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.



Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon: half of what I did last month

FullSizeRender (2)On a whim, I decided to sign up for the Waterfront Triathlon in June. I’ve missed the SORBA mountain bike series races and have just jumped headfirst in things I wouldn’t normally do because I have to stay local for racing and work every third weekend. I need to keep it local. I used the Waterfront Tri to work on my transition times and to see how an olympic distance would feel versus a half-ironman distance. Much much better.

I started the day walking with Kelly to the swim start and jumped in ready to go. I felt strong and ready to rock n’ roll on the 1.5K point-to-point. Suprisingly enough, I felt great without a wetsuit and ended up with a time of 28:31 in the swim (20th in my age). The swim was all downstream which was fabulous. My transition times were much better: T1 was 3:18 and T2 was 1:21 (T2 I was first place in my age group).

The bike route was 42K rather than 40K a little bit amazing and scary. We had to ride up on the highway 27 North and hammer it out and turnaround at the Hwy 153 exit. Coming back, there was some major headwind which really made for a screaming downhill back off Stringer’s Ridge that I finished in 1:21:12 (4th in my age group).

The run was so much better being that it was a 10K and not a half marathon. I finished in 1:02:03 which would be quite an accomplishment after riding and swimming.

I finished 2:56:27 which is 8th in my age group of 37. Not bad for a middle-aged working mom.



Chattanooga Half Ironman 2015

I probably was one of the first online registrants the morning the Half Ironman opened up for registration. I was several days out from major surgery and had no idea what I was really getting into. Part of it may be that I thought I could do about anything being on Percocet post-op, or it may have been that I have run a couple of marathons back in my 20’s. Whatever the reason, I plunked down a cool couple hundred or more (I can’t remember) and signed myself up for some torture.

bethironman I was bike on the bike on Christmas. I decided to spend my bike training mountain biking because I don’t care much for getting hit by a 2 ton vehicle or objects hurled at me on the road. I also don’t care much for rednecks yelling at me. I also know the general consensus of how people in vehicles feel about cyclists in Chattanooga. Enough dislike there to initiate some ticket writing and correction though it would take a hundred years to reverse the hatred in some.

Swimming was a new thing for me. I grew up in a pool, but I never took actual swimming lessons which by the way is nothing like diving off of a board over and over and treading water and swimming underwater. What happened was what I continually titled “controlled drowning.” I just learned that the freestyle wasn’t at all free, and I definitely had no style. I felt like I was aspirating every time I attempted. Jumping into the Tennessee River for the first time with a group was terrifying. I did a lot of self-talk and self-soothing and praying. I was hoping earnestly that I wouldn’t die. I only did that two or three times before the real deal, but I did swim at Chicamauga Dam a few times.

Running. Heck, I ran two marathons in 2002. What the heck? I don’t need to practice that!

So, I mountain biked.

I ran a few times. Maybe about 25-30 runs total. Not nearly enough. Who needs to train for that. It’s running.

I was full of nerves the day of the race. I had everything ready and didn’t forget anything, except apparently how to drink water.

I felt very nervous in the water. There was a lady as I was standing in line with my husband who said some words to me that really helped me. There is quite a flow and rhythm to the freestyle in the river, but with thousands around and my goggles casting this deathly grey color to all people, I felt like I was in some sick episode of the Walking Dead Does the Half Ironman. I saw Robert Starnes in the water who was encouraging me. This guy is amazing, by the way. He has lost a ton of weight and has this incredible journey that he shares on social media. I swam onward and downstream (luckily).

I was so happy to be out of the water. I was happier there were “peelers” there to remove my wetsuit. It was time for the bike, but it was lightly raining. I wish that I had thought to just forgo what people thought and wore a camelback or Ospry; but I caved to what people thought and went with bottles. I drank a whole bottle of 6 scoops of Infinit which needed three more bottles of plain water behind it that never happened.

I snowballed into dehydration coupled with flying on the bike. I loved that speed I had at the end. Transition came, and I ate a PB&J (mistake) and hit the port-a-john then ran on. I started having massive stomach cramps that I compare to my colon dry heaving. It wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t drink, and I couldn’t run consistently due to the pain which I can compare to labor pains. I struggled through and made it to the end.

Swim: 40:48

Bike: 2:52:15

Run: 2:25:24 (dismal)

Total: 6:38:07

My husband beat me by 32 mins and 20 seconds.

finisherpix_1046_064467I ended up with 2 L IV fluid replacement in the tent 30 minutes after finishing and another 2 L in the ER that night. I was placed on a clear diet for 2 days, and I WAS STARVING!

I signed up for it again next year. I’m going to nail down nutrition and run more. And use my road bike more. And get a coach.