Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, my triathlon career came full circle. As I mentioned in a prior post, several years ago, I saw a triathlon on TV that turned out to be the Hy-Vee Triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa. At the time, I didn't know what a triathlon was and had never seen one before. I was running, but had never considered a triathlon -- until that day. When I saw that race on TV, I knew I wanted to do it someday.
That someday came yesterday. I qualified for a free entry at the Kansas 5150 triathlon in May by placing third in my age group. I also qualified at the St. Louis 5150 triathlon.
We went to the expo Saturday where a 30-minute pre-race briefing was required before you could pick up your packet.
At the Expo, a HyVee Triathlon-wrapped Mini Cooper!
Last year's top three winners at the press conference Saturday (from left to right: Bevan Docherty, Greg Bennett, Javier Gomez, emcee, Lisa Norden, Emma Moffatt, Angela Naeth.
The week leading up to the race was in the upper 90s and very humid. I train in the heat and humidity so I wasn't too worried for myself since the race started early, but I'd still prefer cooler weather. That came courtesy of a thunderstorm from 4:30-6:30 a.m. race morning. The rain not only cooled things off, but also delayed the race by 45 minutes.
I arrived at the race venue at Gray's Lake early since we didn't know about the delay until we were already on the way from the hotel. I took a 20-minute nap in the car, then decided to head to transition. I had plenty of time to get my area set up, then walked the quarter-mile or so to the beach, where I had to wait another hour or so. It was chilly, but I didn't want to get in the water because then I'd have been really cold once I got out. The water was 85 degrees, so it was wetsuit-illegal.
The transition area for the pros. Each had their own space with a flag representing their home country. No muddy field for them!
Greg Bennett's transition area.
A better look at the transition area. On race day, each had a HyVee hand basket for their gear.
Ready to go!
The pro men and women were introduced and started swimming, then each wave went in 3-minute intervals. I was in the third-to-last wave, so I had a lot of time to wait. Finally, we were ready to go. I really didn't feel nervous like I used to because I know I can do it, but I was a little nervous about the swim, just because I don't like the contact sport of it. But, I held back toward the back of the group and did my best. I did my usual lifeguard-style swim at first, then started my usual swim. The first 1/4th-1/3rd was very crowded, and I found myself in a pack of several women, and we kept jockeying for position. I ended up stopping to let water out of my goggles and they got a bit ahead and spread out a bit. Then I had a lot of room to just do my swim. There were only 2 waves behind ours, then a 15-minute break, so there wasn't a ton of traffic. I did not freak out once. I stopped a few times and breaststroked just to get my bearings, but honestly, after it opened up, I felt fine. I'm not fast, but I felt confident -- even without a wetsuit! As I was running up the ramp from the beach, Dan was there and I gave him a high five!
The swim exit was kind of a long way from the transition area, so I had to run a long way, it seemed. The rain had made the transition area pretty muddy, so my feet were really gross by the time I got to my bike. I put my socks on anyway, got suited up, then ran the bike out. I was feeling good. I started eating ProBar Bolt Chews and drinking Ironman Perform. The rain had left some of the roads wet and slick, so when volunteers at those corners yelled out to slow down because of a slick turn, I obeyed. Turns out some of the pros and elites had crashed. The best part about the bike ride was that all of the roads were closed, so there was no traffic. It was relatively flat, though there were some hills, but not terrible. The worst part about the bike ride was the wind. It was brutal! We rode out by the airport, and there was nothing to block the wind. While I got over 30 mph on some of the flats, I was using everything I had to get up to 13-14 mph in the strong headwinds. It was Ironman Kansas 70.3 all over again! I was happy that I ate all of my chews during the bike, though I didn't do as well with the Perform.
I finished the bike feeling pretty good. I racked my bike, changed my shoes, stuffed more chews and S caps in my jersey pocket, grabbed my handheld, then ran out. The run was an out-and-back on a path at first, then went out on to closed roads. There was a lot of support, water stops, sprinklers and LOTS of sun. The sun was in full force by this time, and I was glad I had sunglasses and a visor. At mile one, I looked at my Garmin, and it read 7:09. Hmm, a little too fast, but I felt ok. I took a chew and kept running. I kept going and saw a water stop approaching, so I stopped to drink a cup to wash down the chew. We ran past the Iowa Cubs stadium, and I noticed my hands were starting to swell (a recurring theme). I kept taking sips from my handheld with Perform, then walked through all the water stops. Somewhere between mile 2 and the turnaround someone was handing out ice-cold towels. The problem was they were too short to tuck into my tri top and were dripping wet, so I kept it around my neck for as long as I could, then tossed it. At some point I took an S cap. At the turnaround I was feeling good, still, so just kept going, though walked through the water stops. We ran across a bridge, then I saw Dan and his brother, Tim. I gave Dan a high five, and he asked how I felt. I said good, though I was hot. I stopped to walk for a minute shortly after that. Between miles 5-6, the run wound through Gray's Lake Park, and it seemed like it took for-ever. Finally, we ran across some grass and came out onto Fleur Drive, where there were inflatable arches all along the road leading to the finish line. I finally saw a 6 in blue tape on the road, and was so happy. Point-two miles to go! I made a left turn and heard the announcer. I ran as hard as I could. There were big grandstands on the right and people everywhere. I made the last turn toward the finish line and heard the announcer say my name. I raised my hands in the air and crossed the line.
What a rush! And realization of a dream come true!
Afterward, I saw Dan and his brother, and gave Dan a BIG, long, sweaty hug. I was so happy!
Later I found out my times:
Sadly, this was 16th in my age group. The top 15 qualified for next year's race. Shoot! But, still, my finish time was a 6-minute improvement over my time at St. Louis 5150. My swim improved by over 2 minutes, bike improved by 3, and run improved by several minutes. I didn't expect to place well at this race since it was a national championship, but at least I PRed and felt good, and that is what is important.
We got some nice race swag! This is the front of the jersey we got instead of a T-shirt.
This is the back of the jersey and the visor. We could choose between a visor and a hat.
We also got this nice backpack filled with all kinds of stuff: two bottles of Vitamin D, keychains, coupons, a can koozie, chap stick, a toy football, etc.
Post-race food fest: a vegan bahn mi sandwich, fries and a pickle at Gateway Market in Des Moines. We also ate there Saturday night. I had vegan Pad Thai. I highly recommend Gateway Market -- it's a smaller version of Whole Foods, and has a delicious cafe!