Posted by: Heart of America News | July 30, 2014

Camp Courageous 2014 — Racing For A Great Cause

by Ron Adkins

2013-08-04 12.34.42Heart of America Triathlon News

Triathletes statewide are getting set for what is arguably the most fulfilling race of the season. The 2014 Camp Courageous Triathlon kicks off Sunday, August 3 at Central Park near Amber, Iowa.

According to race director Nick Gearhart, water conditions for the 500-yard swim in Central Park Lake are very good for this time of year. At last check, the lake temperature was 74 degrees – the lowest in quite a while. Gearhart predicts a wetsuit-legal swim on race day. After driving the 15.5-mile out-and-back bike and 5k run courses, he is also happy to report that both are in great shape, now that the Iowa rainy season has subsided. “The run course is 100 percent improved over last year,” he said.

Registrations are running consistent with last year’s numbers, and Gearhart is working hard to fill another 50 or 60 more spots by helping teams find needed members. Many of those registered for this year’s tri are repeaters from previous years, including 2013 men’s champion Barry Breffle of Cedar Rapids, who is returning to defend his title.

“It’s going to be a great event,” said Gearhart. “The weather is near-perfect, with low heat and humidity.”

The race director since the Camp Courageous Tri’s inception in 2010, Gearhart credits an amazing board of directors and legions of volunteers for making the race so popular with Heart of America triathletes. “Everyone has their own area of expertise, so I never have to micromanage. It really is a labor of love.”

Nick Gearhart

Nick Gearhart

And seeing so many returning competitors each year, he added, “makes it all worthwhile. It’s great to see so many come out to support Camp Courageous.”

Proceeds from the race go to support Camp Courageous, a non-profit, year-round respite care and recreational facility for people of all ages with disabilities. Founded in 1972 on 40 acres of donated land near Monticello, Iowa, Camp Courageous has expanded to 150 acres and now serves thousands each year.

The Camp continues to run almost exclusively on donations. It receives no government assistance and is not affiliated with any agency. No camper is ever turned down due to inability to pay.

To learn more about Camp Courageous, its programs and its mission, log on to

For more information on the Camp Courageous Triathlon, check out

Posted by: Heart of America News | July 25, 2014

Series Standings – July 2014


Julie Sprenger and Guy Olson sit atop the leaderboard at the midpoint of the 2014 Heart of America Triathlon Series.

But Olson, the 2013 points champ, can’t rest. Craig Goldsmith is just 50 points back. Craig’s brother Chad sits in third place.

On the women’s side, Sprenger, who won the women’s championship wave in 2013, is ahead of Pat Kenel, last year’s points champ.

There is a lot of racing left in 2014, and we anticipate stiff competition for the top slots as we continue through the season.

The Heart of America series championship will be held at Cyman on Sept. 21, where series leaders will race for free entries in 2015, not to mention the coveted Heart of America champion t-shirt.

Full results at this link:

The top five looks like this:

Female Overall:

  1. Kim Sprenger
  2. Pat Kenel
  3. Aryn McLaren
  4. Anne Hilleman
  5. Kallie Harris

Male Overall:

  1. Guy Olson
  2. Craig Goldsmith
  3. Chad Goldsmith
  4. Mathieu Cagnard
  5. Joe McGrath

Here are the leaders by age group:


  • Kallie Harris
  • Mathieu Cagnard


  • Meghan Hackett
  • Sam Lundry


  • Ali Oppel
  • David Roney


  • Joy Carroll
  • Adam Kassem


  • Joanna Hall
  • Jason Rabe


  • Anne Hilleman
  • Lane McMullen


  • Melissa Clow
  • David Julian


  • Sarah Deangelis
  • Jason Aarhus


  • Tonya Armstrong
  • Michael Schultz


  • Belinda Gee
  • Joe McGrath


  • Clara Decoster
  • Dan Tucker


  • Lynn Vogt
  • Fred Hemsath


  • Richard Walton


  • Lyle Roberts
Posted by: Heart of America News | July 13, 2014

Lake Geode 2014

by Keith A. Kenel

Heart of America News Correspondent

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If you are a triathlete looking for a flat, easy course then I suggest you stay away from Lake Geode. However, if you are looking for a well-run, challenging course complete with an abundance of helpful, encouraging volunteers then I would highly recommend you give this International length race a try.

