Posted by: Dennis Green | June 30, 2019

Smokin’ Debut – Ames Triathlon 2019


A late-June heat wave did little to dampen the spirits of 275 hardy souls who turned out at Ada Hayden Heritage Park for the inaugural Ames Triathlon.

When Hickory Grove had to go on hiatus due to a lake dredging project, race director Alex Syhlman immediately set his eyes on the beautiful facility on the north end of Ames. But it took several months to secure the necessary permissions to stage an event that involved swimming in the lake, which normally is reserved for fishing and boating.

But even though registration didn’t open until late April, interest was strong.

“We prepared for about 200 people,” Alex said, “but we blew right past that, and ended up near 300.”

The heat raised the lake temperature to 81 degrees on race day, making the event wetsuit-optional by USAT rules. But to a one, each racer shed their wet suit to hit the water.

“I loved the swim,” said Kathy Christensen. “No traffic perfect timing, the water was nice and cool.”

The bike course received praise as well, even though some racers ran into traffic headed for a nearby church. Pretty much everyone agreed the run was a beast, but spirits were high and participants praised the course and race organizers, who quickly added a second water stop on the run.

“We could have used the Kona Ice Truck at mile one,” laughed Courtney Packingham. “And two, and three!”

Three para-triathletes participated, Bob Molsberry, Nick Finer, and Jim Anderson. Bob has been racing in the para division for more than twenty years, after a RAGBRAI training accident cost him the use of his legs. Nick raced with the support of My Team Triumph, which included Dr. Jason Niegsch, whose Dentistry at Somerset was a race sponsor.

Check out the Ames Triathlon photo album at this link.

Brad Mitchell will forever own bragging rights as the Ames Triathlon’s first men’s champion, setting the first course record with a 1:09:11. The women’s crown went to Joy Carrol, with 1:14:08.

Full results at

Posted by: Dennis Green | June 23, 2019

Don’t Miss Our Newest Race – Ames Triathlon!


It’s not often you get to participate in a brand new race, but 2019 brings the debut of what we think is going to be a very popular Iowa triathlon tradition, and it’s not to late be a part of the newest race in the Heart of America series!

The Ames Triathlon will debuts in Ada Hayden Park on June 30, at 8:00am.

Race director Alex Syhlman of True Time Racing says the lake at Ada Hayden Park is normally closed to swimming, so the race presents a fun and unique opening leg. The bike takes you on a scenic tour of the countryside to the west of the park.

The run course is flat, looping twice and staying totally within the confines of the park, on paved trails.

As with many of True Time’s races, you can choose between racing the Sprint Triathlon, Aquabike, or Duathlon.

Ames Tri image

Each finisher will also receive the inaugural Ames Triathlon medal.

Visit for more info and to register. Like the Ames Triathlon  Facebook page for late-breaking news and race-day updates.

Posted by: Dennis Green | June 15, 2019

Quad Cities 2019: “Number 20 Goes Down”

by Ron Adkins

IMG_3033Yeah, it was a little chilly, a little cloudy, then a little rainy. The 70-degree water at West Park brought shivers to even intrepid racers. But the energy was palpable among nearly 400 triathletes gathered on the beach for the 20th running of the Quad Cities Triathlon.

Kirby Winn, stepping into the shoes of founding race director Eric Sarno, who was unable to attend, offered up a fast but competitive course. Lake and run conditions especially, were complimented by many of the racers.


The race was dedicated to the memory of Bev Wilson. “Miss B” was a loyal supporter and beloved fixture of the race for many years. Her husband, Jess, fired the air horn as honorary starter.

Ian Hoover-Grinde, a Cedar Rapids native now attending Iowa State, battled with 2018 champion Josh Madsen for the win, each trading views of the other’s back throughout the race. Josh was ahead coming off the bike, but the run course, partly on grass and trailbed, was perfectly suited to Ian’s cross country background, and he finished with a blistering 1:03:56.

“I was ahead for maybe the first half mile,” said Josh, “But then he passed me and it was all Ian after that.” Check out more of their comments in the video posted here.

