Rev3 Half - race report, Part II


10, 9, 8......3, 2, 1....GO!

At 7am, we were off! Immediately, I felt good in the water. Karel and I have been swimming at Lake Hartwell (by Clemson) every Wed for the past 4 weeks to get more comfortable in open water, in our wet suits. Going into this race, I wasn't feeling super speedy in the pool but I felt like I could put together a strong swim. My goal for this race was to go as hard as I could go (sustainably strong) for the swim, bike and run and to finish knowing that I didn't hold back at all for 70.3 miles. I was willing to take many risks in this race just to see how they would pay off. After 10 years of endurance racing, I finally feel I am at a point in my athletic "career" where I am ok to fail so long as I give my absolute best effort.

I was constantly aware of any other yellow caps around me to keep an eye on my competition. I swam side-by-side by another swimmer but found myself needing to stop every now and then (probably at least 5 times before the first turn buoy) to lift up my goggles and actually find a buoy. Although I was sighting for the buoy every 5-7 strokes, I wasn't seeing anything. And if there's one thing to remember about open water swimming, staying on course will give you the "fastest" time vs swimming fast and getting off course. And if you sight and don't see a buoy, it doesn't count.
This didn't affect my pace too much but I am sure it did slow me down a little. However, every time I stopped ever so briefly to lift up my goggles to find a buoy, I found myself back with the other girl who I was swimming with, after a few strokes.
I didn't notice any "help" in the water with a current in either direction. It wasn't choppy but it also didn't feel pancake flat.
As I rounded the first buoy to the right, I found myself with the second wave of swimmers (male 40+ which started at 6:55am). After rounding the next buoy, I was with more male swimmers (Male 39 and under which started at 6:50am).
I felt really strong in the water and not too uncomfortable with my effort. Although I felt I may have been able to swim a little faster, I felt strong and steady.
The swim went by surprisingly fast and before I knew it, I was turning around the last buoy and making my way to the dock.
I quickly recognized that I was the first female out of the water and I was excited to bike hard to keep my lead for as long as possible. 

I saw Taylor (Adam's wife) at the top of the dock and she confirmed that I was first female out of the water. I don't turn on my watch in the swim for this very reason - I don't care about my swim time, I am here to race the competition. 

I removed the top part of my wetsuit and ran my way to the transition area up the dock, through the boat house.... 

....across the street, up the side walk and into the transition area.

I was rehearsing my T1 in my head as I was running and felt as if I had a quick transition.
I powered on my Garmin Edge on my bike and as I was leaving the transition area, I saw another girl running to her bike. 

I clipped in my shoes and off I went. 

I'm in love with my new S-works Evade Tri helmet! Thank you Karel for an early birthday gift!

As I left the transition area, I only had a few minutes before we started climbing out of town. The first and last parts of this 56 mile bike course include a lot of punchy climbs mixed with longer enclosed climbs with a few descends. This makes it hard to settle into a rhythm in the early miles of the bike.  This course really makes you stay focused as you can't zone out and enjoy the view. 

I didn't feel all that fresh when I got on the bike but then I again, I was doing a lot of climbing and descending. I actually felt better on the climbs than I did on the rollers as I was able to settle into a nice rhythm on the climbs and I really loved the descends. I knew that after 30-40 minutes, I would likely find my racing rhythm so I just embraced the uncomfortable feeling and kept riding along.

I was diligent with my nutrition to ensure I could fuel my sustainbly strong effort for 56 miles. I had 3 bottles each with 280 calories for a total of 72 ounces of fluid and 840 calories for 56 miles.

While my bike skills have improved tremendously over the past two years, my fitness on the bike has also improved thanks to Karel continuing to dial me in with my bike fit over the years, a new saddle (Adamo ISM) a few months ago, a lot of specific bike training on the trainer and my new Alto wheels.
Needless to say, I have a lot more fun racing triathlons these days as I get on the bike excited to push hard....but it never feels easy!

I found myself riding alone....a lot. I broke the course into intervals, every 30 minutes so that I could mentally break down this ride - which helped considering that I was pushing hard but had no one in sight as my rabbit (or keeping me accountable to my effort from behind).
I felt like there was a bit of wind out on the course. While it wasn't anything gusty, it never felt like I had a true tailwind but constantly felt like I was riding into the wind. There were very few athletes around me and I found myself staying on course by following the pink arrows taped to the ground and every now and then, I would get excited to see another athlete in the distance. I found myself passing a few guys.
Rev3 did a great job marking the course with bright arrows letting us know that a turn was approaching, that we were about to make a turn and then confirming the turn. This course had a lot of turns so it was easy to stay on course.

