Friday, July 17, 2015

Race Report: Challenge Knoxville Triathlon - Olympic Distance (May 17, 2015)

To preface, I laid out my season a little odd this year. I'm focusing primarily on the Olympic distance races. My season is basically divided in two with an A race for each half. My first A race of the season is Challenge Williamsburg. My plan was and is to use Challenge Knoxville and IM70.3 Raleigh as B races and training platforms. For Knoxville, my plan was pretty simple. Go out hard and see where my fitness was for the Oly distance but don't kill myself two weeks out from Raleigh. Easy enough.....

The morning started off status quo. Woke up on time, had my normal pre-race breakfast of Greek yogurt and granola with a glass of OJ and cup of coffee. I got my kit on and my lovely wife expertly applied my race numbers. I threw my stuff (which I packed the night before) into my car and headed for the race site. On the way I noticed some rain sprinkles on my windshield...
After parking, I lugged my gear to transition and set up my rack. It was still sprinkling rain. Bike shoes clipped and rubber banded to the bike, running shoes out and baby powdered (more on that later), race belt down (and buckled), aero bottle filled with water, rear bottle filled with super mix of my custom Infinit Nutrition bike blend, helmet and glasses in position. It is now raining harder. I place my bag next to the wall and cover it with a garbage bag. I step into my wetsuit and give my gear a final check. By now it's getting close to our wave start so I make my way to the dock with Blaik Ogle and Marc. As we're walking out of transition, the first group of pros are coming in. We all stop and stare as they enter and exit T1 in a flash. There's a reason they're pros.

At swim start it's now raining very hard. It's now our turn to jump in and get ready to go. There's talking over the speakers, blah blah, words, numbers, AIR HORN!!!! Right, off we go. The swim start was a bit chaotic. I started too far back in the pack and got caught behind some slower swimmers (guess those paddle workouts are paying off). I fight my way through and find cleaner water. I settle into my comfortable pace, keeping a weather eye on the first buoy turn. I wanted to stay calm and comfortable through the turn, keep my heart rate in check and then pick up speed when I get the current coming back. Everything is clicking at this point. I swing wide at the first buoy and let the current nudge me in as I headed for the middle of the channel and the second buoy. Made the turn and headed back for the swim exit. I kept my rhythm but increased my speed continuing to sight every 4th or 5th stroke. I swim for a bit longer, then before I know it, I'm at the dock. Now is the time for coordination and grace: Climb out (don't fall), goggles and cap off with left hand, start running (don't fall), hit lap button on Garmin with right hand, unzip suit, pull halfway down, don't trip over the step, earplugs out, smile at Mom as I run by, enter T1. Success! Race day goal number 1: don't drown. Check.

T1 was smooth and I was out on the bike. Working my way out of town I was still feeling the swim slightly and the short steep climbs, railroad tracks and such didn't make it easy to get any sort of rhythm. I made the turn onto Martin Mill and settled in for the first climb of the day. I crested the top and settled in for the descent. I fancy myself a pretty competent bike handler but wet roads and high speed downhill turns give me the heebie-jeebies. I maintained speed without taking any unnecessary risks and made it down safely. This would be my mantra for the day. I continued on my way. I passed a bunch of people. Some time around the aid station I hear behind me "Dang it Derek! I've been trying to catch you for 10 minutes!" I look over to see Justin Cazana slide up beside me. We exchange some banter as I let him complete his pass. I drop back out of his draft fall back into my pace. He and I would go back and forth several more times before the day is done. I make the turn and head back toward Neubert Springs and the "final" climb of the day. I crest Neubert feeling good and successfully come down the other side. I let Justin go at this point as he's screaming down the descent but at the bottom I still have him in my sights. He will be my carrot. Coming down the home stretch of the bike course I came out of my shoes a bit early. Not a big deal, just misjudged where I was on the course. Still, rather pedal on my shoes for an extra 15 seconds than come out late (or not at all). I hit the button on my Garmin before I reach the dismount line. I come rolling up to T2, successfully dismount at the line without crashing (although I did hook my leg on my bottle, I avoided catastrophe. I also promptly adjusted my cage position upon returning home). Into T2, rack the bike, hat on, number belt on, shoes on, off I go... "DEREK TURN AROUND!!!", I turn around and see Paula Garrison Herston frantically motioning to the Run Out sign. oooooh, right then! Crisis averted. Thanks Paula! Now, off I go...

The run was fairly uneventful. I started out going well. My heart rate was holding steady around 170 and my pace was solid at 7:40. Legs felt pretty good and I settle into a zone quickly. Through the first aid station, still felt good. Maintained my pace through mile 3 and the turn. On the way back in I could feel some pre cramp twinges in my quads so I shortened my stride and increased my turnover. I was able to manage my pace and come through without ever actually cramping. Coming back up to the finish shoot I was happy to be done with the day. Cross the line, get my medal, hug my wife... good day.

Take-aways from the day:
1. I'm happy with my progress thus far. I feel like I'm at a pretty good spot for this early in the season. I have room to improve and time to do it.
2. This was by far the best swim I've ever had. I was calm, cool and fast. I consider swimming my weakest link and I'm happy with my improvements both mentally and physically.
3. I love racing with my friends. Sharing the course with my friends and Rocky Top Multisport Club mates is a fantastic experience. I feel truly honored to be a part of this club and to call these people my friends.
4. Challenge Family Americas puts on one helluva race. Even with the slight timing issue, the race was extremely well run. I felt safe and well supported at every portion of the race.
Thank you to everyone who came out and volunteered and to those who just came out to watch and support. You guys are awesome and we, the athletes, can't thank you enough! Now, on to the next adventure.... Ironman 70.3 Raleigh, here I come!!

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