Up until the day before this race there was an 80% chance of thunderstorms on the forecast, which made me quite nervous. This race was my first venture into the world of ultra running and I was not looking forward to a soggy race. I pulled into Des Moines, Iowa the day before the race and the weather seemed to be looking nice. With a chance of heavy rain the night before the race, my fingers were crossed that it would wrap up before my 7 am start and then hold off for the next 6 or so hours (6 hours was my mental goal).
I woke up the morning of the race, packed up all my gear for the run and made the short drive to the race start in Booneville, Iowa. As I took the walk from the parking lot to the start line by the river with all the other 50k runners, a guy on bagpipes played us across the bridge. That was a fun start. The weather seemed to be cooperating, as the rain had rolled out and some light cloud cover remained. I could deal with that! I knew there was a return chance of rain/thundershowers in the afternoon, which gave me more motivation to try and finish up by 1 pm.
At the start line, the race director gave us a little talk. The course was unmarked, so we had a printed sheet of directions. I felt good about that. Minimal turns and about 55 other runners at this distance made me think I’d see someone at all times. He also mentioned a ‘grade b’ farm road and something about carrying a shoe scrapper with you….?! I wasn’t sure about that one, but figured I’d find out soon enough (and boy did I, more on that in a bit!). We counted down and headed out. The first mile of the race was pretty flat, but that was as flat as it got!
There were 28.5 miles of HILLS. I thought hills + Iowa would equal something pretty easy. I was wrong! I took Brian’s advice and walked the really steep ones to save my legs. There really was never any part of that race that was flat. We went up, down, up, down, up, down. On the up side (no pun intended!) it used different leg muscles the entire time, so one part of me didn’t get more sore than another.
I spent the majority of the race solo. I was ‘that’ runner who wore earphones. I caught up on some good podcasts and then listened to some of my favorite soundtracks. I did see a person in front or behind me most of the race. I also tried to take in all the beautiful prairie landscape. The grasses and miles of rolling hills and vast skylines were beautiful! By mile 20 I started to see the rain clouds off in the distance roll in. I probably checked my weather app one too many times watching a thunderstorm just south of where I was roll by.
At mile 24 I met the grade b farm road. Ick! The sign read something along the lines of ‘Enter at your own risk’. It was a mucky, muddy mess! I walked the entire road. My goal was not to fall on my butt or loose a shoe. By the end of it I was mad because my shoes were so heavy. I was so glad to see one of the three aid stations at the end of it and the car window scraper they had for me to use to clean my shoes off. Even after scrapping them off, they still weighed more than when I started that road. And it was almost a 30 min mile! So long 6 hours (or that was my thought).
Miles 25-31 were hard. The hills were really starting to wear on me. The rain started at mile 29, but by then it felt really good since the temps were creeping around 80. I rounded the corner around mile 31 and saw the finish. I was so happy to see it! I crossed the finish in around 6:08 and came in the 9th lady. I was very happy with that. If it wasn’t for that darn grade b road, I would have made my goal time! The first 50k is in the books and I can now check off a marathon (or longer) in Iowa.
I enjoyed my time in Des Moines. I was pleasantly surprised by the city and had a fun couple of days seeing that part of the country. I probably won’t drive back to run this race, but I would recommend it. Though the aid stations were minimal (3 in total), the race staff was very welcoming, the volunteers were great, and the course was (hilly) beautiful.