Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 2009-Land of the Free Food at the Hy-Vee Tri

I’m “on a break” from triathlons right now. I don’t do another tri until August. July is my month for running races. I feel that running during the hottest time of the year will not only make me a better runner but also increase my endurance for triathlons. In theory, anyway. More on that later.

I recently attended my first Hy-Vee Triathlon (as a spectator). This race is quickly becoming a premiere event for triathletes—not just for the pros and elites but for all of us. I always considered Kona the crown jewel of triathlons, and it still is, but I think the Olympic-distance Hy-Vee carries its own badge of honor. When people hear I do triathlons they invariably ask “Have you done Hy-Vee?” I suppose it’s like marathon runners who get asked “Have you done Boston?” It’s just something I need to do to join this elite fraternity.

I traveled to Des Moines the morning of June 27. My first stop was the Product Expo at the packet pick-up. There weren’t very many booths. I stopped at one and they assumed I was one of the athletes. They asked me how many tri’s I had done and before I knew it, I was saying “but this is my first Hy-Vee.” I wasn’t lying; it was my first, but I felt like a fraud. How could a triathlete just stand on the sidelines?

I felt angry with myself that I wasn’t brave enough to undertake Hy-Vee. I had never done an Olympic distance race and I knew I didn’t have the swimming ability to do 1500 meters, especially without a wetsuit. As I looked at all the cool Hy-Vee gear, a voice told me, “You can’t have any of that! Until you complete the Hy-Vee Tri you are forbidden to wear anything that says Hy-Vee Tri on it!” If I wanted to wear the badge of honor that was the Hy-Vee Triathlon, I would have to earn it.

I drove over to the shopping mall, which was a meeting place for the shuttles to the race site. While my fellow athletes were gearing up for the next day’s race, I was riding around in an air-conditioned tour bus with a camera around my neck. I was excited for that day’s events—seeing the pros race.

I watched the women warming up in the lake prior to their race. One woman exited the water. A man quickly ran up to her, put a towel over her head and handed her a bottled water. “That’s what I need,” I thought, “a personal assistant.” I then saw that it was Emma Snowsill, Olympic gold medalist. I wanted to fall down on my knees and cry out, “I’m not worthy!”

I saw the world’s best triathletes coming up the beach—Laura Bennett, Sarah Haskins, Emma Moffatt. I couldn’t believe I was seeing them in person, right here in Des Moines, Iowa! Soon the women’s race began. They did two loops of the swim course and it was so cool to see them run out of the water, race down the runway and dive back in!

I moved to the bike course. The pace was fast and furious and I didn’t know how they could race so close without crashing. I saw club members Roy and Deb Gaddis and they beckoned me into the Land of Free Food. Several vendors of Hy-Vee were giving out free sandwiches and water. I had packed a sandwich, expecting to see crazy food prices. I by-passed the free deli and BBQ beef and went for the Spam burgers!

I watched the womens’ and mens’ races, wandered around, collecting much free stuff, before meeting the MWX competitors for dinner. Afterwards we returned to the course since they would have to put their bikes in transition the night before. I so wished I was going to be out there, especially when I practiced running down the blue carpet of the finish line!

Rosie, Greg and Kat let me crash in their hotel room so 3:30 AM came early. I returned to the site and when I saw the swim course I no longer wished I was racing! I couldn’t even imagine swimming that far. I positioned myself at the swim exit and got ready for my job as photographer.

There was definitely something special about this race. You could feel it in the air. My fellow club members were awesome! What a thrill it must be to run down the carpet, surrounded by grandstands full of people and have them put a medal around your neck. I would somehow have to learn to swim so I could be here next year.

Now on to the running races…I ran the 7-mile Run For the Flood on June 13. As sad as it was seeing the abandoned homes, there was still a sense of hope and recovery. It was so gratifying having flood victims along the route thank me for raising money.

I always start out slow so I was quickly passed by the entire race field (at least it felt like it). I then had to stop at the 2-mile point to use the porta-potty! I definitely need to time my hydration better. I feel like I get stronger the longer I run so at the 5-mile point I was running hard and now I was the one to pass people! In the last three blocks it became an all-out race to me and I sprinted to the finish. I had my best 7-mile time.

On July 4th I ran the Fifth Season 8K in downtown Cedar Rapids. It’s a tradition to me. I had to do the whole race in the rain, but I ran with MWXer Cole Stepanek, who got me started at a faster pace. I knew I had to start faster and maintain the pace, then finish strong. I bettered my time by five minutes! A week from my 44th birthday my new mantra became, “I’m not getting older; I’m getting faster!”

Next up…the brutal Bix 7 in Davenport. I better start running those hills…….

Keep Tri-ing!