IRONMAN is hard! That’s my takeaway from this race. Chattanooga was my sixth full IRONMAN and it did not disappoint. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to this race, and it didn’t go exactly as planed, but I walked away mostly satisfied with the result. I think after pouring so much sweat into training for these epic events, you can never really be satisfied with the results.
In the past I’ve never had perfect IRONMAN preparation. Something always came up and there were parts of training that were missed. For the first time I really felt like I had done the work needed for Chattanooga. I had some massive long rides and many long runs. However, I was fading at the end of those runs and that’s something that would come back to visit me in the IRONMAN marathon at Chattanooga.
I had a great nutrition plan and found a combination that was working well. I was shooting for about 90 grams of carbs per hours in the form on Maurten, Cliff Chews and a Styrkr bar for breakfast. I also used the Maurten Bicarb system before the race. I had a Maurten Solid when I woke up. Then had the Bicarb about 2 hours before the start. A little latter ate the Styrkr bar. Then a Maurten CAF gel before the swim. After the swim I had another Maurten CAF gel. On the bike I filled 4 bottles with Maurten 320 CAF, LMNT electrolytes and some essential amino acids. Then starting the run I stuck with Maurten gels, as the have them on the course. I took one about ever other aid station. Something like every 20 minutes or so. Towards the end of the race I didn’t feel I needed them so much so started tapering off. Overall this seemed to work perfect and I had not issues and felt well fueled and hydrated all day long. After mile 13 on the run I did take some Coke every so often and it just is a nice treat.
Chattanooga was a really nice venue. Not at all what I expected, but I enjoyed it none the less. Getting there took a little work. I used my airline miles to book the trip so we had to fly into Atlanta which was about a two hour drive away. I feel this was a little longer than I would like to do in the future, but not all that bad considering. Getting my bike there I had considered different options, but decided to pack it in the travel cast and check it with me on the flight. For the $35 bag fee I felt it would be rather economical. However the challenge came when I had to keep the weight under 50 pounds. I tried for about two hours to get everything under weight, but could not do it. I needed up at 56 pounds and was optimistic that the airline would just let it be. That was not the case.
We checked in the bike at the kiosk and printed the baggage claim tag. We then took it tot the agent (who did not work for the airline). They weighed the bag and told me it was over weight. I asked if there was anything we could do to, just let it be. The called over an airline employee and they said no, but then proceeded to walk away. The agent said there were not sure why they walked away as they would have to charge me for the overweight fee. So the agent told me to see another employee at the end of the corridor. I walked over to the employee and they waved me on and pointed to a cart. These are the carts of the oversized bags. They gave me the thumbs up so we just left it and headed to the gate. I was very nervous since we didn’t pay and I didn’t know if they were going to take the bike. I had an AirTag in there so I could at least follow it.
As we boarded the plane I saw the bike was loaded as well. And when we landed in Atlanta, the bike was there! Somehow we bucked the system!!! On the way back we attempted the same thing. We went to the kiosk and got the baggage claim tag. But instead of seeing an agent we saw the oversized bag screening area, so we just too the bike strait there. It worked like a charm and the bike made it home with me. Although now that I know that I can’t get my bike and the case under 50 pounds I’m thinking that I might not travel with the bike on the plane unless necessary from now on.
Race Morning I woke up 4 hours before the race. I like an hour to arrive and then I had to walk to transition and finalize everything for the race. I had just recently converted my race wheels to tubules and they were not holding air great. I got them pumped up and dropped my nutrition on the bike and headed to the swim start. It was only 2 miles away but I took the shuttle to get there. I was super early so I was able to rest for a while before I got ready for the swim.
I didn’t exactly know what to expect form the Chattanooga swim. I knew it would be fast and I knew the water would be warm. Two things I was looking forward to. The waster temperature was on the cusp of being wetsuit legal, but somehow on race morning they got a 76.1° reading and we could wear wetsuits. Because I knew it would be a faster swim I wasn’t sure where I should line up for the start. I choose a little over an hour feeling like that would be a good spot. It was probably a little further back then I should have lined up, but I did have a very clear swim without a lot of traffic.
As we walked down towards the river I got nervous. IRONMAN is a long day and I knew what I was about to embark on. They were letting people go every 3 seconds. The guy holding us off skipped me the first time and apologized. But it was all go and I got an extra 3 seconds to prepare and then I jumped in the water. It felt amazing. The waster was the perfect temperature. It felt clean and was mostly clear. A little on the brown side compared to some of the lake swims, but this was a river after all.
