Friday, November 7, 2014

Hometown High and Headphone Guy: Des Moines Marathon Race Report (10/19/14)

I was certainly in uncharted waters going into the DSM Marathon. I had never run a second marathon only 4 weeks after the first. But I had laid out an aggressive plan to run 2 fall marathons as warmups for my goal race, the California International Marathon in early December, and I wanted to stick to that plan. Unfortunately, I had been sick with flu symptoms in those 4 weeks between races and was still battling congestion during race week. My mileage had suffered too. While I normally run 80-120 miles per week I had only logged 67, 75, 81, and 55 (week of DSM including race).

Despite all that, I've had a pretty solid year of running and felt good the days leading up to the race. This was my hometown race, after all, and I wasn't going to miss it. When I was growing up in Des Moines in the 80's and 90's this race simply didn't exist (2014 is the 14th year), so I was excited to see how the city would support the race. 

The day before the race I drove 3 hours over from Lincoln, NE (where we have lived for just over a year) with my wife and two boys. My wife and 10 year old son had plans to run the 5k which I didn't see because it started 45 minutes after the full marathon. But my son Gavin had a great race and ran a 5k PR of 19:58! 

Race kit laid out night before the race.

We stayed in town with family the night before. I laid out my race day gear as usual. Things looked a bit different. This would be my first race wearing my new Smarty Pants Vitamins jersey and I was surprised at the way so many fans called out "Go Smarty Pants!" out on the course. It was definitely a pleasant surprise. 

I thought I should write a quick note in response to a few folks who have asked about my new race jersey. 
So here's the scoop: I will be wearing my Smarty Pants gear for some races and my Lincoln Running Company gear for others. Basically, I will wear my club gear (LRC) in any race where they are supporting me financially (by paying entries, travel expenses, etc.) and I will wear my Smarty gear (or whatever I feel like wearing) for other races. Team Smarty Pants isn't a real club team like LRC, it's just a loose group of people around the country who like the product and agree to be an "ambassador" and receive free products and gear in exchange for "getting social" about the products on Twitter. 

All that being said, this is a great product that my kids had been taking for about a year before I got involved with Smarty Pants. It's the only way my kids will take Omega-3 vitamins at all. Use this code for 15% off your order: #RunSmarty14 

Now back to the race report....

I did my usual routine of waking up and eating a light breakfast 2 hours before race time. One banana and a cup of dry cheerios, then a V8 brand energy drink with caffeine about 45 minutes before the race starts. Caffeine is my drug of choice on race day. Research indicates that caffeine reduces perceived exertion while running (you feel like you are running slower than you're actually running), and I'm a big believer that this is true.
Wish I had known this in high school in the mid-90's...

I was lucky enough to have time to set 6 of my own bottles out along the course the night before. I used the same mix that seemed to work at Omaha. 
The bottles had my mix of half water/half gatorade and 2 Saltstick Caps dissolved in each bottle. Each bottle held 12 ounces and I ended up carrying them for maybe half a mile and drinking about half of each one (6 oz) before tossing it. (Feel free to email or tweet at me if you want any marathon nutrition tips! I think I almost have it figured out.)

We arrived about an hour before race time and parked on the north end of downtown DSM. The weather was crisp but really just about perfect for a marathon. 40's and fairly light breezes. 
I jogged for about a mile and then went over to the starting area. I wore gloves and arm sleeves to stay comfortable early in the race until I warmed up. I ended up ditching the sleeves at mile 6 and the gloves around mile 21 after I spilled a cup of water all over them. 

I liked the start area being on a bridge over the river. It gives you a view while you wait to start and a "big race" feeling. The deep field of Kenyan runners vying for the new $10,000 winning prize also gives you a big race feeling. (I met one athlete at packet pickup who had just got off a plane directly from Kenya. He had come to Des Moines for a chance at the money.)
Of course, I knew I wouldn't be in that mix (the winner ran 2:12) but it's always fun to watch 20 Kenyans start a race and watch most of them drop out along the way because the prize money only goes down to 5th place. Once they realize it's not their day they stop running and save it for next weekend where they will be racing in Dayton or St. Louis or wherever there is prize money. I will do a separate post soon about how the Elite Runner fields are handled at Des Moines Marathon and other races. And I should probably note that I did receive a free "elite" entry at this race because I met the time standard of 2:35.

