First, family friendly. Hello, we show up at the expo and there is this:My kids were in heaven. And, since this was also the finish line. And right outside of our hotel. Perfect way to keep them entertained while we were racing.
Second, they really pay attention to detail and try to make the racers feel important.
Since we were racing on Mothers Day, and I was a "mom", I was given a special gift of a new race belt and pink Trakkers visor (triple yay! for me because (1) I love visors, (2) I had lost my Trakkers visor earlier this year and (3) did I mention it was pink?). On top of that, my number was coded pink so that everyone knew I was a mom and cheered for me accordingly on race day.
Then, Ross and I went down to bike check and we found nameplates in our transition spots. How personal. It was like we were pros, only not really cuz the pros actually had banners with their pictures by their transition spots (not to mention $30,000 bikes which we did not).
Then, Ross and I went down to check out the river we would be swimming in. Gorgeous.
And then we decided to take a car ride and see what the bike course was like. I was already excited because I liked the greenery of Knoxville and I was anticipating a very pretty course. I was right.
Since there was no elevation on the website, I figured it would be a fairly flat course. Boy, was I wrong. Someone told me that "the car ride is worse than the bike", that helped ease any nerves, but again, they were wrong. :)
Ross and I were really lucky to have my parents there to help with the kids, both when we were figuring out the logistics and also when we were racing. For me, it was really special because they came all this way to both watch us and to help us out. That amount of support is priceless.
That night, we got a good meal in us and off to bed. The morning came and it was a quick 10 minute walk to check on our bikes in transition, then off to the water. Again, gorgeous.
The start was probably the most aggressive start I have ever been in. There was a lot of pushing, shoving, kicking, but I held my own. I think I even swam over someone at one point. I have had problems in the past with anxiety in these types of starts, but I kept my nerves and my heart rate in check and just did what I could. I am actually pretty proud of myself for this because this was one of my bigger fears going in. Plus, I had not been in open water since last August and I was happy with how fast and easy I fell into my groove. We swam upstream to the turnaround. Even though the dam was shut off, I was secretly hoping for a current to make the second half go faster, but didn't get one. Oh well.
Got to the end and hopped out of the water onto a dock, ran up the dock, through the boathouse, across the street to transition. Whew!
Coming out of transition is where I saw my dad and boys. This made me so, so, so happy. I thought this would probably be the only time we would see them all day since it is pretty hard to time when we would be in transitions and herd the boys there, make them wait, etc. So I stopped and gave them a quick kiss and was on my way.
Now, the one thing I will have to say about the bike is that it is hilly. Whether you were in the city of country. Hills, hills, hills. 56 miles of hills. While I figured my net time would be slower than on a flat course, I think that I actually did better than others (of my similar ability) on the hills. I say this primarily because when I would pass people, it would be on the hills. And I was able to climb them standing whereas others sat the whole way. This made me happy.
Coming back into transition I saw... NO WAY! My parents and kids. Yay! I changed quick and ran out to see them. More kisses and my mom said, "Ross has a few minutes on you". I shouted back, "That's ok, he started a few minutes before me".
At this point, I was hurting. My back had started to tighten up on the bike, so I took some ibuprofen in transition. Now, my back had full on ceased up. I stopped and stretched and then tried to run. Still hurt. Continued to stop and stretch, run, pain, stop, stretch until I found the right stretch that alleviated some of the pain. By mile one, I had stopped 5 times, but found one stretch. After that, I would run (slowly b/c of the pain) and stop about every 3/4 of a mile. About 6 miles in, the pain got to be manageable so I didn't have to stop. Then it was a matter of ticking down the miles. One by one. Just get 'er done.
I will say the one thing I did not like about this course was there were many turnarounds and out-and-backs. While I did like them because I got to see Ross at each one, they played a big part on my mental, especially towards the end. Around mile 11, you were running back into transition area and, instead of turning and running towards the finish, you had to continue running up the road for about 1/2 mile and turn around and run back (ugh!). But the WORST one was once you ran back to transition, up and around it, up another hill and then were heading to the finish (where you could see the finish line) you had to take a left and run UP a hill for about another 1/3 of a mile. (Come on! Could you not have found 2/3 of a mile to add on (a) in the middle of the course and/or (b) where it was a bit more shady and/or (c) a little flatter and/or (d) where you weren't in eyesight of the finish???) But, I saw Ross as he was coming down and that is all I needed to make it to the end.
So, I am on my way down the hill and I see- no way!- my kids again, waiting for me. They take my hands and get to run down the finish line shoot with me! And there was Ross at the end, waiting for me. So, it was the perfect finish for me. My parents and our friend Anthony (who had done the Olympic distance), were there, too. Ross and I both felt good and we both finished!
After the race, we had some food, stretched and went to check our times. Considering the conditions, the hilly course and how I felt and my crappy run, I was thinking I was probably out there 6:30 or so. Our times ended up being 6:05 & 6:07, so I was more than happy with that.
Plus, I got to see my kids and parents at each transition point. It's not easy to entertain little ones, but my parents did an excellent job! Here's my dad in action:It was such a treat to spend the weekend with them and I am grateful for all that they did with us.
Before I knew it, it was time to take my little bears home from the Smokies.
**Thanks, too, to Sonja who supplied me with some of the pictures above.