Lake Geode State Park is about ten miles west of Burlington, Iowa and the Mississippi River. My first introduction to Iowa was when I rode across the state in late July of 1987 with 20,000+ strangers and three friends. At that time I determined that Iowa has a well-deserved reputation for being flat, “except at the coasts” as I like to say. The race’s hilly bicycle and run legs and proximity to Big Muddy definitely reinforced my notion that whether the river is MO or MS if you are close to either you should expect hills!

Weather is always an issue for races and the longer the duration of the race the bigger a part weather can play. Burlington made the national news cycle the week of the race because of flooding, but the situation did not affect the race. The biggest question on race day was whether the severe thunderstorms that were predicted for early morning and throughout the day would throw a wooden shoe into the race’s machinery, but other than the return to normal Iowa heat and humidity from the cooler temps we’ve been experiencing the weather couldn’t have been any nicer.

Speaking of “couldn’t have been any nicer” I want to thank all the race volunteers, but especially those on the run course. I know without a doubt that these folks were bolstering stragglers and doing a great job of being upbeat and encouraging. Ninety plus percent of the racers finished the course before I did and the fun exchanges, short bits of song and encouragement those of us at the back of the pack received were probably more welcome in uplifting spirits than those that our faster brothers and sisters enjoyed. It is hard to keep cheering for the last few racers when you have been standing in the sun for hours, but your efforts were appreciated!

Daniela Williams of North Liberty, IA, three-peated as women’s champion, winning for the third straight year with a time of 2:21:08.

The men’s champ repeated as well. 2013 winner Michael Girard of Keokuk, IA won again with a time of 2:03:47.

The fastest swim time was Andrew Tuisl’s in 21:04.

Michael Girard also had the fastest bike split with 1:00:24.

Ryan Ritter ran the 6.2 mile course in 35:20.

Full results at

I would like to point out Christina Schmidt’s race result. Even though her swim was the 116th slowest out of 119 finishers her competitive spirit allowed her to finish in the top half of the field when coupled with her 36th place bike and 26th place run. International or Olympic race triathlons favor strong swimmers more than any other of the four most common combinations and Christina is an inspiration to those of us who are emerging swimmers.

Lake Geode earned the “Challenge” portion of its name and is a great example of a small race with a big heart.


Keith Kenel has been a cyclist since 1980 and a triathlete since 2005. He and his wife Patricia race together regularly in many of the Heart of America series races. They have two children. You can find more of Keith’s musings at



Posted by: Heart of America News | July 8, 2014

Lake Geode 2014 – Ready For Any Challenge



2012-07-14 07.31.16Geode12By Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News

Not even the rain-swollen floodwaters of the Mississippi River can keep the 2014 Lake Geode Challenge from starting on time on Saturday, July 12.

Two months of almost non-stop storms have filled many eastern Iowa rivers beyond their banks, washing away whole sections of roadways and closing many state parks. But, says Race Director Kevin Brueck, the bad weather hasn’t affected Geode State Park near Burlington, Iowa.

Road conditions for the bike and run courses are excellent and the lake is great shape. “We’ve been working with the highway departments of all three counties to make sure the roads are in tip-top condition,” says Kevin. At last inspection, Kevin reports that the road for the bike course looks good. “And the highway departments are going to sweep the run course of any debris before the race,” he adds.

Despite flooding in the area, Kevin says there are no problems at all getting to Lake Geode.

Triathletes start the race at 7:30am for the 1.5k out-and-back swim, 40k bike, and 10k run. While the Lake Geode Challenge isn’t the largest race of the Heart of America season, Kevin acknowledges, it definitely lives up its “challenge” reputation.

The bike course takes racers through three counties over primarily flat roads with some gently rolling hills, albeit under a full summer sun. The road course takes runners around the park, under the canopy of trees most of the way, but up and over some daunting hills. “It’s a lot of big rollers up and down that really give them a workout. Don’t expect to maintain a nice, even pace,” says Kevin.