I got out very relaxed the first mile and fought the urge to go hard too early. At DSM, as in most marathons, the full and half-marathon competitors start at the same time. There were some fast half-marathoners in the race, which can make it hard to tell who your competition is early on.
I ran 5:59 for mile one. I was chatting with several Nebraska and Iowa runners during this mile including Shannon Suing, David Bohlken and others. This was just the pace I had planned. A good start.

A mix of Full (blue bibs) and Half Marathoners (orange bibs) at Mile 1.

My wife Bridie and 10 year old son Gavin spectating at Mile 1 (before their own 5k!)
The full and half marathon runners split around 2.5 miles into the race. The half marathoners turn south for their pancake-flat jaunt through Waterworks Park and Gray's Lake. Full marathon runners head west up the Grand Avenue hill which is over 1 mile long (although there is a flattish stretch halfway up). 

It was apparent as soon as we started climbing Grand Avenue that this would be a lonely marathon for me. The Kenyans had shot out and left just a handful of us strung out minutes behind them. I chatted with a runner from Carroll, Iowa on the way up the Grand Avenue hill. His name was Scott Cale and he was wearing a baggy orange t-shirt which made me wonder if he was for real. (He turned out to be a solid runner who finished the race in 2:40.)

I ran with Scott up and down the South of Grand hills for a couple miles and then pulled ahead around mile 5. We agreed to see each other at the finish and catch up. I felt I couldn't wait any longer to start moving up. I could see two runners up ahead and one was clearly struggling. 
He was a blonde guy wearing royal blue gear. I was feeling comfortable up Foster Drive as I chased the royal blue runner and a runner in all black, who turned out to be Dan Sevcik (a Runablaze Iowa team runner). 
I peeled off and tossed my arm sleeves at mile 6 and then passed the royal blue runner about mile 7 (as you come back onto Grand Ave and head west toward Polk Blvd).

Thanks to Super Fan and Super Race Director Julie Feist of Beatrice, NE for this pic at about mile 7.5.
I was feeling good and couldn't help smiling as I ran past my alma mater Roosevelt High (mile 9) and then ran by my first house on Kingman Blvd (mile 10). My goofy smile was apparently contagious as the scattered crowds along the way were screaming for me. "Keep smiling!" and "Go Smarty Pants!" were common cheers. I was amazed how much fun people had calling me Smarty Pants out there!

I was running solo from mile 7 to 10 but was slowly reeling in the runner in black (Sevcik). He was laying down solid splits and I was happy to have someone to chase. I quickly passed an African woman about mile 10 who had apparently fallen off the lead pack and was struggling. (3 international women ended up beating me that day and all the international women had gone out aggressively.)

It was definitely a breezy day but I didn't realize how breezy until I entered the wind tunnel of Drake Stadium. Cool to run a lap there, but it was a windy lap. I was still about 10 or 15 yards behind Sevcik.
The turnaround at Drake allowed me to see who was in front of me and approximately how far ahead they were. I could see the women's lead pack had at least 3 minutes on me and they were working together. 

I exited Drake Stadium, climbed back up to Kingman Blvd, and near mile 13 I passed Sevcik without him putting up a fight. (After the race we met and he told me he was having ankle problems. I don't believe he had finished the race.)

I was through the half in 1:18:16 and was disappointed when I saw it on the big clock. I had hoped to be in the mid-1:17 range. But I had no real basis for that goal time, having never run this course before. I reminded myself that the hills on this course were behind me. 

Right after passing Sevcik I caught an African woman who had fallen off the lead pack. She was trying to latch on and use me to break the wind. I decided to push for a few minutes to drop her. I got carried away and turned a 5:14 mile for mile 15 as I passed Roosevelt High School again. I had succeeded in leaving her behind but I suffered for it the rest of the race. When I passed Ashworth Pool and entered the bike trail that leads to Waterworks Park, I was hurting. This was the most desolate mile of the race. The only people I recall seeing were at a small waterstop. I only ran a 6:25 for mile 18. 