Joanne Hall posted her third Quad Cities victory in a row, crossing the finish line with an impressive 1:13:46. She, too, felt great after her run and had nothing but good things to say about the course.


Perfect Attendees! From left: Guy Olson, John Grive, Fred Hemsath, Ann Vestle, Casey Kenney, Jeff Kaczinski

Seventy from the field were first-timers. Six triathletes — John Grove, Fred Hemsath, Jeff Kaczinski, Casey Kenney, Guy Olson, and Ann Vestle,— have raced all twenty Quad Cities. And Ann claimed the day’s most prestigious door prize, a pyramid sun hat in the same style as the one Eric Sarno has made a Quad Cities trademark.


More race photos at this link.

Photos from the awards ceremony.

And see all the race results at

Posted by: Dennis Green | June 9, 2019

TRI Clear Lake 2019 – Great Fun at the Lake

In just its third year, TRI Clear Lake has become a favorite race for triathletes around the Midwest.

Nearly 300 participants raced this year, and universally agreed the experience was scenic and fun.

TRI Clear Lake takes advantage of its location by adding a few meters to its swim, which is 750 meters rather than a sprint’s traditional 500. But since the course hugs the shore, you can touch bottom for much of it, making the race comfortable for beginners as well as veterans.

A slightly shorter bike, 12.4 miles, makes up for the longer swim. Todd Dalecky of Cedar Rapids said even though the bike course was flat, there were some interesting cross breezes, probably due to the intersection of lake breeze and an Iowa prairie windy enough to power the windmill farm that also lay along the course.

The run follows scenic South Shore Drive, along the lake’s edge and even past the legendary Surf Ballroom before ending in the heart of downtown, where the TRI Clear Lake After Party awaited participants and spectators.



Eamonn McCullough of Waverly, bettered his runner-up finish from 2018, sprinting ahead ahead of Matt Ostbloom of Waterloo in the final 800 yards, to win with a time of 1:03:48.

(more TRI Clear Lake Photos)

On the women’s side, Kaletta Caldwell collected a huge hug from co-race director Carrie Tysdahl, her former Tri coach, when she crossed the line with a winning time of 1:07:14, just ahead of last year’s 3rd place finisher, Erin Anderson of Decorah.

Full results at

There were many first-timers at Clear Lake this year, but none captured the hearts of the crowd more than Kaleb Johnson of Omaha, racing with his dad, Matt. Kaleb, who suffers from cerebral palsy, has been a regular figure at Midwest road races, but this was his first triathlon. His mom Nicole Parker says that Matt and Kaleb have done a lot of road races, but this was their first triathlon.

“Kaleb will tell you that he is the motor and dad is the legs,” Nicole says.

Kaleb and Matt got some of the biggest cheers of the day when they crossed the finish line.

Posted by: Dennis Green | June 4, 2019

Pigman 2019 – Perfect Day, Lots of Champs

IMG_2510Pleasant Creek Lake is full again, and Eastern Iowa provided a perfect day for the 28th Pigman. Low humidity, temps in the 70s and a light breeze made for one of the best race days in recent memory.

In addition to a full, clean lake, the 2019 running of the Pigman also debuted some course changes, and new division championships. The run morphed from an out-and-back course, shared with the bike route, to a spectator-friendly two-loop course, which did not intersect with the bike, adding safety and an extra dose of fun.

The Pigman crowns more champions than any other race in the Heart of America series. The race is in its second year as USAT’s Iowa High School State Championship race, and is also a USAT Iowa Age Group State Championship races, qualifying the top competitors of each age group for the 2019 Olympic-Distance Age Group National Championships. Pigman is also a regional qualifier for Collegiate triathlon.

Which makes for a long awards ceremony! But it was a pleasure to see dozens of happy racers take home the traditional Pigman Piggy Bank (not to mention the USAT socks awarded to high school champs).

Iowa H.E.A.T. took home the Club championship cash prize of $250.


