Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rev3 Knoxville

Sometimes you've just gotta go race. I made a late decision to race the Rev3 Olympic Tri in Knoxville, TN this past weekend. Originally I was not planning on racing until Memorial Day weekend, due to my lost fitness from the heel injury and getting sick last week, but about a week before the race I really got the itch to race. Coach Melissa had me do a 40k bike time trial workout to see where I was at. The workout didn't go incredibly well nor too poorly either; I'm not sure what it was that fed my desire to want to race, but on the way home from the workout I got VERY eager to race. I found myself thinking "forget the injuries, sickness, wondering if I'm ready, just simply go RACE! I train to race, not to just train." You can always be more ready, fitter, and so on. Just go race!

I booked a flight on Frontier using airline miles. I had emailed Rev3 previously a few weeks prior telling them to take me off the start list. I checked if it was too late to re-register, and was told they actually had never taken me off the start list, so I was good to go. (Side note: Frontier recently became the first airline I know to change their policy and no longer charge bike fees! Thank you Frontier!! This is HUGE, since Frontier's hub is in Denver. Frontier, you just got thousands of cyclists and triathletes to fly with you now!). Krista Baker at Rev3 arranged a hotel room for Josh & I, and I can honestly say that Rev3 has done an amazing job in the 2 short years of their existence. They know how to put on a professional, top-notch, high quality, big prize money race and truly serve the athletes. Everything is professional: race organization, setup, meals, videos, media coverage, website, etc. Thank you Rev3!

The week of the race I came down with a sore throat and bit of sickness, but there was a far larger concern that I thought may change my plans again at the last minute. My grandfather in Michigan unexpectedly collapsed in his yard due to bleeding in his brain, and had to undergo two emergency brain surgeries the next several days. I am very thankful that my grandfather is pressing on and slowly healing from the events; they were serious surgeries and the family was quite concerned. My mother flew out to Michigan to be with him the night of the first emergency surgery and has been there all week. He is slowly recovering, gaining memory, and hopefully will be able to come home from the hospital in the near future. He was coherent enough the night before the race to tell my mom to pass on a message to me on the phone: "Get er done." That was very encouraging to hear.

Multisport Ministries also is now connected with the Rev3 race series, and the MsM chaplain John Adams was putting together an event the night before the race called Tri Inspire, and had asked myself and fellow MsM teammate Josh Merrick to speak at the event. So, there were more than enough reasons to make the trip. The Tri Inspire event MsM was a great opportunity to meet new people as well as share a bit of thoughts about racing with purpose and finding joy in our pursuits, something I have been trying very hard to do lately.

The Race Report:
I finished 16th out of 28 pros and 12 seconds behind Josh. The swim went considerably better than the Miami 5150 race in March. My TYR Hurricane Cat 5 wetsuit from the guys at Kompetitive Edge was incredible, and luckily the water temp was cold enough for the race to allow wetsuits. This favors the weaker swimmers like myself. I didn't feel super great on the swim, but found myself sitting in the back of about a 15-person main chase pack. The last 10 minutes or so I became anxious to try to make a move and pass the group, but simply couldn't get around anyone as the group was strung out wide and I was sitting at the back. After a few kicks to the arms and one hard one to my face, I decided it was best to just sit in the group. This was a good decision looking back, as I was able to draft off the pack, conserve energy, and the leaders (Cam Dye, Olympian Matt Reed, the young stud and uber-biker Andrew Yoder, and Brian Fleischman who shares my same coach) were already strung out ahead so my chances of getting away from this group wasn't the greatest anyways. I came out of the water a bit over a minute down from the leaders, who were crushing it at the front. I honestly felt like it was a slow swim, as I really could have picked up the pace. After pulling myself onto the dock out of the river, I could see I was in the same pack as Australians Joe Gambles of team Trek-KSwiss and Richie Cunningham, and Andrew Starkowicz and other swimmers who I honestly would have thought would have gotten away from me. It was a fine swim considering I had a lot more left in the tank as well.
Onto the bike, the group honestly got away from me pretty quickly, other than a couple of guys including Starkowicz. He's usually a machine on the bike (he won the bike prime two years ago at the Ironman 70.3 world championships.. yes, he's strong), but he just came off an injury as well so was a bit off form. I passed Starkowicz the first mile or so of the bike, and rode behind another athlete for about the first 30 minutes of the ride until I knew I needed to move up on one of the steep climbs. The bike course was tough, and consisted of mostly rolling hills. Starkowicz passed me at about the half way point, and the rest of the ride my goal was to keep him in sight, which I did for all of it minus the final mile or two.

The bike is where the race got away from me. I NEED to make cycling a serious priority the next 6 months! I can usually run with the good pros in the sport when I am fit. I was right there at the Miami race. Apparently, with my TYR wetsuit :) I can hang on the swim with some of the decent main pack swimmers as well (but NOT the top swimmers yet; they're truly in a league of their own). But honestly right now, I CANNOT ride with these guys. It's discouraging, but I need to start facing the facts, and getting my butt in gear. Yes, I pass a few people during races and outbiked a group of the pros, but the truth is the bike spread is huge between the best cyclists in the sport and the worst. A poor bike split can set you back over 5-7 minutes, whereas a poor swim will only put you back a minute or two. This is why cycling is CRUCIAL in Olympic distance non-draft racing. If you're not strong on the bike, you're out of the race. Yes, the top pros have experience on me by many years, but I am racing in the pro division this year and need to man up and try to COMPETE. If my cycling does not improve, I simply cannot compete. I have a lot of work to do.
At the end of the bike, I found myself going nearly 30mph into transition 2, riding head on with 4 or 5 age group women coming out of the transition area straight at me. They had swerved onto my side of the road instead of staying on the right side out of transition. I screamed at them as did a number of spectators, and somehow I swerved around them all, avoided a crash, and was able to dismount at the last second before the dismount line and run into transition (with my cycling shoes on, clunking away, as I was unable to unstrap the shoes and run barefoot as I usually do due to the mishap). I escaped without a crash so I can't complain too much. However, it would be good if more athletes started paying attention to rules and course boundaries.

The summary of the run is this: I struggled the entire 10k with a bad gut cramp from taking an energy gel too late on the bike. I passed Starkowicz and one other athlete on the run, but was passed by teammate Josh Merrick at about the halfway point. Josh said I looked pretty hunched over when he passed me. My legs felt good, but stomach was forcing my pace to slow. I ran a mid 35 minute 10k, about 2 1/2 minutes slower than I ran in Miami with my personal best 10k run split there. A 35 minute 10k is no longer acceptable for me.

The goal of the race was to give an honest hard effort. I didn't expect a breakthrough race, but the hope of one is always there even if the fitness may not be. I gave a hard effort, but cannot honestly say I raced all out the entire time. I was hindered by cramps, but need to be stronger mentally to fight through them. Again, I have a lot of work to do.
The weekend was still a success, however, as I was able to meet some great folks from the race and fellow members of Multisport Ministries. I strive to continue to race for a greater purpose than myself, which has been a struggle to keep at the front of my mind at times, especially feeling the pressure that results are the only thing that matter...though that's not exactly the case; it's a goal of mine to keep a balanced perspective on things. There are many opportunities to impact others through this sport. Onward to the next race, the Capital of Texas Triathlon in two weeks. I'm headed to Austin to race and for the wedding of my good friend Derek Yorek the day after the race.
Time to keep putting in the work! Onward. Thanks for the support.

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