I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go into Rev3 Knoxville with redemption on my mind. A couple months earlier I drove to New Orleans with a sub 5:30 goal and limped in at 6:20. I went to Knoxville gunning for an age group podium in the Olympic.
Jim, Corey, Marc, and Wasky led the dinner plans on Friday night and was I loving the Market Street vibe. The Holiday Inn was a few short blocks away and re-affirmed my need, desire, and craving to lodge close to the race, preferably near a downtown.
Saturday was spent waiting for the overloaded tech crew to look at my front brakes which started rubbing in New Orleans and, in true ACA fashion, I blew it off until one day before this race.
The transition deadline was closing in and they still hadn’t looked at my bike. Luckily I was talking with the local race director who told me the other guy in our midst was an awesome mechanic (and racing for All3Sports.com). I grabbed my bike and he promptly dialed me in.
A Sleeping Miracle
By 9pm I was in bed and by 9:30 made an amazing discovery. I can actually sleep before a race!
I mean seriously, I am Notorious BAS* when it comes to pre-race rest. I slept maybe 3 hours before Ironman Wisconsin.
My list of poor sleeping performances is legendary. In fact, sometimes I am genuinely afraid of dying because I feel like I will be tossing and turning in my tomb. And trust me, I realize this probably means I’m a self-absorbed a-hole who can’t let go (and has a lot of nerve believing he will actually be buried in a tomb) but I’m working on it . . .
So . . . I slept well then woke up to the awful guitar strumming sound of my iPhone alarm at 5am on Sunday. There is no “snooze” button for me on race day. I suck it up and go. Especially considering I had consciously made that choice the night before.
What happened when my feet hit the floor may have impacted my race more than anything. I calmly eased into some light yoga. I still had 3 hours before the swim, so I let my body wake at a comfortable pace.
I didn’t feel awesome, but trusted the process while moving instinctively to poses my body craved. The intensity was minimal, but soon I was sharp enough to both remember my name, and what the hell I was doing awake at 5am in Knoxville, Tennessee.
I had plenty of time and all my gear was packed, so around 6:15, I slung my wetsuit over a shoulder, grabbed my tire pump, and made the dark and lonely trek toward transition.
Once I’d pierced the inner sanctum, I found my bike and started wondering why in the hell I brought my tire pump. I mean, I seriously asked myself, “What kind of guy brings his own pump to transition?”
Just as I uttered those words to myself the guy next to me said, “Hey, can I borrow your pump?”
I said, “It’s funny you asked that because I was just asking myself what kind of guy brings his own pump?”
“I suppose a prepared one,” he replied in a most serious manner.
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.”
We exchanged small talk and I sensed he was sizing me up as well. After about 10 minutes he turned around, looked me in the eye and asked, “Okay, so what are you going to swim today?”
Ahh, the “Crushing Iron” logo was getting into his head.
“Oh, I don’t know, my swim is a wild card.”
“Well, last year I came in around 26 minutes.”
His poker face was impenetrable as we stared each other down in silence.
Finally I asked, “What about you?”
Without missing a beat he flashed a friendly smile and said, “Well, I’d like to do better than that.”
Actually, I hoped to do better than that, too, but it was not to be. I’d like to go into a long and exciting story about the swim, like this one, but it was virtually uneventful. At least (unlike last year) I was in the water when the horn sounded.
The best news of the day was that I swam steady and didn’t stop. I recently read that alone can mean the difference of a couple minutes, so I was pretty well satisfied when I climbed onto the dock and started running up the hill to the boat house.
I am typically a little wobbly out of the water, but as I ran up the ramp, I was ready for the balance beam. Solid feet, solid lungs, solid legs. I picked off a few people on the short hill but as I tried to pass one more before we turned out the side door of the boat house, things got a little dicey.
My body drifted to the left, slowly losing all control, then I slammed into the door jam with my shoulder. I remember thinking, “Great, that’s my bad shoulder,” then hoping by some miracle the collision would somehow fix my other problem.
