Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Challenge Knoxville Race Report

My season kicked off last weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee at the Challenge Knoxville Half Distance race, but before I get started there I will give a quick background of things that have been going on in the last few months.

The first thing and the most exciting is that Ang bought a house, and I moved in with her. This happened the end of April right after we got got back from training in Vegas for a week. Lets just say that April was a bit of a hectic month as I had to be out of my apartment in London before leaving for Vegas, but we didn't get the house until we got back. This meant doing essentially doing 2 moves in 3 weeks. Training during that time was hit and miss but I will say it gave me a bit of a taper going into the race. The other couple of changes are that I have a few new sponsors that I will be working with this year. They are Nineteen Wetsuits and Ciclowerks bike shop in Waterloo.

Now to the race!

I have raced in Knoxville 3 times before this, but they had all been the olympic distance put on by Rev3. With the new name came a new distance for the pros to race, but it was the same excellent race experience. In true Knoxville fashion or maybe it is only when I race there the rain started coming down race morning. Setting up transition it was just a light drizzle, but during the swim the rain picked up significantly.

Full results can be found here.

Swim - 28:11 ~12th out of t1
2 years ago when I raced in Knoxville the water was, a take your breath away, 50 degrees, but this year was like jumping into a warm bathtub with a balmy temp of about 73. This meant the pros would be swimming sans wetsuit. Unfortunately, because of the history of Knoxville I didn't think I would need a swim skin. I will be contacting Nineteen asap to see if I can get a swim skin before my next half just in case. I'm not sure if it was in my head but as soon as I jumped in it felt like a had a bit of a parachute on my torso. One of the downsides to being a 125lbs is that it is hard to find skin tight tri suits. Oh well nothing I could do about it and it was time to focus on the swim. It took what seemed like forever for the gun to go off as we all waited doing the usual tread, scull, creep forward that occurs on the start line. The gun finally went off, and we were gone for 4 hrs of racing. I was trying to find AJ Baucco's feet as he has been swimming really well this year, but it turned out his goggles and contacts got knocked off so he was at the back fixing those before swimming through a lot of us. So I settled onto some other feet and let them pull me to the turn around. I feel bad for however's feet they were because I have a really bad habit of swimming to close and touching feet every few strokes and I'm sure they wanted to kick me in the head. I felt comfortable during the swim, but I had a feeling it was not a fast one. I have to thank Vorgee because even with the cloudy skies and rain I always knew where I was since my goggles were so clear. I exited the water with a group of guys who I was out swimming by about a minute last year. I was a little worried my race was essentially over here as they would out bike me by about 8 minutes last year, but I kept it cool knowing Rich and I have worked hard on my bike all winter.

Bike - 2:23:55 11th out of t2 
Strava file -

During the swim the rain really picked up, and I knew this would play a factor while descending some twisty mountain roads. I'm pretty confident in my bike handling so I knew I would maybe have to take a couple risks out there. Turned out the lead group went the wrong way at the first turn so we all came together about 3k into the ride. I'm not sure who all made the group, but I'm going to think it was about 10 guys with another 4-6 close behind. Rich and I had a race plan of trying to have a normalized power of ~220w by the end of the ride and try to keep the spikes under 260 to be sure not to burn to many matches. This quickly went out the window when I found myself in the group. I was determined to stay with them for as long as possible. Every race I enter I go in with the mind set that I will do whatever I can to win the race so I was going to ride until I blew up as long as it kept me in striking distance, and if I didn't blow then perfect. At about 4k there is a downhill, and at the bottom there is a set of railroad tracks followed by a left hand turn about 30m after them. Going over the tracks my water bottle popped out from between my bars, spun 180 degrees, and I managed to snatch it out of the air and put it back in my cage without slowing down to much. Lady luck was on my side here, but she would make me pay later. I guess playing with those finger skateboards as a kid payed off, and I might be adding that to some of the athlete's I coach training plans. I believe in the first 10k my normalized power was about 230w, and I had a max power of 360w, just a little above . . . At about 10k the first big climb of the day starts. I was still sitting in the lead group (4 guys were still up the road), and I told myself if I could make it to the top of the climb with the group I would be good for a bit as it was a long descent afterwards where it would be hard for the group to separate. Unfortunately, lady luck made me pay for the water bottle save. Somehow a link on my chain got kinked and caused the chain to fall off when I switched to the small ring. I'm not sure if this was because of water and grit or what happened, but all I could think of was FUCK!!! I tried to finesse it back on but since it kinked instead of just falling off that wasn't happening so I quickly unclipped pulled the chain back on, and tried to get going again on the hill. By this time the lead group was long gone, and I didn't think putting in a huge surge at this point to try to get back on was going to be a good idea. The second pack (most of the guys I swam with) caught me pretty quickly, and I was hoping we could get back to that lead group. Last year a lot of these guys would just ride away from me so for the first half of the ride I played it safe usually sitting 3rd or 4th wheel while Ryan Bates and Mike Hermanson did a lot of the work on the front. *I have mixed feeling about the stagger rule that USAT races use, but if it allows me to get a bit of extra draft I'm going to use it. We had a moto on us most of the way so everyone rode within the rules, but it definitely is an advantage to have a group of 4 or more guys*. At about 30k I really had to pee so on one of the descents I sat up assuming the guys would pass me, and I could drop to the back and pee. 2 guys went off the front when I sat up, but no one else went around me. I didn't want to pee in the middle of the back but I was getting uncomfortable and it had to be done. Thankfully it was raining heavy at that point and don't worry I did wash my bike after. When I noticed though that no one went around me I assumed people were being hesitant on the downhills. Having raced the olympic here (part of the courses overlap) I knew there was a technical descent with about 10k to go, but the turns were actually wide enough you could carry pretty good speed. When we reached the climb I put in a little attack to get to the top 2nd in my group and then hammered the descent trying to get a bit of a gap. This set me up to be able to ride a bit more conservatively for the last 10k to set up my legs for the run.

Run - 1:20:08 Finish 11th
After a quick transition I was first onto the run from my group. I started out quick averaging about 3:30/km for the first couple of kms before settling into pace. Finishing off last seasons with 3 rough races, and especially my epic blow up in Muskoka where weighing on my mind a bit so I made sure to feel relaxed and controlled in the first 5k. I knew the middle ~10k of the Knoxville course were the most difficult so I told myself I would hold off on picking things up until the 2nd half of the race. I just hoped some other guys from the front group would go out to hard and blow up. I was about 3:35/km through the first 5k, but then the climbing started. The next 10k was around 3:45 pace as we ran the hills of Knoxville. I managed to catch one guy just after the turn around, but no one else was coming back. The last 5km was starting to get really tough, but I knew I was either barely in the top 10 or just outside so I didn't want anyone to catch me. We joined back up with the olympic course, and as I passed people doing the Olympic I would tell them "good job we are almost there." I think I did this more to try to convince myself, but maybe some of them were feeling the same way I was and it helped them get to the finish.

All in all this first race excites me for things to come this season. I'm now swimming with the Waterloo University varsity so hopefully my swim comes back, and I think I will keep improving on the bike and run.

Thank you for making your way through this entire race report, I know they can be lengthy. Thanks to all my sponsors, and a special thanks to my parents. Also thanks to my brother and his girlfriend for coming down and watching the race in the rain. It is their fault there aren't any pictures though because they were to hungover to grab the camera.

Next up will be Woodstock and Welland in preparation for Muskoka 70.3.