Posted by: Heart of America News | August 7, 2017

2017 Camp Courageous: Different Course, Same Great Race

by Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News


No matter where the race is run, the Camp Courageous Triathlon is a sentimental favorite of the Heart of America Triathlon Series.

Sunday, August 6, 2017 marked the 8th running of Camp Courageous, and the first to be held at Prairie Park Fishery, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids. The race’s traditional site, Central Park near Amber, Iowa, was unavailable, as the Iowa DNR is dredging the lake. Race Co-Director Nick Gearhart reported that an astounding 13,000 dump truck loads of sand and silt have been removed from the lake bottom.

If all goes as planned, he added, the race should be back home next season. Until then, however, the 250 triathletes registered to compete had many positive things to say about the alternate site. Bikers and runners complimented the smooth fast courses, and the swim-in was nearly ideal for the time trial start. The continued break in the August heat kept the water at a wetsuit-legal 76 degrees.


Men’s Winner Adam Kassem

Once Adam Kassem of Cedar Rapids finished his swim, he took control of the course and never looked back. He posted an impressive 1:07:50 to notch an overall win for the men, and notched his second Heart of America series win this season. Top female finisher Joanna Hall wasn’t far behind, coming across the line with a 1:13:09. First, second, and third place overall finishers were awarded a plate, hand-designed and painted by a Camp Courageous “camper.”

For complete race results, visit

There’s always a special energy surrounding the entire event. Camp Courageous proudly boasts that it is the only race in the Heart of America series to have a live band motivate the crowd. Horse Theory (formerly Summertown), a local jam trio, rocked covers, original material, and groove improvs in a three-hour set.

The Camp Courageous Tri Sprint always brings out the best in everyone involved. And the most enthusiastic participant, year in and year out, must be Christopher Marner. Christopher is a camper who overcomes a physical disability to race the swim leg of the triathlon. When asked to choose his favorite part of the day, Christopher, a huge smile on his face, shouted, “Swimming!” And when asked if he was looking forward to next year, he shouted louder: “Yeah!!”

A sentiment shared by a good many more.

Camp Courageous, located southeast of Monticello, Iowa, is a year-round, non-profit recreational and respite care facility, funded almost entirely by donation and fund-raisers. Anyone, of any age, with a disability is welcome to attend. To learn more about the Camp, visit

The 2017 Heart of America season wraps up with the Bluff Creek Sprint and Olympic Triathlon on Sunday, August 20 at Don Williams State Park near Ogden, Iowa.

Posted by: Heart of America News | July 10, 2017

Accel 2017: It Just Keeps Getting Better

by Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News


DSCN4283.jpgRace Director Tony Pollastrini was thrilled by the success of the 5th annual Accel Triathlon.

As if on cue, the week’s oppressive humidity dissipated, leaving behind a mild, sunny, and dry morning.

It was a vast improvement, Tony noted, from last year, when thunderstorms forced the race’s cancellation.

“We were just getting ready to get things going on the swim when on the horizon was a huge wall cloud.”

Water temperature at George Wyth State Park in Waterloo was a wetsuit-restricted 80 degrees, meaning those who choose to wear a wetsuit could still race but were disqualified from prizes or USAT points.

“Every race just keeps getting better,” he added. “We’re seeing solid growth every year.”

First female across the finish in the Sprint was Janet McCullough of Waverly, coming in with a 1:18:53. First-place male in the Sprint was Adam Campbell of Cedar Falls with a 1:10:41.

Across the line first for the female Olympians was Amanda Johnson of Waterloo, in at 2:29:35. Adam Kassem of Cedar Rapids was the first place Olympic male with a 2:07:51.

Find full results at


290 triathletes from 14 states hit the course on Saturday, July 8. Tony was excited by the strong numbers. “We have runners from as far away as New Mexico and Massachusetts competing today. And 290 is the most yet to register.”

