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