Friday, May 23, 2014

REV3 Knoxville Olympic Triathlon Race Recap - Race Day

   I never sleep well the night before races, and last Saturday night was no exception. My alarm was set for 5:30, but I was easily up an hour before that. When I first woke up, I just laid in bed for a while trying to remember everything I'm supposed to do. This was my first race since October and I was a little rusty on race details.
   Before too long, Dudley and I headed down to the transition area to set up and put on my wetsuit. (Kathy was racing the 70.3 distance and started her race earlier.) I had plenty of time to set up. It took me a bit to get situated, which was fine because 1) it serves my OCD well to triple-check everything and 2) I got to witness the pros race for a few minutes. Usually transition areas are closed before a race starts so you don't have the opportunity to see people racing while you're in there, but because REV3 had several race distances going on, they left it open longer. It was really cool to watch the pros FLY in, grab their bikes and go.

Trying to remember what the heck I'm supposed to do.

Good Morning Knoxville!  A bit more awake now.

  It was in the 50's at this point with the water temp around 68. I was a little chilly just hanging out, but I knew that one I got in the water, I'd be happy I was wearing my sleeveless wetsuit. While in transition, I started speaking to the woman, Alison, who was racked next to me. Turns out, we met the weekend prior at Percy Priest lake when we were both doing an open water swim. Small world huh? 
   About twenty minutes before the race started, we headed down to the race start. I killed the time by chatting with other Nashville-area athletes and, of course, taking photos.

Coach Andrew, me and FTP training buddy Jan.

   I got in the water as soon as my wave was called. I wanted to get acclimated to the chill as soon as possible. And while it didn't last long, it was chilly.

You know, just hanging out in a large body of water.

   As you can imagine, Coach Andrew is a much better swimmer than I am. Since he was in my starting wave, I was going to attempt to draft off of him for as long as I could hang on. I knew it wouldn't be far, but I'd take anything I could. Yeah - that'd didn't go exactly as planned. The following progression took place over about 30 seconds.

Lined up directly behind Andrew.

We're off!

Wait...where'd he'd go?

And...I'm dropped. No Andrew to be seen. Sigh. 

   Honestly, I thought I'd be able to hang longer than 30 seconds, but oh well. Back to my original race plan of not drowning. I was a bit more aggressive with this swim than usual. I generally start kind of away from everyone because I don't want to get into the huge mess that an open water swim start can be. This time, I was right up there at the front. I even fought for my position and nailed this poor girl in the face with my hand. I didn't mean to, but it happened. I felt so bad about it that my instinct was to stop and apologize to her. Guess I need to work on the killer attitude, huh?
   The swim was an out and back, and I was hoping to feel some current on the way back in. Unfortunately, I didn't really feel anything. I finished in 30 minutes flat, which I'm kind of bummed about. That's about par for the course with me, and I really feel like I've been swimming better than that recently. And I think in the pool I have, but the open water is entirely another skill level. It's hard for me to feel like I have any type of form in the open water. I'm just kind of splashing around out there. 

Very carefully running up the ramp.

   After being pulled out of the water, we had a small, uphill run to transition. When watching the pros, I noticed that they all had their wetsuits half-way off by the time they got to their bikes. I thought "I really need to do that." Did I? Nope. I was fully dressed when I got to the bike. And then I couldn't get my wetsuit off. Seriously. If you had $100 and said "I will give you this if you remove your wetsuit within a minute," I couldn't have done it. Almost FIVE MINUTES later, I emerged from T1 sans wetsuit and ready to ride. I was pissed.

I have no idea how I'm alone. I swear, I wasn't last.

There I go...

   The bike course was one that didn't play to my strengths. There were some good climbs, and I am anything but a billy goat on hills. Plus, after Kathy's fall yesterday, I was pretty conservative going down hills. They were fast with several blind corners. The last thing I wanted to do was hit some gravel, lay it down and break my collarbone. It definitely would have helped if I had driven the course the day before.
   My legs started out feeling terrible. It took a good 10 miles for my hamstrings to really warm up. By the time I hit mile 20, I felt pretty good. Of course, that's about when the race ends. Maybe I should stick to long-course racing.
   The course was well-marked, sort of. There were three different distances racing at the same time - the 70.3 (56 mile bike), the Olympic (my race - 26 mile bike leg) and the REV3 Championship race (40ish mile bike leg). Our courses overlapped at various times throughout the race. The Olympic distance athletes were told to follow the pink arrows EXCEPT when there was a green arrow, then we had to follow that. It wasn't really that hard, and there were plenty of other cyclists out there for me to follow. However, there was one time when I was stuck behind a car turning at an intersection. The cop waved me around the car and directed me down a specific road. Suddenly - I was alone. No other cyclists anywhere. Then I saw a pink sign for the 70.3, so I knew I was at least on a course, I just didn't know if it was the correct one. Fortunately, it was, and within a few minutes I saw some Olympic racers, but it was a nervous few minutes.
HOW am I still alone?

