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.
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:
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:
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!