Chattanooga 70.3 Race Report

I came into this race looking for swim redemption, as my ‘17 Ironman Chattanooga swim had been less than stellar. I really took advantage of the moment by taking quite the tour of the river that day (i.e. by swimming anything but straight!).

Chattanooga 70.3 differs from the full though, in that there's a small upstream portion at the start, before you make a turn and go downstream to the finish. I worked hard in training on all-out, race pace starts and quick turnover to prepare for the upstream portion. In a crowd of 3,700 people waiting for the start, I was one of the few NOT cheering when they announced the upstream portion was cut due to the strong current. I was disappointed that I wouldn't get to see how my practice paid off, but you race the race you're given that day.

I wasn’t able to get the big swim miles I would have liked in training, due to nagging shoulder and carpal tunnel pain in my hand/wrist for a month or so prior, so my only goal (once nailing the upstream portion was a no-go) was to be comfortable and enjoy the swim. This has been a struggle for me ever since a fairly brutal swim at Texas last year.

Jumping off the dock, I immediately settled into a rhythm, never needed to stop to calm myself or catch my breath breath, and swam straight. It definitely got a bit congested and there were several times I had some big guys try to swim over me or cut me off, but I held my space and stayed in control. Having a comfortable and efficient swim was a total win for me!

Time: 19:27

Chattanooga 70.3 has to be the longest/lragest transition OF ALL TIME. My T1 time (and if I may say so, I’m good at transitions) was 5:42 and according to Strava .37 miles!

My plan for the bike was to swallow my pride, hold back, and set up the run. The first 25 miles are a continuous false flat with some hills thrown in, so it’s very easy to go out way too hard on this section. I kept my effort super easy, and then tried not to burn matches on the bigger climbs from 15-25. I found the course extremely congested for the first 20 miles – bikes spaced out a couple bike lengths as far as you could see, so it was 100% impossible not to draft. I left as much room as possible and passed people as quickly as I could. As always, many athletes were blatantly drafting. I worked several times to pass one pack in particular, but each time, they would neglect to drop out of my draft zone and immediately overtake me again.

I decided that I could choose to let the drafting affect me, or I could just race my race and be happy about what I could control. I chose to stay positive. I remembered how thankful I was to be riding safely outside in such beautiful country. Chattanooga is by far the prettiest course I’ve raced, as well as the most spectated. There were lots of people cheering on the out and back section, and then of course, the city of Chickamauga half way through is always full of people!
The hills were definitely much harder than I remembered from IMCHOO in ’17, with the addition of a steep climb on Andrews at mile 25. Fortunately, I made it to the top without falling over! After that, there’s quite a few quick rollers, and my goal for this section was to stay on the gas and maintain speed. Finally, my patience was starting to pay off, as I began passing people who were starting to feel the effects of going out too hard on the front section. Mile 44ish had the next worse climb – this one a mile or so long, and an equally brutal descent. I usually love going fast downhill and take advantage whenever possible, but when the wind started to pull my wheels and my bike got a little fishy, I got out of aero, and tapped the brakes a little to stay in control. Probably the most sketched out I’ve ever been on a downhill! (Garmin clocked me at 38 mph)

The remainder of the course was mostly downhill, but there’s quite a few turns on really rough roads and car traffic. I knew I was capable of a 20 mph bike, but I planned to be
conservative and be happy with 19, to save my legs for a strong run. I was super happy to come out with an average of 19.5! (The course was a tad long, so IM tracker shows me a little slower).

Bike: 2:54:40

My awesome cheer crew

My goal for Chattanooga 70.3 was formulated after a soul crushing run in Augusta last year, where I fell apart on the second loop, succumbing to the heat. I wanted a strong run with consistent or preferably negative splits, and I’ve worked hard for the past few months to execute that. Building on years of base fitness, I’ve started implementing some harder tempo sessions on my long runs. My race plan was to hold back to a super conservative pace until a third of the way through. This was also my plan for Augusta, but I felt great at the start that day and didn’t stick to it.

I didn’t start out the run at Chattanooga feeling as good as I hoped. My legs felt like lead, but I kept slowly chipping away at the long hill out of transition. Waiting at the top was the best reward ever – my own private cheer crew! My friends Logan and Robert were standing with Jason, all dressed in a Hawaiian theme and yelling. I had looked forward to seeing them so much for the past few hours!

Not long after, I came to the first aid station, where I grabbed two sponges and stuffed them into my tri suit. At every aid station after that, I took a cold water and dumped half the water down my top to rewet the sponges, half the water on my head, and drank the last sip. I usually breeze through the aid stations, so this was new for me, but it worked like a charm! I stayed cool, and never felt like I was overheating.

I think the Chattanooga run course is so beautiful, so I really enjoyed myself, especially the special Kona-Nooga aid station. I had the opportunity to volunteer at a disABLED water sports event for SPARC several years ago, and what an amazing group of people! Seeing them and that giant, beautiful aid station made my day! (I firmly believe people should sign up for Choo 70.3 just to experience Kona-Nooga!).

Through the twists and turns of the course, I noticed I had been ever so slowly gaining on Michelle, a good friend from our tri club who had moved to Chattanooga several years ago. We were running so closely in pace, and I wanted to catch her and run with her a bit. I hadn’t seen her in years, and what better time to catch up than a run course!? Just over Veterans Bridge about mile 6, I FINALLY caught up to her, and I’m so glad I did! We paced each other and it really took my mind off the heat and those hard, middle miles.

I saw my cheer crew again at the beginning of the second loop – that was the best surprise ever – not only did I get to high five them, but I realized we didn’t have to run the hill out of transition again! Michelle and I ran together until about mile 10- that crazy girl had done a trail race the day before which was starting to wear on her, and she told me to run ahead. This was the point in my race where I had planned to pick up the pace. I felt amazing, and went for it! Being in control those last few miles was the greatest feeling ever!

At some point in these last three miles, I did the math in my head and realized I was set for a PR of at least a few minutes, if I could just keep on pace at sub – 10 min miles. I went into this race thinking a PR wasn’t possible because it was a much more difficult course, but here we were! I started just ugly crying and sobbing, and coached myself to keep those emotions in check until the finish! I went from low 10 min/miles to a 9:17 and 9:15 the last two miles and by the time I ran down the hill into the finisher shoot, I truly believe I was the happiest person in the whole city of Chattanooga! I wound up PRing my half ironman 13.1 by three minutes on a hillier course! I felt amazing at the finish, and felt like it was my best executed race thus far. I had shattered every goal I had for that day and more.

Run: 2:10:32
Total: 5:33:25

My best friend and best sherpa ever


Popular posts from this blog

The Stone That Crushed My Ironman Dream (Temporarily)

What the Heck Is Clean Eating: Confessions of a "Dirty Eater"

Avoiding a Midseason Bonk-Preventative Steps to Maintaining a Healthy Physical and Emotional Balance (for the rest of us…)