Challenge Knoxville Half - 1.2 mile swim

As we were walking toward the transition area around 5:50am, I felt sprinkles of rain falling from the sky. From what I heard from other athletes, there was a chance of rain that morning. 

The atmosphere at the Challenge Family Knoxville event was all positive - you could just feel the energy. The transition area was not massive and there were plenty of potties for athletes to use without long lines. I really enjoy the lower-key events and seeing all the athletes that come from all different backgrounds and fitness levels. 

When we entered the transition area, I helped Karel pump up his disc wheel (it's a two person job for one person - me- to hold the extender valve inside the disc wheel opening and the other person-Karel-pumps) and then I headed toward my bike in the far end (bike out) of the transition area. 

I laid out my gear on my pink Oakley towel. 
I placed my Brooks Pure Flow 4 shoes on the right of my towel with my dad's Corvette hat behind the shoes. With this being my first triathlon in a long time racing with a hydration belt, I wasn't quite sure how to lay out my race belt and hydration belt but figured that I could grab my race belt (with bib number) and run with it out of T2 so I placed my race belt on the towel and then placed my hydration belt on top. I had 2 x 10 ounce flasks filled with sport nutrition (which I sat up so they wouldn't leak) and then in the pocket, a gel and sleeve of Clif blocks (cut in half for easy access) just in case I needed/wanted it on the run.
To the left of my run shoes, I had my cycling shoes and socks and Oakley RPM sunglasses and a wafer (180 calories) for the ride. I wore my compression sleeves under my wetsuit. 

Prior to laying out my transition area, I put my three bottles (each with 300 calories) in my bike cages (two on the frame and the other in the right rear cage). I had my spare tubular, CO2 and bike levers in a cut-in-half water bottle in the left rear cage. My primary bottle to grab is in my down tube of my frame but I am also very comfortable grabbing my right rear bottle when I am aero (although I typically drink sitting up). 

I put my Garmin 500 on my bike (reset and charged) and put on my Garmin 910 on my wrist. 

Since my goal was to race the competition for an overall placing, I made the decision before the race that I was not going to let numbers or my gadgets control my race. I was going to feel my way through the race and chase my nearest competition. With years of experience training with gadgets, I know what I want an effort to feel like in a 70.3 mile event and what is most realistic for a strong overall performance. Being honest with myself when I race (and not letting my ego take over) is a helpful strategy so that I do not find myself racing another athlete's race plan.

I decided to not turn on my Garmin 910 for the swim so I put the sleeve of m wetsuit over my watch on my wrist and didn't turn it on until the run (it was set to run mode for when I turned it on in the last mile of the bike).

After Karel set-up his transition area, he came over to pump up my tubular tires with just enough pressure for the wet roads. We each made a stop at the potty once more and then with my old run shoes on, I did a few pick-ups outside the transition area. We then put on our wetsuits (and sunscreen and body glide) and put our morning clothes in our transition bags and headed to the swim start (about a 5-10 minute walk). 

As the light rain was falling, I told Karel that I should have put my run shoes in a large zip-lock bag. I was really upset at myself for not doing this (as I tell my athletes to do this for IM races in their transition bags if there is a chance for rain) and it was all that I thought about while walking to the swim start. I had plenty of time to go back but for some reason I didn't. I tried to come up with reasons why I didn't need to go back, like my socks would be wet so it wouldn't matter or my feet are small so my shoes wouldn't be that wet (I know, so silly) but next time, I am going to put my shoes in a zip lock baggy just to be safe. I didn't worry about my bike since it didn't get wet over night (otherwise it would need some extra lube on the chain). 

As we were waiting for our swim waves after the pros started, we spotted my mom and Campy. Campy was not happy about the rain but he was a great trooper as a spectator. My mom took some great pics (below) and managed to take care of Campy.... she deserves a medal for being out there all day in the rain!
I love my Xterra wetsuit - so comfortable! Karel is still getting use to the wetsuit "feeling". 

