The quest to play catch-up continues, and April/May were quite busy racing months! The HyVee Half Marathon was held on Sunday, April 26th as part of the HyVee Road Race series. It has typically been the culminating public race event in conjunction with the highly competitive Drake Relays, and this year also lined up with the RRCA National Convention. Since I was participating in the RRCA Coaching Certification program, it only seemed appropriate that I sign up for the half marathon as well. I’ve run this race in the past, most recently in 2012. At that time, it was known as the Drake Relays Half Marathon, and it has since been bought out by HyVee and restructured, including a new course. I had heard mixed reviews from friends about the new course, but the opportunity to run another “final” Iowa race with friends was too much to pass up!
Not only was I running the race this year, but I had been asked by a friend to pace him to a 1:45 finish, which was his half-marathon goal. Having just completed the Gambler Half Marathon, I knew that I could hit that mark, although it was a bit faster than one would normally aim for in a pacing capacity. I woke up far too early and met up with a few friends, including Tim, who I was pacing, and we carpooled down to the race in Des Moines. I often wonder how many additional hours of sleep my body would receive if I wasn’t a runner, and the early morning drive reminded me of that once again. Of course, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world!
The course is fairly flat, with a couple of more significant hills at miles 5 and 10, but still with only a hair over 400 feet of elevation gain. We got there in plenty of time to pick up our packets in the morning and walk back to our conveniently close parking space to drop off our bags, which was nice. Since it is a local race, there were quite a few fellow Vardos in attendance, so it was great to hang out and chat with everyone before the race. The weather was cool and comfortable, perfect for running. Tim and I did a few strides near the car to loosen up our legs, and then we headed to the starting line. We found the 1:45 pacer as well, so we had an additional gauge of our time and proximity. It’s a fairly large field, but still very manageable, and we were off within about 30 seconds of the gun sounding.
The first few miles ticked off smoothly, and we kept our pace around 7:50, which gave us a few seconds buffer for the later miles. The route itself was actually quite enjoyable, and the crowd support was decent as well, which helped energize us and keep us on track for our goal. As expected, we gave a few seconds on the hill around mile 5, and again around the later hills. The aid stations were about 2.5 miles apart, and large enough to allow us to run through them and grab a glass of water as we passed. I’m a fan of running through aid stations in shorter races, and especially when they are large enough to prevent any major traffic jams as the running flock to the left or right for their water and Gatorade fix.
We rebounded after the first hill and knocked out some fast miles before approaching the longer hill around mile 10. At this point, we were squarely on pace and feeling good. I was able to keep chatting with Tim and run next to our ahead of him the whole time once the crowd thinned out a bit, which was nice for offering some encouraging words. He was cranking the miles out and looking strong, and our consistent mile splits were making me quite happy. By the last 3 miles, our pace was solid, and sticking to it became a bit of a game for me. Pacing has been one of the last skills for me to better understand in my evolution as a runner, and it was exciting to be having such a successful outing. Although there was certainly no actual pressure, I still felt a bit when it came to helping a friend achieve his goal, and I think that added intensity was just the boost I needed to stay on task.
We entered Grays Lake with a few miles to go, and knew that end was closing in. One of the highlights of this particular race is the opportunity to finish on the iconic blue oval at Drake Stadium. As soon as we neared the finish and could see the stadium, we picked things up just a bit to ensure we would hit our mark. We made a final surge to the finish line and crossed in 1:45:17 (Garmin time)! It was fantastic to see the time and we were both all smiles at the end 🙂 We found friends that had already finished, and waited a bit for others, and then we headed over to the after party to replenish our calorie stores and celebrate a wonderful morning of running! Tim ran a fantastic, consistent, and well-paced race, and it was a pleasure to share the experience with him. Another #chasing42 opportunity was in the books!