I hadn’t made the drive to Nashville in almost two years so it felt like a trip down memory lane while I was driving up I-24, and yes that includes the signs for Russell Cave (which was a long running joke once upon a time). It’s a four hour drive out to the race but it doesn’t really feel like it.
I drove directly to the packet pick up and bike drop off on Saturday. I got in at 5:00 pm and it was pouring, it was white out raining off and on for the last hour. I stripped down as I didn’t bring spare clothes, ran barefoot and racked my bike. Then I was out to get a pretzel at the local brewery during happy hour.
My hotel was 12 miles away and by the time I got there at 6 pm I just put on the TV and relaxed. I was in the central time zone so I tried to just stay on my normal sleep schedule and was in bed at 8 pm.
I woke up at 4 am with a migraine but I didn’t have my Sumatriptan on me, so I would have to suffer through it till I got home. The hotel forgot to give me my wake up call, but I only use that as a backup in case I sleep through the other alarms.
I arrived at transition at 5:30, I had a decent parking spot—I wasn’t stuck on the soggy soccer fields. There were five different mini Aussies at the race and I made sure to pet all of them! I miss having an Aussie. The race didn’t start until 7:30 which was at least 30 minutes later than it had to be. It was a time trial start—that’s become the standard in the CoVID era.
The swim was a counterclockwise rectangle in the Cumberland River. Those heavy rains the day before meant that the current was ripping. For the first two legs I latched on to some guy’s hip and drafted but when I made the turn to go up river it was like I ran into a wall. It felt like I was going nowhere, my pace ballooned and was over 2:00/100 yards. I reached the last turn buoy and swam towards the dock. The current was pushing me down river and I was getting further away from the boat ramp, you can see the bow in my Strava map.
The bike had some cyclocross to it. Right at the beginning (and end) of the bike course there was a tiny segment of Tennessee Waltz closed so they rerouted us around. You had to dismount your bike, run over this packed gravel hill and then remount your bike when you got into the parking lot on the other side. The course itself is deceptively hilly. If you’ve never been to Nashville it’s hillier than Atlanta. All the climbs were pretty long but you could still stay on your aerobars. It’s two loops on the highway before coming back into town. I was coming in hot and almost pulled a Tri Joe when I came to that dismount for the hill. I could feel a pull in my groin and knew it wouldn’t be a comfortable run.
I headed out on the run—it’s a mix of road and trail with a couple of hills mixed in. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been running much lately so I knew I’d need to do a little walking from time to time. The middle two miles are on a shaded trail. There were plenty of aid stations on the run that had Powerade and water. Somebody was out there with their Aussie at mile 5 and it looked just like Piper (I didn’t stop to pet it but I wanted to)!
By the time I finished it had gotten pretty hot. They handed me an ice cold towel after I crossed the line which felt great. They did have free booze in post-race from the local brewery but I passed as I’m 21 months sober. I saw a USAT official in his motorcycle gear (with all the zippers) after the race and told him “You’re one zipper away from Thriller.” He says “Yeah, you’re right.”
I hauled ass out of there after getting some food. I stopped at Chattanooga Brewing Co. on the way home to get the pretzel with beer cheese that I love. I ended up getting home at 5 pm to two fur balls waiting to be fed their greenie treats.