Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Des Details of Des Moines

For Des Moines I packed lightly with only a carry-on. I’d checked the weather for a while and the lows in the 40’s with highs in the 60's had me packing my Marathon Maniacs singlet and a short sleeve shirt. Of course I had my shoes, shorts, socks and fuel belt as well. I’d run plenty of runs along the beach with starting temps in the 40’s so I figured a short sleeve would be fine. I had a throw away sweatshirt too and at the last minute I threw in my gloves.

When I arrived in Des Moines at 4:30 in the afternoon, I realized I had underestimated the feel of 40 degree weather. At that point, in what should have been about the warmest part of the day, the temperature was 48-degrees. The heater in the shuttle stop felt good.

I checked into the hotel and then walked over to the expo. I was staying at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. It is in an historic building. The décor was dated by had a certain charm. The walk to the expo was about ¾ of a mile. I was glad to have my micro fleece jacket with me. On the way I passed a Walgreens and made a mental note to stop there on the way back to get some Gatorade to fill my water bottles. As I walked I began worrying about whether my short sleeve shirt was going to cut it in the morning. I’d already written off any idea of wearing the singlet.

Bib and packet pick up went smoothly. The expo was about the size you’d expect for a small city marathon. I’d looked around the expo a little by then and had bought myself a new larger, zippered pocket to hold my gus on the fuel belt The race shirt was a long sleeve tech shirt. I considered wearing that in the race over my short sleeve. But then I started thinking about all the negative mojo I’d read about from wearing a race shirt before you’ve actually earned it. I finally decided to pick up a long sleeve tech shirt. I debated between an alien green, that would have matched my shoes, or simple black. The black one won out. I decided it might not be such a bad idea to channel a little bit of Donald on race day. He likes to race in black and he’s the one that put the negative mojo race shirt idea out there in the first place. (BTW, I still have the shirt from the 2008 Big Sur Marathon stuck way up in my closet. I wasn’t able to run that race and I’ve never worn the shirt. I plan on running that race some day and I wasn’t going to let that shirt get in my way).

The pasta dinner was decent. No tickets were required; they crossed your name off a list as you went in. I sat with some folks from the Chicago area. The speakers were Terry Hitchcock, Charlie Engel and Jeff Galloway. They each had some good stuff to say. On the way back to the hotel, I tried to stop by the Walgreens. It was already closed at 8:00 on a Saturday night. Des Moines doesn’t exactly have a thriving night life.

I ended up watching “I Am Legend” in my room and then laid out all my gear before getting some sleep. Since I was planning on wearing both the short sleeve and the long sleeve shirt, I pinned my number onto my shorts; something I don’t think I’ve ever done before.

I woke up a on my own just a little before the alarm went off at 6:00 after a good night’s rest. I made my traditional oatmeal by warming the water in the in room coffee pot and eating it out of the coffee mug. I’d brought along my own plastic spoon. I laid in bed and watched the local morning news and weather. Since upping the morning food intake seemed to work so well for David in Hartford I had an energy bar about an hour later along with some coffee. I got dressed and applied the Body Glide to my thighs and feet and headed down toward the race start around 7:30. I wore a throw away sweatshirt on top of the tech shirts. The plan was to run with it until it was no longer necessary. I freaked myself out a little with the 33 degree temperature the weather people were talking about all morning on the news. After using the port-o-pot I lined up in the staring corral with the 4:10 people. There was still about 20 minutes before race start.

I soon realized that the sweatshirt wasn’t going to be necessary. Although my intent was to toss it off, I have a hard time throwing away a perfectly usable sweat shirt so I got out of the corral and left it at the bag check. When I got back to the starting area the corral was overflowing and people were lined up on the sidewalks. There was little hope of getting back up to the 4:10 pace group.

The race started right on time and it took me 2:00 to get onto the street and across the starting mats. My panic goal became to catch the 4:10 pace group as quickly as possible and then hang with them throughout the race. I’d picked up a pace tattoo at the expo and had it folded up in the pouch of my fuel belt as a back up.

