It’s only fitting, really.
We haven’t run an official half marathon in four years, so I haven’t written up my recap until now—three weeks later.
The Dam to Dam Half Marathon in Des Moines was a hot, humid, and challenging race, but it ended with big PRs for both Christopher and me—even if they were a wee bit shy of our pie-in-the sky goals.
As race day approached, I could not help but feel underprepared for the hot, humid weather in the forecast and undertrained for (hilly-ish) miles on the map. After training (to the letter) for and setting personal records at not one, but two marathons last year, and not really focusing on speed or shorter distances, I could not help but feel like I hadn’t given this half marathon its due.
Truly, I had, though. I had put in the miles, albeit mostly on the treadmill. I had put in the speedwork. And I had even put in some mild hill workouts, as our usual route includes some decently steep hills.
So, on race day, I just went for it. I knew I would set a personal record. And I knew I would be close to my big, scary goal of 2 hours. I didn’t know how close, though, given the circumstances. So, I just went for it.
Christopher and I were up at about 5 a.m., at which point we changed into our running gear, grabbed our breakfast, and headed out to the car, where we listened to the radio and ate bagels with peanut butter and bananas.
We drove over to the nearby mall, where dozens of yellow school buses were lined up to take runners up to Saylorville Dam, about a 20-minute drive. We arrived at the dam—on a winding, narrow two-lane road—and got an incredible view.
We used the porta-potties, finished a bottle of Gatorade, and headed to the starting line. Christopher and his buddy, Andy, who joined us for the race, headed to the front of the pack, while I stayed toward the middle. The runners were lined up by pace, but it was so crowded that it was hard to maneuver through the sea of people to the appropriate pace group.
As such, the first few miles seemed to pass slowly, as I bobbed and weaved through the pack until the course and the crowd opened up.
Around Mile 3, I finally felt like I could start running and thinking about my goal pace, which was about 9:09. At that point, and for a few miles after that, I hovered around my goal pace, if not a few seconds slower.
The course has an overall downhill grade, especially in the first half, which is mostly through the quiet countryside. The big hill—Morningstar Hill or sometimes called Memorial Hill (so named because it is lined with American flags in honor of servicemen and women who have died since the first race in 1980) shows up around Mile 7. It’s about a mile long, starts out gradual, then becomes steep toward the crest. I slogged up the hill. But my pace remained sub-10:00.
The course has a few more rolling hills in the second half, which opens up onto city streets. The shade cover was absent in the first half, so the tree-lined residential streets offered some relief from the heat in the second half.
I saw my dad and the girls somewhere between Mile 7 and 8. It was so nice to see familiar faces!
Between Mile 9 and 10, the course ventures onto a bike trail, and about Mile 10, it takes runners over a wooden bridge over a ravine in total shade cover. It was fabulous, albeit brief.
About Mile 11, the course leaves the bike trail and enters the Principal River Walk, past the Botanical Gardens and over the really cool looking Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge.
Then, just before Mile 13, there’s a steep, curving hill. It seemed cruel to send runners up another hill, under the beating sun, with less than a quarter mile to go. But it was exhilarating, because of the energy of the crowd, which lined both sides of the street, and the signage marking 400 meters to go, then 200 meters, and finally 100 meters.
I blitzed across the finish line, and barely took note of my time, I was so drained. I had run the entire 13.1 miles, and I had stayed decently hydrated, but I was a sweaty, tired mess.
After some water-drinking, bathroom-breaking, and wandering, we gathered near this water feature in the park. The girls happily played in the water, while Andy, Christopher, and I sipped Coors Light and rehashed the race.
Christopher had a lofty goal of 1:40 and what he thought was a slam-dunk goal of 1:45. He came in at 1:47:11. He had been under the weather all week leading up to the race and just had lead legs—on top of the hot and humid conditions.
He still ran a great race and set about a 10-minute PR.
I came in at 2:05:07. It might be 5 minutes shy of 2 hours, but it also is a 21-minute PR and is only 5 minutes shy of 2 hours. I am proud of this race and know that, perhaps this fall, a 2-hour half is within my reach.
Distance: 13.1 miles (RunKeeper clocked it at 13.23)
Average pace: 9:33 per mile