I started to feel sorry for myself, but remembered there are millions of starving kids and war and poverty and depression and disease and unhealthy relationships and people who can’t walk across a K-Mart. I repented, but solved zero of those problems as I ran up the blacktop path to mount my bicycle.
I had WAY too much crap on my transition towel. My back pack, tire pump, two pairs of socks, arm warmers, leg warmers, two pairs of gloves, a hat, a visor, and a stack of senior pictures. I looked down in disgust, then thought back to the pro transition I’d just witnessed. They grabbed their bikes and ran out of transition naked as j-birds.
I was rolling up arm warmers and jacking around with gloves, it was a mess. I decided to pass on socks and left my arm rollers dangle like the wide wrist bands Ivan Lendl used to rock.
THE WEATHER WAS PERFECT, and I was layering for an ice storm. I was embarrassed, and frankly, a little pissed at myself.
My strategy was to attack. The problem was, the legs weren’t ready to party. I did my best to shred the climbs and recover on downhills, but just didn’t have the same juice I was used to last year. It may have something to do with the fact that I’ve only been doing intermittent one-hour trainer rides for a couple months.
I road at just over 20 mph and was reasonably happy with that, but I’ve got a lot of work to do.
The last 5 miles I noticed an age group battle building. He passed me, then I’d pass him. Back and forth. A challenge of wills. A mental game that stretched our limits and would lead to combat in the trenches once our feet returned to soil.
We entered transition mere seconds apart and I beat him to the run. But not more than 15 seconds later he saddled up beside me to say, “Wow, that was a hell of a bike. You kept passing me at the end and all I could think was, I hope he’s not a good runner.”
I was still gimpy, but did my best to smile before saying, “We’ll see!”
For a brief second I got a little boost of cocky adrenaline. I’m thinking, THIS is the challenge I’ve been waiting for. Yes, I will show this guy that I AM a good runner.
I was stiff and shuffling, but mentally ready for the challenge. I had flashbacks of the Ironwar in Kona between Dave Scott and Mark Allen. And today it would be me and this guy! A guy I didn’t know, but soon everyone will know and we will be forever linked to the Knoxville RevWar!
That’s when, and I swear on a stack of religious paper, he smiled at me and said, “Good luck,” before literally leaving me in the dust. He was gone. I mean like two blocks away before I spun my race belt to the front.
So much for the RevWar, but around mile one I felt like I was on my game and slowly picked up the pace. When I hit the 3 mile turnaround, I knew I was golden. I also knew my Pearl Izumi Streaks (which they no longer produce but can still be found) make a difference in the way I run. The lazy shuffle was gone and I was actually running, well.
This was also the first time I wore a Garmin for a triathlon. Corey was nice enough to set me up on Multi-sport the night before. It worked great on the bike, but somehow I screwed it up coming out of transition. The only thing I could see on my watch was a black line. No pace, no mileage, no nothing. So I just ran.
The coolest thing about this run was that I made a decision to force myself to do pick-ups. Every half mile or so I would sprint for about 30 seconds, re-training my legs to move faster. And every time I slowed to my normal pace it felt easier. Sprint, back it down. The reason I did this is because I haven’t been doing speed work and my legs are in a comfort zone. It genuinely makes me optimistic.
I turned the last corner to head down the chute and saw the finish line. I crossed proudly with my arms in the air . . . and that’s when I saw him sitting on the chair in front of me. David, my bike-rack rival, beat me.
He offered the chair next to him and I congratulated him on a fine race. We reveled in the comraderie of sportsmanship for a minute, then I looked at his calf and realized he wasn’t even in my age group! All of that pain, drama, and stress for nothing. Then, a different guy came up to me (this one in my age group) and told me I passed him on the very last stretch. I had no idea.
We all hobbled to the monitor and I punched in my bib number, 817. There were a lot of numbers, but the only one that mattered was “3.” I got third place and would be standing on the podium after all.
Follow me on Twitter @MikeTarrolly
* Bad Ass Sleeper
|Swim||00:29:12.000||02:01 /100m||0.90 mi|
|Bike||01:13:50.000||20.32 mph||25.00 mi|
|Run||00:48:50.000||07:53 /mi||6.20 mi|