I was so intent on catching up to the pace group I ran right by the Iowa State Capital building and the Mile 1 marker and never saw either of them. I’d upped my run/walk interval to 6:15/0:45 and started it soon after the race started and kept with it all the way to the end. I managed to spot the Mile 2 marker at 18:13, but still hadn’t seen the pace group. Soon after that we left downtown and entered some of the prettiest neighborhoods. Around Mile 3 the half marathoners veered left while the rest of us headed up our first hill. I really enjoy hills. The hills were small in comparison to the ones in Missouri but they were hills none the less. The rollers continued for the next 4 miles or so down some nice tree lined streets. Around Mile 6 there was a female guitarist/vocalists whose beat matched my pace perfectly. I thought how nice it would have been to have her following me along the entire way.

I periodically checked my time against the pace chart in by belt. At Mile 6 I was at 55:26, a few minutes ahead of the project 57:13. I was happy to have a little cushion assuming I’d need it later on. I still had a long way to go.

Soon after mile 8 we came to little keyhole loop in the course. It was our first chance to seem some of the folks that were ahead of us. I saw the 3:30 and 3:45 pace groups heading back. I never did find the 4:10 pacer.

After that we entered about 8 miles of basic straight away on an out and back section of the route. At Mile 10 we got a good look at some of the really fast guys on their way back at around Mile 14. On the long section of Kingman Blvd it seemed like some of the locals hadn’t realized it was marathon morning. They were trying to drive across and down the course. The local law enforcement did a great job of keeping the cars out of our way. The runners were far enough apart that they could allow a car every now and then to cross our paths. Mile 12 included the lap around the wonderfully soft Drake University track A mile later I was half way done. I checked my clock. I was at 1:58:01 at the 13 mile mark. I pulled out the pace chart and saw that I was supposed to be there at 2:50. Something didn’t compute. The pace chart was supposed to be a tattoo but I was using it as a chart so I was reading the number backwards in mirror image. I was supposed to be at the half at 2:05, duh half of 4:10. I was almost exactly 7:00 ahead of schedule. I’d been running 8:50 miles consistently from mile 9 through mile 14.

There was a slight rise after coming out of the track back onto the roads. My legs felt it a lot more than I expected and I began to worry that I’d pushed it too soon. Mile 15, my longest mile of the day, came in at 10:24 and included a bathroom break.

Just before Mile 16 we left the streets of Des Moines for the bike paths. We ran the bike paths through several parks and along the Raccoon River for the next 9 miles. Miles 16 and 17 were slight down hills and I knocked those off in 8:40 and 8:37.

Since my water belt only had water rather than my usual Gatorade I was diligent about getting the Gatorade in at the water stops. I’d started my Gu’s around Mile 7 or so and had half of one every couple of miles. I used 3 gels and sucked on 2 Clif blocks.

Somewhere around Mile 12 or so, I’d taken my thumbs out of my gloves. Keeping the gloves half on, half off seemed to keep my hands at the right temp. As the day warmed up a bit, we’d hit some nice sections of the route where I’d debate about removing the long sleeve shirt and then we’d turn a corner and get blasted by the chilly wind, so I never did take it off. By the last 2 miles in town I was plenty warm enough but didn’t want to stop to take the time.

When I hit the 20 Mile marker I was at 3:01:28. I didn’t need to look at the pace chart to realize that I was ahead of the 4:10 plan. I knew that I only needed to finish the last 6.2 miles in just under an hour to go sub 4:00. My mantra became “just don’t slow down” The next 6.2 miles were done in 8:36, 9:13, 9:03, 9:00, 9:40 (as we climbed up from the river back onto MLK Jr. Parkway. That was a little discouraging but I managed to hang on), 9:12 and 2:01. At the finish line my watch read 3:58:13. I was very, very happy with that result. I never in a million years expected to run that. After I stopped running I realized just how stiff and sore my legs were. I can’t remember the last marathon that they hurt this much. I hobbled around the finish area for a few minutes.

