This month I’m a little behind with posting, but as promised here is my report from the Challenge Knoxville half ironman! (Better late than never, right? :) Brace yourself, it’s kind of a long one, so it’s in 2 parts!
To start off, lots of people have asked about why I chose to go all the way to Knoxville, during the busiest month of my life, to race a long race (for me). I have to say that in hindsight, this was a lot to take on. Please, if you’re thinking about traveling to a race, or even scheduling a long race at all during a busy time in your life, consider how tired you might be heading into it and how much more of your energy it will require! That said, I picked this race for a bunch of reasons. One is that I felt I needed to do a longer race in this training cycle before heading to Sweden. Another is that a late winter has meant that I haven’t had much time to train outside. Finally, the Challenge family was able to significantly reduce the cost of racing to the SOAS racing girls (Kristy Schiano and pro Laura Siddall also raced!). So, cost + opportunity to race outside + the distance I needed + some time away from work meant the stars aligned for a road trip to Tennessee.
On Friday evening I packed up my little truck and took my good friend from Waterloo, my cousin and her best friend and started the trip to Knoxville. Since we left a bit late we didn’t plan to drive all at once. We crossed the border in Sarnia (which was perfect! So fast!) and went straight through Michigan before we stopped in Dayton, OH. The next morning we piled back into the truck and drove the rest of the way to Knoxville.
Here’s the thing. I sort of signed up for this race in a rush, in the midst of moving and exams and graduation etc. So I sort of looked at the course profile, and I may have glanced at the maps, and quite possibly skimmed the athlete guide. I was not exactly prepared for our drive through the Smokey Mountains towards Knoxville… I pretty much sat in the passenger seat and tried not to panic for the last 45 minutes :).
mojitos and tunes from this little guy on Saturday night
When we arrived, Challenge of course had a great setup at the expo and it was really easy to get registered. I picked up my kit and swag, signed out a chip and smiled for a photo, and headed into transition where a lovely volunteer helped rack my bike. For the rest of the day, I tried not to get nervous and we explored Knoxville. Obviously the best way to fuel up the night before a race is with handmade chocolate, ice cream, ceviche, and mojitos, right?
On the morning of the race I was strangely calm. I think that I knew I was pretty undertrained for this one, and since I was planning to treat it as more of a long training day than anything, the pressure was off. Plus, I really hate getting cold at the start of a race and jumping into cold water, and in east Tennessee in May, this was definitely NOT an issue :). I was glad for my sleeveless wetsuit!
The start was scheduled for 7, so I woke up around 4.30 and had my usual oatmeal + dates in the hotel room. I finished getting ready, put on my tattoos (had to wait for help with the calf tattoos!), packed up my gear and then woke up my very sleepy travel companions so we could head to transition to get set up. We left around 6.15, I laid everything out and put on the wetsuit, and we moseyed over to the race start at a dock in the river. I said bye to the girls and Dan and stood by the other women to watch the pros go out. After a few delays, they called my heat at 7.18 and before I knew it I was in the water and off!
Read Part 2 here!