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Challenge Knoxville Olympic 2015 Triathlon Race Report

Created: Saturday, 16 May 2015
 

Challenge Knoxville May 17, 2015Challenge Knoxville May 17, 2015Challenge Knoxville was an epic race for me. It consisted of a 0.9 mi swim, 25 mi bike, and 10k run. So many firsts, so many lessons learned, so there's so much to write about. Be prepared for a looong report. :) This was my first out of town race, my first Olympic distance race, first race in the mountains, first river swim and first race among pro triathletes.

 

Traveling

PackingPackingAs the days approached for this trip, I as very excited and eager to put my training to the test. I was even more excited when I picked up my new Team Zoot race kit!  It looked great! I checked the kitchen closet, and I had plenty of Hammer Nutrition Gels, and Heed. Zoot Ultra Run shoes were cleaned off. I was all set fill my Zoot tri bag with all my race needs. My trusty iPhone app has a checklist to ensure I don't miss anything. On Friday evening, I hit the road to Knoxville for a busy pre-race agenda on Saturday. The race was Sunday.

 

Pre-race Day

I knew 3 other Atlanta triathletes racing, and another 3 from Facebook. I was looking forward to meeting most of them that Saturday. Especially those that had experience racing at longer distances. So I learn lesson #1, everyone has their own pre-race schedule. That makes sense, since everyone has a unique training schedule and race strategy. I had just assumed, everyone would be as eager to warm up as me.  I did a 3 mile bike ride to ensure all my gears and equipment were working properly, jogged 2 miles to keep my legs loose, and ate a hearty breakfast before some of fellow athletes even got out of the bed!  Although I would love to have slept in, I'm glad I got warmed up early, so I can relax later. I was in Knoxville in 1982 for the World's Fair, and found myself more a tourist as I reached back to my child memories.

#BlackTriathletes#BlackTriathletes

Check-in was 10:00, and I was just amazed at how organized and extravagant the Challenge set up was. This was big time!  Electronic check-ins, photos taken to be displayed when crossing the finish line, tattoos, name on my bib, I was like a kid at Disney! I met up with my fellow Atlanta triathletes Janita, Tes, and Janelle. Also met my fellow Facebook triathletes, Von, Travis, and Mags. Now my excitement shifted to being very motivated and determined.

 

I checked my bike at 11:00, and was amazed again. There were no raggedy bike racks that look like any strong wind could blow them over. That's all I've seen in past races.  I was worried I would have to fight for an ideal bike position on my assigned rack. Instead, it was just like the big races I've only seen on YouTube where each bike had it's assigned parking spot. I'm back to being a kid again!

Met another Team Zoot member, Julie!!Met another Team Zoot member, Julie!!

About 11:30, I joined everyone for a pre-swim in Tennessee River. I put on my wetsuit, and it was hot! I wasn't concerned, since the reports said the water was cold. Off I go to jump in.  There were a lot of life guards in kayaks, but I was still nervous.  I always am with open water. I'm much better at controlling my drowning fears, but they are still prominently there.  I jump in, and swim a short distance.  This is when I realized that something isn't right. This is a river, but there is no current. It was like swimming in a very long lake.

 

1:30 was the athlete briefing. Nothing earth shattering, but I was great to learn of the new markings. There 3 different race courses that overlapped. Yellow my color. I was given a yellow swim cap, I turn at the yellow buoys in the swim, and the streets were marked with yellow tape for my turns.

 

LunchLunch

After a group lunch, the group of us drove the bike course. The climbs and decents made me excited, as those are my strengths. It's tougher for me catch folks on flats since I'm bigger than most athletes. But on hills, I'm often stronger on the climbs, and fly downhill. After making notes of the climbs and the sharp turns,  I was now race ready.

