For the past 5 years one of the races that I look forward to the most has been the HyVee triathlon in Des Moines, IA, over Labor Day weekend. In the past it has been a huge money race, with a top class field, and it has also been a great chance for me to get back to Iowa, where I went to college, and catch up with some old friends. However, early in 2015 along with the cancellation of the Lifetime Fitness Series, it was made known that HyVee had pulled out of the race and for a bit the race was in jeopardy of happening at all. Lucky for Des Moines, and for those of us that have loved doing this race in the past, former HyVee race director Bill Burke of Premier Events, became the current race director of the new Des Moines Triathlon.
Personally, I thanked Bill about a dozen times over the weekend for keeping a great event alive, and I think he got the same for the city of Des Moines that gains a lot from the weekend of racing. I would say without question that the city of Des Moines supports this race as well or better than any race on the calendar, from the large corporate sponsors that helped keep the race going, to the 1,000 or so people that still signed up for a race that was only in the planning for 5 or so months.
Anyway, because of all of their hard work I was stoked when I found out mid year that I would again be able to go race in Iowa, in front of family and friends, and make a trip back to Hawkeye country where I spent four of my finer years.
This year the prize purse was smaller, as was the field but there were still some really good guys toeing the line. Anytime Greg Bennett shows up you know you are in for a good one, and I was really looking forward to hopefully finally have a good 3 part race in Des Moines, after 4 sub par attempts. Morning of the race I felt good, and after a good warm up was feeling ready to go. The weather was hot and muggy, so I knew hydration was going to be crucial. I made sure to pound some extra First Endurance EFS-Pro so that I was at least starting the race off well. Our start was delayed a few minutes but once we finally stepped to the edge of the beach I was ready to roll.
I hit the water hard, and straight away put in a big effort to get to the front. The swim in Grays lake is a relatively short first segment before you do a more than 90 degree turn and head out on a long leg. I knew I wanted to be in control of the tempo when we made that first turn so I pressed hard. I was feeling solid but didn’t want to over extend myself in the warm water. I kept a solid tempo around all the cans and put in a little bit of a surge half way down the back stretch of the lake hoping to increase any gaps in the last 400m or so. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when we exited and Davide was the only guy on my feet and I could see we had a really decent gap back to the next group, and I assumed Greg and the other runners.
Over the weekend a few people asked me about my race strategy and I kept replying that when you are a one trick pony, you gotta stick with your one trick. So true to my standard form I hit the bike flying and really tried to get a jump on the boys over the first couple of miles before the first u-turn when they would be able to see me. I always get a little extra boost when I hit a u-turn and see the other guys faces drop a bit when they see how big the deficit is so early in the race. At that point we were less than 5 miles into the ride and I already had over 2 minutes on Greg and the other big hitters. I kept my head down, and tried to be smart about when I attacked the course to maintain my speed and maximize my advantage. By the time I got to T2 I knew I had a solid lead and just needed to make sure to drink and be smart on the run.
I tore out of T2 and tried to hit the first mile hard just to maintain as big a lead as I could when we again hit a u turn at mile one of the run. When you are running you can really see the other racers well and get a good read on how they are feeling, so I was psyched to see that TJ and Davide, 2nd and 3rd off the bike, were definitely not comfortable trying to run me down. I tried to stay focused on my form as I ran, and hit all the water stops to make sure to avoid the dreaded bonk. When I finally hit the finish chute I was pretty cashed as the heat had taken a lot out of me, but when you are winning it all gets better once you can see the finish tape. So I did a little I-O-W-A hand gestures running down the chute like we did at Hawkeye football games and finally crossed the line in Des Moines in first place.
Obviously, I would have loved to have that race last year when the win was still a 6 figure deal, but any win is a good one, and to be able to finally win this race in front of that crowd, and my parents was a great feeling.
The short course part of the year is over for me now, as I get ready for Silverman 70.3 on October 4th. Looking forward to trying my hand at the longer distance again and seeing how I can improve on Timberman.