Monday, May 25, 2015

2015 Challenge Knoxville Race Report

The time was finally here for my first triathlon of the season.  I did not do a Rev3 race last year as I had the previous 3 years.   I was interested to see what Knoxville would bring to the table this year with the merger between Challenge and Rev3.  Knoxville had been one of Rev3's bigger races, but was now rebranded as Challenge.
The race was on Sunday so I drove up Saturday morning.  Knoxville is only about a 4 hour drive from The Mill.  I had not done a tri in Tennessee in my first four years in triathlon, and now this was my third race in a row in the Volunteer state.

I made it into Knoxville relatively easily.  From then it took a little bit for me to get my bearings.  I drove down by the waterfront, but couldn't figure out how to get to the expo.  I eventually meandered my way around, but couldn't find a place to park.  So eventually I found the free parking deck right next to transition.  To summarize: if you know where you're going, parking near the expo is free and easy.
Challenge in da House

They don't lack for Branding

Packet Pickup Tent
I moseyed around a bit and then went over to packet pickup.  No lines. I grabbed my numbers, swim cap and the hoodie sweatshirt swag.
  I then went over to the timing chip pickup and bumped into The Human Fish: Jenny Leiser.  We chatted a bit, and then got our chips.  I checked out the rest of the expo.

#WANT (A new GL?)

I walked back over to my car and dropped my packet off.  I then walked over to the Market Square area to get some lunch.  I didn't know they were having a festival in town.
Market Square

I stopped into Lenny's Subs for lunch.  I had never heard of them, but evidently it's a chain.  They have two in Charlotte.  Who knew?  So then I walked around and checked out some of the rest of the area.
The Golf Ball

When I first walked by the Sunsphere, I saw you could go up it.  I didn't know that, so on my way back I checked it out.  I learned all about the World's Fair, and snapped a few pics through the nasty, dirty windows.
The Expo

When I got back to the expo, it was still too early to check into the hotel.  They were having their Pro Panel, and then they were going to have the athlete briefing.  So I stuck around for that. The "mandatory" breifing wasn't that informative.  They gave a teaser about some news on Roth that they were going to share after the meeting.  Turns out it was much ado about nothing.  Some sort of "Roth Rewards" program.  It's all about human interest stories, and social media posts to get you a slot. Meh.
So after the meeting I headed over to the Hampton Inn.  It was about 45 min before checkin but I saw if I could get in anyways.  No dice.  So I decided to go for a short run to shake things out and check out how far transition was from the hotel.  That actually worked out prety well.  So right at 3pm I went to check in and was told my room still wasn't ready.  I sat in the lobby and drank some coffee.  The hotel manager offered up a free late checkout of 2pm.  I jumped at that, since they usually charge you a 1/2 night stay.  I was glad to be able to shower before the ride home.
Once in the room, I got all my stuff out of my packet.  They still are going with the cool looking, yet super PITA race tats for numbers.  These things just stay sticky.  They don't seem to dry.  They stick to your shirt and to the bed sheets.  But they look sweet.
43? WTF?

Then I got Green Lightning Ready.
Then I decided to head on over to transition and check out the situation there.  Same bike boxes instead of racks like all the Rev3 races.

I walked around a bit and checked out the layout.  Transition wasn't very big.  There were only about 750 people signed up total for all 3 races.  They have and Olympic and a "Championsip" race as well.  The "Championship" is an odd 1.2 / 40 / 10 mile distance.  I walked across the road to the swim exit just to get a bearing on everything.  Sufficed, I headed back to the hotel. 

I organized my stuff.
I checked out my hoodie.
Then it was time to meet the rest of the Big Sexy Crew for dinner.  I walked back over to Market Square and hung out in front of the Tomato Head restaurant.  I got there a little early and so I could observe the local Knoxville "culture".  The pizza was really good and I had a good time hanging out with Sean, Corey, Bill, Jesse, and his wife Laura.  We just ate and then headed back to our hotels.
I did some last minute prep, pondered my nerves, and turned in for the night.

