Friday, October 25, 2013

A less technical look at the Des Moines Half

So I've already rambled about what I did right during the Des Moines Half; here's what other people did right.

First of all, I really like Des Moines. So it stands to reason that I'd like the Des Moines Half's course. I liked passing familiar spots, like the Capitol, Court Avenue bars and my hair salon, and I also liked when we veered off the roads I always drive so that I could see a few landmarks I don't have memorized.

I know the race boasted about how much went through Water Works and Gray's Lake parks, and of course those were scenic, but weirdly enough I think I would've enjoyed more city running. 

(Then again, the familiarity with the Gray's Lake terrain was awfully nice. And as someone who works in downtown Des Moines, I probably shouldn't encourage more road closures/detours in a part of town that's already heavily one-way traffic.)

The spectator turnout always impresses me, no matter what race I do. Kids reached out for high-fives; strangers told us we were looking great; signs encouraged us to smile if we'd peed and reminded us that we were running better than the government.

Of course, this was one of the two best signs:

Zach (not pictured, because he's taking the picture), Emily and Regina made this sign for me, though I couldn't read it when I went by; after I'd finished, we came back out to the same spot to cheer on Cory, our marathoner. It was a crowd-pleaser in general.
Seriously, though, Zach, Emily and Regina were awake and dressed and out of their apartments at 8 a.m. on a Sunday trying to cheer me and Cory on. They missed us early on, but they found us at my mile 11/Cory's mile 24, and a block from the finish.

And here was the other best sign:

One thing they teach you at Truman State is how to make fantastic signs. Chelsea and I practiced this skill for Zach's weight-lifting meets, back in the day.
This one came via text from fellow Warriors Zach and Chelsea, who had initially thought they'd already be in Des Moines during the race weekend. (And again, because I got this at the race's start, this meant that a 20-something was coherent at 8 a.m.) It still did the trick.

Speaking of support, of course the volunteers at the aid stations were great (though as I mentioned I didn't really visit that often), and there was even one spectator who brought a box of Kleenex and handed out tissues. I run with my own, but I appreciated her effort.

The second-biggest boost I got was from another runner. Right after I passed Zach, Emily and Regina for the second time, as I prepared to cross the Locust Street bridge, nausea hit me. I could see the finish line, and I still clung to hope that I'd break 2:00:00, but my stomach ...

So I stopped. Maybe swore under my breath. And a woman in a lime-green shirt came up from behind, put her hand on my back, and chirped: "You can do it! We're almost there!"

I picked up my feet and started running again. Thanks, random runner. 

My only quibble was the opening/closing part of the Water Works Park section. You can see on this map that from about mile four to five, and from roughly eight to nine, that you had two-way traffic on your standard-width rec path.

I'm a little claustrophobic, and I was also feeling perky, so not being able to pass very well frustrated me. This was likely a good thing, to preserve some energy, but the crowd was big enough still at that point where it was physically difficult.

However, I will say that it was neat, and not at all discouraging, to watch an elite runner whiz by at his mile eight, which lined up around my pace group's mile four. Again, these guys literally run twice as fast as we mortals.

Last thing: I made sure to smile when I saw the race photographers. While I don't look like a monster, or a martyr, I still don't see why anyone would pay for these pictures ... but here's a link to them for your amusement.

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