I started to swim and before long my watch beeped indication 500 meters. I quickly glanced at it and saw a time I didn’t expect, it was definitely a fast swim. I kept moving sighting the buoys and moving closer to the swim exit. This was the best IRONMAN swim experience I’ve ever had. The water felt good, it was fast and it wasn’t crowded. As I exited the water I saw my time and was very happy. I was under 50 minutes something I didn’t expect.
T1 was long, but went well. However once I got into the changing tent I realized I was taking a little longer than I should have and had to get my butt into gear. I ran out to my bike and got started. The air temperature was cooler, but not bad to all. Slightly cold from being wet, but I quickly dried off. This was really the prefect temperature.
The bike was going great. I was pushing it pretty had and passing a ton of people. It was mostly just rolling hills and really no lengthy climbs. The scenery was beautiful in the Georgia countryside. The cause was a lollipop. As I hit the section where we’d be doing our second lap, I hit the lap button on my Garmin. 30 minutes. So I knew it would be about that much back to T2 after the second loop. I hit it again when I hit the spot starting he second loop. It was two hours and ten minutes. Doing the math I knew I was having a really good bike ride.
However, the second lap was much more challenging than the first. I could feel the fatigue creeping in. I pushed it harder than I probably should have on the first loop, but I’m not sure I could have rode less aggressively. I paced myself on the second loop and didn’t push if I didn’t need to. I had done well taking in all my nutrition and I grabbed water from the aid stations twice.
As I hit the loop point and headed back, I saw I lost 5 minutes on the second loop. Which was really not bad considering. As I rode back to Tennessee I was starting to thing about the run. The last IRONMAN I did I had some pain in my lower back. It was there again, but not as bad as it had be so I was feeling very confident.
At T2 I hopped off the bike and a volunteer grabbed. I forgot that were catching the bikes and I could just run strait to my gear. I got on my shoes, stopped to pee and headed out onto the run. Lauren was there waiting for a kiss, but I had just shoved a gel into my mouth! And out onto the run course I went.
The pain in my back got worse as I started to run. I knew from experience that it would eventually go away, but it was very uncomfortable. I had a pace I knew I needed to run and I felt that I wasn’t able to get to that speed. I just went with it though knowing I could only do what I could do. I felt at that point I went from competing to surviving.
The first section of the run course was hard. Not only did it start on a big hill it was along a road that sloped in a bit so it felt uneven. It was about 4 miles or so of discomfort, but then it turned around and went along the river. At that point I started feeling okay and the back issue died down. I wasn’t running fast, but I knew it was a steady pace I could hold. The strange this was that there was nobody around! I felt all alone out there. I enjoyed this part of the course and we ever ran buy the swim start at mile 6.
I was looking forward to every aid station taking in my gels and getting water and ice. I walked through them to take short breaks from the running, then I would pick up the pace and head to the next one. Eventually we would cross the river over a bridge into North Chattanooga. This was the hilly part of the course. The first loop I don’t remember it being too bad, I got through then back to the pedestrian bridge to start the second loop. Right about then the 3rd place male passed me on his way to the finish line. So I knew I was it a decent position in the race with the majority of people behind me.
I remember hitting the 13 mile mark and the drive to finish started to grow. As I started the second loop I was no longer alone. Many runner starting their first loop were joining me. The long 4 mile stretch felt better this time, but my pace had slowed significantly. Yet I kept moving.
I was tired and ready to be done. My legs hurt and I was moving very slowly. The hills on the back half were really challenging the second time. And the downhills gave no relief as they stung the quads. But as I made it back to the pedestrian bridge I knew I was close to the finish. It hit me then what I had just done. I was very emotional. I had a good race, but the run was not the performance I was looking for. But I gave it all that I had.
Somehow, knowing I was close to the end, and the fact that it was downhill my pace increased. The finish line was in my sights and I metered through to the arch only stopping to give Lauren a quick kiss. I was done and had just completed my six IRONMAN. Mixed emotions ran through my head. I did not get the result I was looking for, but I was only a few minutes of my IRONMAN PR.
Overall it was a great race and a great venue. While my run disappointed I’m proud of the effort I put in. I ran the whole thing, but not at the pace I wanted. It seems that fading as the mile grow is something I need to work on. I’ll have to figure out how to improve that. I was thinking maybe IRONMAN is too much, but I didn’t feel that after this race. I’m eager to put together a new race and see what I can do. Next year of course. Unfortunately, there are not many races to choose from.