Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rev3 Knoxville- Age Group Championship Race

My big outing in May this year was to journey down to Knoxville, TN for the Rev3 Age Group Series Championship race.  This race had been on my calendar for a long time, and Ben and I rearranged our schedules to turn it into a short "race-cation" with a stop in Asheville, NC afterwards.  The age group series worked by recording the best 2 Rev3 race finishes of each participant throughout the previous race season. The top scorers were invited to compete in the championship race, which was a distance in between the Olympic Rev and Half Rev course lengths.  Along with bragging rights, there was prize money on the line for the 1st-3rd place finishers in each age group in the series, and sponsor prizes for 4th and 5th places.  It was a great opportunity for age groupers to have a competitive, "pro"-type experience, so of course I couldn't pass it up.  The Age Group Series is running again in 2014 with the championship in Knoxville in 2015, so start planning and collecting your race finishes now!

The Knoxville Sunsphere at World's Fair Park, site of the expo and finish line
It's a long drive from Wisconsin (10.5 hours, if you believe Google) so we left Madison reeeeally early Friday morning (closer to Thursday night...) in order to make it to Knoxville in time for dinner with the race staff and Team Rev3. We also ended up with time to check in at the expo, so we were able to pick up our packets and swag.  Rev3 seems to have upped their game in the swag department this year with a few new and unique items, which was cool to see.  Included among my freebies: a little Rev3 logo bag inspired by cycling musettes, a Rev3 Buff, a Rev3 sticker, a PowerBar, a cute female-cut black shirt that was specific to the championship race, and a Headsweats Rev3 Knoxville visor.  Quite a haul!  We stuck around after dinner to cheer in the runners at the Rev3Glow run. They had both a 5k and a 1 mile course, so a lot of families and kids were racing and seemed to have a blast.

In typical Team Rev3 fashion, my morning was spent at the practice swim introducing athletes to the great products SBR Sports makes.  Team members handed out samples from the TriSwim line, samples of Foggies, and even sprayed athletes down with TriSlide to help them slip in and out of their wetsuits with ease and avoid chafing. The water temperature much warmer than last year, hovering around 70*F- perfect for just shimmer suits!

Next on the docket was a quick bike ride to wake up our legs.  I was eager to see the new section I would be running on the AG Champ course after racing the Olympic distance last year.  I always highly recommend checking out courses in advance of racing them if possible, to learn the nature of any technical or difficult sections and check out road quality, etc.  However, you should always do so carefully!  Keep an eye out for pedestrians and vehicles as well as any other hazards that you might not be dealing with on race day.  In this case, Blake, Ben, and I were startled by a bridge lip coming down a steep hill at mile 5.4 of the championship course.  A small bump that wouldn't have been worth mentioning on a run turned into a problem while cycling- Ben flatted and I warped the rim on my race wheel slightly with the impact.  Always pay attention!

The last major task of the day was to check in our bikes at transition.  The transition area at Knoxville changed locations slightly from last year, from the bottom floor of a parking garage into a pretty spot next to the greenway that also made for a shorter run in transition 1.  The bike check went quickly and smoothly.  I like advance check-in a lot, especially for large races, because it cuts down so much on race morning chaos for both the athletes and staff.  For example, there are no lines in the morning to check race numbers and bar ends, and no athletes distractedly careening around trying to make last minute checks and repairs.  I like being able to roll out on race morning with just a backpack, knowing that my bike is already safely where it needs to be. 

Iggy is all settled in for the night

Race Day
Last year, Rev3 Knoxville took place on a somewhat chilly and rainy day that had most people longing for the usual southern heat and humidity.  Luckily, this year Mother Nature smiled upon us with beautiful weather!