Tony attributes part of the registration spike to Accel’s inclusion in the Heart of America Series. 2017 marks the first running of the Accel Sprint and Olympic on the HOA calendar. Tony sees this new partnership with Heart of America as the ultimate win-win-win for all parties involved. “Series athletes benefit from competing on a new course with racers they may never have encountered before, and Accel veterans get to compete against new blood.”

As the numbers show, Tony pointed out, the Accel can only get stronger as part of the Heart of America Series, with its resources and deep roster of talented triathletes. And the Series itself benefits from having such a well-executed race on its schedule.

Tony compliments his staff and legions of volunteers for 2017’s Accel coming off with nary a hitch. The race is put on by the Accel Group – an insurance and financial planning institution based out of Waverly and Cedar Falls. Tony himself is a triathlete, and a great many of the staff, who helped with the race, are runners or compete in other sports.

Tina Miller, Accel director of operations, thinks athletes organizing the race is nothing but a good thing.

“We’ve been on courses or have had to compete, so we have a good idea about what kind of problems might come up,” she said. “We can see through the eyes of those who are going to compete in the Accel and make it a great experience for them.”

That kind of expertise obviously pays off. Several runners crossed the finish line, turned in their timing chip, and sought out an Accel staffer to compliment the condition and speed of the course.

Tony pointed out that, “It was great to see about 30 people who are first-timers to triathlons. I think this is a very positive sign of growth for the sport.”

“Things just keep getting better.”




Posted by: Heart of America News | July 2, 2017

Heart of America Standings

Screenshot 2017-07-06 15.34.09

Brita Loynachan and Daniel Kresowick lead the Heart of America Standings through the end of June.

Top Five Females and points:

  1. Brita Loynachan: 4255
  2. Tami Fiala: 3829
  3. Ann Vestle: 2831
  4. Anne Hilleman: 2562
  5. Emily Feldkamp: 2263

Top Five Males and Points:

  1. Daniel Kresowick: 4035
  2. Sean Austin: 3860
  3. Eddie Graham: 3828
  4. Jim Hagelie: 3509
  5. Dave Steines: 3425

The stats include results Hickory Grove, Pigman, Quad Cities, Copper Creek, plus the Cyman Sprint and Cyman Olympic from 2016.

View the full results at

We’ll post standings again after the July races.

Posted by: Heart of America News | June 25, 2017

Copper Creek 2017 – More Powerful Than A Locomotive!

by Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News


The 2017 running of the Copper Creek Tri Sprint was a race of many firsts:

  • Copper Creek’s 11th year was also its first as part of the Heart of America Triathlon Series.
  • This year marked the first Copper Creek to include an Olympic distance course.
  • It was the first time in memory that any Heart of America race was delayed in anticipation of a coming train.

(It is also one of the rare races located near a coffeehouse, so that racers and spectators alike could grab a quick cuppa to wait out the aforementioned train.)


Men’s Sprint Winner Kris Spoth

Race Director Mike McGinn kept in contact with Union Pacific Railroad and hoped that pushing back the start time would guarantee a smooth race. The train, however, had other intentions. It came through the course anyway, stalling most of the field on the wrong side of the tracks. This glitch did nothing, however, to diminish the high spirit of the day.


(more race pictures)

The only other person this complication really dealt fits was race timer Alex Syhlman of True Time Racing. Poor Alex had to determine who got across before the train came through, and who got stuck on the other side. He then had to perform some serious mathematical acrobatics to make sure everyone’s time posted accurately.

Nearly 300 triathletes gathered at Copper Creek Lake Park. Course conditions were excellent. Race time weather was near-perfect, with light winds, sunshine, and a 75-degree lake temperature. Copper Creek has a distinctly suburban feel, as the park is part of the Des Moines bedroom community of Pleasant Hill.

A full third of the field competed in the inaugural Olympic distance. McGinn was pleased not only with the strong turnout, but also with the number of triathlon veterans sharing the Olympic course with student athletes from Iowa’s universities and colleges, and schools from Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Missouri, and Nebraska.

