Posted by: Heart of America News | August 23, 2014

Sandy Campbell Is Just Getting Started

By Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News

2014-08-03 11.12.48A great joy of triathlons is encountering extraordinary people who lace up for these races. These people know full well they will never get rich or famous racing. They do it to fulfill a personal goal, to tick off a bucket list item, or to run in honor someone else.

Sandy Campbell of Palatine, Illinois, is one such person. She considers herself a “late bloomer,” since she didn’t take up racing triathlons until she was 60.

Now, at age 71, this late bloomer is a veteran, having crossed the finish line more times than many competitors half her age. “I started doing half a dozen a year,” she says, “but now I’m up to maybe twelve every season.”

Sandy’s most recent accomplishment was a strong finish in the 2014 Camp Courageous Tri Sprint, where she posted a 1:48:37. It was her second time at Camp Courageous.

“I’ve done two Olympics,” says Sandy, “but the rest of my races have all been sprints.

She became interested in the sport because her son, Erik, raced triathlon. He eventually coaxed her from cheering him on to competing with him in local races.

And while she’s a great fan of triathlons and a very vocal cheerleader, there are certain parts Sandy could do without. “I hate running,” she laughs. “I love swimming and I love biking.”

Her absolute favorite aspects of racing, she adds, are the people she meets and the cause that gives her the energy to compete.

“You get to meet so many nice people,” says Sandy, who has made a lot of good friends by getting to know them at races.

The most fulfilling part of it all, she says with a big smile, is her association with I Run 4. This international organization matches runners with “honorary runners” – men and women who, because of a disability or disease, is unable to compete. “You get out and race in their honor,” says Sandy, “then you send them any medals or awards.”

Racers often compete in special t-shirts honoring their match and then send photographs showing that they are there in spirit and were an inspiration. The result, says Sandy, is that racer and honorary runner are motivated to greater accomplishments. It is also an excellent way to raise awareness of disabilities of all types.

With her son and her honorary runner to give her motivation, Sandy says she has no plans to retire from triathlons any time soon.

She’s just getting warmed up.

Posted by: Heart of America News | August 18, 2014

Pigman Long 2014-Come for the Competition, Stay for the Carbs

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By Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News

Everyone brought their “A” game to the Pigman Long Course and Olympic Triathlon.

Athletes came from across the country to test themselves against the signature race of the Heart of America Triathlon Series.

Thick morning fog threatened to delay the Sunday, August 17 start at Pleasant Creek State Park near Palo, Iowa. But as the sun rose, so did the haze, and swimmers hit the wetsuit-legal, 72-degree lake right on time.

Daniel Bretscher of Mt. Vernon, Iowa, beat perennial champion David Thompson of Long Lake, Minnesota, earlier this season at the Pigman Sprint, and the Olympic race was something of a rematch.

But Thompson was not to be denied, shattering Bretscher’s 2013 course record by nearly four minutes, posting, posting a 1:54:56. Bretscher was second at 2:02:11.

Both men now hold the distinction of being the only people to have won all three Pigman races Sprint, Olympic and Long Course. And Thompson now holds course records for all three.

Lesley Smith of Coralville, Iowa, took top Olympic female honors with a 2:11:26.

The Long Course competition came down to a horse race between two Wisconsans. Adam Bohach of La Crosse and Thomas Gerlach of Madison came off the bike at virtually the same time, leaving transition just 1.3 seconds apart. Bohach pulled ahead on the run, however, and never looked back, carding a 3.57.21 for the win.

Morgan Chaffin of Elkhorn, Nebraska, won the women’s crown with a time of 4:36:25. nearly six minutes ahead of the rest of the pack.

Full results at

If you leave the Pigman hungry, don’t blame race director John Snitko. He pulls out all the stops with sponsors supplying tons of treats. In addition to the usual fresh fruit and cookies post-race, athletes also feasted on pizza, spaghetti and artisan bread.

