Challenge Knoxville half - 13.1 mile run

My game plan for the first few miles of the run was to establish good-form running as quick as possible and then run as strong as possible for the remainder of the race. It typically takes me around 15-20 minutes to warm-up my legs in any given run and race day was no exception. I didn't look at my Garmin for the first 3 miles (even with it auto-lapped each mile) and I just focused on good form, tall posture (for my 5-foot frame), quick cadence and light on the feet. I did set up my Garmin to show the following on the interval screen:
Lap pace average   Current pace
Lap distance     Total time

When I got to the first aid station, I stopped to take a drink of water from the volunteers and to take a few deep breaths to try to get my HR to lower. Like many athletes, my HR goes up in the first mile but then if I can stop and take a few breaths, it will lower to normal levels. To ensure that I had plenty of fuel in my tank for the later miles, a high heart rate in the early miles was not part of my racing plan. So even though I didn't feel like I was breathing hard or struggling with my form, I still made the conscious effort to stop almost every aid station, especially in the first 3 miles. 

I never see walking/stopping as failing to run or that it is preventing me from running a faster time. If anything, it helps me run stronger in the later miles as I can maintain good form and more focus through my "interval" run/walk strategy (Karel walks too when he races and so do our athletes). 

I had heard that the bike course was hilly but the run course was also very hilly when we get into a neighborhood. Race maps can be deceiving online/on paper and every athlete has his/her own definition of hilly. When I lived in Florida, every bump in the road was a hill and a bridge was a mountain. Certainly, after living in Greenville for a year, my definition of "hilly" has changed a lot. Now I say "bumps, hills, bigger hills and mountains". 

I took a sip from my Nathan hydration belt flask between each aid station so that I could drink just water at the aid stations. Each flask had 90 calories in it so I consumed 180 calories during the 13.1 mile run + a little water at every aid station. I never felt bonky or lethargic or dehydrated. It's really important to find the right balance of how "fast" you can run to be competitive but also how much you can fuel to support that effort. There is a fine line between running too hard and not being able to meet your needs which often ends up in a bonk-like scenario, dehydration or GI distress. I consider myself a very metabolically efficient athlete as I use sport nutrition in all my training so I utilize carbohydrates very efficiently for rapid energy to my working muscles. Karel is the same way as he also uses sport nutrition in every workout (and we always run with our hydration belts - even for the short runs). 

So now on to the fun stuff - let's talk about the race!

As I started the run, my body felt good. Not great, but not bad. With many endurance events behind me, I can tell you that how you feel when you start the race can be very misleading. Never let how you feel in the first few miles of a race convince you if you are going to have a bad, great or good race. You have to literally run with it and find a way to settle into your rhythm. 
I shut off all feelings and just ran. I saw ahead and my two competitions were ahead of me...like way ahead of me. 

The road slightly inclined and declined but it was not challenging for the first 2 miles. I knew I didn't overbike because my legs felt fairly fresh. 
We then made a left turn on to a running path and I began to settle into a rhythm. Still taking walk/stop breaks at the aid stations (which were almost every mile), the road began to incline/decline a bit more and I finally felt like I was in my element - hills and nature. 

With my competition no where in sight, I found myself passing a few guys and watching the pros (running in the opposite direction on this out and back course) really digging dip. 

I found my right leg feeling a little tight - it was kinda like my ITB was tightening but I couldn't really identify exactly what was going on...but that's ok. With 6 years of chronic hip/back injuries, I've experienced so much in training that I don't need to diagnose myself in a race to figure things out. Thankfully, in the last two years, I have learned to trust myself that I am not injured every time I feel a niggle. 

I began to check-in with my Garmin every time it lapped at the mile around mile 3. My time was hoovering around 7:40-7:50 min/mile and I wasn't sure what to think of this. I had studied previous race times to learn what would be a "fast" run time on this course and previous times alerted me that this was not a "fast" time course but instead, a course for those who could run the strongest off the bike. 

I tried to keep my emotions aside, assuming that I needed to run faster with every mile so I just stayed focused on my competition ahead of me. 

As I was around mile 3,5-4ish, I looked ahead and saw a super steep incline. The road just went straight up. No problem, I thought. Let's just tipy-toe-jog my way up with powerful arms and call it a "run". 

