Remember in my last post I said I always leave behind something I really need – this time it was my wetsuit! When I left for Iowa a week before the race, the swim had been cancelled due to flooding at the original site, so I decided not to take my wetsuit. I thought about packing it, “just in case,” but I didn’t really think I would need it. To my great dismay, however, I learned on Thursday (6/19) that the swim had been reinstated and the water temperature in the lake we would swim in was 73º. I wasn’t sure I could complete the swim without a wetsuit, and I was devastated that our sister relay would fail because of me. On Friday, I located a dive shop in Des Moines (a 2-hour trip from my parents’ farm) that had wetsuits for sale for $127.95 and I was prepared to buy one when we went to DM on Saturday to attend the mandatory race briefing and pick up our packets, as I was having no luck finding one to rent and figured it would be better than none. At the race expo, however, I did find a wetsuit for rent ($50 plus tax and cost to return), which put some gloss back on my attitude.
Because the race had been moved from its original location, and then revamped again to include the swim, there were two transition areas – the first at the swim site where the bike course started, and the second at the run site where the bike course ended. Bikes had to be racked at T1 on Saturday night, and the age group solo competitors also had to take their running shoes, etc. to T2. Neither site had any parking, so athletes were to park on race day at a shopping mall several miles away and ride busses to the swim venue for body marking and chip pick-up. Then they would be transported back to the mall from the run venue after the event ended.
This plan worked fine for everyone but the relay team runners, as the swim and run sites were 2+ miles apart and there was miscommunication about getting from one site to the other. One race official said on Saturday there would be no shuttle bus between them, and another official said there would be. An email was sent Saturday night to all participants clarifying the bus schedule, but we didn’t see the message, so my sisters and I all went to the swim venue. Then JJ, who was our runner, had to take the bus back to the mall, drive to the office park from which spectators and relay runners were being transported, and take another bus to the run site. She was not happy about this. She was even less happy when the bus stopped 15 blocks from the site because the roads were closed for the race and all the passengers had to walk the rest of the way. JJ can be quite feisty when she’s upset. Overhearing her tirade when told she could not open a gate to cross and had to walk around to the other end of the fence to enter T2, a volunteer immediately commandeered a golf cart and drove her to where she needed to be. JJ did remember to thank the volunteer.
Meanwhile, I was getting ready for the swim, which started at 6 a.m. The relay swimmers, about 150 of us, were in the third wave. The water temperature was 75º. I didn’t feel as chilly when I entered the water as I had at Yorktown, but it was still hard at first to get any rhythm in my stroke. I concentrated on swimming from buoy to buoy, and I cheered myself on by occasionally rolling onto to my back to see how far I’d progressed since the last buoy. My swim time was 48:55, which was eleven minutes less than the hour I’d allotted myself and five minutes faster than my one practice swim at the JCC pool.
T1 went smoothly. JB had been wearing her helmet since 4 a.m. so she wouldn’t forget to put it on. I gave her the chip and she took off. I’d planned to walk to the run site, but JB’s husband had driven to the swim site (even though spectators had been discouraged from doing so), and he gave me a ride. This, of course, inflamed JJ and made her recounting of her own trip to the site even more animated.
We had expected JB to ride the course in 1½ - 2 hours. When that time passed and she wasn’t there yet, we began to worry. We hadn’t been able to drive the course on Saturday because there were youth triathlon events that day that used much of the same routes, so all the roads were closed. Returning bikers had reported the course was very windy and had a rather steep hill in the beginning. We also heard there had been an accident, but a race official assured us we would have been notified if JB had been involved, so we continued to wait and I nibbled a few more fingernails. Finally, I saw her approaching the dismount line; her time – 2:12:05.
Another chip transfer and JJ was off on the run. JB, her husband, and I waited for JJ near the finish line. After we’d been there awhile, I noticed JB was still wearing her bike helmet! JJ did the run in 1:12:12. She would have been faster but she stopped at every water stop to pour two cups of water on herself plus drink one because she was so hot in the official race shirt I’d told her to wear. I’d read on the race website that participants were encouraged to wear their shirts, and it seemed like a nice “tech” shirt, but according to JJ, it didn’t “breathe” properly. Her favorite line from Talladega Nights – “Sweet Baby J----!” – and her desire not to let the team down kept her going.
Our total time was 4:17:27. I’d predicted we’d do it in between 4 and 4½ hours, so we were pleased, and I was especially proud of my sisters for participating. By the next day, they were almost willing to do it again.
A final highlight. While we waited for JJ to complete the run, JB and I were interviewed by a reporter for the Des Moines Register. The lower front page of Monday’s paper carried this blurb under the topic heading “More triathlon coverage” – “Family Effort: Three sisters who grew up in Hancock, [our names and ages], teamed up to complete the amateur portion of the Hy-Vee Triathlon on Sunday.”