Sunday, October 5, 2014

2014 Ironman Chattanooga Race Report

I only had one goal this year.  Usually I'll do a blog post about my goals for the year.  Usually it's a swim in x time, bike in x time, yadda yadda yadda.  Then it's a swim so many yards, run so many miles, blah blah blah.  Then I'll maybe throw in how I want to place in my "A" race.  I didn't do that this year, because it would have been a short post.  2014 Goals: Kona. Well maybe, there was another goal in there: Don't Get Divorced.

The word Kona in reference to myself never passed my lips for anyone to hear.  Oh I said it.  I've said it a thousand times.  Just never to anyone else.  I mumbled it as I drove to the Y to swim.  I yelled it at myself during a tempo run up a hill trying to keep a 6 flat pace.  I screamed it at the top of my lungs at myself trying to maintain 350 watts during a bike interval.  Many times it was in the phrase "Do you want to go to Kona?"

I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga right before I flew out to Las Vegas for the 70.3 World Championships last year. I knew it would sell out fast, so I was at the ready when the signup gun went off.  I got through in about 45 seconds before the Active servers crashed at 1 minute in.  I felt excited to get into the race, but that quickly turned into a "Wait, what did I just sign up for?"
One of the signs my support crew made for me.

2014 is my 5th season of doing triathlons I had done 8 Half Iron races prior to Chattanooga.  I felt like it was time to go long.  I was planning on doing Louisville, but when Chattanooga was announced, I knew it was the race for me: current aided swim and a tough run.

I trained my freaking butt off.  My biggest swim week was 14K yards.  My biggest run week was 60 miles.  My biggest bike week was 301 miles.  My biggest week of all was 25 hours, but most big weeks were 20-22 hours.  I do the bulk of my training in the morning to try and minimize the impact on my family.  That means 4am most mornings.  For particularly long rides and runs, I would get up at 3 am.  That's not a typo. 

I did my long run (23 miles) and my long ride (137 miles) three weeks out from race day.  I took a good 2 week taper to make sure I was fully rested.  I decided to err on the side of too much rest, instead being a little too tired.

Race Week
I rode over to Chattanooga with my folks.  We left in the morning and pulled into downtown around 2:30pm.  I wanted to check in on Thursday before the crowds hit on Friday.

The Expo

Get your free snacks here.

We parked right next to Ross's Landing and the check in was smooth.  No line at all.  Not like the 45 minute line for IM Raleigh this year.

Registration Tent

Ready for 2015?

We checked out the expo, and I went to the IM store to get my backpack and a couple of things (a mug and tri shorts).

Iron Towel

Fuel Belt and GU !


This was kinda cool.
We then headed north.  I had rented a house in Soddy-Daisy, about 20 min north of town.  The house was great.  Nice inside (4 bed/4 bath), spacious rooms and a huge patio overlooking a sinkhole.  We just chilled that night as my sisters got in from a long drive from Minnesota
The Sinkhole

The Patio

Montlake Drive

My sister and I went downtown so I could attend the 11am athlete briefing.  She went for a run.  It was mildly informative and did answer the couple questions I had.  Namely, were there bike catchers.  I guess that's a noob question, but how would I know?  Oh, and special needs bags wouldn't be checked until race morning.
There's the line for registration

All the Stuff



We went back to the house, and I went for a short brick.  An 8 mile ride and 2 mile run.  I felt strong on the bike, but not so much on the run.  I was kinda glad I had another day to rest.  I organized all my bags that evening.  Obviously the first race I had done with special needs bags.  I decided that the SN bags would only be for a backup.  I wasn't planning on stopping for them.  I just had some spare tubes, CO2, gels, and socks in them.
My Niece helped me get ready

 I had already made lists of what needed to go into each bag.  So then I put all the gear into each bag and then checked each one like 87 times.  My wife and kids got in around 10pm.  My niece and her husband got in from Indiana about 1am.  So I had 11 other people there to cheer me on!  That was pretty cool.
Stuff is ready for the bags

Some of the family was going zip lining and then they were all going to Ruby Falls.  Well, except me and my son.  It was gear check day. We headed down just after 12 noon.  There were hardly any parking spots to be had.  The deck we parked in the last 2 days was full.  We had to park a good 6 blocks away.  I'm glad my teenage son was with my to lug my bike and run bags as I only had to walk Green Lightning.
Obligatory bike check pic

Lots o bikes

I found my spot in transition and most all the bikes were there already.  The bikes were really packed in.  There was very little room, but with this type of transition, you really don't need any.  You don't have any gear at your bike.  Everything is in the bike or run bag that you take to the changing tent.

