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Keith Miller
Hyvee Triathlon 2008
Keith Miller

Since we had been planning to visit friends in Des Moines this summer, I decided to combine a family vacation with my first race of the year, the Hyvee Triathlon. The event includes an ITU race that was to serve as the final Olympic selection event for the US team. It has the largest prize purse in triathlon, so it attracts a great international field as well.

In the two weeks prior to the race, Iowa received some of the worst weather on record and experienced devastating flooding, especially to the east of Des Moines. The race director had announced that due to the flooding the race would be a Duathlon and would not be able to be held in downtown Des Moines as planned. Fortunately, just days before the race, the weather cleared up and several sunny days in a row allowed the flood waters to begin to recede and the race to go forward as a full triathlon.

The setup: The revised course, which was moved to the City of West Des Moines, could not accommodate a single transition area, so all age groupers were required to set up 2 transition areas the night before the race: T1 at the lake and T2 at the West Des Moines HS campus (1 ½ miles away) where the finish line was also located. It actually seemed to simplify the setup at each transition area, but it did feel strange to leave my running shoes and hat overnight in one spot and my bike in another.

The swim: After watching the first few waves go off I decided I would place myself towards the front of my wave (even though I am not a front of the pack swimmer) because the wave size was about 175, and the start area was very narrow. I noticed a lot of people who were in the middle of the first waves getting pummeled and I thought if I could get to the first corner buoy in good shape (100 meters out) on this rectangular course, then I would move towards the outside on the long outbound leg so I wouldn’t be run over by the faster swimmers. This strategy seemed to work well, but once on the outbound leg I quickly realized I had a sighting problem. I had not paid attention to the swim cap colors of the waves in front of me prior to the start, but I now realized that the swim caps in front of me were the same color as the far turn buoy I was trying to find. There’s nothing like having 100 yellow caps to sort through to find the yellow turn buoy. I focused on the green intermediate buoys instead and was able to get to the far turn buoy without swimming too much extra distance. I made it out of the water feeling pretty good for my first race of the year, but I did notice that my shoulders felt pretty tight after swimming with a full wetsuit in a race for the first time.

Hyvee Swim Finish

T1 and the bike: It was strange to have to bag my wetsuit and goggles during T1, but it only took a few seconds and was the only way to get my wetsuit back! The race director was going to bring all 1,300 wetsuits/goggles back to T2 so that the athletes didn’t have to go back to T1 after the race to get their things. T1 needed to be closed off so they could pull off the ITU race later in the day. I made it out of T1 in pretty good time, but decided not to try to have my shoes clipped into my pedals to start since I had not been practicing that yet. I decided to save it for later in the season. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of biking there…Iowa does have some hills! I had previously only done an Olympic distance race at Accenture Chicago (very flat course), so the first hill that came about a mile into the race here was a little wake up call to get the legs firing. The only truly major hill came at mile 20. I hit 40 MPH going down it, but coming back up was not as

much fun. It wasn’t a very steep hill, but rather a long steady climb that still required use of the small chainring and some time out of the saddle.I was happy that I was only passed by one athlete on the climb, but my legs burned. There were a lot of fans toward the top of the hill cheering like it was L’Alpe d’Huez, so that made finishing the climb a little easier. One guy at the top was screaming at us to “pop a wheelie” and a guy next to me obliged with a small one. I thought about it for about half a second and decided I would probably end up with road rash on my face if I tried it. No thanks! Yet, it did make for a fun moment when all of our bodies were hurting.

Keith on the bike.

T2 and the run: T2 went quickly and it was nice to have a clean transition area without all the wetsuits, goggles, etc. lying around at your feet as you ran your bike in. It was at the start of the run that I began to feel the effects of the heat and sun…not a cloud in the sky that day. I made sure to take Gatorade at every aid station on the run and poured water over my head several times as well, a lesson learned from the Chicago Marathon last fall. By the first mile marker I was in a pretty good rhythm. It helped that parts of the first mile were downhill, but I knew we would have to go up this same hill as we returned to the finish. I tried to put that out of my mind and was able to hold 7:20 pace to the finish. I must say the finish line setup was a real adrenaline booster. Several thousand fans and an ITU style finish line made for a great atmosphere. There was a great post race party, but I am sad to say I did not win one of the Lexuses they were giving away. I finished in 2:37 which I was happy with for the first race of the year. The II-Tri program definitely had me on my way to a good season.

Hyvee Finish Stadium

ITU World Cup/Olympic Trials: After a quick trip back to the hotel to take a quick shower and have lunch with my family and friends I went back to the course to watch the ITU/Olympic Trials race. I always disliked the fact that ITU races were draft legal because I felt it somewhat took the bike out of the race. After watching in person though I can honestly say that the race was fantastic to watch and served to change my mind (mostly) about this. I got a nice preview of the Olympic games as Emma Snowsill ran away from the rest of the women out of T2 to win the women’s race. Rasmus Henning surged away from a lead pack of 5 men on the run to win for the second year in a row. These guys were running 4:40 pace out of T2. It was incredible to watch a large pack of 28 men run that fast and to see who can hold it and who can’t. The most emotional moment was Hunter Kemper carrying the US flag across the finish line and then breaking down in tears after getting the last spot on the US Olympic team.
Race Director/Volunteers: I was blown away by the Herculean efforts of the RD and his team. They were able to move a large Age Group Tri with over 1,300 participants as well as an ITU race to an entirely different course and pull it off without a hitch in just a matter of days. The volunteers were absolutely amazing. In speaking with several of them after the race I found out that a few of them had also volunteered at the NCAA Track and Field Championships, which were held in Des Moines the weekend before. Keep in mind that during that time was when the flooding was at its peak. That people would be so generous with their time when many of them had homes and/or businesses at risk from the flooding amazed me and I made sure to thank each and every volunteer that I came across. They are the reason we can even do these wonderful races in the first place.






Copyright © 2008 The Fitness Pursuit, Inc. - Last updated 9/8/08