This would be my first "destination" race. I would have to find a way to get my bike there so when I asked around I was able to borrow a bike box from Kurt, our team captain. It took a while to get the bike apart where I had a particular problem with the pedals. After taking more than an hour I got the right pedal off, I was still struggling with the left. And yes, I did know I was supposed to turn the left pedal in the opposite direction. I ended up buying a pedal wrench and it worked a heck of a lot better. Once the bike was all packed away, I knew I was actually going to make it there.
I chose to fly on FRONTIER airlines because I had good things about traveling with bikes on their airline. I was not disappointed as I was allowed to check 2 bags and with the bike being one of them, I was not asked for any sort of SURCHARGE. YES! The flight there was uneventful with a brief stopover in Milwaukee. I arrived on-time in Des Moines, called the hotel and was shuttled there with no problem. After checking in I decided to make it over to the EXPO for a briefing and then get my race packet. That all went pretty smooth
When I started to check out the EXPO, I ran into a paratriathlete who raced in NYC. His name is Sean VanGerena. I did not think he was going to be racing at Hy-Vee and then he explained to me he was to be going to Beijing, but had some passport problems, so last minute, decided to come to Des Moines. He is a great guy and I was excited to be see him again. This race for sure had the most amazing SWAG. We were given a back-pack, cycling jersey, a visor or hat, IRONMAN sunglasses and a whole host of other stuff.
I headed back to my room and then decided to try and find a place to eat some dinner. I walked and walked and .........walked without finding something appropriate. I decided to walk across the river to the concert and Beer Garden that were being put on by the 5i50 race organizers. I ended up having a beer and some AWESOME authentic tasting tacos for dinner. Not exactly the best dinner 36 hours prior to the race, but not terrible. I even saw Tim O'Donnell and Mirinda Carfrae out for a evening run. I had met Tim at Timberman last year and had managed to keep in touch with him somewhat through Facebook. A REAL nice guy. Something you're likely to hear about most of the Pros in triathlon. Mirinda is the reigning World Ironman Womens' Champion. I didn't stick around the concert very long and then made my way back to the hotel. I managed a brief swim and jacuzzi in the hotel pool and then called it a night. Prior to turning in I ran into a woman named Bridget who had flown in with her friend Aubrey was going to be racing as well. They were both from the western part of MA. Bridget was saying that Aubrey was in the need of a pump and I was happy to oblige.
I had a very restful night waking up a number of times wondering if I would be able to put my bike together without and help. As such, I awoke at 4:30AM and proceeded to get in together. To my amazement I was finished a little prior to 6AM. I would try and get the bike out for a ride after breakfast. I headed down to the restaurant for breakfast and was happily surprised by the EXCELLENT buffet that was available for only $13. I grabbed a local paper and proceeded to enjoy a nice 2 hour breakfast. I grazed and grazed on some great fruit and had an awesome omelette made to order as I watched.
As I was leaving, Aubrey and Bridget came down for breakfast. I asked if it would be OK if I sat at the table for a while and we could all get to know each other. I would later find out that unlike me, Aubrey was quite modest. She qualified for the race by WINNING her age-group at a 5i50 race down in Florida. She never told me any of this while we chatted.
After leaving the girls, I made my way upstairs to change and go out for a ride. The clouds looked a little ominous, but I thought I would try. The bike worked great and all seemed fine as I headed down to ride over to where I would later drop my bike off. I was about 2/3 of the way there (a 4-5 mile ride from the hotel) when the rain drops really started to fall. I saw a covered parking garage and headed for it, when the unthinkable happended and my chain came off. When I looked, it had not really come off, but had come APART. I obviously had not connected the quick link the proper way and now the link was missing. I was so lucky the rain shower lasted for about 1-2 minutes. I got off of my bike (luckily I had brought my glasses as well) and started to look for the link. I was looking for about 5 minutes and was having no luck. I was in a real industrial area at this time and there seemed to be no one around. What was I going to do? Walk my bike back to the hotel and look like a real amatuer? Just as I was about to give up, a small car pulled up and out of came a nice couple named Ken and Sue. Ken quickly got out of his car and started to help me look and if he didn't find the link in about 1 minute. Just as he did I looked over and a man who was TOTALLY STONED came walking up the road towards us. I was carrying a leaf and put it in our faces and was wondering why we weren't as interested in it as he was. He stumbled around a bit and even fell. As Ken asked him if he needed any help, he managed to get himself up and contined on his way. All I said to Ken and Sue was, THANK-YOU! I could only imagine what would have happened if they did not come along and I was face to deal with this guy all on my own. I am sure I would have been OK, but what might he have tried to do if I was alone? I tell you, God sure does look after us!
