CEDAR RAPIDS — Adam Kassem has attempted the Camp Courageous Sprint Triathlon several times before.
Kassem has run in the race every year since he began competing in triathlons nearly five years ago, but couldn’t seem to come out on top. He’s been close many times, but hasn’t been able to get over the hump.
But Sunday morning, the Cedar Rapids native finally achieved his goal. He won the triathlon with a time of 1:07:50, nearly 5 minutes ahead of the next finisher.
“This is the first time I’ve won this race,” Kassem said. “I’m usually like an avid second-place finisher, so to get a first place, I was really happy to do it in front of my family.”
The 2017 triathlon was held at the Prairie Park Fishery in Cedar Rapids. It featured a 500-yard swim in the lake, a 15-mile bike ride down and back on Otis Road, then a 3.4-mile run lapping around the lake twice.
Kassem admittedly isn’t a strong swimmer. After finishing that leg of the race, though, he was suddenly at the front of the pack.
“Usually during the start of the race, I’m just trying to get through the swim,” Kassem said. “I’m always coming out in the back. When I came out through transition, I saw there was only three guys ahead of me. I got super pumped. That doesn’t usually happen. I took the lead early on, and I was able to maintain it. It was a big surprise.”
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After the bike ride, which he did in just more than 37 minutes, Kassem was in full control. The run, which he completed in just under 20 minutes, is the strongest part of his race.
“I feel like the race doesn’t start until I get to the run,” Kassem said. “The swim is not my strongest. The bike, I just try to get through it. But the run is usually what I excel at. As soon as I got to the run, I just took off and tried to make sure no one was going to catch me.”
Ron Gierut, 60, of Cedar Rapids came in second with a time of 1:12:02, and Caleb Cobbs, 17, of Boone came in right behind him in third place with a time of 1:12:51.
Joanna Hall, 36, of Coralville was the first female to cross the finish line, winning the race with a time of 1:13:09.
The race benefits Camp Courageous, which is a year-round care and recreational facility for disabled individuals outside of Monticello.
The race itself, held every year in early August, is a good race for competitors who are new to triathlons, as it is a shorter course. Kassem said it’s one of his favorite races and one that he encourages anyone, even those who haven’t run a race before, to try out.
“It was a lot of fun out there,” Kassem said. “(It was) super flat. They weren’t lying when they said it was going to be a lot flatter than the Camp Courageous (site) out in Monticello … If anybody is ever looking for a good, flat race, I recommend coming out here.”
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