DMYMCA Triathlon Series: Eric Conrad's Report

New for 2019, the YMCA of Greater Des Moines is offering an indoor triathlon series. The series includes three races:

  • Ice Breaker Triathlon, which began in 2008
  • Y-Tri at Red Flannel Run, a new addition to the 30-year-old run race
  • Pieathlon, another long-standing event.

We plan to follow Eric Conrad, whom we have interviewed for indoor triathlons before, through all three races.

Ice Breaker Triathlon

by Eric Conrad

Ice Breaker Triathlon
400 yard Pool Swim, 7 mile Indoor Bike, 2 mile Treadmill Run
West Des Moines, Iowa
Sunday, January 27, 2019

With the Walnut Creek’s Ice Breaker Tri taking place so early in the calendar year, it always marks the start of the triathlon season for this freshman triathlete. As a runner transitioning to triathlon, this indoor short distance race helps get me get into the proper mindset for the year. With its shorter distances, I’m allowed to go full out to check where I am and put a little bit of a test to the training done over the winter.

I originally competed in this race four years ago as I wanted to check out triathlon. Part of a relay team, I took the run portion. With the non-intimidating distances that this race offers, it was easy to commit to doing whole thing the following year.

Making this race even friendlier is that the transitions between each discipline are not timed. There is no pressure for the uninitiated to scramble from the swim to the bike or from the bike to the run.

I’d recommend this event to anyone wanting to taste-test triathlon or to knock the cobwebs off and get ready for whatever is to come later in the year. The Ice Breaker is a race every level of athlete can patriciate in, and get something out of. [This is why we recommend indoor triathlons.]

This year, as well as every one I have entered, was well organized and went off without a hitch. The officials instruct and explain to the participants what is expected and what needs to be done. At the pool they count your laps and signal you when you have one full lap to go. On the bike they review the bike computer, and an official was right there at the treadmill as I finished the run so they could record my time. There was never a need to ever chase anyone down for help and there were signs pointing to the bike and run making for an easy path to travel.

This race kicks off the Des Moines YMCA’s new triathlon series that also includes the Red Flannel Run & Y-Tri at the Wellmark YMCA scheduled for February 9, 2019 and the Pieathlon at the Waukee Family YMCA on May 18, 2019. Points are awarded to finishers of each. Those points are then added up and everyone ranked. I’ll be entering these to see how I stack up over multiple races. It’ll be interesting to see if it is successful enough for them to include additional races in subsequent years.

Next up is the triathlon tied to the Red Flannel Run. Historically a runner, I used to do the Red Flannel Run. I stopped as their courses tended to be short by a significant amount. For this year's Y-Tri, the Red Flannel Run 5K finishes this triathlon. It’ll be interesting to see if we get the full 3.1 miles. Stay tuned!


by Eric Conrad

Wellmark YMCA Red Flannel Run and Y-Tri
10 minute Swim, 20 minute Bike, 5K Run
Des Moines, Iowa
Saturday, February 9, 2019

With the Wellmark YMCA Red Flannel Run and Y-Tri, we’ll continue to look through the lens of the new or testing triathlete. If you completed the Ice Breaker Triathlon and want more, the YMCA has set you up perfectly in the Red Flannel Run and Y-Tri.

This year is the 30th annual Red Flannel Run, but for the first time there are options for a swim and bike. The format is something that I’ve never experienced in that both the swim and the bike are not set distances. What is measured is the distance the athlete covers in the amount of time allotted. That's 10 minutes for the swim and 20 minutes for the bike. Then each participant is ranked with the longest distances ranking higher than the shorter distances. Those ranks are then combined with the time it took to complete the 5K to give us the places of each participant.

Depending on your swim and bike speed you’ll most likely cover a bit longer distance then you did at the Ice Breaker. The run is the clear distance stand out compared to the Ice Breaker. It grows from a 2-mile treadmill run to a 3.1-mile outdoor run. If new to the experience, you’ll now get to run with others on the streets of downtown Des Moines, experience the relief and joy of seeing the finish line, and best/worst of all, you’ll get to experience the weather.

On that note, the Red Flannel Run has generally been cold and the race this year was in the single digits. Most were bundled up, but you should know that they do give out a Toughest Eskimo Award for the daredevil who is wearing the least amount of protective clothing. This year they gave out two awards: one walked up in shorts to collect, the other ran and completed the race as a stroke survivor.

If you are not familiar with the downtown YMCA, fear not, as they had a great review the night before the race. They took us to the pool and we stopped in to visit the bike studio so we could check out the bikes which are a different type and style used in the Ice Breaker. This was not only helpful in learning the layout of the Y but I was able to set up the bike as I would like to use it and note its settings for an easier set-up on race day.

Learning the layout of the Y was also important as one other difference in this tri is that all three disciples had hard set start times. The Red Flannel Run started at 9:00 but before that you were assigned a swim and bike wave which had very specific start times of their own. You had a little bit of extra time to get to the Red Flannel Run outside after the bike but only 10 minutes to get dried off and changed between the swim and bike portion. Knowing the Y and being familiar with traveling from the pool to the locker-room and to the bike studio takes the edge off as you already knew where you were going.

The shirts given out are top notch and this year they provided a red flannel design buff (I’ve also heard these referred to as ‘neck gators’) to keep your neck warm. The Red Flannel Run has also always offered a bountiful breakfast after the run and I now can say the associated Y-Tri does as well. The Red Flannel Run itself is always fun. And yes, this year it did seem to be an appropriate 3.1 mile run.

Next and last in the Y series is the Pieathlon. There is only one question I have right now for this race, what pie will I have afterward?

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Katherine is our Content Champion. She has done triathlons in the past, and now focuses on mountain biking and long-distance gravel riding. She still has a soft spot in her heart for weird multi-sport events like indoor triathlon and aquabike. She also teaches indoor cycling.

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