Run Gear Bags

Bike Gear Bags

So I followed the race day flow out of transition to check the "bike out" and mount line.  So naturally I went by the "pro" rack.  There were only 3 or 4 bikes there.  I saw one girl finishing up putting her Specialized bike on the rack.  I kinda recognized her and then I took a shot, "Angela"?  (as in Naeth) She's goes, yeah, and I'm like "I'm Rick".  So then she has a real quizzical look on her face.  I continue, "you don't know me" and then she started laughing.  We talked a little about GU gels and the bike out.  I wished her good luck and headed on my way.
Me and Angela

I found my bag spots and tried to figure out the transition configuration.  I wanted to see how we were getting in and out and which way we were going.  I put lime green duct tape on my bags to help identify them and to make sure my number was on there.  I found my son outside transition and we headed over by the water.  Angela happened to be standing there, so I did get proof, err I mean a picture.
Swim Exit
Announcement Stage

We headed back to the car and ate lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings.  We headed home, I put me feet up and spent the rest of the afternoon watching football.  The family cooked dinner and we ate around 6pm.  I didn't really do anything else, and went to bed around 9pm.  As with most races I really didn't sleep well that night.  It didn't worry me because that's pretty normal for me.
Home Cooked meals away from Home

The Whole Crew!

Sunday - Race Day
Popped up when the alarm went off at 4am.  I got my stuff together: special needs bags, bike bottles and some bagels.  My wife took me downtown and dropped me off.  I didn't want to have to worry about the hassle of parking.  She dropped me off right at the SN bag dropoff.  I handed those bags off and headed to transition.

As I came into transition Mike Reilly was announcing that the water was 77 degrees and that it was not a wetsuit swim.  I was bummed.  All year, I basically told myself that No Wetsuit = No Kona.  But my next thought was that, well it takes all the pressure off.  Now I can just relax and have a good race and not worry about a KQ.

I found a guy with a bike pump and put air in my tires.  I then put my water bottles on my bike and that was pretty much it. I have all my transition gear in the bike bag, so there's not really anything to setup at your bike.  I did go to my bike gear bag and put some sunscreen on, now that I was not gonna wear a wetsuit.  I then found my Big Sexy Teammate Brad at his transition, and we basically hung out from then on.
Brad is ready, I'm not so sure

We walked out of transition and found his wife.  She rode with us up to the swim start.  We hit the port-o-lets when we got there and then tried to find the end of the line for the swim start.  It was long.  Really long.  We got to the way back and sat down for a while.  Brad played some music on his phone.  He then got a text from some of his Georgia friends that were up near the front of the line.  They invited us to join them, so we headed up.  It was a long walk, and I'm glad we did.
Here we go

We hung there with the TriCoach Georgia people.  They had gotten in line at 5:15am.  I got my BlueSeventy PZ3TX Swimskin on.  Took a few last drinks and then threw everything in my morning clothes bag.  Volunteers were walking around picking up the bags.  Pretty soon, the cannon went off for the pros and the line started moving.  It took probably only 3 minutes until we came through the trees.  The had a temporary pier setup with a timing mat as you got down to the level part of the pier.  Everyone was yelling GO GO GO!  So we hurried along, I went to the far end of the pier, hit start on my watch, and jumped in feet first.

57:20 officially, 175 / 402 Age Group, 737 / 1594 Overall Male Non-Pro
So I must have jumped too high or something because when I hit the water I went down for what seemed a long time.  Then when I came back to the surface someone hit me in the back of the head.  First time I've been hit on the swim before I had even taken my first stroke.  Anyways I started at it.  I felt ok.  My shoulders didn't hurt.  I felt the current a little but it didn't seem a lot different.

