Well it took four tries but finally I held on to win the Rev3 Knoxville Triathlon.
The first time I did it I was coming off a big win and St Anthony’s and people were talking about me being the favorite to come to Knoxville for the inaugural race. I led off the bike but ended up fourth on the day. Then two years ago I had a decent lead off the bike, but was run down by Matty in the last mile of the run for a good second place finish. Then there was last year. More or less a repeat of 2011, with GB catching and passing me in that last mile again, and having to settle for second. Normally I would be really excited about the great video coverage that Rev3 puts together, but after being passed the late in the race the last two years frankly I’m just tired of seeing it.
Bring on 2013. This year I showed up to Knoxville in good form coming out of St Anthony’s last weekend, and ready to throw down. My family was in tow, and we have a wonderful homestay with the Smith’s in Knoxville and frankly look forward to this race every year. This year was gonna be different. the game plan was going to be the same. Swim from the front, bike my legs off, and hold on for dear life. That part never changes. What was going to be different was me not being caught on video relinquishing the lead in the final mile and finishing second. I was tired of being first loser, and wanted to actually break the finish tape in first. The other thing that was different was the weather. All week leading up to the race, and Thursday when we arrived, it was in the 70′s and sunny. Perfect racing weather. Race day forecast, 100% chance of rain, and temperatures in the low 50′s.
Now normally by May most parts of the US are not real well suited for those race temps, but considering the 303 has gotten snow the last 4 weeks I actually was pretty well trained. Race morning I woke up in the dark and couldn’t hear the rain. I got super stoked, thought maybe TN weather men were like CO’s and were wrong a lot, and it was gonna be a beautiful day. I got in my normal breakfast, instant oatmeal and First Endurance EFS, and gathered my things for my nice mellow 20 min warm up ride to transition. Grabbed the bike, the new Fuji Norcom Straight, it’s wicked fast and looks awesome, and we headed out the door.
Rain. Lots and lots of rain. I guess it was one of those long slow rains my parents always talk about us never getting in CO that actually help the plants. I am used to 10 min torrential downpours with crazy lightning and flash floods, but this was quiet, soaking wet rain. I headed back inside, grabbed the rain gear and headed out anyway. I’m a swimming, no way a little water was gonna make me change my warm up. So after getting nice and soggy on the ride over, I got in a jog, put the bike up, grabbed the B70 Helix and headed out to the swim start. Oh, and did I mention that along with the rain and cold the water was 56 degrees? Perfect racing weather.
We hit the water just a couple minutes before the start, so after a quick out and back, shake the arms out, numb and warm your face, we lined up for the gun. Side note, I’m not sure if it was the cold water, or the current, but we actually for once had a fair swim start with no creeping. It was really nice and professional. Anyway, they blew the horn and we were off. I kicked my frozen feet for all they were worth and got to the lead. From there it was time to put my head down, fight the current and get to the down river part first. A couple turns later I was in the lead and sailing downstream. I moved over to the middle of the river because the current was stronger and headed for the exit. They say the swim was 14:55. That’s really fast. I’ll take it but obviously the current was helping us along.
Out of the water and into the rain, I ran the long swim exit to T1 and hoped on the new ride. Its funny how much water you can deal with when you have the adrenaline of a race going. Pouring rain and riding through puddles actually seemed kind of fun at the time as I tore off chasing a cop car trying to put as much distance as I could between myself and the super runners in the field. You will not get caught, you will not get caught was the mantra of the day and as I hammered up the beautiful rollers on the course I just kept repeating it. The weather was foul and the roads were slick so I took to the strategy of hitting the uphills extra hard knowing that I was going to descend with a lot of caution. Figured I would make the chasers take the risks on the corners and I would just ride hard and stay rubber side down. At the half way point were there is an out and back I saw that I had a solid lead over 2nd, and a bigger gap to the group, but knowing that has been the case both of the past two years I just tried to ride harder.
The rain wasn’t too bothersome, I mean really riding in the rain is fun, but by the end of the 40k my hands were frozen and I was actually dreading T2. None the less I eventually had to get off my bike and do my best to get my running shoes on. It only took about 3 attempts with each shoe, but after what seemed like forever I popped off my helmet and was away. Slowest T2 I will have all year, guaranteed! The surprising part was how good my legs felt as I began the run, but usually if you feel good you aren’t going hard enough, and since I didn’t know exactly what my lead was I tried to find a little more turnover. You will not get caught.
The run is mostly a long out and back, and at the turn around I braced myself for anything. Someone could have run me down already, or I could have a big gap but as I headed back I just tried to not let up. Slogging through the puddles was fun at the beginning but by now my legs were tired and after watching the lead bike slide out on a wooden bridge I was ready to push home and get warm. I realized I still had a big lead at the turn around, but after last year I wasn’t willing to concede anything and I really tried to keep pushing all the way to the line. Once I got to the hill there was a major sense of relief, as I realized there was no one pounding up behind me and I was had actually held on.
As I came to the finish shoot I looked for my wife and son thinking maybe this would be my chance to carry him across the finish line, but with the rain he was bundled up in his stroller just past the banner. I crossed the line, found them, and took a breathe. Every win as a pro triathlete is a big deal. There are no such thing as easy races anymore and if you don’t bring your best someone will beat you. This one was a little bit more special after the last couple years though, and in the end I hope they got some good footage of me way out in front, as a little redemption for the shots of me getting run down.
Check out the pro recap video, I won’t say that it completely does the race conditions justice, but you get the idea.
Now a couple weeks at home before I head to the Columbia Triathlon to defend my title and hopefully hammer up some more tough hills to a big W.