Rev 3 Knoxville…

What an opportunity.

The days leading up to the race were wonderful.
I was lucky enough to have an incredible friend fly over for support
and wound up staying with one of the most generous human beings I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

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The race was staged out of the Worlds Fair Park (built in 1982) where the famous Sunsphere resides.

Knoxville is a funky area. It’s marked by beauty and sadness. Old manufacturing buildings lay dormant, serving to recall times when the city was a wholesale and manufacturing hub. But amongst the empty lots and unused brick lay funky restaurants,  boutiques,  and The Three Rivers Market – where we collected exceptional produced and goods to fuel my athletic endeavors! If you’re ever in Knoxville looking for fresh organic produce and “health” foods this place is a must. They even have a ready and available bike stand to work on your machine – equipped with tools and pump!

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I swam in the funky 20 meter pool at the down town YMCA – incredibly friendly and helpful staff…

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Drove the race course – gawking at some of the houses

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and just laid low – enjoying the funky neighborhood in which we stayed…IMG_4233

On Saturday the cold came, and then the rain. IMG_4295

Prior to race day the section of river we finish at was opened for a window of time and I was able to get a feel for the river and the water temp. Man was I grateful to have my TYR Freak of Nature – I had all the warmth of a wetsuit and all the freedom through my stroke. The river was a cool scene – four massive cranes and the construction for which they existed loomed over us. The grey skies and chilly temps furthered the rugged industrial feel.

I felt better after the swim – the river is wide, leaving plenty of room to navigate through the waves that would be starting ahead of me. But I was nervous, particularly about the bike portion. My wave was the last to go off – even if I rode perfectly someone els from the earlier waves could go down and cause a collision, the course was relatively technical and I was unsure of how many people I would be working to get around. I worked on passing over that in my visualizations and replacing it with a smooth crash free ride. Nick was also kind enough to take me out and sharpen up my bike handling skills – practice practice practice – it always pays off.

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Race day weather: 52 with pouring rain.

I lined up at the start with confidence in my training and was ready to bring it – I love to race and I came to Knoxville to do just that.

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We started further up the river – deep water start – and finished at the dock in the earlier photo where I was diving.

The start was called and we were off.
I was second out of the water, first on to the bike and I only thought about moving forward.

My swim time was slow compared to the pros. I attribute the severity of the time gap to navigation. I realized afterward I should have been much deeper in the river when heading down stream – to catch the current.

My bike time was also slow. I rode too conservatively the first half – partly because of the fear of a wipe out and partly because I was so damn cold. My feet and hands went numb and I was having trouble making my hands shift gears. But I bit down mentally and turned it up the second half of the bike.

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Coming in to transition I hit the ground with my numb feet and was ready to run – only problem was I had no control over my numb hands – I couldn’t get my helmet unbuckled. I struggled with this far longer than I would have liked. For a split second I thought “…you’ve come all this way to be stuck in transition in your space helmet!?”  finally I smashed my numb stubs in such a way that the buckle popped – few! Nick mentioned after I could have just ran in the helmet – I chuckled – noted for next time.

I promised myself that if I got off the bike I would run with no complaints – so when I couldn’t feel my feet I just felt grateful that I was off the bike and running – and I was so ready to run. Yet this was another learning experience. I have been racing a lot of 5ks and have started to figure them out. However I haven’t raced a 10k since November and was afraid of going out to strong. I new I had a lead on the bike but did not want to falter at the end of the run. I held back the first half – rounded the turn around – saw the other ladies not too far off and stepped up my pace ready to battle if necessary. It’s never over till it’s over and that’s a fact about racing I love – it’s what makes racing racing.

I focused on picking off the men in front of me. I was completely in the moment. When I passed by transition I had .5 miles left and I knew I would not let myself be caught. So I smiled with joy as I crossed the line. And I cried.

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There I am. Freezing.

I wound up in the top 10 – 7th female overall and the first amateur.
I know I still have a long ways to go but I have no doubts about getting there. The opportunity to race in such difficult conditions provided an incredible learning experience and I am walking away from this stronger on many levels. I  did what I came to do and I am so grateful for that. I am also deeply grateful the support that makes turning a dream into reality very possible.

We never get anywhere alone. Though I am the only one who can line myself up at the start, the only one who can carry myself down the finish chute (or unbuckled my helmet in T2 😉 I’m never doing it alone. My successes are the product of many hard working hands.

To my coach Jenny – who always lays out my big girl pants, to Nick for your awesome pictures, unmatched race support love and laughs! To Emily for opening your home and kindess (and all my lulu’s!). To Amanda, my sister, who has shown me what it means to be courageous. To the rest of my family without whom I could not do this. To Dr. Jay for fine tuning the machine that is my body. To Anica for shaping my life and filling me with knowledge. To Kim whose Kaleberry tatoos hung on through wind and rain! To Scott, who has never left my side though a content and ocean now stand between us.

Thank you all. I look forward to what lies ahead and returning to you what you have invested in me.

With love,
Rae