2016 Chattanooga 70.3 Ironman

I had a goal this year: to finish a sub 6 hour race to beat my husband’s time of 6:04. Last year I finished in 6:38:07 and was hoping to do a lot better. I had a bad run resulting from dehydration and also lack of training the run. I spent most of my time last year training on the bike.

I started training for this race earlier, especially with swimming and running. I was able to attend a Velo Vixens swim clinic held at McCallie that was very beneficial. The instructor was able to film us front and side stroke twice and show us what we are doing wrong. Starting earlier really prepared me in a better way. Plus, my coach, Steve C., was able to really tailor my workouts toward beating my last year’s time. This year my husband had a tri bike built up for me, too.

The week leading up to the event was a tough one. I felt antsy and scaling back was tough. You get in a zone with the hours of working out and scaling back feels counterintuitive. I felt like I had lost some of my punch on the bike as well focusing on running and swimming. This article really summarizes my feelings. You can’t be good at any of the three sports, and the one I was the best at is feeling a little flat lately. I also had my bike worked over at Scott’s Bikes in Cleveland, TN.

The morning of the event, I met Kelly at the Aquarium parking lot early. I slept maybe 5-6 hours which was less than ideal. I had spent a lot of the afternoon preparing and times flies. I should have started earlier. This is the same issue I have most races.

We set up our transitions and then headed over to catch the bus. I didn’t forget flip flops this time to make the walk from the bus to the swim start. I was pretty fired up to start. The line was forming fast, and I was very happy to be in the front part of the line same as last year. We were looking at a good 1.5 hour maybe to wait? I cannot really remember. There was a long port-a-potty line,but the key is getting there early and lining up early. It was fun hanging with Kelly, Brian, and Jeff. One of the best parts of triathlon is the local Chattanooga people. I’ve made some good friends.

As I sat waiting on the swim start, I started feeling nervous and some anxiety.  I always seemingly do prior to a race, but when I looked up and saw my husband and kids, my fears faded. It was the single best moment of the day, and I found myself the rest of the race looking for them on the course. They had watched me train for months and seeing them made me smile.

I jumped in the water, and I moved further from the shore to begin the dreaded upstream swim. The worst part for me is no warmup. You jump in and go. I sometimes wonder about the man that had a cardiac event later in the water and died if maybe a warmup would have helped him, but it’s hard to predict. To hear someone lost their life that morning doing the 70.3 really bothered me later. I didn’t know about it until well after the finish line.

The upstream section is terrible for me. You have to overcome the current to make progress. I have never had stroke lessons in my life. The sun was lifting above the horizon of the water, and as I finally made the turn downstream secure in my wetsuit, I saw the glistening light dancing on the Tennessee River. It looked like magic gold, and I imagined last year when I calmed down seeing a friend of mine swimming in the midst of thousands with the same effect. “Just keep swimmin’, just keep swimmin'” I could hear Dory sing. I sang it too in my head.9_m-100720704-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1287_012913-1254390 I kept my pace and breathing steady and kept the goal in mind. How would I feel exiting the water? Like a winner because swimming was the scariest part for me. People were everwhere cheering above near where the bird roost under one of the bridges. People swimming around me, and I keep aware enough of those around me I never was hit in the face. Exiting the water was a great feeling. I’m the one there with the white writing on the wetsuit. This is a joyous moment because I know the bike is next. My very favorite part! Running up the ramp is never fun toward transition, but I kept a peak on my heart rate and it was decent. My swim time was 37:35. I shaved off a little from last year.

T1 was 6:56. Too long, yes, but included running up the ramp, having the wetsuit stripped and finding my setup in the back of transition. I was quick in getting on my bike, but not as quick as the Waterfront Triathlon I did the next month. One minute matters. You’ll understand later.

I started the bike leg with my coach’s words in my head. Something about not starting out as fast as I could out the gate. 10_m-100720704-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1287_014970-1254391In other words, I was supposed to average about 16 mph and ease into the first two miles. I listened, but it may have translated to more like 17 mph. It’s hard to calm down the adrenaline-fueled muscles. I was on the bike! Here’s where you will shine. Your favorite thing. 2:52:07. Pace 19:52 mph average. I would have liked to be above 20-21 mph average. In better news my cadence averaged above 90. For a masher, I was happy. I definitely had the run in my head and was saving for the run. I didn’t stay aero as much as I should have. I didn’t hammer up the hills like I used to. I was steady. I saw Gumby in Chicamauga. I saw my family in Chicamauga cheering for me.

T2 was 4:44 and included a bathroom stop. The run was on. I tried hard to do what coach said and run an 11 min pace the first mile, but I didn’t quite do it. I remember feeling like I was holding back toward an 11 minute first mile pace but it was more like 9.5 – 10 minute/mile. 16_m-100720704-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-1287_032523-1254397Had I not thought about it, I may have done an 8 minute mile and blew up completely. 2:20:25. The run was full of struggle and triumph. I didn’t have back pain, and I saw people I knew on the run. It’s an out and back and so that can be motivating or demotivating depending on who you see.

(I shaved off 37 minutes off last year’s time thanks to Carp).

I finished in 6:01:47. Remember how I said one minute was important?

It really is.