Dam to Dam 20k - Des Moines, IA - "Iowa's Distance Classic"
Wow. I'm still in a bit of disbelief of how things unfolded. Going
into the event I was feeling a little under-whelmed. I had a few days
of sluggish and lethargic recovery runs (I think humidity was playing a
big part in this!). I doubted my endurance to an extent (even though
this race is less than half-marathon distance). And I had seen the
elite entry list and there were some heavy hitters in the line-up.
that being said, I cruised down to Des Moines on Friday afternoon for
packet pick-up and race prep. This was my first out-of-town race where I
didn't have a wing-man/support person with,
so it was oddly quiet and even more nerve-wracking trying to kill time
the night before the race. Despite that, I settled in and eventually
got a little bit of shut-eye.
Race morning: shuttle buses were
making trips to the start from downtown (finish area) from 5am to 5:45am. I
opted to get up at 4:30am, eat my ritual LUNA breakfast, and then do a 10
minute/1 mile shake out run before hopping on the bus. For shorter
races, this ritual (suggested for 2 hours before race start) is
something that my coach has implemented and I've come to enjoy as a part
of my pre-race routine.
Hopped on the bus around 5:10am. By the
time I made the trip and waited for the disembarking process, it was
6:10am. Just enough time to hit the port-a-potties, do a warm-up with
form drills, and get to the line.
The weather was PERFECT. My
guess would be that it hovered around 50 degrees at start time with the
sun out, but without much heat to the day. It was windy, which wasn't
ideal for the first half of the race when you're running out in the
middle of no-where on country/county roads, but I've been in worse and I
was just thankful that the rain that had been predicted wasn't coming
I stacked up in the second row of racers from the start
line behind a pack of four hired-gun professionals (full-time runners who flew in from AZ, NM, and other parts of the country for a chance at the prize purse). One of them had raced for Ethopia in past events, and the others were just as accomplished. Very intimidating. What
made matters worse, is that when the gun fired, the four of them took
off like missiles! I hate to admit it, but I had a brief though
of..."well, looks like I'm racing for top Midwest prize because those
ladies are gone!" But I went out strong, no other women came with me
and after that initial thought, I began to think all I needed to do was
run steady and smart, and hope that one (or more) of the leaders would
falter even a little bit.
I never looked at my watch during
this race running instead completely by feel (side note: even though
it's killing me, I still haven't seen my splits because I haven't had access to my GPS software).
I ran the
first 5-6 miles basically alone. There were still no other women
around me, and the dudes were stretched out with few and far in between each one.
10k, I spotted the first of the women from the lead pack who had fallen
off the pace. At just about the same time, a group of three college
dudes came up on me. Fortuitously I had heard them during my warm-up
talking about wanting to run 1:10. I recognized them, and immediately
decided to go with them for a shot at 1:10. As we packed up, we moved
by my female competitor and she had no response.
Just after the
10k is the first of several decent sized hills. As me and my dude pack
moved up the first hill, the dudes splintered! So much for that plan! One surged ahead, and I
decided to let him go. I stayed with guy #2, and guy #3 got dropped.
From miles 7-9 I started pulling away from guy #2 and saw the second of
the lead women who had fallen off pace.
I knew if/when I caught
her, I was going to have to either blow by her, or I was going
to have to be ready to battle. As I moved up on her, we approached a
corner and she glanced back and spotted me. She accelerated slightly, and I opted to get aggressive and go for the blow by and was successful in
passing and immediately dropping her.
2 down...2 still out there,
about 3 miles to go. My wheels started spinning, mentally and
physically. I was feeling good and decided to start letting it rip.
Around mile 9 there's a long gradual uphill that leads to the entrance
of nice, shaded park/bike path section of the route. I remembered it
from the previous year. Aside from the home-stretch which is a gradual
uphill, the next couple of miles were going to flatten out and were a
great spot to pick up speed. It was at this point in the race last year
that I made my move on Erin Moeller: catching her, but not quite having
enough juice to finish her off. That was NOT going to happen this
Winding my way through the park, I felt strong and like I
was gaining speed. I came off of an extended, rounded, blind corner
around mile 10 and spotted lead pack female #3. She looked vulnerable as we
approached a short, steep uphill climb. I didn't hesitate on
my move this time, I was going for the kill. I moved up on her
quickly, passed her, and didn't look back. I was slightly worried that
she might be saving some gas for a strong finish, so I tucked my chin,
strengthened my resolved, and kicked up my turnover.
off a few dudes along the way those last two miles and eventually made
it to Grand Ave: the home stretch. It's a long, straight, gradual
grind uphill for about 1/2 mile until the final 1/4 mile where it
As I hammered toward the finish line, I spotted The
Big Clock (official race time)...1:09:55, 1:09:56...I had a shot at
breaking 1:10?! I gave it the beans and approached the line. I passed
the clock 1:09:58...and then saw that there were 5 different mats at the finish line!
Which one was the timer in?! NOOOOO! I thought there was a chance I
had broken 1:10 and was ecstatic. Turns out I crossed in 1:10:02
(5:38/mile pace) official gun time, but hell, I hunted down three of the four leaders
(winner was Ethopian Belainesh Gebre in 1:08:41) and ran the fourth
fastest female time in Dam to Dam history. Not too shabby!