Monday, October 22, 2012

Des Moines Marathon Race Report

What a whirlwind weekend! Definitely an example of "playing hard" part of Work Hard, Play Hard if you consider running 26.2 miles 'playing' which I do:) We started off Saturday bright and early with our 1 mile run, then hopped in the car and headed to a cute town just west of Des Moines, called Adel, home of the Westergaards!

Me with Sara, Linda, and Dean Westergaard!

We had an absolutely perfect pre-race evening with Sara and her wonderful parents. From the home cooked meal to the conversation to the great overall hospitality, it was really a special night. And I slept waaayyy better than usual in the dark and quiet of rural Iowa! I so wish I could sleep that well here in Chicago!

Sara, me and Adam.
I had absolutely no nerves about this race. Yes, it was marathon #12 so I should be a bit of a pro at this, but I still usually have a little bit of dread/excitement, some degree of restless sleep the night before and I ALWAYS have a moment race morning when I think "why do I do this to myself?". But not this time! I've not been feeling great lately- run down, tired, some mild GI issues- but all that completely vanished race morning and I felt the best I have in weeks! I attribute this to a few things. First of all, my goal for the race was to have fun and not get short of breath. So, obviously, I wasn't shooting for a PR or really any time in particular. That essentially eliminated any pre-race nerves I would otherwise have. Secondly, my last race was a bit of a nightmare. Med City was hot and unpleasant from the 0.5 mile mark on. It was really no fun at all. I don't believe I enjoyed a single minute of that race. (Do you get the point of how miserable it was?) So I KNEW I was going to finish Des Moines and I knew there would be many moments I enjoyed so I was basically guaranteed it would be a better marathon than my last one. Thirdly, I got to run with Sara! This was Sara's second marathon, and I knew it was going to be a great day for her. I mostly run by myself so running part of a race with a friend was a special treat. Fourthly (is that a word?),  I was excited to have the Westergaards as spectators and to see Jason and Anna-Lisa at the race as well. Finally, Adam got to start the race with us until he broke away at mile 2.5 for the 1/2 course. So, lots of things on my side!

Having a good time. And, yes, I realize my
outfit doesn't match. I didn't try the shirt
and shorts together before I packed. Ooops!
We timed race morning out just perfectly. We found nice indoor restrooms, proceeded outside where it was just a touch cold, but not too bad. We walked to the start toward a big sign that read "Athletes Here". Figured that meant us. But when we walked in we saw a bunch of really tall, really skinny, mostly Kenyan appearing folks and realized they meant "Elite Athletes". Ooops! So we made our way back to the commoners, found our spots, and just a couple minutes later the Star Spangled Banner was sung and we were off. So no time to sit around full of dread shivering at the start, which is a good thing.

The course was absolutely beautiful. In fact, of the 12 marathons I've completed, I'd say this was #3 in terms of scenery behind Maui (of course) and Whidbey Island. I really wasn't expecting Des Moines, Iowa to be so beautiful! But it was. The first 8 miles or so I stayed with Sara and we ran up and down hills, hills and more hills. None were too terrible, but on a few of the uphills, I got a little short of breath for just a couple minutes at a time, so took it really easy on the downhills to re-equilibrate. If I had been racing I would have FLOWN down those hills and loved doing it, but the goal of this day was a long, slow, enjoyable training run, so I kept things in check. Around Mile 8, I had to stop to pee so wished Sara luck and found a porta-potty. I thought it best that Sara and I separate at some point anyway because I knew, I just knew, she was in for a massive PR that I wouldn't be able to keep up with if my plan was to have an easy race.

Still smiling at Mile 24.

For first time spectators (or should I say "viewers"?) the Westergaards were masters! They were everywhere! I think I saw them 8+ times on the course! And that was after I made their job harder by splitting off from Sara. They were so enthusiastic! I so appreciated seeing them out there. I also got to see Anna-Lisa twice which was super-fun AND I got to cheer for Jason since part of the course was an out-and-back so he was whizzing by Mile 13 while I was near 9 or so.

The first 8 miles with Sara flew by. Miles 8-13 were fine, no big deal. Throughout the race, I ate a ton- 1.5 bags of gu chomps, probably a whole orange and multiple handfuls of twirlers and gummy bears. The course support was incredible! There were PLENTY of water/garorade stations, fully stocked. They handed out orange slices and pieces of banana at the Gu stops- I think there were 4 in total. They really raised the bar for what I'd like at a race. How wonderful to eat fruit during the run!

