October 04, 2019 - As always, the city of Chattanooga did not disappoint and hosted a fully supported and challenging Ironman event. .
As always, the city of Chattanooga did not disappoint and hosted a fully supported and challenging Ironman event. Although the course might not be the most challenging with a down river swim, rolling bike and half the run along flat river roads, the heat proved to make the racers dig deep just to finish. Starting on the bike hydration, cooling with water and steady pacing led to running most the run with ice stuffed down every portion of your kit and run walking just to be able to survive. This race ended without a personal record or even the placing I wanted but it will be long remembered as one of my proudest sporting achievements. When I tell people about this race I start the story with I started a marathon at 2:00 in the afternoon on a sunny 93 degree day and I will never be the same
I have had the pleasure of racing three times and training constantly in Chattanooga. The city continues to be one of my favorite racing venues with welcoming people, incredible volunteers, a vibrant downtown and a race director that runs a very professional event. I simply can't say enough about this city. And as mentioned in the summary this race will go down as one my proudest sporting accomplishments almost matching the Ironman 70.3 World Championships from several years ago held at the same venue.
Leading up to the race my training was pretty solid after a decent return to racing at IM 70.3 Ohio where I placed 8th place and earned a roll-down slot to the 2020 IM 70.3 Worlds in New Zealand. I had a perfect nine weeks in between racing allowing for a six-week build and a three-week taper. The six-week build was tiring including many 100+ mile rides and long runs up to 20 miles. It was a hot summer in Atlanta and all the long rides and runs seemed to end at 2:00 in the afternoon. The heat led to chronic fatigue and was a real drain mentally and physically. Additionally, I added in twice a week altitude training at https://elementalaltitude.com that included vo2 and threshold training. And probably the only plus is I switched my hydration and added nutrition with a new product called SlayRX. I am really thinking this is a real positive change. At the end of the training block as the taper started, I was mentally and physically exhausted. I felt good about my bike and run but was far short on the needed swim training.
About 10 days before the race we were enjoying reasonable temperatures in the 80s and temperatures on race day were being forecasted to only be in the high 80s. About seven days out I casually checked the forecast and my jaw dropped. The expected temperature was up to 97 on race day! Given the hot summer and long training in the heat I might have been physically ready but I was not excited about the race.
A couple of pre-race points. Given the weather my traditional motto that I write on my arm went from “Eat, Breathe, Smile” to “Drink, Breathe, Smile.” All the preparation and planning went from worrying about nutrition to making sure I had what I needed for the heat including drink mix, ditching the aero bottle and even packing advil (not something I would normally consider). Also, I had a slight mechanical when I tried to tighten the bolts on my chain ring. Watch that torque, aluminum bolts don’t take the pressure. With a little thanks to a great Local bike shop I was on my way.
Race Day – The lack of swim practice really showed leaving the water in 73rd place and 18 minutes behind the leader.. Uggh. That is horrible for a down river swim (not a lot of current but still). Nothing really learned from the swim but wondering whether it was faster to follow the buoys the long way or cut the line and swim less distance? Fortunately getting on the bike was the beginning of my race. I had the 10th fastest split in my age group putting me back to 16th by the end of the bike leg. Key points:
Overall I was happy with the bike and came in feeling pretty good. But as we all know the run is where the race is won or lost. As I started running I still felt good, except…my core temperature seemed to shoot up and I was overheating on the first mile. Dumping a ton of ice into my front and back kit and visor started to reduce the heat. I lined sponges down my belly and back to hold the ice longer to melt, but still I was dropping ice like Atlanta snow coming out of every aid station. This is where I give a big hat off to the race director and the volunteers. Every aid station was well supplied and the volunteers quickly learned what the runners needed. My favorite volunteer trick ended up being them wringing the cold water out of the sponges over me.
By mile 4 I was feeling “good” again taking the pace down. That great feeling continued through the hilly back part of the course until mile 16. I know the wheels will fall off in any Ironman but that day the wheels fell off so early I didn’t know if they would get put back on. If you ever wonder about the power of our community you will see it at the Ironman distance. At mile 17 when I was still sputtering and walking a guy I had been running with earlier on ran by me and said “If you don’t start back now you will regret it. Come with me.” I ran the next two miles with this fella without saying more than two sentences, but I will remember that young 40 year old whipper snapper the rest of my life.
Although by mile 20 the wheels were back on the wheels weren’t very round. I was topping out at 9:30 minute/mile on the flats, walking up hills and pounding my legs going down hills. But really that was what the day held for me and plenty of others. In fact despite how bad the run felt to me, I still picked up one place at the end.
And did I mention the best part of the day? While sitting in the food tent (not eating) I had a great time talking through the day and past races with my ENVE teammate Toby. Everyone I have met on this team has been awesome. Triathlon is not a team sport but without a team there is no reason to race triathlon.
Although the night and the following busy week at work was plagued by significant heat exhaustion including shaking, chills, nausea, vomiting and an upset stomach I had so many great stories and a feeling of great pride throughout the week. To any of those folks that saw me speaking publicly during that week I wasn’t shaking because I was nervous. I am an Ironman.