Rev3 Knoxville 2016 – Race Recap

Rev3 Knoxville 2016 – Race Recap

It is really sweet staying downtown for this race.  Everything, including the finish and transition are within blocks.  I walked around a lot (maybe too much) and even explored the University of Tennessee campus, which is awesome.  I also took a lot of pictures of bars on the strip and sent them to friends who went to UT back in the dark ages.  Apparently all the good stuff is gone.

My swim wave had the glorious start time of 7:55, so I got up around 5:30 for some meditation and light warm up stuff.  I ate a crappy breakfast of donuts and a piece of fruit, and I’m really not sure why I do these things.  I think it’s because one of the best triathletes I know says he always eats 3 Pop Tarts for breakfast before an Ironman, and I’ve taken it to heart.

Speaking of Ironman, it was my goal not to say that word all weekend.  It was simply a personal challenge, but I took not-using-the-“I-word” seriously.  I think I said it 3 times.

SWIM – 1500 Meters

I was a little concerned about the water.  The day before at our practice swim, I went for about 400 yards and almost fell over from the dizziness.  This is not uncommon for me, but it is never enjoyable, so I’m always looking for remedies.

Some say it’s a sign of dehydration, so I did drink a lot after that, but I also have a caffeine theory because I had a couple coffees before that swim.  The other thought I had was that, despite the fact that putting on your wetsuit too early can overheat you, I wanted to get acclimated to the compression.  I pulled it up full a good 15 minutes before the start and tried to relax inside that rubber room.

Walking the plank into the Tennessee River. Photo Rebekah Shulman.

We filed down the ramp for our wave start and I jumped in about 3 minutes before the horn.  I found an open pocket and promised myself I would keep it slow and steady.  The water was about 70 degrees and perfect thanks to my icy-above-ground-pool preparation.

Five strokes into my race my finger connected with someone’s watch and it felt like it sliced me wide open.  I didn’t stop, but I thought for sure I was bleeding.  It may have been a good thing because it took my mind off swimming for the first 400 yards upstream.

When I cornered the buoy to head downstream I felt good and just kept repeating my mantra to stay relaxed.  It all worked like a charm and I never stopped during the race, which was my main goal.  I thought it was a pretty good swim, but it was a very average 28 minutes.

The good news is, I got out of the water without a hint of dizzy and felt great running to my bike, ready to drop a blazing, top-9- percentile transition.

BIKE – 25 Miles 

I’ve done this race 4 times now and that morning I made up my mind that I was going to try and crush the bike course, then “hold on” for the run.  I felt great out of the water but was quickly brought back to earth in the first 3 miles.

There aren’t any major hills, but there are a couple “exit ramp” climbs up and around the interstates they block off at the start and end.  It was also really bumpy and I didn’t really find a groove before the first hill at mile 7.

In fact, I hit the first hill at mile 6.3 and thought to myself, hey, this must be the hill at mile 7, but it wasn’t.  It was the 6.3 hill before the big hill at mile 7.  It’s not a monster by any means, but it makes you focus.

For the next 8 miles it’s little ups and major downs.  The downhills, of which, are not for the meek.

The weather was perfect, other than the wind, which I suspected may be having more of an impact than I thought.  But I rode pretty well, pushed hard, and stayed in aero when I could.

There were at least 3 times when I thought I had a flat but didn’t.  It’s that weird feeling that has you looking down at your back tire, but then you realize it’s fine and it’s probably just weak legs. But it also dawned on me that this could also have been where the term “false flat” comes from. If it’s not, it should.

The second big hill depletes your spirit a little, but the subsequent downhill is a screamer that took me up to 40 m.p.h.  My memory told me it was all downhill after that, but there are at least 4 more little climbs that get inside your ass and squeeze it hard.  For all that effort, and all my designs on crushing the bike . . . it crushed me.

RUN – 10K

This run starts with a slight climb in front of Thompson Bowling Arena, former home of Bernie and Ernie (at least I think they played there, and if they didn’t, it’s the home THEY BUILT).

Really, this run is nothing to recap, other than it’s pretty flat, about 2/3’s Greenway and the aid stations are there when you need them.  The only complaint I have is there were a few times on the course when runners seemingly didn’t know what side they should be on, so I had about 3 head-on collisions.  Oh, I’m kidding.

I felt GREAT on mile 4.  I was relaxed and cruising to my fastest mile of the day, but mile 5 was a challenge and 6 about killed me, especially that last .2 up the hill to the finish line.  I look like a damn ghost in my photo, which I’d show you, but don’t feel like buying because I have plenty of time to be a ghost later.

Soaking in the cold after a hot race. Photo Rebekah Shulman.

I finished 4th in my age group, three minutes behind 3rd, and felt like it was the best I had that day.  I took a cold towel and medal for my neck, then jumped in the Normatec Ice Tub.