Sara smiles her way to a massive PR!
With awesome purple shoes!!
For just a minute at mile 15, I thought ug, I have so far to go why am I doing this? But I quickly redirected myself, reminding myself that I've done this so many times before, I will be fine, I will finish. It's too early to think about what's left, just keep going. And I did. I didn't dwell, I just re-focused back on running. Experience helps a lot in the mental game of running marathons.

Miles 16 and 17 were absolutely glorious. I don't know why. Probably a combination of endorphins kicking in (yeah, it takes 2 hours of running for me to get a runner's high), a slight downhill, seeing Sara's folks, taking off my long sleeve shirt, eating more orange, a good song ....the whole combination resulted in my running with a huge smile. I was just really grateful to be able to do this. To run for hours, comfortably. COMFORTABLY! Never would I have thought when I started running 6 years ago that running for 4 hours could be comfortable. But it can be! Yesterday I ran a marathon without getting short of breath, without really pushing myself physically. I know that sounds like a weird thing to be a proud of, maybe a dubious accomplishment to the more type A, competitive folks, but to me it says I'm in pretty good cardiovascular shape. I can truck along, doing my own thing, enjoying the experience of running through a beautiful town on a gorgeous course on what ended up being a sunny wonderful day, and feel good about it all. I really do love marathons.
Immediately after her MASSIVE PR!!

There were certainly sections- no more than 5 minutes at a time and no more than 30 minutes of the whole race- where my legs were sore and I would have preferred to stop running. But on balance, I was content.

The back half of the course was mostly through parks on paved trail. I saw a bird fly into a lake and catch a fish. I looked at the pretty fall leaves. I really loved running on a path over Gray's Lake near mile 24. Also around mile 24 I thought about how Sara must be just about finishing and how excited I was about her PR. I knew if she was in front of me, time wise that would be a PR for her and I was just thrilled:) 99% because I'm proud of her and happy for her accomplishment but I'll admit it, 1% because if she does well, maybe I'll continue to have a race and running partner in the years to come:) But bottom line, the girl ran a 4:06:07, a PR by 40 minutes!! Sara, you are awesome.

In attempts to be true to my don't get short of breath, take it easy day, for the last 6 miles or so I employed a run-to-one-or-two-songs, then walk-for-1-minute strategy. It was starting to warm up and I think if I ran straight through I might have been working too hard. When I got to mile 25 I said out loud (no one was around...I don't think), "Just one mile, you do It's NOTHING" and brought it home. A silly grin appeared on my face for the last quarter mile. I was almost done! The race felt good! It was just a good day. What a great use of 4 hours, 22 minutes and 27 seconds.

The triumphant post-race trio!

Smiling in the home stretch!
(Though I do look a bit tired, eh?)

A special thanks to Dean and Linda Westergaard. It was so kind of them to invite us into their home, to feed us, to house us, to spectate so effectively and enthusiastically! Just great folks. Thanks to Sara for being so willing to join me in marathons and triathlons....I love having her as a training partner....even if it is virtual most of the time. Thanks also to A-L and Jason for sticking around for my finish even though it was an HOUR after Jason's (yeah, he's fast). And finally, thanks to my amazing husband who had a great 1/2 marathon despite very minimal training and who happily drove to Iowa on Saturday and back on Sunday without a word of complaint. He's such a trooper and so supportive of my running no matter what my goals are. I love you, hon.

And, most importantly.....WE GOT IOWA!!! Marathon #12 and State #8, done and done:)

Immediately after the race. Felt recovered instantly.....
except for sore legs, of course!

Holding up "one" and "two" to make 12! I practiced
this for a bit to make sure I'd do it correctly (two on my left hand,
one on my right). I bet I looked crazy silly, as usual:)
(Just as a caveat, and perhaps in a weird way, motivation for people who still have trouble getting out there to run, even as I write what I think is a pretty uplifting post about my race, I'm not looking forward to my mile run tonight. Even though it's just a mile, nowhere near 26.2, sometimes running is hard, even for us goofballs who love it. So keep trying, keep getting out there, one day you too will have a series of wonderful miles that make all the training worth it. I promise!)

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great race! I didn't really enjoy the 1/2 I ran there, so this might be a great course for my full. Congrats!