As I was running up the hill, I spotted my friend, pro triathlete Katie Thomas and she looked so strong running down the hill. She was smiling and I was so happy for her that she was having a great race. Katie and I have raced together only a few times and she remains a great friend to me (and awesome athlete!). 

As I approached the aid station after the hill, I decided to not stop but to keep running. With another hill after the aid station, I wanted to get the hill over with and "recover" at the top. I grabbed my water to sip and another to cool my face (even though it was cloudy, I could still feel myself getting hot) and then when I got to the top, I looked ahead and saw "the neighborhood" that everyone had been talking about. 

I took a quick stop break, gathered myself and in less than 10 seconds, I came to the realization that I felt amazingly good and the miles were just ticking away!

 Despite dealing with a few issues with my sport bra feeling super tight (I'll go back to my Oakley Women sport bras instead of my Brooks running one that constricts my rib cage), my leg acting weird and my mind trying to convince me that I wasn't running fast enough..........

My first prey was now behind me! I passed her before the neighborhood (I think) and then as I was started running again when I entered "the neighborhood"....I saw Karel!

Karel was on the other side of the street, running up the hill that I was running down. I shouted "Go Karel" and he was in his zone. He looked so strong and I figured he had to be near the front of the AG male race. 

And in a matter of 5 miles, it really hit me.
My why.....It's for the love of competition!

When I train, I love the journey that I get to take myself on. Just me and my body and mind.
But on race day, I am out there with hundreds of other athletes who have all been on their own personal athletic journey and I get to be part of the action. It's not about who is the best based on a time or finishing place but instead, how we all bring out the best in each other and how and why we compete. We aren't exercisers....we are athletes!

At Challenge Knoxville, I found myself feeling so extremely grateful to my body for allowing me to compete. For allowing me to chase and actually catch my competition. 
Victory, winning or feeling successful is not simply about a PR, a placement or a finishing time.
Since my last key race was 8 months, I forgot what it felt like to be hungry to race. To be excited to push beyond the limits on what the body and mind are capable of achieving. 

For the next mile, while running up and down long gradual hills in "the neighborhood", I kept thinking about Karel and how hard he was pushing. Karel has the amazing ability to dig so deep because of his former crit-racing days (where your best day is only as good as your ability to hang on to the riders wheel ahead of you who is having a better day). Through years of being injured, I have always desired the ability for my mind to be my only limiter on race day. And here I was, trying to understand my "why" as to why I was racing. And with my healthy and strong body, I had no reason why not to dig deep and let my mind be my only limiter. I began to say to myself "the hurt from pushing hard is so much better than the hurt from an injury!"

With every mile behind me, I found myself getting closer and closer to what I now thought was the 2nd place overall amateur female finisher (I wasn't 100% on who was ahead of me). She was within my reach but I just couldn't catch her as she was not slowing down.

After mile 5, I decided that now I would take the risk. The risk that we have all taken during a race and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. 

I made my move on an uphill with the strongest effort I had given since I got off the bike that morning and I was right behind my competition.
Ok, now comes the risk. If I pass her and she has another gear in her, I am pretty sure that with 6.5 miles to go, my body would not be able to win that battle. 

I causally moved over to the right side of our road as I feared being side by side and having her sprint past me. She got ahead of me on a downhill and when the next uphill came, we were running side by side for at least a 1/2 mile. There was no talking or eye contact. We were both focused. 
When we got to the turn around, I found myself inching ahead of her. I just stayed focused and kept doing what I love to do and that's run on hills. 

As I neared mile 7, I could see a few girls on the other side of the road and I took a quick look back and the other lady was still in my eye sight. 

Ok, here I go. One more risky move. On the next uphill, I turned on the gas one more time and when I got to the top of the hill and ran hard downhill. I then stopped, took 3 deep exhales and then continued on running my sustainable strong effort. As I made my way up the last long climb (where I spotted Karel) I could not wait to see that aid station knowing that that steep uphill leaving the park was now my "recovery" downhill - and boy, it was a steep downhill! 

Let's be honest here - but as I neared mile 10, it started to feel a little hard. I was cutting a lot of deals with myself like if I made it to mile 11 at this effort I would allow myself to slow down (of course, when I got to mile 11, I made another deal to get to mile 12). Those risky moves were catching up to me but for the love of competition, I did not want to give up. I was going to dig and dig until I crossed that finish line and I refused to let my mind be weaker than my body. 