Finish times for athletes of all levels were as strong as the good spirits and energy levels. Top female Sprint finisher was Maeghan Easler of Des Moines, with a 1:08:06. Top Sprint male was Kris Spoth, coming in under an hour with a 58:55. In the Olympic race, the female crown went to Tamara Gorman of Rapid City, South Dakota, in with a 2:09:05. First place male was TJ Tollakson of Des Moines with a 1:57:21.

For complete race results, go to

Alex Syhlman acted also as the Heart of America Series representative, and was a prime advocate for Copper Creek’s inclusion in the Series. He agreed with McGinn that the field for Copper Creek this year lived up to the race’s consistently high standard.

“It’s a good course,” Syhlman said, “and there’s always strong competition. Copper Creek has a great reputation and I think it’s going to be a good fit with the rest of the Heart of America Series.”

Posted by: Heart of America News | June 18, 2017

No Wetsuit, No Problem – Quad Cities 2017

uphillrunFew athletes look forward to swimming in cold water. But careful what you ask for.

Water temperature in the mid-70s on Saturday gave way to an astonishing 84.7 degrees as the eighteenth running of the Quad Cities Triathlon began, meaning no wetsuits. The warm water was especially surprising as thunderstorms rolled through the area the night before the race. Director Eric Sarno allowed, during his pre-race comments that he and the weather had “a very serious conversation” in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

(More race pictures)

But by race time, the skies had cleared and conditions were good. As the morning wore on, the breeze picked up. But that was good news, as it gave riders a tail wind on the back half of the course.

“The head wind was pretty brutal heading out,” 50-54 champ Brita Loynachan confessed. “But after the turnaround it felt great.”


2017 Champion Sean Austin

The men’s race was close from the get-go. Local favorite Sam Lundry was first out of the water, hitting the beach more than a minute ahead of 2016 champion Sean Austin of Ames. The two dueled on the bike course, and at the beginning of the run, Sean had shaved Sam’s lead to less than thirty seconds. Sean passed Sam after the turnaround, nosing him and third-place finisher Jeff Paul at the finish.

Joanna Hall of Coralville won women’s race in 1:17:43. 2016 champion Laura Moeller of Ankeny was second.

The Quad Cities race is popular for veterans and newcomers alike. Over one hundred racers made their debut at the event. At the other end of the spectrum, John Pfautz of Davenport, was back after a few years off.

“I think I did all right,” he said.

Full results at this link.

Posted by: Heart of America News | June 4, 2017

2017 Pigman – Just About Perfect

By Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News


Race Director John Snitko couldn’t have asked for much better conditions on Sunday, June 4, for the 2017 running of the Pigman Sprint Triathlon, and the times proved it.


Kevin Bowden & Pete Ylvisaker mug for the camera pre-race. Ylvisaker is the only person to have perfect Pigman attendance, competing in all of the race’s 26 years.

A pre-dawn squall passed quickly, leaving a colorful sunrise and a near cloudless sky. Despite the heat – 80 degrees at start time – the humidity was barely noticed. Water temperature at Pleasant Creek State Park near Palo, Iowa, was a tepid, wetsuit-legal 73 degrees. Pigman participants were the first swimmers to enter the water after last year’s dredging of the lake, which is still officially closed to swimming. Despite a recovering water level, which put the start and finish of the swim in muck rather than sand, everyone seemed glad to see the lake returning to normal.


Click here for Pigman Pictures.

Conditions for the bike and run were equally good. Roads in and around the park were in optimal condition and promised the prospect of some record-breaking times.

And Jake Rhymer delivered. The Florida resident torched the course, breaking David Thompson’s five year-old course record and becoming the first person to break sixty minutes in the Pigman’s twenty-six year history, with a 59:29. Alex Libin of Colorado Springs also beat Thompson’s mark, coming in second at 1:00:06.

