Monday, June 3, 2013

Dam That Was Fun!

Dam to Dam 20k - Des Moines, IA - "Iowa's Distance Classic"

                                      Doing my best to photo bomb during the race

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.

All 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 down.

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.

Around 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 year.

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.

I picked 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 flattens out.

Coming down the home stretch (thanks to my old college coach, Dick Lee, and his son Brandon for coming out cheering me on!)

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!

                       Women's Champ - Belainesh Gebre...she's real, real fast

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post!!! Awesome race!!! Almost like I was there....oh wait, I was Of course, I was only at about mile 5 when you finished. I'm looking forward to reading more in the future!