HyVee Des Moines 5150 US Championship

September 8th, 2011 by

On Sunday afternoon I was on the start line of the richest race in Triathlon, alongside 29 other happy athletes … with over a million dollars being divied up over the course of the days racing and guaranteed prize money simply for finishing (a la Tennis and Golf to name a few other sports) we had reason to be happy. Everyone seemed to be a winner in Des Moines on Sunday!

The swim was without doubt one of the hardest/scariest/strangest I have ever been a part of. And I’ve swum a few!

The 5150 Series has been a new addition to the triathlon circuit this year, with this being the culmination of that series – not called a World Championship, but feeling every bit a World Championship in terms of how the event unfolded, and boy did the people of Des Moines get behind the racing aswell … to say we were treated like Rock Stars would be an understatement; amazing!

The format was a non drafting olympic distance event with a large first place offer of $151,500 for the winners. However, a novel and exciting ‘little’ add on to the event was the ‘5150 Line’ which was a Prime of $5150 offered to the leader of the race at the end of each swim (3), bike (4) and run (4) laps. So there was as much incentive for hard and fast racing as you would ever get from gun to tape in a race. Game on!

Due to some serious rainfall on the Saturday afternoon, the river became a fast flowing murky brown cauldron by Sunday afternoon. There really isn’t anything that can do justice to the swim in that race other than actually having been a part of it yourself. As the ‘King of the Swim’ Andy Potts himself commented afterwards; “if it had been a minute longer it would have bee a minute too long”. It wasnt any fun in there I can safely report, but after a serious boxing match around the first bouy (not my strong point i’m afraid) I managed to stay in contact with the lead group over the course of the 3 laps due to some crafty negotiation of the currents and bouys (in other words I fluked it and somehow held the feet in front!!)

I had a decent T1 but no sooner had I jumped on my bike that I had the horrible realisation that my helmet buckle had unfastened (first time for everything!) – which is of course a penalty offence of the highest order. Panic stations. Thankfully I wasnt spotted by a race referee aboard the bike sans a secured lid and I ground to a halt relatively quickly to sort the problem. I am pleased with myself that I didn’t flap too much and did my best to get back up to speed as quickly as I could whilst watching the boys accelerate away in front.

I knew that I had been riding well in my previous two races at Boulder and Steelhead, and so I was interested to see how I fared against such a stellar field of athletes. You can often tell right away if its going to be a good day or not, and I could sense it would be the former quickly – I was pedalling strong, felt comfy and relaxed on the bike and crucially was catching up nice and fast. I spent half a lap recovering from the effort but by the end of lap 2 I had moved into 4th position on the road and was enjoying myself a whole bunch. – Riding with Matty Reed in the US is good fun as he gets a whole lotta cheers from the crowds!! 

The course was technical – with over 15 corners per lap – and also hilly enough to make the legs hurt! The combination seemed to have its effect on the field, and we hit T2 a fair chunk of time in front of the chasers, although 90sec adrift of the impressive Ben Collins, who had hoovered up all 4 of the aforementioned 5150 Primes … you can do the math, but I’ll say it was a successful 55mins of riding for the lad!! To add to the equation there was a grandstand with nearly 10,000 cheerig spectators which created a superb atmosphere on each pass through the transition area. I really enjoyed it and I am pleased with how I rode – it gives me good confidence going into this weeks World 70.3 Champs in Las Vegas.

I got excited leaving T2 in 3rd place … unfortunately it lasted all of about 200m, and I ended up suffering quite badly on the run at times from a really painful stomach. I actually walked twice (having had to time the cramps with the only spot on the course with no spectators!) – I barely walked in Kona last year during my death march of a marathon, so it was highly emabarrasing to be doing so here over a measly 10 clicks, but I had to, I really did.

All became a little less murky as the evening wore on however -I returned to my hotel room after crossing the line in 22nd position and felt decidedly under the weather. – Then the sickness began! Pretty much right through the night, and so at least I felt a little more happy that there was a reason for my 10k shuffle at the end of a solid swim/bike combo. There was a reason at least.

All in all I had a fantastic weekend in Des Moines. I got to catch up with good buddies that I hadn’t seen in some time – huge pat on the back to Trek/K-Swiss teammate Paul ‘Barny’ Matthews on his 4th place, and also to Liz Blatchford for 8th in the girls race. The event staff looked after us so so well an truly lifted the bar in terms of how non drafting events can be run in the future (when a million dollars are thrown into the hat!).

Here’s hoping next year is even bigger and better – I’d love to come back (I just won’t drink the river water!).