Maybe it was the intrigue of redemption.
Or, it could have been a long-standing loyalty.
Perhaps a little of both?
Whatever the reason, The IMT Des Moines Marathon weekend is one that I cannot stay away from.
Race day arrived, bringing with it decent race-day-appropriate temps.
|48F (with 8mph wind) at the start, escalating to 50F (with 11mph wind) by mid-morning
We'd had similar weather conditions all week, so I'd had ample opportunity to play around with race day wardrobe options. I went with the tried and true tank top with arm warmers under a 1/4-zip jacket and capri leggings.
Based on my recent fitness activity, my Garmin had predicted a 1:56:47 finish time. Although I knew that was a very lofty goal (and a very unlikely one at that), it did give me a boost of confidence. A more realistic goal was a much-coveted sub-2:00. It had been several years since I'd finished under the 2-hour mark (May 2018), so I was well overdue. Nonetheless, my ultimate goal was to have a solid race, a strong pace, and finish with a smile on my face.
Lining up was a very crowded adventure. I know there were more than the usual number of participants, since there were some Twin Cities Marathoners in our midst, but it seemed like there was less space to spread out than usual. Side note: those of you who drink coffee, please consider a breath mint or a trusty piece of gum prior to the start line. In such crowded conditions, all your fellow runners will be most grateful, LOL.
Of course, Barb was there with me. You wouldn't expect anything less, would you?
After a 15-minute delay and a unique acoustic guitar rendition of the National Anthem, we were off! Surprisingly, the crowded line-up conditions didn't persist much further than a couple of blocks. By the time we made the right turn, off of Court Avenue and north onto 5th Avenue, there was ample room for everyone.
Often times, the first few miles are a crap shoot for me, but that wasn't the case this time. Almost immediately, right out of the gate, things felt good. I knew I had to try to stick with an approximate 9:05 pace to (hopefully) secure that sub-2 and still have some wiggle room. I'm not especially good at holding back, especially in those first few miles when everyone around me is running "fast."
The Mile-1 split popped up, showing 9:08, which was a huge relief. I hadn't gone out too fast. By now we were on Grand, heading west. The half marathoners were about to split-off, onto Fleur Drive, while the full marathoners would continue on Grand for awhile. By the time I'd made it to the Mile-2 mark, I was already regretting the capris (I should have worn shorts!) and had shed my gloves. I also saw the second mile spilt was 8:56...a touch too fast, but not a concern.
The next portion of the route has, historically, been my least favorite part of the race...Water Works Park. Only, this year, with the new route, we were entering the park about a mile earlier than we had in previous years. It's nearly a mile-long trek entering the park, another two miles or so running a big loop around the perimeter, then another mile coming back out. The big change this year was an added loop, near the back side of the park, which made the route much more interesting (IMO).
Hence, miles 3-9 encompassed this part of the race, and they were much more enjoyable this time around! Some highlights were (1) remembering to eat a few of my Honey Stinger chews at the 3-mile mark, (2) meeting Angela, a blog-reading gal who recognized me near the 5-mile mark, (3) discarding the jacket and securing it around my waist (all while keeping pace, LOL) near the halfway point, (4) catching up with Barb a short while later, and (5) remembering to eat a few more HS chews at the 8-mile mark as we were coming out of the park.
All this while, I kept glancing at the Garmin, as it beeped at the mile marks. I was still feeling great, and my pace was keeping steady.
Barb and I stayed together going into Grays Lake Park. We weren't chatting much, but it was nice having her nearby (she's a faster runner, who usually sub-2's, so it gave me a huge jolt of adrenaline knowing I was able to stay with her without much extra effort).
Another change to the route was running around Grays Lake in a clockwise direction, which was the total opposite of the old route. I passed the monumental 10-mile mark, and felt a mix of elation (knowing I only had 3.1 miles remaining) and apprehension (knowing it was now or never to hold tight and not let up).
The route veered off from the lake path to another path, which had a short out-and-back jaunt and brought us back via Meredith Trail. Now heading due east, the 11-mile mark was a short ways up ahead. Whew, almost there.
When I saw my 11-mile split, I noticed my watch showed my running time was at 1:40. Usually a 10-minute mile is pretty easy to hit, so I felt a comforting wave of relief wash over me. If I could run the two remaining miles slightly faster, I'd be assured of finishing under that 2-hour mark. I grabbed a few more HS chews, for one last kick of fuel.
So, off I went...
Somehow I'd lost Barb as we were making our way around Grays Lake, but I tried to just keep my focus on me at that point. I knew if I saw her pulling away, I'd be tempted to chase her, and I was fearful I'd crash and burn in the process.
Then, my 12-mile split popped up, showing 8:59! Holy cow, that gave me a little leverage. I didn't plan on walking through the last water station, so I just kept moving. I was definitely starting to feel fatigued, but I had a decent surge of mojo as well. Shortly after, we had the trail bridge to cross (now going north) which took us towards Principal Park (baseball stadium), and back to Court Avenue. My 13-mile split showed 8:53 (my fastest split of the day!), so it was just a (supposedly) short sprint to the finish line...
Only, that finish line seemed a lot further away. I did my best to give it my all, and willed my legs to go faster. When I made it across the timing mat, I felt relieved and oh-so-satisfied.
Then, I glanced at my watch. It showed 2:00:43, and my heart (momentarily) sank.
I glanced again, and it showed the 9:05 pace I'd been trying to keep all morning. I took another look, in confusion and disbelief, and saw that it showed 13.29 for the distance, instead of 13.1. Yes, 13.29!
To say I was momentarily disappointed would be an understatement. But, after a few minutes of catching my breath, I remembered that I had still run a solid race. Even though I wouldn't get an "official" finish time under that sought-after 2-hour mark, I still had run the sub-2 pace (I just had run further than the requisite 13.1 miles).
My splits tell an interesting story (which is not unusual, LOL). The first half of the race and the second are pretty equal, though the second half is slightly slower, so not a negative-split situation. Oh well. I find it interesting I still had that much "gas in the tank" to run the final 2.29 miles with such gusto!
Despite my initial disappointment (which was pretty short-lived #FirstWorldProblem), I still am in love with this event. It was a new course, with a new race director, so it may be just a case of a few bugs that need fixing (I have seen a lot of others saying they had the same discrepancy with their distances not syncing with the race course). But, the crowd support is amazing and so is the swag.
|instead of a tech shirt or jacket, participants received fleece vests
So, that's what went down on the streets of Des Moines at the 2023 IMT Des Moines Half Marathon. Now that I know I still have it in me, I'm gonna continue chasing that sub-2...and make it official at a future race.
Have you ever run a big race, only to have the race course run long (or short)? Any favorite races you find yourself doing every year?