The first time I really noticed the current was about 1/3 of the way in when my head rubbed the bottom of a buoy, I turned to see what I hit and that buoy went by me really fast.  Really fast.  There wasn't much congestion.  There were only a few times when I bumped into people.  Overall it was one of the least congested swims I had done.   Again, that's why I picked this race versus one with a mass start.

We seemed to get to Maclellan Island Pretty quickly, but then it took a while to get around it.  I didn't have any issues panicking, but did swallow some water a few times.  Finally I got to Veteran's Bridge and I knew I was in the home stretch.  I tried to push some at that point, you know, to minimize the damage of my slow swim.  As we converged on the exit, it still didn't get crowded.  Usually near the end everyone starts converging on a single point and it gets crazy and I get smacked around.  Not today, however.

I got to the ramp and got some help up, as I'm usually a little woozy getting out of the water.  I saw the 57 on my watch and thought 'sweet'.  We may have a shot at this thing after all.  My original goal was 1:10 to 1:15 so I was way up on that.

5:12 Officially
Garmin had 0.37 miles, so a pretty long run up from the water.  Many people were walking.  I was running and passing people up the hill.  Although I had no idea what anyone else had swam, I kinda felt like I was still in it.  I knew my margin for error was exactly zero.  I knew that every second counted and that's how I approached the transitions.

I grabbed my bag from a volunteer (glad I had lime green duct tape on there).  The tent was a little crowded but not too bad.  I quickly found a spot and a volunteer came over to help.  Volunteers in the changing tent might be the greatest thing ever.  As I'm getting my swimskin off, he's getting everything out of my bag and laying it out for me.  I lubed up, and grabbed my GU Roctane Electrolyte Capsules and stuffed them in my kit.  I put on my sunglasses and my Rudy Wingspan helmet.  I grabbed my shoes and ran to my bike with my shoes in my had.  The volunteers then put everything back in the bag for me.

As I got to my rack, a volunteer got the bike off and was holding it.  I put my bike shoes on and grabbed Green Lightning and we were off to the bike out.

5:04:58 Officially, 4 / 402 Age Group, 11 / 1594 Overall Male Non-Pro
Garmin had 115.5 miles and a 22.8 average on 194 watts.  I had wanted to average 205 watts on the bike.  I figured that would put me at a 22.4 average and a 5:10.  I wanted to start out a little conservative, and I did with 189w on the first 5 miles.  The first part of the race was a lot faster than I thought it would be.  Through 15 miles I was averaging only 196 watts, but had a 23.6 mph average speed!  It was pretty congested for the first 20 miles before it started to thin out some.
Heading out of town

I caught Big Sexy Brad right before the 14 mile mark.  Since we started within a few seconds of each other, I was thinking that I really had a great swim.

So I just stuck to the plan.  I wanted to make sure I drank both bottles I had with me.  Each bottle had maltodextrin mixed with GU Brew tabs.  I wanted to get in 7 gels as well.  Everything was going pretty smoothly, but I had to pee a lot earlier than usual.  I usually go at 50 miles, but today right after I made the turn onto Hog Jowl at mile 32, I let 'er fly.

I finished the first bottle before mile 50 and did a refill from my rear bottle right before I went through Chickamauga.  So I was holding an empty bottle as I went through there.  The town was packed.  Shoulder to shoulder on the side of the road, and everyone was yelling.  As I got out of town, I saw a guy spectating on the side of the road.  I asked him if I could give him my bottle.  He didn't really reply, but when I threw it to him, he picked it up.  So no littering penalty.  After that I felt good and just tried to keep it smooth.

I was still only cranking out about 200 watt laps, but my speed was still really good in the upper 22's.  I started the second loop to quite a few cheers as that section had a good number of people as well.  As I began the slow ascent to the bottom of the course, I did not feel too good.  Just low on energy.  I was 70 miles in and thinking, I got almost another 50 miles to go.  Then a marathon.  I tried not to think too much about the marathon part.