USAT High School State Championship participants

The Pigman uses a gender-equalized start, with the elite women taking off several minutes before the elite men, with an extra $750 at stake for the first person to either gender to cross the finish line. The offset is determined by the difference between the course record between males and females. Women’s champ Rachel Mensch from Madison, Wisconsin grabbed the extra cash, topping the leaderboard and crossing the finish line first in 1:08:51. Rachel’s Madison Multisport teammate Vant Lammers claimed the men’s crown, finishing in 01:02:17. However, since Vant is Rachel’s boyfriend, she said she’d be buying him something nice with some of the money!

The Iowa High School State Champion female was Tatum Frazier, posting a 1:32:06. On the men’s side, the winner was Anthony Lee with a 1:12:58.

In the collegiate division, Jeff Mettler of ISU won on the men’s side, and Minnesota Gopher Sophie Rabino claimed the women’s prize.

Iowa State Age Group Champions were Ian Hoover-Grinde and Joanna Hall.

Here are some of the many champions who came home with awards.

Men’s Overall Top 5

  1. Vant Lammers
  2. Andy Vasquez
  3. Jake Rhyner
  4. Ian Hoover-Grinde
  5. Patrick Parish

Women’s Overall Top 5

  1. Rachel Mensch
  2. Morgan Chaffin
  3. Jess Smith
  4. Joanna Hall
  5. Marissa Lovell

USAT High School State Championship (Men)

  1. Anthony Lee
  2. Evan Sharafuddin
  3. Quintin Gay
  4. Jacob Buchele
  5. William Rolfstad

USAT High School State Championship (Women)

  1. Tatum Frazier
  2. Bethany Smeed
  3. Maddie Swick
  4. Claudia Gay
  5. Elise Cagnard

USAT Age Group State Championship (Men)

  1. Ian Hoover-Grinde
  2. Jeff Mettler
  3. Josh Madsen

USAT Age Group State Championship (Women)

  1. Joanna Hall
  2. Meghan Schaeffer
  3. Laura Moeller

Collegiate Division (Men)

  1. Jeff Mettler (ISU)
  2. Mitchell Dotson (UMKC)
  3. Nikolas Pardoe (Minnesota)

Collegiate Division (Women)

  1. Sophie Rabino (Minnesota)
  2. Lauren Steinke (UI)
  3. Katarina Newcamp (UI)

Full race results at


Posted by: Dennis Green | May 15, 2019

Going Down for the 20th Time

The Quad Cities Triathlon, going down on Saturday, June 15, is the only race in our series with its own theme song.

Anyone who has ever done the QCT will recognize the thumping bass beat and sampled vocals chanting “It’s About To Go Down,” as the race begins to get everyone fired up.

Race director Eric Sarno says he started signing race correspondence “It’s About To Go Down,” years ago, and it became kind of a catch phrase.

“You wouldn’t know it to look at me,” Sarno explains, “but I’ve always been a rap music fan. So a friend of mine created this remix that includes that phrase, and we’ve used it ever since.”

The race is the easternmost event in the Heart of America series, attracting more than 500 participants from Iowa, Illinois, and throughout the Midwest. The race takes place in West Lake Park, on the west edge of Davenport.

The 600-yard swim starts in time-trial format, two athletes at a time. The course is out and back, with plenty of safety support. There are no age waves. Swimmers self-seed, according to their estimated completion time, like in a road race.

The 15-mile bike takes you out in the country over some rolling hills. The 5K run stays in the park, with part of the course going over park trails to give you some relief from hard asphalt.


Jeff Kaczinski, John Grice, Ann Vestle, Fred Hemsath, and Guy Olson (l-r with R.D. Eric Sarno), have done all 19 QC Races!

It’s a beginner friendly race, with a variety of clinics and practice rides, runs and swims scheduled in the weeks prior, all designed to get beginning triathletes comfortable.

2019 is a bittersweet year for the race committee, as the Quad Cities racing community lost a dedicated and key volunteer. Beverly Wilson volunteered nearly every year the race has been going on. She passed away earlier this year, and the 2019 race will be dedicated to her.

Five athletes (pictured) have done all twenty of the Quad Cities races. If Jeff, John, Ann, Fred, and Guy participate this year, they’ll actually better the record of race director and founder Eric Sarno, who is turning race day duties over to his committee so that he can attend his daughter’s high school graduation.

