Going into this race, I knew it would be a challenging course. I mean Knoxville is not what you would call rolling hills, they are closer to what you might call mountains (not Kilimanjaro or anything but east coast type mountains). In fact, several people I asked compared it to roads in the North GA mountains. I was a little worried about the bike course going into the race. I obsessed over elevation charts and asked everyone who had done the race before for their opinion of the course. Not that it would change anything other than to make me feel better (or possibly worse) going into it. I am pretty sure only one person acted like it was no big deal. I later found out that this person had placed 2nd overall last year so.... note to self, no longer ask George about races.
|My mantra for Knoxville and maybe life in general.|
I rolled into Knoxville on Friday night and pretty much went straight to packet pick up. My hotel backed up to the expo which made it super convenient all weekend long. I picked up my swag and called it a night. I had wanted a Rev3 visor for a while. In fact, a friend of mine and myself had applied to be on the Rev3 team because we really wanted the visor (that was our joke anyhow). We weren't chosen but at least I have my visor now. Their loss :)
Saturday, my friend Kristi and I made plans to ride the race course as a preview. When she first asked me, I thought "surely she means in the car". She did not. She is kind of hard core. We didn't get far on our race preview ride because the roads weren't accessible (the course had us going on a highway that would normally be closed to bikes) so after about 8 miles or so we called it good enough and headed over to ride the run course then drop off our bikes for the day. It was a steady drizzle on us most of the ride which ended up being a good trial run for Sunday. I had worn a light bike jacket which turned out great because it made my decision on what to wear much easier for race day since the rain continued into the next day... I ended up wearing that jacket on the bike and the run. (sooooo very thankful I pulled it out of the closet at the last minute!)
|I can't smile like a normal person anymore. I got braces 6 months ago so it is always a weird attempt to cover them up which looks even stranger then if I just smiled. UGH.|
|Remember this scenic riverside running path, we will discuss it later.|
|Bike drop off. Love the boxes for the bike!|
|Make that personalized bike boxes!|
|Trying not to laugh... we wore our wetsuits to the athlete meeting. At least we were warm... and if they needed a stand in for cat woman, we were ready!|
|Note everyone else is dressed normally...|
|With Mari after the meeting|
... And here we are at race day! The forecast for the day was calling for 100% chance of rain. In a way, I guess it is better knowing this up front so you can dress for it. Right? I got up bright and early, set up transition and then went with my friend Keith to the swim start. It was raining while we waited and would continue to rain the rest of the day.
For the half, there were only three swim waves. I was in the 3rd wave which was basically all the women, aquabikes and relays. As we stood there, a couple of women were debating the cold water and whether or not they even wanted to start the race. One was thinking of handing her chip in before she got started. I am pretty sure the ladies ended up swimming but I lost track of them as we made our way to the dock. ...and we were off!
I don't know what was with my swim time on Sunday. I clearly was just cruising along and saving energy for something. I don't know if it was the cold or what. I do know I was breathing every 2nd stroke because I felt like I couldn't really breathe from the cold but I didn't think it slowed me down that much. I felt pretty decent about the swim until I saw the time. LOL. I swam a 2:35/100 when I know I can swim in the 1:50 range. I seem to do that a lot and don't really go hard in the swim. Not sure what a good strategy is there. For the longer distances it feels like you would want to save something, you know? maybe I could stand to kick it up a little at least.
There were men at the dock helping pull us out of the water. One guy grabbed my arm and tossed me across the dock like he had just reeled in a tuna. It kind of made me laugh. I think he was priding himself on how far he could toss people onto the dock. I get up and plod the 1/4 mile or so to transition on my feet that were numb at this point. I got back to transition from the swim and there is a girl two bikes over from laid out with paramedics around her. I didn't know what the issue was at the time but after the race was over the girl next to me told me it was hypothermia. (Thankfully the transition was in a parking garage which made the rain so much easier to bear this day)
There were no wetsuit strippers so it took a minute to get that all peeled off - although the tuna tosser probably could have done it about a half a second... I took my sweet time in transition gearing up. Knowing it was raining and I was planning on going slower on the larger downhills in the rain, I wanted to be as comfortable as possible in case it took me forever (which it did). All suited up, I headed out. As I mentioned, I had been worried a little about the climbing. In the first mile there was a short steep climb up to the highway and that just set the pace for the rest of the ride. There were some stretches that didn't have a lot of climbing but the stretches that did totally made up for it. Basically, you were either going up a hill or down it for 56 miles. The hills were nothing too crazy if you ride in and around Atlanta but this definitely would not be a PR course. Early on in the ride, I saw several people turn around to head back to transition without finishing.
It rained steadily during the entire ride. My hands were wet so I was having trouble getting into the bags that held my nutrition. I was starting to get frustrated until I managed to finally get one bag open which had dates in it. At that moment they were like the best thing I had ever tasted. There were long stretches where I never saw another bike which made me convinced the SAG wagon was going to pull in behind me at any moment. It wasn't until we did a little u-turn in the road that I realized there were quite a few people behind me which give me a little pick me up. After what felt like way too long, I pulled back into transition.
I (again) took my sweet time in transition. As I was putting on dry socks and shoes and body glide on my feet to prevent blisters, two girls rolled in and announced that they were turning in their chips as they had no interest in continuing this any longer. At that point my shoes were on and I headed back out into the rain. (The shoes were dry for about 10 feet). As I was heading out, there were a lot of people picking up their bikes and gear and heading home. I assume they were all the Olympic racers but at the time it was kind of a bummer like I was dead last in this thing.
As I got out of the parking garage, I realized I would be puddle jumping the 13.1 miles. I avoided the first couple and then realized that it was pointless and just ran right through the rest. My feet were completely soaked within a 1/4 mile. The run was along a nice greenway area along side a creek. Remember the picture? Did you know when there is a lot of rain creeks rise? Of course you did. In addition to puddles of standing water, there were a few places along the route where we were wading through deeper water. Three places in particular were completely flooded and we were wading through water that was halfway up our calves for stretches of 5 to 10 feet. It was an out and back so as we were running out all I could think was whether or not we would be able to make it back. On the way back, the water was quite a bit higher than on the way out but, thankfully, still passable. Come hell or *ahem* high water I was going to get that medal!
About 4 miles out as we came upon a river crossing, I met up with a woman who was running about my pace. She was slightly ahead of me and looked back as if to make sure someone saw her wading in - you know just in case she got swept away in the current. No joke. We started chatting about the conditions and sort of helped each other get to the end. At that point, neither one of us were in it for anything other than to finish the race. It was nice to have someone to chat with and take our minds off the craziness of the day. Ann Marie is training for IM Lake Placid in July which will be her fourth IM. We made our way to the finish and crossed the finish line side by side like we were best friends (which at that moment, I think we were...).
In the end, my race time was a personal worst but the experience was a personal best. I could have turned in my chip and stopped racing several times throughout the day but the thought never crossed my mind. I knew I would be more proud of myself for finishing than for giving up. To be sure, I earned my medal this day!