Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chattanooga Training Weekend

So its been a long time since I had traveled somewhere just to train.  In college we used to road trip to Florida during spring break.  But instead of partying we would spend the week working out at Florida State University's track. I know, we were just crazy kids.  Anyways, I always see stuff about "tri training camps" and people going to the mountains just to train.  I've never done anything like that until now.

One great thing about living in the internet and social media era is that it is easy to arrange group meetings.  Through the Ironman Chattanooga Facebook group (not the official page), we all heard about this open water swim in Chattanooga.  They were having a 2.4 mile swim race in the river.  Of course a lot of people were interested and then the entire weekend just evolved from there.
Scenic Views on the Bike Course

 I took the day off on Friday.  I attended my son's program at school and was off at 10am.  It took me 5 hours and 40 minutes to get to the Holiday Inn (thanks Atlanta Traffic).  My Big Sexy Teammate Brad was going that weekend as well, so we split a room at the Holiday Inn.  So by the time I got in and started riding out of the parking lot it was 4:15pm.  Fortunately, the sun didn't set until 8:40, so we had plenty of time to do one full loop of the course.

I took the map with me and also had the turn by turn directions.  The TBT were the most useful.  We only stopped and questioned which way we were going a couple of times.  Someone had marked the course with orange paint.  The RD is pretty pissed about that, but it did make following the course for the first time easier.
Head Down, Let's Hammer.

The first 7-10 miles getting out of town have quite a few turns, some rough pavement, and a bunch of railroad track crossings.  Once you get out onto "the loop" then it's pretty much smooth sailing.  There is definitely some hills.  About 4-5 times I had to get out of the saddle to do some climbing.  We rode pretty leisurely for the most part.  Some stretches on Cove and Hog Jowl road we kinda put our heads down and cranked some watts.
Coming back up Cove Road

We stopped more than I usually do on a ride, but it was a nice afternoon.  Easily the best weather we got all weekend.  I'm glad we went ahead and did the whole thing from the hotel.  We ended up getting in 66.8 miles in all.  Going through Chickamauga (twice) on race day should be pretty cool. You shoot right through the middle of town.  There's plenty of spectator parking and it sounds like it could be similar to the town of LaGrange for Ironman Louisville.  People just hang out and cheer for the riders and its a good place for your friends and family to see you.
 The nice thing about the "out of your saddle" hills is that they are always followed by a fast section.  I'll keep that in mind during race day.  Makes going up the hills easier.  I'm not gonna preach on how to ride the course.  It seems every course review I read is like, "take it easy on the first loop or you'll pay for it on the second loop".  Or "take it easy on the hills or you'll pay for it on the run". Really?  So you're saying I should pace properly?  You're saying pace an Ironman?  Thanks, Einstein, I'll take that under advisement.  Swim hard, bike hard, and run hard.  Or go home.
For the section we did, I had 2,330 feet of elevation gain.  Roughly 1,800 was on the loop that you do twice.  So then 530 total to and from town.  So I estimated 4,130 feet for the whole course (1,800x2 + 530).  I'm not sure what you can really glean from that as your elevation may vary.  Everyone's Garmin showed different elevation gains (and further variances come from whatever program you use to upload the data).
Water Break
That's why I wanted to ride the course myself, with my Garmin.  That way I figure I can actually compare it to rides back home.  You know, apples to apples.  So turns out the elevation gain per mile is pretty typical of what I ride on back home.  That's definitely a good thing.  I won't be avoiding hilly rides like I sometimes have in the past.  The power meter helps with that as well.  Hilly, flat, windy, or not, watts r watts.
So Brad had a hankering for Mexican food.  We headed across the river to the North Shore area and found a little Mexican place.  We had a couple of beers with dinner and headed back to the hotel.  We weren't really in a big rush as the check in for the swim didn't start until 9am and we weren't swimming until 11am.
Yeah, me in a swim race.  Really!
Saturday morning we woke up to cold and rainy.  Fortunately, that really doesn't affect a wetsuit swim too much, just all the hanging around before and after.  So we did it, all 2.4 miles of it.  I've detailed all of that in a separate blog post here.  After the swim, we headed back to the hotel and had plenty of time to change and hang out.  We got our run clothes on and headed over to Ross' Landing down by the water for the group run.
Let's go already!
It was rainy and 55 degrees, so not a lot of pictures. After much (too much) talking about the course and different paces we were finally off.  I settled in with 5 or 6 guys that wanted to run the entire first loop.  We lolligagged it around a 8 min pace.

After a little confusion about 1/2 mile in, we finally got onto the Riverfront Parkway.  Its a nice little path along the river.  It is pretty flat, but there is a fair amount of concrete, which I'm definitely not a fan of.  The GPS map above shows that we just went out and back on the Parkway.  The actual course will come back on Amicola Highway and Riverside Drive.  That will be all pavement, which makes me happy.
We came back in near downtown and climbed a little hill to get onto the Veterans Bridge.  That took us over to the "North Shore" area.  As you can see by the elevation profile, that is where all the hills are.  Nothing crazy, but some good climbs.  On some of those hills, I kept thinking, man this is gonna be fun at mile 23!  The route is pretty scenic once you make that turn on Riverview Drive.  You definitely have some nice houses along the golf course.  You go up a slight hill to get onto the Walnut Bridge, a pedestrian only bridge. The good news is that once you get up there on your second loop, the last 1/2 mile or so is all downhill.

I only had 580 feet of elevation gain on that one loop, but most people had more.  But like the bike loop, its pretty similar to what I train on back home.  After the run, we headed back to the hotel for a much needed shower and clothes change.  We lounged around a bit and then headed over to the Big River Grille to meet up with a bunch of other Choo'ers.
Gotta love a beer tank on the sidewalk.
Big River is right in the middle of downtown on Broad Street.  We parked in the parking deck and made our way over.  They had an excellent Pilsner which I had a couple.  They had a buffet setup for the group with chicken, salmon, and meatloaf.  I skipped the salmon, the chicken was good, but the meatloaf was not.  My wife's meatloaf blows it out of the water.  But, the tex-mex egg rolls were absolutely incredible!
Big Brad's Big Plate
So the dinner was fun, as we got to meet some people doing the race.  Everyone is pretty excited and nervous.  For many of us, it will be our first full Ironman. Others have done several.  All in all, it was a pretty good group.
Choo Campers
We got back to the hotel, not too late. And crashed.  I woke up a couple of times during the night and heard the steady rain.  We had planned to do another loop of the bike course Sunday morning before heading back home.  When we got up, it was 50 degrees and raining.  The weather forecast didn't provide much hope, either.  It was only supposed to warm up a few degrees and rain until the afternoon. I made a gametime decision to pack it up and head home.

With the Sunday morning traffic, I got home in a hair over 5 hours.  I did an interval ride and a brick run that afternoon - in 60 deg and dry roads. So I was happy with my decision to head home early.  Monday, I was dragging all day, just tired as heck.  (Still swam 4,000 yards in the morning #GTWD). It was pretty fun to do a training weekend.  It would have been awesome had the weather cooperated.  I got to meet some new people and preview the course.  If I gleaned anything from the course, it is that I will not be avoiding any hills on rides or runs.  Even if it's an interval or tempo workout, I will embrace them.  I plan to hit the hills now, later and often.  IM Choo is coming at you faster than you think!