 

Race Day

Wake Up!!Wake Up!!I woke up before my 4:30 am alarm. If ever did go to sleep. I was at the race site 2 hours before my 7:55 start time. My transition area was all set up. My water bottles were filled with Hammer Heed.  I placed several Hammer Gels, Endurolyte tablets, and anti-fatigue tablets in my bento box. I ate a Hammer energy bar as well. Since I never seen the pros race before, I made the 10 min walk to the start to watch them. I'm glad I got to see them, now it's time for me to race.

 

Swim

I t starts pouring down rain while I wait for my wave to start. It didn't annoy me, I just felt silly trying to dry off my wetsuit from the swim the day before now that everything was soaked. My wave consisted of all the men above 40.  The 39 and under started 4 mins before me. This was not a group I want to get tangled up with in the water getting kicked, pulled, punched, grabbed, swam over....  so I made sure I started in the back of the group.  About 50 swimmers filed into the water, treading until the start signal.  I waited until 30 seconds prior to the start since I'm not a strong treader. *Boom* Game time.

 

Back of my swim wave.Back of my swim wave.I'm swimming with good form, trying to keep up with the crowd, and it just was not happening.  The group of 50 took off, and then there was just 5. Then they were gone.  I keep on swimming, then realize I'm by myself.  What that really means is that I'm real slow, and the wave of women is about catch me. The turn around buoys did seem to be getting closer, and I was getting frustrated, and negative thoughts started creeping in.  I swam to a kayak after I saw I was about to overtaken by the later swim wave, then took off again after about 15 secs. My goal again was to stay with the group, but again it wasn't happening. This time though, I was able to keep several stragglers in eye sight.  I finally get to the turn around buoy, and think to myself, this is just the 1/3 mark. This is crazy, how long is this freaking river?
Getting frustrated again, I grab another kayak to compose myself.

 

Off I go, singing to myself to stay calm. Then I recognize that I'm not comfortable. I'm getting hot. I'm thinking, the rain stopped, the sun is out, and I'm baking in my wetsuit. Even worse, it seems like I'm still making little progress with each stroke. The reality was I was moving fine, just never raced so far and I was impatient. And I was lonely since all the racers left me. (Ha!) I gave myself a reality check at another kayak.

 

Off I go again. Now I'm on a very long straight shot to the swim finish. I stay in my rhythm, and continue the rest of the swim without grabbing another kayak.  I know I was slow, because at first, the kayaks were spaced out pretty far, but now they were surrounding me.  Am I last? Probably.  I saw another guy, and I made it my goal not to be last!  Sadly, that really was my goal entering the race, not to be the last swimmer. We were side by side for the longest.  One of the kayakers surrounding me signaled for me to turn in towards the shore.  I finished! But where is the ramp?!? I did not know there wasn't going to be a ramp. I had to pull myself out onto the dock and roll over onto the plank.

 

Goal:  Don't die, and don't come finish last

Time:  52:02  Pace:  03:36 /100m  Distance: 0.9 mi

Position in my age group: 27/29,  Males: 156/164  Overall: 232/246
Summary:  My swim was way too slow.  I need to do swim more long open water swims to get more comfortable and confident.

 

Transition 1:

 

It was easy to find my bike, everyone else was gone!  Due to the rain, everything was soaked.  I thought I was smart using my hand towel to keep my helmet and sunglasses dry, that didn't work. I put on my Smith Optics shades, helmet, bike shoes, grab my bike, and I'm off for the chase.

 

T1 Time: 2:52

AG: 27/29  Males: 155/164   Overall: 229/246
Summary: I passed 10 men just in transition!! Probably due to them jogging out the water while I was running.

 

Bike

Off on my bike!Off on my bike!I was determined to stay focused this race. Last time, I became demotivated when I didn't see anyone to chase down. So I'm off on the chase.  Since I saw the course already, I knew what to expect. The climbs were tough, but not as bad as it seemed from the car. I was passing folks left and right. Passing everyone I saw!  I was pumped.  Unfortunately though, I didn't see anyone in my age group. When I reached the big decent, I a volunteer warning us to slow down, there have been accidents ahead. The road was very slick and full of winding turns. Sure enough, there was carnage everywhere. Ambulance here. Fire truck there. Athletes standing along the side hoping someone would come by for help. It looked like most of them just didn't have a tire repair kit. I focused on keeping my bike vertical on all of the turns.  If I was to lean, the slick roads would win. I stayed aggressive, and felt like I had a great ride given the conditions.

