5/18/15

Challenge Knoxville Half - quick course recap



When I was a competitive swimmer, best performances were defined by faster finishing times. Most of the times, a best time was a matter of tenths or hundredths of a second....but if a faster time showed on the clock, it was still was a personal best time. 

Prior to triathlon racing and after competitive college swimming, I was a runner. I aspired to run longer distances and accomplish something new with my body, from 5K's to the marathon, over the course of a few years.  Every new distance was a best time but overtime, I found myself running faster times simply because I was getting fitter as I was adjusting to the training stress. 

When I started competing in triathlons in 2006, I focused on the races close to where I lived as these races were convenient, local and familiar. I would race on the same courses, year after year after year and thus, it was really easy for me to feel validated that if I had a better time, my fitness was improving. 

Over the past 5 years, I have found myself "racing" triathlons more so than seeking personal best times. And with every race that I "race", I discover personal growth as an athlete. I learn new things about myself as an athlete but I also learn how to race smarter.
Never do I try to take short-cuts with my training as I know I need to train hard and smart in order to feel physically and mentally prepared for race day. 
But come the actual race day, I don't ask for results that I didn't work for. I race my closest competition and do not get caught up in another athlete's race. I am out there wanting to discover personal greatness on that very race day, knowing that I am still developing as an athlete. 

With so many different triathlon race courses, I know that it is just not possible to compare race course to race course. Furthermore, with three sports to accomplish in one race, there is so much that a triathlete must do and overcome in order to get to the finish line and great performances are not just defined by a finishing time.
For me, I care most about what happens within the race to make it a race to learn from or a best performance kind of race.  

Challenge Knoxville was another opportunity for me to race the competition. Rather than chasing personal best times when I race, I now seek courses that are challenging and suit my strengths (climbing/hills). 
I enjoy validating my training "success" by racing those who are faster than me and seeing how close I can get to my nearest competition (or pass them). I do not find defeat in being beat, particularly if I am giving my best effort on that day.

I am incredibly proud of my body and how it performed at Challenge Knoxville. Karel did amazingly well and we both felt so strong on this course.
This race course was perfect for us and we hope to do it again next year. 

 My last key race was in September at Ironman Wisconsin (Karel raced Haines City 4 weeks ago) and 8 months of training (and living) in Greenville has proved to be extremely beneficial for our fitness. 
We also love our new training environment so it's keeping us very excited to train. 

It's very hard for us to determine a race as successful just by a finishing time, especially because we race on extremely different and challenging courses for 70.3 or 140.6 miles. 
 Every race is different, it occurs at a different time in our season and every race has different competition to push us to higher limits. 

Challenge Knoxville was a great course for me and Karel - we loved every mile and minute of the race. Although it was a rainy start to the race with the rain continuing on until around 11am, the course was so fun with so much nature and beautiful scenery around us. 

The 1.2 mile swim was in the river, an in-the-water start. We started in waves with Karel starting at 7:05am and my wave starting at 7:15am. There were several races happening that morning, an olympic, championship (middle distance) and half distance and then an aquabike olympic and aquabike half. The swim start was a short walk away from the transition area and we swam the opposite direction of the transition area and made our way around two turn buoys (on our right) and then headed back to the swim exit (by the transition area). 

The 56 mile bike course was fun. Although it was rainy out and the roads were wet, the course was very well marked and every rough road segment clearly marked. There were several crashes on the courses due to the rain and I hope everyone is ok. 
This was a great course for taking risks as the downhills were perfect for being aggressive but with the rain, of course, safety first.  The course included a lot of rolling hills with a few flatter sections to settle into a rhythm. There was one out and back section which was great for spotting competition and cheering for other competitors. There were plenty of farm and mountain views with a few shorts climbs to break up the course. The descends were welcomed after every climb and the race was very fair, with drafting not an issue with a manageable athlete field on this course. There was a lot of turns but again, it was all clearly marked with bright arrows for each race distance (pink for half).
There were three aid stations on the course, all supported by great volunteers.
The last climb was the longest with a great opportunity to wake up the legs before the run.
 The interactive maps on the Challenge Knoxville page made it easy to navigate where the major climbs were on the course. 

The 13.1 mile run started with almost 2 miles on a 4 lane road, with the river on our left. The road slightly inclined up and down but nothing extreme that would prevent the legs from finding their rhythm. Off the main road, we made a right turn into a park, onto a paved running path. We covered a few miles on the path with one very, very steep hill to exit the path and on we ran onto a very rolling hill neighborhood. There was not a lot of shade in the neighborhood whereas the running path was a bit more covered. Miles 4-8ish were extremely hilly, up and down with a turn around half away in the run. Thank goodness for lots of hilly runs in Greenville and several months of serious strength training foundation work to start our season for it really paid off on this course. 
As we ran back on the running path, we covered a few more miles until we got back on to the main road with around 11 miles to go. With a 1/2 mile to go, we ran by the transition area and the crowds got bigger as we made our way to the finishing chute and then to the finishing line in the expo area (about 1/4 mile from the transition area).

Challenge Family Americas invites family (and furry ones) across the finish line which is another great reason to race a Challenge race. 



Stay tuned for the real race report  - sharing how Karel and I ignored our gadgets and raced the competition. 


8th Overall amateur male
3rd AG (35-39)
Swim 32:28
Bike 2:29:10
Run - 1:28:45
Total: 4:34:01

2nd Overall amateur female
1st AG (30-34)
 Swim 30:30
Bike 2:46:29
Run - 1:42:27
Total: 5:03:12