Tuesday, October 17, 2023

IMT Des Moines Half Marathon - 2023 recap

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.  

This past weekend was the 22nd year of the IMT Des Moines Marathon, and my 13th year participating in the festivities. No doubt, this is something I look forward to every year and I'm no stranger to all the fun: 

***I have run the Half Marathon in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 20152016, 2018, 2019 and 2021
***I ran the Full Marathon in 2014
***I ran the 5K in 2015 (as part of the 5K/13.1 Combo) and also in 2022 
***I ran the Mercy Live Up Loop 5-mile in 2016 (as part of the 5 Mile/13.1 Combo) and also in 2017 and 2021

medals from years past

As mentioned, this year there was an element of redemption. Last year, I had to concede my half marathon registration and run the 5K, due to some untimely hip/glute/hamstring issues. This year, I was primed and ready to return to the 13.1 course and make things right.

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 stats:
 Official time: 2:00:37
**890th out of 2664 - overall
**282nd out of 1413 - females
**10th out of 78 - age division

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

A few final thoughts:
**I loved the new race course! It had many of the same streets and landmarks as the previous route, but I thought it was even more scenic.
**I'm not usually a Garmin stalker, but I had to be for this race. I really wanted that sub-2 badly, so I knew I needed to keep an eye on my mile splits.
**I did notice my Garmin beeping at the mile splits much sooner than most of the marked mile-marker banners on the race course, especially in the second half of the race. I'm a seasoned runner, after all, and know how to run the tangents. It wasn't just me who thought the race course ran long, but numerous others (both for the half and the full). It was in no way a deal-breaker, but a definite buzzkill.
**This, indeed, was a much-needed redemption race for me. It's been a long time since I sub-2'd a half marathon, and that 9:05 average pace felt pretty sweet (even if it's not going to show on any official records).

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? 

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

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  1. Fabulous job, Kim!! You really gave it your all and you delivered!! Well done! I am especially impressed by your mile 13. That's as good as a negative split to me!

    Such a shame that it was the year of a new, too long course... I bet you weren't the only one who was frustrated by that. Were there any repercussions on social media?

    1. I haven't seen any statements from the race officials, but I have seen several comments from others who had similar distances show on their Garmins (or GPS/timing devices). Thankfully, I have the satisfaction of knowing I ran well, and had my desired pace. I just feel bad for those who may have been trying to qualify for a bigger race...that little extra distance could make a difference in their "official" time.

  2. sounds like a great comeback race for you after having to cancel last year. Too bad the course was long. My watch always seems to show me running a little longer than the distance. I'd still call it a win! Congratulations to you!

    1. Thanks, Deborah! I am calling it a big win ;-) My watch usually shows me a little long, as well, but never that much, LOL.

  3. Congrats on running a great race! That's the prize that you were really after.

    With that said, whyyyyyyyy are race courses long????????????? This used to drive me nuts. I mean if it's a little long no problem, but almost 2/10ths of a mile long? That clocks to the halfs that I've run. I know Garmins aren't 100% accurate and I know there are tangents, but still the difference shouldn't be that much.

    1. You said it perfectly. I probably did run it a little "long" on my end, but there's no way I'd be that far off. Barb's watch showed the same distance, and I had a marathon runner tell me his said 26.5!

  4. Congrats on the race, the negative split and the good finishing time.
    In the photos you look fast.
    I miss to run a half marathon again.

    1. Thanks, Stephano!! Although I was starting to feel a little tired in the final miles, I also was feeling pretty strong ;-)

  5. Awesome job #kimtwin, especially on a long course! I'm still amazed that courses run long because I know race directors spend so much time measuring the courses lol.

    1. Agreed! I can't remember seeing that the course was certified, but I assume it was. Nonetheless, I still love this race and everything about the weekend of activities the event has for all its participants.

  6. Oh, HOW ANNOYING! I mean like you said you ran the pace you wanted and finished strong, which is the important thing- but you really wanted the satisfaction of seeing 1:59:xx. But what can you do? In the end, it doesn't matter. You know how fast you ran! Congratulations on a great race.

    1. Yes, it was annoying, and disappointing for those first 10 minutes after I finished. But, I have the 9:05 pace to prove I did it ;-) I'm good with that!

  7. Congrats! It is so frustrating when your running watch is off (or the course is long). I get so confused about my splits and how fast I need to run to reach my goals. You still did amazing!

    1. I was doing so much "runner's math" in my head in those final miles, LOL! Seeing the finish time, with what I initially thought was for 13.1 miles, really had me confused!

  8. I love reading blogs but don't often comment on them. But after meeting you during the race I can't resist. Seeing you on the course was definitely a highlight for me as well! Thank you for another great race recap! I agree with all your observations about the race on Sunday. I was pleasantly surprised that the Water Works portion wasn't as bad as I expected. The last couple of years that portion seemed so much longer than it really was, so adding the second small loop worried me. But it was actually quite nice! And good to know I'm not the only one who thought the course seemed a little long. After the race one of my first comments to my husband was that the mile markers seemed off in the second half of the race. Oh well, good to hear you had a good race!

    1. It was so nice meeting you as well!!!! It's always a pleasant surprise to have someone say "Hey, I think I know you!" I assume you finished well ahead of me, you had a decent pace when you passed me, so I know you secured a solid sub-2, LOL ;-). I hope to see you at another race sometime !!

  9. Congrats Kim you ran a fantastic race! It sounds like they've made some nice changes to the race course - I always find the course measurement vs. my Garmin a challenge. WHo's got time for runner's math lol ;)

    1. Thank you, Michelle ;-) Seriously! My brain hurt by the time I crossed the finish line from all the runner's math I'd been calculating!

  10. Great job! I agree, even if it's not officially in the books, you got that goal and should be very happy. No fun when a few seconds takes away that joy, but it happens to us all I think. The biggest win is how you picked up the pace those last few miles I think!

    1. And speaking of course distances, my Chicago marathon run (according to Garmin) was only 26.17 and my husband's run was 27.23 miles!! So odd. I didn't even get credit for running a full marathon. Lame!

  11. Nice job, Kim! You had a great race even if the course measured long.The pace on your Garmin is the one that tells the real story.

    Back in the day, the Marine Corps Marathon and the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler were favorite races that I did year after year, and both are races you've run!

  12. Great job, Kim! Bummer on the course being long. I also have a few favorite races I do every year - Shamrock Shuffle and 4 on the 4th of July.