Luckily, I had a water bottle and an energy gel stashed near mile 18 and that seemed to energize me again. I spotted my friend James Clevenger at mile 18 cheering on the side of the road. He was screaming, jumping up and down, and generally going crazy. "This is YOUR day, Chad Sellers!" He shouted. This gave me a big lift! 

I was now in Waterworks Park where the full and half marathon courses come together again. At first it was nice to have some slow runners to pass, but this would get challenging as I made my way through the next couple miles and the packs of runners got larger. The half marathon runners tended to take up most of the road. 
I was lucky to spot a woman in a pink shirt working as a bike marshal around mile 20. I asked her to ride near me and ring her bell to warn the half marathoners I was coming by. 
Kathy quickly started to help. She also offered some moral support. At one point she said "My husband does REALLY LONG bike rides, so I know what you're going through." 

Kathy was a tremendous help in cutting a path for me with her bike and her little bell. Although, I still had to yell "on your left" all the way around Gray's Lake to make sure people got over. This probably took about the same amount of energy as weaving around everyone, but it felt like a safer strategy. 

Around mile 24 (a man who will forever live in infamy as) "Headphone Guy" was running on the left side of the trail with 2 people to his right. They made a wall across the trail. I yelled and Kathy rang her bell but Headphone Guy couldn't be bothered to pay attention. 
I finally had to lower my shoulder and bump him out of the way. And I would do it again. Although I shouldn't have to.

Please don't run more than 2 people wide on the trail!!!!

At mile 24, I would pass one more runner in a red Simpson College Alumni singlet. And I hated to do it. Des Moines runner Jake Sutton was leaning to the side and his head was bobbing around. I yelled to him to keep it going but I wasn't sure he would make the finish line. 

I had a nice run in and felt good the last couple miles. My older son Gavin and my wife spotted me around mile 25 and cheered me in. The Johnston Cross Country girls also went crazy for me at mile 25 which was a great surprise. I finished in 2:38:13 and was happy to be done.

Jake Sutton eventually did cross the finish line about 2 minutes behind me and promptly collapsed. But it wasn't too serious. It looked like he was just depleted of electrolytes and possibly dehydrated. The medical tent had no salt or electrolytes on hand (really?!). I fed him some of my own Salt Stick Caps (electrolytes!) in the medical tent and he felt better within minutes.  
Shout out to Jake for finishing the race despite his body failing him. 

Also, shout out to some friendly faces I spotted along the way or talked with post-race: Julie Feist, Ivan Marsh, Theresa/Jim/Peyton McClure, Johnston Girls Cross Country, James and Robyn Clevenger, Ryan Kramer, Doron Clark, Ryan Kollman. Several of my LRC teammates and more that I've forgotten to mention.

The medal was pretty average in terms of size, but a nice design. And I like that Des Moines isn't engaging in the "my medal is bigger than yours" arms race that some marathons are engaging in.
The shirt is a light half-zip long sleeve design. Nice design and color choice.

There were many bands out along the course playing music. The crowd support was very good for a smaller/mid-sized marathon, especially downtown and during the middle miles along Polk and Kingman Blvd. The early miles (3-7) through the ritzy South of Grand neighborhoods were a bit sleepy but there were a few front yard bbq's (with Samosas and Bloody Mary's) going on there which was great to see. 

After I crossed the finish line at the Des Moines Marathon, there was plenty of food available including pizza, deli sandwiches, peanut butter, you name it. 
The traffic control, aid stations and general organization was all top notch. I was proud to be a Des Moines native on race day. And proud to drop the shoulder on Headphone Guy. It had to be done.

Thanks to Julie Feist for this finish line shot.

Approx 36-40oz---Half Gatorade/Half Water

4 Energy gels---Various brands (with caffeine)

6 Saltstick Caps 

SHOES: Scott AF Trainer 

SPLITS (non-GPS watch)

6:17 (18:16 3 mile) (Grand Ave Hill)
6:07 (Grand Ave Hill)
5:54 (36:15 6 mile)
5:56 (59:48 10 mile)
6:11 (1:18:16 half marathon)
5:14 (Polk Blvd south to Roosevelt High--This one killed me!)
6:09 (1:59:17 20 mile)
18:59 (miles 22,23,24--Dodging half marathoners at Gray's Lake)
7:36 (last 1.2 miles)

2:38:13 Final Time. 10th Place (2nd American-born runner)

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