And while the course can be grueling for some, a dedicate corps of volunteers will be on duty with plenty of water, cold towels, and any other assistance as needed.

IMG_2475At last tally, registrations have been a 50-50 split of first-timers to Lake Geode and returning veterans. Several past overall winners are back for another race, as are triathletes who started at Lake Geode as part of a team. “We’ve always been a great race for teams,” says Kevin. “A lot of the new people start as part of a team, just to get a taste of what it’s like, then they come back next year and do the whole race solo.”

Kevin predicts that the 25-29 and the 30- 34 age groups for both male and female will be tough, as they’re both filled with a strong set of competitors.

Big draws after every Lake Geode Challenge are some of the post-race amenities. Volunteers wait with water and sports drinks at the finish line. An incredibly popular feature is the ice-plunge bath, where finishers can dive in to an instant chill-out. The ice cream truck sees a lot of business, too.

Despite the curve balls Mother Nature has been throwing the Burlington area lately, Kevin and his team confidently state that the 2014 Lake Geode Challenge will be a great competition. “Everything is a go,” he declares.

For complete race information, log on to



Posted by: Heart of America News | June 14, 2014

Quad Cities 2014 – It Went Down Great!

By Ron Adkins
Heart of America Triathlon News

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The 2014 Quad Cities Triathlon kept up its tradition of excellence.

Triathletes from as far away as Arizona and Washington State gathered June 14th at West Lake Park near Davenport, Iowa. Nearly 600 competitors geared up for the sold out, 15th annual event. Nearly one-third of the field were first-timers to either the Quad Cities Tri or to triathlon in general.

Lake, weather, and course conditions couldn’t have been better. Water temperature at race time was a balmy 72 degrees. Clear skies and cool breezes made the 15k run a pleasure, and the roads for the bike course were in great shape.

According to race director Eric Sarno, the Quad Cities Tri, thanks to cooperation from local law enforcement, is one of only a few triathlons in the country where the course is completely closed to traffic. Having a closed course, Sarno believes, allows triathletes to race safer and post some impressive times.

The first female across the line was Jen Paul of Leclaire, Iowa with a 1:12:27. Paul is now a two-time winner at Quad Cities, coming in first last year, as well. Top local female was Deanna Shepherd of Bettendorf, Iowa, with a 1:24:36.

First place male honors went to 19-year-old Cole Bunn of Bettendorf, Iowa, posting a 1:01:49. Bunn was also the top local male finisher.

Quad Cities is unique in that it gives special honors to excellent area triathletes. It’s just one reason this race, believes Sarno, that sell-out numbers of triathletes (first-timers and repeat racers alike) keep crowding the course every June. Case in point, Fred Hemsath, first place finisher in the 70-74 age group, has traveled from St. Joseph, Michigan to compete in all 15 Quad Cities Tri’s.

For whatever reason brings them to the Quad Cities Tri Sprint, Sarno welcomes them back next year, when it will all go down again.

For complete results, visit

Posted by: Heart of America News | June 3, 2014

Quad Cities Preview: For The Love Of The Race!

photo (6)It’s about to go down.

2014 marks the 12th year in a row the Quad Cities Triathlon has sold out.

“We usually sell out by Valentine’s Day,” says a very pleased Race Director Eric Sarno.

Triathletes converge Saturday, June 14 at West Lake Park near Davenport, Iowa. A 7:00am start is scheduled for the 500-meter swim, 15-mile bike, and 5k run.

2013 women’s champ Jen Paul returns in 2014 to defend her crown and course record. Two past champions top the men’s field, 2013 winner Corey Towle and 2012 champ Jeff Paul.

170 of the athletes racing are first-time competitors, a statistic eric is proud of. While the sprint distance is most naturally attractive to those just entering the sport, Eric adds that, “Compared to most sprints, we’re one of the races that have the most first-timers. We have a reputation for being a very friendly race” for newcomers.

The user-friendliness of the race, Eric says, is due in part because, “I’m obsessive-compulsive about getting information out to the people.” He also credits an outstanding volunteer board that helps him with all the details of the race. Together, they make the Quad Cities Tri Sprint a lot of fun.

