I first took part in the Midnight Madness Races in 2016. I was registered for the 15K (which is the combo of the 5K and the 10K, run back-to-back on the same evening). Long story short, it didn't go well; the 5K resulted in a personal worst (thanks to a major struggle bus adventure) and I pulled out of the 10K after the first mile (my one and only DNF to date). I had some wonky hip flexor thing going on and I should not have even started the first race.
I returned in 2018, hungry for redemption. I ran the 5K much better (5th place AG), and also was able to snag a 3rd place AG in the 10K. Redemption was all mine.
This past weekend, I returned to defend my 10K AG honors, here's what happened...
Now in its 48th year, the Midnight Madness Races are affiliated with the Iowa Games (a series of various seasonal athletic competitions that take place throughout the state). This was a commemorative year, since their longtime race director was retiring.
As one can guess, these races all take place in the evening. With a 7:30 p.m. start time (for the 5K), and a 70-minute drive to get there, we pulled out around 5:15. We arrived in Ames around 6:30, which gave us ample time to get our race packets, stretch and use the porta-potties.
The start line is right by the Ames Police Station, so every year I make it a point to get a pic with Cy. CY is the mascot of the Iowa State Cyclones...the biggest rival of the University of Iowa (my alma mater). No hard feelings.
There wasn't an official start line (or mat to cross), so we knew to inch towards the front (to avoid as many strollers and parents with kids as possible). The gun fired, and we took off running.
We had a straightaway for the first few blocks, then turned left and headed towards a residential neighborhood. We did a counter-clockwise loop, over the course of several blocks, and returned to the vicinity of where we'd began.
The route continued on, eventually turning right and taking us towards another residential area. By the time I'd reached the second water stand, near the 2-mile mark, I was pretty much saturated. I grabbed a cup of water and walked for a few seconds as I drank about half of it and dumped the remainder on my hands and splashed it over my face and shoulders.
The third mile looped us back towards the finish line (which was just a short ways from where the start line had been). There's a small hill, another right turn, another slight hill over a bridge, and then the finish line is about three blocks ahead. Do you know how long three city blocks seem at the end of a hot 5K route?
I had been careful to run strong, but not too hard. The temps were warm (especially with the sun), and that kind of heat is a recipe for disaster if you do not respect it. That said, I did have a little bit of mojo on reserve (I'd been trying to conserve it so I'd have something left for the next race)...and I made it to the finish line with a decent time showing on my Garmin.
|Stats: 3rd AG out of 23; 61st female out of 369; 313rd overall out of 866|
|re-hydrating between races|
|It was hot when we finished the 5K!|
We made our way back to the start line to get ready for the 10K. The 10K race attracts a pretty competitive field, with hefty payouts to the top male and female finishers ($600/$450/$350/$250/$200/$150/$100). Most of them are there for the 10K only, so their legs aren't fatigued (nor their bodies sweaty) from the first race.
The gun sounded, and we were off...again!
A particularly unique feature of doing the 10K race, is that you run the 5K course twice. So, those of us doing both races, get to run the same 5K route three times all in the same evening. The route does look and feel different each time, though, due to the diminishing daylight.
Anyways, Barb and I ran the first mile or so together and tried to humor each other. She can usually push on, but I prefer to walk briefly through the water stations. With it being so hot, I didn't want to take any chances, so I grabbed water at each opportunity.
She gained about a city block's distance on me as I paused for a few seconds as I drank and walked through the 1-mile water station. I continued on, and gradually caught up with her...just in time to pause (again) at the 2-mile water station. I could have probably sprinted and caught back up with her immediately after my water breaks, but there really was no reason to.
As we made our way over the final bridge and hill, back towards the downtown area, I caught a glimpse of the hubby. He'd been hanging out at the after-party, but came out of the fenced area to give us a cheer of encouragement.
Although it was great to know the 10K was half over at that point, it was a little off-setting remembering I still had to do the route one more time. Barb was still in sight, about a block ahead of me. It was nearing 9:00. We still had daylight, but the street lights were coming on and it was getting darker through some parts of the route.
I remembered this final lap of the race course being the most challenging last year. The route itself wasn't tough; it wasn't flat, but the rolling hills were very gentle. There were just enough hills to make the route interesting without making it difficult. I wasn't feeling fatigued, but I definitely was tired of being so sweaty. The headband felt hot on my head and my earbuds were feeling stuffy. The perspiration was burning my eyes but I had nothing on me dry enough to wipe them.
Thankfully, since most of the race course wound through residential neighborhoods, there was pretty good crowd support. Several people had sprinklers set out, positioned in the street. There were numerous little kids, eagerly attempting to high-5 as many runners as possible. All kinds of good karma to keep the runners motivated and entertained.
I found some remaining mojo in the final mile. Although my pace felt a slight surge, I also relented and took a couple of short (15-second?) walk breaks. Honestly, I had run a decent race, but I was ready to be done and didn't care if I lost a few random seconds on my finish time by walking.
I caught back up with Barb in the final stretch to the finish line, finishing only a few seconds behind her. To my surprise, I had a volunteer grab me, and hand me a coffee hug, and then congratulated me for being in the top 50 (of women). Wow...I had forgotten about that little detail.
I hadn't glanced at my Garmin during the last two miles because it was too dark to read the screen (and I didn't feel like messing with the light-up feature on the screen). I knew I had run the 10K stronger than last year...turns out I'd beaten my 2018 time by over two minutes (2:08, to be exact)! My splits were pretty consistent (8:54/9:03/9:03/9:01/9:15/9:14...and 2.29 for the final stretch). I was totally good with that, too.
|Stats : 3rd AG out of 6; 45th female out of 92; 157th overall out of 253|
|2 of the 4-medal haul I took home|
The race shirts are a tech/blend. They're unisex sizing, which I'm not a fan of, but I like the color and the graphics. The coffee mugs, as mentioned, were a bonus item for the first 50 males and first 50 females to finish the 10K. And, of course the medals. I like the commemorative Midnight Madness hardware, but getting two medals for each AG placement was a bit much (says the gal who loves her racing hardware LOL). While I don't expect a finisher medal for a 10K (and I detest them for a 5K), I think they would have been a nice touch since the medals are honoring the retiring race director...that way the AG placing medals wouldn't be so redundant (just my thoughts). None the less, both medals have great designs and are very unique.
So, that's a wrap on the Midnight Madness Races for 2019. A very hot and oh-so-humid endeavor, but fun. Have you ever done an evening race? How do you feel about finisher medals...yay or nay for "shorter events," like a 5K or 10K? Ever run back-to-back races in the same evening (or morning)?