Rev3 Knoxville review: a family event

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

We had a big weekend in Knoxville! For the most part it went exactly as I had hoped it would. While I didn’t quite hit my time goal for the Half Rev (half ironman) race, we did have a great family weekend. My fear was that the weekend would end up just being about me and my race instead of being about a family getaway. Thanks to Rev3 it was just the opposite! They delivered on the “family friendly events” promise.

We left Friday afternoon as soon as you got out of school, Izzy. The ride to Knoxville was easy – just one stop for dinner at Cracker Barrel along the way. I continued my carb load with a massive plate of pancakes while you kids split pancakes and chicken fingers.

Team Nikazy enroute!

We spent Friday night at Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Roy’s cabin in Farragut, just outside of Knoxville. You kids love it there. It’s become our stopping point on most of our trips. Kate, you said “is this is a barn?” Max you responded with “Yes, Kate, and I’m a farm boy. I’m gonna get my tractor out for you girls.”

It rained a little that evening and the next morning, so we sat on the front porch and watched the gentle “smokey mountain rain”.

Nana and Papaw came into town on Saturday, so we decided to get a hotel closer to the race site and their hotel for Saturday night. I was happy to see that the Knoxville 4 Points Sheraton was right across the street from the expo and finish line at World’s Fair Park.

This pic is borrowed from the Rev3 site:

As usual I spent most of the day before the race getting things situated. That’s been my experience now at all 4 of my half distance races. The set up the day before generally takes as long as the race itself. It can be a little frustrating, because I don’t want to be on my feet for long the day before, but there’s no way around it. Rev3 had a great expo and packet pickup area with lots of vendors and loud music. I snapped this pic of my bike beside the finish line:

After I got my packet, timing chip, and swag bag I made my way down to the transition area that was housed on the first floor of a parking garage across across the street from the Tennessee River. Rev3 does an awesome job with details. They even had my transition spot labeled for me when I arrived. That’s pro treatment.

After I dropped off my bike I walked over to take a look at the river. They hosted a practice swim from 12n-2pm on Saturday, so I took the opportunity to put my wetsuit on and jump in for a short swim. I wanted to check the visibility in the river and temperature of the water. Not much visibility and the water was cold! Here’s a pic of competitors at the swim exit taking advantage of the practice swim.

I met you kids and mommy back at the expo and finish line area after my swim. You kids loved the splash pad, playground, and inflatables. Again, awesome job by Rev3 to make this a family event.

Kate, you’re so full of drama:

We had a blast playing for the rest of the day. My normal pre race meal is Mellow Mushroom Jerk chicken pizza, so after we got cleaned up we headed over to the UT campus for one final carb load. Pro Richie Cunningham was eating at the table beside us. I was glad to see that I’m not the only one who believes in pizza the night before a big race. Max, you were worn out and definately feeling “mellow” during dinner:

After dinner we went for a swim at Nana and Papaw’s hotel. Izzy, you spent the night with the them while the rest of us went back to our hotel to get ready for bed.

I woke up on race morning at 5:00am to get my stuff ready to go. That’s actually “sleeping in” compared to the hours I’ve woken up at past half distance events. I ate oatmeal and a banana and had a cup of coffee with my friend Bill before walking down to the transition area.

The energy was awesome at transition. Loud music brought life to the parking garage where 1000 triathletes were setting up for a long day. My set up was pretty stress free. I guess I’ve become accustomed to it. I put lemon-lime Gatorade in my downtube bottle, water in my aero-bottle, and two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a 5-hour energy in my top tube bento box. On the ground beside my bike I put my running shoes farthest back with another 5-hour energy inside one of them, my running visor on top, then my cycling shoes with my socks inside of each and my race belt and bib on top. Finally I hung my aero helmet from my handle bars with my sunglasses inside:

I grabbed my wetsuit, goggles, and cap walked the 3/4 of a mile to the swim start with the rest of the crowd. Izzy, you Nana and Papaw showed up in time to watch me start. It was good to get a sweet hug and a kiss before the day of a long day.

Swim 1.2 miles:

My wave was comprised of men under 40 and Clydesdales (men over 200lbs). We jumped from the dock into the cold water and treaded water as we waited for the gun to go off. I tried to position myself near the front of the group, as I anticipated being one of the faster swimmers in the wave. Somehow I still managed to get hung up behind a bunch of guys early in the swim. Mass / Wave starts are always chaos – think white water, dodging elbows and kicks to the face. I stayed calm and looked for clean water. Eventually I found some space to the left of the group as we swam up-river. I picked up the pace briefly to get clear of the most of the pack. I stayed close to the docks as we swam up river. I noticed alot of folks sitting on their houseboats watching the spectacle as we swam by.