The finish area had some great food. There was the usual water, bananas, oranges and bagels. There was also yogurt, pulled pork sandwiches, sliced apples, ice cream, potato chips and Erin Baker’s Breakfast Cookies. At the result tent, I picked up a printed result sheet like that comes from a receipt printer. It read 3:58:11. The text messages that my wife and Joe received gave my time as 3:58:09 and the official results posted on the website later say 3:58:10, a second or two one way or the other doesn’t change the sub 4:00 finish or the satisfaction.

Unexpected result notwithstanding, the IMT Des Moines is a highly recommended race. The race is big enough that you are never alone, but not so big that you spend a lot of time and energy jockeying for position. The course is absolutely beautiful. The downtown area is spotless and lined with flower pots. The tree lined streets with fall color and the houses are nice to look out. The aid stations were numerous, always well stocked and staffed. The extensive bike path system is a joy to run, to be away from traffic and a cambered street is nice. Spectators aren’t a huge factor for me, but they were plenty and seemed to be enjoying themselves. The medal is substantial. I commented to the girl that gave my mine about how heavy it was. She said I’d earned it – Nice! The post race food was plentiful and as good as any I’d seen elsewhere. Before and after the race we all got plenty of emails from the RD keeping us up to date. I really liked the finish time print out. It will fit nicely in the scrapbook Lisa has been keeping of my marathons.

Next fall if you are looking for a nice little city marathon to run, I would highly recommend you consider Des Moines. Just be sure to visit the local museums on Friday, Saturday or Sunday because they are all closed on Monday. And bring your own Gatorade or buy it early. It's all good!


Pat said...

congrats on a well run race. And the train didn't get in your way either.

Anne said...

It really does sound like an idyllic marathon course - and morning. I'm glad everything aligned and maybe it's a good thing you lost your original pace group at the start. Again, great performance!

Donald said...

It was the black shirt!! Game face, baby.

Congrats on an awesome race. It's a great feeling - even with the pain - during those final miles when you're cruising ahead of your goal pace. Glad you were able to appreciate the experience in what sounds like beautiful surroundings.

Joe said...

Great report, Darrell... great description of what sounds like a very nice course. I'll have to try's only a 9 hour drive...closer than Memphis.

A LS Black tech shirt looks very good underneath the MM Singlet. Try that sometime, you fashionista dude!!

I'm impressed how you kept your wits about you in the early miles. Oh the joy of saving the sweatshirt, eh?? You ran by feel and responded well to the opportunity.

I'm thrilled you held in there so well...a few miles just over 9 in the last 6 is no problem. And all of this with a marvelously disciplined run/walk routine.

This is a day and race to "keep in a bottle" all came together and you can enjoy that for a long time.

Fabulous, was great to share the Sunday morning, at a distance, via the texts. Even during the sermon!!! Happy for you!!

Wes said...

Yea, you definitely earned it, and sub four is very nice :-) Congratulations again. I look HAWT in black too hahahaha! I'm sure you are the same!! fashionista... ROFL...

Scott Keeps Running said...

Nice job Darrell. Did you get charged extra for the heavy medal on the flight home? ;)

Sarah said...

Congrats on the sub 4! Now there is no doubt you are back.

I totally understand about the sweatshirt. I have a "throw-away" jacket that I've managed to hold on to through a number of races.

Dori said...

Sub-4 hours? Way to go! Great race report--you make Des Moines sound very attractive.

Jean said...

What a great race you had, Darrell! Congratulations! It was a lot of fun to read your report and remember all of the various landmarks. I am glad you had such a great experience, and I hope you are recovering well!

David said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your report. I was with you all the way. I feared the panic start was going to be a problem for you but it wasn't. That was a great time. (About as good as my age-adjusted PR time in Hartford.) Sweet to get the 15th down under good conditions.