I tried to keep it steady up the hills.  My eyes were glued to my power meter display on the hills.  For the shorter hills I did not want to go over 300w at all.  For the longer hills I kept it at 260 to 270 watts.  As I made the 2nd turn onto Hog Jowl at about 75 miles, I peed again.  I was kinda catching pro woman Shannon Florea.  I had seen her significant other, fellow Big Sexy Teammate Jonathon Feddock, riding around the course taking some pictures.  I did my business and took off.
Cornering blurry fast

The second time through Chickamauga was even more packed. I enjoyed it more that time as I wasn't trying to hold a bottle.  I grabbed a water bottle at the last aid station and filled up my front bottle, as I had drained it again.   Finally I made that turn for home, and I had 10 miles to go.  That stretch on 193 was pretty smooth.  When we got back into town on Riverfront Parkway it was really bumpy.  I guess I didn't notice it as much going out because I was on the horns more with all the traffic.  I basically soft pedaled that last 5 miles to rest up for the run.  I only cranked out 167 watts there.

I ended up taking in all my drink and 10 gels and 4 Electrolyte Caps.  That gave me 1,760 calories (350 cal/hour).  The only rough road sections of the course were the first and last 10 miles.  They did what they could with signs warning you about bumps and covering railroad tracks as much as possible.  Still there were several "water bottle graveyards" that I saw.  I didn't have any problem with my stuff coming off.

2:37 Officially
Garmin only had 0.19 miles. Dismount was flawless.  Legs didn't move too well but I kept them going.  I grabbed my bag and headed in the tent.  This time the changing tent was pretty empty.

 I had 2 volunteers helping me and they were great as well.  He even put my Fuel Belt Race Belt on me as I put on my visor and sunglasses.  I ran out of the tent and had the sunscreen people hit me.  They were all standing there and I yelled 'Sunscreen' and slowed down and then yelled 'Go Go Go Go GO'.  Just to make sure they understood the urgency. Every second counts.

3:19:12 Officially (7:36 avg), 3 / 402 Age Group, 8 / 1594 Overall Male Non-Pro
So I felt relatively fresh, well not really fresh, but not dead, I guess.  The start of the run was about 75 degrees and overcast.  Almost ideal.  My goal here was to run 7:45's to bring me home sub 3:24.  I saw some of my family in the first half mile and yelled to them 'Hey! I'm doing an Ironman!'  That boosted me up that initial 109 foot climb in the first mile.  I ran 7:09 the first mile, and thought it was way too fast.  Through 3 miles I had a 7:22 average, but I felt fine.  Just like it was any other long training run.
Right at the start

About then I came up on Big Sexy Teammate Bill Beecher.  We talked for a bit and I asked him about his swim.  He said he swam 42 minutes.  Suddenly my 57 didn't seem very fast.  Right then I decided to throw out that 7:45 pace and just go with it.  So I just started popping them off.  The first time through the hills, honestly were not that bad.  I slowed going up, but tried to make up time on the downhills.
The best sherpas around

I took water at almost every aid station.  I took ice and sponges at most of them. I had 4 GU Gels in my race belt, but took another 5 from aid stations.  The sun was peaking out some, but soon clouded up again. I had some issues opening the gels with my sweaty hands.  I tried to get the aid station volunteers to open the gels for my and I got about half of them to do it.  I had stuffed a plastic sandwich bag of Electrolyte Capsules in my kit in T2.  I took about 6 of those.

As I came near the end of the first lap, my sister yelled to me that I was 11th off the bike.  I had originally thought I needed to only be in the top 20 off the bike.  But I knew with the time trial start that I could very well be 15th or so (turns out I was 12th off the bike).

Through 20 miles I was averaging 7:27's.  But the second pass through the North Side Hills were looming.  I pushed some on that flat stretch on Amnicola Highway, not worrying about the hills.  As I crossed Veterans bridge again and made my way up the Barton Ave hill, it was tough.  Fortunately, I felt good on the downhills.  The heavens opened up and it poured rain for about 10 minutes.  I pushed up the hill on Riverview Road and eventually made my way back to the bottom of the Barton Ave hill for the last time.
I made Slowtwitch!

