2015 0913 – Great Ames Adventure Race (GAAR)

Executive Summary:
Race Priority:       C
Race Execution:   A-

.                         Plan         2015
.            Dist       Time        Time                   Notes
Kayak   2.7mi    0:30:00    0:29:18    Link     Course is short. My kayak sucks.
T1                      0:01:00   0:01:00                Went fine. Quads unexpectedly tight.
Bike      15.2mi  0:40:00    0:39:18    Link     A good ride. Went as planned.
T2                      0:00:30    0:00:26               Okay.  Little trouble with clothes.
Run        3.1mi   0:24:00    0:23:26    Link     A good run at my current fitness.
Total                   1:35:30    1:33:26


  • 1 Scoop of CarboPro in my water bottle, 100 cals (drank about 1/2 of this).
  • 1 Honey Stinger waffle, Kind Bar and 1 GU with caffeine 3 hours before the race. One GU with caffeine 30 minutes before the race.


  • What went well: I was pleased to get the age group win and was very happy to get the overall event win as well. Added bonus was crossing the finish line first as well, in a wave start event.
  • What could have gone better: I have the wrong style kayak for racing and lost a lot of time to the leaders using longer and narrower racing style kayaks.  I lost a few seconds in T2 fumbling with clothes.

Race Report Commentary:
I heard about the Great Ames Adventure Race earlier this year and thought it sounded like an interesting way to wrap up racing season. It is located at Ada Hayden Park in Ames and consists of a kayaking 2.7 miles, cycling 15 miles and running a 5k. With my typical naive optimism, I thought, “I have a kayak… how hard can this be?”. Being geeky, I started looking at the course and race result history to try to figure out an estimated time. I found that most of the leaders were finishing in the low 1:30’s and were doing the kayak segment in 22 – 25 minutes. I had no clue what it would take me, so I grabbed my old beat up 12′ recreational kayak and headed to Big Creek to crank out a time trial. First effort… around 30 minutes for 2 miles… yikes. The map data had to be wrong… right? I used mapmyride to estimate the distance based on the route map, and it came up to 2.3 miles. Better… but I’d still be giving up a lot of time. With only about 3 weeks until the race, I had to make the best of my time available. I decided to do indoor rowing twice a week and one outdoor kayak session per week, just to acclimate my body to this motion and build a little bit of rowing fitness (I usually row twice a week but took about a month hiatus prior to USAT Nationals).  On my third kayak workout I had my best practice time… a little less than 32 minutes for 2.3 miles. As usual… it looked like I’d need to rely on my cycling for a good race. I mapped out the route and put it into Best Bike Splits to get a projected time (here). Basically I needed to normalized power of around 245w for the race to end up sub 40:00, to pick up some time on my competition. I’d then need to follow it up with a 24:00 or less run… just to be around 1:35 overall.

This is what U2 wrote about when they wrote "Beautiful Day"...

This is what U2 wrote about when they wrote “Beautiful Day”…

Race day was a very cool and beautiful day, with a temp of 48 degrees with nearly no wind at the race start. A lot of people had recreational kayaks like mine, but the people lining up near the front had long, narrow kayaks that appeared to be kevlar or other composite materials. You self select your wave (consisting of 6 kayaks at a time) and I chose to start in the second wave. The race is counterclockwise following the shore, with buoys that you need to navigate around to ensure everyone ends up paddling the same distance.

Nice efficient plowing bow wave. I was though very color coordinated that day. I joked about wearing my aero helmet for the kayak session...

Nice plowing bow wave. I was very color coordinated that day… unfortunately they didn’t offer style points. I joked about wearing my aero helmet for the kayak session… but was only half joking.  🙂  (Aerogeek)

When the gun when off for my wave, I paddled aggressively. Two of the composite kayaks quickly pulled away, and I was running next to a kayak with a tandem team. I gradually huffed and puffed and pulled into 3rd in my wave.  My focus was simply to be consistent and to take the shortest distance possible between navigation buoys. It was very pretty on the water. Since the water temperature was warmer than the air, there was a light fog on the water in some areas and the sun was shining through… it would have been a great picture.   I passed the time thinking about my friends doing IM WI (who were swimming at the time) and counting off the time I was losing to the kayaks in front of me at each buoy. I came in at 29:18 with my HR around 150 bpm, which was much better than my practice sessions… but still quite a bit behind the leaders.

