Monday, June 6, 2022

DAM to DSM - 2022 race recap

Everyone's got a DAM favorite race, am I right?

Myself? It is DAM to DSM. I first ran this epic race in 2008. It sucked me into the world of distance running, and I have not looked back. In fact, I've returned every year since.

This past weekend, I earned my 15th D2D medal. There's the saying "Always earned, never given," and those words rang true to me, this year, on the 2022 D2D race course. 

As mentioned, I'm no stranger to this event. Formerly known as Dam to Dam, in 2019 a different racing company took the reigns and changed the race name to DAM to DSM, but kept pretty much the same historic route I'd grown to love. It's a point-to-point race course, so all participants are bussed out to the start line at the Saylorville Dam. The route takes us through several miles of Iowa countryside, before crossing Interstate 80 just before the halfway point. The route then goes through some residential neighborhoods, a few winding trails (which were new this year, due to road construction), and we cross the finish line in downtown Des Moines.

The race had a 7:00 start time, but we had to be there prior to 6:00 to catch one of the shuttle busses...which meant a 4:30 departure from my driveway. Barb and I arrived in downtown Des Moines around 5:30, giving us time to hit the porta-potties before getting in line for one of the busses. We arrived at the Saylorville Dam around 6:20.

Even though there were ample porta-potties near the Dam, the line was l-o-n-g. We decided to "brave the brush," and ducked into the woods. I emerged with several battle wounds from the wayward branches...lucky me (can you see the 2.5-inch gash on my right inner thigh in the pic below?).

The weather was feeling optimal! The route has a south/southeast direction, so the gentle SE wind would be perfect.  

I remember the announcer, at my first D2D start line, pointing out the Principal Tower. This tower sits in downtown Des Moines, not too far from the finish line. It's always a fun novelty, spotting the tower at various times en route, and noticing its size change as you get closer to the finish line.

Can you see the tower, at about 9:00?

It takes a good 15-20 minutes to make your way across the dam itself to the DAM start line. 

I didn't really have any aspirations for a PR (I knew the route was going to be altered, due to some recent construction), and this year they extended the distance from a 20K (12.4 miles) to half marathon. So yeah. Also, I can honestly say I had not specifically trained for any specific finish time. I'd had some long runs (the longest being 10 miles, about a month ago), and a half marathon at the end of April. That said, I was hopeful for a strong effort, but I was planning to enjoy the route with my phone at-the-ready (for picture-taking).

Barb and I wished each other well, and we took off across the mat when our wave was released. 

Like any race, the first mile is a major cluster of runners. For me, that's usually a good thing, albeit a bit annoying. Even with 17 years of running experience (and upwards of 60 races of this distance), I still have zero skill at pacing myself in that first mile.

As mentioned, the first part of the route is along the Iowa countryside. We have the road(s) to ourselves, and there's plenty of trees, fields and scenic "openness" to enjoy. I'd had oatmeal several hours earlier, a granola bar just after the bus ride, and a couple of Cliff shot blocks before the start line. I waited until the 4-mile mark to eat a couple more of the shot blocks (and was planning on having more near the 8-mile mark). So far so good.

just after the 4-mile mark...can you see the tower, on the far left, just above the tree line?

So, onward! There were water stations every couple of miles, so I grabbed a cup each time one was available. As I was approaching the Interstate-80 overpass, I had the slightest sensation of needing a potty stop. Have you been there? Once that thought enters your mind, it becomes ALL that you can think about?

 I didn't want to wait in a long porta-potty line (they were stationed at every water stop), so I tried scheming and scanning for a potential patch of trees or brush alongside the road. At this point of the route, though, there was a huge ditch on either side of the road, so it would make for a treacherous journey to veer off-course. Ugh.

Crossing Interstate-80...

After the I-80 overpass was the timing mat for the halfway point, and just beyond the mat were a few porta potties. I decided to just get in line...and, after killing a good three minutes, one of the doors opened and I was allowed my turn.

It wasn't even a 1/4-mile later, I noticed a gravel path leading off road to some trees. And I spotted several runners emerging from the woods. I made a careful mental note to remember this detail for next year (LOL).

Now past the 7-mile mark, we have the hill. It isn't the only hill of the race course, but it is the longest and the steepest. This hill ushers us back into the city limits, where we have numerous residential neighborhoods, with numerous spectators cheering and clapping.  

trust me, this hill is much longer and steeper than it appears...

I don't know if it was the potty break, or the big hill, or just general fatigue...but about halfway through the ninth mile, I could feel my energy starting to crash. I decided to take a short walk break while I ate a few more of the Cliff Blocks. 