Race Day
I woke up at 4:15.  Before my alarm.  I guess I'm nervous like that.  I just got my stuff together and walked over to transition way too early.  It was a short walk from the Hampton.  At least getting there early made it easy to get a bike pump.  I prepped my rear disc cover and setup my hydration and my Garmin.  Then it started raining.  Not hard, but enough to see it wasn't going to be a dry day.  I always bring plastic bags with me, so I put my bike and run shoes in their own bags, so they would be nice and dry.  

They announced the water temp at 74 degrees, so I began to put my wetsuit on.   I then moseyed down toward the start.  It's a half mile walk to the start, and they don't provide you with a morning clothes bag.  I brought some throw away shoes for the walk.  It's kinda annoying, but I guess I'm just used to having morning clothes bags at IM races.

Once down at the swim start, I ran into Bill and we talked until it was time for me to line up.  Wave 4, after the pro male, pro female, and under 40 men.

36:06 Officially, 18 / 41 Age Group, 87 / 205 Overall Male Non-Pro
It was in in-water start, but with a wetsuit, it's not that big of a deal.  We jumped off the dock, and treaded water before the gun went off.  I clocked 35:09 on my Garmin as I got out of the water.  That's pretty much what I swim with a wetsuit, so no surprises there.
 You swim up the river against the current for basically the first 1/3 of the race.  It was a little congested, but that was kind of a good thing.  I was able to do some drafting, but I did get bumped, and run over.  I did my share of running over as well, so I guess its all good.
My left goggle lens wasn't doing the best job and was leaking a bit.  It wasn't too bad, so I didn't mess with it.  It seemed to take a while to get to the turnaround, but once I did, it cleared out some.  The current really wasn't very strong.  Almost couldn't really tell.  Nothing like Chattanooga, unfortunately.
So I just swam.  I tried to keep my form.  Keep my entry hand level.  Rotate and stretch to get a good pull.  Swim straight.  Eventually I came to what looked like the end.  Unfortunately, there really wasn't much of a marker.  Usually they have an inflatable arch, or some big buoy, or an air blown thing whipping in air.  There was nothing.  When I got closer I saw there was a volunteer on the end of the dock waving his hands. So I cut over to the dock.  You then just roll onto it.  No rails or ramp, you just walrus onto it.
2:40 officially
I started the run up the dock, through the boathouse, across the screet, up the sidewalk to the other side of transition to the entrance.  
I was pretty psyched to actually get the top of my wetsuit off myself.  Maybe the long run helped.  But I'm glad I did, as there were no strippers available (wetsuit, that is).  I also noticed that the roads were completely wet, as it must have been raining during the swim.

It look a little bit to get the wetsuit off my legs.  I got my bike shoes out of my plastic bags and put them on.  I grabbed GL and did the awkward run with the bike with bike shoes on dance.

2:25:24 Officially, 2 / 41 Age Group, 3 / 205 Overall Male Non-Pro
Garmin had 56.26 miles on 229 watts for a 23.3 mph average. As we came out of transition, volunteers were telling us to be careful and many people had fell on the wet pavement already.  Great, I thought.  This is not the course to have wet roads.  It's so hilly with turns and switchbacks.  Not my strong suit.
I headed out of town with plenty of people around me.  I just tried to push to get past some of these people.  We got onto a flat stretch and I couldn't seem to get into the biggest gear.  I looked down at my rear derauiller and it looked like it shifted over.  Then I saw I was in the small ring up front.  Duh.  I hardly ever use the thing, so I guess I never shifted up coming out of transition.  I popped it into the 53 and away we went.
So the roads were completely soaked.  It was raining just a little.  I had decided to forego any type of eyeware.  There were a couple of nasty railroad tracks we had to cross.  I had my spare tube velcro strapped into my rear bottle holder.  After hitting the worst of the tracks, I felt something against my right calf.  It was my spare tube that had flown off.  I held it there, reached down to get it, and then put it into my rear pocket.
On the next rough spot in the road, my Garmin mount loosed up and rotated around.  I tried to fix it, but then just decided to put that in my other rear pocket.  So in the first 5 miles, I figured if it was gonna come off it would have already.  When we finally got across the river, the roads were smoother.  But then the course got interesting.
Sun ain't out, but the Guns are.
You have some serious hills in the first 20 miles of the race.  Up out of your saddle, let's do some work, type of uphills.  Problem was that on the downhills, I didn't really hammer the watts like I usually do.  The roads were wet, and all the downhills turned where you couldn't see how sharp it was.  I took it cautious, and even then there were a few sphincter tightening moments.
It's pronounce 'air-oh'. Everyone say it together now: Aero