I found myself running with another guy for the next 2 miles in the park and he was keeping a great pace. I no longer even cared what my Garmin was telling me each mile as my only goal was to get to that finish line in the position that I was in with less than 2 miles to go. 

As we left the park, I found myself back on the open four-lane road with the river to my right. I tried to focus on my breathing (which was getting heavy as I was trying to run as "fast" as possible), good form (which was probably not that pretty) and staying focused (thankfully, no bonking or dehydration). 

As I neared the last aid station on the road, I stopped, grabbed some water, looked behind me and finally felt like my strong body and smart race tactics had me finishing one spot better than my pre-race goal. 

But, nothing is final until you cross that finish line so as I made the left hand turn on to the sidewalk path by the transition area, I weaved my way through spectators, pro finishers (thanks Maggie and Katie for the cheers) and volunteers for .25 miles and finally saw the finishing chute. 

I was so relieved to finally reach the finish line chute but my exhausted body immediately got a boost of energy when Karel and Campy were waiting for me at the beginning of the finish chute!!

 It was a total surprise for me to see them both and because Challenge Family allows family members and pets to run across the finish line with athletes, Karel and Campy joined me for my run across the line. It was the happiest of happy moments as it was such a great surprise (and better than any race result) and it was a moment that I will never forget. 

I gave my mom a big hug at the finish as I was so thankful that she was out there all day with Campy (taking great pics and cheering us on), chatted with Kelsey (who raced strong in the aquabike), chatted with Ed (who did amazing in the Oly) and then chatted with Karel. 

One of my favorite parts of racing with Karel is sharing our experiences, thoughts, highs and lows with each other after the race. I love hearing how we each perceived the course and how it all went down. After many years of watching Karel race bikes, it is so special to share our triathlon lifestyle together. 

There was a problem with the results and timing system so all we knew was the unofficial results which were not correct. We had a late check out scheduled in our hotel for 4pm (for only $35 extra) so after hanging out at the expo for a little (they ended up cancelling the awards due to the timing issues), Karel and I walked back to the transition area to get our stuff and check-out our bikes and then made our way slowly back to the hotel. We were both surprised that we did not feel more destroyed after our effort (I owe some of that to it being cloudy and not super hot) but we were super sore. As soon as I got back to the hotel room, I had a big glass of milk, a banana and some saltine crackers. 

We finally heard the results and regardless of what we heard, we both felt like we had great races. We felt strong, healthy and smart on the race course. 

Marni race stats:
13.1 mile run: 1:42.27

5th fastest amateur female run

2nd overall amateur female
Total time: 5:03.12

Run splits per Garmin (3.22 miles)
(average 7:45 min/mile)

Karel race stats:
13.1 mile run: 1:28.45 (1 min PR from Haines City 70.3 4 weeks ago!)
8th fastest amateur male run
2nd AG (35-39)
8th overall amateur male
Total time: 4:34.01

Run splits per Garmin (13.23 miles)
(average pace - 6:43)

Campy catching up on lost morning sleep. 

Karel sprinting to the finish line! Literally - he had another athlete sprinting with him for the last 2.5 mile and he was not willing to let him beat him!

What a special moment! Campy wins by a nose...or a paw!

Why do I race? Because I love seeing what my body can do on race day and I love sharing it with those who I love and with all the other amazing athletes on the race course. 

Sending a big thank you to all the Trimarni sponsors!
And thank you to the Challenge Family volunteers and coordinators.

And thank you, Trimarni follower, for reading. I love sharing my thoughts after races as a way for me to reflect. But I also love being able to help out other athletes. If you were able to take away a tip, suggestion or strategy for your next race, you have reminded of me of my last why as to why I still love to race. I've made a lot of mistakes in my 9 years of endurance races and I will continue to learn 
new things on race day. Thanks for letting me help you so that you can work hard, train smart and reach your athletic goals with your amazing body. 


Challenge Knoxville Half - 56 mile bike

After mounting the bike, I quickly realized that all of us athletes were in for a very wet and rainy bike ride. 

Not familiar with any mile of this bike course, my main goal was to ride as strong as possible. And to define strong, I wanted to feel really good throughout the entire bike. I anticipated low moments which are normal in long distance racing but I wanted a strong sustainable effort. 

