By Angie Looney
Just saying "My first 20k" sounds like I have plans for more. But in order to plan for the future I have to resolve the past. So here goes my story of my experience in the Dam to Dam 2012.
Last summer I was standing around talking with some other 5K runners about upcoming races and other such nonsense when I listened to multiple stories of the Dam to Dam. It seems every other 5k runner had done that race, oh it was a great time, yada yada yada. Now I had just started running 5k. In fact, I just started running again after a 17 year lay-off. After my knee surgery I slowly gained the strength to run. Which was awesome but I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing by putting the demand of the pounding of the pavement on my "new" knee and would my other knee hold up? However, I always forget about that stuff in the spur of the moment. In fact, my husband Tim reminds me daily of my "just do it" attitude and pay the price later. So in August at my first adjunct meeting at the University of Iowa with all the other new instructors coming in we had to go around the room and describe one thing about ourselves. Now, I could have said I am an avid gardener. I could have said I was teaching myself to play the guitar and wanted to form an all-girls punk rock band. Yes, I use girls but really mean women over 45 who want to blow some steam off. I could have said I was an award-winning photojournalist. But I did not say any of those things. No, I said something like this, "I had knee surgery a year ago, thought I would never run again, completed five 5k races and am planning on doing a half-marathon next year." Wow, out of my mouth it flowed. Practically word for word like I described. It was too late to take it back. Now, the plan was in place. In my process to prepare, I needed to find a victim to come along with me in this race. I did not know what I was doing, I did not know any details other than it was a 20k. One of my work-study students who also is a runner volunteered to do it with me. We would make a pact to train and encourage each other. She was a great inspiration for me and kept me thinking about it, training for it. We ran the Turkey Trot in Marion together in November. It is a 8k. Victoria and I were doing a great pace and I believe after the first mile they blurted out 8:30:00. I knew I could not keep up this pace, so I backed off and told her go on without me. I should have not heard it, I wouldn't have known how fast but once I heard it it was like, oh, that is too fast for me, slow down. If I would have kept up at that pace would I have gotten a faster time? Or would I have used up all my energy? I run conservatively, so I probably would have gotten a faster time, damn. My point is this, Victoria moved back to Chicago and I was on my own. Now, I have to rely on my husband to be my "handler." And it is a good thing he has practiced with the dogs, because he is a great handler. He had my race map printed out, got us a room to stay at (I believe however I actually found it online-something I regret and will explain later) and he printed off the info on picking up my packet the night before. All important stuff that I don't really want to think about, all I wanted to do was run it. He's my detail man and thank God he is here for me.
So briefly, a review on my training from August outburst. I did a 5k race, got a medal. Go Apple Gallup Run. I ran a 10K for the Fair in Buchanan County. Oh, I missed the start by 12 minutes, for some reason I thought it started at 9am and it started at 8am. Oops. Yea, I got out, pinned my number on and ran as fast as I could. My mile 4 my knees and hips were hurting. I did not catch anyone, was last place and everyone was cheering for me. I felt like a complete loser, but knew I got a good time. Note to self, always read the start time don't assume each race is the same! And the last race of 2011 was that 8k race in Marion in November. So a 5k, 10k and 8k and six months to train for a 20k. The first thing I did was go online and get a training schedule. I printed out two, had them on my desk at work. Put my dates in there and the weather cooperated. I started three weeks earlier than planned, did not think I could run farther than eight miles. That first eight miles about killed me. It was hard. But I persevered. Each week I added another mile on to my training run. I ramped up to twelve miles. The day I ran my first twelve runs, my husband Tim's band had a gig. It put a lot of pressure on him to drive out six miles to give me water. He was suppose to be in "rock-start mode" but I was cramping his style a little. I felt good all night too. I knew I was ready, I just had to wait three more weeks. And it was the longest three weeks of my life. Waiting is always the hardest part. Now I was just ready to get it over. All this training and preparation and now I wanted it to be over. As it was nearing, one of my co-workers had some friends who were running in it. So we talked about times etc., and it was good to hear an outsiders perspective. I did not know anyone I was running with. All the runners I knew were not running it this year. It kind of bummed me out, but I don't do things with other people. I want to but it never turns out that way. I went to college by myself. I moved to Texas by myself. And I entered this race by myself. Of course, my family supports me so in that respect I am not alone. But I don't have someone right beside me running with me. I guess that is ok because that is what I am used to. I used to run with my dogs Brownie and Krunchy. But once I started doing 4 miles at a time I left them behind. I did not want them to get tangled up with other dogs on my run. It takes too much effort just to run myself and having to stop and break up a dog fight or a "sniff off" was too mentally consuming. At one point Tim would drop water at the mile and half from home and let Krunchy and Brownie run the last portion with me. That did not work out so good. Brownie rushed up to see me, practically tripped me. Now, I love my dogs but I had just run nine miles and was dying so having a forty-eight pound dog run up to me and make me stop to keep from running into her was not a good thing. Tim and I decided no more dogs on the last leg of the training runs.
