It took me long enough to write this but, I finished.
Overall everything went well. We got to Knoxville around 5 on Friday and headed right to packet pickup. The expo was empty and the decision to get there on Friday was a good one was the lines were long on Saturday.
Sun Sphere right across from the expo/finish
I don’t know about IM races but, REV3 likes to give you lots of stuff. Including lots and lots of numbers that will not be used since there isn’t a run bag, bike bag or special needs bag. I guess they can’t bargain for fewer numbers on a sheet. They also give you the infamous temp. tattoo race numbers.
Limited Edition Blue Seventy Goggles
We pretty much just hung out for a bit at the hotel and ventured out for dinner. We walked by Matty Reed but, I sort of chickened out when the opportunity to say something came about. I told the g/f who he was and she made fun of me for not saying anything and said I had a man-crush on him the rest of the weekend, oh well. He ended up finishing 10th.
Saturday was the swim practice in the freezing water. They said it was 66 degrees but, it felt much colder than that. I forgot to give myself a minute to get used to the cold water and my chest tightened up and I couldn’t breathe whilst swimming. I thought…damn…this is going to be a loooong swim. Then I got used to it and it was easy as pie…relatively. (The word ‘relatively’ would be used frequently when asked about the race. “How did the race go Brian?" “Oh it was great…relatively…considering the heat on the run.”)
Anyway, after the swim we went to get lunch and the pick up a bike for the g/f so she could watch me on the runs. It was a pretty sweet hybrid bike that she loved riding. Then I rode for 20 minutes before dropping off my bike and going for a 15 minute run…did I mention transition was covered in a parking deck?
Rev3 also like to make you feel special with awesome nameplates
The Pros get posters…maybe someday
I woke up at about 5:20 so I could be out the door by 6. The pros went off at 7 and the swim start was about a half mile from transition. I got everything set up and loaded my nutrition on the bike…including water bottles in the rear cage I just bought and used only once. I met the g/f after deciding to not wait in line for the bathroom and just used to woods since no one was really around where we met. Then we hoofed it to the swim start. I knew two people also doing the half and walked for a bit with one of them. He didn’t seem to be in a talkative mood so we picked up the pace.
The Pros went off at 7 and I put my wetsuit on when they made crossed back in front of the start. Trying to figure out the swim course was a bit worrying since the Half turn buoy wasn’t visible. They basically said, turn at the two giant red buoys…simple enough. Surprisingly they lumped the clydesdales in with the first wave rather than the second so I made my way down the dock and hopped in. The next minute consisted of me putting my face in the colder than 66 degrees water for 5-10 seconds at a time and listening to everyone talk about how cold it was.
I hadn’t come up with a swim plan per se but, I was toying with the idea of starting in the middle and seeing what happened. At the last minute I decided I’d hang back and just weave my way around people. I was literally in the back of the pack when the horn went off. I didn’t care, it was going to be a decently long day.
You’d think with 130 people on a narrow swim course you’d be able to find some feet, no such luck. I spent the first 300-400 meters passing people when they ran out of steam after the start. I stroked steadily to the turn buoy which was about 1/3 of the swim up river. The current didn’t seem strong at all. I never wear my Garmin during the swim in a race but I’m dying to know this split, oh well. The swim was uneventful after the turn, no kicks to the face or anything. One slight kick to the hand, no biggie. I was basically 5 feet from everyone on either side until the fishes from the next wave made the pass…sadly I couldn’t hold off everyone from the third wave which was 10 minutes after me.
I cruised down river for the next 2/3 of the swim and never felt tired. I wasn’t planning on swimming very hard but it’s annoying not knowing your pace.
Bike 3:20 something
After the trek to transition...across a road, down the sidewalk, up the grass to the other side of the parking deck...I found my bike stripped my wetsuit off and got ready for what seemed like a quarter mile run that weaved through transition and the parking garage to the mount line. Sadly, there are races out there with longer runs to transitions. Then I was off for 3 hours. Overall I felt good on the bike. It's too bad the same couldn't be said for my bike, mainly the rear water bottle cage. Somehow, the screws came loose and it almost fell off. Luckily it didn't but I did manage to lose a CO2 cartridge at some point. After about 10 miles I looked back and saw that it was about to fall so I stopped to tighten it. Go figure that I didn't have the right size hex wrench. I manged to use my fingers and a smaller hex wrench to tighten it as much as I could. While I was stopped, several people asked me if I was OK. It's nice to know that my fellow participants care. The tightening didn't last long and I stopped three more times to fix it. Finally on the 4th stop, someone from my tri club that I passed stopped and gave me the correct size hex wrench...I think we both enjoyed the break. Overall I probably lost 12-15 minutes stopping. Nevertheless, time wasn't important this race as I just wanted to finish.
