This past weekend Kurt & I drove down to Knoxville TN for my first triathlon race of the season – Rev3 Knoxville Olympic DistanceTri.  There are a lot of positive things that I am taking away from this race, but it also put me through an emotional ringer.  A lot of the turmoil revolved around the bike…
The day before the race started out really fun because I got to meet some of my Rev3 teammates for the first time.  We met for a swim practice, got our sweet new Pearl Izumi kits, introduced other swimmers to TriSlide and Foggle, and witnessed the “Blueseventy Worst Wetsuit Contest.” The two winners gotbrand new Blueseventy Helix wetsuits, presented by yours truly!  After this excitement it was time to get my bike prepped and drop it off at the mandatory bike check in.  I went to the Reynolds tent because I was planning on renting race wheels.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have any 650’s so I had to go with plan B – using my old tri-spoke race wheels.  I put them on the bike and was having trouble pumping up my front tire.  I wasn’t sure if this was d/t user error (in order to pump up these wheels you have to use this little metal gadget attachment [aka crackpipe] and it can be finiky) or if there was a bigger problem.  So, I went to bike support and they were super busy but said I could drop it off and they’d fix it within 2 hours (not ideal b/c I wanted to get out of the sun and off my feet, but worth it to have a smoothly running machine).  I dropped it off and Kurt & I went to downtown Knoxville and had lunch at a cute little café called the Tomato Head which served delicious vegan sandwiches.  About 90 minutes later bike support called and we went back to the expo to pick up the bike.  They informed me that I had actually had a busted tube in the front which they replaced and that my gears were not shifting properly so they went ahead and fixed that up for me as well, all for $25.  Well, I thought, this front tire thing could have actually been a blessing in disguise b/c I wasn’t aware that the shifting was faulty.  I gave the bike a little test ride to make sure all was good.  While on this ride I noticed two things:  1 – there was an area on the front tire where the tube appeared to be bulging out of the tire (very alarming!) and 2 – the gears were not shifting well.  So, I took the bike back to bike support and told them about both of these things.  They were very apologetic, assumed responsibility for both, and fixed both for me.  I then went out and tested the bike again, and indeed everything seemed to be working smoothly.  Fast-forward to race day…

I got to transition race morning to find that my front tired seemed to be low on air.  Luckily bike support was there so I took the bike back to the same people and had them look at it. They asked me if I had let air out of the tire over night and of course I said “No.”  Why would I do that?  So he took a look at it and I asked him if anything else could be going wrong and if he thought it would be ok for the race.  He pumped it up and said that I’d be fine and wished me good luck for the race.  So, I put the bike back and set up the rest of my stuff. When I went to turn on my Garmin it was dead (even though I had fully charged it the night before).  I was like, OK, I guess I’m going old school on this race w/ just a regular watch – not a big deal, I can handle that.

The swim went pretty well.  I lined up at the front of my wave.  When the gun sounded I started sprinting and was expecting people to start swimming over me from behind, like what happened last year at Tri Nats.  However, to my surprise that never happened and I got pretty clear water until I started catching up to people from earlier waves.  I went through periods of feeling good and only ok on the swim.  Swallowed a good bit of water too.  I wore a new pair of Blueseventy Element gogglesthat were awesome!  When I exited the swim I glanced at my watch and saw 22 high – a PR for me by about 2 minutes!  Sweet!  It was nice having the old watch and actually knowing my time out of the swim.  According to Kurt I was in about 12th place at this time.  There was a long run from the swim to T1, which was fine w/ me b/c anytime more running is involved it’s advantageous for me.  I caught my breath on the run and passed a few women running into T1 and in T1 itself and came out in 8th.

The bike.  Ahh the bike.  First of all I have to say that the course was awesome!  It was so much fun – lots of ups & downs and scenic roads.  As soon as I started riding I felt good and I passed another couple women early on and was feeling really excited and optimistic about the day.  Then about 10 minutes into the ride I went down a very steep hill and all of a sudden my front tire blew out and I got a flat.  I stopped at the bottom of the hill and got off my bike to assess the damage.  My heart was pumping with adrenaline and the first thing I thought was “this race is over for me.”  Part of me just wanted to throw in the towel b/c in the olympic distance race there is just not enough mileage to make up lost time from fixing a mechanical.  However, another part of me remembered the race from Kona a few years ago when Chrissie Wellington got a flat on the bike and ending up making up all the time and then some to snatch the overall win. So I got to work fixing the flat.  It has probably been about 2 years since I’ve had to change a tire so I was just hoping that I remembered exactly what to do.  Luckily I did and I talked myself through the process –  take the wheel off the bike, use a tire lever to get the tire unhooked from the rim, pull out the flat tube, get a new tube out of my pack and put it around the rim, use my hands to hook the tire back into the rim, get out a CO2 cartridge and connect it to the dispenser, turn it to the right to poke a hole in the top of the CO2, attach it to the stem of the tube, then turn the dispenser to the left a little to let the CO2 out to inflate the tire, put the wheel back on the bike, double check the front and back wheels to make sure they’re ok, put the trashed tube and rest of flat-changing supplies back in my pack to avoid an “abandonment of gear” penalty, and get back on the bike.  I was actually pretty proud of myself for fixing the flat without any snafoos and took it as a compliment when another triathlete passed me and yelled out “Way to handle the biz!”  However, I estimate that the entire process probably cost me about 10 minutes, not to mention wasted energy.  I got back on the bike like a bat out of hell and used that adrenaline to start making up for lost time.  A couple miles out from the bike turnaround I saw the two lead women and cursed out loud for being so far behind them, but I kept it moving and decided that even if I couldn’t vie for overall win I’d do my best to win my age group.  On the way back into town I started passing more women, but I knew there were still a substantial number in front of me.  When I got to T2, Kurt said that I was in about 12th place.