I managed to get the chain back on and then proceeded to ride carefully back to the hotel. Ken had given me his number in case I needed help between there and the hotel. Thank goodness I got back OK. Back in my room I checked out the chain and it seemed to be OK. I de-greased and then re-greased it. There was a small bike shop called the Des Moines Bike Collective across from the hotel and they took a quick look and said the chain looked fine to them. I must not have fastened it the right way the first time. While waiting I met a young woman named Traci and her dad Larry. Her mom's name escapes me now. We had a lovely chat and I was enjoyed talking to her about racing as this would be her first triathlon. We talked a bit what got us both to this point and I was happy to share with her the story about Ken and Sue and how God does make sure that as long as we put our trust in Him, we will be cared for.
|My bike in transition with the other para bikes.|
|Tim, Rasmus, and Chris|
|Mirinda, Me, and Tim|
|Chris McCormack and Me|
The alarm went off and I was up pretty quickly. Being away from home without a car and no market nearby, I had to improvise for breakfast. Breakfast was a Protein drink, wheat and berry muffin, a CLIF bar and some water and gatorade. I headed down to the lobby and quickly asked a couple of they were heading down to the race. They were and they said they had room if I wanted to go with them. Dave was going to be racing and his wife would be leading a small cheering section comprised of parents, in-laws and children. They had driven up from Kansas City, KS.
|In transition around 5AM|
All 3 of the other para-triathletes were there: Sean, Aaron Scheidies, and Mark Dobersh. I slowly got things ready and started to enjoy a very beautiful sunrise. On one of my trips to the porta-john I ran into another Kona Ironman Legend. Shivering away, I saw Sister Madonna_Buder, the IRON NUN. We had a lovely chat about racing and faith. As we parted, I felt the Spirit around both of us and cried for a moment. Total tears of joy!
Two days prior to the race the race organizers had been telling people the lake water temp was 83 degrees. That's too hot for a wetsuit for age-groupers who want "official results". Well, people should not have listened as the water temp for race morning was 77 degrees, which is cool enough for a wetsuit if wanted. Lots of people were walking around upset as they had left their suits at home or at their hotel. Para-triathletes are allowed wetsuits in any weather. I was planning on only wearing my wetsuit pants, so I had no worries.
All set, I made my way to the swim start and looked out on the lake. This was a 1.5KM swim which was comprised of a swim straight out with a right turn then we simply made our way around the outside of the lake making 4 left turn before heading back in. Our para wave was to go out after the elite men and then women. We waded in a bit and then before I knew it, I heard the horn and we were off.
I managed to make it to the right turn before I heard the next wave of swimmers make it in. I knew it would only be a few minutes before they were passing me. This wound it being the first open water swim where I really got hammered by others. Having a MINI COOPER go to the first place finisher might have something to do with that along with prize money for the top 5 in each age-group. I got hit in the back pretty good at least 3 times along with getting my ankle grabbed once. I was trying to do my best to stay in line to the turn buoys knowing I was going to be in the think of things. The long back stretch was difficult to sight as we were swimming into the sun the whole way. Keeping swimmers to my left ensured I pretty much kept on track. The water tasted a lot like fuel and I felt it was actually stinkier than the Hudson River swim I did 4 weeks previously.
Out on the bike and rolling all went well. The roads for the entire ride were very smooth, save for a little section right near the end. There were some nice hills up into West Des Moines but along with that came an AWESOME decent, where I managed to get up to 38 mph. We passed over a number of railway tracks where they put some carpet over top of the tracks to help, and it did.