As we made our way on a main road and then over an overpass to the other side of the river, I began to become more aware of my "why" as to why I was racing.

For many athletes, training and racing is all about the results on race day. For me, I love the journey. I try to take mental notes of where my fitness is when I start a training journey and then where my fitness is on race day. For Challenge Knoxville, I felt confident and strong on the bike and if someone were to ask me on the bike "why are you racing?" I would proudly respond (with a smile) "because there was a time when I couldn't ride like this!"

I had no power, time or speed goals for the bike. Instead, I did know how I wanted it to feel as I was chasing my nearest competition. After a year of riding in Greenville, I can confidently say that I have greatly improved my strength and skills on the bike ( almost every ride in Greenville, we average around 16.5-17 mph  due to our  hilly terrain and with every 1 hour of riding we do around 1000 feet of climbing). 
I knew that with the rain and the few climbs along with small rolling hills on the course, the "fastest" athlete would be the one who raced smart.

 In years past, I felt like I had the fitness to ride fast but I lacked the necessary skills to ride smart on my race courses. Just a year ago in St. Croix, I remember being very apprehensive on the bike, taking no risks and feeling waves of low energy. One year later and wow, things have really changed for me and my cycling fitness/skills. I made sure to remind myself of how far I have come in 9 years of endurance triathlon racing but more so, the progress I have made in the past year. 
I didn't need any specific watts, speed or finishing time to demonstrate how good I felt on the bike and for me, at Challenge Knoxville, I felt as if I was racing stronger than ever before. 

The night before the race, I changed one of my Garmin 500 interval screens to show the following:
Normalized lap power
Current lap time        3sec power
Cadence                   Lap speed

I didn't care about my overall time, I wasn't wearing a HR monitor so I didn't need HR taking up space on my screen and I didn't care about my overall average power. 

I actually could have rode the entire 56 mile ride without my Garmin but I used my Garmin to "check-in" every 20 minutes. Every 20 minutes (give or take 30-60 seconds) I would hit the lap button so I only "checked-in" in 20 min segments. Karel lapped every 30 minutes.
We do this in every race for it helps to analyze the file after the race but also it gives a better representation of our efforts at specific parts in the race. It's like intervals on race day. It keeps us honest and accountable with our efforts rather than viewing average speed or average power for 56 miles. 

As we made our way to the first climb, I was excited to get out of my saddle for my normal climbing style and stretch my legs as I stood up and pedaled my way over the first climb. Despite the rain and wet roads, I felt very confident descending and taking turns. Again - why was I racing? Because once I was a scared cyclist who lacked good, safe cycling skills to race to my potential and now I was thankful that I never gave up on my quest to be a better cyclist (I owe a lot of that to Karel who, year after year, strengthens my love for cycling. And to electronic shifting......And to my new home - I love riding in Greenville!). 

There were several crashes on the course and it was hard to see so many athletes on the side of the road. I heard a lot of dropped chains as I was riding and saw a few flat tires. I did have one oh-no moment when I was making a right turn and the road pitched-up a bit so as I was turning, I got out of my saddle to power-up the hill and my back wheel kinda slid behind me. Luckily, I didn't go down but it reminded me that everyone out on the course would be experiencing their own struggles, forcing many athletes to ride out of their comfort zones due to the weather and road conditions.

I found the course very manageable - there were long stretches of road to settle into a rhythm (in the aero bars) and there were no packs of riders drafting off one another. I love racing smaller races because there is no worries about large packs passing an athlete. The vibe was all around positive and Challenge did an exceptional job marking the course. For the half there were pink arrows all over the course and triangles to note rough patches of road. The road conditions (minus the rain) were great as the roads were very smooth (a lot of our country roads in Greenville are bumpy!) and the views were beautiful. Lots of farm land with mountain views. I made sure to say hi to all the animals who were out - especially the cute little calf that was watching us ride by in his pasture. 

I found myself playing car and mouse with a few guys for much of the ride (one of which was the husband of previous pre-built athlete of mine, Kara - her hubby Brian was riding really strong). 

I was passed by two very strong female riders somewhere around 18-25 miles. 

I tried to keep the two girls in my view for most of the ride, for as much as I could without chasing too hard (I needed to make sure I had some running legs off the bike). 