The intense level of competition brought to every Pigman has earned the race its reputation as on of the Midwest’s best. Hundreds of out-of-state triathletes drive long hours to run the Big Pig. They do this knowing that top-level triathletes will be out to set course records and capture top honors.

Strong competition fuels everyone to conquer personal goals.

Posted by: Heart of America News | August 17, 2014

Pigman live results

Follow your favorite Pigman racer using JMS Racing’s live results, optimized for mobile.

Just click on this link and enter their bib number!


Posted by: Heart of America News | August 12, 2014

2014 Pigman Long Preview

By Dennis Green

Heart of America Triathlon News

2013-08-18 10.11.10Over 600 athletes are tapering this week in anticipation of the signature races of the Heart of America series, The Pigman Long and Olympic Races.

The cool, low-humidity weather for summer 2014 has been perfect for training and racing, and we anticipate a fast field for the Pigman races.

The Pigman Long has been run since 2000, and is the standard half-iron distance, 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and half-marathon run. David Thompson holds the long-course record, and is planning to be in the field once again.

This is the third year for the Olympic distance, 1500 meter swim, 40K bike and 10K run.

The Pigman Long is a favorite of many of the triathletes in the region. For some, it’s the capper on their season. Others use the race as a tuneup for a fall Ironman. And the Olympic distance gives an opportunity for those not interested in the Half distance, to participate.

Katie Thatcher comes all the way from the Chicago area to do the race each year. “Pigman Triathlon is one of my favorite races.  The rolling bike course is enjoyable but also challenging.  The run is a sufferfest in the heat that I love to complain about but still love the challenge of it.  The venue is family friendly and a good course for spectators.  I love the small, local feel of the race, especially after, as we all sit around under the trees and catch up on our seasons.”

One of the strengths of the Pigman is its volunteers. Matt Smolsky has been helping with the race for years and is enthused for 2014. “This is one of the best organized races in the nation, and the Midwest’s oldest long course triathlon. As always, triathletes can expect plenty of course support (food, drink and experienced volunteers), and second-to-none post race activities.”

Nearly $7,000 in cash prizes will be awarded between the two races. Plus, hundreds of dollars in door prizes, and enough food to satisfy… well, all the triathletes who race!

Race director John Snitko says he can accept last-minute entries through Friday, Aug. 15, so there is still time to get signed up at

Posted by: Heart of America News | August 11, 2014

Ron Is Back!

By Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News


Nothing keeps Ron Ottaway down. Nothing.

Not even cancer.

2014-08-03 09.22.59Ron was diagnosed with lymphoma early in 2013 and underwent the full battery of chemotherapy. The effects of the treatment left him weak and tired.

But that didn’t keep him down. He still found the energy to run the last leg of the 2013 Camp Courageous Tri Sprint, approaching the finish line to the cheers and applause of everyone there.

Ron finished final last round of chemo last November and now, as August begins, he is proud to announce that he is in remission. “I thank God for that,” he says. “I still have to get scanned every four months,” he adds, “but everything looked good at the last one.” Ron laughs about how, at a recent haircut (he’s also quite pleased that his hair is growing back), the barber told him he still had some of the chemo drugs in his system. “I’m not sure how she knew that, but she did,” he chuckled.

“I’m still recovering,” the 77-year-old Ron admits. “I take a lot of naps now. I’m still trying to get back into shape. But I’m glad to be getting back in the groove.”

2013-08-04 10.49.37Ron is the undisputed anchor and spiritual heart of the Midwest Extreme Triathlon Club. They are like his second family. Throughout his diagnosis and recovery, they rallied around him and gave him unconditional love and support.

Teammate Brita Loynachan understands the power of the positive energy Ron received from the Midwest Extreme family. Herself a cancer survivor, she credits her team with a major role in her recovery. “The support from the team definitely kept me positive and still keeps me motivated.”

