Hy Vee – Rain, Roots and More Rain

by Peter Wise

How do you measure a good weekend race experience? If rain and thunderstorms result in the cancellation of the youth race and then turn the transition area of the age group racing into a quagmire but you still had a good time, then that is a good race weekend. So it was with the 2010 Des Moines Hy Vee triathlon.

For years, my sister who lives in Des Moines has been suggesting that I do the Hy Vee triathlon. With the Branson 70.3 in my future, Des Moines was a good training race due the hilly terrain of West Des Moines.

The race website is first-rate. Check it out at hy-veetriathlon.com. After registering, I received a weekly newsletter which kept me informed about all manner of race information. One of the big draws of the weekend is the pro race. The Des Moines pro race has the largest purse of the year for the ITU circuit with 200K for the winner of the men’s and women’s race. Needless to say, the righteous Benjamins bring out some serious talent.

On Friday morning the 11th we left the heat and humidity of Springfield for the heat and humidity of Des Moines. While it is hardly possible Des Moines has had more rain this June than Springfield. Race weekend was no exception.

Having a place to stay other than a hotel or campsite makes an out-of-town race seem like home. My sister and her family were great hosts. They were as excited as Eric and I about the racing. My sister had scouted the website and venue and had maps and advice about routes and parking. After arriving, we drove to the race venue to check things out and check in Eric’s bike for the youth race on Saturday morning. Despite the heat, humidity and swamp like conditions, Raccoon River Park was a beehive of activity. Everywhere you turned there was a Hy-Vee race volunteer with a smile and an answer to your question. I was a kid in a candy store at the exposition area which featured all manner of clothing, bikes and other tri gear. Eric and I checked out the grandstand with its quarter-mile of blue carpet into the finishing area. Thinking that this was reserved for the pro racers, he expressed that it would be really cool to run into the finish area on the carpet. I told him, “look at your course map, this is how you finish.” He was totally fired up. After checking Eric in he wanted to leave so he could hang with his cousin. I returned to the race site to do a swim and then check in for Sunday’s race.

The swim venue was a small lake. Think a body of water about one-quarter the size of the main body of Lake Springfield. Visibility was no better. It was nice to have the opportunity to swim in the course and pick out some siting landmarks. The race check in was at a local high school only minutes from the race site. Racers were required to attend an informative race briefing before picking up a race packet. The briefings were held every twenty minutes, so there was not much standing around.

Eric’s race was scheduled for 7:30 Saturday morning. Given the limited parking at the park, shuttle points were established to ferry folks to the race. Separate shuttle points for races and spectators was a nice touch that kept things moving. Thunderstorms woke us up in the wee hours of the morning. We were up at 5:00 ready to go. A thirteen year old boy up at that hour is a testament to his excitement. Given the rain we checked the website. His race was delayed for three hours. We went back to bed. When we were up and out the door a couple of hours later the rain had stopped and the skies were clearing. That was short-lived. While waiting for a shuttle bus it started raining again. We were told that the race was canceled. Booo.

The free day allowed me to do a short run and then a bike ride. My sister’s husband gave me directions to a bike trail. The trail was washed out and muddy so I returned to the road and headed out-of-town. I had planned a fifteen mile ride. I was about to flip when I saw a water tower a couple of miles up the road. I rode to it only to find that I was in Grimes, IA. I knew that Grimes was not far from Dallas Center where my father grew up. I asked for directions and kept going. The energy gained by returning to my father’s roots more than made up for the extra distance. I ended putting in around thirty miles. Late in the day I checked in my bike, loaded up on my wife’s killer eggplant lasagna and we played a mean game of Monopoly.

Sunday morning dawned dry but you knew that would not last long. Once at the race site, I learned to my dismay that the race was shortened due to incoming weather. Turned out that was a good call. The race was now a sprint distance with a 400 yard swim, a twelve-mile bike and a 5K run. I was a bit late and had no chance to warm up my swim. I paid for that in the water. The bike felt pretty good. It began to rain just as I was finishing the bike. Then the skies opened up. Think biblical deluge. Think bolts of lighting and bone rattling thunder. At least it was not hot on the run.

I will most certainly return to do this race again. We did not stay for the pro race because we had to have Eric at Scout camp in Hettick, IL by dark. I want to see the pro race. If anyone is interested in racing in Des Moines my sister has plenty of room. She would like nothing better than to have her house turned into Hy-Vee race central.

– Peter