October 21, 2012
Marathon 44, State #38
Des Moines, Iowa
Why do you ask…because this was mostly a solo journey. 2011 was a great year in my marathon quest knocking off 3 states, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. All three of these I traveled alone, so I was hoping to recruit a friend to run a marathon in 2012. Choosing a race this year wasn’t easy, I had hoped to run two marathons however time was slipping away so it looked like there would only be one fall marathon. 2012 would be the year to continue the “fly over states,” as they call them in California, by checking off Iowa from my bucket list.
I first reached out to my good friend John who I haven’t run a marathon with since January 2008 in Mississippi. Has it really been over 4 years? I was thinking hard about Albuquerque where my friend Josh had just moved, but John didn’t seem like he would be able to commit time to train and wanted to try New Mexico in 2013 together so my fallback plan was to be Iowa. It just happened that a new runner acquaintance named Rob was also going from Los Angeles to Des Moines, his trip was two fold, to go to a family wedding nearby Saturday night and also run the marathon on Sunday. Perfect, now at least I’ll have someone in town I can hang out with, right?
Now that I’m in my 40’s speed isn’t one of my goals, however, something to me is magical about breaking 4 hours, so I seem to train just enough to get me under the 4 hour mark. My training has changed over the years, I’ve always been a fan of undertraining, but this year was probably the most undertrained in that I ran my 3 longest training runs of not more than 10 miles, each of those “long” runs less than half the distance that I would need to run on race day. I’m a believer that my cycling training carries over to my running, so I’m usually able to ride 2-4 hours every weekend. Cardiovascularly in my mind I’m getting the same work out without all the leg pounding of the long miles hitting the streets.
Another reason for a little lack of training about the middle of August I had one of my few lifetime running injuries. Parisa took very good care of me brining me ice packs and making me home made get well cards. I’m not sure, but must have just been a strain to the knee. The only thing I can remember is one night at the dinner table Parisa was too far away from her plate so I tried to pull her chair closer to the table with my leg. I felt a pop and sharp pain when I think my knee was extended the wrong direction. After a week of hardly being able to walk, at the time I thought my running career was over, I actually went to a doctor, but he didn’t seen any signs of a serious concern, but and for about a week I was in misery.
I have a newer friend Jeff who is a co-worker that had planned on his first marathon 2 weeks before mine. We shared our training stories all summer and fall and he was doing by my standards ridiculous milage with several 20 milers, but he was all set for a sub four hour first marathon. He went out a little fast and bonked due to warmer than expected weather and barely broke 5 hours. I joked with him over and over because I planned to run an hour faster with half the training! Ends up I met another co-worker Norma who was also running her first marathon, ironically the same event as Jeff. She crushed it and qualified for Boston with nearly a 3:30 marathon. I’m not worthy!
So race week I’m healthy and ready for a great weekend. A little scary two weeks before the October marathon I see it’s pretty darn cold in Des Moines, high twenties, however as race day approaches it looks like it’s going to be near Los Angeles temperatures that I’ve been training. After living in a warm climate there is a bit of fear for me for the extreme cold, however, my Ohio roots have made me a little more hard core, I know if I dress appropriately it’s really never too cold to run!
Friday morning I get up and as I’ve done for every marathon from California pack a light backpack with only the necessities and hop on my Honda VFR motorcycle and head to the airport. Only way to beat traffic with the added benefit of free parking for bikes at LAX! I get to the airport very early, fly through security, and head to a restaurant/bar at the terminal. I was thinking just of having a soda and using the airport wi-fi and found a seat at the bar. Hard to believe all the people getting sloshed before their morning flights. I was a bit jealous, but didn’t want to par take alcohol so early in the day, especially race weekend.
I only had a 40 minute layover in Denver, so before boarding I eventually order a sandwich early in the morning to hold me over in case I can’t get anything between my next flight. Good choice, because all kinds of delays with my first flight leaving the terminal on time and I knew I would have to do a OJ Simpson in the Denver terminal to catch my next flight…also another good reason to travel light and not check bags.
