Thanks to a late push (no thanks to you, motivation) to train for this half marathon, I had zero goals aside from finishing in one piece. BUT aforementioned last-minute motivation or not has really helped propel my health and fitness goals and to get excited about some upcoming events — including the planning of my GOAL RACE in the Fall. More on that in another post.

Dam to Dam was my FIRST race in Iowa, and my fifth half marathon overall — and my fourth state! My PR for the half was back in February at Gasparilla… but with our big move in March, my desire to run really flat-lined. I was happy to at least get a 10-miler in (which went a lot better than I anticipated — and on the treadmill, no less. WHO AM I?!)

Two years ago, Dam to Dam changed course to a half marathon. The race still has remnants of its old school past, which is something that usually irritates me, but I actually kind of dug its small race charm (though 9000 entrants is certainly not “small”): there was no bag drop, no PERSON drop off at the start line (you had to take a bus), the emails were in all text (one that I received promised a lot of fun race day info but contained no images or links), and no real time tracking. Even the chip on the bib was MONSTROUS, considering the chip tech that exists in road racing.

And I guess, considering my not following my training plan, the race went about how I expected.

30something Flat Mel dam to dam

Flat Mel! (My race day uniform at this point.)

Registration and Cost: Registration was online via GetMeRegistered and cost $43.69 total (after some fees) — pretty great price for a half marathon! Dam to Dam has both a half marathon and 5K option, and the Half is limited to only 9,000. The first 5,000 runners get a $40 entry fee (I got in on this deal! WOOT!), $45 for the next 2,000 runners (5001-7000) and $50 entry for the last 2,000 runners. I sincerely couldn’t imagine this race adding any more runners to its registration, and I hope it never does!

Packet Pick-Up and Expo: Packet pick-up was downtown at the Veteran’s Auditorium / Convention Center the day before the race, so I had a double commute to drive into downtown from where I work. Thankfully, they were open until 8! Because there isn’t a lot of traffic in Des Moines (double WOOT!), I was able to find street parking; total time to park, pick up my bib and swag and peruse the FREE FOOD BUFFET was less less than the 42 minutes that I put on my meter.

I’m not sure if I missed a larger section of the Expo, but didn’t really explore beyond packet pick-up. Picking up bibs was by race number (which they posted the day before); t-shirts were a few tables down from there. The volunteers were REALLY encouraging me to enjoy myself with some free food. And I guess there was beer too!

Free Swag: Brooks t-shirt and socks! First time that I’ve received socks as part of my swag bag — and they’re hot pink, so YAY!

dam to dam swag brooks sponsor

Bag Check and Transportation: As I mentioned above, there was NO bag check for this race (on Facebook, the organizers posted about an unofficial and unsecured bag drop location downtown, but my day didn’t start there). I had to be dropped off at Valley West Mall in West Des Moines around 5:30 a.m. to catch a school bus that took us up to Saylorville. It seemed very organized, and once the bus filled up, the doors closed and the next bus pulled up. I did hear that at other locations, later in the pick-up window, it got a little messy and delayed. But I live by the mantra: BE EARLY! (especially when it’s your first time, and you have no clue what to expect).

I do get car sick, so I was honestly really nervous about taking a bus up (by myself, no less). But I did OK.

Start Line: The bus ride took, like, 20 minutes (if that), so I stopped into the Kybo (Iowan for port-a-john) — there were at least 100, if not more. And then I sat around for another hour. As the start time approached, all the runners make their way to the bridge over the Saylorville Dam (Dam #1!).

saylorville dam half marathon

Walking out to the bridge!

saylorville dam half marathon start

It was a BEAUTIFUL view, and you could see the downtown skyline in the distance where we would finish.

30something dam to dam dsm at start

Downtown Des Moines in the background — 13 miles away!

I didn’t see any official pacers, but there were sections posted with expected finish time. And then the swarm of people started moving after the gun went off and the timing mat for the start was kind of a surprise for those of us in the back of the pack.

Weather: UGH. Remind me why I sign up for summer races? I, thankfully but sadly, ditched my long-sleeve shirt. It was chilly enough to wear it sitting around pre-race, so I’m happy that I brought it. I wore it in so many races, so was sad to let it go. BUT OMG, a tank top and shorts was too much to wear within the first two miles. By the end of the race, it felt like 80 degrees and I could not keep my body cool. This was something of a disaster for me, as I felt thirsty constantly and probably drank too much water (despite properly hydrating the week before the race). And then by mid-race, I was legit feeling sick. By Mile 11, I had to stop running because my chest hurt and I was seeing spots, and I sincerely was freaking out about passing out on the course.