After 20 miles there was a good flat stretch where I average 25.4 for the 5 mile split.  I had wanted to average 230 watts on this ride, and I spot checked my 910 to make sure I was there or slightly above.  I saw quite a few people changing flats after the crappy roads on the way out of town.  I saw quite a few more crashed along the course.  I took it really slow on all the turns from one road to another.  The rain was heavy a couple of times, like sting your face heavy.  It did lighten up at times, but it was mostly steady throughout.  
Half was Pink for the Bike and Run
So I come by Jonathon Feddock maybe around the 40 mile mark or so.  I guess I didn't do my homework on who was racing.  I was a little surprised to be passing him, since he had a 3 minute head start with his wave start.  He beat me by 8 minutes at IM Raleigh 70.3 last year.  But then I thought, well he's gonna put the hammer down on the run.  I knew he was capable of a 1:21, so that further focused me on the last few miles on the bike to get some separation.
The course was very well marked with volunteers at every turn.  You kinda have to in a race like this with three different race courses overlapping each other and going on at the same time.  It was a normal bike for me, as I was constantly passing people and no one passed me (i.e. I can't swim).  I felt pretty good coming back into town.  As I got a mile or so out of T2 I actually felt relieved and was happy to get back to T2 without crashing or getting a flat.  It was nasty out there.

1:43 Officially
I again executed my perfect dismount which drew rave reviews from the crowd (well, clapping and cheering).  I racked my bike and got my nice dry running shoes and socks out of my walmart plastic bag.  I got my visor, FuelBelt racebelt with gels on and took off.  I decided to skip the sunglasses again.

I took off with my race belt in my hand and decided to put it on when I got outside of transition.  There were not a lot of bikes in my rack, so I felt good about that.

1:27:36 Officially, 2 / 41 Age Group, 10 / 205 Overall Male Non-Pro
Garmin had 13.24 miles for a 6:37 average.  I came out of T2 feeling like I normally do: freaking great.  I popped off the first 2 miles at a 6:09 average like it was nothing. Then the hills started.  Wait, there are hills on the run course? Crud.
So we run along the river for a bit and then enter this greenway with a long steady uphill.  At the end of the first hill, I could really feel it.  It was zapping the juice out of my legs.  I tried to push, as I didn't want to get Feddock-ed.  
I got through the next 3 miles at a 6:36 average, but wasn't feeling too great anymore.  By now we were off the greenway and into a neighborhood.  The good thing was that I hadn't seen Feddock yet.   I split a 6:20 for mile 6, but he did finally catch me.  So I did some quick math: 3 minutes ahead with 7 miles to go. He'd have to run 25 seconds faster per mile to catch me.  At the pace he was running, I didn't think he had it in him.
I had passed Charlotte Pro Jenny Leiser in the neighborhood and gave her  a mid-five (It wasn't really a high five or a low five). At about 6.5 miles we made the turnaround to head back. Thankfully.  So it's a out and back, so you have all those same hills on the way back.
Then it got pretty ugly.  The uphills were killing me. Luckily no one was passing me as I average 6:47's for the next 4 miles to get to the 10 mile mark.  I took water at almost every aid station, but that was it.  I took the 4 gels I brought with me, and that was sufficient.
The last 5K, I just tried to hold it together.  I saw BSRX3 Bill and gave him a shout as he was going up a hill.  I saw my Big Sexy teammate Christy as she was coming into the greenway.  That last mile before we made the turn up by transition was tough.  I could tell my legs didn't have it.  I don't think it was the bike, or pacing.  I'm just not in the run shape I need to be.  I haven't been training hills, and that hurt today.  I wasn't totally dead, and was able to run the last 1/2 mile at a 6 flat pace.

