A couple of weekends ago, I completed my 4th half marathon! Some friends and I road-tripped to Des Moines, Iowa, to run the Dam-to-Dam half…such a fun weekend! Also, who knew Iowa was so hilly?!?!?!
We got into Des Moines Friday night and headed to Legends, a local sports bar, to get some dinner and catch part of the Blackhawks game. Unfortunately, Legends was a bad choice, to say the least. It took over an hour for our food to arrive, and several servers stopped by our table with orders meant for other tables. Those who could see the kitchen said it was chaotic and food was being dropped on the ground. Needless to say, when our food did arrive, we weren’t wow-ed. Not the best way to start off race weekend, but at least none of us ended up getting sick!
We got back to the hotel and laid out our things for race morning. A friend had picked up our race packets, which included a bright blue tech tee and gray and pink running socks. I didn’t end up wearing either for the race, but love getting new running gear!
Race morning started bright and early, as we had to get on a bus at 5am that would take us up to the first dam on Saylorville Lake. At the 7am start of the race, it was already over 70 degrees–one of the hottest starts in the races history. The race announcer at the starting line cautioned everyone about the heat and humidity, and encouraged racers to take it easy and keep hydrated.
And then we were off! We started on the dam and worked our way down to country roads through, you guessed it, corn fields. It wasn’t the most scenic route, but we spent a good part of the wait during dinner the night before perfecting our playlists, so I was super excited to listen to my music. It definitely made the first 6 miles fly by. The temperature was warm, but it started to lightly rain so it was much more tolerable.
Then the hills started. At one point on a steep incline, my legs were jogging so slowly that walking just made more sense. As it got warmer, I made myself run 10-15 minutes before I allowed myself a walking break of 1-2 minutes. There were water stations about every mile or so and I made sure to stop and drink at least a few ounces of water or Gatorade at each one, and fueled with some orange shotbloks at around mile 5 and mile 9.
Through the last few miles, I walked alot as the air felt very thick and it was hard for me to catch my breath. We crossed the 2nd dam in the middle of the city, and followed a trail along the river. I sprinted the last few hundred feet (with surprising fresh legs) to finish the race in 2 hours 38 minutes. Not my best time, but also not my worst!
While the hydration stations along the course were awesome, I was very unimpressed with the finish line offerings and post-race party organization. I received my race medal, Powerade and a cookie, and then the participant area ended and people were everywhere! I started to get really light headed, and had to sit down on a curb to eat my cookie and drink some Powerade. My friends finished before me so I stood up to try to find them, and felt like passing out again. We all managed to meet up and got in the massive beer line. Once I got my beer and souvenir cup, I got really overheated in the crowd but luckily found a fountain to put my feet in to cool down–I was so loopy and felt like a crazy person!
We went back to the hotel to re-hydrate and nap. After showering and getting ready, we devoured some pizza and played some drinking games, then hit up the complimentary happy hour at our hotel–Embassy Suites Des Moines Downtown. They had several kinds of beer on tap and also made a variety of mixed drinks and Sangria! We relaxed on the outdoor patio area and hung out for a few hours, then headed to Hessen Haus, a German bar, where we passed a boot of Strongbow cider around (one of our friends has celiac disease).
The next morning I felt pretty good, though I can’t say the same for others in our group 😉 . We took advantage of the free brunch buffet at the hotel (seriously, such an amazing hotel!), then hit the road to head back to Chicago.
Overall, I had a great time in Des Moines! I’m not sure if I will run the Dam to Dam Half again, unless I trained a little more for hills and the forecast called for much cooler weather. Also I would love for the post party to be more organized–longer finishing chute for the participants only in order to get the cookies, bananas, water, Powerade, etc., better signage to find ID check, beer, and other booths available. I would love to visit Des Moines again–I’ve heard the Des Moines Half Marathon is a much flatter course!