The bike course gave some nice views of the mountains, cows, horses and three probably not stray dogs running in the road. I'm sure lots of people in "the country" let their dogs just wander. Other than that, I manged to not lose half my nutrition but did run out of water with a couple miles to go. I was happy with the way everything went until I hit the climb back to transition. There were two fairly long hills that required the small ring and I played leap frog with one guy as he wasn't a very good climber but proved to be a fearless descender when he went flying downhill around corners. The third hill back to transition was brutal, it was short but VERY steep. The lowest gear I had wasn't even low enough and I had to stand up. I felt dumb when I crossed the intersection at the top of the hill at maybe 5mph with the cop stopping traffic and all the onlookers in their cars. Then it was a pretty easy downhill to transition with one small climb up the exit ramp.
T2 was basically the reverse of T1, long path to my rack but shorter overall. I threw on my Zoots, easily this time as I used some body glide around the openings, and was off.
I had no idea how the run was going to go. My unrealistic goal (that I was convinced was realistic) was to finish in under 6 hours. I looked at the time and it was after 11:30. So, to meet my goal of Sub 6hr, I would need to run at least a 10 minute PR for a half...extremely unlikely. I decided I would shoot for 6:30. The first 2 miles of the run went well, then my body figured out how hot it was outside. It actually wasn't that hot, low 80s, but being directly in the sun made it feel like 90s. I decided I was going to walk the aid stations and a little bit after them until I reached the first "hill." Flashback to me looking at the elevation profiles and thinking "Oh, that's not a very big hill." Easy to say when you haven't swam and bike for 4 hours before you get to the "hill." It was maybe 50 feet up but at that point it looked like I had to scale a wall...I walked up it. From that point on it was walk the uphills and try run everything else. That strategy worked until about mile 10. I kept bargaining with myself on what time I could finish. When 6 was out the window, I thought maybe 6:30 if the run goes well. Then it was 7 hours. When I realized that wasn't going to happen I decided I didn't care anymore and just wanted to finish.
After about 4 miles into the run I figured out everything I was taking in was just sitting in my stomach. I tried some coke to see if that would help but I after I couple more miles and some water and gatorade I could see that my stomach was getting bigger. I decided to just drink a little water and use the rest for my head the rest of the way. They had these 8oz pouches of water that you used your teeth to rip open the corner. I began to love these as I could run with one in either hand and I had one in my back pocket during one aid station. It was interesting to see where people chose to throw the pouches when they were done. At the pre-race briefing they asked us to old on to them until the next aid station. I did just that except when I saw that people were leaving them at the signs along the run course...not a bad idea as someone would be coming by to get the signs.
Anyway, back to the race, around mile 10 I think I stopped sweating. I have no idea if I was just washing off all the sweat from using the water pouches on my head and arms and the water was evaporating or if I really did stop sweating. Either way I was in trouble since I couldn't take in anything else. I tried some gatorade at mile 11, which I could only refer to as the green one. For some reason my brain was not functioning well enough to remember the word for a sports drink they had on the course. I was glad I could provide some entertainment for the two high school girls at the aid station as they proceeded to laugh at me after asking for "the green one." Keep in mind she just asked me if I wanted gatorade or water. After that it was shuffle, walk, shuffle, walk. The last half mile was a bit mean, you run by transition and then go uphill to the expo area where the finish is. All the finishers were heading back to transition to get their bikes and they provided some encouragement. With 1/4 mile left to go I started running errr...jogging...to the finish. It was pretty easy to keep going as I could hear the finish and then it was much easier when I could see the finish. I made sure I didn't trip over the brilliantly place curb as I headed onto the grass to cross the finish line....finally.
I hit the med tent to make sure nothing was wrong since I couldn't get anything down. They packed me with ice and tried to get me to drink some Gatorade but, I told them I couldn't and I'd probably just need to wait. After 20-30 minutes in there with the g/f and seeing my calf have some crazy spasms...the g/f said it looked like there was a snake wriggling around in my leg, I felt a bit better and we headed back to the hotel. Later I found out I completely missed the post race food if there was any left.
I'm happy I finished and I'm not upset with my time since it was my first Half. Maybe I'll shoot for under 6:30 for the next one.