As one era ended, another began. And, I'm quite happy how everything played out.
Saturday, June 1, was a day I'd been anticipating. About 18 months or so prior, my beloved Dam to Dam race had announced it would be ending, and the June 2, 2018 race (RECAP) would be its final hurrah. A very short while later, a new race management team (Rip Roar) stepped in, and took the reigns. They committed to keeping the Dam race alive, using the same course (and keeping it the same 20K distance), and they changed the name to DAM to DSM.
The inaugural DAM to DSM 20K happened this past weekend, and here's the story...
Our morning began with an earlier-than-usual wake-up (how does 3:50 a.m. sound?) and a 4:35 a.m. departure for the 50-minute trek to Des Moines, IA. The race is a point-to-point route, so all runners are required to take shuttles to the start line, and the final buses leave at 6:00. We arrived around 5:30, easily found parking (in a free lot, none the less!) and were able to secure a spot in line.
Prior to race day, like any compulsive runner, I had been stalking the weather...and it had not looked ideal. As race day drew closer, though, the scattered storms had been pushed back, and shortened to a few hours (instead of the entire morning). On race day itself, the storms were not forecast to appear until the approximate time I'd be finishing (Score!).
|Friday evening's forecast...and Saturday morning's|
Although the air was quite humid, there was a hint of sunshine and a very slight breeze. The weather conditions actually felt nearly perfect.
We were able to get to the line-up as the National Anthem was being played, and by the time we'd walked the entire length of the dam (about 1/4 mile), the para-athletes and elites were taking off. One of the neatest sights at the start line, in my opinion, is seeing the Principal Tower, way off in the distance. The Tower sits in downtown Des Moines, near the finish line, making it a beacon as we make our way over the race route.
|Can you see the tower (at about 2:00)?|
As with most races, the first mile is very crowded. There's a lot of weaving, plenty of speeding up (then slowing down), and a lot of enthusiastic chatter. It's all good.
I'd brought some oatmeal to eat on the drive to Des Moines, and had some Honey Stinger chews in my fuel belt. A strategy that had has worked well for me is to eat a couple of chews around the third mile, then again near the 8-mile mark. I usually grab water at each of the stations (every two miles or so), and drink a few swallows.
So, the race had started and everything was feeling good. Although I had not trained specifically for these 12.4 miles, this was my goal race for the late spring/early summer. I had done several shorter races (three 10K's), and had some decent long runs (as well as the the Cherry Blossom 10-mile and Drake Relays half marathon), so I felt ready.
Although I'm a city gal, one thing I love about this race route is the open countryside. The first half of the race has us on a highway with plenty of grass and intermittent trees and brush on either side of the road. The route has a few gentle curves, and a generous downhill shortly after the start line.
The first few miles went well. The sun eventually disappeared behind the clouds, but the air remained really warm and humid. I could already feel the sweat soaking through my shirt each time I reached down to twist my fuel belt back into position. Did you catch that? My belt was already driving me crazy, and refused to stay put. I tried securing it snugly around my waist, but it kept sliding. At least it wasn't bouncing, so there's that (#glasshalffull).
Shortly after the 3-mile mark, I dug out the HS chews (after untwisting the belt, again). I wasn't feeling tired or hungry, but wanted to stay ahead of the fueling game.
|The Tower is just left of the power line pole...it's 3.5 miles closer, though it looks farther away (?)|
Just after the I-80 bridge is the 10K mark. Whew! Half way! And, a mile or so later is the big hill that will lead us from the countryside and usher us back into the city limits. The hill looks much shorter than it really is because it curves to the left and weaves through a residential area and doesn't level off until after the 8-mile mark.
|The hill.....it's a lot steeper than it looks|
I ate the last of the HS chews as I walked through the next water station (just after the 8-mile mark). This part of the route is a nice stretch of flatness, then we turn right and get to enjoy a much-needed downhill. Of course, as we know, most every downhill signifies another uphill.
There has been a lot of rain this spring, and Des Moines has had some flooding. As a result, the route was altered slightly. Just after the last major hill (near the 10-mile mark), the course looped into a park for a about 3/4 of a mile. Although this was a new thing for the race (by default of the flooding), I actually kind of liked the change of scenery. They had a lot of loud music at the entrance (and then again at the exit).