Route into the Finish

4:33:30 Officially, 3 / 41 Age Group, 7 / 205 Overall Male Non-Pro
My Garmin had 4:33:06, so I'm not sure what happened there.  I felt spent at the finish and downed and entire water bottle without taking a breath.  
It had stopped raining, so it got a little humid.  They put a wet towel around me and that felt pretty good.
This was the first race I did with the new Garmin Connect Multisport feature.  It ties together your entire day.  It's kinda cool, for GC that is.
I walked for a little bit and talked with Jonathon and another guy, Reilly, who passed me on the run.  His dad had gotten a printout of his results, so I walked over there and got mine.  This is a really nice feature that I haven't seen at any IM race.  Maybe there are too many people.  Full Results Here.
Turns out, These weren't totally right
So I grabbed some food, and sat and ate.  I wondered back over and talked to Jonathon about his Ironcology program.  His wife was there and we talked about them possibly racing Challenge Roth. Jonathon beat me on the run by 3 minutes, but I did beat him to the finish.  My bike did the trick.
Mr. Feddock
I headed back to the hotel and got a shower.  I got all packed up, grabbed a coffee, checked out, and drove down to the parking lot closest to transition.  I walked down to get my bike and all my stuff.  That's where I first heard of the timing screwups.  Some guy in my age group said his official time was under 4 hours, but he was 17th in our age group.  I started walking back up the car and ran into Laura, Jesse's wife.  We talked for a bit and then saw Christy as she was coming to the finish.  She looked pretty good, for not having run for 8 weeks!
Creepy Hotel Photo
After I loaded my car up, I left it there and walked back to the finish line.  I ran into one of my MSA swimming friends, Dani.  She was hurting pretty good.  She did the half and was as impressed with the hills as I was.  And not in a good way.  I got back to the finish/expo area and grabbed another sandwich and drink.  I ran into former teammate, and fellow Kona 2015 qualifier Bill Beecher.  He's a local Knoxville guy, and swims like a fish.  He was 3rd overall in the Olympic.  
So we're standing there and they announce that they don't have the results yet.  And there are not gonna have them today, so they are cancelling all the awards ceremonies.  They are going to mail out the awards.  Bill said he heard that some of the people to wrecked on the bike came across the finish line with their chip and messed everything up.  I'm not sure why there were allowed to go across the finish line other than the photo op.  So I decided to just head out of town.  As I walked back to the car I ran into Christy again.  She was in pretty high spirits.  She's got time before IM Louisville to get her run on track.
Don't I look Pro?
I decided to drive out a little bit before getting something to eat.  I hit Puleo's Grill on the outskirts of Knoxville.  It seemed local enough.  I had the grouper sandwich and some Blue Moon's.  Both were positively amazing.  I did stop for a foot long sub about 2 hours later in Hendersonville, NC and wolfed that down as well.

All in all, a good day.  I was pretty happy with the 7th overall non-pro. I would have liked to do better in the AG, but there were some fast guys out there.  Thanks to Epoch Universal, Finis Swim, Rudy Project helmets, SLS3 socks and compression, Newton running shoes, and FuelBelt race belts

There's a lot of work to do in the 3 short weeks before Eagleman.  I need to get my running legs.  I was pleasantly surprised to have the 3rd overall non-pro bike split.  My 10th overall run split, unfortunately was not surprising.  I definitely faded there.  Eagleman is not hilly, so I better be able to hammer.  This is where the fun begins.