Races fall into a number of different categories for me. There are some races that I plan for months in advance, and direct my training towards, some that come up along the way, and still others that I register for more out of nostalgia or the potential for an enjoyable experience with friends. The Des Moines Marathon certainly holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first marathon I ever ran back in 2009. I ran the race again last year as a part of my first double, and I registered for the race this year because the timing worked out well with my training and it was a great excuse to spend some time with friends and cheer them on as well.
I picked up my packet at the expo on Saturday with very little trouble, and the epicurean and I took the opportunity to go out to dinner at the same restaurant where we had our wedding dinner. The pasta was delicious as always, and we both left with full, happy bellies. I woke up the next morning around 5:00AM to have a light breakfast and get ready. The drive down was a nice opportunity to wake up and sip some water more slowly before getting to the start. I made my way to the starting line in plenty of time for the 8:00AM gun, and the morning could not have been more perfect. Temperatures were in the 40’s, the sun was out, and there was hardly any wind. In other words, the racing conditions were perfect!
I had planned all along to take it easy and use the race as a solid training run. I logged 18 miles the day before, and my legs were feeling good. The gun went off, and the slow shuffle to the starting mat quickly gave way to a more brisk pace. I lined up behind but in sight of the 3:30 pacer, but hadn’t really given much thought to my own pace. I planned to run more by feel, and just enjoy the morning. After about 2 miles, I had caught up to the 3:30 pacer, and was moving really well and logging sub-8:00 miles. As I passed the pace group, I decided I might as well maintain my pace for as long as I could and see what my legs had in them. It’s amazing how the best-laid plans can become derailed by an aggressive internal competitive nature, isn’t it?
The miles just continued to tick off on the relatively flat course, minus a few small hills. My breathing was smooth, my stride was short, and my turn-over was right on target. Before I knew it, I was 10 miles in and still maintaining my sub-8:00 minute pace. I brought a bottle of Tailwind with me, so I was able to run through several of the aid stations, but I made sure to continue to drink, and supplement it with some Honey Stinger Chews as well. I was crossing the half-marathon point before I knew it, and I hit it at 1:42, which would have been a solid HM PR if I had crossed the finish line. I was still feeling really good, but wasn’t necessarily taking it easy anymore 🙂
The course dips down into a large, open park around mile 18, and we were a bit more exposed than we had been. This was when I felt the wind pushing back a bit more than it had been earlier in the race. I maintained my pace, but I could tell I was working a bit harder by the time I crossed the 20 mile mark. Around mile 21, the bathroom break I had been resisting since mile 1 was finally too much and I ducked into a porta-potty. The stop cost me about a minute, but it was certainly worth it for the comfort! My pace slowed by about 25 seconds over the last 5 miles, but I was still feeling really good and thought I might just have a chance at a new PR. I dug deep in the final mile, and pushed a little extra when I heard the 3:30 pacer coming up behind me. I managed to pull out the same sprint that I seem to have at the end of every race, and I crossed the finish line in 3:28:44. My easy day had turned into a marathon PR!
I was all smiles, even if a small part of me wondered what the day would have brought if I hadn’t run so much the day before. I quickly found a bunch of friends that had finished up the half and the full, and we celebrated by heading straight for the beer (with some water and food along the way, of course). Everyone was in a great mood, and we made our way back near the finish line to cheer on other runners as they passed. The weather, the friends, and the race could not have been more perfect, and I was happy to add some more great memories to the Des Moines Marathon experience!