Nearing the first out and back around an hour into the race (around mile 20ish), I had my first chance to see my competition. As I was riding to the turn around, I discovered that I was near the front of the race...with the guys. I spotted Trimarni athletes Wlad and Adam on the other side of the road which was great to see some familiar faces. As I made my way back from the first turn around, I saw two other females just as I was about to cross the street, around mile 23. I had no way to know how far ahead I was or their efforts/speeds but I guessed it was around 5-6 minutes which fired me up to keep on pushing.

In my opinion, I feel like the last 30 miles were the hardest. Sure, I was getting a little tired but there's a good 300 more feet of climbing in the back half of the race, even though you are on the same roads, just heading back into town, instead of away from town.

Although I never found myself not enjoying the bike and I was mentally present for the entire bike, around mile 40,  still riding alone, with no one in sight and still pushing, I really wanted some company......I wanted someone to suffer with. As I was riding along, I spotted my athlete Adam in front of me and as I was passing him, he told me that his hamstring was giving him some issues. I told him that he was riding really strong (for a Floridian :) and to hang in there. I think it was great for both of us to be on the course near each other and as I rode ahead, I could feel that he wasn't too far behind me which I liked that he bounced back quickly and continued to bike really strong.

Seeing Adam was the pick me-up that I needed and as I approached the next turn around, I had an opportunity to see my competition for the last time before the run.

I saw my athlete Wlad ahead of me and after the turn around, I saw two girls close together but I felt like I was still keeping my lead.

With still around 10 miles to go (and a tough 10 miles), I told myself that I had one more opportunity to gain some ground on my competition. With every climb, I stayed steady and with every downhill, I told myself "free speed!" I rode very aggressive and a few times I thought about Karel (who was also racing at the same time as me but in Greenville) who is my idol when it comes to cycling. He has taught me everything I know about bike riding and he has taken me from a very inexperienced triathlete who didn't like to ride her bike to the athlete I am today. Sure, it took 10 years but he never gave up on me and I didn't give up on myself.

As we were nearing town, I caught up to Wlad and I was getting my mind and body ready for the run. I never looked at my Garmin for total time, pace, watts, etc. throughout the ride (except to hit lap every 30 minutes) but as I was nearing downtown, I switched my interval screen that I use for racing to my main screen which showed total time and miles.

I saw that we had around 3 miles to go and I was around 2:35 into the race. I wasn't chasing a specific time but I liked seeing my time here at the end just to give me one last push to T2.

After the last few climbs, I was nearing the bridge with several guys ahead of me and I saw a rider in the far distance but first, a few guys going to the right.
I was a little confused as I thought we went straight but I saw the neon pink arrow (yellow for olympic) on the ground that the half IM athletes were told to follow throughout the race....although it looked a little different than the taped arrows we had been following.

I had a quick second to process this information and to decide what to do - follow the pink arrow that is the same color as the arrows I have been following and follow the athletes ahead of me or go straight.

I decided to follow the arrow as I thought it was a little detour and would pop us out where I saw that rider far in the distance.

Also, Rev3 clearly told us that every arrow would be followed by another confirmation arrow. Well, sure enough, there was another yellow and pink arrow spray painted on the ground telling us which way to go.

Well, after seeing my Garmin go from 54 miles, to 55 miles to 56 miles to 57 miles to 58 miles as I was descending down a hill with several other guys saying "are we on course? This doesn't look right!" I stopped when it was safe for me to stop, asked a guy on a motorcycle "Where's the river" and he pointed up the hill we just descended down on.

At this time, Adam and Wlad were with me as I had caught up to both of them and we, along with a few others rode back to where we went off course. If you look at the picture above, you can see where it says 54 and 60 miles and the blue line which is where we rode off course.

As we were climbing back to the course, there weren't a lot of words spoken. This was the first time I had ever gone off course and I was trying to process it all. My first thought was that I had lost the lead that I worked so hard to gain for the past 54 miles on the bike + 1.2 miles in the water. My second thought, as I see more athletes going in the other direction was "I'm so confused!"

For several miles, we each would randomly shout out "this sucks" and Adam and Wlad both told me that they felt so bad for me as I was in the lead and had hoped to win this race.
I didn't say anything and somehow remained calm, despite being filled with so many emotions. I wanted to cry and be angry at the same time but something inside of me kept me calm.

By the time we returned to the course, a Rev3 staff member was taking care of the markings which were obviously not part of our race - despite looking nearly identical with the same colors.

The next 2 miles were tough. I was unable to pedal and I felt empty.
I could have easily stayed home and participated in our local half with Karel but I really wanted to come to Knoxville and race to the best of my ability because I love this course (Swim bike and run). I finished 2nd overall amateur female in the half last year and I felt like I could race this course a lot better and a lot stronger.  

