Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Race Report: Drake Relays Road Races

Dinner in First Class!
The weather reports in the midwest had looked dreary from earlier in the week, after a spate of severe weather affected the area.  The weekend wasn't looking any better, with cooler and rainier weather forecast for much of the time I'd be there.  By Friday, it was practically inevitable that it would rain at some point in both of the races that I would be running.  After work, I headed to LaGuardia where I would catch my direct flight to Des Moines, while also taking advantage of a complimentary upgrade to first class (on a noticeably empty plane where first class had as many as four empty seats!)

A welcome for the Drake
Relays at DSM Airport!
I landed about 40 minutes early in Des Moines and called my friend De Moe, who had booked a room at a nearby Motel 6 for us.  Originally, he was going to pick me up and we were going to head back to his home in Marshalltown, roughly an hour away, but with my late arrival and our early morning on race day, he decided to book a room at last minute - however, the city was experiencing a very high occupancy of rooms (due to the estimated 40,000 people attending the Drake Relays and the estimated 90,000 people attending the six sold-out Garth Brooks concerts at Wells Fargo Arena).  After a quick trip to the Hy-Vee for water (and some gifted "Prairie Fire" cinnamon whisky, only made in Iowa by Iowa Distilling!), we settled in for the night in the musty, cigarette-smoke smelling, and overly heated Motel 6.  I was tired enough to crash while watching TV and thankfully, did not have any itchies the following morning from sleeping in the bed.

PRAIRIE FIRE to bring back home!
Spike, the Drake Bulldog mascot,
outside of the Stadium

We woke around 5:30, so we could leave the hotel by 6:10, anticipating potential parking issues - but none were to be had, and we were parked in a spot literally a block away from the stadium before 6:30.  We headed out to the stadium around 6:50 (forty minutes prior to the start) and the turnout was pretty low, still.  We sought refuge inside the stadium grounds, and out of the rain that had begun to fall, and I sucked down some water, used the facilities, and then headed out to the startline, which was still being set up at around 7am.  As I was singing the national anthem for the race, I was given access to the small white tent housing the sound equipment prior to the race start, where I met the race director and the announcer.

My one and only picture
during the race. It was too wet!
7:25 came, and the rain began to fall a bit heavier.  There was a platform located right at the startline on Forest Avenue, just in front of the stadium, where the announcer, and later the recently installed president of Drake University, spoke.  I sang the national anthem from there under a steady rain, and soon, we were off... with the rain falling harder.  Just before crossing the start mats, I took a quick picture and then shoved my phone into my fanny pack to shield it from the intensifying precipitation.  We took off down Forest Avenue, making a right turn onto 24th Street, then headed south before turning right again onto Drake Park Avenue for a quick one-block shift over toe 25th Street, crossing Cottage Grove Avenue, and then turning right again onto Kingman Boulevard, where we would remain 1.5 miles.  As we passed the mile markers, I noticed that each of the markers was manned by a person yelling out real-time gun times from a stopwatch.  There was one stationed at each of the mile markers all along the route - something I had never seen before at another race -- and they stayed there through the rain, cold, and wind, for all of us!

As we headed westward on Kingman Blvd, we turned left onto Polk Boulevard, heading south toward the 3 mile mark into the neighborhood of Ingersoll Park.  We then turned right onto Woodland Avenue and then the left side of the fork in the road toward Country Club Boulevard which turned into Waterbury Road, a nice downhill into this residential area, dropping about 150 feet in elevation over the course of 1.2 miles.  Running through a heavily wooded area, we were surrounded by some majestic homes perched upon hills over the curved, meandering lowland road, elements that define the Waterbury neighborhood.  We crept northward on 59th Street up to the Cummins Parkway into Waveland Woods, and I finally took a bathroom break at a port a potty located along the parkway median.  We crossed over I-235, and into Merle Hay, another northwestern neighborhood of Des Moines, before continuing northward on 53rd Street.  Soon we were at mile 7, as the rain continued to pour down on us, and my shoes and socks were beyond soaked.

Warming back up post-race in
the Fine Arts Building
We finally turned eastward onto Urbandale Avenue, as we were asked to run along the bike lane and into the wind.  Somehow, I picked up a bit of speed here, because I began to pass several folks along the way, and improved my mile pace compared to the previous three miles since the downhill segment.  Still, while running in the bikelane, we were pushed more into the street due to the overflowing curb drains, having to run in the narrow section between the cones and vehicular traffic and the drain.  We turned onto 46th Street, then headed eastward onto Franklin Avenue into the neighborhood of Beaverdale.  We made our way around Witmer Park, curving back down toward Forest Avenue, and the 10 mile mark, where we could actually hear the loudspeakers blaring music coming from Drake Stadium.  Of course, we then proceeded westward onto Forest, away from campus, in order to pull in our last 5 kilometers.

Race bling!
We took a left onto 46th Street, passed the 11 mile mark, then returned back to Kingman Boulevard, where we ran in the opposite direction of when we had come in the earlier miles.  With only two miles left to go, I booked it as best as I could, heading to the finish line on 25th Street just past Carpenter Avenue on the Drake University campus.  I finished under 2:20, which what I was hoping given the weather conditions, and completed my 45th state on surprisingly hilly course in 2:19:26.  Hilly, but definitely not hilly like Kentucky or Tennessee.  In fact, there was really only about 161 feet in elevation difference between the minimum and maximum elevations on the course.

Cruel... chattering teeth and cold and windy temps, and we pass a building called "SHIVERS"

The Drake Relays track and field meet going on in the stadium

When De Moe's around, fireball, or in this case Prairie Fire, is also around!
Victory headstand... in the rain.
The rain, wind, and cold temperatures were definitely a factor in this race. 46 degrees with a 15 mph wind at the start made it feel more like 40, and with the wetness, made me feel extremely chilly by the end.  I had opted to go for shorts for this race, and definitely felt it at the end when trying to warm back up again - and it took quite some time.  It's probably the most awful weather I've ever had to run in.  I waited for De Moe and Dana to finish before making arrangements our arrangements for the rest of the afternoon - De Moe and I went back to the Motel 6 to peel off our waterlogged clothes, socks, and shoes and showered; I picked up my rental car from the airport across the street; we waited for Dana to return her car, and then I picked her up as De Moe went to get gas in his car; and we then met up with De Moe for brunch at a delicious restaurant near downtown Des Moines before heading off to Nebraska.

All the while... it continued to rain.

Much needed food, post race!
Three amigos post race, and post brunch!

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