More Pics From REV3 Knoxville 2016

All Photos – Rebekah Shulman
All Captions – Me

A nice young lady running out of the UT Rowing House into T1.
The volunteers at REV3 were excellent, and, I might add, stylish.
A haunting view as their loved ones walk the plank.
Wet towels and scowls for me.
Much to their chagrin, we take the plunge into the river typically reserved for the Lady Vol Crew
This would be the ghost of Mike about 200 yards from the finish.
Seriously contemplating life.
Raging to go get my ass kicked on the run.
Reppin’ the locals at RED KITE.
Nice stride out of the water!
Everyone in this scrum is asking the other, “What the hell are we doing in here?”



Countdown to Rev3 Knoxville

Countdown to Rev3 Knoxville

It’s now official:  I’ll be racing my fourth straight Rev3 Knoxville next Sunday.  This race has a special place in my heart because the first time I toed the line, it was one of the most challenging mental feats I’ve ever experienced.

I’ll get into the weather in a moment, but there are a few reasons (besides the rumor that I may get my first ever priority racking this year) I love this race.

The Location

When I race I like to get a vibe of the city. For example, IM Muncie 70.3 is probably my least favorite because it is in the middle of nowhere.  Knoxville, however, starts and ends right downtown.  My hotel is less than two blocks from the finish line, there’s a farmer’s market, a bunch of cool little restaurants, and some very talented street hippies within walking distance.

The race itself winds in and out of the city and University of Tennessee campus.  And while the spectator scene is pretty weak, at least there is a semblance of an actual society.

The Course

The swim is in the Tennessee River and starts with a short upstream (about 1/3) of the distance before we turn around and head back to the UT Row House (where we used to change for the practice swim until the Lady Vols gave us too many grumpy faces). Then, you simply run across the street (this used to be a .7 mile run) to transition, then head into the hills.

The bike is challenging, but fair.  I always do the Olympic (because a Half this early seems to crush my spirits) and there are two pretty tough hills that give you a nice early season test. There are a also some very fast downhill sections where I’ve seen wicked crash aftermath, but the roads are good and the ride slithers between country terrain and downtown living.

The run is basically on a campus greenway and flat until you the last burst to the finish line, which is uphill, but nothing too tough. It ends in World’s Fair park on a sweet patch of grass surrounded by the expo.  It’s relatively quaint, but feels a little bit like you’ve entered the coliseum at the Olympics when you cross the line.  Well, not really, but it does feel bigger than the Huntsville marathon finish, though, I’m not taking anything away from Rocket City, because is a nice little race, and town, and Meg and her parents are awesome hosts, but I doubt I’ll actually run it it because I’m not really interested in a straight marathon and the finish line isn’t quite as fun as Rev3 Knoxville.

The Intangibles

Rev3 puts on a solid race.  Nice expo, good organization, volunteer hospitality, etc.  It has a bigger feel, but it’s more down home than an Ironman. Looks like there are about 5-600 people signed up for the Oly and Half this year.  And, it’s very kid-friendly, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I’ve also met some great people there.  Like Tim Wacker from Wisconsin who I ran into the first year at the hotel gift shop and then saw him cheering for me at the top of the biggest climb at Ironman Wisconsin later that year.  He also sent me a DVD of the IMWI bike course which I still need to give back to him.

I also encountered my favorite age group rival, David Quinn of Grim Reapers, in transition and we’ve crossed paths many times since at various races.  I even wrote about him in my 2014 race report before we became friends.  Here’s an excerpt:

You’re typically racked in the same place as your age group, so I watched carefully as what appeared to be a formidable challenger filled his tires.  David, who was racing for Grim Reaper (another reason I tread lightly) had an eery calm and a confident look in his eyes that more or less said, “This race is mine.” 

And Jason and Lisette, who travel around to races in a solar paneled van with their dogs.  They carve out a little landing spot and live the race life for 3 or 4 days.  We ran into each other at the restaurant, The Tomato Head, three times in the same day, I think. Jason made my 2015 Muncie video  (which I just noticed is muted because Radiohead’s label said I can’t use 15 Steps, even thought it’s credited and I don’t make a dime from this sight. I’ve written about that BS here and added a screen grab from the video of Jason below) as a volunteer and Lisette is seen in the swim entry and run portion of my 2015 IM Louisville video.

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 9.03.56 AM

Now, back to the weather.

The month of May can be dicey in Tennessee and Rev3 Knoxville has been a poster-child.  The first time I raced was an absolute mess.  Pouring rain the entire race and mid-50’s, including the water.  My feet were numb until mile 4 of the run that year. But they’ve moved the race a couple weeks and the temperature has been fine ever since, but I still feel like it’s rained every year.  And, frankly, I love that part.

I had about 10% confidence I could finish my first Ironman, but after racing in the brutal conditions at Rev3 in 2013, my confidence soared to at least 20%.  Training and racing in bad weather is a gift.  It’s the one variable we can’t control and I love being ready for anything on race day.