After we made the turn to come back down river I was free to swim my own pace. The group was thin at that point and I settled into my 1.2 mile pace. Shortly after we passed under a bridge I could hear the crowd screaming up ahead. I sighted and saw the swim finish packed with families cheering on their racers as we one by one pulled ourselves from the Tennessee river onto the carpeted dock.

My swim time was 32:22. It was my fastest 1.2 mile open water swim yet and was good for 15th out of 55 in my age group.

Bike 56 miles:

The transition area was .25 mile from the swim exit, so the run in barefeet with a wetsuit around my waist felt a little long. Once I reached my spot I relaxed and reminded myself: “Take your time. Get everything right here. It’s going to be a long ride.”

I’d written “151” on my arm to remind myself to keep my bike heart rate at or near that number. I eased into my pace and started sipping from my aerobottle about 20 minutes into the ride. After we crossed the bridge headed out of downtown and into the country I learned that I’d misinterpreted the definition of “Hills” by Knoxville standards. We have hills in Nashville. These were not hills – but small mountains. I reminded myself to stay true to my heart rate plan. I let lots of riders pass me going up the climbs, despite climbing being my strength on the bike. I had to remind myself each time “Don’t chase him. Nothing to prove now. Let him go. He’ll be dead on the run.”

Each mile seemed to fluctuate between 10 mph and 35 mph, up and down, up and down. I didn’t want to stress about the challenging course though, so I started paying more attention to the beautiful countryside and surrounding mountains.

I ate one PBJ at 1:30 and the other at 2:30, with the 5-hour energy somewhere in between.

All in all, I had a good ride. It was my slowest 56 mile ride in any of my events, but I felt fresh coming off of the bike and that was the goal. My total time when I started the run was 3:37. That was 20 minutes behind where I was in Orlando and 7 minutes behind where I’d been in Austin and Boulder. For a moment my confidence for breaking 5:30 faded, but I quickly got it back.

Run 13.1 miles

I’d held back on the bike, so my legs felt great from the first step – a big difference from my experiences in Orlando and Boulder. I cranked out the first mile down Neyland Drive in 8:10. That was much faster than I wanted to start the run, but I’d set 166bpm as my heart rate goal for the run and I was staying within that easily. The second mile was 8:22. My confidence was back. I might get that 5:30 after all.

We turned into a wooded park after the first two miles and I decided to slow down a bit. My plan was to run conservatively for the first half and then, if I had anything left, to run hard the last half. I settled into a 9:00 pace for the next four miles. Somewhere along the way we ran up a huge hill that everyone walked up. There were ample aid stations along the way, so I hydrated with water at each and with gatorade at every other one.

The middle portion of the run was through a residential neighborhood with no shade. And that’s where the hills returned. I was still feeling strong when I reached the turnaround at 6.5 miles. Once I started back through those hills though, the wheels came off. I walked for the first time somewhere around mile 8. And from there it was survival. The temperature had reached 85 degrees by that hour and I was feeling it.

Once I made it back to the shade of the wooded area I gave one more effort to pick up the pace. It wasn’t happening though.

Back on Neyland I could hear the announcer in the distance and crowd cheering with each finisher. I shuffled along at 10:00 pace – looking forward to being done.

In the end the run took me 2:03. 3 minutes slower than Austin, but 12 minutes faster than Orlando and 14 minutes faster than Boulder. My patience on the bike paid off, I think.

The Finish

I rounded the corner and spotted all of you waiting for me behind the barricades, screaming and waving. Tears started rolling down my cheeks, as they always do, hidden behind my sweat streaked sunglasses. Izzy, you jumped from behind the barricade and grabbed my hand  and ran the final stretch with me to the finish.

We sat in the shade afterwards and I assured you, Max and Kate, that I was “okay”.

My time was 5:43. 14 minutes slower than my goal time. But I was happier than ever before, because I’d gotten to hold your hand across the finish line, Izzy. They gave both of us medals! My face flashed up on the jumbo tron as the announcer said for everyone to hear “Congratulations Isabella! Your dad is a rock star!”

So, it wasn’t a PR course or PR conditions, but in the end, what mattered was an awesome family experience. I hope you kids never forget Rev3 Knoxville. I never will.

And, yes, I’m still planning to break 5:30 for the half distance. Rev3 Cedar Point next year?

I love you,

– Daddy

Oh…and you got to sit on the official Rev3 Tractor, farm boy. That made your day. Thanks again Rev3, you guys Rock!