I still can’t believe I actually ran a marathon. Me. The guy who is NOT an athlete by any stretch of the imagination, ran 26.2 miles through the streets of Des Moines, IA, and actually ENJOYED it. Well, most of it. Luckily, I did not have any sort of injury that I had to work through. My biggest obstacle was just tackling six point two miles more than I had ever run before.
Having come back from Chicago on Monday night, we only had three and a half days to prepare for our trip to Des Moines. How I like to pack for trips that involve running is that essentially I will pack a ton of running clothes, and maybe one other outfit. There is nothing I love mroe than getitng to hang out in running/workout clothes for an entire weekend, especially in the Fall where I get to wear one of my bazillion (that’s a number) 1/4 zips. What’s that? The Des Moines Marathon gives a 1/4 zip top to all participants? I knew this race was for me.
I was able to leave work a little early on Friday (thanks, James), and Hollyanne was able to work from home, so I swung by home and picked her up and we were on the road. Initially we thought that we might get to Des Moines in time for packet pick-up on Friday night, giving us one less thing to do on Saturday. Unfortunately, traffic had other ideas. There were two different accidents on the interstate, so it took us quite a bit longer than usual to get to Des Moines. We decided to forego the race expo Friday night and, instead, we got dinner from this little wine, meat, and cheese place in Des Moines, called The Cheese Shop. It was delicious, and I had probably one of the best mac and cheese dishes of my life. We also got a meat and cheese plate, and I had two beers. I might be a slow runner, but I’m definitely an elite carb-loader. Trust me, you will sense a theme going on. After dinner, we headed to my cousin Cindy’s house, where we were staying with her and her family (THANK YOU!!!), and we called it a night.
We got up Saturday morning and Holl and I jogged about two and a half miles around the high school in Waukee. We nearly got trampled by a marching band that was coming straight at us on the sidewalk, but we decided to get out of their way, since there seemed to be about 100 of them, and they weren’t about to move for us. :) After getting back to the house, we showered, got ready and headed back out the door. We wanted to both drive the course and get to the expo early so we could have lunch and watch my little cousin’s soccer game.
We had done the half marathon last year, so I remember that course being extremely flat. That was definitely not the case with the full marathon course. The half and full courses split at about the 2.5 mile point, and the full goes on a long, gradual, up-hill for nearly a mile. It then turned, and there were rolling hills for the next FOUR miles. Luckily with rolling hills, there’s also a lot of downhill, so I knew I could make up some time in those spots. We continued to drive up towards Drake University, where the course finally flattened out about mile 12, and the course then went downhill or was flat the rest of the way. It was also nice to drive the course so that Hollyanne and I could see where some good places would be for her to see me during the race.
After driving the course, we went to the Expo Center to pick up my race packet and shop around. Since it is a smaller race, the expo is a little small, but there was still a good amount of different booths. I got a new stocking cap, mug, and a wall display for all of our finisher medals and race bibs. We probably spent about an hour at the expo, and not wanting to get too tired from walking around, we headed back to Waukee to meet my aunt, uncle, and cousins for lunch.
Much to my surprise, when we got back to Waukee, my parents were there! Hollyanne had sneakily arranged for them to come up for the weekend as well, which was awesome! We got lunch at Jimmy Johns, where I consumed more carbs. In case you haven’t caught on, I’m REALLY good at consuming carbs.
After lunch, we had a little time to kill before the soccer game, so Holl and I hopped in the car with Cindy and Craig, and did a little wine tasting before Izzy’s soccer game. Penoach Winery in Adel was beautiful, and the wine was delicious! I can’t wait wait to go back there at some point. The soccer game was fun and Izzy did great, and even scored a goal! A good time was had by all!
After the soccer game, we all went back and changed before dinner. I was able to lay out my “Flat Kevin” for the next morning, so I didn’t have to be running around like a mad-man in the dark trying to find some last-minute item. We then headed to dinner, where, once again, I excelled. The typical pre-race dinner for me involves pizza and beer, which is what I went with. The key is not over-indulging in either of those, which I like to think I’ve mastered. I am pretty sure I PR’d in carb-loading for this race. :) After dinner, we went back, watched the Cub lose (sad), and I headed off to bed for an early wake-up.
I got up about 5:45 on Sunday morning, so I could start my pre-race fueling. I opted for a bagel with peanut butter before we left, and brought a banana to eat about 7:15, since the race started at 8am. The early morning crew consisted of me, Holl, Cindy, Katie (Cindy and Craig’s oldest), and my mom! We headed out of Waukee about 6:30 and got downtown to the YMCA by about 7am. We had plenty of time to relax, use the restrooms (MUCH nicer than porta-potties), and soak up some heat before heading out into the 40 degree temperatures. We walked down to the starting area about 7:40 and said our goodbyes, as they headed off to the meeting spot at mile 3.5.