Hitting the transition button with my teeth. Difficulty level - 8.0

Not many bikes on my rack back yet - that's a good sign.

Coach Andrew giving me some tips before the run.

   My bike/run transition went much smoother than the swim/bike transition. It was a little tough getting my shoes on because my toes were still numb from being cold after the swim, but it wasn't the huge time suck like my wetsuit failure was. Coach Andrew had already finished his race (the aqua bike) and he gave me a quick pep talk before I was off for my "little 10k" (as he called it).
   Andrew had given me pretty specific times that he wanted me to hit on the run. And based on my recent running times, I should have been able to hit them. Unfortunately, other than the first mile, I didn't. I'm not exactly sure what happened. I know that I have a huge mental block with running, especially running fast. I tried to repeat inspirational mantras while I was out there, but they didn't really help. The sun had come out and I got hot, and any little incline just killed me, which is sad because it was probably one of the flattest run courses I'll ever run. 
   I do know that I messed up my nutrition. Andrew asked me how it was when I was in transition and I said OK. But as I running, I realized that I actually hadn't eaten in a while. I had planned on taking a GU in transition, but forgot. With about an hour of running ahead of me, I knew I'd bonk if I didn't get something in me. Fortunately, the aid stations were well-stocked and I was able to pick up a GU at around mile 2.5.
   The remainder of the run was uneventful. I just kind of slogged it out the best I could. I picked out women who were ahead of me and tried to reel them in, and was actually successful on a few occasions. My final target was a 50+ year old woman who FLEW by me on the bike. I saw her with about a mile left and it took everything I had to catch her. The last .2 miles of the course was completely uphill, and I was dying, but I finally passed her. It was a small victory after completely blowing my projected times, but it was still a victory.

The final hill.  It's worse than it looks.

   After passing my rabbit, I was finally in the homestretch. REV3 put the finish line in the middle of the expo area and they really make a party of it. They also have a giant Jumbotron screen that shows you finishing, but I totally missed that because I was too focused on actually crossing the line.

Final "sprint" for the finish!

Thanks for the free finisher's photo, REV3!

WOO HOO!  I'm done!

   Since I hadn't raced since October, I had forgotten about how hard racing a triathlon is. You can train all you want, but racing is a completely different animal. It hurts...bad. But there is some weird satisfaction in knowing that everyone is hurting just as much as you are, and you're still all out there doing it.
   After a few minutes of relaxing and cooling off, I went to check the results. Turns out, I got second in my age group!  And what was even better was that my FTP training buddy Jan, got third in our AG, AND my new friend Alison (who was racked next to me) won our AG! All Nashville podium! 

Jan, me and Alison. Nashville represent! 

   Though I didn't feel great at times, overall I had a good day. Just goes to prove to never give up because you never know how everyone else is doing.  

Now THAT's a medal!

   We spent the rest of the day hanging out and waiting for Kathy to finish. She came rolling in from her 70.3 a little while later to find out that she got 3rd in her age group! I was thrilled for her after her wreck from the day before. She's a freakin' warrior.

All smiles now.

   Though I had my concerns after the shirt issue the day before, REV3 really does put on a great race. All of the courses were well-supported, the volunteers were friendly, and you could tell that the organization really wanted to do what was best for the athletes. Plus, the AG winner's swag was great. I got a box of Powerbars, some goggles (UT Vol orange, natch), some compression socks that I LOVE, the medal and a $15 GC to the REV3 store, where I bought my finisher's shirt. I'd race another REV3 event in a heartbeat. If you have one in your area, you should check them out.

   I can't end this without thanking my husband for, as always, being so supportive. Between shlepping my stuff all around Knoxville and taking photos of everything, he probably covered more distance than I did over the weekend. I wouldn't be able to do this crazy sport without him. 

Next up - The CRAM Century ride!   

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