At least my allergies weren’t bad! #smallwins

Course: Saylorville Dam was the start, and the course almost immediately went into open roads and cornfields — so very Iowa! The course followed the path of the Des Moines River, though we didn’t see much of the waterway during the race. Portions of the race went through neighborhoods, others on bike trails; at one point we were running through the woods and over a wood plank bridge. The best was the approach downtown, coming past the Botanical Gardens and up the Principal River Walk over the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge. We have a pretty cool pedestrian bridge.

dam to dam half marathon course des moines

Miles 6-7 were no joke!

Also around that incline in elevation was Morningstar Hill, lined with American flags honoring all the Iowan soldiers lost in the line of duty since the first Dam to Dam on June 15, 1980. That’s always a somber experience in a race.

I really enjoyed the variety of scenery on this course. Also, there were staggered water stops, not specifically at every mile, but enough to be sufficient; there were maybe 3 stops with Powerade. Kybos were scattered throughout the course as well. There were sponges at one stop, but they were gone by the time we got there, which was a HUGE bummer because SO HOT. At this point, I was just dumping cups of water over my head and down my back. I missed the ice cubes too, as we were approaching downtown.

Fans and Experience: As you’ve probably gleaned from my past recaps, I have problems with large race crowds; this one didn’t feel overwhelming at all. At various spots throughout the course, there was live music and DJs; in the neighborhoods, there were more people cheering on their tree lawns. Cyclists were out cheering us on at the trail crossings, too. There were a couple of nearly-drunk guys at one of the bike outposts and one of them offered us doughnuts… TORTURE. Most of the “fans” were lined up near the finish line and in downtown.

Finish Line: I didn’t specifically hear my name, but the announcer was calling in all the finishers, which I always think is super cool. The finish chute opens up into Western Gateway Park — there were so many runners with their shoes off and sitting in the water fountains. There was free beer (Coors Light and Smirnoff Ice, blech). Would have been nice if there was some kind of cider. #glutenfreeproblems I heard there was chocolate milk, but I didn’t see it (thankfully, the boyfriend brought me some).

And then the sprinkler system went off in the park near where they were doing finish line photos and OMG you could only laugh because it was definitely not on purpose.

30s Therapy dam to dam finish

A strained smile at the finish line. More happy about my chocolate milk.

After Party: BBQ brunch at Jethro’s. And heck yeah, I wore my medal inside!

Bonus: A mutual friend online connected me to someone on Instagram who was also running the race, and SHE FOUND ME AT THE START LINE! And we were planning the same pace! We were able to run most of the race together, too — and I never had to put in my earbuds (though, I will not let my $42 purchase on iTunes the night before the race be wasted).

Extra bonus for you beer lovers out there: Besides the beer at the finish line, at 400 meters from the finish line you approach Exile Brewing, and volunteers there are giving out beer samples on the course. I was almost desperate enough to take one. lol (But OH GOD the smell of warm beer on this hot day and already feeling sick made want to hurl.)

Random Bullshit: I realized post-race that something bit me on my inner thigh, and I have a rash on the inside of both of my legs. We ran through the woods in one portion, and I’m so stupid fearful of ticks (I don’t know if it was a tick but that’s where my mind goes). So, that’s something that I have to keep an eye on.

Best Sign: Run Now, Poop Later.

The Great: It’s always awesome making new running friends, and having someone to enjoy the experience with.
The Good: My first race in Iowa!
The Bad: My training overall for this race was not so great, so I’m not surprised how poorly I did. Despite this, I pretty much assumed that I would finish in about 2:30.
The Ugly: THE HEAT. The end of this race was an awful slog. I couldn’t even muster enough energy as the finish line was approaching; 12-minute runs-walks for the last two miles. SIGH.

Splits (per Garmin watch): 10:31 (1) / 10:36 (2) / 10:50 (3) / 11:04 (4) / 11:09 (5) / 10:49 (6) / 11:13 (7) / 10:58 (8) / 10:58 (9) / 10:23 (10) / 10:46 (11) / 12:19 (12) / 12:49 (13)

finish time: 2:27:05 / average pace: 11:06/mi

#2154 overall
353 in my age group (35-39)
Five mile: 54:33
Ten mile: 1:49:41
Clock time: 2:35:22
Chip time: 2:27:00
Pace: 11:13

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