There were two lollipops on the ride where both turnarounds went pretty good without too much of a slow down. I had to stop around the 15 mile marker to add water to my aero bottle. I can carry the bottles in a cage on the back of my bike, but can't reach them while riding. It amounts to less than a 1 minute stop, but I know I can't ride without water for 10 miles and then expect to run well off the bike.
|Enjoying the ride|
I was determined to have a GREAT run after my poor showing in NYC. It's important to note that the run in NYC was a lot hillier and hotter. The first few miles of the run were all on a paved path with no hills at all. There lamp posts or cones along the path the whole time so I started out the run doing a 3 to 1 ratio of run to walk and then upped it to 5 to 1. I made sure of sticking to that ratio as to start the run, my back got really tight and I was worried I would end up having to walk a lot again like in NYC. My strategy worked as I took those rests each time I felt like I was actually GAINING strength. There were water stops each mile with lots of cheering volunteers. As we ran as I went out to a turn around near mile 2, Sister Madonna Buder was running out as I was running back and we gave each other a cheer. As I neared the water stop at mile 3, I saw Traci's parents. Her whole family got up to cheer me on and boy did it give me a boost.
Around mile 4 to 5 there was a loud speaker set up playing and re-playing the theme to ROCKY, "Gonna Fly Now". It was so fitting for me as I had received an unsolicited good luck email from Chrissie Wellington the night before where she wished me luck in the race saying, "Fly like the Wind".
|Actually remembering to SMILE!|
Across a small walking bridge and we were nearing the downtown core and the State House. We had to run up near the State House then come back down and then again back up for the finish. The streets were lined with specatators and I could feel my energy level increasing. As I passed mile 6, with only 2/10 of a mile left, I turned to corner to the finish and saw a HUGE uphill into the finishing chute. I started to walk and knew I would need some help to run the finish. The streets were barricaded and lined with fans. Again, like before, I started to move my arms to get people cheering and they responded. As they cheered, I started to run. Made the final turn and headed to the finish.
|Crossing the Line.|
Again, still all uphill, it was a challenging finish. I kept my arms moving and people continued to cheer, so I kep running. I am glad I never checked the total time I had, because as I crossed the line, I looked at my watch and saw the time, 3:59:56. With a run time of 1:24:06, I was able to stay on 13.5 min miles for the whole run. Though longer than my last 5i50 time at NYC, I have to keep saying to myself, you can't compare times from different courses. There are so many variables in each race. One particular note, my swim in NYC was only 23 minutes, thanks to the current in the Hudson, so there is 25 minutes right there.
|5i50 US Open Para-triathlete Champion!|
I went over to the Hy-Vee tent to find out I automatically qualify for the race in 2012. I am sure next year, we will budget for this race. Hopefully we can manage trip home to MN as well to see Sue's family.
Food after the race was pretty poor. Especiailly since Hy-Vee, the race sponsor, is a supermarket chain. It was simply bagels and fruit without much more.
I made my way on a shuttle to transition, loaded up my gear in my bag, put it on my bike and then rode back to my hotel. Nice and slowly I made it back with no problems.
I quickly got changed and then walked back towards the river to watch the PROS race. The women had already started and I got there when they were all on the bike. I watched for a while and then walked towards the State House grandstand. I stopped to talk with a group of 3 people who were watching. They had all raced earlier as well. I ended up spending the rest of the womens' race and then the entire men's with Kattie and her husband.
|Mirinda catching Luxford|
|Mirinda, 2nd place woman.|
|Swim Start for Men|
|Greg Bennett, First Place Male|
After the men's race, I met up with Sean and his buddy and we had a nice dinner and some drinks together. I made my way back to my hotel later in the evening. I even managed a short swim and jacuzzi before the pool closed at midnight.
The next day I packed and headed home. Except for a pretty bumpy fllight from Milwaukee to Boston, the trip home was pretty eventful.
Again, I want to says THANKS to all those who helped get me there. Your generosity and encouragement have not gone unnoticed.