Here is my race report for Ironman Chattanooga. My friends Anne, Kelly, and I arrived in Chattanooga on Wednesday. I was glad we came to town early. It’s a long haul on 2 airplanes from Seattle to get to Chattanooga and also a 3 hour time change.
The town is small and manageable and everyone is super friendly. The catchphrase is, “I got you,” which comes out as, “I got Choo…” (the irony)! What they mean is a sincere, “I understand,” or “I will take good care of you!” It’s pretty nice. We checked in at the Ironman Village on Thursday. That’s exciting in itself. All the things you get… a backpack, your numbers and timing chip, and of course the Ironman wristband that shows you have superpowers. That was all good. I made sure I snapped some pics of Anne and Kelly since this was their first full IM experience. I also got my bike tuned up by Dave from Quintana Roo. (Thanks, Dave!) He didn’t seem to mind my questions since this summer I was really committed to learning how to take care of my own bike.
On Friday, my husband arrived. It was great to have him there as Sherpa and cheerleader. It shouldn’t go without saying the effort that our support crews put in. Especially spouses that are not competing. There are undone chores for the last 3 months of training, falling asleep during every TV show and movie, and then on the day of, it’s hard to stand around and cheer for 17 hours, plus be up at the crack of dawn to send us off. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jim Brown. (My sister-in-law and her husband also came up from Atlanta the night before the event! So nice to have the additional cheerleaders!!)
On race day we took the shuttle to the starting point of the swim. It was a rolling start and a jump off the dock. I had a great swim… I self-seeded at 1:30 and swam 1:19:50 with no wetsuit. The current wasn’t very swift. I was hoping for a little more assist. My shoulder started to have a pain in it about 3/4 of the way, (not a normal thing for me) but I was able to tough it out. We swam downriver, past a small island, and under 3 bridges. It was a scenic swim!
We knew ahead of time that it was going to be a hot day. At the athlete briefing they kept on stressing hydration and slowing down. I started off the bike fine, but immediately stopped at every aid station to get more fluids and pour water on myself as the day heated up. (In hindsight, I didn’t need to stop at EVERY aid station.) I had an alarm set on my bike to drink, eat, and salt. That worked out well. Every time it would ring, I would think, “abide by the alarm!” The order of the day was to stay hydrated, so I would fill my aero bottle up front with plain water like I planned, and then drink my BASE Hydro/Rocketfuel from my bottles in the cages until it was gone. I drank the Gatorade Endurance (yuck, sorry not a fan) until I got to special needs to get my additional 2 bottles of BASE Hydro. I should have had a better “mixing plan” for taking new bottles so I could stick with BASE Hydro mixed with the cold water the volunteers were handing out.
Now let’s talk about the volunteers for a few seconds. They are amazing. They were standing out in the same heat as we were, but they were not moving and many of them were in the direct sun. Whatever you need… they will do. I really wanted ice in my bottles towards the end. Drinking warm fluids was killing me. This sweet teenage girl dips her hands into the kiddie pool where they were keeping the drinks cold, and grabbed handfuls of ice to put in my bottles. Now in a normal situation, you wouldn’t let someone use their hands to do that… but those volunteers were like family at that point. I finally figured out ¾ of the way through the bike that filling the back of my jersey pockets with lose ice and then occasionally reaching back and putting it into my mouth was a winner. I wish I would have been doing that all along.
Pre-race I filled out a questionnaire with my running coach, Cortney of Northwest Energy Lab. (This was my first time ever using a coach. Cortney helped me with my weakest link — running. Thanks, Cortney!! I’m so sorry I didn’t get to use it.) The questionnaire was meant to help us make strategies for race day. One of the questions was, “do you have any mantras…”. Mine are always, keep moving forward, take one thing at a time, and this year I added something that my husband said, “I’ve never known her to quit unless forced to.”
I rolled into Ironman Chattanooga with that thought in my head. What it was SUPPOSED TO mean was to keep going in a fighting-badass way.
But as I would come to find out, it wasn’t a mantra. It was an omen.
Does not quit unless forced to. And at the end of the 116-mile bike ride in the oppressive heat of Chattanooga, the volunteers took my chip and said I would not be allowed to continue. Does not quit unless forced to. There it was. Forced to. Shit.
I finished the 116-mile bike, 4,425 elevation (as my Garmin read), in 96-degree heat with a heat index of 100. I really thought I would do much better on this bike course. There were rolling hills plus a lot of false flats and rough roads. I’d love to know how the heat on the second loop affected my performance. It was like biking in a blast furnace. The road was bumpy also… lots of rough patches to the course, so on my tri bike I felt like I was being bounced around a lot in the aero position. I really thought on the second loop I was in an out of body experience. And then, I flatted. Honest to God, I have never flatted so much as this year. I let all the people dropping like flies on the bike course and just sitting on the side of the road (and the many ambulances I heard during the bike…) get to my head. My thought was, if so many of these people are dying, aren’t I dying too? When really my thought should have been, just because you’re struggling… doesn’t mean you’re failing. Keep going.
If I could have made the bike cut-off and gotten onto the run, I could have gutted it out. 30 minutes after I got off the bike and it started cooling down, I felt totally fine. I could have run a marathon right then. I am so grateful for the experience. But I’m upset that I didn’t get a chance to finish it.
There is a quote that is attributed to the announcer Al Trautwig. He probably said it in one of the NBC broadcasts of the Kona Ironman Championships that he’s narrated over the years. You know the ones. They start out with the pro’s and finish with the age groupers human interest stories. The quote says this:
Al Trautwig (Or probably some NBC scriptwriter.)
Not everyone has to cross the finish line to get what they came for…
I’ve been thinking about those words a lot lately. (Although I’m pretty sure those weren’t Al’s words, someone else wrote them… but they were a thought that sparked a question in my mind.) Did I get what I came for? I didn’t get chewed up and spit out by Chattanooga. It was a fucking hot day that I was unprepared for. I let myself get out of my groove. I let a flat tire in the heat frazzle me.
But what did I get?
- My first year racing on the BASE Performance Team.
- An amazing swim. 2.4 miles in 1:19:50 with no wetsuit.
- I survived biking 116-miles with 4,400 elevation in ridiculous heat.
- I was able to see my friend, Anne, become an Ironman.
- Leading up to the race I trained for 6 months and gained more fitness this time compared to IM Arizona in 2014.
- Countless miles on the bike, which is my happy place.
- I ran a hot, hilly, hard 12 miles training run on Labor Day weekend while everyone else was at the beach.
- On a training ride, I accidentally ended up on a highway, got a flat, and got a ride by a really nice police officer. That was fun. (See the awesome photo of my bike in the back of his squad car below.)
- I swam the Park-to-Park 2.5 mile swim event across Lake Washington and back.
- I rode the Tour de Whidbey 100-miler with over 6,400 feet of elevation and a lot of cuss words.
- I rode the CF Cycle for Life event in the rain.
- I was able to average 17 mph on the Eastside Triathlon.
- I ran and swam in Austin while on vacation.
Did I get what I came for this summer?
I think so.