Dam to Dam Memories

I ran my 15th consecutive Dam to Dam 20K race on Saturday.
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Every year brings new adventures with this event because it is Iowa, because it is spring on the verge of Summer, and because you never know what to expect from the weather. I have run D2D in cold, rainy, humid, steamy, sunny, hot, and unbearably hot weather. This year, weeks leading up to race day brought storms and scares of more storms that included torrential rain, flooding, hail, and in some cases, tornadoes. Honestly, if we did not have the weather to talk about when we run, we would be very limited in our conversations.

Saturday’s weather was nothing we will talk about a year from now. I have a hard time imagining us getting together in a few months and saying, “Remember that perfect day we ran Dam to Dam? It was 58 degrees at the start and never got above 61. The sun was shining, and just before we felt it starting to get a little hot, that cool breeze from the west cooled us off.” The day was so perfect for running, it will drop back in memory much quicker than other years.

Which brings me to memorable D2D memories from the past…

1999…first year…farthest I had ever run in one day…one of the hottest EVER…with one of my best friends…

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2001…personal best time…2:02:09…I am consistent…not fast…

2002…ran with another awesome friend…and of course, as always, Captain Midnight was there to greet us at the end…

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2006…trained and ran with Team 12.4…future Team Vardo support group…and best of all my amazing son, Josh…

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2007…another great friend and fellow Vardo teammate…

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2009…the crowd gets bigger and the Vardo group grows…

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2010…rained…a lot…thus me wearing a hat…

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2013…hit another age bracket..finished top half of age group…still got it!

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Change is in the air…

Change is the only consistent thing in life. Many times, change is an opportunity to grow, to experience something new and challenging. I had the opportunity to have one of these experiences this past weekend. I participated in the “Drake” Hy Vee Half Marathon. The Drake Relays are a big thing in Des Moines. The relays provide an opportunity for Olympic as well as hundreds of high school and college athletes to compete on the “Blue Oval” at the Drake University stadium. This a really big deal. World records are broken.

In the past, I have participated in the Drake On-the-roads Race. This event was held on Saturday morning of the relays weekend and gave all of the rest of us a chance to take part in the bigger event. The 8K and half marathon course wound through some of the older, scenic, tree-lined boulevards of Des Moines. Homeowners sat in lawn chairs along the course, drank coffee, and cheered.

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This year, everything changed. As with many things, corporate sponsorship took over the relays. With Hy Vee taking the lead, the road races took on a new look. Gone is the Saturday venue. Gone is the scenic, tree-lined boulevard route with lawn chairs. Instead, the new route winds through the industrial, commercial, governmental, Sunday-deserted, downtown Des Moines with a quick pass by Gray’s Lake and up one really steep hill for all of mile #12. Race shirts are now just advertisements for Hy Vee, picked up at a big expo at Hy Vee Hall in the convention center, where you will pay big bucks for parking (unless you know about the alternative meters nearby). Security was upgraded and evident prior to, during, and after the race…a result of the Boston bombings just two weeks prior. I don’t recall guards on the top of the stadium during the National Anthem during past years as we stood outside, ready to begin.

The positive changes on race day were highlighted in the weather, the volunteer support, a finish on the “blue oval,” and most of all, the friends. Sunday was the first (or maybe 2nd) real day of spring in Iowa. The 50 degree start was perfect. The sun got a bit warm throughout, but a fabulous breeze during mile #11 cooled us down. There was a water stop at every mile, with hundreds of volunteers throughout. Because of the day-of-the-week change, we had the opportunity to finish in the stadium this year, running 3/4 lap around the track as the final leg. It felt like the real deal as the announcer called names and people cheered. Though some of the long time friends were there, many new friends joined us and we celebrated afterwards with a fabulous breakfast at the Drake Diner.

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The weather, the routes, the sponsors, the people, the friends will change. Running has changed. For me and for everyone.

Pacing Myself

Marathon season is in full bloom for the Midwest. Which also means it is football season and back to school season and clean up the garden season and why didn’t I get the storage closet cleaned out this summer when I had time off season and I just want to curl up and read a good book or spend time with the grand-babies season. Thus the whirlwind continues.

For me, one of my favorite things about this time of year is the opportunity to be a pace team leader for the Des Moines Half Marathon. This means doing something I love to do and sharing it with thousands of others. At an 11:27 minute per mile pace, it is my job to keep a consistent pace for 13.1 miles with many first timers who have a goal of crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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Teammates come and go throughout the race. Some move faster and beat me to the finish. Some stick with me for several miles and slow down when things get tough. It is my job to stick with the plan, keep a steady pace throughout, and finish within 30 seconds of goal time. For me, this means crossing between 2:29:30 and 2:30:30. During the last mile or two, so as not to beat the clock, I have to make a conscious effort to stay on pace, which often means allowing some of the team to race ahead without me. I love the excitement of my teammates when I see them being greeted by friends and family members after the race. I am emotionally overwhelmed by their stories and their accomplishments.

I was a first time racer once. I needed the support of many to keep me on pace during training and during races. I am thankful I have amazing friends who still challenge me and encourage me and keep me on track. I love being able to pay back and pay forward all this support.

If I could only find ways to pace myself beyond running. Got any suggestions?

Beginning…

The day started with rain hitting the windows, thunder roaring in the distance, and wind rushing through the backyard trees. A perfect day to stay in bed. It was dark, the early dawn kind of dark, when I turned to the glow of the digital clock. Hard to believe the clock read 8:45! I never slept that late. At least not for many years.

I lay in bed a few more minutes and thought about the day ahead. I had written a late night email to friends to arrange a mid-day run. I needed motivation to get out the door. Saturday mornings were usually our day to run, but the rain was pouring the previous day and there were good reasons the run never happened. I picked up the iPad to check for responses. There was a plan to meet at noon. I checked the weather report. Rain to stop by 10:00. Great! Temperatures in the 50s. Perfect! Winds from the NW at 25 to 30 MPH! Did I read that right?

Thinking about running against 30 MPH winds gave me pause. Do I really need to do this? Do I really want to do this? Yes and yes! I needed it and I wanted it! Why? Not sure I have all the answers to this. Perhaps the answers are in the challenge or the accomplishment. Maybe in the acknowledgement that feeling the wind reminds me that I am alive and well. Could be all of these and much more.

Here begins my search to find the answers.