The Quad Cities race is also a platform for stroke awareness, for which Eric has a very personal reason. He is a stroke survivor, and is grateful every day for the immediate medical attention he received that saved his life. 

“Most people who suffer a stroke do not return to work and hanging out with their friends, let alone organize a triathlon,” he says.

Stroke awareness is a part of the pre-race activities, and each participant receives information in their packet. The race committee donates a portion of the proceeds to stroke rehabilitation each year.

If you would like to get some lake time before the race, the Scott County Conservation Board generally offers some practice swim times the week prior to the race. More info at their website.

At packet pickup the night before the race, there is a USAT question and answer session near the Lake View Shelter at the park. This is a great opportunity for first timers to find out more about how to stay penalty-free.

There is an active Facebook community for the QCT, with dozens of athletes posting tips, offers to loan or rent equipment, invitations to training events, and updates from race staff. Check out the page and join the community here.

Race website:

Posted by: Heart of America News | May 5, 2019

TriByKnight 2019 – A Great Way to Start

by Ron Adkins

The Heart of America series kicked off the 2019 slate May 4thin Waverly with Wartburg College’s TriByKnight Triathlon. Conditions couldn’t have been much better. The weather was clear with a decent breeze. Racers seemed in great spirits – excited, even – to begin the HOA season.

Race co-director Carrie Tysdahl was delighted. TriByKnight, now in its 8thrunning (and its 2ndas part of the Heart of America Triathlon series), has quickly become one of the more popular early-season events. This sprint race, Carrie says, is ideal for newcomers. And participants seem to agree. Registrations reached max capacity of 300, and a full third of racers were first-timers of all ages.

Opinions were divided as to what, specifically, makes TriByKnight so attractive in the early stages of the season. Many cite the time-trial pool start in Wartburg’s Schuldt Natatorium. This state-of-the-art facility is quite a draw for those shy about diving headlong into a newly-thawed Iowa lake.

The bike and run courses keep hills to a minimum (the only complaint from finishers seemed to be a headwind in the home stretch), and runners finish inside the college stadium. Wartburg facilities, many said, were downright luxurious, with real restrooms and post-race showers.

All this, plus an enthusiastic staff of volunteers, make for a pleasurable event. The fast, competitive race seems almost like dessert after a gourmet meal.

Triathlon veterans seemed impressed, as well. Midwest Extreme Tri Club member Brita Loynachen complimented TriByKnight as a good race to find the groove again and to stretch winter-heavy muscles.

Heart of America vet Adam Kassem of Iowa City had no trouble finding his groove. He was, once again, the man with the plan for victory. Luke Anderson and Mark Ostbloom offered serious competition in the swim, but Adam’s greatest strengths are on land. He posted excellent times in both the bike and run. Adam finished with an impressive 1:01:07.


Elaina Biechler trailed Cayla Bellamy in the pool and on the bike. But when she hit the ground running, she left everyone else in the rearview mirror. She returned to Dubuque with TriByKnight bragging rights and a 1:10:16 overall time.

For complete race results, visit

Posted by: Dennis Green | April 24, 2019

TRI Clear Lake – Come for the Race, Stay for the Party

By Dennis Green

ClearLakeClear Lake is one of Iowa’s most popular tourism destinations, with scenic beaches, fishing, resorts, and the historic Surf Ballroom, site of Buddy Holly’s final performance. The Clear Lake Triathlon takes full advantage of the community and its amenities, making the race a unique and fun experience for veterans and newbies alike.

Co-race director Carrie Tysdahl has the distinction of founding two Heart of America races. While living in Nashua, she started TRIByKnight in nearby Waverly, now one of Northeast Iowa’s biggest races. When Carrie moved to Clear Lake three years ago, it didn’t take long for her to connect with soon-to-be co-race director Jake Kopriva, and discuss organizing a sprint triathlon in one of Iowa’s top vacation spots.

Trish Fundermann of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce soon joined the team as the third co-race director, leveraging the Chamber’s resources and expertise to make TRI Clear Lake a top-shelf experience for athletes and spectators.

