Maggie Rusch

Professional Triathlete

Rev3 Knoxville: holy hills!

with eagleman as my first A race of the season, all of my long rides have been focused on pancake flat courses. no rollers, no surges, nothing but ready steady on the pedals. that's why i was a little apprehensive going into rev3 knox. there were rumblings of a HARD bike course and the forecast was shaping up to be hot and muggy. still, i woke up bright and early on friday morning and made the drive down to asheville, nc where i was planning on spending the night with family. spent most of friday kicking back on the porch with the dogs and a good book. ah, the good life:

and then friday night included a long birthday dinner for my mom's crazy/wonderful best friend. while it was amazing, we ended up not getting back and in bed until 11:30/12--the last thing i like to do in the last few days before a race. the next morning, i was up by 7 trying to cram everything strewn about the cabin into my tiny car, get my bike cleaned and tuned up and then hit the road by 9. the only problem was that in my frenzy, i managed to forget my trusty l.l.bean back packed to the brim with some of the essentials: spare tubes, garmin charger, flat kit, all of my gels, an entire tub of powerbar perform, my trislide, my visor, sunglasses--basically all of my favorite goodies and accessories. i was a little perturbed about forgetting so much but didn't realize until i was an hour away and didn't want to waste time backtracking. instead, i mushed on and figured i could grab everything needed from the expo.

i made it to knoxville just in time for the rev3 team meet and greet and kit hand-out at the lady vols boathouse prior to the practice swim. we had to do some trying on and next thing you know, i'm stripping down in a third-floor stairwell, trying not to moon the highway or any of my new teammates. but the kits fit (and looked and felt AMAZING) so it was on to the practice swim. only i had forgotten my cap and goggles (again, in the high priority l.l.bean misc. gear bag).

i trekked back to my parking spot, drove down to a better parking spot near the river, walked back to the expo and then bought (yet another) pair of blueseventy goggles to make it down to the practice swim in the river with twenty minutes to spare. i guess you could say this was saturday's pre-race theme: i was running around everywhere! i didn't get lunch until 4pm or so, after a bike and run shake-out and then racking my back in the parking garage transition.

i need to pause here and make a confession: knoxville was my first rev3 race.... and it was by far the BEST triathlon i have ever participated in to date. it's really about the details:

from the personalized pro-like rack space to the race number tattoos to all of the other little perks and goodies that i ran across throughout the weekend, i couldn't help but smile at each additional touch. my own company prides itself on "moments of wow" and going above and beyond to delight the customer, and i have to say that rev3 succeeded 100% in this regard. i couldn't be more excited to be part of a team as innovative and detail-oriented as rev3 has proved to be time and time again.

but all of my walking around meant that i felt ZONKED by the end of the day. i didn't feel great and was worried that i had spent a tad too much time walking out and about in the sun so instead called it a day early and headed to the hotel to crash. out by 8:30... perfect.

the next day it was a mass swim start for all of the olympic women. i was near the end of the line jumping in but managed to squeeze into the second row and secure a good spot up front. it was cute, the mass starts ahead of me all had a different family member "starting the race" for someone in that wave. while i didn't hear our starter, it was fun watching little kids blow the horn to send off a big group of racers. when our horn went off, i was surprised at how non-violent my start was. there was some elbows getting thrown and grabbed ankles, but for the most part, i found a decent pocket and was able to draft around a group of women surrounding me. i love how natural swimming in my blueseventy helix feels - slipped through the water like buttah. the goggles weren't so bad either--don't know what i would have done without the nice tint to help with the glare from the rising sun.

i stayed right on the hip on one woman for the first 500-600m or so, which happened to be right into the sun. i was happy not having to focus or waste any effort on sighting so i happily let her lead the way. about 2/3 of the way through, i started running into the wave of men in front of us and realized 1) i had no idea how i was doing and couldn't see any other lilac caps around me and 2) i was starting slow down as i maneuvered around the guys in front of us. i decided that #2 was unacceptable so really kicked it up a notch and came in HARD for the last 200m or so for a strong finish. i thought i had started my watch right as the swim started but looked down and only saw 00:00:00 so i had no idea where i stood. instead, i stripped off my wetsuit before the long run in t1 back to the parking garage and then ran freely, wetsuit in hand, up to the bikes.

23:45 (1:38/100m) – 15th female / 5th AG T1

after my shoe strap malfunction from last race, i opted not to start with shoes on the bike. was glad i didn't because i started off strong on the bike and passed a good number of folks right from the get-go. for some reason i think i blacked out the first 20-minutes of the bike. no clue what happened, although i'm pretty sure i passed a handful of girls. and then it was no-woman's land from there on out. i don't think i ran across a single woman from minute twenty to minute fifty when i passed one more girl. it's hard not to be frustrated by that, but i kept reminded myself that it was good that i wasn't seeing anyone!