So you hit that hill at 23.8 miles.  It has 116 feet of gain in a half mile.  Holy crap, the pain.  It hurt like no race I've ever done.  I've hurt in races and some of the worst pain was from an injury.  This was no hip flexor, or IT band, or foot blister.  It was pure muscle pain.  I pushed as much as I could.  Everyone was walking.  Everyone.  My face was so contorted in pain, I felt like it was going to turn inside out.  I passed people, but not very quickly.  The hill just seemed to go on forever.  The pain just got worse with every step.  I closed my eyes and just peaked every few steps to make sure I didn't run into anyone.  I just wanted to pain to end.  Walking was not the answer, getting to the top of the hill was.
The Hot Corner

I finally crested the hill and thought, that's it.  I've done it. A mile and a half to go and I'm finished.  I started lengthening my stride on the downhill and my left hamstring cramped up.  It was bad.  I had to stop to stretch it out.  It felt better and I started running again, but it just cramped up again.  I started to freak out.  I was so close to the finish, but now I can't run!  I did the run/cramp thing a couple of more times, then I decided to walk a few steps.  That seemed to get it under control and I started running again.  Then my left calf started cramping. That wasn't as bad as every step I would hit the pavement and stretch it out.
Coming to the finish
Finish after dark

So that's the way it went for the last 1.5 miles.  Every 3rd or 4th step, my calf would cramp, and I'd take an awkward step like I was having a seizure.  I went across the Walnut bridge, not going very fast, but just trying to pick up the next leg and move it forward.  Finally I came across the bridge and onto the downhill for the finish line.  I saw my Dad and he was yelling like crazy.  My calf cramping was getting worse.  I just kept thinking, where the hell is this finish line?  I finally saw the carpet and pushed for the finish.

When I got on the carpet about 50 feet from the finish, the emotions washed over me. I raised my arms and put them on my head in disbelief.  I had made it to the finish line!  I heard Mike Reilly say, "We got a first timer, Rick Weslock from Fort Mill, South Carolina: You. Are. An. Ironman!"  I only averaged 8:18 miles over the final 6 miles, but it was the best I could do with the hills and the cramping.
Hills on the Run

9:29:19 Officially, 6 / 402 Age Group, 11 / 1,594 Overall Male Non-Pro
As I crossed the finish line, I kinda collapsed into the the lady putting the medal around my neck.  Two volunteers grabbed me and helped me walk.

My vision had kinda tunneled some, so I couldn't see much.  I walked with them and couldn't really form any answers to their questions.  So they took me to the med tent.

I sat down on a cot and they stuck me with an IV.  After about 15 minutes I felt a thousand times better and needed to get some food.  Garmin said I burned 7,672 calories during the race.  They wanted me to finish the IV so I did.

My one sister and her family had to drive back to Minnesota, so they pushed their way into the med tent to say their goodbyes.

I spent about a half hour in the med tent. When I finally got out, I asked my other sister what my place was.   She said I was 5th, and then checked her phone again and said, oh wait, you dropped to 6th.  I knew that was right on the line. I was in a good position coming off the bike, but I didn't feel like I was catching people on the run.

So then Angela Naeth walks up to me and asks me how I did.  I told her my time and asked her how she did.  "Oh I won it". I was like holy crap, that's awesome.  I did introduce her to my wife and sister.  We talked for a little bit, but I thought it was really cool that she came up to me and asked me about my race after she just won her first Ironman.

