by Keith A. Kenel
Heart of America News Correspondent
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 www.lakegeodechallenge.org.
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 http://keithakenel.wordpress.com/