Triathlon Across the USA: State #35 – Iowa

Waverly, Iowa; May 5, 2018 – Wartburg College; TriByKnight Sprint Triathlon.

It had been 27 years since we last spent time with our friends, Paul and Susan. In the summer of 1991, Paul, Susan, and their three children had traveled from their home in Algona, Iowa, to join our family in Minnesota. During that visit, our two families served as volunteers for the International Special Olympics being held in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area. As part of the event, we met Kirstie Alley, Fred Savage, and Olympic gymnasts, Nadia Comăneci and Bart Conner.

With our kids now grown, Joy and Susan had been trying to find a way for the four of us to get together. An opportunity emerged in early March when we learned about the TriByKnight triathlon in Waverly, Iowa.

A check of schedules showed we were available. Our first weekend in May was going to involve triathlon and friends.

Snow in late April?

My training for the Iowa triathlon had all been indoors – pool, stationary bike, and treadmill – thanks to the extended 2017-18 winter. To top it off, twenty-two inches of snow fell at our Minnesota home exactly three weeks before the TriByKnight sprint triathlon.

Three weeks before the triathlon in Waverly, Iowa, we received 22 inches of snow at our Minneapolis area home. The snow delayed outdoor training, especially biking.

While the weather warmed and the snow quickly disappeared, it was difficult to get outside for training. The first opportunity for an outdoor bike ride was less than one week before the race.

I approached the race with some questions about how ready I would be.

Visiting Waverly for the Iowa Triathlon

We left home around 1:30pm on Friday, May 4th for the 3-hour drive to Waverly. By the time we arrived, we could proceed directly to pick up the race packet at Thompson Shoes, one sponsor of the triathlon.

With this important task complete and our stomachs rumbling, we walked next door to the East Bremer Diner to sample the local cuisine. After an exceptional prime rib dinner, complete with the signature East Bremer Diner salad dressings, we headed out for a drive along the bike course for the next day’s triathlon.

scenes from downtown Waverly
Packet pickup was at Thompson Shoes (left), across the street from the Waverly Chamber of Commerce (upper right) and next door to the East Bremer Diner (lower right).

Joy and I like to checkout the course before the race. Our goal is to identify road conditions for the bike leg. In particular, we look for potholes and cracks in the road that could pose trouble, if not avoided.

After driving the bike course, we checked into our hotel. Before calling it a night, I finished preparing for the next morning by:

  • applying the race number to the bike and race number belt,
  • preparing drinks for before and during the race, and
  • inflating the bike tires.

7th Annual TriByKnight Sprint Triathlon

The TriByKnight sprint triathlon was held on the Wartburg College campus, home to the Wartburg Knights. The triathlon was also managed by the college.

Wartburg Knights footfall field scoreboard for the Iowa triathlon
Wartburg Knights scoreboard on race day. The City of Waverly was among the many sponsors of the TriByKnight triathlon.

Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:

  • Swim: 300 yard (274 m)
  • Bike: 15 mile (24 km)
  • Run: 3.1 mile (5 km)

We could not have asked for a more perfect day. Clear skies. Light breeze. Mild temperature. While on the ride, I looked down at my bike computer, which showed the temperature to be 77°F (25°C).


The Schuldt Natatorium, location for the swim leg, includes a six-lane, 25 yard long pool. Before the race, swimmers lined up according to their estimated swim time.  

Following the singing of the national anthem, race staff sent the first triathlete into the pool to begin his race. The rest of the nearly 200 racers started at approximately 5-second intervals.

We swam down and back in each lane (except for the last lane) to make up the 300 yards. After swimming back in each lane, we ducked under the lane divider and repeated the down and back excursion in the next lane.

After completing the ‘down’ portion of the sixth lane, we turned and swam approximately halfway to the starting end, then turned about 45 degrees to the left, and swam across an area of the pool designated for water sports (e.g. volleyball, water polo). We exited the pool, walking up several steps.

From here, we left the building, heading toward the fitness center and pool parking lot, which on this day was the transition area for the triathlon.


The bike course was a 15 mile loop on paved roads in the rural area north of Waverly. The ride involved a continuous series of rolling hills. While the hills were not extreme, they were still challenging, considering that I had ridden outside for the first time this year less than a week earlier.

During the first two miles, the combination of cars, trucks, bikes, and hills created a slow down for some bikers. While I did not slow down because of a car or truck, several of the bikes in front of me were required to slow. This brought back memories of the Texas triathlon.

Near the halfway mark of the bike course, we passed through the small town of Bremer (see picture below). About a mile outside of Bremer, we passed by a farm with three antique threshing machines sitting in a grassy field. While there was no sign of the owner trying to sell them, I did note that he had a plot of land for sale.

scenes from the TriByKnight bike course
The bike course took us on rolling hills north of Waverly, through the very small town of Bremer, and past some retired threshing machines.

A few miles later, with the longest hill of the course behind us, we were back on Waverly streets. This last section of the bike leg included a wooden pedestrian bridge that crossed the Cedar River. In a few more blocks, we were at the dismount line and back into the transition area.


The 5k run leg was three loops of a course on streets within the Wartburg campus and about a half lap on the asphalt track of Walston-Hoover Stadium. 

During the final loop, the course led runners to the finish line on the track at the 50-yard line of the football field.

finish line of TriByKnight triathlon
The finish line of the TriByKnight sprint triathlon was near the 50-yard line of the Walston-Hoover Stadium on the campus of Wartburg College.

Taking the Long Way Home

As often as we can, we combine travel to a triathlon with visits to family and friends. More often than not, we choose the location of the triathlon so that we can accomplish both goals.

This time was no different. Following the triathlon, we traveled north and west to Clear Lake, Iowa. Following a quick lunch, we headed on to Algona, Iowa, to visit friends, Paul and Susan.

While we had passed through Clear Lake many times on past trips between Minneapolis and Des Moines, Iowa, Clear Lake had a special significance this time.

About six months earlier, Joy’s book club had read “Stars Over Clear Lake” by Loretta Ellsworth. This historical fiction novel describes events around the World War II German POW Camp in Algona, Iowa.

At the end of the book, Joy had learned of a museum memorializing the Camp and the area residents who had served in the war effort. So, while in Algona, we jumped on the opportunity to visit the museum.

A Stop in Algona

The docent of the POW Camp museum, Glenn, added to the various displays by sharing some heartwarming stories from interviews of area residents. Glenn had conducted some of the interviews himself.

At least one of these stories is told in “Common Valor”, a book to which Paul and Susan’s daughter Leah was a contributor and that we now own.

Following the museum visit, Paul and Susan showed us Algona, of which they are rightfully proud. We finished the day with a great home-cooked dinner and a late night of catching up. After attending church with Paul and Susan the next morning, we headed toward home.

Since US Highway 169 passes through Algona and within a few miles of our home, we returned along this route. Along the way, we stopped briefly in Blue Earth, Minnesota, to visit with Sherryl and Penny, Joy’s sister and niece.

Race Firsts

  • First time racing in the 65-69 Age Group
  • First race with a portion of the bike course on a wooden pedestrian bridge over Cedar River.
  • Passing through a second town (Bremer, Iowa) on the bike course was another first.


This was not the first time I had done a triathlon where the swim was in a college pool. How about you? Have you done a triathlon on a college campus? How about a triathlon anywhere in Iowa?

Please tell us your experiences in the Comments below.

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