As I made the left hand turn, heading toward the first turn around, I spotted Karel, doing his thing, riding super strong. I yelled "GO Karel!" and he gave me a semi-wave back (fingers lifted off his aero bars). It made me happy to see him and like usual, it was an instant endorphin boost. 
Karel ended up riding the first 30 min incredibly strong before settling into his rhythm but still managed a very consistent and fast ride. When we talked about the race after the ride, we both said we felt so strong and this was an awesome course and we can't wait to race it again next year. 

As I was nearing the turn around, I looked on the other side of the road to see if I could count what place I was in. It was hard to know 100% but I spotted Amy (who was first AG athlete) and then I spotted the two girls that I was trying to stay close to ahead of me.

4th place overall amateur female athlete was a tough situation, mentally, to be in. I found myself wondering if I would be passed by any more girls or if I would even be able to catch these girls on the run to achieve my top 3 overall amateur goal.

But then I stopped thinking and starting acting. I reminded myself "why" I race - to see if what may look impossible is actually possible. 

I couldn't believe how good my legs felt throughout the entire ride and even though my power was lower than I imagined it to be based on my riding in Greenville, it didn't really bother me because the feeling that I was experiencing was reassuring that my fitness was in a good place. I actually felt the best that I have ever felt in a half IM swim and bike and as the miles ticked by, I began to find myself enjoying this race more and more! 
I have put 100% trust into my training plan this season and I really believed that I could run strong off the bike.

However, believing and achieving are easier said than done.

For most of the ride, I stayed focused on what I needed to do on the bike to set myself up for a good run. I made sure to be deligent with my liquid calories and I sipped my primary bottle (on my down tube of my frame) every 10 min (2-3 sips) starting from 20 min on the bike. I would rotate the bottles so that I always had my primary bottle in the down tube. I did not stop at any aid stations for water. If it was a bit more hot and sunny, I would have used water for sipping/cooling. 
I managed to get down a wafer, despite not enjoying solid food when I ride - but it has worked well in training (our riding is so taxing that I have to consume a lot more nutrition than I use to consume in FL each hour) so I wanted to try it on race day. 
I consumed around ~1100 calories on the bike and 3 x 24 ounce bottles of fluid.

As I was nearing the second turn around, I felt like I was gaining some ground on the three girls ahead of me but still wasn't able to pass any of them. 

Gloria has taught me well to not jump ahead in my thoughts so I didn't think about the run but instead, just focused on the last 10 miles or so of the bike. 

We had one more long climb to go and I found myself passing several athletes (including one of the girls ahead of me) near the top of the climb. However, I was then passed by several athletes in that group that I was staying close to (legally drafting) as I needed to pee (really badly) and just didn't want to hold it in on the run (especially while wearing a fuel belt). 

I had to slow down a lot to relieve my bladder and I ended up losing at least a minute from the other group. It was a solo ride back to the transition area with no other athletes around me and the girls ahead of me were long gone (with Amy way far ahead - I didn't want to assume anything but I didn't put pressure on myself to catch her). 

I turned on my Garmin 910 with around 1 mile to go so it would be all set (satellite found) for the run. 

As I was nearing the transition area, I saw the two girls ahead of me already leaving transition area and I was not even dismounting my bike. 
Game on!

I turned off my computer as I was dismounting my bike and jogged my bike into the transition area (I was the 2nd rack). I smiled at my mom (and Campy) who were sitting on the sidewalk between the transition area and run course. Although this course was not spectator friendly (aside from the swim and run finish), I was really happy to see some familiar faces. 

After racking my bike, I removed my cycling shoes and put on my very wet Brooks Pure Flow 4 run shoes. I put on my Nathan 2-flask Hydration belt and then as I was about to start running, I grabbed my dad's corvette had, dumped out the puddle of water inside it and put it on my head (oh - I put my Oakley RPM sunglasses on around mile 30 of the bike and kept them on for therun - although I didn't need them in the rain/cloudy weather on the bike, there was a lot of debris on the road and I didn't want anything to get into my eyes). 
I put my race belt on as I was running out of transition and started my Garmin. 

I immediately spotted my friend Ed as he was finishing the Olympic and he gave me the biggest smile and we gave each other a high-five. Another "why" as to why I love racing - seeing other athletes on the course who all love doing amazing things with their bodies!

