A Triathlon in Iowa? No Way!!!
The state of Iowa is not known for triathlons but they are known for one mega triathlon. The Hy-Vee Triathlon is a huge race for Pros because it has the largest single race prize purse in the sport. One Million dollars is handed out amongst the male and female professionals with $200,000 going to the two winners respectively. The following day is the age group triathlon that includes 4,000 more racers and probably the strongest age group field in the country behind the National Championships. The weekend also includes the team World Championships. This is a relay team triathlon in which each country has two males and two females to compete in a super sprint relay with a $40,000 prize purse. Basically a lot of money was on the line. Friday June 24th I flew out of Seattle early and landed in Omaha, Nebraska at 8pm after a little lay over in Minneapolis/St. Paul. I was picked up by a long time family friend Brian Rishel and headed back to my old stomping grounds from my very young years. I was worn in Nebraska and lived in Plattsmouth and spent many weekends hooking worms on fishing rods and playing in the mud with the Rishel kids. Since, I have escaped the boredom of the cornfields and have found more developed areas to reside. The Rishel's chose to stay in the small town and it was great to see them and reminisce on old times for a few hours on Friday night. My guide Matt West got in at 11:30pm and rented a car so we stayed up to make sure he found his way down the dirt pitch black roads.
The next morning early we woke up and took our RAV 4 rental car which Matt talked the cute Budget girl to upgrade us to for free. We said goodbye and thanks to the Rishel’s and headed east into Iowa. About an hour into the drive we entered into Windmill (Turbine) alley. There were hundreds of these things lining the open fields. I thought we were in Holland for a minute but Matt reminded me that we were in fact still in the US. Those farmers are more innovative than I give credit to them.
We got to Des Moines, picked up our packet and said hello to all of my favorites from Premier Events. We couldn’t waste too much time because we had a bike to put together. When I say this I don’t mean minor adjustments like raising the seat and putting the handlebars on. Just check out the corresponding picture and you will get the idea. We are experts at putting the Burley together and we actually got it all done in one hour. Talk about teamwork. That’s what its all about.
From there we rode the Burley over to the race site and put the bike in the transition area and then got in great position to watch the finish to the Men’s Pro race. As mentioned earlier this race was for all the marbles and there were helicopters and TV cameras all over the place capturing the event in detail. K Swiss stud Matty “Boom Boom” Reed led off the bike but just didn’t have it on the run as a pack of six superstars took over and it was a race to the finish. With an all out sprint in the last ¼ mile between Sydney gold medallist Simon Whitfield and Beijing gold medallist Jan Ferdano, it was Simon Whitfield bringing home the bacon. Right after the race ended we left the race site and ran back to our car. We needed to get some dinner and get to bed because we would have to get up at 4:00am for a 6:00am start time.
My grandma Scheidies traveled all the way from central Nebraska with her friend Dick to watch me race and so we met them for dinner and went over to the Cracker Barrel. My grandma and aunts are super involved in following my racing and often know my schedule of events before I do. After dinner, I had to grab a few chocolates to satisfy my craving and then it was off to our lodging. I say lodging because when I tried booking a room anywhere in all of Western Iowa they were all booked. After searching deeper I found the Desoto Edgewater Motel for $42/night. Whenever you hear the word “motel”, you kind of have to cringe but I will sleep in anything. As we pulled up to the motel, it was the exact image that I had in mind. We rang the bell to get into the office and a man and woman came out with smoke scent following them where they went. They were super nice and when we into our room it was rather cozy and even had a fridge and microwave. For the price, they put the Sheraton and Marriott to shame.
At 4:00am the game day alarm sounded and I put on my K Swiss jump suit and ate my oatmeal blend and went out the door. After a 30-min shuttle ride to go two miles we finally arrived at the race and before we knew it, it was time to race. The elite age group men went in front of us by 4minutes and the women 2minutes ahead. Our job was to catch nearly all of them by the end of the bike and hold our position on the run. The swim started off a little rough for me with my stroke feeling like I was a floundering fish. By the turn around I composed myself and charged forward. By the end of the swim we had caught many in the female elite age group field. We hopped on the Burley and absolutely cranked. I have been biking nearly 7hrs a week lately and have been seeing major improvements in my power. The CompuTrainer has me averaging a little more than 320W for 18mile so I am pretty pumped about that.
The bike course at Hy-Vee is a gradual uphill the entire first half with a few steeper climbs. At the turn around you strap yourself in for a steady descent for 12miles. We powered up the hills on the first half and when we hit the turn around we had a huge head of steam. We negative split the bike with a second half of 28minutes and an overall bike split of right at 1:00hr. Near the end of the bike Matt had to pee but I reminded him that “real triathletes pee on the bike”. There is no time for stopping. Once you’re on the clock you don’t stop until you have crossed the line. He did as I said and we were ready to run.
The run was also an out and back with some major hills. Our run was much harder than the Pro run the day before because they do four loops of a course right around the park where it is flat. This run course was not easy, especially after I was still recovering from my ankle injury at the Xterra race. I had only run about six times in the last two months and those runs weren’t quality at all. Adrenaline would get me through the rest of the race along with my American Flag K Swiss kicks and my headband. We charged out of the transition area and within the first mile we hit the first hill. From there it was one hill after the other. My legs had not done this in a while and were a little heavy at first but opened up by the halfway mark and I began pushing Matt to his absolute max. He held on and gutted it out despite fighting off calf cramps and we flew during the second 5K. We had passed over half the men’s age group elite field that started 4 minutes ahead of us and came across the line in 2:06. The course was a slow one but the competition was super good. We ended up in 28th place overall in the race out of 4,000 competitors.
Following the race, it was right to the massage tent and then into the ice baths. This was the first race I’ve ever seen with ice baths right at the finish line. Talk about some hospitality. The ice baths do amazing things but definitely come at a price for the first five minutes or so until your body is totally numb. We then met up with grandma and Dick who had also woken up at 4:00am to get over to the start and see the circus act that I put on. We snapped a few pics with them as well as with the random characters roaming around and by then it was time for Matt and I to get the bike and head out. We had a plane to catch in Omaha at 5:30pm and we still had to totally take apart the bike and drive the two hours through Holland again to get to the airport.
As we neared Omaha, we were a little early and Matt saw a sign for a Louis and Clarke Trail Historical Center. We went in for a few minutes but since I couldn’t read anything nor see much of anything it was pretty worthless and then we headed to the airport. Matt and I departed ways as he went back to Michigan and another was in the books. The state of Iowa actually does have triathlons and the Hy-Vee triathlon is definitely one of the best around.