Last weekend, 75% of the Kingsbury clan headed down I-35 to the Iowa state capital for the 14th running of the IMT Des Moines Marathon. I picked this race as part of the Fifty States quest, with Iowa and South Dakota being the closest ones to Minnesota that I hadn’t knocked off yet. Combine that with a very reasonable rate at the Downtown Marriott ($130 + tax) and what I thought was a rather flat state overall, it was a no-brainer pick for marathon number 25.
The hotel turned out to be great – within walking distance of the start and finish area, no forced two night minimum and a 2pm late check-out for runners to return and shower after the race. The room was your typical downtown business hotel as far as furnishings go and the staff was very friendly. Just like most business-class hotel chains, though, they still charge extra for wireless internet and a 30-second phone call I made from the room to Colleen’s mobile phone was billed at $5.75. Ouch.
As for the race, I was disappointed with my performance (4:37:23 – 10:36 pace, 895th overall, 77 out of 106 in my age division). I could blame lots of things, but it was mainly just a lack of faster training miles during this cycle that blew it for me at the end. Turns out this part of Iowa is far from flat – the course map shows a rise of “just” 150 feet, but the hills between miles three and eight were substantial. Not Superior Hiking Trail bad, but still very trying. Ironically enough, that part of the race was also my fastest (first 10K in 55:00 for an 8:52 pace).
The weather was really cold at the start – about 35F with clear, sunny skies and a light wind that picked up substantially as the morning went on. I had packed a “cold” outfit and a “warm” outfit and completely picked the wrong items to start with. It was great before the race, but once things started, I was too hot. Colleen and MK drove to around mile 16 and I was extremely thankful they had brought part of the other outfit with them.
One of my favorite parts of this course was the loop around the famous blue oval that is home to the Drake Relays. First held in 1910, this track has hosted a who’s who of the running world: Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, Frank Shorter, Gwen Torrence and several hundred other Olympic athletes. My lap was probably one of the slowest ever recorded there, but it’s fun to think of Randy Wilson setting the 800m record (my high school event) on April 28, 1978 – a blazing 1:45.86!
I hit the halfway mark right at two hours and was hoping to stay in the 4:00 – 4:20 range, but I started to cramp up and had to take longer and longer walk breaks during the water stations. The sections around Waterworks Park and Grays Lake Park were not my favorite – you could see the huge loops around those areas and both felt like forever to complete (even though they were only about two miles long each). I saw Colleen and MK again around mile 25, then headed to the finish line, which was in the same spot where we started (Locust Street bridge). Running the second half 37 minutes slower than the first was just sad, but it’s over, it wasn’t my slowest marathon and it still counts as a finish.
My Garmin said I ran 26.4 miles, so I guess I took the tangents poorly. Here are the watch splits: 8:45, 8:53, 8:49, 9:01, 8:33, 9:03, 8:52, 9:05, 9:01, 9:04, 9:26, 9:34, 10:05, 10:14, 10:37, 11:56, 10:46, 11:35, 12:28, 12:01, 12:25, 12:25, 14:00, 12:08, 12:28 and 11:47. The official reported splits were: 10K – 55:00 (8:52), Half – 2:00:15 (9:11), 20 miles – 3:19:05 (9:58) and last 10K – 1:18:19. Nice food options at the end, which I also thought was organized very nicely. Still couldn’t find the family, but that my fault for not telling them where to meet ahead of time.
The expo was small, but nice. We saw our friend Kris Jessee, who ran the half in an impressive 1:43:58. You could tell this is really more of a half marathon event – there were just a couple of spots for marathon bib pick-up and a whole wall full of spots for the half. With just 1,392 people in the full, there was plenty of elbow room once we split from the half runners around mile three. The full marathon course was well supported throughout, but there weren’t a whole lot of spectators. They gave out the shirts at the expo and not at the finish (one of my minor pet peeves), but they are very nice. Cool medal design too.
The rest of trip was short, but fun. MK had a school project based on planning trips, so she practiced on this one. Based on her research, we stopped at the very cool Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and drove by the pretty state capital building. We also hit up locally-owned Zombie Burger + Drink Lab for lunch, where I ordered the huge double “Dead Moines” burger (smoked gouda, prosciutto, ham and truffle mayo). It was great, but trust me when I say a single is more than enough. RAYGUN, the Greatest Store in the Universe, was just down the street, so we of course had to stop in and do a little shopping there.
We didn’t stick around too long after the race on Sunday, breaking our locals-only food rule with a quick stop at Noodles and Company before hitting the road back north. The road construction on I-35 once we passed back into Minnesota was completely ridiculous. MNDOT really needs to study ways to improve that whole situation. The Iowa DOT runs some pretty awesome “modern” rest stops – perhaps they can give MNDOT a call and lend a helping hand…