Log on to the Quad Cities Triathlon website and you can’t help but feel the party vibe. From the mantra, “It’s about to go down!” to the adrenaline-building hip-hop score, the message is clear:

This event is a celebration.

photo (21)

A good race director is prepared for all kinds of weather.

It’s also a community-driven affair, and a labor of love for all involved. “When we first started,” explains Eric, “most people didn’t know what a triathlon was. But now, we have a lot of good people volunteering time.”

“Officials at West Lake Park have been so helpful,” he adds, “and the neighbors are very supportive.”

Friends from the Army Corps of Engineers help set up the markers for the swim course.“They’re out there with their GPS making sure it’s perfect,” says Eric.

And a few years ago, the county sheriff’s department offered to close major streets to accommodate the bike and run. The Quad Cities Tri is one of the few courses completely closed to traffic.

It all makes for a smooth race day and a great time for everyone.

For complete race details and information, or to register on the waiting list, log on to

And when you do, crank up the volume and get a pre-race boogie going.

Posted by: Heart of America News | June 2, 2014

Pigman Sprint 2014 – Blasting Off

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Heather Lendway demolished the Pigman Sprint course record to claim the Women’s Division crown on a beautiful Iowa morning on June 1. In addition to the $600 first place prize, Lendway also claimed a $750 bonus by being the first person to cross the finish line. Her blistering time of 1:06:53 knocked nearly two minutes off the previous course record, set in 2012 by Claire Bootsma.

Lendway has only been racing a few years, but she is making a huge splash on the triathlon scene. A water-polo star in college, she took up running in the off-season and only added cycling to her repertoire when she started commuting by bike to work. A win at the 2013 USA Triathlon Olympic Championships in August 2013 brought her to the national stage. The Pigman is her third championship in the young 2014 season, with wins at Blaine and Chain of Lakes already this year.

Three previous Pigman champs battled for the Men’s title. Daniel Bretscher, pro racer and coach from Mount Vernon, Iowa bested David Thompson and Dan Hedgecock to win, with a time of 1:01:30.

The Pigman once again boasted a huge field of racers, over 800 participating, and many were first timers. As always, the race welcomed both newcomers and veterans.

“Pigman is such a positive experience. You run into so many friends. And everyone there, especially my Midwest Extreme Triathlon Club gives so much support on and off the course, says Julia Winkel of Cedar Rapids, a first-timer at the Pigman.

Keith Kenel has raced Pigman for ten years, and says it’s a great way to start the season. “I see what kind of shape I’m really in. Always a good time!”

Finishers video and full results for the Pigman Sprint Triathlon are posted at Click on the searchable results link to view finisher video, print finisher certificate or to post results on Facebook or Twitter.

The Pigman Long, on August 17, is still open for registration. Don’t forget there is now an Olympic distance race as a part of that event, if the Half-Iron race is not for you. Details and registration at

Posted by: Heart of America News | May 21, 2014

Pigman Preview – Warming Up

After an unusually cold Iowa spring, triathletes are looking forward to race seaphoto (23)son with anticipation, but also a little trepidation, as cool, wet weather has reduced training time for many.

But the beginning of June is here, and the first race for many is the Pigman Sprint.

The Pigman always fills up within a couple of weeks of opening, and 2013 is no different. Over 800 participants are signed up, and race director John Snitko is moving people into the race from the waiting list as he is able.

Be Kind To Your Fellow Racers Tip: if you’re signed up, but don’t care to do the race, let John know. He can give your spot to someone else. Remember, race entries are not transferrable. You can’t give away or sell yours.

Volunteers needed! The Pigman can use a few more volunteers this year. If you missed getting in, or just don’t intend to race, how about getting involved as a volunteer? Sign up for a slot online at

The main topic if conversation this time of the season is always water temperature, and the chilly spring has definitely retarded the kind of warmup we would be hoping for. Dan Tucker and some friends from the Midwest Xtreme club swam in Pleasant Creek on May 17.

“A fisherman nearby told us he measured the water at 54 degrees,” Dan says. “And it felt like it!”

