I began my second season of racing triathlons on the cold morning of Sunday, 9 April, with low expectations. The previous night ended at 1:00 am after my first Chattanooga Lookouts game and far from my first I-75 traffic delay. Therefore, ending first in my age group was fantastic.
This season I race as a member of Podium Sports Medicine’s Visit Knoxville team. Kevin Sprouse is awesome and I grateful to be part of his squad. Being on the team means getting a kit. Did you know that some kit zippers lock? Nope? Me neither. Kevin showed me, but I’m getting ahead myself.
This year’s start was cold, like in the high 30s; Raceday Events mercifully moved the swim to UT’s indoor pool. Although I had yet to practice in the sleeved kit, I thought exposing minimal skin on the bike ride would help stave off the chills. So, after talking with my teammate Mike, I donned the full-zip, sleeved top. Warm up seemed fine.
I started behind some of the teenagers but ahead others. The first 50 was smooth, the second 50 got challenging, by the third 50 I was working harder than I should have been. I didn’t know why. One of the kiddos past me. Speedy little guy, I thought. The second young one passed me on the fourth 50. What the heck? Leave my pride alone, young man! I was going so slow and working so hard, I must have been more tired than I thought. I bet he didn't drive in from Chattanooga with a crying child. Adulting is hard!
On the seventh lap came my answer – the zipper on my kit opened mid-chest, I was swimming in a parachute! I opened it all the way – now I had a cape! Emerging from the pool the cold air hit my bare chest – I am no superhero, so I zipped my cape back into a shirt and braved to T1.
My new goal for this season is to learn running mounts. As I got to the mounting line, I mashed my shoes in the pedals. I succeed in pushing the nose of my seat 45 degrees, but not clipping in. Again, my shoes pound into the pedals – success, but I got passed. Not my day so far I thought. I am getting the bad race out-of-the-way early. Neat!
The bike course was shortened this year, yet barrelling down campus streets with wide latitude on the turns is pure joy. This reminds of my university days when I first started cycling. I spent a good portion of the offseason on my bike trainer. It showed and I felt great on the ride. By the second lap I was dry and no longer shivering. I ended the bike leg feeling good.
T2 was again slower than I wanted it to be. I need to practice transitions, and I am considering building a rack. Does anyone know their typical height? Anyway, shoes on, helmet off, go. I started the run with another guy. We get together for the first climb and when he passes me on the downhill, after the metal sculpture, I see the 23 age on his calf. I’m okay with someone 16 years-younger-than-me passing, today. I keep my pace - somewhere around +6:00/mile - plenty fast for me. When I got behind the stadium, Justin Cazana, who had been coming up from behind, helped me not turn the wrong way. In the turnaround, Justin passed me. We spent the rest of the run going back-and-forth. He kept a great pace. I sprinted like a high schooler in a 5k across the finish and just caught him. Overall his time was better than time. In my second season, I might learn this lesson - in staggered starts, the physical position is not time position.
Nonetheless, my times were good and I am happy with the result. I improved over five minutes from last year and finished first in my group where last year I was fourth. Kevin’s help has this race age 39-year-old body in fine form. Additionally, being in my second season, it was nice to have friends to talk with before and after the race. Last year, I did not know very many people. As a team member and in the Knoxville tri community the event was as social as competitive.
And about the zipper - as I was sitting with the Normatec recovery boots on, Kevin showed me how those zippers lock. Perhaps next time I won’t have a parachute for a swim kit. Next up, Lakeside of the Smokies Olympic. Thanks again to Podium Sports Medicine, Visit Knoxville, Harper's Auto, Yee-Haw Brewing, Provision Physical Therapy, Stoke Signal, and TheFeed.com.