Monday, October 18, 2021

Back on Pace - 2021 IMT Des Moines Half Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a race registration for the IMT Des Moines Marathon weekend  as part of being a Bibrave Pro. Learn more about becoming a Bibrave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find, and write race reviews.

Well, this race never disappoints!

When it comes to repeat racing, I'm guilty. The IMT Des Moines Marathon weekend has entertained me 14 different times (since 2008), and this year was especially significant.

It was significant because it had been two years since the last time I had run this race course (#Covid), but this year I also was seeking a bit of redemption for my less-than-ideal finish at the DAM to DSM 20K (back on August 28th)...oh, and did I mention I also was running the MercyOne 5-Mile Run the day prior?

So, how did that work for me?

Spoiler: Quite well!

First off, I need to mention this was the 20th year of the IMT Des Moines Marathon! I'm no stranger to this weekend of fun:

***I have run the Half Marathon in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 20152016, 2018 and 2019
***I ran the Full Marathon in 2014
***I ran the 5K in 2015 (as part of the 5K/13.1 Combo)
***I ran the Mercy Live Up Loop 5-mile in 2016 (as part of the 5 Mile/13.1 Combo) and also in 2017 

So, yes, I was jacked to be back!

We (my main running buddy, Barb, and I) had a 6:15 departure, arriving in Des Moines about an hour later. We scored a great parking spot just across the Des Moines River, near Court Avenue. We had plenty of time to do some stretching, Theragun'ing and dynamic warm-ups before walking over to the start line. 

We spotted several racing friends as we made our way onto the race course line-up. I immediately noticed the 2:00 pacer. I have never run a race with a designated pacer, so I thought why not? My average finish time is usually around 2:00-2:05, maybe the pacer could help me keep a consistent pace without the stress of doing it all on my own. He also mentioned that he'd have the group start off easy, and would be walking through the water stations (to allow everyone to stay hydrated without being rushed)...sounded great to me, so that became my spur-of-the-moment plan.

I'd had some oatmeal for breakfast, but I was already feeling hungry (after all, it had been a good 2+ hours at that point and I'd forgotten to bring an extra snack along). I'd originally planned on taking a gel around the 3-mile mark, and then another around the 8-mile mark...but decided it was best to take the first gel before the race began, and then take the other near the halfway point. Crisis (somewhat) averted.

We heard a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, then the crowd of racers started shifting towards the start line. The marathoners and half marathoners were off and running (at 8:00), while the 5K peeps would be taking off at 8:30.

The weather could not have been more perfect. Temps were in the low-40F's early on, and although that first mile was chilly, it wasn't long before I felt comfortable. In fact, I lost the gloves somewhere in the third mile. 

Ironically, it was just about that time I heard my Garmin give a strange beep...the screen went blank....and that was the last of any stats via my wrist. Ugh. Now, let me remind you, I'm not a wrist-worshipper when I run or race. I have the Garmin along with me on race day (more for monitoring the elapsed time than anything else), but it's not my "crutch" to have it dictating how fast/slow I should/could be running. That said, It had been a long time since I'd run a half marathon without some kind of timing device (like, maybe ever?). I also didn't have any music with me either. This was going to be an interesting morning!

Anyways, the first 2-1/2 miles have everyone together, on a shared course, in downtown Des Moines. Just after the 2-1/2 mark is where they split off from each other; the full marathoners continue west, on Grand Avenue, while the half marathoners head south on Fleur Drive. 

At the 3.69 mile mark (yes, I've checked it in previous years LOL), the 13.1 route turns west and begins the journey into Water Works Park. Historically, this segment is my least favorite of the course. It's a long ways in, followed by a 2-mile loop, and concludes with a long trek back out (nearly 5.5 total miles). It's scenic, with a lot of trees (most of which are in beautiful foliage), but for some reason it's always been the most challenging part of the race course for me. A nice feature of it, though, is seeing the elites, who are usually making their way towards the end of it as I'm approaching the 5-mile mark (which is roughly their 8-mile mark). Also, it's within the Water Works Park segment that the full marathon course (mile 18) reunites with the half marathon (mile 5).

Although I could still see the 2:00 pacer (and his group) a short ways ahead of me, I could tell they were slowly breaking away from me. I pulled out my second gel, but could not get the tab to rip open without stopping briefly (honestly, is there anything more frustrating?). I grabbed a cup of water, took a few sips and did a quick "rinse & wipe" of my hands and was back on my way in a matter of seconds. 

By this time, I had crossed the halfway point, and was still feeling good. I had no idea of where I was, time-wise, though, so I was leery of pushing my pace for fear I'd overdo it and (potentially) crash and burn long before the finish line. I decided to just keep running strong and steady and save any "pushing-the-pace" for the final mile.