This picture is from the finish line in 2013.  Notice how the people in the background are dressed. It was a brutal, yet awesome test of will . . . that frankly made me contemplate monkdom.

rev3-knoxville2013-free-dsc_0382 copy

Rev3 Knoxville 2013 Race Report 
Rev3 Knoxville 2014 Race Report
Rev3/Challenge Knoxville 2015 Race Report 

There are tons of other stories on Rev3 Knoxville if you type it into the search box.


Iron Nugget Spring – Dickson Endurance

Iron Nugget Spring – Dickson Endurance

Saturday, in little known parts of the world, aka Burns, TN, I took my first triathlon beat down of the year at the Iron Nugget Sprint.  The pictures are all from the year before when I spectated because, as you will see, there was no time for fun and games.

This race is really pretty awesome.  It’s in Montgomery Bell State Park, well organized, beautiful, friendly, and loaded with hills.  I’m not sure it’s ideal for a first time triathlete, but it’s definitely fair.

On a whim, I signed up the night before then got to the site an hour before race the 8:00 race time and found myself in a long line for bib pick-up.  While this was a bit of a bummer, I was very excited to see so many racers because I’d love to see this series grow.

My late registration meant I had to go into a second line with about 8 other people and wait for the race director to assign us a bib number.  Somewhere around 8:10 I finally landed bib 350.  The following is a series of events that happened from that point until the start of the race at 8:30.  (I’d like to preface this by saying it’s all my fault for not signing up and arriving sooner).  Below is the huge hill out of the swim to T1, which I speak of often.

Look at this grade!
Look at this grade!

– I got body marked and climbed the huge hill from the check-in to transition for the second time (I forgot my ID the first time).

– I swiftly unloaded my bike, gear, and ran everything into transition where I scrambled to find an open slot to rack my bike.  After about 5 minutes of panic, I found what seemed to be the only open slot and hung my bike.

– Put in my contacts and the right one was backward.

– Slid into my tri-top, laid shoes on a colorful beach towel, grabbed swim cap, sprayed anti-fog on my goggles, then realized I forgot my bike and helmet stickers, along with my bib on the registration table while I got body marked.

– Ran down huge hill to retrieve bike stickers and bib.  Ran up huge hill to affix stickers bike and bib to belt.

– Ran down huge hill barefoot with wetsuit.  Stopped near bottom of hill to put on wetsuit and heard “2 minutes till start” of my age group.

– Hopped up and down trying to get into wetsuit on slight decline.  Realized I put my right leg into my right arm sleeve.  Struggled to get right leg out of wetsuit, turned everything back outside in and began again.

– Somehow managed to get into wetsuit legs and run to beach.  “30 seconds till start!”

– Pulled wetsuit over shoulders and nice young lady to retrieve my swim cap from the back pocket of my tri-suit.  Put on swim cap and goggles while nice young lady zipped my wetsuit.  Waded into water and under the rope where my age groupers waited.  Saw friend Eric and said hi as gun sounded.

Anyone who knows me knows this is the exact opposite of how I should start a swim.  I’m “panic central” in the water and need some serious wake up time.

The swim was 750 yards, one loop around a beautiful little lake course.  The water felt nice and I did everything in my power to start slow.  I haven’t been swimming much, so while the distance didn’t scare me, I knew it was long enough for problems.

My effort to start slow did not go well, and by the first buoy my heart was clamoring to get out of my chest, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to fall into breaststroke for a while.  Which I did until the next buoy, then picked it up again . . . slowly.  But clearly not slow enough.  By midway up the backside of the box I was cursing my lack of training and back in breast stroke.  It was about the halfway point and I even decided it might be a good time to peek at my watch, which said 7 minutes.

It’s funny how seven minutes can feel like a lifetime, and the next 9 minutes felt even longer.

Normally I’d swim until my hand hits the sand, but I stood up as soon as I could.  “Standing” is a relative term here because I was kind of dizzy and almost fell down.  The good news was, I had to run up that hill (the fourth time) again.  Needless to say I walked with my wetsuit hanging from my waist.  It was an awful transition, but I had no choice.

The first 5 miles of the bike were torture.  The swim bit me hard and I wasn’t ready for the hills.  It was a tough but fair bike course.  The fastest split average was 21.4 mph for the hilly 17 miles.  My average was 18, and considering the horrid start, I actually started waking up toward the end of the ride.

The run was tough, too but I felt pretty good by then and ran a 24:42 on a super hilly roll.  It was a steady, consistent pace that I felt I could keep for a long time, but any faster would have been too much.  The fastest split was about 19 minutes, so I felt good about my effort.

This race was a huge wake up call and I’m glad I got my ass out of bed for it.  Rev3 Knoxville is still on my radar, but I haven’t signed up.  Maybe I’ll do it the night before.

This is BS!
This is the spot I tried to put on my wetsuit.