A nice pick-me-up was when an Instagram friend, Becca, called my name and introduced herself to me (I'd never met her in person, and didn't recognize her at first). Her and I leap-frogged a few times, before she got far enough ahead of me that I lost her. By then, the route had detoured onto McHenry Park Trail, a different path never before utilized for this event...and I was taking more walk breaks than I'd planned. 

in the 10th mile...can you see the tower (near 1:00)?

By the time I passed the 10-mile mark, I knew (and accepted) that the remaining 5K had all the makings of a struggle bus ride. I just couldn't muster the energy to maintain a steady running pace, and the outsides of my knees were feeling strained (ITB?). It was easier to power walk with running intervals, as opposed to simply running at a slower pace.  

When I reached the 11-mile mark, though, I felt a small return of my mojo.  I actually was able to run most of the 12th mile, which felt really good.

Almost to the 12-mile mark...can you see the tower now?

The final mile had me sneaking in a few more quick walking intervals. Honestly, at that point, it didn't really matter, right? The route had us going under a bridge (which we'd soon be crossing, right before the finish line). We looped around, onto another bridge. We turned, making our way back to the final bridge, and were greeted by a group of drag queens. Oh, these "ladies" were amazing! They were so cheerful and about a huge energy surge just when I needed it!  

Soon thereafter, I made the final left turn, onto Locust Street, and the finish line was in sight. And, in a matter of seconds, I was done and had my 15th DAM medal in hand.

I'd barely crossed the timing mat, when a text came in from Barb, telling me where she was (she finished a good 20 minutes prior). I grabbed a Gatorade, and some snacks, and made way to her spot.

I felt like I was in a zombie-like state of existence. My fingers were all puffy (can you say dehydration?), my arms and legs were a gritty salty mess, my body was exhausted, and my mind was pretty loopy. But, I had crossed another DAM finish line and I was ecstatic to have run another DAM race. 

How'd I do?
My stats showed 2:22:05 as my official finish time (10:50 average pace)
*17th out of 57 (age group)
*596th out of 1197 (females)
*1517th out of 2433 (overall)

This definitely was not my best performance, but it was my best effort given my circumstances. None the less, I'm always amazed at what my body can do, especially under adverse conditions, and I'm ever so grateful. Besides, this is my favorite race every year. All the extra effort getting to the finish line just enhanced the conquest! Glass.Half.Full.

And, Barb? She finished just over 2:01, and spanked a first-place AG!

How about the swag? 
In addition to the sweet medal (below), we also got gender-specific tech shirts, a motivational "stretchy" bracelet (not pictured) and a journal.

the Half Marathon text (on the right) goes down the center of the back of the shirt

Speaking of the you remember the iconic Principal Tower that I kept spotting along the route? There's a likeness of it, in the "circle" along the top of the medal.

A few notes:
*I can't blame my massive energy crash on anything but me. The weather was absolutely perfect, after all. I probably should have had more to eat (prior to the start line), more to drink (on the hour-long drive to Des Moines), and probably more fuel (than just a couple of the Cliff Blocks each time I ate them). Oh well. I'm grateful my endurance was able to carry me to the finish line when my energy bailed.

*I am disappointed with the shirts (I know #WhompWhomp). This "new" race company also sponsored the Des Moines Women's 10K, that I ran about a month ago....notice any similarities with that shirt?

*Although this is by far my favorite race, I am disappointed they changed it from a 20K to a half marathon. The Dam to Dam I fell in love with was a 20K. The original D2D committee tried making it a half marathon, for a few years, and they received a lot of backlash for it. I'd hoped this new group would have kept the uniqueness and integrity of the 20K distance, like they'd promised, when they first took the reigns...

*The packet pick-up hours weren't very convenient. We could get our race packets either Thursday from 4-7, or Friday from 12-6:30, OR we could pay a fee and have them mailed to us OR pay a fee and pick them up on race morning. In previous years, the packet pick-up offered longer hours on the Friday evening, allowing for more travel time for those of us who were out of town. 

*I gotta say, these medals really kick buttocks, though. I'm glad they've kept the style of them consistent, but with a few fun tweaks, each of the four years the new company has been sponsoring D2D. These are true works of art!

*Finally, all pre-race communication was top-notch. There were numerous posts on social media, as well as timely emails.

So, there you go. Despite the few things I wasn't pleased with, this event more than makes up for it with all the other nuances it offers. There's a reason (actually several) that keep me coming back, year after year. 

Do you have a favorite race, that you do every year? Have you ever had a favorite race acquire a new sponsoring company...did things change for the better or worse?

