Knoxville, we have a problem.
The 2 hours and change of racing in Knoxville was without a doubt the least exciting thing that happened over the weekend. Instead, the eXtreme road trip was the highlight.
Thursday night was my Alumni Mile at the Maryland Twilight Meet. It's the 4th year they've had it, and I have now been able to run all 4 years. My progression of times is pretty hilarious: 5:12, 6:15, 5:00, 5:14. In fairness, the 6:15 was 6 weeks after my 2nd knee surgery and I hadn't run a step yet. Last year was a pretty sweet race, with the exception of the 5:00.11 FAT result. This year I knew I was not as fast, and certainly not as comfortable running fast, so I had to scale back my expectations. My splits were 77.1 (409m), 78.2, 80.5, 78.3. Yikes. Worst of all - got outkicked by Danielle in the last 150. Embarrassing, maybe, but whatever. The meet was the most fun it's been in its years, we had a great turnout, and got to catch up with a lot of old teammates.
Unfortunately, it was a late meet in College Park, and Friday was an early rollout to Tennessee. Alyssa was borrowing her dad's Subaru to fit our bikes, plus Ed, and we were on our way. Made it to Roanoke, where we stopped for lunch around noon, and headed back out. We noticed a loud, helicopter-like sound, that got louder and louder, so we finally stopped. To our horror, two of five lugnuts on the rear driver's side wheel had completely sheered off and a third was about to come off. We tightened it, and drove a little more carefully until we got to Knoxville. But it was late in the day, and as we found out from Sears and Pep Boys, Subaru parts are not easily found. There was no way we were taking the chance of driving all the way back to Baltimore on it, so we HAD to get it fixed.
Fortune smiled upon us and a Subaru dealer was open for service on Saturday. They fixed it quickly for us in the morning, and crisis was averted.
Meanwhile, Friday night in Knoxville, our hotel was right in the "thick" of it, a short walk to Market Square, which was poppin'. Alyssa and I went to eat while Ed went to meet some friends at an art gallery, and who should he run into by ERICA MOORE and PHOEBE WRIGHT, of UT Track lore and now American hopefuls for the Olympics.
Saturday, after the car was fixed, it was time to check in. REV3 does a lot of things well. Packet pickup is not one of them. The process just seemed to take a little too long, mostly with the picking up of chips, as they take your picture for when you cross the finish line. But, it is a fun little area for kids and families, so I could overlook that. From there it was time for the practice swim. I bumped into my buddy Andrew Yoder, and we chatted about the course. I expected the bike course would be difficult, and he confirmed it was a tough one. Got in the water, which was a little chilly (66-67 degrees) but very clean. Swam for 20 minutes, then headed back to the hotel to get some lunch, and then ride a little of the course. Did a 15 mile ride, then ran just under 3 off the bike. It had warmed up quite a bit, and was very humid. With all the energy spent on Saturday, I slept well - maybe too well - and woke up Sunday pretty tired.
Sunday got down to the swim start, and that's where we ran into Ed, who had brought his parents to come watch us swim. This is a big deal as his parents have only seen HIM race once in the last ten years. The gesture was appreciated. And now for a little bit of a race report:
This is the only split I actually know, because the timing still is a little hard to decipher. When I heard the time, I was pretty pleased, as that's a decent swim for me, but after looking at how fast some of the other people swam, I don't think it's all that cool. Pros were in the low 17s, so it was fast water. I got a crappy start; I tried to warm up, and when I got back to the "line" I couldn't get any farther up than 6 or 7 people back in line. It was an aggressive start, and my goggles went flying off at one point, so I fluttered around getting those back on. This didn't cost me time as much as opportunity. I then spent the rest of the swim working through groups, and then as we turned around, we began to catch the earlier waves of the half iron swimmers. I felt good about my 2nd half, and if I had been swimming that speed the entire time, I should have been in the 21:30 range. If I can get towards the low 21s at Columbia, that will be a major win.
Normally transitions aren't a big deal, they are what they are, but this one was without a doubt the longest I've ever done. First, you pulled yourself out of the water onto a little dock, then ran up the dock, then up the concrete and through a building, then onto the road, over some train tracks, on a sidewalk, up the grass, and into the dirty parking garage. All told, a legitimate 300m+ of running. And no, not like the people that say "it had to be a quarter of a mile" and then their transition time is 90 seconds. I actually took my wetsuit off as I got out of the water and ran with it so I could run a bit faster, seemed to work, but my transition still wasn't super quick.
