As the saying goes, "always earned, never given."
That's true for many things, in running and life in general. It was the paramount mantra that got me to the DAM to DSM finish line on Saturday morning.
I have said it many times, but this event is one I look forward to every year. With Covid-19 wiping it off the grid for 2020, this race was a long time coming.
Under normal circumstances, D2D takes place the Saturday following Memorial Day. This year, it got pushed back to this past weekend (again, #Covid), so it was a few months later in the summer than usual...and the weather was a little hotter. Prior to race day, the race officials sent an email, cautioning the participants of the heat advisory in place.
As the name suggests, the race starts on a dam. Being a point-to-point race route, all the runners are bussed out to the start line, at Saylorville Dam.
We had a 3:30AM wake-up, and a 4:15AM departure to get to Des Moines in time to snag a spot on one of the many shuttle buses (the logistics do not allow for runner drop-offs or parking at the dam). The last bus departs downtown Des Moines at 6:00, allowing for everyone to make the 7:00 start time (elites and wheel chair athletes start at 6:45).
Unique to this year, they instituted a rolling start from 7:00-7:30, so the usual start line wasn't such a cluster of people (the event is chip-timed, so the rolling start was a great improvement).
The dam is a 2-lane road, with a very narrow shoulder, so it's very crowded walk (for the better part of a mile) before you reach the actual start line (on the opposite end of the dam).
|the tower is right above the tree line, on the left (at about 10:00)|
So, the hubs and I made it to the start corral. I had no grandiose goals (due to the heat and humidity, as well as the recovering hip), but I was almost embarrassingly giddy to just be there. The hubs? Well, he had not trained much, so he did have a grandiose goal - to simply finish, in a vertical position (he later told me that he'd seen a runner down, near the halfway point, receiving first aid. This runner appeared much younger, so that was a sign that it was a morning to respect the weather and not be a hero).
The first few miles went well and all things felt great. I even caught myself shedding a few happy tears because I was so grateful to be back running my favorite race. My fueling plan was to have a gel around miles 3-4, and then again around mile 8. It was somewhere in between the third and fourth mile that I paused for a quick pic of the Principal Tower, and decided to eat the first gel since I was already stopped. My hands were so sweaty (as were my clothes, so I had nothing to dry them off with) that I couldn't get a good enough grip to tear the gel wrapper open. I wound up walking for a couple minutes as I tried (in vain!) to rip off the wrapper tab. Finally, I was able to get an itsy-bitsy hole open (akin to a pin hole) and was able to access the gel. Anyways, mission accomplished. Onward!
|The tower is to the left, just above the tree line...a tiny bit closer|
Did I mention it was a hot and humid morning? Already by the third mile, I was a saturated mess. I had already noticed a lot of runners taking walk breaks, as well.
A highlight, of the route, is crossing I-80. This happens just before the halfway point. I usually am able to capture a selfie, among the chorus of honking cars and trucks. Wouldn't you?
Just after the I-80 overpass, is the 6-mile mark, and the 10K timing mat is just a short ways further. Up to this point, the route had been on paved county roads through the Iowa countryside. Once we pass I-80, we leave the country scene and heads towards the city...starting with Memorial Hill. This hill encompasses much of the seventh mile...and is a tough climb, especially on a hot morning. There's usually more people walking than running it...
|...at about the halfway point of the hill...|
|between miles 9 and 10...see the tower?|
Shortly after the 10-mile mark, the course loops off (into Union Park) for most of the 11th mile. It was during this little jaunt that my calf muscles starting seizing up if I ran for more than a 1/4- mile at a time. Ugh. This has happened a few times before, but it's been awhile (Quad Cities Half Marathon, September 2016). Also, by this time, I was seeing even more walkers...gals and guys (of all ages). I was tempted to ask if anyone wanted a power-walking buddy to finish the race with...but decided to just keep going at my own pace. Honestly, I could run pretty fast; I just couldn't run very far LOL, so my power-walking pace averaged out to be actually faster than the run/walk intervals I was doing by default.
I made it out of Union Park, and passed the 11-mile mark. My watch showed I'd been going for just over two hours, which really was a decent pace despite all the unexpected walking. In a final attempt to run-it-in, I broke into a jog, then upped the pace a tiny bit. Things felt good...for about another 1/4 mile ((sigh)). So I did a few more brief run/walk intervals, rounded the corner at the 12-mile mark, and was able to run the final 400 meters (slowly) to the finish line.
But, I did it. And I did it with a smile. Though my finish time of 2:19:31 isn't horrendous, it is one of my slower D2D finishes. Oh well. Some days the stars, moons and planets all align and sometimes they don't. It's up to us how we handle it. This 2:19:31 finish time represents another finish line (of a favorite race, none the less) on an especially tough morning. It's a victory that I'm quite grateful for having fought, and won.
|20K - 2:19:31|
There was food and refreshments near the finish line, but also a shuttle bus that took runners to a post-race party at Exile Brewing (about a 1/2-mile away). All runners were rewarded with a free draft of their choosing, so we took advantage. And we all three left very wet spots on the pavement from our very sweaty clothing.
So, what exactly went wrong? I think it was a combination of several things, the biggest of which was probably (1) my fueling. With the race starting at 7:00, and us leaving town at 4:15, there's a pretty big gap in there. I had eaten some oatmeal before leaving town, and had also eaten a Honey Stinger waffle before the start line...but I probably should have had more solid food (though I didn't feel hungry, all morning, even as I was running). No doubt, the (2) weather was also a factor. It was downright brutal (92F at the finish line), says the gal who usually can tolerate such conditions. Although my (3) hip/groin issue didn't give me any problems on race day, I was paranoid it might...so I did try to take things easy. Even though I thrive on (4) little sleep, I probably should have gotten a little more shuteye. I did go to bed early for me (10:00PM), but I should have gotten more sleep in the days prior as well. Lastly, although this isn't a bad thing, (5) I was so content just being there, that I didn't really care how I finished. Yes, I love this race THAT much.
In addition to the awesome medal (pictured above, and below), there was plenty of additional swag: tech fabric (gender-specific) shirts, cooling towels, water bottles, and a key chain (which matches the medal). We also received a free drink ticket (for the after-party at Exile Brewing) and a stretch bracelet (not pictured).
The race shirts are SO awesome...the graphics are outstanding! Maybe that's why I saw a record number of participants wearing them...(?).
|front and back|
So, there you go! Although it was a tough day on the race course, it still was a successful day of doing what I love. Quite simply, in the 14 years I've done this race (including the forced-virtual one last year), D2D never disappoints.
Do you have a race that you've done for 14 consecutive years? What's the toughest challenge for you on race day...weather, fueling, proper rest, etc? Would you wear your event shirt on race day if it said "Finisher" on it?