First flight was perfectly clear and views were spectacular the whole flight, so I mostly enjoyed the scenery across the west. Highlight was flying over the Hoover Dam, Utah from the air was magnificent, and finally Colorado has just got a dust of snow on all the highest peaks so was also simply beautiful! As soon as the plane made it to the gate I ran nearly as fast as I could to (barely) make my connection! Had I missed it, who knows when or how late I would have been able to fly into Des Moines.
Second flight was a little less exciting, dark outside so nothing to see. On the ground, pick up rent a car, and head towards hotel and to find some dinner. Ends up the town is not that big and downtown is only a few minutes from the airport. I think two turns and I’m in front of my hotel, check in is simple, hotel is a little old and kind of a “classic” building. It appears restaurants are close by, so walk downstairs and then next door for some grub. Table for 1, some kind of south western dish, spicy, chicken and a homemade amber brew. (I couldn’t resist this time, just looked too good!)
Saturday morning I awoke, game plan, grab some breakfast and head to the expo. Bummer, no continental breakfast, so grab and orange juice, throw down a Power Bar and program the GPS to the site of the Expo. Downtown I see the start/finish line is already being prepared and a few more blocks away is the expo building. I arrive early, before doors are officially open and find a well participated event with tables set up throughout. No lines, just pick up my packet, walk around and check out all the vendors. On vendor commented on my Ironman tattoo and I learned that he is doing his first in Florida in a few weeks.
Besides a few text messages to/from Rob, I actually hadn’t talked to him. I phone and learn a little more of his plans, he had already visited the expo Friday. Rob would not be back in Des Moines until late Saturday night, so I would see him first time perhaps at the start of the marathon. He was shooting for a 3:30 so not sure if we would even get to run together or if I would see him along the course. I let Rob know I wouldn’t be taking my cell to the start line, so if I didn’t see him wished him good luck on his race.
So from the Expo I had the rest of my Saturday to myself. What to do next? There were some cool buildings downtown I thought I would check out, so drove around, jumped out of the car for a few snapshots.
While downtown I stumbled upon the Iowa Historical Museum. There is a rich Iowa heritage that is show cased at the museum. It’s free and a very good way to pass the time and learn a little more about the area. http://www.iowahistory.org/museum/
From the museum I drove back over the river to the downtown area in search of a sculpture garden I remember seeing as I drove from the airport the night before. On the way I paused to check out the many bridges that spanned the river.
Then a short walk around the sculpture garden with a short break to check out a car dealership that featured old restored American muscle and classic cars. As you see the the pictures from morning till afternoon the clouds are retreating and the sun is starting to break through. Ends one of the nicest weekends in Iowa was in store for the marathon! =)
So with the light breakfast the stomach is starting to rumble so I go in search of some grub in the direction of Scheels. Scheels is the local giant sporting goods store and one of the marathon’s sponsors. Ends up Scheels is a two story sporting goods store and fun to walk around the mall it was attached to which also featured what I think was the only Apple Store in the state, at least in the city. I tried to find an adaptor for Homeyra which was sold out in LA for the new iPhone 5, but no luck, sold out here too.
Above 2 photos were an interesting concept which I discovered a couple stations which you can rent bikes by the hour. There appear to be multiple stations across town so you can rent one place and return to another! http://desmoines.bcycle.com/About/HowItWorks.aspx
On the way back to the hotel to relax and I made my grocery stop for Sunday’s breakfast, the usual, 1 bagel, orange juice, yogurt, Gatorade, and a Red Bull (for after the race!). Before heading back to the hotel, I found a little bagel shop to hang out for a couple hours and take advantage of their wi-fi for the afternoon. Back at the hotel I got ready for my wild night on the town. Ok, not so wild night, but at least a chance to check out another area called the “Court District”. A few taverns and restaurants in a consolidated area. Of course the Spaghetti Factory had a line out the door a night before a marathon, so found my way to a place across the street called the Court Avenue & Brewing Co. Sat at the bar and had a wonderful dinner. Also while at the bar I learned about a new shot that was popular with the locals called a “rootdown”. Apparently they have homemade root beer on tap and they mix with Jagermiester. Interesting combination, perhaps after the race Sunday I’ll come back and try one, but in the meantime I had to have a mug of the fresh brewed root beer. I later find the root beer is bottled and called “Zimmermans”, a must have if you can find it!