Ron’s return to triathlons was marked by his completion of the recent 2014 Camp Courageous Tri Sprint. He posted a respectable 1:44:56.

The day was even more special since it was part of Ron’s and his wife Lawanna’s 57th wedding anniversary. They began the celebration the night before by going out for dinner.

“They didn’t have the kind of brandy I like,” Ron says with a smile, “so I had to settle for single malt scotch.”

Although Ron calls his finish in the Camp Courageous Tri “slow,” he was glad to be out competing again. “Last year was such a bad year. It feels so good just to be able to work out again,” he says. “I’ve always been an athlete. It feels so good to be moving again.”

Ron’s official return to athletics actually began last spring. He spent the better part of April and May biking across the United States in 27 days. He and his friends covered 3000 miles over nine states. He averaged 120 miles a day. At age 77. While still recovering from cancer. If that doesn’t convince you of Ron’s strength of spirit, nothing will.

Ron is a 17-time veteran of the Hawaiian Ironman. He won his age group in 2007, at age 70. “I’d like to do it again,” he says.

No one doubts he will.

Welcome back, Ron!

Posted by: Heart of America News | August 10, 2014

Bluff Creek 2014 – Great Racing At All Levels

by Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News

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Grey skies cleared just in time for the start of the 2014 Bluff Creek Triathlon on August 10. Over 220 triathletes made their way to Don Williams County Park near Boone, Iowa on yet another perfect Sunday morning.

Bluff Creek plays host to both a sprint and an Olympic distance race. Collegiate triathletes from schools around the Midwest race also compete to qualify for the Collegiate National Championship later in the year.

Bluff Creek also marks the home stretch of the Heart of America Triathlon Series, which wraps up with the Cy-Man Triathlon on September 21 near Bondurant, Iowa. Several racers currently high in the standings pushed hard at Bluff Creek to increase their position in the point standings.

Race Director Alex Syhlman was impressed with the times posted by this year’s competitors. Racers were fast out of the water and made smooth transitions to the bike and run. Excellent course conditions and good, cool weather were big factors.

First across the finish line for the Sprint males was Reed Rinderknecht of Clive, Iowa, posting a 1:06:46. Reed is a five-time Ironman finisher and a 2008 Kona qualifier. First female sprint finisher was Zoe Sirotiak of Ames, Iowa, with a 1:17:52.

In the Olympic, Adam Kassem of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was first across for the men at 2:17:44. Jennifer Vande Vegte of Sioux Center, Iowa, was at the head of the pack for the Olympic women with a 2:28:56. Collegiate qualifiers were the University of Minnesota’s Jacob Folz of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, at 2:23:23, and Anna Moynihan of Woodbury, Minnesota, with a 2:37:33.

For complete race results, log on to

Before the race, competitors paid tribute to the memory of Timothy Jenks, an exceptional young man and outstanding triathlete who died in a June training accident. Timothy was a veteran of the Bluff Creek Tri and a popular competitor at the race.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Jenks family. Anyone wishing to contribute to the memorial scholarship fund in Timothy’s honor may do so by contacting Bike World in Ames, Iowa, at 515-232-3669.

Posted by: Heart of America News | August 6, 2014

Bluff Creek Preview – Racing for Tim

By Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News


Everything is set for the Sunday, August 10 running of the 2014 Bluff Creek Triathlon. Competitors will meet at Don Williams County Park near Ogden, Iowa for the 8:00am start time. The race features both Spring and Olympic distances.

2013-08-11 09.18.28This year’s Bluff Creek race is especially poignant, as triathletes race in honor of Timothy Jenks. Timothy was killed recently when he was hit by a car during a youth training bike ride. Timothy, his sister, Olivia, and his father, William, have competed at Bluff Creek and Hickory Grove many times. To honor his memory, said Race Director Alex Syhlman has included the initials TRJ on the front of the official t-shirts. There will also be a memorial during the pre-race meeting.

