2015 1010 – Des Moines Adventure Race

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

.                          Race       2015
.            Dist        Results   Time                   Notes
Kayak   2.0mi    0:25:00     0:26:24    Link    Course is long (2.6mi). Error on exit.
Run       4.0mi   0:26:00     0:25:05    Link    Course is short (3.1mi).  Run fitness lacking.
Bike      11.0mi  0:32:11     0:30:52    Link    A good ride. Went as planned.  11.4mi.
Total                  1:23:11    Transitions included in some of the times.


  • 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 think U2’s song beautiful day was written specifically about October 10th of this year.  It was a just a glorious day to be outside and racing.  Even better was to have a fun and awesome partner like Sandy Leiferman to share the experience.
  • What could have gone better:  Hmmm… my running fitness sucked and cost us the win.

Race Report Commentary:
After competing in the Great Ames Adventure Race earlier this year, I had heard about the Des Moines Adventure race from a friend.  It is located at Water Works Park in Des Moines and was advertised as canoeing 2 miles, trail running 4 miles and cycling 11 miles. What is a little different about this race is that it’s a team event, and the rules require you to stay within 100′ of your partner at all times… with each person doing the entire event together.  After posting my race report on GAAR, I commented to the TriRacers that if anyone was interested in the Des Moines Adventure race, I was looking for a partner.  I got a quick response back from Sandy Leiferman, letting me know she was up for the challenge.  For those that don’t know Sandy, she’s a strong triathlete with a long history of fast marathons (I dream of running like her).  She completed IM AZ after recovering from a broken leg (stress fracture) and a bike accident that required surgery on her wrist… I simply followed her inspirational lead in AZ a couple years later.  Based on our collective experience, I named our team “Rebuilt to Tri”.

Saturday morning was a beautiful day.  It was sunny and 55 degrees at the start of the race, and temperature only got to around 65 by the end of the race.  Sandy and I drove to the event together and got there early to get set up.  We looked over where the canoes would be taken out, set up our bikes in transition, and then parked the car near the finish line.  We boarded a bus that took us to the start area.  They provide canoes for you, and I had brought kayaking PFD’s as they are bit more comfortable than standard life jackets.  We started 22nd out of 100 teams, and each team went off around 30 seconds apart. The team is required to carry their canoe down a somewhat steep and muddy bank to launch their canoes.  We saw a couple people fall out of or dump their canoes early. Since we were both cold already… neither of us were interested in starting the day with an unexpected swim.  We wore old tennis shoes in the canoe, and took our running shoes with us in plastic bags to put on at the boat ramp.

Sandy and I carrying our canoe up the ramp. Okay, maybe not. No pics of us... but this is what the ramp looks like. This guy gets some type of style points for the outfit. Photo from DSM Adventure Race Facebook page.

Sandy and I carrying our canoe up the ramp. Okay, maybe not. No pics of us here… but this is what the ramp looks like. This guy gets some type of style points for the outfit. Photo from DSM Adventure Race Facebook page.

The race directory held us at the start for several minutes, as the groups in front of us were getting backed up.  Once they gave the start command, we managed to get our canoe down the shore without falling.  I walked in the water a little to get us stabilized, and we got off to a good start with no problems.  Once we got going, we made good time.  Sandy actually got me into indoor rowing last year, as part of my knee surgery recovery.  I think the time spent on the rowing machines helped both of us.  The biggest challenge was simply trying to pick the best line in the river… cutting the bends was shorter, but the water was shallower and moving slower. We could tell we had made headway, as we caught the people in front of us in spite of being held back a few minutes.  The only problem we had was my choice on where to land the canoe at the exit. There was a canoe already on the ramp, so I decided to turn just upstream and put the front end between a couple of rocks.  Unfortunately the strong current whipped the rear end around and started to cause the canoe to pitch.  At that point I simply jumped out into the waist deep water and pushed the canoe in.  By then I was plenty warm, so the cold water wasn’t an issue.   As part of the race, you and your partner are required to carry your canoe up the ramp.  That was actually the peak of my heart rate on the canoeing section.  Note that the course is a bit longer than advertised, but with the good current it was only around a 25 minute trip.