Having Wlad and Adam there was so helpful. Although we didn't say much and each of us somehow stayed calm, we were all so upset. Wlad and Adam were also having amazing races and each were contenders for placing top three in their age group. 

As I rolled near the dismount line, I didn't know what to do.
Do I keep racing despite a 20 minute, 6 mile detour?
Do I stop and quit?
Do I complain and tell everyone what happened to gain closure? 

As I rolled my bike to my rack, I saw two other bikes from the girls who were behind me. Clearly, I was not even close to the front of the race anymore and who knows how many girls were close behind me due to my detour off course.

I don't know what made me want to continue as I had lost all hope that I would win this race, let alone place top three overall female.

The only thing I wanted to do was to cry as I was so upset.

I quickly grabbed my race belt, hydration belt and hat after I put on my running shoes and as I walked out of transition, I started jogging and then I started running.

And this wasn't my normal run off the bike... I was running hard. Actually, I was running with frustration.

As I was leaving transition, Taylor told me that the first place girl was at least 10-15 minutes ahead of me. Immediately, my heart sank into my chest. As you can imagine, I was replaying the scenario of what had just happened in my head for the first mile. Over and over again, I wished for a different outcome. I worked so hard on the bike and it was all for nothing. I kept thinking, "if only I didn't go off course, I would be in the lead and I could push the run as hard as I could to try to stay ahead of the competition."

I fought so hard with myself not to stop as my mind was going all over the place and I was clearly not thinking about running.

But as my Garmin auto lapped the first mile, I looked down and was in shock with my pace.
And the second mile went by and I was in disbelief with the pace I was holding.

I was completely numb and was feeling nothing as I was still so sad about what had happened.
But then something inside of me still wanted to race. I don't know how or why but I told myself that I am not going to give up until I crossed that finish line.

I came to Knoxville to race and I will leave everything ounce of energy I have on this course.

Finally thinking rationally, I knew I couldn't change the situation so I changed my attitude. I made sure I stayed up with my hydration drink (each flask had about 120 calories of Clif hydration + 1/8 tsp pink Himalayan salt) as I knew any lack of energy or fluids would not help this situation that I was in. 

As the miles ticked by, I had several other athletes cheering for me.
"I read your blog Trimarni!"
"You look great!"
"You are running so fast!"
"She's up ahead of you.....go get her!"

Well, I knew two girls were ahead of me but what I didn't know was by how much?

I knew I would see them as I got close to the turn around just after mile 3 and sure enough, I was about 1-1.5 miles behind.

That's a lot of ground to make up in 10 miles but my body was trained for this race and I was not going to let all that training go to waste.

I ran harder and harder and was taking a lot of risks. More risks than I would ever suggest my athletes to take. I threw in a few walks as I needed to shake out my legs after that hard 62 mile bike and I also needed to stop twice to fix the tongue in my left shoe as it was bothering my foot and I didn't want to hurt myself.
All in all, I knew that the stops and walks was going to affect my total time but then again, I was dealing with so many emotions, I was just happy that I was still making forward progress.

I saw Adam and Wlad who were running together and I felt like they were giving me a lot of energy. They would cheer for me before the turn around sections of the course (two out and backs) as I was running about a minute ahead of them. 
I mentally broke this course down into sections and kept making deals with myself - just get to the next aid station, just get to the bridge, just get to the turn around. Sure enough, I had passed the 2nd place girl and before I started my second loop, I saw the first place female about a mile ahead of me. I felt like my gap was closing but I still felt it would be impossible to catch her. My body was suffering but I was still running as fast as I could (considering the day I was having). 

The cheers were still coming from the other athletes which helped so much. I had a few athletes try to high five me and all I could do was smile. I didn't mean to be rude but I was on a mission and in a zone and I wasn't able to use any extra energy, except for grabbing my bottles from my hydration belt, grabbing water to cool myself and sipping a few cokes (twice) on the run and powering myself forward. 

As I was nearing the last turn around around mile 7, I saw the first place lady and I was getting close. At this time, I had been racing for over 4.5 hours and my body was getting tired. 

No. Keep going.

I kept pushing through a world of hurt. My mind and body were battling against each other and by mile 11, I was trying to tune out my mind and let my body run. The run back had a little wind in our face which was tough. Although this course isn't super hilly, it's not flat and the wind made it a bit more difficult to pick up my pace.

The last 1/2 mile was exhausting. Running on a walking path with lots of turns and I could see first place in the near distance. Oh so close, yet so far away. 

Nearing the finishing chute, I came to terms that I could not have given any more out there on the course. 

From start to finish, I gave my 100% best effort and pushed as hard as I could.

