Thursday, October 21, 2021

MercyOne 5-Mile Run - 2021 Recap


I think it's pretty sweet when the stars, moon, planets (and a plethora of other forces that be) all align on race morning.

It had been a four year sabbatical. This was a race that I'd run twice before and I'd had some decent success with my performance. Even though I had a somewhat big half marathon the next day, why not give it a go? Go big or go home, am I right?

So, I went big, and didn't stay home.

I returned on Saturday morning, October 16th, to the streets of Des Moines, for my third time running the MercyOne 5-Mile Run. Although I had run this race twice before, only once had I done so as part of the 5-Mile/13.1 Combo (2016), and that year I was also knee-deep in training for the Route 66 Marathon, so both of those races were run pretty conservatively. In 2017, I was rallying back from my knee surgery, so that wasn't exactly a fast (for me) performance, but it did land me a 3rd place AG award on a cold, rainy morning.

Alas, my main goal (as with most races) was to run strong and steady, and see what the racing gods had in store for me. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The MercyOne 5-Mile Run (formerly known as the Mercy Live Up Loop 5-Mile) is affiliated with the IMT Des Moines Marathon weekend. Most know I'm no stranger to this annual weekend of all kinds of running 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 

medals from previous years

All of the DSM Marathon events had to go virtual last year, but were offered as virtual options for those who didn't wish for an in-person race this year. 

With an 8:00 start time, I was up, dressed, and on the road shortly after 6:15, and parked outside of Principal Park by 7:20. I had eaten some oatmeal prior to driving, but had also brought along a protein bar to nibble on prior to lining up.

Principal Park is home to the Iowa Cubs (a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Chicago Cubs). A nice feature was that the ball park was open to the runners (and guests), so we had access to the restrooms before and after the race.

I was all on my own, and the temps were chilly (42F, feeling like 36F with the WNW 9mph wind), so I huddled in my car until 7:45 or so. Although it was cold and breezy, we had full sunshine. 

map of the race course

After a nice rendition of the National Anthem, we were told to GO! So we did...only I bumped the wrong button on my watch, and had to restart it. Fortunately, it only took a few seconds to catch the GPS signal...and then I, too, was off and running.

The route started with the runners going east, for a short distance, and then turning north and circling around the stadium and north parking lot. The route then took us due west, along MLK Jr Parkway, for approximately another mile or so. The 1-mile mark was about halfway along the MLK Jr Parkway portion. I glanced at my watch, and saw I'd run that first mile at an 8:25 pace. Oops. That first mile never feels as fast as it actually is when you're amongst all the other runners (my excuse).

Another 2/3 mile, and the route turned another left, this time going south, on a paved path along Fleur Drive. Making that turn finally had the wind out of my face, so I tried to slow down the pace a bit. 

I've run this route (and variations of it) for many other Des Moines-based races. It's deceiving because while it's relatively flat, there also are a few tricky curves that are hiding a few gentle inclines. I heard my watch beep, and saw my 2-mile split was at 8:47...much better! 

Just past the 2-mile mark, the race course merged into Grays Lake Park. A short ways later, near the halfway point, was a water station. I paused for a few seconds, grabbed a cup, took a few requisite sips, and continued on. 

We rounded the SE corner of the lake, and ran about a 1/4-mile over the walking bridge (Mile-3), eventually merging onto the path that ran alongside Thomas Beck Road (now heading east). I hadn't looked at my watch since the 2-mile mark, and just kept moving and grooving. My legs were feeling good, and I was really debating if I should just stay steady or push the pace a little...then I remembered (#duh) that I needed to conserve some energy and mojo for the 13.1 miles I'd be running in 24 hours.

There was another water stand, just before the 4-mile mark. Honestly, I cannot remember if I grabbed a water or not (I think I did LOL). Even though (just a mile prior) I thought it best to not tempt Fate, when I passed the 4-mile mark I decided to just let the legs do their thing. I wasn't pushing the pace, but I was done holding back. 

We crossed the bridge over the Raccoon River (now going north again, back towards the stadium from where we'd started). I could feel the wind in my face again, but it actually felt kind of refreshing (even on a cold morning). A couple of quick turns had us on the south side of the stadium, and before I knew it, I was crossing the timing mat...though my watch said 4.89 miles (???). I thought we'd run a bit further, in previous years, so I was a bit dumbfounded. I stopped my watch and looked around, wondering if there was another timing mat up ahead (and that this one was maybe for the 1-Mile race), but a race volunteer kindly told me (with a smile), "Hey, great job! But don't forget your medal." Well, alrighty then...  

My official finish time showed 42:34 (so apparently, I lost 9 seconds restarting my watch at the start line). Not a big deal, because my finish time was still good enough for a course PR! My stats:

**5th place (out of 17) for age group
**22nd place (Out of 181) for females
**69th (out of 286) overall

My splits were pleasantly consistent (after that first mile):
Mile 1 - 8:25
         2 - 8:47
         3 - 8:49
         4 - 8:51
         5 - 7:33 (actually .89) 

How do you like this medal? It's ceramic, so I'm loving all the artsy details! Also, it's meant to pair-up with the Sunday medals (for those who elected to do the Half/Full/Marathon Relay Combo). 

