my time was 1:34:20 near the 10-mile mark, which is actually a bit faster than my Cherry Blossom finish time (1:38:08), and that course was much flatter. It's crazy how one's body can just go ((sometimes)) and actually be running faster than it feels.

A new feature for this year was free pics! Don't worry, I'm only sharing the two better ones of the bunch (LOL).



The swag was very sweet! The 1/4 zip jackets are flannel-lined, and the color is nice. It also has the date on it, so it's unique to this year.

And, the medal! It plays tribute to the Blue Oval, the track where the Drake Relays take place.

It also was especially nice to have my Barb back with me! Even though we weren't running side by side, it felt like old times doing an event together.

So, have I convinced anyone to join me next April, for the 52nd edition of the Drake Road Races? Have you ever done a repeat race, knowing the route would be tough? Ever heard of the Drake Relays?

I'm linking this with Kim and Zenaida for the Tuesday Topics Link-Up

**I'm also linking this with Debbie and Marc  for the Running Coaches' Corner
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34 comments:

  1. Great race! Congrats on completing another half. Maybe next spring I will come out and do it too! I have never been to Iowa before. I like the sound of a hilly half.

    Love the Honey Stinger chews too. My stomach can handle them much better than Gu.

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    1. The HS chews have been working well for me, I cannot handle Gu anymore. YES!!!! DO come out to Iowa!!!!

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  2. Wow Kim totally crushing it this spring! Nice job friend. Sounds like you have the fueling thing all figured out too. I sometimes forget to eat mine :)

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    1. My spring has really been well-played. I'm grateful. It's rare to have so many races go so well in that kind of time span. I"m definitely ready for a few weeks of down time ;-)

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  3. Nice job Kim! I've run again a few races just because I like them (Shamrock Shuffle and Elmhurst 4 on the 4th). Love that your time at the 10 mile was faster on this hilly course than on a flat course. Our bodies are amazing. I've felt great when running 5 or 6 miles but also felt like crap running 3 miles.

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    1. When I glanced at my watch (while running), I actually had to stop and take off my sunglasses to ensure I'd read the time correctly. Those 10 miles in Des Moines felt so much tougher than the ones did in DC LOL

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  4. It's those tough races that seem to bring out the best in us!!! 2019 is turning out to be such an awesome year for you Kim! Those medals keep coming and I love each of the stories behind them! This one is probably one of my favourites! Well done :-)

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    1. I always say that even the tough races have a lot of good to come out of them. I'd rather run a tough race, anyways, than one that doesn't challenge me ;-)

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  5. congrats on conquering that hard course! I love when a race has free race photos and the swag is super impressive too.

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    1. They do a top notch job with this race...which is why I just can't stay away from all those hills ;-)

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  6. Great job on a tough course! I'm glad you had great weather (though I shake my head thinking of high 40s as warm :-) ). I love free pics and finishing on the track.

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    1. Well, high-40's isn't necessarily warm, but it did get to the mid/upper 60's as the race wore on, and that felt incredible to me (at least in the sunshine)!

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  7. Congrats on another successful Drake Relays! Sounds tough, but you're tougher than that!

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    1. I love a good challenging course....there's nothing to gain from a flat/fast route anyways.

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  8. How cool you've done this race for 5 years in a row! It sounds like a pretty tough course but that's pretty fun that it ends with the track :)

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    1. Even when they utilized a different route, it still had some major hills LOL The blue track is really iconic!

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  9. Congratulations! You are amazing! Hilly routes can be challenging, but you tackled it and did a fantastic job! It seems that all of your previous races helped prepare you for this one. I'm nervous about my hills in Nashville on Saturday!

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    1. Well, at least with hills, you always can be assured of "downhills," right?

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  10. Wow, a 7:30 start, I'd really struggle with that. Congratulations, great result.

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    1. I've had a lot of races start at 7:00, so 7:30 was easy ;-)

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  11. Nice job! You're a pro at running at the Drake Relays events, huh?! Over here on the East coast, we have the Penn Relays this weekend :)

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    1. I've heard of the Penn Relays...I think they have a similar reputation for the athletes they attract.

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  12. Aw! I love everything about this! It's great that you have your Barb back and even though you were dehydrated and had some oops moments, it sounds like this was a successful race! It's always so awesome when friends are able to enjoy a great race day together! Congratulations on your course record!

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    1. The course record was a nice surprise, given how worn out I was feeling at the finish.

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  13. Sounds like a challenging one - well done. And Barb is back: yay!

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  14. A course PR is always really sweet! Especially a hard fought one.

    Hope the knee was just a niggle. They're so annoying when they pop up out of nowhere.

    I have a lot of shorter races that I do again & again, but Vegas is actually the only half I've ever repeated. So many states, so little time.

    No clouds -- boo!

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    1. Oh yes, this definitely was hard-fought! That just makes the PR that much sweeter ;-)

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  15. Way to go lady! That sounds like my perfect race weather!
    I hope your knee feels better!
    That is a cool jacket and the medal is really fun! Love the track in the background.
    I have never done an exact race twice, although there are a few I would like to go back to for redemption.

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    1. The race day weather was SOOOO perfect! I wish that could happen for every race.

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  16. Great job pushing through Kim! So exciting that you got a course PR, even though you feeling tired. You always inspire me :-) LOVE the medal too!!

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  17. What a great recap. And so perfectly said: I can do hard things, and I'm quite grateful for the ability to do so.

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    1. Yes, we all can do tough things, and it's in our best interest to remember that ;-)

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