They didn’t really have a transition area there, but we dropped off our PFD’s, changed shoes, and I pulled off my arm warmers.  Overall we didn’t have any issues in T1.

Me awkwardly running / fading during mile 3. Photo by Sarah Cooper.

Me awkwardly running / fading during mile 3.  Again… a beautiful day!  Photo by Sarah Cooper.

We started off running on pavement before turning into the woods.  My overall fitness was suspect, and I was really concerned about being able to keep up on the run.  I had been traveling for two weeks prior to the race, and managed to get sick along the way. With only a couple of workouts completed in the prior weeks, I knew my VO2 max had probably take at least a 10% hit. Originally I had hoped that we could be under 8 minutes a mile, but was skeptical based on my fitness

Sandy looking strong finishing the run. Me... not so much. Photo from the DSM Adventure race FB page. https://www.facebook.com/dsmadventurerace/photos_stream

Sandy looking strong finishing the run. Me… not so much. Photo from the DSM Adventure race FB page.

and thought I be lucky to hold on to an 8:30 pace.  It didn’t take long before Sandy was just a little in front of me, coaxing me along.  Our first mile was 8:12, splitting the difference between what I wanted and what I expected.  We started catching other teams in the second mile, and that gave me a bit a of a boost.  As soon as I’d pick up the pace… Sandy would pick it up a bit more.  The second mile clicked off at 7:42… and I was pleasantly surprised… but fading.  The contrast between us was sort of amusing.  Sandy was running easily, talking to the volunteers and all I could do was a sort of grunt out a thank you as we went by. Mile 3 came at 8:13… but the bright spot was that I could tell the course was short, as we only had 1/10th of a mile to go.  I hit my running threshold heart rate 5 minutes into the run and stayed 2-6 bpm above threshold for the rest of the time… it’s all I had.  We ended up averaging 8:03 a mile on the run.  It wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, but much better than I had expected.  Next year, I’d like to have a bungee cord so Sandy can just drag me along if I start to slow down too much.  🙂

T2 was fine.  Sandy had never done a flying mount, so we collectively decided race day wasn’t a good time to try something new.  We got our helmets on, put on cycling shoes, and got on our bikes without any problems.

I wasn’t sure how my legs would respond to hopping on the bike after running. Fortunately my cycling fitness had weathered the time off better than my running, and I recovered pretty quickly.  Sandy tucked in behind me and I got into a good rhythm, trying to pass other riders on the course.   It was a little tricky at times.  The course is like a figure 8 around the park, and you do about 3 1/2 laps total.  Some of the corners are a bit tight, and I was happy with my choice of using my road bike (with aerobars) for the ride as it handles better that my Tri bike through the corners.  The time went by really quickly… we did a lot of passing and overall I felt pretty good.  We slid our feet out of our shoes as we approached the no passing zone near the finish, but got trapped behind a couple of slow riders.  It was a somewhat agonizing way to finish… coming up to the dismount point following someone at 12 mph.  🙂   One other interesting thing about the race… they require you to dismount and run across the finish line in the grass.

After we were done, we quickly replenished our glycogen stores with some fine IPA beer they were serving.  That went so well that we had another, as we waited for the results. They had three divisions: all female, all male, and coed.  We ended up getting edged out by 6 seconds for the event overall win, by another coed team.  Next year I hope not to be a boat anchor on the run…

Both Sandy and I were impressed with the event overall, particularly since it was the inaugural event.  It was well organized, a nice course and a fun alternative to a traditional triathlon.  And with good company, beer & sunshine… how could you ask for more?

The view at the finish. Dismount and run across the line... Photo from the DSM Adventure Race Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/dsmadventurerace/photos_stream

The view at the finish. Dismount and run across the line… Photo from the DSM Adventure Race Facebook page.