Yes, this says "Hoe Cakes." We're in the South and we serve Hoe Cakes here.
Unfortunately, due to travel and little things like my parent's house catching on fire, I've only been able to race Mach Tenn once, back in 2011. It was my first open water swim and I was terrified. I remember looking out at the swim course and thinking "This might not end so well." It just looked SO FAR. I had a pretty strong feeling that I really might die out there. Obviously, I didn't drown and the feeling I had after finishing that race is why people get hooked on triathlons. It was hard and I was scared, but I did it and had a huge feeling of "Holy Crap - I can't believe I just did that!" Now that I'm a bit more seasoned of a triathlete, I was really looking forward to going back and experiencing this race through a different lens.
The differences were noticeable from even before the race. The night before the 2011 Mach Tenn, I was running around like a crazy person packing everything I owned and checking my lists 10 times. But for this race? I didn't even think about packing until around 9:00pm and actually did most of it the morning of. Guess I have a system down. Who knew?
The race is held in Tullahoma, which is about a 1.5 hour drive for us. It's just on the cusp of being a bit too for to drive down the morning of, but too close to justify getting a hotel and driving down the night before. We ended up getting up at 4:00am and rolling around 5:00 / 5:15am, with an ETA of 6:30 / 6:45. I was thinking we'd be one of the first people there since the race started at 8:00am. So wrong! I sometimes forget exactly how Type-A triathletes can me. The parking lot was pretty full by the time we got there.
Once I got out of the car, I started having little déjà vu moments from the 2011 race. The first thing I noticed in 2011 was that everyone had such nice bikes! Remember- this is a little quasi-sprint race in the middle of rural Tennessee. I had, foolishly, thought that there would be a lot of beginners and, therefore, a mix of random bikes. This is what you see at most sprint races. However, Mach Tenn isn't your average sprint race. It's totally legit. Sure, there are a few true beginners, however, there are also a lot of hard-core, experienced athletes who show up because it's such great race. Honestly, I felt a little out of place last time with my road bike. But not this year. This year, my P3 with race wheels fit right in.
While the temperature on Saturday got in the upper 80's, the water temperature was still in the mid 70's and the race was wetsuit-legal. I was torn on whether to wear one or not because the swim was so short and it's a pain to take off. But my coach said to wear it, so I did. I got in the water a few minutes before my swim started to get used to the water. It felt great. One of my FTP teammates did the same thing and actually had a leech attach to his foot. THANK GOD I heard about this after the race because I'm not sure I would have gotten back in the water after hearing that. I'm mentally prepared for fish and snakes when I swim in open water, but no one ever mentioned leeches to me. Ugh.
One of those yellow caps is me.
The race was a time-trial start with the fastest going first. When you register, you send in the time that you think you're going to finish, and then the racers are put in that order. I honestly can't remember what time I signed up with, but I guess it was pretty slow because I was placed in line behind everyone else I knew. Everyone. Oops. Not a huge thing - the line moved quickly and I just had to wait a few minutes before it was my turn to go. Dudley got this fantastic video of me prancing into the water, which I would totally load here if I could get it to work. It's hysterical.
My swim felt good. Nice and smooth, unlike the cluster that was Chattanooga 70.3. The hardest part about this race was swimming directly into the sun. It was hard to see the buoys because the sun would blind me whenever I looked up. I was thankful for the wetsuit though (Thanks, Andrew!). It's a pain to get on and off, but it helped a lot.
The bike leg at Mach Tenn is a fun one. Lots of rollers, but nothing too crazy. The hardest part of this leg for me was to remember that I needed to push myself. I was supposed to be racing, after all. However, with my past two races being a 70.3 and a full IM, I kind of forgot how to pace for such a short distance. I passed a lot of people though, so that made me feel good.
The run was where the race got tough. We ran the same road we biked on, and while those rollers felt good on the bike, they were awful on the run. Especially since the sun was out in full-force and it was HOT. Fortunately, it was only four miles. Unfortunately, the not knowing how to pace myself came back to bite me because I went out way to fast and then started cramping around mile 2.5. I'm guessing it was from dehydration, but who knows? The cramping only lasted a little while though, and I finished pretty strong.
Strong enough for...wait for it...first place in my age group! What? That's right! I won my age group. Believe me, I was as surprised as you all are. I did get some help in the rankings by having some REALLY fast women in my category get bumped up into the overall awards, but I still feel good about my race. It was a pretty solid effort for me. Plus, I was 17 minutes faster than my 2011 race! Training works, y'all! (For the record, a professional triathlete won the women's overall. THAT'S what I meant about this being a legit race for a sprint.)
Collecting my award. SuperStah!
Hanging out with the Nasties post-race.
My first place award.
Pretty cool, eh?
I think it's pretty obvious how much I love this race. I had just as much fun this time around as I did in 2011, if not more because I wasn't terrified this time. The course is fun, but challenging. Yes, it's hot, but that's Nashville in the Summer. Plus, race organizers do a great job at catering to the needs of the racers in a casual, hometown atmosphere. And they serve hoe cakes at the post-race party. What else could you want from a triathlon? Thanks for a great race, Mach Tenn!