So here’s the first of two funny traveling stories. There is this guy on both my flights that sat right behind me on each flight, then we went to same car rental, and finally same hotel. Well Des Moines isn’t that big of a town so who do I run into, but the guy from the plane, also in from LA just for the race by himself. I talked to him briefly and we joked about seeing each other and I wished him good luck on Sunday.
So 7 pages into my story can you believe we’re almost to the part of the marathon? I had a great nights rest and of course had multiple alarms set so I didn’t oversleep. A wake up call from the hotel, the hotel alarm clock, and even my Timex running watch! Everything laid out the night before so in the morning all I have to do is eat and poop when I awake before the race. I didn’t want to drive the nearly 1 mile nor did I really want to walk, so I found out the hotel had a shuttle service, nice, called and reserved my shuttle 45 minutes before the start. I was ahead of schedule and made it to the lobby for the 1 shuttle before my actual reserved shuttle. All the runners staying at the hotel piled in and exceeded the capacity, but we were all friends of such so no one no one seemed to mind.
A line of runners filed into a nearby office lobby so I followed them and found a peaceful bench to await the start of the marathon and stretch. Many groups came and went and had a great time people watching. It ends up when I first sat down next to this couple I didn’t realize it but I practically sat on a $20 bill. Later another runner sat down on my other side and pointed out I dropped my money, it funny the people on both sides were waiting for someone to claim it and I won the prize of keeping it by being the closest!
With 15 minutes to the start I figured I would brave the cold, actually it wasn’t that cold, I think I was just being a wimp from living in So. California for five years. I had multiple layers and a drop bag that I would peel my clothes before the start and tuck into the bag, only I was already lined up pretty close to the front and didn’t want to lose my position, so my outer layer I’ve been trying to lose now for a couple of marathons so just left my bag along the coral and if it somehow made it to the official bagging area then I would retrieve after the marathon.
I was motivated just before the gun going off by a introduction on stage of a runner doing his 50th state marathon. Wow, would I be able to do that in my 50th state some day? Ends up he didn’t start running marathons until age 50, so he had finished over 50 marathons in less than 15 years, that’s impressive! Next was an incredible national anthem and then we were off. The start line was supposed to be organized by expected finish times, so you could see the signs and pace groups neatly organized. I was not anywhere close to my group, shooting for 4 hours my pace would have to be about 9 minutes/mile, but I was in the 6:30 area. I didn’t mind, it beats having to pass all the slow runners in front of me!
Driving around town Saturday I felt I had the basic idea of all the burgs the course would wind. When I trained and thought of Iowa I didn’t expect for it to be anything but flat. The maximum difference in any part of the course was only about 200 feet, so I interpreted this to being very flat. Ends up the first 16 miles were actually quite rolling. I train on much steeper hills, so the course wasn’t a problem tho there were 2-3 hills that I remember being quite glad when they were over. As the course continued and I fell onto my pace, slowly I was passed by the 3:15, 3:30, 3:35, 3:45, 3:50, 3:55 pace groups. Rob was in the 3:35 group and passed me on the 7th mile hill like I was standing still. I’m a smart runner and not to go out too hard, so knowing he wanted a finish time 30 minutes faster than me, I just let him go by after we shared a few pleasantries.
The course had a lot of out and backs so in multiple areas you could see the lead runners ahead coming towards me on the other side of the street. I got to see the lead men and women who were just flying! There was great crowd support throughout the course and lots of signs. A few I remember, “Toe nails are for sissys”, “26.2 because 26.3 would be just crazy”, “your first marathon, welcome to the crazies”, “Don’t stop, someone may be watching”, “Today everyone are Kenyons”, “Pain is temporary, bragging rights are forever”, “Having a bad day, Don’t worry, there are others behind you”, “run quick, I just farted”, “run like her husband is chasing you”, “run like you stole something”. One of the fun parts of the course was we got to run around Drake University Stadium, a blue track and they had a video of you on the big screen as you ran through!
