by Mike Roberts
Most Kansas Citians equate the second Sunday in July with scorching heat, high electric and water bills, and the mathematical elimination of the Royals from the playoffs. But for many it also signifies the biggest and most popular triathlon in the area – the 23rd running of the Shawnee Mission Triathlon. The organizers of the event, Johnson County Parks & Recreation, have it down to a science and they always put on a great show. As usual, the race sold out to maximum capacity (775) several weeks before the event. The organizers do all the essential things that make a triathlon great, plus some of those extras that many race directors can’t quite grasp, such as completely closing the bike and run courses, assigning bike racks, and recruiting more than enough volunteers to make packet pick-up, parking, numbering, and chip pick-up a breeze.
As always, Tri KC brings is a professional and/or celebrity athlete to participate. This year, Don Herron and group brought in Sarah Reinertsen, the first female, above-knee amputee to finish the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii (she is also a Paralympian, holds national and world records in the 100m and 200m sprints, set world records at the New York and London Marathons, and was a contestant on the 10th installment of The Amazing Race). It’s always great to share this great event with those who many not have otherwise ever experienced it. Although Sarah’s not a professional, local pro and WMS friend Ben Schloegel toed the line to see if he could one-up his older cousin, reigning champion Bob Schloegel. Team WMS made an appearance, but it clearly wasn’t at full-strength. Barry sat this one out, opting instead for a weekend of long training in preparation for Ironman Wisconsin. Chad “the Red Dragon” Babcock is still sidelined with a lingering injury. And Steve “Nancy’s Boy” Strickland is resting in preparation for Vineman in a couple of weeks. But Dave, Mike, Scott, Bill, and Heather all entered the long course, with Judd and Brian entering the short. In the middle of his Ironman training, Dave entered in pretty strong shape, albeit long-distance shape. Bill’s training has been hampered by work. A nasty cold was haunting Scott, and the minor cold that Mike raced a half Ironman with two weeks ago had turned into full-blown bronchitis.
To the race . . . morning started off relatively cool, with clear skies, and light winds. Forecasts, however, called for the temperature to soar into the 90’s very quickly. At 7:00 a.m., the open heat started. All of the men except Bill opted to start with the big boys. Continuing a recent streak of dominant performances, Dave took off with the leaders and never let up, coming out of the water at the front in just over 16 minutes. Scott would follow one minute later, with Mike and Bill lumbering out of the water yet another minute down. All had quick transitions to the bike. WMS had a ton of supporters on the steep, four-loop bike course, so we had lots of encouragement and feedback. Scott caught Dave on Lap 2 and, as Mike finished his second lap, the supporters informed him that he was only 10 second down on Dave. On the dam hill a few minutes later, Mike caught and passed Dave (with a familiar “you’re my boy, Blue!” yell) and set his eyes on Mr. Kinner. Never quite caught him. Scott, Mike, and Bill entered T2 with nearly identical bike splits, with Dave a few minutes back.
As Mike left transition, Suzy urged him to pass and beat her husband, who was only 45 seconds ahead. Nice spousal support! The top of the dam hill would again be the sight of a permanent pass, as Mike caught Scott, who was suffering from cramps and was clearly not enjoying his run. Bill too would suffer from cramps and have a less-than-enjoyable run. The only downside to the 5-mile run is that the aid stations only served water, and the rapidly-rising temperatures were causing many to cramp. Still, there were lots of fast runners out there. Mike ended up