This year’s HyVee Triathlon didn’t fail to impress. They had a record number of athletes participating and a record number of relay teams: about 300! This brought out lots more newbies and weekend warriors (yay! Just like me last year) which was great. The amount of smiling and helpful volunteers was absolutely astounding.
The packet pick-up was very efficient and the pre-race briefing on Saturday was quick, informative, and featured a really good video of inspiring athletes. Even those who scoff at having to go to a mandatory briefing could not complain…the video (watch it!) gave me goosebumps. The swag was great, another backpack, visor, and bike jersey. The vendors were also pretty good. I had wanted to know more about Stinger Waffles and got the chance to try their products. DELICIOUS! These are my new go-to nutrition for races, I think. We returned at the end of the expo and lots of vendors were trying to unload their products. We ended up with 500 free jump ropes for two charitable organizations we’re involved with. Woo hoo!
The Swim was moved to the south side of the lake. In my opinion, it made for a better course, transition, and parking situation, but it made for a big messy athlete and spectator cluster once transition closed because there was really nowhere good for the athletes to go and they were jockeying for space with spectators. After transition closed, I waited over an hour in the crowd for my division (F30-34) to swim. Because space was so tight, most of the athletes couldn’t even see the lake while waiting so I was bummed not to watch the elite divisions like we could last year while waiting. The bathroom lines outside of transition were pretty lengthy too and the bathrooms were situated in the middle of the crowd. The race organizers are extremely efficient in starting swimmers. Once your division is up, you’re in the water very fast.
The course this year was about a 250 meter swim to the first bouy, a left turn and a very long straight swim to the far end of the lake. It did cover a smaller shallow patch of water. Many athletes actually walked it, but I veered towards the middle where it was a bit deeper since swimming is faster. My husband said he thought he was hallucinating before he came to that spot “Um, are people walking on water?” The race then turned left again for about 250 meters and one final left turn to the long straightaway to the finish. I liked the long straight swims, much less congestion at bouys! I think I’d rather have a crowded pre-swim area and a more efficient swim course than an open pre-swim area and a course with more turns.
The transition area seemed efficient (I don’t have many races to compare to!) but they moved the relay teams inside a “relay corral” this year which is probably good since those 300 extra teams might have clogged transition areas pretty well for individual athletes. The relay swimmer had to meet up with their cyclist inside the corral to hand off a chip before the cyclist could run to their bike. Same for the bike to run.
The bike course was much less hilly than last year. I didn’t bike last year, but I am familiar with the area and it was also nice to have a “down-and-back” style course so you could see other athletes and get an idea of where you were. It was also better for spectators. There were some hills, but nothing excessive. There were also no hills right off the start of towards the end of the bike which was wonderful.
The run course is not my favorite run course in Des Moines because of a stretch of trail that isn’t shaded, but about 4.5 miles in you hit downtown. About 5 miles in you’re in the heart of the East Village with a Bazaar, the HyVee Vendor Expo, live music and excitement. The sad thing is as you’re running towards the capitol and finish, you have to turn and run away from the finish for awhile (so sad!) and then back. At least you’re running through some excitement in Village and can hear things happening at the finish to push you along.
At the finish, there was a good assortment of food and drink available for athletes, finisher medals, and instant time print-outs. There was a great team of volunteer massage therapists (woo hoo! My people!) for those who needed assistance. Since the race finished at the capitol, athletes either needed a ride back to transition or had to take the shuttle. We lost our ride and decided we’d better get in the shuttle line (in the sun). We waited. And waited. And fortunately, after a very long wait and a pretty good sunburn, we found our own ride because I wasn’t sure the shuttle was ever coming.
Once we got home and took a quick nap, we were able to follow the times and tweets about the Championship Cup race and start reading other race recaps. Our times were up online pretty fast and it was fun to start looking to see how our friends and family did.
This race is unique in that the best of the best (Olympic type best) compete in a race the same day drawing big crowds and excitement. The best amateur athletes also compete over the same course as the casual and new triathletes. This is a great race for someone to join a relay and get a feel for if it is a sport they’d like to commit to or for someone who isn’t healthy to create a goal to get healthy so they can compete. Age-group athletes ranged from people like my 59 year old mom who swam on a relay (her first time) to my cousin who clocked a time of 2:12 for 21st overall in the age group division.
As I was biking after the turnaround, I saw lots of people plugging away, much slower, with casual bikes and weekend ride gear. I thought “These are the bad-asses.” It takes so much oomph for someone who isn’t a seasoned athlete to just show up for such a big event, but that is partially what this race is about. Not just the stellar triathletes trying to win a car, but those normal people working achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Overall, I think a cheerful older gentleman who passed me on the run (who didn’t pass me on the run?!) summed it up when he said to me “This city is beautiful. It almost makes me want to slow down so I can enjoy the course longer.” Awww! I absolutely can’t wait until next year…will we get lucky and have great weather a 3rd straight year? Fingers crossed!