Professional athlete and 3-time Ironman champion

Square Peg, Meet Round Hole

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So I haven’t blogged in a while. Been either too busy, or too tired and as my mother used to tell me, "If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all."

I won’t tell a lie….it’s been a bear of ….well, a 6 months! Lots and lots and LOTS of training. All good though. And making me a better, stronger, more durable me. Or so the theory goes.

I had 2 huge overload weeks coming off of New Orleans 70.3. Some big miles, some good intensity, and a lot of naps! We debated and debated the value of doing the Rev3 Knoxville race. At least I debated it. Coach Jesse was fairly set on the idea, but I took some more…..persuading, so to speak.

My training, you see, is not very specific to Oly distance racing, and anyone who knows me knows that natural speed does not come easy to me, if at all. So given the fact that I’d done very little quality oriented work, going to an Oly distance race seemed…..well, silly. And that in doing so, I’d be something akin to a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

My email exchange (aka, Hail Mary pass attempt) with Jesse on Wednesday before the race pretty much sealed the deal. "Jesse, Before I start packing, I just wanted to make sure that you thought this Oly distance race was really a good idea." It didn’t take long before I got is extremely chatty reply. "Pack it up."

Swing and a miss!

So I packed up and readied myself for Knoxville. I arrived late Thursday afternoon with a bike, but no bag. In that, I learned a valuable lesson.

Lesson 1: As an American Airlines Gold member, those little orange "priority" tags they stick to your bag have no value whatsoever. None. Oh, sure, they may make you feel good as you leave your bags to the TSA beasts; like they might show you a little more love and respect than they might otherwise, as a loyal and frequent flier. Nope. Quit deluding yourself. They don’t mean sh*t. Life is hard. Get over it.

So I arrived in Knoxville without so much as a toothbrush.

I made my way to the Avis counter to get my rental car. A very nice Southern woman tried to talk me into upgrading my rental to a "fully loaded, leather interior SUV for a mere $15 more per day." "No thanks. I’ll stick with my beater." After a few clicks on her keyboard, she prints out my contract and says "Well, we don’t have any beaters so I’m going to give you the upgrade for free."

Lesson 2: Never fall for the upgrade offer! They are trying to steal your money!

Since I had no bag, and therefore nothing to sleep in and no toothbrush, I decided to make my way to a Walmart in order to procure said necessities for the next 12 hours until my bag made its way to me. I got into my leather seat in my fully loaded SUV, and asked my Droid to navigate to Walmart. It found one 8 miles away, and supposedly en route to my homestay, so I followed the mysterious voice coming out of my phone, which promptly led me to the middle of a condominium complex. Not to Walmart.

Lesson 3: Droid Does. But does not always.

I did manage to find a sporting goods store where I bought a $2.99 t-shirt and a $4.99 pair of shorts adequate for sleep. Then I found a CVS and invested in a travel toothbrush. Mission accomplished, and luckily Droid did manage to get me to my homestay in one piece.

I met my homestay, Fred Smith at his gorgeous Knoxville home and was thrilled to meet his lovely wife, Ali, and his furry children Sam, and Lily, 2 golden retriever fluff balls, and the perfect Riley stand-ins for the weekend.

On Friday, I joined Fred for a Master’s swim workout at the University of Tennessee in their gorgeous swim facility and then headed out to drive the course. The decision to drive the course was both a blessing and a curse; I then knew what I was in for and …..I then knew what I was in for!

In a word, the Rev3 Knoxville course is hilly! No monster climbs, but some good, honest chunky hills, and twisty, turny narrow descents. It felt like a roller coaster thru some country towns! It was going to be a good, and fair bike ride. I started to get excited, though still felt like a fish on dry land!

Saturday morning, I got the chance to swim with the UT Lady Vols and their coach, Matt Kredich who was one of my coaches at Stanford. I hadn’t seen Matt in years, and it was so great to meet his team and get to catch up with him. He introduced me to his team and also managed to point out that I’d swum on the US National team before any of them were born.

Lesson 4: The truth hurts.

I had a fun swim (I just warmed up) and then a quick bike and run while Matt finished the workout with the girls. I then had a super fun breakfast with Matt, followed by a couple hours meeting his kids, and catching up with his wife Kim, about whom I could write an entire blog. Kim is awesome! And after hearing all that she’d been up to these past years, I could only look and marvel and think "Wow, not a lot of butt prints on the Kredich couch!"

By Saturday afternoon, I started to realize I had a race the next day! Time to get serious! I had an early dinner and was in bed by…..yep. 7PM. Wasn’t even dark out, but I was tired.

Woke at 5, gulped down some pre-race breakfast and then put on every piece of clothing I had, clean or dirty, to head out into the 45 degree morning. Got thru my pre-race ritual and before I knew it, jumped into the muddy Tennessee River, to "bask" in the 69.4 degree relative warmth.

The race started, and I had a pretty good swim. I was in reasonable touch (not immediate touch, mind you, but reasonable touch) with some of the fast, short course swimmers, and before I knew it, racing toward T1.

I encountered some technical difficulties with the zipper on my swimskin, and thank goodness for Amanda Lovato. Amanda stopped just short of sticking her foot in the small of my back to rip the thing off me. The zipper just wouldn’t budge, but Amanda to the rescue, after about 30" of struggling with it myself, she ripped the thing off me, and I was out of T1, giving up at least 2 spots in the process.

Frustrated, I headed out on the bike and tried to keep touch with the girls in front. As a slow twitch girl, its hard to go from zero to redline immediately like that. I’m more used to building into an effort more gradually, but no time for that.

I held my own on the bike, not feeling like I was biking that well, and having no idea who was in front of me or behind me, but was pretty pleased to reel in some of the girls ahead and come off the bike within site of 3rd place. Not too shabby for a slowtwitcher.

I felt reasonably good running, were it I could feel my feet. The air temperature still had to be in only the 50s and I felt like I was running on stumps, but tried to keep the girls ahead of me in site for a long as I could. Kelly Williamson came running by me like a freight train, and even managed to take out and reset her pony tail, all while putting a good 30 yards into me. THAT is run speed!

I held my place from there, finishing 6th overall, far ahead of my "God I hope I don’t come in last" estimate pre-race! While I didn’t contribute directly to the Trakkers team win over Trek/KSwiss, it was still fun to have a team feeling during the race and it added a really fun element to the competition.

Lesson 5: Square pegs don’t fit in round holes, but sometimes, you can fake it well enough to not stick out too badly.

After the race, I had just enough time for some light training to shake out the legs, hit the awards celebration, pack my bike and get to the airport for my 4:30 flight. No time for a shower (sorry seat neighbors). Home in my own bed by 10:45! That never happens in Ironman!

Up next, Ironman Brazil. It’ll be here before I know it! Holy Schnikes!

Persistence. Determination. Love. The Journey!

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