 

Goal: 19 mph pace. This was based on looking at the results from last year's participants
Time: 1:21:52  Pace: 18.32 mph  Distance: 25.00 mi
AG: 26/29  Males: 141/164  Overall: 191/246

Summary: I was great on the bike! Although I only caught one age grouper, I was faster than half of them on the bike leg.


Transition 2
This transition line jumped in front of me!  I was so in a zone, I didn't realize that the crowd of folks were there just for the transition. I'm so glad a volunteer was standing about 30 feet up telling us to slow down, prepare to dismount. I was in a mental zone. I had trouble finding my transition area since the other athletes had their stuff thrown everywhere! I had 2 ways of finding my transition area, they were both busted. I was looking for the bike #780, but his gear covered up his rack number. I stood up my Zoot bag so that I find it, but there was so many wetsuits and other gear everywhere, again. I couldn't find it.  There were too many racks to count, but I should have counted rows in hindsight. I ran down the wrong aisle!!!  I picked up my bike, and ran to my area, grabbed my Zoot Ultra Race shoes, and I was off.

Time: 1:29
AG: 26/29  Males: 140/164  Overall: 190/246
Summary: Despite my blunder, I didn't cost me. I passed one guy.

Run:
RunningRunningRunningRunningMy legs felt heavy from climbing all of those darn mountain climbs. I was able to keep a relatively fast cadence, but not my target pace. I was hoping my legs would loosen up after a while, but it didn't.  I was not able to reach my target pace. That was frustrating, but I stayed motivated because I was passing way more folks than was passing me (If you exclude the professionals and championship racers). The mile markers seemed to be really stretched out. It took longer than normal to reach each marker. I figure it was because I never run this slow, so of course it took longer to get each marker. I had 2 Hammer Gels in my Zoot belt.  I took one at 2 miles in, and another at 4 miles in. I felt fine, was not cramping, but my legs just stayed very heavy.  I didn't have enough muscle power to run my strongest. The finish line was exciting. There was a narrow chute you have to run through. I sprinted the best I can and finished the race strong.
Heading to the finish line!Heading to the finish line!Heading to the finish line!Heading to the finish line!
Goal: 8:30 pace
Time: 56:10  Pace: 9:04/mi   Distance: 6.20 mi
Halfway Split:  AG: 26/29  Males: 134/164  Overall: 180/246
Finish Split: 26/29  Males: 132/164  Overall: 176/246
Final Time: 3:14:25.63
Summary: I ran a consistent 9:04 pace for both halves of the run. I moved up in position, but not in my age group. My legs were spent after the bike.
Finished!! Time: 3:14:25Finished!! Time: 3:14:25
Bling!!! Bib with my name, so cool.Bling!!! Bib with my name, so cool.
Olympic Distance Finishers!!  Tes, Me, and JanitaOlympic Distance Finishers!! Tes, Me, and Janita
Big thanks to my sponsors, Zoot Sports, Hammer Nutrition, and TriSports.com. Thanks to Janelle for all these great photos and cheering me on! Thanks to Shereese for driving out to cheer me on and the finishline photo!  Thanks to my many swim coaches, Muriel, Amber, and Iilonga. I've improved a lot over a year. Thanks to Stephanie for accepting my daily training schedule and support my goal chasing weekends! And thanks to the BTA athletes and supporters that made the weekend enjoyable and memorable!
After the raceAfter the raceBike after the raceBike after the racePost racePost racePre-runPre-runfountainfountainpre-racepre-racePre-ridePre-ridePre-RidePre-Ride

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