As I crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 21 minutes, I collapsed to the ground as my body and mind had enough. I was given a cold wet towel from a volunteer and my eyes started watering.

I was so sad about the misfortune of going off course and it finally all hit me after 1 hour and 39 minutes and 7 seconds of running. 

Adam and Wlad finished less than a minute behind me and they both ran incredibly strong. 

As a coach, I could not have been more proud of these two athletes for their character and ability to overcome the adversity of going off course.

After the results were finalized, I learned that I had missed the overall female winner spot by 34 seconds. I had the 12th fastest run of the day (including the guys) and the 6th fastest swim.

A little breakdown of my bike stats:
Total: 62 miles, 3:06 total time
3760 elevation gain (419 feet in the 6 mile detour)
Average cadence 89
Average HR 145
Average Normalized Power 164
Average speed 19.9

Stats before the detour (at mile 54):
2:40 time (average speed 20.3), normalized power 166

Split breakdown: (I never looked at my Garmin for watts, speed or HR, I went 100% by feel.)
25 minutes: 183 NP, 19.2 mph, 149 HR
30 minutes: 165 NP, 21.4 mph, 146 HR
30 minutes: 164 NP, 21.3 mph, 151 HR
30 minutes: 165 NP, 20.5 mph, 146 HR
30 minutes: 156 NP, 19.4 mph, 144 HR
41 minutes: 156 NP, 18.2 mph, 136 HR (including the 6 mile detour)

A little breakdown of my run stats:
Total: 13.1 miles, 1:39.07
656 elevation gain
Mile 1: 7:06
Mile 2: 7:08
Mile 3: 7:18
Mile 4: 7:32
Mile 5: 7:13
Mile 6: 7:38 
Mile 7: 7:30
Mile 8: 7:32
Mile 9: 7:40
Mile 10: 8:11 (fixing my shoe)
Mile 11: 7:35
Mile 12: 8:21 (barely surviving, long open stretch)
Mile 13: 7:51 (on the inclining walking path to the finish)

I came off the bike in 68th place overall and finished in 12th, passing 1 female and 56 males. 

After the race, Taylor told me that she had been talking to my mom (who was supporting Karel at his race) and Karel had won overall at the Mountains to Main Street half.

I was filled with emotions.
While the effort I gave and the suffering I endured throughout the race was exactly what I had set out to do at Rev3 Knoxville, I wanted so badly to change the scenario which affected the outcome of the race.
But then I was so happy for Karel and honestly, overjoyed as I knew how bad he wanted to win his race.

After the race, I went over to my former athlete Tracy (also Rev3 volunteer coordinator) and couldn't hold in my emotions anymore. I cried to her and she felt so bad. I told her it was not her fault but I was just so upset and it all finally hit me.

When we walked to get our bikes, I was in great company as we (Wlad and Adam) could all share this experience together. We even joked "are we going the right direction?" a few times as we were walking back to the hotel.

When I returned to our hotel room, I laid down and texted my mom (who knew the situation from Taylor) and asked her to tell Karel to call me when he was ready to talk. I didn't want to take away from his celebration of winning his race.

Karel immediately called me and it was great to talk about our races.

Later I learned that the markings on the course were by a charity ride that was occurring in 3 weeks. The ride organizers marked the course on Saturday night with the exact same colors (and arrows, but with a circle) as Rev3. There was no way that Rev3 would have known about this or how it would affect our race and Rev3 was at no fault for the detour.

This is a tough situation to explain how the mind works when you are racing but even harder to understand for outsiders. While it's obvious that the charity arrows are not Rev3 arrows and I keep replaying this scenario in my head as if I could change the outcome, this was just one of those situations where it was just unfortunate how it all happened and what a coincidence that the arrows looked so similar and happened to take so many athletes off course.

Overall results: HERE
Race breakdown: HERE

When faced with adversity, you really discover what you are made of as an athlete.
While there was no way that I could have prepared for this situation, I have once again learned something about racing.
When faced with a hardship on race day, you can choose to beat it or it can beat you.
Recovering and moving on from difficult scenarios, tragedies and circumstances is part of life but it is also a big part of sports. 
I've learned a lot in 10 years of endurance racing and I know that adverse situations, whether a detour on a course, weather or a nutrition or mechanical issue, will make or break your race day.
As athletes, we often have split seconds to figure out how to deal with the cards we are given for a possible favorable outcome.

While I didn't win the race, I am extremely proud of my body for what it was able to do and for my mind for never giving up. I have no idea how I was able to run after the detour or what inner force made me run so hard but that is what I love about my sport of triathlons.

You learn so much about yourself during every race.

Thank you Rev3 for teaching me that I can deal with adversity.

Thank you to our sponsors!