Ashley Powell: Toughman Tennessee Atomic Half, Lenoir City, TN
There is nothing like throwing in a last minute triathlon to really finish out the season, especially when one’s triathlon season was far from typical. Upon my return from the ITU Sprint World Championships, I felt my triathlon season needed at least one more race. The problem with this “brilliant” idea is that there are few triathlons left to choose from especially without traveling further south. I was aware that the Atomic triathlons would be coming up, and with a conflict on the shorter races offered that Saturday, I was left with one option, the Toughman TN Atomic Half Iron. I entered the race with full confidence, little training, and a lot of craziness (thanks Collin Zimmerman for the 2-week training block and Betsy Johnson for advising the race day nutrition.). I woke up race day to a lot of rain and wind, and I had some moments of doubt but knowing the conditions were the same for everyone and well aware that this race was more experimental than anything, off to the race I went.
The race itself and the conditions that came throughout the race brought out the toughness in everyone. I kept the swim enjoyable and super relaxed, and I was greeted by some awesome friends who kindly yanked my wetsuit off (thanks, you all). The bike ride was a rainy and windy mess, and I questioned what I was even doing many times throughout the ride. The two loops on Oak Ridge Turnpike made it fun to wave and see other competitors throughout the bike portion of the race. The run, typically my favorite, was truly survival to the finish line. The first part of the run was all fun even with heavy legs, but the lack of training for this distance became apparent the second half of the run. The grass ditches throughout the run course looked better and better for napping as the run went on, but some good self-talk habits and seeing my students (ROTC volunteers) throughout the run course made me want to push through to the finish.
All in all, I enjoyed this race and race distance and with a 5:05.26 and first female result, I plan for more 70.3 race distances in the coming triathlon season. On a side note, I would not advise jumping into a 70.3 last minute, but I do advise keeping things fun while enjoying the opportunity to race and train. The true winners of this race are the volunteers and all the Endurance Sport Management and Toughman crew members who put in the time, energy, and so much more to fight off the rain and wind just to make sure all of us racers had an awesome experience. To each of you: thank you so much! As my triathlon season comes to a close, I want to thank Dr. Kevin Sprouse and Podium Sports Medicine, all of the Podium Racing Sponsors, Bearden Bike and Trail, Collin Zimmerman, family, friends and so many more that allow me to race and train to my fullest potential. Thank you for believing in me and supporting me in the ups and downs of training and racing this triathlon season.