I eventually gathered myself and ate many pieces of pizza.  My sister and wife grabbed my gear bags and I went to get my bike.  We walked back to the car, which was at the top of one of the nearby parking decks and headed to the house.  I got a shower and we headed to Buffalo Wild Wings again (but not the one downtown).  I slammed some beer, mozzarella sticks and wings.
A Tradition Unlike Any Other

So we got back to the house and watched some football.  We turned on the 11 o'clock news as my sister got interviewed and they showed it.  She could have at least said her brother competed, but anyways.  So then I tried to go to bed at midnight, but I just laid there.  Then I got back up and watched some TV.  I guess not being able to sleep is pretty common.  I guess you're just too keyed up after a race like that to sleep.  Not being able to sleep means your thinking about a lot of things.  I was so close to Kona, I prayed and prayed I would get a spot.  I was 1 minute and 20 seconds behind 5th place.  I had relegated myself to thinking, hey if I do a 9:29 and don't get a Kona slot, my hats off to those guys. So I got about 3 hours of sleep as I was up early as well.

The awards ceremony was at 9:30.  Since I was 6th (I checked again in the morning), I didn't need to worry about that.  The slot allocation and rolldown started at 11am.  So we packed everything up and headed for the convention center around 10am.

They were just finishing up the awards.  We stood in the corner and I decided to see what I could see.  Usually they post the slot allocation sheet somewhere.  Sure enough I found it taped to the wall at the back of the room.   I looked at it and quickly saw M40-44 ... 6.  I just stared at it.  I kept staring at it to make sure it was real.  I took a picture of it and went over and showed my sister.  She's reading it and she's like "Your going?"  I nodded my head, yup.  We hugged and cried like little schoolgirls.  My Dad was like, what?  Well, Dad, "We're going to Hawaii!"
"The Letter"

So Mike Reilly is going through the slot allocation.   He gets to M40-44 and he's looking at the sheet.  He shuffles some papers.  He walks over and asks a lady something.  I'm like, oh crap.  What is going on?  Then he comes back and says, "Usually we would only have 5 slots in this age group, but since there were no finishers in M80+ that slot rolled to this group.  I hope he's here." You bet your sweet ass I am, Mike Reilly!  So he gets to my name and calls it out.  I stand up and yell and put my arms over my head like an idiot.
Big Sexy Kona Twins

I get my anti-doping form and fill it out.  I see Bill Beecher again.  He's M35-39.  They had 5 slots.  He was 6th.  But one guy didn't show up and Bill got his slot!  It only takes one.  So we stood in the Kona signup line for a while.  Eventually I got the pay my $850 entry fee and $51 Active fee.  Obviously I was posting on Facebook at that point.
Really nice finisher T, Hat, and medal

It feels absolutely unbelievably incredible to get a Kona spot at my very first Ironman race.  I still can't believe I went sub 9:30.  Yeah the swim was crazy fast, but I went 5 minutes faster on the bike and 5 minutes faster on the run than I thought I would.  The extra mileage on the bike and the hills on the run make up for the current aided swim.  But hey, that's why I chose this race.  It favors weak swimmers/strong runners.  That's me. If I had to pick one moment in this race that made the difference it would be the Barton Ave hill at mile 24.  That's what all the training was for.  To push up that hill, endure the pain, not walk, and finish strong.
Take my money for Kona, Please!

Barry Breffle is 43 years old.  He finished in 9:29:48.  He was the 12th fastest age grouper out of 2,300 people.  He is not going to Kona because I finished ahead of him by 29 seconds.  Twenty-Nine Seconds over the course of 9 and 1/2 hours is 0.08% of the time we spent racing.  Every.  Second.  Counts.  Yeah, it's an Ironman, but it's a race.  I came to race, not finish.  I hope Barry does Chattanooga next year and qualifies.  I have never met him, but I hear he is a great guy. 

So we drove home and I'm just floating.  We grab some lunch and I put on my SLS3 compression sleeves on my calves so I can really "tri-geek" it out.  We dropped my sister off in Atlanta and headed back home. We got home at 7:30pm and threw all the stuff in the garage.  I did feel tired then, but it was a great trip.  The house worked out perfectly.  I got to see a lot family that lives far away.  I nailed the race, and got the KQ!  My Age Group Results Here.

On October 10th, 2015 I'll be racing with the big boys again.  But for now, its time for some rest and some beers.  I think I've earned it.  A hui hou keia makahiki a'e (that means "See you Next Year" in Hawaiian!)

I'm at the 2:43 Mark