Rev3 Knoxville has quickly become one of my favorite races on the calendar. It always come shortly after St Anthony’s and it is a great contrast in style. St Anthony’s is a rough ocean swim followed by a super fast, flat bike and run. Knoxville, is a fast flat water river swim, followed by a super tough and hilly bike and run. Both have their own challenges and both races this year were super deep and fast.
Going back to Knoxville this year was all about redemption. Last year Matty caught me with less than a mile to go and ended up beating me by about 10 seconds. Going in this year nothing shy of a win was going to be really a satisfactory result as I knew I was in better shape and more motivated. That said this years field was bigger and faster than last year’s and on paper was going to present a huge challenge. I like challenges.
This year Krista at Rev3 set up my family with an amazing home stay with a Knoxville local. I gotta give a huge thanks to Fred and his wife Ali for being such amazing hosts and making our trip so painless. Its not every day you find a family willing to take in a couple with a baby but their 2 yr old daughter provided great entertainment for Liam and we couldn’t have asked for better. Getting in late on Friday evening was initially a bit of a concern, but a short drive from the airport and a relatively happy baby, and we got to their place and crashed for the night.
Saturday morning came early as I had to get over to the race site for my Rev3 pre race interview. Hyping up the pro race is something that Rev3 does better than any of the other races and I think it is something that if done well adds a lot to the race weekend for the age group athletes as well as the fans and spectators at home. after the interview I grabbed a nice breakfast with the family and Matt and Kelly at a local spot and then headed out with Matty and Kyle to pre ride some of the course. I have done this race the past two years but I still feel like there is a lot to be gained from knowing exactly where you will be going on race day. Post ride I got in a quick run and then headed to the river to put the new Blue Seventy Helix through the paces. After swimming it was off to the pro meeting and then the pro panel Q&A. The meeting was smooth and the Q&A short and painless and we were able to get out of the heat and back to the house to put our feet up.
Normally in Knoxville I grab my pre race pizza from Mellow Mushroom, but on a suggestion from our hosts we headed over to Hard Knox for some good wood fire pizza and some draught root beer. Both were excellent and after we headed back to the house, kicked it on the porch watching the river for a bit and hit the sack early to get ready for the mornings rumble.
4:10 came about the same time it always does but at least this week I had been able to sleep a bit better. After the standard oatmeal and First Endurance EFS breakfast I hoped on the bike and cruised over to the race start. I got in a solid warm up, figured out the in’s and out’s of the new transition and followed the masses up river to the start. A quick lil splash around and it was game time.
I set up on the line out as far into the river as I could and with a direct shot at the turn buoy up river. On the gun I got a great start and twenty or so strokes in I was in clear water and picking my line. We were headed straight at the sun which made sighting a bit tough, but after I got my bearings I dropped into a nice groove and tried to keep things consistent. Nomally in a wet suit swim it is really hard to get any kind of a gap on the group and the wetsuit is the great equalizer for the less aquatically savvy, however, in this case once I was clear I was able to get clear. I realized as I was exiting on the dock that I had just swum a 1500m open water race without being touched once. Anywhere.
I threw a glance over my shoulder and saw I had a bit of a gap and threw it in to high gear as I sprinted up the dock. I was surprised at the gap but I wasn’t about to
waste any of it jogging into T1. I was able to get the wettie mostly off by the time I got to my bike and after throwing on the helmet and glasses I was off. After dodging a person in the middle of the bike out lane I got into my shoes and started hammering away. The bike course starts out relatively flat but then you quickly get out of the city and into the country hills where the fun really begins. I felt strong and really tried to hammer the uphills as we headed to the turn around but when I got there it wasn’t more than a few seconds before I saw Yoder, and not much behind him Bennett was coming on fast. I headed out of the U-turn full gas and tried to stay calm while picking up the pace. The good news was that everyone else in the race was a ways back and at that point I felt confident it would be a 3 man game that came down to the run. Obviously, a running battle with GB is not the perfect scenario but he was riding well and I did everything I could over the second 20k to max out my lead.
A quick change into the kicks and headband and I was off pounding the road. I didn’t know exactly what the gap to Benno was but I wasn’t about to start looking around. The biggest benefit of an out and back is that if your gap is large enough, the chaser won’t know exactly how far down they are until half way, which on a good day could prove to be too late. Unfortunately for me, Sunday was not that day and when I hit the turn and started running back I quickly realized I only had about 20 seconds on the old man. I did what I could over the 4th and 5th miles to maintain the gap but about mile 5.5 GB caught and passed me and my futile attempt to stay with him lasted all of 20 of so meters.
I hate the feeling of being solidly in second. On one hand you are stoked that you have put in a great race and are in second, but on the other hand you have just been passed and dropped by the new leader and you know there will be no catching back up. You gotta keep your head in the right place, keep pushing the pace and make sure you don’t do something dumb and get caught by someone else. Second is the first loser, but it still pays better than 3rd.
Another bride’s maid finish at Rev3 Knoxville, after another great race and a hard fought battle. The theory is I will go as hard as I possible can for as long as I can and if someone catches me, then hats off to them. This year I swam 1:30 faster than last year, rode a full minute faster and ran 15 seconds faster. Doesn’t mean much when you still get 2nd, but at least I am getting faster. If I can ever sort this run thing out on a regular basis, I’m gonna be tough to catch!
Now I have a couple weeks at home before heading up to do a race I have always wanted to do, the Columbia Triathlon on May 20th. Time to get in some good workouts, enjoy being at home, and get ready for the next one.
Till next year Knoxville, I’ll be back…