I smiled at my mom (and Campy - who either wanted to run with me or chase the other athletes) and started my 13.1 mile run. 

13.1 miles to finally understand "why" I still love racing triathlons. 

Karel (in the background) running his way out of transition. 

Yay - legs feel good! Thank you body!
(Thanks mom for the great pics!)

Stay tuned for my 13.1 mile run race recap.

Bike stats: 

2:46 (20.18 mph average)
1st fastest AG bike time
4th fastest female amateur bike time
2:29 (22.52 mph average)
3rd fastest AG bike time
11th fastest male amateur bike time


Challenge Knoxville Half - 1.2 mile swim

As we were walking toward the transition area around 5:50am, I felt sprinkles of rain falling from the sky. From what I heard from other athletes, there was a chance of rain that morning. 

The atmosphere at the Challenge Family Knoxville event was all positive - you could just feel the energy. The transition area was not massive and there were plenty of potties for athletes to use without long lines. I really enjoy the lower-key events and seeing all the athletes that come from all different backgrounds and fitness levels. 

When we entered the transition area, I helped Karel pump up his disc wheel (it's a two person job for one person - me- to hold the extender valve inside the disc wheel opening and the other person-Karel-pumps) and then I headed toward my bike in the far end (bike out) of the transition area. 

I laid out my gear on my pink Oakley towel. 
I placed my Brooks Pure Flow 4 shoes on the right of my towel with my dad's Corvette hat behind the shoes. With this being my first triathlon in a long time racing with a hydration belt, I wasn't quite sure how to lay out my race belt and hydration belt but figured that I could grab my race belt (with bib number) and run with it out of T2 so I placed my race belt on the towel and then placed my hydration belt on top. I had 2 x 10 ounce flasks filled with sport nutrition (which I sat up so they wouldn't leak) and then in the pocket, a gel and sleeve of Clif blocks (cut in half for easy access) just in case I needed/wanted it on the run.
To the left of my run shoes, I had my cycling shoes and socks and Oakley RPM sunglasses and a wafer (180 calories) for the ride. I wore my compression sleeves under my wetsuit. 

Prior to laying out my transition area, I put my three bottles (each with 300 calories) in my bike cages (two on the frame and the other in the right rear cage). I had my spare tubular, CO2 and bike levers in a cut-in-half water bottle in the left rear cage. My primary bottle to grab is in my down tube of my frame but I am also very comfortable grabbing my right rear bottle when I am aero (although I typically drink sitting up). 

I put my Garmin 500 on my bike (reset and charged) and put on my Garmin 910 on my wrist. 

Since my goal was to race the competition for an overall placing, I made the decision before the race that I was not going to let numbers or my gadgets control my race. I was going to feel my way through the race and chase my nearest competition. With years of experience training with gadgets, I know what I want an effort to feel like in a 70.3 mile event and what is most realistic for a strong overall performance. Being honest with myself when I race (and not letting my ego take over) is a helpful strategy so that I do not find myself racing another athlete's race plan.

I decided to not turn on my Garmin 910 for the swim so I put the sleeve of m wetsuit over my watch on my wrist and didn't turn it on until the run (it was set to run mode for when I turned it on in the last mile of the bike).

After Karel set-up his transition area, he came over to pump up my tubular tires with just enough pressure for the wet roads. We each made a stop at the potty once more and then with my old run shoes on, I did a few pick-ups outside the transition area. We then put on our wetsuits (and sunscreen and body glide) and put our morning clothes in our transition bags and headed to the swim start (about a 5-10 minute walk). 

As the light rain was falling, I told Karel that I should have put my run shoes in a large zip-lock bag. I was really upset at myself for not doing this (as I tell my athletes to do this for IM races in their transition bags if there is a chance for rain) and it was all that I thought about while walking to the swim start. I had plenty of time to go back but for some reason I didn't. I tried to come up with reasons why I didn't need to go back, like my socks would be wet so it wouldn't matter or my feet are small so my shoes wouldn't be that wet (I know, so silly) but next time, I am going to put my shoes in a zip lock baggy just to be safe. I didn't worry about my bike since it didn't get wet over night (otherwise it would need some extra lube on the chain). 