Despite what will be a bittersweet day, Syhlman is optimistic about upcoming race. “We’ll see what the day brings, but everything looks good. We’re ready to go,” he said.

Because of the logistics involved with the swim course, Syhlman recommends that everyone arrive a little early and have gear racked and  ready promptly. Transition will close earlier than other tri’s so racers have time to board shuttles for the 2-mile ride to the park’s only beach.

Once there, Sprint contestants will swim a point-to-point 500 meters across the lake to transition. The 15-mile bike course is classified flat with a 180-degree turn at midpoint. Sprint and Olympic cyclists share the course for the first 3.7 miles. The Sprint’s 5k run is on roads within the park, all paved but for less than half a mile on short grass or gravel. There are no major hills.

Olympic competitors will swim a 1,500-meter dog-leg course around the lake to the boat ramp. The 24.8-mile out-and-back bike course is considered mostly flat, with a couple of challenges. Bikers will enjoy a 640-feet elevation change as they descend and ascend the Des Moines River valley. The 6.2 Olympic run course is all on roads within the park. The entire course is all on pavement, except the first and last quarter miles across grass. There are no major hills to contend with.

Syhlman is pleased that Bluff Creek Tri is part of the Midwest Collegiate Triathlon Conference this year and is hosting collegiate athletes from Iowa State University, University of Iowa, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin, and University of Nebraska.

About 40 first-time triathletes are competing in this year’s Bluff Creek. There is still time to sign up. Log on to to register for one of the remaining open slots.


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

Camp Courageous 2014 – Great Race, Great Racers, Great Fun

by Ron Adkins

Heart of America News

The Camp Courageous Sprint Triathlon, in only its 5th year as part of the Heart of America Triathlon Series, has built its solid reputation by being an event that is not only competitive, but also a tremendous amount of fun.

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All triathletes who enter know they are racing for more than prizes and Series points. They are also supporting an amazing organization.

As Race Director Nick Gearhart explained during the pre-race meeting, one hundred percent of the registration fee is used to support Camp Courageous. This declaration was met with thunderous applause. 250 triathletes gathered at Central Park, near Amber, Iowa on Sunday, August 3, for another exceptional day for racing.

Lake temperature was a wetsuit-legal 74 degrees. The string of cool, near-cloudless days continued to lift spirits. Gearhart, the race committee, and dozens of volunteers succeeded in creating a party atmosphere. Cheers, applause, and cowbells were encouraged. Singing and dancing couldn’t be stopped, since this year’s race came with its own soundtrack. Cedar Rapids band Summertown rocked the racers with a mix of covers and original songs. “

Next year,” said Gearhart, “we’re thinking of putting in some kind of slip-n-slide at the finish line. Wouldn’t that be great? Finishing the race hot and tired and being able to slide into the cool lake?”

This year’s race also marked some exceptional returns. Camp Courageous “camper” Christopher Marner swam for his team a year ago. He returned to do it again this year, showing the same infectious enthusiasm and high spirits as before. He was greeted by cheers and applause as he hit the beach, and he thanked his supporters with a huge smile, a fist-pump, and lots of hugs. Christopher is this year’s recipient of the Courage Award, presented to a competitor who demonstrates remarkable spirit in overcoming obstacles.

Also marking his triumphant return to triathlons was Ron Ottaway. The undisputed heart of the Midwest Extreme Triathlon Club, Ron fought a battle with cancer that left him unable to compete. Now in remission, he chose Camp Courageous as the first (of many) tri’s still to come. (For more about Ron’s incredible story, see the article on this page.)

2014-08-03 06.10.34

Returning champion Barry Breffle not only wore #1, he was first to rack his equipment bright and early Sunday morning.

Returning men’s champion Barry Breffle of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, made it two in a row, crossing the finish line with a 1:05:45 – an almost identical time to last year. Female champion Elaina Mertens of Dubuque, Iowa, posted a 1:16:05. For complete race results, visit

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

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