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.
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.
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