In the right direction – Rev3 Knoxville

This past weekend was the final Rev3 pro race, and it was also the culmination of the 2013 series. The race was down in Knoxville, in one of my favorite towns, and one of my favorite courses. This race has had a lot of ups and downs for me over its history but with last years win easily became one of my favorite annual stops. This year the course was going to be a little bit different as Rev3 had decided to create a hybrid distance to try and even the playing field for both the olympic and half specialists. The race was 1.2mi swim/40mi bike/10mi run and featured the same course as the olympic of past years with additions.

Now if you are reading this, you probably know full well that I am an olympic distance guy, and haven’t had the best of luck with runs longer than the standard 10k. The 10mi business was a whole new can of worms, but I was actually pretty excited about it as I felt like my training has been going really well, and that the extra time on the bike along with a longer but not full 13mi run might actually suit me pretty well.

In the past its not always been my fitness that has held me up in the longer events but rather my nutrition and seeming inability to get it right on race day, so going into this race I pulled on all of my resources to come up with a good nutrition plan for the distance. Lately, I have been noticing in training that it is often times dehydration that gets me as opposed to actual lack of calories so for this race the plan was to focus on hydration and just try and down enough calories to get me by.

As a proud First Endurance athlete I know the products that work the best, and it is simply a matter of getting the quantity and timing right. So in an effort to keep things simple I just took my normal international distance nutrition and beefed it up a bit. I focused heavily on my hydration leading into the race, pounding the EFS every chance I got and then stuck to my normal oatmeal and EFS breakfast. For the race I mixed up a bigger batch of my patented Hulk Juice, so in this case it was a full 400 cal EFS liquid shot, 1/2 a scoop of pre race and 2 scoops of EFs in a bottle. Then I had a bottle of water as well for a combined 40oz of liquid. On the run I had a gel flask with 300 cal and some water to make it easier to drink and used that for the first 7 or so miles at aid stations so I had water to wash it down. It worked like a charm. A far cry from my pitstop in the bushes the last time I tried to run over 6 miles.

Now with a good nutrition plan in hand, it was game time. With a stacked field of both strong cyclist and runners it was going to be a bit of a chess match to see what strategy would prevail. I knew that my run was solid but that with the likes of Tim Don in the field I was going to need almost 4 mins off the bike to be able to maintain a lead. Now that seems like a lot, and it is, especially the way Tim has been riding, but I knew that was my best chance so I gave it a go.

Morning of the race turned out to be chilly, and it was announced we would be rocking the neoprene in the water. It got mixed reviews but in the end I was just glad to stay a little bit warmer. I had a good start at the gun, and pulled in just behind Kyle for the first bit of the swim. He was setting a good pace and we clipped through the first turn buoys with things already strung out. As we headed for home he veered a bit off the shortest line, and I held course and ended up coming out of the water in the lead, with 4 other guys in tow. All five of us were wearing Blue 70 wetsuits, just saying…

On the bike I grabbed a quick swig of hulk juice and began to tick over the pedals. I stuck with my plan to ride hard, but under control and really try and nail the hills. I was feeling strong, but Yoder was able to finally bridge the gap at about mile 25. He forced me to up my effort a bit, which I was hesitant to do at the time, but you gotta be in the race to win the race, so I sucked it up and went with him. Turned out to be a good move as I actually began to feel even better a few miles later and reclaimed the lead, but also at the one and only turn around realized that even with my effort the gap to Tim and the boys wasn’t what I had hoped for. I put my head down and hammered home, staying on the nutrition plan, and mentally gearing up for the chase.

One of the biggest issues with a new distance is knowing how hard to push early on, so with a little bit of conservative thinking I headed out of T2 a bit ahead of the other riders. I was trying to focus on my form and staying relaxed, but my back was tight and I just didn’t feel very good running. At about mile 4 you begin to hit some solid hills, which for me is a blessing as it makes things more about strength than pure speed. I stayed strong through the out portion of the course but as I made the turn to head back, I could see my gap to Tim was down to about 15 second, and Kevin had pulled within another 30 or so. Immediately my mind went into salvage mode, but I tried to stay aggressive and get back through the hilly section in good shape and in the lead. The one thing about making runners ride hard is that sometimes they try an pull things back to quickly so I was hoping maybe if I could just dangle a bit longer out front the wheels might fall off.

Unfortunately for me, Tim is in top form, which I knew, and he easily caught and passed me about mile 6, but when he did I upped my tempo just a bit and by doing so actually started to feel better. I was fighting some leg cramping but just tried to focus on staying as close to Tim as I could, knowing Kevin was hot in pursuit. As Tim got out of sight and I was left to my own devices I just tried to stay mentally in the race, and talk myself into how I was going to get 2nd. As I continued to feel strong running, that boosted morale, and when I hit the final mile, I heard I still had 45 seconds to Kevin. That was huge for me mentally, as it was obvious the gap was holding and that I really was moving pretty good. Its not often I feel strong at the end of a run, so this was a nice change as I hammered up the final hill to the finish.

I had come up short of my goal to win, but I lost to a 4 time ITU world champ. More importantly, I proved to myself that maybe I can go well over a longer distance, and that maybe I am a tougher runner than I thought. Now don’t get me wrong, this years focus remains squarely on international/olympic distance, but maybe, just maybe, there could be some 70.3’s in my future.

Some day.

Now I have a week to get ready for the next Lifetime Series race in Austin on Memorial Day…

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