Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Race Recap: State #9: Iowa

Race: IMT Des Moines Marathon
Date: October 16, 2016
Result: 5:47:26

This was by far the most neglected training cycle I have gone through, and it showed! I put in 204 miles in training since Chicago Ragnar in June (18 weeks), a paltry 11 miles a week. Sixteen percent of those miles can be accounted for in two runs - a half marathon and a 20 miler. Compare that to the same time frame in 2013 when I put in 459 miles. I developed a horrible habit of pushing off my night run to the next morning, then after waking up too late to run in the morning, I'd tell myself I would certainly run that evening. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Since we would be gone for all of 36 hours it would be just the two of us while Mae's mom stayed home with the kids. While packing our overnight bag the Saturday morning before the race, Mae e-checked into the Hampton and was like, why'd you get two Queen beds? I can't remember what I did yesterday, much less the details of a reservation I made months ago when I booked the race. I told her it was probably the cheapest room they had but in my mind I was pretty sure I booked a King room.

A completely uneventful drive to Des Moines is uneventful when the most memorable thing about the drive was wondering what this white stripe was that showed up seemingly every quarter mile on the highway. I'm running out of states within driving range where we can drive home the same day already. Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are the last of them. We pulled up to the hotel just after check-in time and as we waited in line to pick up our keys an agitated red-headed woman in her 50's was arguing with the clerk. She was pissed because she booked a Two Queen room and her system had a King room for her. Since she was sharing the room with 3 other women it was absolutely not going to work for them. I jumped in and offered to trade rooms with her and it all worked out for both of us. Her roommates were coming up from running the Kansas City marathon today and were doing the I-35 challenge. I plan on doing something similar with Wisconsin and Michigan with the mittens challenge.

View from the Hampton.
We walked over to the expo at the Iowa Events Center a few blocks away, which was a great opportunity to stretch our legs after being in the car for 5 hours. As a Pokemon Go player I pulled out my phone and hoped to catch a Dratini or two along the Riverwalk but there wasn't much of anything around even for a downtown area. A bit of dread began to set in as I saw that the roads were certainly not flat. At the expo, legendary running coach Jeff Galloway was the keynote there and was manning the first table as you walk in.

The volunteer who gave me my packet enthusiastically shouted "Cubbies!" at me when I told him I was from Chicago.  I shrugged and told him I was a White Sox fan.  "But still, Cubbies!" he replied. For those not in the know, Des Moines is basically Wrigleyville West, as their AAA team plays ball here.  Most of the people walking around downtown were wearing Cubs gear, especially since they're in the middle of a deep run to the title.  I smiled and thanked him and on the way out picked up some Body Glide which I forgot to pack.

Dessert at the Spaghetti Works
The Spaghetti Works seemed like a good place to get some carbs since it was on the way back to the hotel and because it was just after 5pm we only had to wait about 10 minutes. It was nice to have some time to ourselves. We talked about possibly squeezing in another race between now and Disneyworld in January over her chicken parmigiana and my chicken alfredo.  Their artichoke dip was super heavy and we definitely overdid it with a chocolate chip pocket cookie for dessert.  As we waddled out of there the line had to have multiplied by an order of magnitude as there were runners lined out the door waiting for a table like it was Black Friday.
Waiting for the start

Back at the hotel, Mae was pretty anxious about her 5k and she was doing exercises to relieve her shin splints. We talked about how maybe once the kids are out of the house and we become empty nesters then maybe Mae will train for a marathon.

This may have been the best sleep I've ever had the night before 26.2, since I knew I wasn't ready for the race I had no expectations other than to finish.  The forecast was a high of 82°F and I was worried I would take longer than 6 hours, finishing after our late checkout time of 2pm.  I told Mae to just check out of the hotel when she was done with her race.
Hilly first half

Morning fog
Stepping on the course at the start line I felt like I was stepping in front of a firing squad; I just needed a blindfold and a cigarette.  I saw them setting up the tables and unpacking the medals already and I thought, maybe if I just stand here long enough they'll just give me one.  At 8 o'clock the corrals started moving and I kissed Mae goodbye and jumped into the Corral D entrance. There were two sets of timing mats at the start so I started my Garmin early, so that was kind of weird.  We started running as we hit the first mats, turned the corner and stopped to walk further, then began to run again as we crossed a second set of timing mats.  I later found out the first set was for the 5k runners.

Doing a lap at Drake Stadium
The course really had it all. After snaking through the downtown buildings for the first mile we headed west toward the hills and quickly split off from the half marathoners who started together with us. We had the typical 2 or 3:1 ratio of half and full runners, and as we began to climb the hills towards Drake University the crowded path quickly thinned out. Running through the fog was a nice feeling, and although the roads were wet, they weren't slick. My friend Danielle suggested via facebook to run smart, and like the smart ass I am I told her after running the first 10k that I was doing differential equations in my head.  I did hold back at an 11.5 minute pace, and I did feel better than I thought I would at this point on the course.

We spent a few miles running through a nice hilly neighborhood as part of a 5 mile long out and back.  So at mile 5 the elites began to pass us on the other side of the street where they were cruising past mile 10.  I'm always awed at how much ground they cover with each stride with their 6 minute miles. The analytical chemist in me likes to compare marathons to a type of separation method, almost like a backwards size-exclusion chromatography where the course is the column and the runners are the molecules.  The elution order is determined by the fitness of the molecule, where they come out of the column first, followed by average sized molecules and the largest and slowest molecules like me kind of linger around and take forever to finish.