“Clear Lake is really a fun town,” Carrie says. “People should put our race on their schedule, particularly if they’ve never been here. We have a beautiful venue and a fast race.”

The course takes full advantage of the scenic surroundings, beginner friendly but also attractive to high quality athletes.

The swim is 750 meters, taking place at State Beach. There’s ample water support with lifeguards in kayaks and a Fire and Rescue boat. The bike course is flat and fast, 12.4 miles past scenic prairie and windmills.

The 5K run course may be the highlight of the TRI Clear Lake experience. It’s point-to-point, following the lake shore the entire way, past beautiful lakefront homes and the legendary Surf Ballroom, before ending in the Heart of America Series’ only downtown finish line.

“The finish line experience is like no other,” Carrie says. “We have live music, food, and beer. It’s a really fun atmosphere.” There is also a trolley to take athletes back and forth from the finish to transition.

TRI Clear Lake is also known for great swag. In addition to a tri-blend race shirt, each athlete also receives a pair of custom compression socks. First place male and female each receive a custom single speed bike, in Clear Lake Tri colors. A third bike will be raffled off. Other door prizes include loads of donated items and gift cards from race sponsors.

TRI Clear Lake is the perfect race to bring family and friends to make a weekend of it in one of Iowa’s most fun towns.

Register at

Posted by: Dennis Green | April 19, 2019

Hickory Grove on Break – New Ames Event!

Hickory Grove

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is making improvements to the Hickory Grove Park Lake, which means it will be drained. This is a multi-year project, from now until the lake is full again, which means the Hickory Grove Triathlon will be on hiatus until the lake is back to full strength.
But mark your calendar for June 30, when the Heart of America series will debut a brand new race, The Ames Triathlon, in the heart of Ames, Iowa.
Race director Alex Syhlman says this will be a great, one-of-a-kind race, sure to be an instant favorite.
Watch your email and for the opening of registration.
Posted by: Dennis Green | April 11, 2019

Pigman 2019: This One’s for All the Bacon

By Ron Adkins


Heart of America’s Pigman Sprint Triathlon ranks up there with RAGBRAI and the Drake Relays as one of Iowa’s premier sports events. It’s a traditional favorite for triathletes of all skill levels – professionals, dedicated amateurs, and weekend racers – and is often picked by beginners as their first race.

Pigman 2019, June 2 at Pleasant Creek State Park near Palo, promises a highly competitive field. The race has again been selected by USA Triathlon to host the Iowa Age Group State Championships and the Iowa High School State Championships. Race Director Alex Syhlman believes that adding these divisions makes the race even stronger. “You’ve got young high schoolers racing with the best from across the state, and seeing how older veterans do things, and you’ve got those in the Age Group race seeing how the more seasoned pros get their race face on. It can only make the field that much stronger.”

Perhaps the best news for this year is that Pleasant Creek Lake is back! A 2-year dredging project, which caused the water level to be low and muddy the past two years, has ended. Alex reports that the lake is now back up to full strength. The run and bike courses, he adds, are in their usual excellent shape.

Early packet pickup and course talks will be held Saturday night, June 1, at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Cedar Rapids. Packets and other race information can also be picked up at the park before start time. Homewood Suites by Hilton and the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton are the host hotels for the Pigman Sprint Triathlon. When placing a reservation at either of these hotels, ask for the Pigman rate or use the group code PIG. Both hotels will open their continental breakfast time early for triathletes.

Excellent camping facilities at the state park are also available. Racers can book a space through the Iowa DNR website.

Gear West Bike and Triathlon is the official bike and triathlon sponsor. Triathletes have a chance at winning a Trek 3700 mountain bike, a Blue Seventy Swim Skin, a Gear West Pack of race goodies, and other door prizes. Gear West Bike and Triathlon offers free bike triage before the race.

The Pigman’s legendary recovery buffet will be fully stocked. Racers can refuel on pizza, watermelon, fruit, cookies and a variety of beverages. Licensed chiropractors and massage therapists will be also be available to aid in recovery.

For complete information on the Pigman Sprint Triathlon, log on to their website,

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