I quickly transitioned into my run gear and got out onto the course with a vengence.  I wore a brand new out-of-the box pair of Pearl Izumi Iso-Transition shoes, which were THE BOMB!!!!  Oh my gosh these shoes were heaven!  So light and comfortable and no need for socks.  After this run I am 100% sold on these shoes – quality and comfort was amazing, and they were fast too!  One of my goals for this race was to run under 40 minutes on the 10K, something I’ve never achieved before.  Well it was hard to know what kind of pace I was actually running during the race b/c I didn’t have my Garmin and all I had was the old watch, so I just ran hard.  I started reeling in some people and passed quite a few women.  It was hot but I felt good and didn’t mind the heat – a week in Mexico may have helped with this!  There were little individual containers of bagged water that were being handed out on course instead of water in cups.  I didn’t’ think I was going to like this, but they turned out to be fantastic!  They were easy to grab, easy to open, and had more water in them than a cup would.  It was easy to squirt the water out into your mouth and onto yourself.  With about a half mile to go the final climb to the finish started and I saw a woman ahead of me – I caught her and kept moving.  Literally within 200 meters from the finish I saw another woman.  I caught up to her and ran a few paces right behind her then decided to go for it.  I passed her and blasted it to the finish.  I looked down at my watch and it said 39:20!  Woo hoo, I was psyched to have finally run under 40:00!  I saw Kurt and he told me that I came in 4th overall woman.  This was pretty gut wrenching because I was only 1 place away from qualifying for my pro card and had it not been for the flat there is a good chance that I would have.

I went back to the hotel to get a shower and Kurt looked up the results online – “You came in third!”  he yelled out.  “What!?  Are you serious!?”  I was shocked and amazed and SOOO happy.  I figured that maybe one of the women he had seen finish ahead of me was a relay, or got a penalty, or was DQ’ed.  So because we were both in a little bit of disbelief, we went back to the expo for awards and checked the timing tent.  The computer at the timing tent said the same thing – that I had come in 3rd overall amateur female! I finally let myself believe it when they handed out awards and announced me as the 3rdplace overall female of Rev3 Knoxville Olympic Triathlon!  I was so happy and overjoyed that I had finally reached my goal of qualifying for a pro lisence – something that I have been working towards for the last 1-2 years and have rearranged my life and schedule around doing.  It was so satisfying!  I called and texted some of my close friends who have been supporting me throughout this journey.  Over lunch Kurt & I talked about how excited we were that I had finally done it and how all the hard work had paid off, how everything is falling into place this season, and how it’s going to be such a great and exciting year.  Then, amidst this conversation, I got a text from a good friend saying she looked up the results online and now it said that I was 4th place, not 3rd.  What!?  You have got to be kidding me!!! All the good emotion that I was feeling at that moment went from one extreme to the other.  I wanted to burst into tears in the restaurant.  It was one thing to have come in 4th after a hard race and know that I was only one spot away from getting the pro card and that I probably would have had it if not for the flat – that I could swallow.  However it was another thing to think that I had achieved this long term goal that I have wanted so badly and then to have it taken away – this was MUCH harder to deal with!!!  I went back to the timing tent to confirm this and it turns out that there was a glitch with the timing system and there was apparently one other girl who had finished ahead of me but whose splits did not show up in the system for some reason.  So, needless to say I was pretty upset about this whole roller coaster experience.  It’s hard not to think about what would have happened had I not gotten the flat – especially since the first place overall female ended up finishing 9 minutes ahead of me. However, I realize that there is absolutely nothing I can do about what happened except focus on the positives of the race like that I swam a PR, ran a PR, I was able to fix the flat and continue racing strong, and I was mentally tough despite experiencing a few glitches.  The only thing I can do now is use this experience as more motivation and move on, and I’m saving it all for Rev3Quassy Half!

PS – Check out this guy who Kurt & I ran into in downtown Knoxville.  We didn’t get the full story but apparently it was because of a girl, so I guess that explains enough!  Well done!