Eventually you leave the city streets go down this wooded trail that leads to two big lakes we have to run around. Still feeling great, trying to run/jog and walk the water stops. Tons of food, drink, snacks all along the course. I had completely forgot to stow any power jels but they were handing out GU’s so they were even more tasty, I think I had 3 of them. Also, since 2006 in Cour d’Alene I bonked I contribute to low salt, so I’ve been taking Hammer Endurolytes ever since on long rides and runs and haven’t bonked since! Finally leaving the lakes we followed the river back toward downtown, this is where I passed the guy that had followed me from Los Angeles, he was running the 13.1 mile race and I finally made up 12 miles on him and passed him at mile 26! That was a good feeling and reenergized me to go strong to the end.
One thing I’ll say about this marathon is there were more photographers than any other event I’ve participated. I pulled out my race belt and proudly showed my race number each time I passed a camera and have some great shots. I don’t know how long this link will be active, but you can see all pics here: http://www.marathonfoto.com/index.cfm?action=site.login&RaceOID=18922012F1&LastName=SCHWEINHAGEN&BibNumber=1258&utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=0%20G%20Proofs%20Online%20ENG%20MULTI%2010AM%20%289%29&utm_content=&spMAILINGID=40340488&spUserID=Mzc5NTk0MTM3MTES1&spJOBID=164505606&spREPORTID=MTY0NTA1NjA2S0
Crossing the finish line in Iowa, my time was 3:57:45 and breaking 4 hours once again. Those last 4 miles I’m watching my watch and know if I can hold my pace I’ll make the four hour mark, but if I slow down I will not, so helps to push those last few miles. When you’re done everything hurts, feet hurt, legs hurt, but the finish medal always puts a smile on my face! Next have the timing chip cut off my shoe and on thru the finisher’s gate to see what kind of food they have for us. There is a great spread, fruit, pizza, chocolate milk, the best sandwiches, and drink. I find a bench and sit down for about 10 minutes trying to stretch out a bit and get some food in my belly. For some reason at the time taking my shoes off on the bench seemed like a good idea until I had to bend down and try to put them back on. There is the feeling like you’re going to cramp really bad if you bend that way and then knowing the hotel is a long enough walk I don’t want to do it barefoot.
Somewhere along the first 5 miles close to the bagel shop I visited Saturday along the course I tossed another layer of clothing, my prized marathon geeks long sleeve running shirt that I would have to go pick up, which later I realize when I’m in Los Angeles that I left it behind, however, my tote bag with my race number I threw to the side at the start of the race made it to the bagging area and I got my old shirt that I had hoped was the one that was left behind. It was a quiet and peaceful walk back to the hotel where that Red Bull I got the day before was on ice and calling my name. I love the late check out and took my time getting cleaned up, laying around, and sending out a few emails including snaping a shot of my finisher’s medal.
Still hungry after all the free food, going out for a bite seemed to be on my mind and what better place to go but back to the Court Street Brewrey for anther Zimmerman’s root beer on tap! It was only a block away from the finish line, so went to see the last few runners cross the finish line and the band that played all day was absolutely blitzed, so was quite entertaining, especially appreciated of the free cold beers they were still handing out at the finish area. From the finish line had lunch outside and from the patio could see the very last runner heading down the street. I ended up talking to a couple that rode up to the tavern on a tandom bike and we chatted for a while about the town and the marathon.
Back to the airport the terminal was filled with runners. What’s very interesting and my second story about a stranger from the plane is that on my first two flights Friday I sat next the window and there was this lady that sat on both flights in my row, but one person between us. She slept so I never talked to her, but ends up I sat next to the window on the next two flights and believe it or not she was in the isle in the same row as me again. Finally on the 4th flight we both laughed and started to talk. Honestly, she was in high heels and I wouldn’t have picked her out of the crowd as a runner, but ends up she was the female winner with at time of 2:35. We had an interesting conversation all the way home about her marathon lifestyle as a professional!
Finally back on the ground late in Los Angeles, back on the bike, and home to my own bed and lovely girls!
Only 12 state to go!