On Sunday, I ran the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon — the training plan that you’ve been following along here for the last 12 weeks. This was my 7th half marathon overall and my 2nd in Iowa, and Sunday was WILDLY different than my Dam to Dam race in June (although I’m sure the humidity was the same).
SPOILER ALERT (which you already know, if you follow me on Instagram) I PR’d this race so hard – taking another two minutes off of my time from two weeks ago at the Heartland Half. That’s a FIVE MINUTE decrease of my half marathon time in one training cycle. This excites me so much! And I’m totally amped up to make my eventual 2-hour half goal a reality. Though I had a few low moments in the race (side stitches, foot pain in my left arch, stupid hill), I was able to mentally able to push through the crap.
Registration and Cost: After taxes and fees (and, I think, a Capital Striders discount), I paid $64.14 — hilariously, I registered a couple weeks before actually moving to Iowa (late February).
Expo and Packet Pick-Up: The Expo at Hy-Vee Hall was held over two days, and I went late Saturday afternoon. Bib pick-up was the same table as grabbing my race shirt (THANK YOU), and there was a clear bag provided with some “extras” (hooray, for samples of those tiny packages of anti-chafe and muscle creams). There were definitely more vendors than my last few races — a couple that I intended to visit and actually missed! I spent a little bit of time shopping, picking up the usual free race swag, and chatting with a few shoe brands. I picked myself up a new branded race hat, too.
Bag Check and ETC: There was a bag check (I don’t typically use bag check and didn’t for this race either) and a TON of Kybos at the start. Well done, there, Race Director.
Weather: Woke up at 5:45 am to temps already at 60 degrees and 100% humidity. The fog was also so dense, we could barely see the on-ramp to the highway on the way to the race.
Start Line: Well… there were TWO start lines — all lit up in bright lights screaming START, with accompanying strips for chip timing. Runners approached the first, started our watches, rounded the corner… and then there was a HUGE stopped mob. And then another set of brightly-lit start line signs.
So I can’t even begin to express my WTF that was all about.
Course: This is another Des Moines race that recently changed course due to construction. I have no reference to previous maps, but this year’s was an out-and-back starting from Cowles Commons, which looped from downtown and repeated several stretches. The half split off from the full very early in the race and the volunteers were YELLING which direction to take. No signs. And yep, there were several runners (wearing headphones) realizing this as they were already on the wrong path and retreating back.
I love Gray’s Lake, and since the fog was still hanging around at this point of the race, this was probably my favorite part — it looked as if the boat docks and pedestrian bridge were floating in air. That said, I’ve skated around Gray’s Lake, and the trails are small. Putting all of the half marathons on those trails before the crowd thins out was annoying. And despite there being SEVERAL signs for walkers to stay right, that didn’t happen (does it ever?). That stretch felt really crowded and chaotic.
To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the course overall. And that Capitol Hill at Mile 11 (it’s a mile-long climb) can go straight to hell. There were Kybos throughout the course, since we repeated a lot of stretches, and aid stations about every two miles or so.
The finish chute also didn’t feel wide enough to really sprint forward — and I was weaving through people, following close behind a guy ahead who was attempting the same thing.
Fans and Experience: Fans were found throughout the course, and at several corners were out aiding the runners with extra water, ice cubes, Halloween candy, signs… and banging pots & pans.
THERE WAS BACON AT MILE 7. Yes, bacon.
The experience was incredible — and not at all overwhelming like I find other crowded “city” races to be. The bulk of the crowds lined up around Court Ave (and the usual start/finish line areas), and I found the experience a pretty great representation of the awesomeness of the Des Moines community.
Finish Line: Dudes. DUDES. There was SO. MUCH. FOOD. at the finish line. (And, like, a dozen massage tables… but FOOD.) There was pizza in the finish line chute (couldn’t have that, obvs) and additional food vendors in the athletes-only area in Cowles Commons. AND there were snack boxes provided for each finisher.
I grabbed a chocolate milk and one of those snack boxes — which, surprisingly, I could have almost everything in there: corn chips, cheese dip, dried cranberries, trail mix; the fruit leather is undetermined. I also purchased a coffee from the Caribou tent.
Something else I loved were the various signs around the finishers park for photo ops (and directions to the beer, if you needed them).
After Party: There was an additional festival-slash-beer garden over by the Royal Mile, where you could trade in your free drink ticket. Hooray, for hard cider AND wine spritzers options! They also have everyone beads with the race logo and race-branded beer koozies. The band Aftershocks was playing the main stage, and the MC for the event was an absolute HOOT. Very, very fun after party event, and I’m glad that I decided to stick around for a bit.
Best Sign: “You think running is hard, try waking up early to hang signs.” Legit, laughed so hard. Close second was the “Run like *picture of Trump* is trying to grab your *picture of a cat*”
Random Bullshit: Um, no water was ready at the first aid station on the course. Poor girl looked to be working alone, and it was just an impossible situation for her.
Awesomesauce: I finished just ahead of the 1st place marathoner, so I got to see him get draped in his flag. I’m always in complete awe of someone who can finish double the distance in the same time as what I can do a half. It’s just incredible.
The Great: Running by feel and getting a PR as result.
The Good: Despite not really enjoying the course, this is an excellent race event that I would definitely do again!
The Bad: WTF, two start lines?!
The Ugly: 100% humidity in October.
Splits: 10:16 (1) / 10:07 (2) / 10:01 (3) / 10:08 (4) / 9:50 (5) / 9:53 (6) / 9:58 (7) / 10:00 (8) / 10:05 (9) / 9:52 (10) / 10:44 (mile-long hill at mile 11, #WORST) / 9:39 (12) / 9:39 (13) [8:19 (.3)]
Despite getting a PR (again! — are you tired of me yet?!), my pacing strategy didn’t get executed exactly to plan. But I’m still incredibly proud of the race I ran for other reasons — like, for instance, running a PR in 100% humidity and not.stopping.running. when I got to the big hill on the course and running a pretty consistent pace throughout (and not following pacers). Per my Garmin, the race went a bit over, but that’s TWO half marathons with no 11+ minute splits — that’s HUGE.
2:12:16 — WOOOOO, a new PR by two minutes!
173 in 35-39 age group
They printed out our results! I never saw this before — what a cool thing!