There is my training in a nutshell. I tried to avoid eating crappy foods except Fridays. I enjoy a greasy hamburger and fries once a week. I limited my alcohol especially if I knew I was running in the morning on the weekends. The biggest concern was using the bathroom on my runs. That sort of timing is key and essential. I knew going into the race I had to have a plan. As it turns out, the plan may have cost me several minutes off my time but I saved face.
Enough about that. Moving on to the race. It is now Friday. Tim and I have left our country home. Both kids are staying there unsupervised. In hindsight poor decision by us. We did not eat lunch at home, it was after noon and I knew I had to eat something. We ended up stopping in Grinnell at the Grinnell Steakhouse. I think that may be the name. It was about 2pm or so and only one old guy was at the bar. It was a fancy place, we weren't sure what we were getting into since we don't go the "'fancy" way. I ordered a burger and a salad and Tim order a burger and french fries. I needed the green to do it's thing. While we were waiting, the guys from the kitchen came out to the salad bar. They were adjusting the compressor on the coolant thing. You know, the thing that makes the salad bar stay cool. Meanwhile, the waitress is giving me my salad from the salad bar, the cook's are taking the potato salad and pea salad away. She is now handing me my salad with dressing. The lettuce is not cold. Now, I am realizing that if I eat this I could pay the price. I have a race to run in less than 24 hours, I am not going to get food poisoning. Then I look down in my salad and there is a black hair. It could be mine, but it was mixed in the lettuce. So I push it to the side. The waitress asked me about the salad and instead of telling her how I am grossed out how the non-working coolant of the salad bar I just say "there is a hair in my salad" and she takes it away apologizing profusely. Tim commented that having hair in our food is like being home. You see, we have four cats that live with us inside. There is cat hair everywhere. I clean the house, but we end up getting cat hair everywhere. So the hair did not gross me out, the thought of eating something that is spoiled was a worse fear. She gave us half off on my meal, we tipped her well and drove to Des Moines. We made it to the center to pick up my packet in good time. We only made a few detours along the way. You see, I make the driver nervous and he listens to me and takes the wrong turns. So he drives better without me. I say he is always a nervous wreck. Anyway, we don't know where to park so we find a loading place that gives us twenty minutes to do our thing. I ask a woman carrying a race bag where she got it, she told me where to go, and off we go. We entered the event from the back side, so the signs were limited but we got in. I had to ask around for my number, I was off by 50. My bib number is 7094. So I got my packet and there was free food everywhere. Again, now I am afraid to eat anything so I grabbed some cookies and M & M's. That was probably a good thing. Next on the agenda is to find the hotel. It is a Budget Inn. I would have paid double to not have stayed there. It was the scariest place both of us have ever stayed at. The windows did not close. The door had been broken in several different times. There were holes in the wall and the ceiling. The queen-sized beds were double beds. I know, sounds like I am being picky but I needed the extra inches. We realized our eight year-old truck was almost too nice for this parking lot. There was this guy sitting out on a picnic table with his two dogs. He had a grill out there. He must have been living in this hotel. They had weekly and monthly rates. The one good thing was there were kids around. That did make us feel safer. We decided we should get out and go find the start of the race. We did not leave our possessions in the room however. We were pretty sure an older guy and a hooker walked past us on our way out. She had an expensive bag. Either that or they were having a steamy affair. So we drove to DMACC and Saylorville Lake. It took about five minutes and I would need to be there in the morning sometime between 5am and 5:45am which was the last pickup. So we were both confident we would be up earlier enough to make it, provided we were not murdered in the night. We drove out to the lake. Drove across the dam where the start was and drove to a parking lot to get out and walk around. Now we were just killing time. So we started driving back to our sleazy hotel when we ended up taking a huge detour. We were practically driving the length of my race. It was hard to fathom I would be running this. Unbelievable. Tim told me I should drive my training run that I would be amazed by the area I cover. We stopped at Casey's to fill up on low price gas and I got a coffee. I would drink this in the morning. Now we are back at our hotel and waiting for night to be done. We watch some college softball. I decide to take out my contacts. I go in to the bathroom, take out my contacts, put them in their case, and start brushing m y teeth. I go to spit out the toothpaste and somehow my contact case goes flying into the sink with the water running, toothpaste spit foaming and my case breaks open. My contacts! I scream. Tim comes running in there. "Oh my God!" Tim says. "I know," I reply back. I quickly retrieve my case and thankfully both contacts are clinking to the case. I did not bring any extra contacts. I am blind as a bat. My old glasses fall off my face when I look down. It would have been a tragedy if either of my contacts were gone. Oh, thankfully they are here. Covered with toothpaste spit. So I carefully clean them off. Tim reminds me I should put them in my eyes now to avoid the minty taste in the morning. So I do it. One hurts more than the other. I clean them off again. Put them in, not so bad. More cleaning. More putting them in my eyes. We just avoided a terrible tragedy. I need to sleep. I can't sleep. Tim can't sleep. I wake up every hour checking my phone. So does Tim. Finally 4:30am comes. We get up quickly. I eat a banana and half a bagel. Nothing happening with the bathroom area. Drink my coffee and share it with Tim and we leave. W