This weekend I found myself running a third half marathon in a fifteen day stretch. My biggest concern was being able to end the third race injury free. It’s no secret that I don’t do anything in moderation and have found myself sidelined on a few occasions because of it. The body part I hear the loudest is usually my calves.
The race this weekend was the Drake Relays Hy-Vee Half Marathon in Des Moines, Iowa. It is held in conjunction with the Drake Relays (the 106th this year!) on the famous blue oval track. This was never any sort of bucket list race and I had frankly never heard of it before a few months ago. However, I was in town for the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) National Convention and this was the race the convention paired up with. Side note: More to come on my adventures at the convention – I learned so much!!
So, I believe there was a small expo before the race, but as a conference attendee, there was a volunteer that brought our packets directly to us. This was a sweet perk in light of the icky, cold rain Des Moines decided to bring on Saturday. The race bag included my bib, a drawstring bag to be used for bag check, a long sleeve tech shirt and a few small goodies. Nothing big, but I’ve certainly received less for a race. The only bummer about the shirt is that it was unisex sizing. I’m usually a small in that case, but it was still too big and they ran out of extra smalls. Ha ha ha! That’s awesome that my name and extra small were in the same sentence. Seriously, a big boost to the ego!
The morning of the race, my travel and running buddy for the weekend ditched me for the 10K. It was apparently a great night after the dinner Saturday night! I decided to wear my regular long-run shoes for the race rather than my new Cloudracers. They are a lot lighter, but I second guessed how I would feel at race time and erred on the side of “I could be out here a while.” Let me just begin by saying I am a complete baby in the cold weather. And by cold weather I mean anything under 50 degrees. Really. Run tights in the 40s. However, I didn’t remember to bring them to Des Moines because it was nearly 85 in Dallas. (I am seriously proud of the packing job…) So, I sucked it up and put on my adorable new purple polka-dot running skirt and two layers of tops. It was a little chilly, but I figured I would warm up – I totally felt like a real runner with so little clothing on!!
As the race was beginning, I ran into a couple of girls that also attended the convention and I had run with them on the social run two days earlier. We began chatting and I made the decision to stay with them rather than push ahead for a PR I’ve been chasing for two years. Almost immediately I noticed that there was no back of the pack. Really. We went out with the 2:45 pacer and there were only a few of us. This didn’t look good. Maybe I should have downgraded back to the 10K???
The course was really pretty. We ran by the river and over a couple of bridges, though a park, around some amazing buildings and through a large sculpture garden. I just had to stop and take pictures a few times. Although the water stops were small, they were well-run and well-stocked. There were even a few musicians along the course playing for us. Add in a couple of hills and you had yourself a race. The most notorious hill was about mile 11ish – Bulldog Hill. Everyone kept warning us of this hill. When I finally got there, yep, I didn’t really need a sign to let me know I was there. This thing was STEEP! Like, steep enough to probably be a good idea to set your parking brake on your car; maybe half to three quarters of a mile in length, just enough to be a real pain. I stopped for a second to take a photo of the signs and began to hear the Drake drum line. I will tell you that I LOVE drum lines. I don’t know why, but it’s just awesome to hear and feel that beat. I closed my eyes and smiled. I remembered everything I had been taught about powering up a hill and I went for it, matching my cadence with the drum line. IT WAS GLORIOUS. I totally had to stop and catch my breath when I got to the top and a nice spectator was more than happy to take my photo after I gave a high five to one of the drummers. My pace was actually faster up that hill
than it had been the entire race. The final mile was a hot mess. The small group of us still running had to ask several times where the next turn was and if we were still on the course. There were just a ton of people milling about and not enough course monitors. We finally made it to the entrance of the famous blue oval track and it was so cool! The stands were filled in anticipation of the elites that would finish the 5K about 10 minutes later (and had just started the race as we were trying to find the entrance to the track). It was definitely a highlight to be able to run on the very track in which world records were broken on two days earlier. Many of the greatest track runners have run this track. If we are really lucky, my son will have an opportunity to run there in the next several years while in college. It was really an amazing location for a finish. I made it through for my medal and a bottle of water and then kept going along the track to the other side where the post-race tents were set up outside of the stadium.
It’s important to remember that I said the stadium was full at this point. I must not have been fully paying attention to where my feet were going because I ended up tripping on a large metal bar that I think was part of the high jump apparatus that was dismantled. “Ass over teakettle” tripped – I flew. I was MORTIFIED. The sound of the metal rattling on the ground was loud enough that a few people stopped to help. All I could do was laugh it off and pretend it didn’t hurt, but it really hurt. I’m still crying. I landed on my hip and the inhaler that was in my skirt pocket punctured the skin in my leg. I was bleeding and hurting and so darn embarrassed. My only hope is that no one caught a photo of that perfect-ten. Determined to high tail it out of the stadium as quickly as possible, I ran to grab a cookie from the food tent and then made sure my speedy friends that were waiting for me weren’t in the stadium when I fell.
Overall, this was a great race! I made some wonderful new friends, shared my love of all things Skirt Sports, took lots of photos and almost ended the race injury free. For speedier runners, I would definitely recommend this race. For those of us in the back of the pack (2:30+ finishers), I would say bring some friends.