Making it out of Water Works Park always feels like a landmark victory for me! This year, the route had a tiny detour before we ran underneath Fleur (via an underpass) and arrived at Grays Lake Park. Grays Lake, itself, accounts for about two total miles. The loop around the lake features a nice walking bridge, which is well-utilized for many of the Des Moines races. Coming out of the lake area, the path then leads us up the one major hill of the 13.1 race, just after the 11-mile mark. This hill is about a 1/2-mile in distance, but seems longer because it curves around and you can't see just how much further it goes until you're finally back on MLK Parkway (heading due east).

By the time I'd made it around the curve, I could feel my calves starting to tense up, and my quads were feeling pretty trashed. I could see the 12-mile mark, well off in the distance, so I knew I had just under two miles remaining. I'd run the previous day's 5-mile race at a really good clip (finish time was 42:34), so I knew my legs were on borrowed mojo (LOL). So far, I had not needed any walk breaks through this race, and I knew if I'd start walking (for anything longer than a sip of water), it would be the beginning of the end. So I kept running.

When I finally made it past the 12-mile mark, I just let my legs go. Definitely not a sprint (ha!), but definitely no longer holding anything back. It's probably near the 12.75 mark (again, #noGarmin) when we turn north on 1st Avenue  for the final stretch to the 13-mile mark. Ironically (?), just as I was passing that 13-mile mark, the Chariots of Fire theme song came on over the speakers.

The crowds of people were deafening (I actually could hear them throughout most of the final two miles) and with no Garmin to stop, I just sailed across the finish line unhindered. Then, a friend (Angie), who was volunteering, congratulated me and draped the medal around my neck (was that an act of Fate, too?).  

I spotted Barb within 30 seconds, and we high-5'd. Then I spotted Sarah, another runner friend from our hometown (I'm telling you, friends seemed to be popping from out of thin air LOL). 

The clock, over the finish line, showed 2:04:XX, but my Garmin showed nothing.

Turns out, I'd run those 13.1 miles pretty well, on tired legs none the less.

Official results:
Finish time - 2:03:16 (9:25 pace)
13th place, out of 88 (age group)
355th place, out of 1316 (females)
903rd overall, out of 2296 13.1 runners

Yeah, I'm good with all of that. I'm a little bummed to not know any of my mile splits, but that's a first world problem. After all, I'm not getting paid to run races. As long as I'm able to run, I choose to embrace gratefulness and the whining can happen somewhere else.

As far as this race goes, it's very well-run (no pun intended). Numerous water stands along the 13.1 course, every couple miles, and more frequent  in the final miles. A very huge army of friendly volunteers on the route, on bikes, offering assistance to those in need. I wasn't able to make it to the expo (my hubby did the honors this year), but he said it was well-organized. He had no problems getting my stuff (and I had two sets of race packets/gear to find). There also was ample pre-race communication from the event, via emails and various social media channels.

Side note:
This may sound cheesy, but I'm always elated if I can finish the half marathon before the first marathoner crosses the finish line LOL. This year's marathon champions were  David Too (male) in 2:16:19 and Hirut Guangul (female) with 2:36:05! Amazing how these peeps can run twice the distance as myself, and almost twice as fast. 

My race day gear was on-point. With the cold early-morning temps, I knew I'd need my arms covered. I probably could have gone with shorts, but the camo 7/8 tights were fine. I didn't feel really hot until just after I'd finished. 

How about the swag! The 1/4 zip jacket is a great fit, and the colors are nice. I'm loving the neck buff, complete with the event logo and artwork. 

...and the medal! Since I did the 5-Mile/13.1 Combo, I brought home two medals, and they're meant to be a set...there's a clip-ring to attach them together.

So, that's how the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon played out this year. As much as I'd like to spank another sub-2:00, this wasn't the day to even think about it with my tired legs. Finishing close to that 2-hour mark, though, still feels pretty sweet. Looking back through some archives, this 2:03:16 is actually my 13th fastest half marathon (out of the 43 half marathons I've run), so I have no regrets.

Do you have any favorite races that you feel compelled to do every year? Have you ever done multiple races over the course of a single weekend? Ever heard of the IMT Des Moines Marathon, or run it (or any of its events)?

Stay tuned: The MercyOne 5-Mile Run recap is coming on Friday!

