I don’t think I could have picked a better race than the Rev3 Knoxville as my first Olympic distance tri. The crowd, the course, the competitors- everything was awesome and unlike any other race I’ve done.
And I almost didn’t do it. I originally signed up for the halfRev, but with the team challenge I decided (with my background in team-point-accumulation with xc and Nordic) that we could always use more racers in the Oly as backups. What if someone flatted? Took a wrong turn? Lost their shoe? So I switched over to the Oly a few weeks before and felt good about my decision. As race day approached and my trip to Tennessee ensued, I started feeling under the weather. Then I thought: Maybe I shouldn’t even race. With Triple T and Quassy both less than five weeks away, I really couldn’t afford to lose a lung over a race. My body ached and I couldn’t breathe, and I wasn’t excited about entering a pain cave like that.
Luckily, I woke up race day morning, or rather at 3am (that’s not really the morning, per se), to a drenched t-shirt and sweat-covered sheets. But I woke up with a smile and a deep breath. I felt good. Really? I went back to sleep for a few more hours of snooze. Whatever bug had decided to take residence in my lungs has seemed to move on, and I felt more confident in my ability to do the race, and not have to worry about whether or not I’d pass out from hypoxia on the bike. Little did I know that you’re supposed to feel that way in an Oly. I know for next time.
I had about a handful of Peanut Butter Panda Puffs, which is less than usual, but I wasn’t particularly hungry and I wasn’t worried about being hungry during the race. I mixed a heaping scoop of First Endurance PreRace in with 1.5 scoops of EFS powder in my water bottle and sipped on that about an hour before my wave’s swim start.
SWIM— 0.9 miles, 23:36 (97.8sec/100m)
The swim course was awesome. I really liked that the start wasn’t at transition, and it was clever on the race director’s part to do this with as many waves as there were. The pros were out of the water before I started- heck, so were most of the elite amateurs. I got to watch the pros take off, and come to grips with the swim course before I swam it (since I didn’t do the swim preview the day before).
I was happy with my swim. I didn’t really push it, which meant I never went hypoxic, but I also didn’t feel sloppy or slow. I felt smooth and found a good rhythm. I’m probably right in assuming that in Oly distance triathlons, you don’t really want to find a rhythm so much as just push it hard enough so you don’t crash and burn, but with my 22-hour-drive and recently-broken sickness, I wasn’t about to put myself in a pain cave that would end in a visit to the hospital. So, I just found some feet, passed some pink caps, some yellow caps, some blue caps, and just put my head down and dug, dug, dug. I swam all the way to the dock, because twenty strokes or so before I was there, I realized the swim exit was a mantel onto the pontoon. Perfect! I was surprised that I could get out of the water without any problem. It was easy, actually, and I didn’t need any help from the volunteers who were hoisting others out. But when I brought my knees to the dock to walrus my way onto the deck, my calves had a different idea. They balled up, and I made a quick decision to move as fast as I could to get into the standing position. Luckily, the muscle-seizing ceased, and I started ow-ow-ow’ing my way to the ramp. I started running/stripping my way to transition, and got into my new tri shoes pretty quick. Since transition time isn’t free time, I grabbed my gloves without putting them on, strapped on my helmet and grabbed my bike. Off I went…
BIKE— 24.8 miles, 1:23:49 (17.75mph)
Bad news was I am not very good at putting gloves on my left hand when I am riding on my bike. Good news was that I remembered to bring them along. I wish I had put socks on my feet, but that would have probably sucked up more time in transition. By the end of the bike, my feet were cold and I couldn’t feel them.
The bike course was awesome. I went into it thinking that the hills in the downtown section were going to be the hardest because they seemed to be the steepest and longest, but I was wrong. The downhill section was fairly easy, and even the climb to the bridge felt like it was just long enough. My calves would have me thinking otherwise on some of the rollers in the first ten miles, but they never seized up again, luckily. Once I got into the meat of the course, what I like to call the covered part (where the road narrows and the trees cover), it was like spreading butter on bread. Everything was so smooth, and the turns weren’t too sharp that I had to brake. I stayed in aero for most of it, sans the climbs. There were a few climbs on the covered part that were head-down, small ring climbs, but I like those kind of climbs. Sure, you can’t go 25mph up them unless you’re Chris Leito or Julie Dibens, but man, are they fun. I even stood up on some of the climbs, which is something I couldn’t do with my previous tri bike (the QRoo Caliente didn’t offer enough clearance for my knees and I’d hit them on my elbow pad mounts). I took a few pulls off my EFS and only got one sip off my Liquid Shot, but fortunately I didn’t give in to my desires to pull my liquid shot carrier (the Nathan Propeller 2.0) off my bike and chuck it into the woods. It did not want to stay tucked nice next to my headset on my top tube. Instead, it kept sliding down and hitting my knees, or dropping to the underside of my toptube where it would chuck out my valuable Liquid Shot. I need to come up with a different set up for that holder.