First female across the line was Heather Lendway of Saint Paul, Minnesota, posting an impressive 1:08:32.

For complete race results, visit

The Pigman Sprint has earned its praise for being a premier Sprint triathlon. Its reputation is nationwide, as triathletes from dozens of states make the trip to compete. Word of the Pigman is even reaching overseas. Eduardo Celis had heard of the Pigman in his native Peru, and while in Iowa decided to put the course through its paces.

A full quarter of this year’s registrants were either new to the Pigman, or new to triathlons in general. Such strong numbers of fresh competitors bode well for the future of the race. Whether or not the race conditions are as optimal as 2017, the Pigman can look forward to many great races in the years to come.

Posted by: Heart of America News | May 21, 2017

Hickory Grove 2017: Cold Day, Hot Race

by Ron Adkins

Heart of America Triathlon News


More Hickory Grove pictures on the Heart of America Facebook Page.

It was a fast and frigid start to the 2017 Heart of America Triathlon Series. Nearly 200 stalwart triathletes and their legion of loyal* supporters were treated to cloudy skies, brisk wind, and 45 degrees as they gathered for this years’ running of the Hickory Grove Triathlon, Duathlon, and Aquabike on May 21.

(by loyal, read: “Oh my good goodness, it is beyond chilly and I must really love this crazy person for dragging me out of bed on such a morning!)

Race time water temperature at Hickory Grove Park near Colo, Iowa, was not just westuit-legal. At sixty degrees, it was pretty much parka-legal.

The November-like conditions did nothing, however, to diminish enthusiasm to kick off the season with a strong race. Two dozen or more competitors raised their hands and cheered when asked if Hickory Grove was their first-ever triathlon. Kari Anderson of Johnston, came ready to run but needed a little friendly persuasion to get to the park. When asked why she competed in Hickory Grove, she enthusiastically replied, “Because my friends are assholes.

While conditions were cold, the course heated up quickly, with several competitors boasting personal best times.

First male across the line in the Triathlon was Nathan White of Johnston, posting a 1:06:49. Maeghan Easler of Des Moines took first place in the women’s race with a 1:15:39.

Top Duathlon finishers were Tyson Wieland of Dallas Center, in with a 1:05:25, and Jill Snitko of Marion (who spent a very soggy Saturday the day before directing the Marion Arts Festival Races), with a 1:32:49.

In the Aquabike, Duane Fritchie of Lees Summit, Missouri placed first with a 54:04, while Michelle Stout of Ankeny took top female honors with a 1:05:20.

Full race results here.

Race Director Alex Syhlman was pleased that, despite the chilly morning, racers were enthusiastic and ready to compete.

“It was a great way to kick off the 2017 season,” he said.

Such enthusiasm bodes well for the next Heart of America race. Triathletes are already psyching up for the Pigman Sprint, one of the cornerstone races of the HOA Series, on June 4.


Posted by: Heart of America News | January 30, 2017

New Races, New Dates, New Routes for 2017

by Dennis Green

Hey, it’s not pitch dark when I walk out of work anymore! That can only mean that triathlon season is just around the corner.

2017 brings some new opportunities in the Heart of America triathlon series, a location change for one race, and two races have new dates.

First off, we’ve added two popular races to the series:


Copper Creek

The Copper Creek Triathlon is in its eleventh year, and takes off on June 25 in Pleasant Creek, near Des Moines. The race has just been a sprint up until now, but this year is adding an Olympic Race. Copper Creek is known for its fun and challenging course, and some of the best swag around!

On July 8, the Heart of America series will be in Cedar Falls for the Accel Triathlon. Accel also offers both sprint and Olympic distances, and last year rolled out a new bike course.

2017 brings a big change to the Camp Courageous race. The lake at Central Park in Jones County is being dredged, so the race will move to Cedar Rapids this year. It will take place at Prairie Park Fishery. The sand-filtered lake is one of the clearest in the area, popular for scuba training. The bike will wind through the neighborhood, mixing fast flats with a some challenging hills. The run will be spectator-friendly, two loops around the lake.