Sunshine and more seasonable temps predicted for the next couple weeks should moderate the temperature quite a bit. But, we definitely recommend a wetsuit. Even if you don’t normally wear one, consider renting or buying. You’ll be a lot more comfortable, not to mention buoyant.

Construction in downtown Palo meant a slight change to the bike course last year, but we’re back to the original route for 2014.

Last year, it was the Battle of the Dans on the men’s side, as Dan Hedgecock edged out Daniel Bretscher for the win. Both Daniels are past Pigman champions, and will be back to battle it out in 2014. Sunny Gilbert was 2013 women’s champ. Course record holder and 2012 women’s champ Claire Bootsma was second last year, and will be in the 2014 field.

by Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News

A perfect morning greeted the triathletes as they prepped themselves for the Bluff Creek Tri Sprint, Duathlon, and Aquabike.

Perfect, at least, for the bike and road race. The swim leg on a crisp May morning at Hickory Grove Park near Colo, Iowa, was a bit … brisk. As Aquabike finisher Jordan Stokka said as he came out of the water, “Wow! I can’t get my breath!”

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Lake temperature at the start of the race was a wetsuit-legal 59 degrees. It’s been a long, cold winter …

But clear, sunny skies and only a slight wind made course conditions near-optimal for the beginning of the Heart of America Triathlon Series.

Of the 225 triathletes who took to the course at Hickory Grove, a large number were first-timers to the race. And of those, a significant amount let out a cheer when asked if this was their first triathlon ever — a great indicator that the sport of triathlon is healthy and growing.

Good weather wasn’t the only thing that made the race go smoothly. 75 volunteers worked hard to make sure all details went off as planned.

Co-race director Alex Syhlman was impressed with the fast times posted. First-timers and Heart of America veterans all posted great numbers, he said.

First place men’s finisher in the triathlon was past champion Matt Migonis. Migonis won the race for the third time, adding the 2014 crown to wins in 2011 and 2012. Now living in Hamilton, New York, he posted a 1:02:40. First place women’s finisher was Joy Carroll of Iowa City, Iowa, with a 1:17:23.

Across the finish line first in the duathlon for was John Monger of Ames  at 1:14:33. First female duathlete was Tonya Armstrong of Muscatine at 1:25:20.

First place male in the aquabike was Jordan Stokka of Des Moines with a 57:25:09. First place female in the aquabike was Katherine Roccasecca of Ankeny, posting a 1:07:07.

Full race results can be found at

Next up in the Heart of American Triathlon Series is the Pigman Sprint on Sunday, June 1 at Pleasant Creek State Park near Palo, Iowa. More information can be found at

Posted by: Heart of America News | May 8, 2014

Hickory Grove Kicks Off 2014 Season!

By Ron Adkins

Heart of America News

DSC02543The starter’s pistol fires Sunday, May 18 to open the 2014 Heart of America Triathlon season. Hickory Grove, near Colo, Iowa, is the first race on the slate.

Race director Alex Syhlman says he’s excited not only for the upcoming race, but also for the start of the new season. This is the 11th year of the race at Hickory Grove Park, but the first year that Hickory Grove has opened Heart of America series.

Perennial problems with the water course prompted moving Hickory Grove from August to June last. The response was so positive, says Alex, that the decision was made to then flip Hickory Grove and the Bluff Creek Triathlon on the calendar.

This was a good move. Registrations are up from the previous two years, and there are no expected glitches with the water course. “It’s a nice upward trend,” he says.

Difficulties with the water course, Alex adds, was actually a blessing in disguise. It allowed race organizers to offer a choice of events, opening the race to even more competitors of different skill sets.

In addition to the traditional sprint triathlon (500 yard swim, 15.5 mile bike, 3.1 mile run), Hickory Grove features a duathlon (.9 mile run, 15.5 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) and the Aquabike (500 yard swim, 15.5 mile bike). This marks the fourth year Hickory Grove has offered the duathlon and the second year for the Aquabike.

Alex is encouraged by the recent run of warm weather. “The lake is heating up nicely,” he says. “The course is in great shape, everything at the park looks good. We’re on schedule for a great race.”

For more information on the Hickory Grove Triathlon, visit their website at

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