No idea what I rode. I really just wanted to get a feel for the roads again. I haven't been on the time trial bike since November, and I left the Zipps and aero helmet at home. I don't own a computer, have never had a powertap, and on this day, didn't even wear a watch. Just rolled with it. I seemed to be riding decent, I was climbing very well - and there were for serious climbs on this course - but I didn't seem to have the ability to go much faster than I was. It was an aerobic effort, so I just need to sharpen. It felt like a long ride.
Again, into the parking garage, and elected to put on socks. I was not going to, but I was sweating as it had become pretty warm and was very humid, and the blisters I would have gotten just weren't worth it to me. Ed was there to encourage, and I went out onto the run.
I think I ran about 40 minutes, probably just over. The run course was actually very easy, so this isn't a very good split, but all things considered, I'm actually okay with it. It was just an out and back on Neyland Rd or whatever it is, exposed to the sun, and then a partially shaded greenway asphalt path. There weren't many people around me, I think the only ones I saw were the 3 guys that passed me. Aruond 3.5/4 my piriformis began to lock up, so I stopped for a second to stretch and dig into it a bit, and that seemed to help so I was on my way. There were no mile marks, but it wouldn't have mattered as I didn't have a watch. Just going on feel. With a half mile to go, I went by a guy I had met the day before, and cruised into the finish at just over 2:13. I think it was 20th place in the non-pro field, and I didn't get beat by any age group girls. So that was cool.
I went back to the hotel, showered, packed, and Ed and I went back to watch Alyssa rock a 3rd place in the half. And because we could, we ran across the line with her. It was awesome, can't wait for the picture. It was really warm at this point, that half would have been real tough.
Things I liked:
The event was very family friendly, and was at a cool venue. Knoxville is a pretty place and a perfect location for a race. The pro field was awesome, and the race looked like it was a good one. Helps when there's $50 large on the line. And as we always say in triathlon, the pros are so chill and accessible following the race, it's really cool. Highlight was probably having a bit of a chat with Matty Reed on Saturday as we ran into him while he was running. I personally don't care about medals and t-shirts, but they were designed and executed well.
Things I would change:
The water on the run course. They handed out these weird little packets of water, almost like Capri Suns or something. They had instructions on how to open them but I couldn't figure it out, nor could anyone else, as everyone was just biting them open and spitting the plastic on the ground. If the effort was to reduce the number of cups/trash, it failed. Way more plastic on the course, little bits they'll never find to clean up. The water also tasted disgusting, like the plastic. The only thing I liked was being able to control the volume of water that was coming out, and it was a little easier to run with and spray.
The body marking numbers. They gave you stickers, and it's now Tuesday and my numbers are nowhere near gone. The sticky film is clinging to my skin and I don't think the numbers are going to disappear anytime soon.
But I did really like the race, got to meet DC's own Conor Shapiro, who had a great race, finishing one spot ahead of me, and met some other cool people. Unfortunately, we still had the business of a 9 hour drive after Alyssa's race. We got our stuff out of transition and by this point it was 3pm. Yikes. We were making decent time and stopped in Roanoke VA for dinner. It was...awesome. Seriously I did not expect it to be that cool. I don't know what it was, I just liked it. When we rolled from there, it was 8pm, and we still had close to 5 hours of driving. And it started raining. Again. (It had rained on Friday). Alyssa and I have had bad luck with driving to races in the past year, it is ALWAYS raining - Luray, Louisville, Eagleman.
It was a tough drive, and my knee and body hated me for it, but we got back just before 1am.
I was pleased with the effort, with 4 more races in 6 weekends, the goal was not to go into the well, just have a good race. I think I accomplished that, and if I can get some good training in this weekend, I'll feel better about Columbia. I'm still not feeling great while I run, and I'm concerned both about pace and distance. The problems seem to start around 3 miles of harder effort, and once it's there, it doesn't leave. But it also happens at easier efforts, after time. So 13 miles could be tough, especially on a hilly course after a hilly 56 mile ride, at Quassy. Eagleman might not be any better as you're just using the same muscles the entire day. Need to get the body dialed in!