Last fall, myself, along with Kelly Ruiter and David Ford, who you may remember from my wildly popular Sufferlandria/Dante’s Inferno crossover blogs, sat at J. Gumbo, toying with an idea. The idea was to form a relay team and sweep the Rev3 relay circuit, beginning in Knoxville. Kelly would swim. David would bike. And I would run. Thus our training began.
Before we knew it, winter had passed along with “spring” (I’m using that term loosely) and we made our way down to Knoxville. We picked up another racer for the 9-hour drive and made it to the race site. Our team name was “Mostly Harmless,” paying homage to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy novels. We signed in, check out the expo, enjoyed some local restaurants, watched a robot throw around a beach ball in the science village, and passed the time. Yet all the while our minds were on Sunday…Race Day!
Into the Drink
Kelly was anxious about the swim. She didn’t have a lot of open water experience and 1.2 miles is a big distance. Fortunately the swim is wet suit legal, and is mostly downstream. I didn’t tell her before the race, but I was thrilled she was doing the swim. Because if she hadn’t, I probably would’ve had to, and last year the water was frigid. Am I implying that I am not tough enough to handle some freezing water? Yes. That’s exactly what I am saying.
Kelly fought off her nerves and suited up early. David and I walked her down to the dock for her wave’s 7:25 a.m. start. Luckily the water wasn’t as cold this year and she was able to get comfortable quickly. A few seconds later we lost her in the pod of pink caps bobbing up and down in the river. After a few minutes, the air horn sounded and her swim began.
Dave and I walked back to transition so he could begin preparing his bike for his event. He tweaked his bike, mused over lenses of various tints and colors for his sunglasses, and set up his nutrition. I mostly stared at the clock and watched the river, playing the waiting game.
After around 39 minutes, we saw a streak with red hair running toward transition. After some quick cheers, Dave readied his bike and stuck out his foot for the timing chip. Kelly sprinted to where we were set up. I grabbed the chip off her ankle, wrapped it around Dave’s, and without a word he took of on his bike.
Kelly’s official time: 39:30 AWESOME!
If You’re Having Fun, You’re not Pedaling Hard Enough
By Dave’s own estimation, it would take him at least 2 hours and 45 minutes to ride the 56 mile bike course through the hilly Tennessee countryside. Kelly and I used the time to go back to the hotel, pack some of our things, get cleaned up, and have something to eat. I collected my nutrition and then we went to the expo area where we watched the first of the pros cross the finish line and make victory speeches. After that it was back to transition to begin the waiting game…again.
The area we were set up in is where all relay teams are stationed. This means that you can try to size up the competition (in triathlon you can’t really do this based on physical appearances) and also keep an eye out for when their team members begin and end. We had some good conversation with the runner for another relay team. While Kelly and I fully expected Dave to come back before her biker, we were wrong. Out of the blue her teammate showed up, exchanged the chip, and took off running. Dang.
This was actually kind of fun because then we knew there was at least one team in front of us. Believe it or not a little pressure and some friendly competition can make a race all the more enjoyable. From the second she started running, we started counting the minutes.
Still not a big deal.
She has a decent lead now.
Dave came flying in on his bike and came to a halt in front of us. This time it was Kelly who ripped the chip off of Dave’s leg and then fixed it onto my ankle. My turn!
Dave’s official time: 2:50:34 An impressive time, especially considering that he was realistically projecting just under 3 hours for the 56 miles. Fantastic!
My run started at a fast pace due to a combination of excitement and knowing that there was a team I needed to catch. My pace fluctuated between 6 min/miles and 7:30 min/miles. I did not have to wait too long though. At mile 1.8 I passed the other runner.
Still, with 11.3 miles to go, there wasn’t time to assume it was over. I settled into an approximate 7:30 pace and continued running like the other teams were right on my heels.
I would like to say the rest of the run was smooth and uneventful. Unfortunately I learned that I suffer from very selective memory. One of the things I tell friends and family who don’t race is that while you deal with a lot of pain, exhaustion, and discomfort, you block it soon after finishing the race. You bask in the glory of your accomplishment and focus on the good moments. And there are good moments, even if those moments sometimes only revolve around being done! It seems I had blocked the Knoxville run course from my memory. I had remembered the course as mostly flat with one short, steep hill, and two kind of long, but gradual, hills.
Not even close.
This course was very hilly and had a lot of twists and turns. I am fairly confident that there are roller coasters based on the terrain of the run course. My memory returned to me after mile 3.1, when things start getting tough. Crud.
Nonetheless, it didn’t change my plan: Go out and run 13.1 miles as quickly as I could. So that’s what I did. I followed the twists and turns, reaching the summit of one hill after another, until finally I was at the home stretch. Together the team ran across the finish line. As soon as I crossed I immediately began reblocking out how strenuous and exhausting the Rev3 Knoxville running course is. Because that’s just what you do!
Steve’s official time: 1:40:19 Not as fast as my Lincoln Half Marathon time, but given that the Knoxville course is significantly more challenging than the Springfield course, I’m grateful for how it went.
We did it! Mostly Harmless set out to take a podium spot at Rev3 Knoxville and did just that. For our accomplishment we each received Powerbars, Powergels, 1st place pint glasses, and interlocking award medals. Tired and victorious we set out on the 9-hour journey home.
Final relay time with transitions: 5:12:49… YESSSSSSSSSSSS!
In the end we were glad there was healthy competition for us at the race. It is great teams can motivate each other, and it always helps knowing that you either have to chase someone down or someone is chasing you down! Next up for the team is Rev3 Dells. Same people, but we might even change the name. Perhaps we’ll go as 42 or the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters. Stay tuned to find out!