right when the big hills started showing up, i found a race-buddy and we ended up playing cat and mouse for the next 45-minutes or so. we were riding pretty similar paces, except he would pass me on the uphills and then i would repass on the downhill and flats. it was nice to have the company and we actually cheered each other on for most of it (laughing as we passed and re-passed each other time and time again). it wasn't until the final big, never-ending hill (looked at my garmin: it took 5-minutes to summit that sucker) that i passed him for the last time. he kept saying something about his inhaler/asthma...  i wanted to say ME TOO - NO EXCUSES! but decided to hold back. anyway, he must have had a great run because i'm pretty sure he ended up taking first in his 55-59 AG.

overall take on this course was: HOLY HILLS... they were amazing! i ended up loving every single second of this challenging and technical course--yes, even those killer uphills where my tongue was hanging out and panting halfway through. i also was FLYING down the hills on the bike, with a max speed of 38mph.

there were a few dicey areas where we had to cross railroad tracks where i slowed waaaaaay down. ever since i had my massive crash on some trolley tracks in philly, i've been super careful anytime i come remotely close to rail road tracks. i passed one more girl in the final ten minutes, where everyone else seemed to be fading but i was still loving every second. i had gone into this race expecting to get mauled by the hills – but ended up LOVING them. in fact, i don't think i've spent any race out of my saddle and mashing my gears this much - at one point i was in my easiest gear and questioning whether i would make it up the rest of the hill on my bike and not walking.

took my shoes out of my straps and came skidding into T2 slightly hot - very close to eating it on my dismount but hopped off and ran to rack my bike.

1:11:49 (20.05mph) – 5th fastest bike split, moved up to 1st in my AG!

on the run, i started off conservatively and told myself i wouldn’t look at my watch for the first few minutes. i don't know about everyone else but i always feel like i'm running 10-minute miles through quicksand during that first half-mile or so off the bike. instead, i look down and see low 7's. nice! i think i passed one or two girls on the run and then it was the same wasteland as the bike--few people in sight to chase.

the savior of the day were the 82GO baggies that the aid stations were giving out. at the end of the bike, i had started to get the tell-tale dehydration headache so i went into hydrate mode on the run. and these water baggies were great - i grabbed one at each and every aid station and generally drank about 6oz or so across the mile and used the remaining to squeeze all over myself. it was an out-and-back so i kept waiting for to see girls coming the other direction from the turn-around. and kept waiting... and waiting... finally started seeing women and counting. after the turn-around rev3 teammate tara FLEW by me - seriously booking it! even with a flat on the bike, she ended up running all the way into the third: woman on a mission!

mile five really hit me and i started to fade. since my watch didn't start on the swim, i had no clue what my final time would be and was a little discouraged by the final turns by the boathouse and uphill coming into finish. down the last straight, i made a final look over my shoulder and didn't think i saw anyone coming so i didn't make a massive effort to finish with everything i had. i was coming into the finisher chute, smiling, considering what my finishing gesture should be (aka fist pump, peace sign, you know... whatever) and then at the final step, someone blows by me, a total jordan jones nipping lance armstrong at the finish kind of moment. very final step - i look down and see a big 2-6. and there it will probably be in my finisher photo: a big "OH SH*T" on my face as i realize the girl just passed me. ended up losing 1st in my age group by a single. step.

let's be honest, i was super pissed - especially since it's not very like me to ease up in the last part of a race. also a little bummed that i didn't have a better read on my overall time. had i known i was so close to the 2:25, i'm pretty sure i could have gutted it out for the last two miles to break that barrier. lesson learned: next time i'm really going to leave it all out on the course, regardless of the circumstances. still, i played nice and congratulated her on an excellent finish in the chute and then again at the award ceremony. i know i would have done the same thing had i smelled blood like she did.

46:11 (7:27 min/mi) – 2nd in AG, 7th overall

final time: 2:26:56 

overall, it was an amazing race! i had no clue how i did for my overall time so it wasn't until i had cooled down, run to the hotel to shower and check out before i saw my final time on the time look-up monitors that rev3 had set up for finishers. i hung out with some other rev3 AG'ers at the awards ceremony and got to pick up my sweet swag, including a nice stash of powerbar recovery bars, a discount at the rev3 online store and another medal that the finisher medal somehow locks inside for a SUPER-medal. :) congrats to all of the other finishers and AG winners (including a LOT of the Rev3 AG team - super proud of all of you guys!) this trip was a little crazy but hopefully there will be more time at some of the upcoming races to meet the full team - especially since i only got to sneak up on carole when i was getting my bike from transition to say hello :)

rev3's recap video for the age groupers:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/41672070]

and while i'm still on my rev3 high and race report novel, my next email update for rev3 maine just arrived. the race isn't until late august but i'm already licking my chops: "the bike course starts out flat and fast before taking riders into a series of rolling hills" and then "the run course is an out-and-back, giving athletes the chance to finish out the race on a flat and fast course", and finally: "Old Orchard Beach boasts seven miles of nothing but sand and surf." pack yo swimsuits!! 

finally, a big thank you to Rev3 for giving me the change to race with their age group team. so far, it has been an AMAZING experience to meet other age groupers from all over the country, race in top-notch races like #Rev3Knox and partner with products like BlueSeventy, Pearl Izumi, PowerBar, Swiftwick and SBR Sports. Seriously, a dream come true!

hits counter