Something new... taking a PFD and gloves off in transition.

Something new… taking a PFD and gloves off in transition.  As you can see in the picture, my quads were angry coming off the kayak.

I fumbled around getting my PFD off and started to run toward transition. I was really surprised how stiff and heavy my quads were coming off the kayak. I had basically locked my quads and used them to hold me in place for 30 minutes, and wasn’t sure how that would impact my cycling. I put on my helmet and glasses, took off my Keen sandals, grabbed my bike and ran out of transition. I may have been the only person to do a gliding / flying mount that day.

I had driven part of the course around the park prior to checking in, which was really helpful. The beginning of the course goes through residential areas and the roads are pretty rough. I found myself wondering if I would have been better off with my road bike than my TT bike, but once I got clear of the city… the TT bike started to pay off. The winds started picking up and I started passing the people in front of me. By the time I got to the turn around West of Gilbert, I confirmed with the volunteers that only one person was in front of me. I passed him pretty quickly on the first hill, and just kept focusing on staying really aero and maintaining relatively constant power.

Early in the ride, wondering if my road bike would have been a better choice.

Trying to make up my technology loss on the kayak with bike aero technology.  Rear disc cover, 808 front, latex tubes, aero helmet and very aero tight clothing.  Interestingly, there were other TT bikes and aero helmets on the course.

On the way back we had to turn left across traffic on the highway and across the other cyclists as well. Unfortunately a big string of bikes with cars following came up when I wanted to turn and I nearly had to stop in the highway. I quickly got back into the rhythm again, and kept pushing the pace. I came into the park with a decent lead and did a flying dismount just before the grass going into transition.
I was concerned about getting cold on the bike, so I wore toe covers on my shoes (but no socks), Tri shorts, a Tri Top, a racing bike shirt over my Tri top and lycra arm warmers.  I was just a little warm on the kayak, just right starting on the bike, and just a little warm at the end of the bike leg. In T2, I was able to peel off the arm warmers and zip off the bike shirt, leaving me just in a normal Tri outfit for the run to help keep me as cool as possible. I fumbled with the shirt and arm warmers and lost a couple of seconds, but overall this strategy worked well. I took off my helmet, threw on my shoes and spun my race belt and took off for the run (they need your number on you for the entire race for timing purposes).

Coming in to the finish... cool to cross the line first.

Coming in to the finish… cool to cross the line first.

Last weekend at the Des Moines Triathlon, my 5k time was 24:25 in the hot weather.  Today, race temps  were ideal (56/84% at my run), and I anticipated being able to run close to a 7:35 pace.  The first mile is flat and on asphault trails and I started with a 7:35 mile.  Mile 2 heads off onto a gravel path (I always feel like I loose about 5s per mile with push-off on gravel) and also has a longer but not terribly steep hill.  My 2nd mile ended with a time was 7:46.  Back on the flat asphalt trail, I tried to pick up my pace.  I finished up my last 1.1 miles with a 7:27 pace, ending up with a 23:26 time and average pace of 7:34.  My HR average was 161, below my threshold of 168 and below my average of 167 last week… it’s hard to beat a cool morning run.  The lower HR demonstrated that my limitation on this day wasn’t cardio (lower HR) but rather muscular endurance.

My overall time ended up being 1:33:27, edging out the 2nd place finisher (also in the Masters division) by less than 45 seconds.  Interestingly, the top 3 finishers were all in the Masters division, with the under 50 males finishing more than 4 minutes behind me.  Some of the previous year’s fastest guys were in team divisions or absent this year… if I race again next year I’ll need some type of kayak improvement to have the potential to go sub 1:30 to be competitive for the lead position.

Kissing the Moose seemed to be "the thing" to do when you got an award. A fun event!

Kissing the Moose seemed to be “the thing” to do when you got an award. A fun event!

After the race they provide a pancake breakfast and handed out the awards at the nearby Moose Lodge.  Overall, this was a very fun & interesting event… and a great way to finish a season.