I did see a few cruise by me that were drafting, and it annoyed me for about two miles until we got to the next winding climb. I figured that, if they weren’t still drafting each other, one of them would lose the other on the gradual but long uphill. I swapped positions with a guy who would bomb the downhills and hammer out of my sight only for me to find him again on the next climb. I played a little road-racer act on the last five miles, stood up and hauled my bike around and hammered out a strong finish, feeling great metabolically (but feeling frozen in the feet-region). Transition 2 was faster than 1, but I didn’t have to go as far.
RUN— 6.2 miles, 51:08 (7:50min/mile)
The only way to describe my run start was, I felt like I was running on stilts. It might have been my cold feet, or givin’er in the bike toward the end, who knows. I made the mistake of grabbing a cup of water at the first aid station straight out of transition and I got a side cramp right away. It lasted about 2 miles, and it stopped when I started drinking Coke (and stopping to drink it). I would have been better off to not brought my Garmin with me, because my pace was annoying to me but I couldn’t do anything about it. I tried to run faster but my quads would start seizing. I realized, after the run, that I should have consumed all my EFS powder mix on the bike. And I didn’t quite realize just how painful that run really was until I saw Eric Willis’s photos; arms are high, face is long, body is collapsing in on itself. That is me running when I am not doing well… and this is me in the first mile. Lucky for me the race was only 6 miles instead of 13, and I found my groove a little better after mile 3. Although I’m not geeked about the run split, I was out there! I can’t win ’em all, and sometimes ya just gotta go with what the day (or week) brings you.
The run course layout was nice, because we were able to pass the runners who were finishing when we were on our way out, and I was able to cheer for my teammates as they came in to crush the field! We hopped on the Greenway for a few miles that provided some shade and great spectators. Since it was an out-and-back, I could see where everyone was, which for me on this day was probably not the best thing. I felt a little demoralized already with my GPS on my wrist, beeping at me every mile. But, after the cola, I was able dig a little deeper and actually give’r quite well on the uphill into the finish.
I felt like I kept it together- emotionally- well, considering I was coming into this race a week ago wanting to be competitive in my first short-distance triathlon. I wanted it, but it didn’t want to be mine. Things happen, plans change, and I think I rolled with it well. I didn’t get mad at myself because I was running 8min/miles in a 10K, and I didn’t get mad when I found out my bike pace was over 2miles/hour slower than my goal. I was happy that I woke up feeling like a thousand bucks worth of lungs, and that I could actually get a full, deep breath in, something I hadn’t been able to do in days.
General stuff about the race-
The REV3 volunteers and organization is simply AMAZING! One hundred huge standing ovations for the city of Knoxville, the Pattens, the Gollnicks, Carole, and everyone else who did everything they could to make this one spectacular race. If I had a question about anything, I could ask someone- anyone- and they’d point me in the right direction or answer my question. There were so many people in the park, and along the course, with blue Rev3 shirts on. Every intersection had some sort of patrol directing traffic, and there were more than enough people at the aid stations (and more than enough aid, for that matter). They were excited to be there, they were extra helpful, and they didn’t ask for anything in return. The guys from Elite Bicycles were doing FREE tuneups on bikes, and did quite a fair share of friendly teasing when I’d go to get my tires inflated. The A.R.T. was free, although the regular massage was not. But after having A.R.T. and trigger point, I don’t really like massages anyway.
The Pro-Presence is outstanding. When I was finishing up my run, Dede Griesbauer was on the course cheering people on, about two miles away from the finish area. And even though he didn’t race, Michael Lovato was out on the course on a motorbike. There were so many big-name pros in attendance. Matty Reed threw down and finished first for the men, and pros like Terenzo Bozzone, Julie Dibens and Chris Lieto were out racing. The Trakkers athletes, including Dede, Mary Beth Ellis, Richie Cunningham and Brian Fleischmann, all finished in the top ten, securing prize money and dominating over Team Trek/K-Swiss.