Swim: 1.2 mi, 30:33
The Knoxville swim is point-to-point in the Tennessee River, from Calhoun's dock down to the Lady Vols rowing boathouse. The only change from the Olympic course was that the Half Rev and Championship swimmers had a longer stretch upriver to start off. 30+ is not a great time for me, but I always take swim splits with a grain of salt since conditions vary so widely (current, chop, etc.) and it's hard to set an accurate buoy course and keep all of them from moving.  The best way I know to judge a swim is to consider what I felt like in the water, how straight I swam, and how my time stacks up compared to others whose swimming ability I am familiar with.  I felt like I put in a good effort and I came out of the water just ahead of my Rev3 teammate Maggie, who is very strong, so I am happy with this swim.
T1: 1:37

Team Rev3, pre-race!
Bike: 40 mi, 2:08:06
This course was REALLY FUN: quiet, twisty, and green; rolling terrain with a few good climbs.  It actually reminded me a lot of one of my other favorite bike courses, the American Triple-T course.  Unfortunately this year Triple-T and Knoxville were on the same weekend so I had to make a choice, but I think I made the right one-- the Knoxville course was definitely a challenge! The race was a little bit longer than I was really prepared to be competitive at this year at that point in the season, so coach Bill and I decided it would be wisest for me to ride at my half iron power and use any extra energy later on the run.

My one major mishap of the race happened within the first two miles of the bike- my front water bottle, which was new for this race but a style I'd ridden with before, flew forward completely out of its bracket. The velcro strap holding it in was slightly shorter than on my last bottle, and it had popped open as I hit a hard bump. Miraculously, I caught it before it crashed onto my wheel or to the ground (I am not known for my hand-eye coordination).  I awkwardly fumbled with it for a minute or two trying to put it back on while keeping my bike moving forward in a straight line.  It was useless.  I quickly considered my options.  Ditch it?  It's an expensive bottle, and there were no aid stations for over 10 miles. Attach it somewhere else on the bike?  No place was secure.  I landed on the best option being to carry it in one hand and try to chug it while controlling the bike with the other hand.  The only way to carry the bottle without it compromising my handling was to put it down my tri top, and the only way that would work was if it was empty.  Game on.
I cringe to think of how much time I lost as I was soft-pedaling and riding super conservatively over bumps and around corners holding that darn water bottle, but looking back I can't see how I could have handled the situation any better in the moment.  C'est la vie.  I did lose my straw out of my back jersey pocket sometime during the bike ride, but on the whole this was a successful equipment save.  I was able to ride at the goal power we'd chosen, and before I knew it I was back at transition.
T2: 1:33
^- "What the heck is she doing?"

Run: 9.8 mi, 1:18:07
The run went about as well as I hoped it would, considering all of the factors involved.  I started out at a smart pace, knowing it would get harder to hold as the race went on.  I have to admit I was a bit jealous of the Olympic racers as we passed their turn-around point, but hills build character, right?  The climbs were gnarly, but I was glad I was mentally prepared for them and had left some gas in the tank.  I started to struggle about mile 7.5 as the day heated up and my lack of training volume caught up to me, but it helped a lot to see so many friendly faces heading the other direction and have some Olympic racers ahead to chase down.

Total: 3:59:56, 3rd F25-29

Well, I ended up the 4th amateur female at this race, coming in long behind three superstars (2 of whom were in my AG-- congrats, Leslie and Maggie!) but through the way the series was scored, I actually had the best series total in F25-29.  Honestly, I had not reread the age group series info page for a while and was under the impression that the cash prizes were based on this race's results, not the series.  So I was quite surprised to be called up to receive the top prize of $500, plus a gift certificate to the Rev3 store (where I picked up some cute Oiselle gear!).  So I guess I was somewhat lucky in my choice of Rev3 races last year, and very grateful that I was able to put together good races where it mattered.

Overall,  Rev3 Knoxville was definitely an honest, championship-caliber course, and I hope the circumstances come together for me to return next year.  If you have any questions about the Knoxville courses or the age group series, feel free to ask in the comments section!

I even made it into the Age Group Recap video this year with my thrilling pre-race insight. Haha.

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