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

I'm also linking with Debbie, DeborahLisaLaura and Jenn for the Runners' Roundup

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  1. Congratulations, Kim! Well run! Especially considering you did a 5-mile race the day before. Pretty amazing.
    It's not easy to get the exact right outfit for a race, but your choice was spot-on. Love the orange/camo combo, too.
    I once had my Garmin give up on me in a marathon. It's the worst! Fortunately, we ran in Zurich, which has plenty of church towers with clocks. Not very precise, but it worked ok! ;-)

    1. Yeah the Garmin issue was a buzzkill, but oh well ...sometimes ignorance is bliss LOL

  2. Nope, I've never done back to back races. You did awesome Kim, congrats on a great race despite the dead Garmin! It's a great feeling to execute a great race, isn't it?

    I've only ever done one half marathon twice, and the second time I walked it with an injured friend (it wasn't the plan going in).

    1. Thank you, Judy!!! Yes, this race felt so good...running most of it “naked” just made the finish line even more rewarding.

  3. Great job. I love local races. I do repeat my favorites.

    I never used to repeat Half Marathons but my NOv and Feb ones will be my 2nd for each.

    If there is another race the day before I will run it. I did in Montreal and Las Vegas.

    1. Repeating races is nice because the route usually is the same, but they also puts pressure (?) to compare finish times from previous years... that’s good & bad LOL

  4. I am in awe of people who can do back to back races. I don't even like to run at all the day before or after a race. But...there's a really cool new 5k in my area on Thanksgiving weekend that I was hesitating over since I'm also running a Turkey Trot but I think I'll go for both races.

    Congrats on a great race and great swag!

    1. Back to back races does up the challenge, but go big or go home :-)

  5. Congrats on another successful race! Such a bummer about the dead watch but you still rocked the race!

  6. Congrats on the 2 races in 2 days in a row and the good finishing time.
    It's annoying to run with the Garmin off.
    Beautiful swag and nice medal.
    I have never run 2 races in one week end. My favorite race was a night run through the city of Orbetello in summer but it was cancelled last year at the start of the pandemic .

    1. It was a real bummer to have this not happen (in-person) last year, so it was great to be back on the course this year :-)

  7. Congrats on your race, and on racing 2 days in a row! Ive done the Baltimore Running Festival a bunch of times. It has a full, half, 5k and used to have a relay but this year it had a 10k. Its a fun event but a tough course. Its nice to have those races that keep bringing us back!

    1. I’d love to run the Baltimore race someday! That’s been on my radar since our daughter lived in nearby PA, but just have not been able to swing it.

  8. Nice job Kim! Way to run a strong race especially after running the day before. Perfect weather definitely helps doesn't it!? I have not done back to back races before myself. Congrats!

    1. This is such a great event; actually the entire weekend has something for everyone. Ahem (cough cough) blogger reunion:-)

  9. Awesome job Kim! So glad you got to return to one of your fave races. And such a strong run, especially having raced the day before. Great swag :)

    1. Thank you, Michelle!! I honestly went into this half with no goals since I’d run the 5-miler pretty strong. It’s nice when everything works out with the universe:-)

  10. Congratulations! That's a nice solid two days of racing! Sounds like it was really fun. So what's up with your Garmin- was it just a battery issue?
    I know- how do those marathon winners run it SO FAST? Incredible to think that they run a marathon in a little over our half marathon time. Crazy!!!

    1. I think I didn't have my Garmin fully connected when I "re-charged" it Saturday evening. It said "low battery" at the start line, when I was getting the GPS signal, so I had serious doubt it would last the entire 13.1 miles...but I was hopeful it would last longer than just three miles. Oh well...

  11. Well done, and looks like they've added super medals to an excellent set over the years!

    1. They have always had great swag, and the medals are always so unique ;-) This year's are ceramic, so I appreciate the artsy-ness of them ;-)

  12. Well done, especially with no Garmin!! And what a great collection of medals from this event! I had a freak out moment when I thought I had left my headphones at home for my half, but luckily they were just hiding from me in the car. I can't stand to hear myself panting during a race so I am thankful to have music to drown out those noises.

    1. I'd never noticed myself panting (but I'm sure I might just be oblivious LOL). A couple years ago, I accidentally left he Garmin and Shuffle behind for a 5K, and didn't realize it until I was halfway to the race (an hour away). That was a little scary at the start line, but what could I do but just go with it and trust myself to run by feel...and I actually ran a pretty fast 5K as a result. You just never know what can happen ;-)

  13. Congrats on the race and placing so high in your age group. The race day weather sounds ideal!

  14. Congrats on your great half, Kim! You cracked me up using the phrase "wrist-worshipper". LOL I do like being able to glance down and check out my pace during my runs/races so I would have been quite frustrated had that happened to me. Good job on not letting it bother you!