Karel's wave started at 7:03 with an in-the-water start. 

Karel had an amazing swim time but he did experience a bit of anxiety in his wetsuit as soon as he got into the water. It's kinda hit or miss with Karel when he feels really uncomfortable in his wetsuit as a non-swimmer (just learned to swim 3 years ago). He said that for the first 10 minutes or so, he vowed to never do another triathlon ever again and he was really struggling to breath in his wetsuit. However, he managed to settle into a rhythm and he even said he broke away from a pack that he was swimming with so all things considered, Karel managed to have a great swim despite a major obstacle to overcome when he started his race. Even though Karel is crazy fast, he still deals with issues that many other athletes experience. The same is true for me....just because you are experienced, it doesn't mean that you don't learn new things or make mistakes on race day. 

My wave started at 7:15am and I positioned myself behind Amy K who was a D1 swimmer and fellow First Bourn ambassador (She also won the amateur female race so I guess you could say she was my greatest competition looking back). I wanted to see if I could hang with her as I knew she was a fierce competition and super strong athlete (and super nice girl). 

It was really nice to be in the water (in a wetsuit) as the water was very comfortable (around 73 degrees). I was able to do some warm-up strokes to adjust my wetsuit and to loosen up. 

When the gun went off, Amy shot out of her cannon (or it looked like it!) because she was long gone and there was no way I could hang. I managed to stay with a small pack of female (pink cap) athletes until the first turn buoy and continued to settle into a nice rhythm with my stroke. With so much ankle strap/band work, I really felt good in the open water - really feeling every catch and pull-through. 

However, after looking at my time of 30:30 and Karel's time of 32:28, I either took it too easy on the swim or I really need to step-up my swim game. Karel's goal is to someday beat me in the swim (even if it's just once) and my goal is for Karel to never beat me in the swim.
We have a very loving relationship but there has to be a little competition to spice things up in our marriage. :)
I'm thinking that it's all going to go down in Kona in October after Karel gets a few more months of swim training to see if he can beat me for 2.4 miles. 

Neither Karel or I felt a current in the water but it was a smooth swim with several red buoys to help with sighting. I wish there would have been one more sighting buoy toward the swim exit as we had to swim at an angle and with the falling rain and dark skies it was hard to see the swim exit. 

After getting out of the water (by pushing up on a ledge - no stairs) we ran up a ramp and through a boathouse and then dodging puddles, across the street into the transition area. 

I smiled at my mom (and Campy) when I spotted them as I was running toward my bike. I was beginning to come up with a few reasons as to "why" I was racing and the first thing I thought of was how special it was that my mom and other spectators and volunteers were out there supporting all of us athletes. Although we as athletes never say it, the day is really all about us and what we are doing on the race course.....but we (athletes) all know that we couldn't do what we do, without the help of our friends/family and volunteers who are out there cheering us on. My second "why" was the amazing Challenge Family team who put on this event for us to do something amazing with our trained bodies. So much goes into planning and putting on a race and it reminded me that I choose to be an athlete...not an exerciser. Swimming, biking and running makes me feel great but what feels even better is putting all that hard work in training to good use on race day. 

When I got to my bike, I put on wet cycling shoes and my wet Giro Attack helmet and decided to put my Oakley shades in my tri suit rear pocket until the rain stopped (if I had clear shades, I would have worn them as I was fearful of debris getting into my eyes - my dad would not be happy that I rode without sunglasses for half the bike). I grabbed my wafer (which was a bit soggy as I had opened it up ahead of time for easy chomping) and put it in my other tri suit rear pocket. I was not aware of my swim time and it really didn't matter to me because my only goal for the race was to chase my nearest competition.
I started my Garmin 500 bike computer as I was rolling my bike out of transition and then mounted at the mount line and off I went for 56 very wet and rainy miles. 

Stay tuned for my 56 mile bike race recap.

Swim time: 30:30, 6th fastest female amateur swim, 2nd AG swim

Swim time: 32:28, 42th fastest amateur swim, 8th AG swim