With only about 7000 people doing both the half and the full marathons, there was no wave start. Once the gun went off, everyone just worked their way up to the front. I tried to start about in the middle, since I didn’t quite know exactly how long it was going to take me to finish, and I needed to make sure to finish before the cutoff time. I also didn’t want to be the last person on the course with no spectators around for miles. My plan was to try and not start out too fast, and save as much energy as possible for the back half of the course.
The first couple of miles felt good. The pace I was at felt good, and I was passing some folks as we made it to the half/full marathon split. This is the point where the marathoners do 16 miles on their own before reuniting with the half marathoners. Once we hit the split, we spent the next mile going up hill. It was one of those slow, gradual uphills that make you question why on Earth you chose to run the hill. My pace slowed a little, but I got through it. I hit mile 3.5 and saw my family for the first time, which was a good boost for what was about to happen over the next four miles. I ditched my gloves and switched out my stocking cap for a hat, and Holl reminded me to slow down, then I was on my way.
The next four miles consisted of me going up and down rolling hills. I knew this section would be tough, but I also knew that the downhill portion would be helpful with my pace. I tried to just focus on my surroundings (BEAUTIFUL homes) and keep my pace as steady as possible. I came out of the hills just past mile 7, and saw my family again. Knowing where they would be along the course helped keep me focused. as well as helped break up the distance. I was sitting at a 10:40 pace and, once again, Holl reminded me to slow down and that I had 19 miles to go. I’m kind of the worst when it comes to pacing.
Over the course of the next four miles, I just tried to stay in a rhythm, and focused on fueling, every 5 miles like I had planned. There were plenty of aid stations, so I never felt like water was too far away. At mile 9, someone was handing out small cups of beer (probably like 3 ounces?). Being the elite carb-loader that I am, of course I had one. I had to make sure I had enough in the tank to go all the way to the finish line!
Once I got to mile 11.5, I saw my family again when we did a lap around the Drake track (home of the Drake Relays). This time, my aunt and uncle had joined in on the fun as well! Knowing I wouldn’t see my family again until mile 18, I knew I had to try and stay mentally strong during the middle miles. I decided to stop and make a pit stop before continuing out of Drake Stadium. I hit the halfway point at 2:30: 53, which, honestly, was entirely too fast. YOLO, right?
Miles 14-16 were pretty steadily downhill. Between the 15 and 16 mile markers, I started to feel a shooting pain through the back of my calf. It was a little un-nerving for me, as I’d never really felt that before. Looking back, I think that with so much downhill during that portion, my legs just weren’t happy after 15 miles of up and down. Once the course flattened out again, it pretty much went away. The next couple of miles were rough, to say the least, as we went onto a trail where there were no spectators, so you are pretty much alone with yourself.
I came in to Waterworks Park at mile 18 in rough shape. I had slowed considerably, but still felt pretty good, though was starting to get sore. I saw the family again, which was a huge boost before taking a lap around the lake. As I was running around the lake, I met a woman who was running her 100th marathon, which was pretty cool! She looked like she was doing much better than I was at that point!
I saw the family again at mile 21 when I came back around the lake. I knew I would see them again at 23, before the finish line. The next two miles were also pretty lonely, as it was down another trail where it was difficult to have spectators. I was also getting to the point where I was starting to think I could make 5:30:00, which is what I was really hoping for (besides just finishing). I saw three people drinking and spectating at mile 22, and I jokingly said that it wasn’t fair as I passed them. One guy offered me a drink of his beer, and I gladly accepted! Why not? It tasted incredible!
I saw the family one last time at 23, where I tried to veer off-course, so I could finish my race at Confluence Brewing Company, but they all made me stay on track. :) Looking at my watch and my pace temporary tattoo (I would highly recommend getting one of these for a marathon), I knew 5:30:00 was looking more and more possible, so that kept me moving as fast as I could at that point. Once I got to the mile 24 marker, I knew I had banked enough time that I was going to make 5:30:00 pretty easily, even if I had to walk the rest of the way (I was not about to walk the rest of the way, have no fear!). I then began to realize that if I pushed it more (it’s hard to think of 13 minute miles as pushing it, but there was nothing left in the tank at this point), I could break 5:25!
The last couple of miles flew by as I kept trying to do the math in my head about the paces I needed to hit (math is hard). I then saw Hollyanne’s cousin Anita at mile 25, which I didn’t fully realize until after the race. I then powered through the last 1.2 miles and up the Locust Street Bridge to finish in 5:24:41! I really had a great time and cannot thank Hollyanne and my family enough for all of the support they gave me along the way! I never thought I would become a marathoner, but now I can’t wait to do it again!