If you ever want to feel like a professional triathlete, then sign up for the Hy-Vee triathlon. Who knew such a top notch event was being held right over in Des Moines, IA? From start to finish, this race was one of the best experiences an athlete can have.
Driving to Des Moines took about twice as long as expected. I just figured, “Hey, it’s Iowa, how far could it be?” Big mistake. All athletes were forced to attend a mandatory race meeting being held at the top of each hour. Unfortunately, we arrived exactly at 5:07pm and had to wait around for the next meeting. We hung around the race expo (which was surprisingly small) to wait for 6pm to roll around.
The meeting was held in the gymnasium of a school, so we all sat in the bleachers. They showed us a short collection of photos from last year’s race then went over some race information. None of it was particularly earthshattering and I didn’t really think there needed to be a “mandatory” meeting for this. There were no special rules or anything out of the ordinary.
Picking up the packet went smoothly and quickly. By far, the best, most comprehensive, valuable swag I’ve ever gotten from a race! We not only got a cycling jersey, but a backpack to fit all the other cool little goodies we received. Not even sure you can see everything from this picture, but it was like Christmas!
Dropping off the bike the night before in the 6-10pm timeframe was chaos. It moved very, very slowly and I was getting hungry and impatient. The line of cars with athletes trying to drop off their bikes was at a standstill and this normally easy process ended up taking close to 90 minutes! We headed to a nice little Italian place for dinner where we saw many other athletes wearing the bright yellow wristbands. Service was poor but the food was excellent.
The morning of the race transition opened at 4am! Trying not to be psycho about the whole thing, my plan was to get there around 4:45am – transition was to close at 5:45am. Thankfully, the parking situation was much better than the night before and we were able to get a spot and get to transition in just about 15 minutes. A few quick run throughs to make sure I knew where my bike was racked among all the other, most expensive looking bikes I’ve ever seen, and then it was time to hit the porta potties a few times.
The water was a balmy 81 degrees. I lined up at the front of the wave and within minutes of the start, I was warm. I was happy there were no wetsuits today. Pretty aggressive group and I fought for position. I then decided it was much more comfortable to just fall behind a good draft I was getting. Each time I tried to pull around her, I got caught up in another swimmer from a previous wave. I just tucked in and enjoyed the draft. This ended up being a slow, but comfortable swim for me.
Going out from transition on to the bike course, you get to feel like a professional triathlete riding down the bike course with the banners waving on both sides with blue fencing lining the course on both sides. The one thing that was blatantly missing was the spectators – not very many for such a high profile event. The bike course was hilly. No major climbs, but lots of long rollers. I felt like I was crawling but I was trying to focus on watts vs. mph. The bike course was very well marked and they even coned off the driveways of the people who lived on the course! Each turn was properly staffed with volunteers and, for the most part, a very clean race. I saw little drafting, though there were several competitors who were not riding on the right as they should. The hills seemed to separate any would-be packs from forming.
The wind didn’t seem an issue for the ride, but the hills made this a difficult course. The trickiest part is toward the end when they direct you on to a running path. Many sharp turns – left, then right, then left – on a very narrow path. I had another athlete pass me – around a turn – on the RIGHT HAND SIDE! People, please do not do this! I almost took both of us out. Besides the fact that this was a designated NO PASSING area. To top it off, the guy was only in a relay. How frustrating!
A quick transition and I headed out on the run. My legs were feeling a bit fatigued, but not wiped, so I pushed a bit. Here we go again with the hills. Someone forgot to tell me that Iowa is hilly!! I had a hard time keeping my heart rate in check going up the hills. It was quiet out on the course – no spectators and the athletes were working hard to get up the hills. I kept thinking, “Who is that person BREATHING SO HARD??” And then I realized, “Aw, shoot, that’s me!” My legs were feeling heavy, but I pushed on.
Nearing the finish, the blue fence lining and flags greet you with open arms. And though you can’t see it as a competitor, as you are nearing the finish, they have each athlete on a jumbotron for the would-be fans to get a better view! It is very similar to what they have at Ironman races. I ended up finishing the run with a little left in the tank.
I then met up with some fellow Mideast Team Elite peeps for a quick photo. Both of them had great races and I feel very lucky to know them.