The roads were great, too- at least in my opinion. Part of the challenge of a technical course is being able to ride over not-smooth surfaces all the time. Being able to see your line and take it, and that includes taking a line around a corner or around a rough patch. The bike course did not have many spots with rough surfaces, either- and when it did (there was a stretch that ran through a road under construction), the volunteers were out sweeping it the night before with brooms. Seriously, I saw them.
The swag was phenomenal. Picking up my race packet included a visor and a tee. A sharp-looking tee, too, I might add (dare I say, classier than my Ironman Wisconsin tee?!?). But, when I finished, I got a medal and a long sleeve poly that was ridic. It looks like a downhill mountain biker’s jersey. SAH-weet! And, all the mothers got pink leis when they finished, special pink expo bracelets, pink numbers, and a special pink gift bag filled with mother-goodies (including a Trakkers race number belt and a pink Trakkers visor). Not to mention free post-race food (including sandwiches from Calhoun’s). Real food. Although I couldn’t eat it, my dad could. And being the great spectator he was today, he definitely deserved it.
The expo was small but specific. There was not junk, no random companies with tents that had nothing to do with triathlon (or were just trying to sell stuff). There was a booth for Elite Bicycles (where the free tuneups were), a booth for All3Sports for race-day essentials (like nutrition, apparel, or a new set of wheels), a Rev3 merchandise booth (although I don’t know what else I could get for my wardrobe that wasn’t given to me in my race bag), a make-a-sign-for-your-athlete booth, and a Trakkers booth. Oh, and a massage booth, of course.
What I’ll do differently next time (aside from not driving 22hrs to get to a race and getting sick in-transit):
Swim- I felt great about my swim, but that’s an area of triathlon that could always use improvement for me. I think that the next time I do an Oly I will push it a little harder in the swim, go to the next level. Of course, this will get faster when I start swimming more and stop being a nancy about the pool. What better way to get my butt in gear than to cover it with my new Trakkers suit?!
Bike- I need to stay focused for the entire race. I got distracted by the drafters, and I got distracted when I passed people who were riding side-by-side or riding too close to each other. I took the attention off my race and put it on the race as a whole. I need to just get my head in the game, especially for the shorter distance races, because there isn’t time to be thinking about other things.
Practice faster transitions- Whatever I did, it wasn’t all that fast. My first transition was around 3min, and the second was around 2. I need to learn how to run fast with my wetsuit on and just give’r, learn how to ride my bike while putting my feet in my shoes, and/or other tricks. I did get to practice post-race with a competition by Simply Stu, although I didn’t win. It was rigged.
I might try to put on a pair of socks in the swim-to-bike transition, or come up with a way to temporarily line my tri shoes with something so that my feet don’t get as cold at the cooler races (which are plentiful in the Midwest). Maybe those disposable foot warmer things? Hmm… Does that sound weird? Watch, my feet will get too hot and then I will complain about that.
Sleep- The sweat-ful sleep was helpful, if for nothing else but to get whatever was in me out. I should have taken better note of that, though, when I woke up, and I should have drank a bottle of EFS or Nuun at 3am. Then I might have had a better chance of replenishing my electrolytes that I apparently lost while snoozing, and might not have had issues with cramping during the race.
Food- Because I was at the expo on Saturday, I didn’t pay attention to when it was time to eat and when it was time to rest. I did a decent job (not perfect, of course) of staying out of the sun, but I definitely went from 7am to 4pm without eating anything but a peanut butter and jelly LARABAR. Oops. I also need to figure out an Olympic distance nutrition plan, something that keeps me from feeling so uncomfortable when I get off the bike.
Special thanks to my dad for coming along with me. He drove the whole way to Knoxville, practically, while I slept in the passenger seat. And he was out there all day on the race course cheering, taking pictures, and getting sunburnt. Thanks to Jim and Evy too for housing us, feeding us, loving us, and sending me home with six pounds of fudge.
And I HAVE to do something about those white legs. Can you even tell where my shoe ends and leg begins?
More photos to come when I get back to Houghton. My dad took a ton on my camera today, and I look forward to sharing them!
One last thing, online race results for all Rev3 Knoxville events can be found here!