Bluff Creek

Two of our races have moved to different weekends. Bluff Creek will be August 20. Cyman, the Heart of America Championship race, has moved back a week to Sept. 24.

It’s not too early to start putting dates on your race calendar, because you can often save money by registering early. Entry fee for the Pigman goes up $10 on February 11. This race often sells out, so signing up early not only saves you money, but guarantees you a spot. The Quad Cities race also often fills up by February or March, and is another where the wise racer registers early.

Don’t forget that you accrue points with every Heart of America race you participate in. Those with the most total points in the season get to race in a special Champions Wave at Cyman to earn free entries in next year’s series.

Visit or follow us on Facebook or Twitter throughout the race season for event previews, results, athlete profiles, and reports on each race in the series.

2015-06-07 09.31.33

Pigman Sprint

Here is the complete list of Heart of America series events for 2017, with registration links:

Posted by: Heart of America News | December 20, 2016

Registration Open for Pigman 2017

Registration is now for the 26th edition of the Pigman Sprint Triathlon, a cornerstone of the Heart of America series, scheduled for June 4th.

This race sells out consistently, and we expect the 2017 race to be full. We’re looking forward to a great year of racing in 2017.

More details will follow by email and Facebook, so be sure to check you inbox and Like us.

PS: Registration for the Marion Arts Festival Half Marathon & 5K (May 20th) is also open. Sign up now for this truly unique combination of a great running race and nationally-recognized art festival.

Posted by: Heart of America News | September 18, 2016

Cyman 2016 – A Race for Everyone

img_8621Athletes of all ages and abilities closed the Heart of America Season Sept 18 in Lake Petocka Park in Bondurant for the Cyman Triathlon.

More Cyman pictures here.

The ISU Triathlon Club worked extra hard on marketing the race this year, and it showed in increased participation. The race grew from fewer than 170 participants in 2015 to 250 plus this year. There were also a few changes to the swim and run course that were praised by participants.

Laura Moeller of Ankeny completed an outstanding season, winning her fourth Heart of America crown in the sprint division in 1:15:18. Sean Austin of Ames won his third in the series in 1:05:22.


HOA Women’s champs (l-r) Tami Fiala, Laura Moeller, Brita Loynachan, Ann Vestle, Anne Hilleman.

Cyman is the championship race for the Heart of America series. Points winners race in a special championship wave to qualify for free race entries in 2017. Times are age-equalized to give all ages an equal chance.


On the women’s side, Brita Loynachan won with a time of 1:22:41. Jim Hagelie was first for the men with a 1:10:19.



Men’s Series Winners (l-r) Dan Tucker, Dave Steines, Jim Hagelie, Sean Austin, Adam Kassem

The Cyman Olympic served as the collegiate conference championship. C
yclone Kristina Swenson won bragging rights for the home team, defeating the women’s field in 2:24:20. Winning the collegiate division for the men was Brad Woodford from the University of Minnesota in 1:54:03.

In the open division for the Olympic race, William Graham and Shelly Goodell won in 2:03:10 and 2:30:41, respectively.


Ann Vestle

Cyman marked milestones of note for several individuals as well. Ann Vestle of Cedar Rapids is a familiar sight in the Heart of America series. In addition to placing third in the Champions wave, she also completed her 250th triathlon. Ann stared her career at Heart & Sole in 1989, and has perfect attendance at the Quad Cities Traithlon, completing all seventeen races.







Ashley Eisenmenger and her guide, Lindsay Cook

Ashley Eisenmenger of North Central College in Naperville, IL blazed a trail for para-athletes in Cyman, competing in a new paratriathlon division . Ashley, who is blind, completed the sprint in 1:34:49. The ISU Triathlon Club is working to get the Cyman course certified for paratriathlon to encourage more participation from athletes of all abilities.

Full Cyman results at this link.


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