I had been glancing at my watch at most of the mile marks, to keep an eye on my pace. My main goal was to run this race strong, with ZERO discomfort. I also was hoping I could sub-2:00 with my finish time, since it was a little shorter than a half marathon (12.4 miles, to be exact).
My D2D PR happened many years ago (1:55:19, in 2012).Given the great spring I'd had, I couldn't help wondering if this could be the year I might be able to challenge that PR. As I was coming out of the loop, now approaching the 10.5 mark, my watch showed 1:43ish. I did some quick math in my head and realized I wasn't gonna make the sub 1:55, but I was probably gonna finish just (barely) under 2 hours!
Now, this is where I need to confess that my mind was playing a nasty trick on me. I have run this race many times, so I know the distance: 20K is equivalent to 12.4 miles. Somehow, though, in the midst of the rain (?), heat (?), humidity (?), and/or annoyance of the ever-twisting fuel belt (?), I was convinced the course was 12.2 miles (instead of the 12.4 that it had always been). With only "1.5 mile" remaining (or so I thought), I could pretty easily snag that sub-2 finish.
So, off I sauntered, probably with a goofy smile on my face. I didn't even notice the rain had stopped, I was finding my mojo to kick it in for the final jaunt to the finish line. I passed the 11-mile mark (not too long after the loop in the park), and it wasn't long before I saw the 12-mile banner up ahead.
Only I didn't hear much of a roar from the crowd....and I couldn't see the finish line. My Garmin showed that I'd, indeed, gone past 12 miles. I couldn't figure out why the finish line wasn't in sight (I could see the Principal Tower, after all). Then, I turned the final corner, and saw the finish line...but it was much farther than 200 meters away. DUH!!! The finish line was 400 meters away because 20K =12.4, not 12.2 (insert #facepalm). So, I did what any runner would do...I gave it my all for those final 400 meters!
Even in a daze (from all the mathematical confusion LOL), the finish line still felt pretty euphoric. My Garmin showed 2:02:16 (with 12.53 for mileage). Not a 20K PR, but it was my 3rd fastest D2D finish time, ever. Given the fact that the course was altered slightly, I guess I could count it as a PR, right? Anyways, it was a 5-minute improvement over last year's race, so I'm totally happy with everything.
I always like looking at the mile splits....they certainly tell an interesting story:
Mile -1- 9:38 Mile 7 - 10:24
2 - 9:04 8 - 9:54
3 - 9:36 9 - 9:42
4 - 10:35 10 - 9:42
5 - 9:32 11 - 10:11
6 - 9:57 12 - 9:21
(final .53 - 4:41)
Oddly, I felt pretty good for having run a long race on a hot morning. Even when I stood back up (to go wait for the hubby near the finish line), it didn't take much effort...though I left an embarrassing sweaty bum mark on the curb. My main goal had been to run strong, and I did. I kicked it in for the final mile....but I can't help wondering if I could have pushed a little more? It was pretty hot and humid, though, and I don't believe in risking my health/safety for the sake of a faster finish.
...and, just take a gander at the medal!
So, despite my trepidation with the new management company taking over this event, I was very pleased with almost every last detail. The pre-race communication was excellent. The details on race morning were well-executed. The post-finish line party was top-notch. The only snafu, in my opinion, was the limited number of porta-potties at the dam for the start of the race. Hopefully, that's a detail that can be fixed for next year (and future years as well).
A final note, this race was not without incident. There was a 26-year old man, named Chase, who didn't make it to the finish line. He collapsed just before the finish line and did not survive. I did not hear anything about this tragedy until late in the afternoon, after we'd gotten back home. My guess is he was way ahead of me on the race course. The rescue personnel and first responders had treated him (and then had taken him to a hospital) long before I was anywhere near the scene. Such a sad damper on an otherwise great morning.
Anyways, I'm calling my 12th Dam race a total success. I'm pretty thankful for this thing called running. As many know, the original Dam to Dam was my first long-distance race (in 2008). It sucked me in, and I have gone back every year since. I'm glad the Dam race will continue.
Do you have a favorite race you have gone back to, year after year? Have you ever done a 20K? How do you feel about point-to-point race courses?
I'm also linking this with Meranda and Lacey for the Friday with Fairytales and Fitness link-up.
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