As we were waiting for our swim waves after the pros started, we spotted my mom and Campy. Campy was not happy about the rain but he was a great trooper as a spectator. My mom took some great pics (below) and managed to take care of Campy.... she deserves a medal for being out there all day in the rain!
I love my Xterra wetsuit - so comfortable! Karel is still getting use to the wetsuit "feeling". 

Karel's wave started at 7:03 with an in-the-water start. 

Karel had an amazing swim time but he did experience a bit of anxiety in his wetsuit as soon as he got into the water. It's kinda hit or miss with Karel when he feels really uncomfortable in his wetsuit as a non-swimmer (just learned to swim 3 years ago). He said that for the first 10 minutes or so, he vowed to never do another triathlon ever again and he was really struggling to breath in his wetsuit. However, he managed to settle into a rhythm and he even said he broke away from a pack that he was swimming with so all things considered, Karel managed to have a great swim despite a major obstacle to overcome when he started his race. Even though Karel is crazy fast, he still deals with issues that many other athletes experience. The same is true for me....just because you are experienced, it doesn't mean that you don't learn new things or make mistakes on race day. 

My wave started at 7:15am and I positioned myself behind Amy K who was a D1 swimmer and fellow First Bourn ambassador (She also won the amateur female race so I guess you could say she was my greatest competition looking back). I wanted to see if I could hang with her as I knew she was a fierce competition and super strong athlete (and super nice girl). 

It was really nice to be in the water (in a wetsuit) as the water was very comfortable (around 73 degrees). I was able to do some warm-up strokes to adjust my wetsuit and to loosen up. 

When the gun went off, Amy shot out of her cannon (or it looked like it!) because she was long gone and there was no way I could hang. I managed to stay with a small pack of female (pink cap) athletes until the first turn buoy and continued to settle into a nice rhythm with my stroke. With so much ankle strap/band work, I really felt good in the open water - really feeling every catch and pull-through. 

However, after looking at my time of 30:30 and Karel's time of 32:28, I either took it too easy on the swim or I really need to step-up my swim game. Karel's goal is to someday beat me in the swim (even if it's just once) and my goal is for Karel to never beat me in the swim.
We have a very loving relationship but there has to be a little competition to spice things up in our marriage. :)
I'm thinking that it's all going to go down in Kona in October after Karel gets a few more months of swim training to see if he can beat me for 2.4 miles. 

Neither Karel or I felt a current in the water but it was a smooth swim with several red buoys to help with sighting. I wish there would have been one more sighting buoy toward the swim exit as we had to swim at an angle and with the falling rain and dark skies it was hard to see the swim exit. 

After getting out of the water (by pushing up on a ledge - no stairs) we ran up a ramp and through a boathouse and then dodging puddles, across the street into the transition area. 

I smiled at my mom (and Campy) when I spotted them as I was running toward my bike. I was beginning to come up with a few reasons as to "why" I was racing and the first thing I thought of was how special it was that my mom and other spectators and volunteers were out there supporting all of us athletes. Although we as athletes never say it, the day is really all about us and what we are doing on the race course.....but we (athletes) all know that we couldn't do what we do, without the help of our friends/family and volunteers who are out there cheering us on. My second "why" was the amazing Challenge Family team who put on this event for us to do something amazing with our trained bodies. So much goes into planning and putting on a race and it reminded me that I choose to be an athlete...not an exerciser. Swimming, biking and running makes me feel great but what feels even better is putting all that hard work in training to good use on race day. 

When I got to my bike, I put on wet cycling shoes and my wet Giro Attack helmet and decided to put my Oakley shades in my tri suit rear pocket until the rain stopped (if I had clear shades, I would have worn them as I was fearful of debris getting into my eyes - my dad would not be happy that I rode without sunglasses for half the bike). I grabbed my wafer (which was a bit soggy as I had opened it up ahead of time for easy chomping) and put it in my other tri suit rear pocket. I was not aware of my swim time and it really didn't matter to me because my only goal for the race was to chase my nearest competition.
I started my Garmin 500 bike computer as I was rolling my bike out of transition and then mounted at the mount line and off I went for 56 very wet and rainy miles. 

Stay tuned for my 56 mile bike race recap.

Swim time: 30:30, 6th fastest female amateur swim, 2nd AG swim

Swim time: 32:28, 42th fastest amateur swim, 8th AG swim