Mile 8 brought us to the football stadium at Drake University, where we were treated to a lap around their track that encircled the field.  There was a live video feed that broadcasted us running on their video board.

Jeff Galloway (green shirt) on the course
As we approached the beautiful Bill Riley Trail at around mile 13, I was running uphill with my head down and literally ran into Jeff Galloway. At 71 years old, he's still killing it on the course.  His running pace was faster than mine so he would pass me then I would catch up and pass him when he would walk. Overall he was keeping a 5 hour pace but he mentioned to one of the other runners that he doesn't pay any attention to a target pace; he runs by feel.  We yo-yo'd like this for over the course of a couple miles, until he and his band of merry followers finally pulled away near mile 16.

The support presence is absolutely great in this race.  There was always staff biking the course in view, and they all had candy/first aid and I gobbled up every opportunity to get red vines, gummy bears and sour patch kids.  I only ended up having half a pack of Clif Bloks the whole time. I made a point to thank all the officers that were controlling the traffic, and the water stations all had the right mix of gatorade every time.  I also ate more oranges than I ever did on course, and I had flashbacks of having oranges while doing the walkathons, a fundraiser at St. Richard while in grade school.

Bridge over Grays Lake
Crossing the bridge over Grays Lake the red-headed woman from our hotel cruised right past me, and I gave her a head nod and wave. She had an easy smile and an even easier running gait.  There was another woman that was being photographed by the bridge by her significant other from above, and as she yelled out to him, I love you!  He shouted back I love you too! And I couldn't help but yell out, And I love both of you!  That put me in a silly mood, but shortly after it got depressing again.  Since the last 9 miles of the half and full courses are the same route, I was seeing mile marker number 4 for the half after having actually run 17 miles.  It really messes with your head.

A woman handing out pretzels caught my eye with her 2016 Chicago marathon shirt and I pulled over to ask her how her race went. She went on to give me her full race recap and before I knew it I was in a long conversation on the side of the road in the middle of my own race. She ran Naperville in '15 and Chicago last week, and was looking to run Iowa next year. I told her about the Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati since she loved hills. It was a nice 5 minute diversion until I realized the guy I was keeping pace with was already beyond the horizon. Yikes. I finally saw Mae near mile 20 and I told her I felt really good.

Fiddler on the trail.
Now don't get me wrong, I would never cheat myself out of running the full course, but when your tank is completely empty, the thought of making a bee line to the finish does cross your mind. There was an intersection near mile 21.5 where there are runners turning in all four directions and as I was figuring out where to go this guy sitting on the curb pointed me to go right.  I look to the right and there's another out and back that went beyond the horizon and I couldn't help but blurt out a prolonged "fuuuuu@#k" which drew a chuckle out of pointing guy. Over in the distance on top of a hill was the capitol building, and not knowing the course I thought I guess this is as close as we get to that building, which I was totally cool with.    

Unfortunately when I made it back to that intersection a mile later we turned right for that capitol building. I kept thinking that I could maybe squeak under my personal worst which was in Arkansas.  I had the time of 5:46 that I was chasing but felt pretty defeated at mile 23. At the top of the climb I laughed as I looked down and saw that I had nailed that last mile in 18:07.  

At the top there were speakers where a band was done playing, but over their speakers they queued up one of my favorite karaoke tracks of all time - Sublime's Santeria. As soon as the familiar opening finished I couldn't help but start belting out the vocals at the top of my lungs as I shuffled by. "I don't practice Santeria!! I ain't got no crystal ball!! WELL I HAD A MILLION DOLLARS, BUT I - I SPENT IT ALL!!!" I think I frightened the runners in front of me because they all turned around to see what the hell was going on back there. I looked around too, confused as to where that was coming from.  

Climb to the Capitol
Near the finish I also saw a grey haired man wearing a Medtronics Twin Cities Marathon which had been on my radar for Minnesota for a few years now.  I asked him how the course was and he said without hesitation, "Best in the world!  Ran it 32 times!"  I guess I'll see you next year then, I told him.

At the home stretch where I could see the finish line this crazy guy came up to me and started yelling at me to finish trying to get me to run faster.  I didn't want a repeat of Arkansas so I trotted, but he wasn't satisfied with my speed.  It was so awkward because I was wearing earbuds and couldn't hear what he was saying at me.  He was like a some deranged hype man.  I know he was trying to help and I'm sure enjoyed the attention of getting the crowd riled up but I was like whatever.

Iowa National Guard Water Station
One of the perks of being a back of the packer is you do tend to finish alone, which is kind of a double edged sword.  The cool part is the announcer calls out your name as you cross the finish, which happened again here, and the not so cool part is that everyone can see how awful you look; there's no place to hide.  But I pushed through, got my medal from a volunteer who said, "Great job Marlo!" and found Mae at the finish.  After a quick selfie I skipped out on all the finisher's goodies and we went straight to the car to begin our drive home.

I was feeling pretty sick as we hit up the closest Arby's, and as I sat there in the passenger seat in the parking lot hunched over my Arby's Max sandwich, I declared the end of this post race tradition.  I'm going to need to get my protein to aid in muscle recovery another way moving forward.

Although this was my personal worst, now I know what my baseline is with virtually no training. It's time to build on this baseline again and work on my fitness again.

Travel: ~$60 for gas
Race Registration: $93.26
Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Des Moines Downtown: $235.87

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