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

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  1. Wow, 15 times, that's amazing! And well done for pushing through and for sharing your honest experience. Love those medals, and you must have such a collection of them. I don't really have a race I like to repeat, but I have routes that are a bit longer and more challenging that I love to do - round the no 11 bus route to Erdington and back, for example, which is 20 miles. Next marathon I do, I'm actively looking forward to that one. My equivalent of races.

    1. It's really hard to believe I've done this race 15's been a fun journey ;-)

  2. Oh my goodness, waiting in a pottie-line for 3 minutes during a race must be the worst! I don't know how you kept up the fighting spirit after that, Kim. Well done!
    I love that you can see the tower from the start! You can slowly work your way towards it and see it getting closer. I sometimes do that with landmarks during a race, but none is as visible as yours.

    1. Yes, every year I look for that tower at the start line. I'm really thankful the announcer pointed that out to us (back in 2008).

  3. Some races just aren't our race, even with great conditions, but being grateful for the ability to complete the race should bring a smile to your face. We take running half marathons for granted, and we really shouldn't.

    I am not a fan of white shirts, personally, and almost never wear the ones I own.

    Sorry it wasn't your day, but overall, you finished, and that's the main thing. Congrats to Barb!

    1. I should have really paid better attention to my fuel, both on my long runs AND on race day. I think I took that for granted, and ultimately it came back and bit me, LOL

  4. I do wish they'd kept the 20km just because it's such a unique distance. But my goodness, do I love that medal! Well done for getting it done even though you struggled with energy at times. (Well done to Barb on her AG award!)

    1. The 20K distance was such a nice feature of this race! Even though the race course is very scenic, the 20K distance was just something special that only this event offered.

  5. I've been there and finishing is always a win in my book.

    I have found out the hard way that I need to fuel often!!!

    Congrats on #15 and on to more races... hopefully more will be good than bad.

    1. Yes, I do think the fuel (or lack of it) was my downfall. I didn't really utilize my training runs for fuelling efficiently...

  6. I love that you always do this race! I have yet to do a point to point race. I guess we just don't have any around the city lol. I LOVE the medal but I'm feeling you on the shirt. Also, I'm bummed they changed the distance. It does make a difference and it's not quite the same! Also, I've become a "morning of" packet pickup runner so if they don't have that, I'm not running the race. I can't justify driving into the city twice in one week!

    1. I just registered for #16 over my lunch hour ;-) (They were offering a special rate to the first 500 could I pass that up?)

  7. Congrats on another race! I have a point point race here that I really like- its net downhill. Ive only done it about 3 times though. Glad you were able to keep the streak alive!

    1. I love a point-to-point race! I have not done very many, but they're really a nice feature!

  8. It's amazing you've done this race 15 times! It does sound really nice. That three minute wait for the porta potty... it's hard to get moving again after a break like that. But you powered through! The only races I do year after year are our Turkey Trot and July 4th 5K, and there's not anything super special about them, other than the fact that they're closeby. I'm trying to remember the last time I've done a point-to-point race, and I can't. They're not that common, but I do like it better than running a loop. Anyway, I hope you're getting some nice recovery this week!

    1. Right? It didn't dawn on me just many races that actually is (LOL) until I was writing up this recap. I'm looking forward to many, many more ;-)

  9. I love that you do this race every year and it sounds really well run. It is hard to get that hydration and fueling just right some days. Point to point races can be fun. Looks like it was a nice day for it. Congrats again!

    1. The hydration and fuel is tricky no matter what. This particular race, though has the hour commute, then another hour wait before the actual race start (due to the shuttle bussing). It really threw a kink into my well-being. The thing is, I've done this race 15 times, now...I should have it mastered (?).

  10. Congrats! That is amazing that it is your 15th year running it. I am OK with doing point to point races but dislike the earlier time due to busing us to the start line. But I won't not do a race just because of that. They're not common around here.

    1. The earlier time is really a tough feature...I'd been since 3:34 that morning, so I was really zonked by the time we finally made it back home around noon.

  11. Yay! Congrats on completing another DAMtoDSM race :)

  12. It's great that you do this race every year! I find the earlier I have to be out the door for a race the more I struggle to nail my fueling (I usually under-fuel) You did a great job powering through! Do you think the organizers will return to the original 20K route once the construction is complete?

    1. No doubt, I made the under-fueling mistake on this one. I probably should have waited to eat my oatmeal upon arrival in Des Moines (or even on the shuttle bus)...but, it would have been cold (yuck). I need to figure out a better strategy for that, because it was a struggle forcing it down at 4:00 in the morning, LOL. They had already planned on changing the distance to 13.1 before they knew about the construction. I sincerely hope they get some input from other racers (I'm going to express my disappointment as well). I understand that 13.1 is far more common, but this race is a unique event and that 20K distance was one of the things that really made it so epic.