This past weekend, I competed in my first non-draft Olympic distance race of the season down in Knoxville, Tenn. My girlfriend and I started the six-hour journey Friday morning leaving behind Indiana’s corn fields for the hilly Tennessee forests. Before race day I knew it was going to be a solid weekend after defeating Google Maps’ estimated time of arrival by 30 minutes!
Race day: 5:45 a.m. rolled around and so did I, for the extra five minute snooze. After getting out of bed, it was routine time leading up to the start of the race which consists of coffee, cereal, Gatorade, and water before heading to transition. After setting up my transition, I headed towards the start of the swim. Here I started my warm-up 35 minutes prior to the race. My warm-up consisted of a 10-minute jog, dynamic stretching and some run-related drills that elevated my heart rate. After revving up the engine and warming up the legs, I proceeded with some swimming-specific band work, since no competitors were allowed into the water until the start of the race.
Swim: The race began at 7:50 a.m. with all male competitors 25-40 years of age floating in the 66 degree water awaiting roughly 5 minutes the start signal. Boom! The race was off and for the first time ever I lead the race for a few strokes. Only five strokes in I knew I was on for a great swim. I found competitors feet and drafted almost the entire way. Before the race I had three goals for the swim portion: sight every third breath to not get off course, focus on high elbow position for my left arm, and break 21 minutes. I felt smooth and confident the entire way and I was aware I had accomplished the first two items on my list. The third item was confirmed as I was running up the dock towards transition when I heard someone shout “19 minutes.” Position wise, I came out of the water fourth in my wave which was the first time I had accomplished being top 10 in the swim in my age group. Everything was already going in my way, and the swim is by far my weakest event! After the race I learned I officially swam 20:02, a new personal open water best by over 2 minutes and 50 seconds!
T1: The first transition had us run up an inclined doc, through a boat house, over railroad tracks, down a road, continued on a paved path and finally into a local parking garage. From here I quickly whipped off my wetsuit and hopped onto my bike. This long transition allowed me to move from fourth place to first in the Olympic wave, but because we were passing half-ironman competitors I had no idea what position I was in.
Bike: Coming from the corn fields in Indiana where the largest incline I experience is a speed bump in a parking lot, the hills offered by Tennessee seemed like mountains to me. The first 10k of the course was honest and rolling, and 15k into the course I split off from the half-Iron athletes who continue further into the hills. It was at this split the aid station attendants shouted that I was in currently in first! I have never led a race this early, so immediately I started to conserve energy for the major climbs later in the bike course. At mile 13, another competitor in my age group passed me at the 180 turn and from there I just stalked this competitor at a legal distance for the entire ride trying to save a little extra for the run portion. By the end of the ride, I came into transition in third only 30 seconds behind, my smallest margin behind ever.
T2: Flying dismount landed successfully! Another long run into transition to rack the bike and begin the fun stuff, then the pursuit began.
Run: The run course was an out and back that weaved through local woods and parks. I started the run hard probably clicking close to 5-minute pace. I managed to take the lead around a 1k into the run portion and immediately opened up a gap. The runner-up finisher, Tom Wood in my age group 25-29, put up a great fight and I give him huge props as he was definitely my toughest competition in the run portion that I have ever had to battle. Coming into this race, my consistency with running has been my downfall as I have been battling a few calf troubles. I definitely struggled in the middle miles, and my mind and body didn’t help matters as they started questioning my fitness making the run seem extremely long. Finally, I could sense the finish, so I shut off the mind and fired all cylinders into the finishing chute.
I finished with the official time of 1:59:37 and claimed first place in the overall Olympic Distance for all amateurs. All in all, it was a great weekend as I had the support from my girlfriend and parents who at the last minute drove down from Wisconsin the day before after watching my younger brother run at his final conference meet for Butler University. Competing is much more enjoyable with the support of friends and family, so thank you to all those following my success whether it is in person or via technology.
Train Hard. Train Smart.