In the two previous times I've run this event, we received fleece stadium blankets. In 2021, we got long-sleeved tech shirts and buffs with the Marathon logo on it. No complaints!

My race day outfit was tough to put together, but my gut instinct to go with leggings  (instead of shorts) was on-point. I wore a tank with arm warmers under the 1/4-zip jacket, which was warm enough without being too toasty. Also, I borrowed the Hawkeye hat from the hubby, and layered a headband underneath (which makes me look like an egghead LOL), but my ears stayed warm and the extra "padding" kept the hat from blowing off in the wind.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, the IMT Des Moines Marathon weekend's events are top-notch. Everything is well organized and there's ample pre-race communication (via emails and social media channels). Saturday's events included the 5-mile run, a 1-mile walk, and a children's run (various distances depending the ages of the children). Sunday's events were the full and half marathons (as well as a marathon relay) and a 5K race. Participants doing Saturday's 5-mile race also could do any of the Sunday races as part of a 2-day combo (which is what I did).

A few final thoughts (how about five?):
***Even though I'm a warm weather gal, the cold weather on Saturday was comfortable. I did take off my gloves shortly after the first mile, and never regretted doing so.

***Jeff Galloway was the featured guest for the weekend's activities, and he was spectating at the 5-mile race. I passed him, under the stadium, after the race and he said hi to me...but I didn't realize it was him until after he was out of that was a major missed photo op (#MyBad).

***In the weeks prior, I'd been having some hamstring discomfort, and my right foot had been feeling weird at times (that's the foot that had the stress fracture a year ago). Maybe these were phantom "taper" aches and pains? Or maybe they were legit concerns? None the less, I had ZERO aches or pains the entire weekend (well, until the final miles of Sunday's half marathon LOL).

***About that oddly short course of 4.89 miles (instead of the actual five miles it was supposed to have been), I have mixed feelings. I was on pace to PR my 5-mile race time, so it's an itsy bit disappointing that I'll never know if I could have accomplished that. The thing is, I wasn't pushing myself (remember, I was desperately trying to hold back so I could save a little something for the next day's race), but my legs were really feeling good. I still can say I PR'd my "5-mile pace," and that's pretty satisfying. Glass half full.

***It felt so great to be back doing what I love...not just running, but pinning on a race bib (twice!) and challenging myself doing these two races back-to-back. 

By the way, in case you missed it, here's my recap from Sunday's half marathon HERE.

So, there you have it! Another race done and dusted, and another runner runner feeling very thankful, ever grateful, and truly blessed.

Have you ever taken on two races, such as this? How would you strategize the one as a true race (if so, which one?), or would you "race" both of them? Or would you opt to run both of them with caution?

I'm linking this with MichelleReneeDarleneJenn and Zenaida for the Fit Five Friday Link-up.

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  1. I would love to run into Jeff Galloway and chat about intervals! Congrats on a race well run Kim. I bet it felt fantastic to be back out on a course you love. Great medal! I love a 5 miler but we don't have too many around here

    1. We don’t have many if them either. They are a fun distance... like a mini 10K!

  2. Ah, sounds like so much fun! I've never done two races back to back like this. But I would probably do it the way you did it- planning to be cautious but then I wouldn't be able to not "race" once I got into it.
    Congratulations on your PR! I say it counts. And so glad your foot and hamstring held up well!

  3. I've never done back to back races so I have no idea how I'd strategize, but sounds like you did great, Kim! Nice even splits for the most part. Getting the outfit right is always a plus and tricky at this time of year!

    I do hate it when the course is short though. Bummer. :(

    Congrats on a great race weekend!

    1. The weather is always a wild card! I know how to dress for most any condition, but these temps were a lot colder than what we’d had in recent weeks .

  4. Great recap! Congrats on running a strong race! Back to back races can be tricky - I've always opted to do the first (usually a 5K) as a fun run so my legs felt fresh for the 2nd race.

    I love how you've run this race (weekend) over multiple years - always nice to have a favorite go-to race :)

    1. That’s usually my strategy as well, but I figured the last mile wouldn’t be a big deal if things got a little speedy:-)

  5. i have done a 5k a few times the day before a half. But I am cautious about it because the half is my goal race.

    Congrats. You did great and it obvious that you enjoyed it.

    1. I think a 5K is a tougher race in that scenario...since it’s so short, the temptation to run it faster (than what’s wise) is pretty strong!

  6. Great recap and beautiful photos. Congrats on the fast finishing time and all the good places (a.g., females and over all).
    I have never run 2 races in 2 days but if I decide to do it I would run only one as a true race.

    1. It was tough to choose which one to “race” because both were important opportunities for potential PR’s,

  7. Congratulations! I love the idea of a ceramic medal! That's so cool! I bet it would be great hanging on your Christmas tree if not your medal rack!

  8. Wonderful! points such an artistic post, thankfulness you for sharing this post.