Friday, June 10, 2016

2016 IM Chattanooga 70.3 Race Report

Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 was my first triathlon since Kona.  I felt like I had gotten good training in.  I did not have the "Ironman Hangover" this past off season like I did after the 2014 season.  I did some running races and felt like my run fitness was good.  My bike fitness seemed to come around just in the past couple of weeks.  My swim, well, my swim is what it is.

I picked this race because I like Chattanooga as a venue overall.  Everything takes place downtown near the hotels and restaurants.  Plus I knew there would be a pretty good group of my Big Sexy teammates there.

Big Sexy and Mr. Epoch
I took the day off on Friday.  This was the weekend that Chris McDonald was coming in town for his Big Sexy Camp with the EPT Racing Team.  I went to the swim with them that morning and then headed out to Chattanooga.  Bummer I had to miss the rides over the weekend, but maybe next year.
 I decided to roll out through Knoxville, instead of Atlanta.  With the threat of rain and it being Friday afternoon, I thought it best to avoid the ATL.  I grabbed some Subway along the way.  I hit some traffic in Knoxville and coming into Chattanooga, so it took me a good 5-1/2 hours to roll into town.

I checked into the Hilton Garden Inn, that's two blocks straight up from transition.  It's a good hotel, and a really good location.  They were one of the host hotels, as the sign said.  I bumped into Nathan after I checked in.  Then I got all my stuff unpacked from the car and up to my room.  I jumped on social media for a bit before it was time to meet my teammates over at Chili's.
Chili's Crew #letstritogether
There was some threat of rain, but it was still upper 60's, so I just walked over to the Chili's in my t-shirt.  They had a table setup at the side of the restaurant for 30 people.  We had about 13 BSR's doing the race, and many were bringing family.  They had chips and guacamole setup for us.  The wait staff really rolled out the red carpet with the service.  Colin and I were the first ones over to the table, but soon all the sexies started rolling up.
Mr. Chili's
We had a really good crowd and it was a fun dinner.  It was nice to be able to meet so many teammates and talk without all the nerves of the race surrounding me.  Plus we had one of Quintana Roo Sales Reps join us for dinner. We hung for a while, and Nathan and I eventually walked back to the hotel.  We had a beer at the hotel bar and turned in relatively early.

Big Sexy Ride

Big Sexy Run

Saturday I tried to sleep in.  Of course that really only means until 7am.  I shaved my legs, and started organizing my gear.  I met several sexies for a short ride and run at 9:30am.  We started at the Quintana Roo tent and just rode a little on the course out and back.  I finished at the hotel, and did an quick transition, and then ran back to the QR tent.  A few of us then did a little 1.5 mile run out the beginning of the course.  I felt pretty good, I gotta admit.  I had a little quiet confidence going on.

I went back to the room and showered.  Then I went to go check in.  No lines which was nice.  I did go through the All World Athlete check in table, but there wasn't a line at the regular table either.  I passed on the AWA swimcap.  Standard Ironman 70.3 check in procedure.  Forms, packet, t-shirt, swag bag, chip, and you get emptied into the Ironman store.  I did check out some of the new items they had in there.  I bought nothing, nada, zip.  Zero money spent on IM merchandise this weekend.  After my drunken sailor spending spree in Kona, I'm trying to cut back.


Then I met Nathan and Sabrina for lunch at the Blue Plate.  My sandwich was very good, just not a lot of it.  After that, I got my bike all setup and ready for checkin.  I headed down to bike check around 2pm. I wanted to get that done and hit the athlete briefing at 3pm.  I rolled my bike up to my rack and hung it from the front of the seat.  I have my seat set really far back, in order to replicate my fit from my old bike on this size 50 frame.  So with the wind blowing, and the rack kinda on an incline, Green Lightning was hanging very precariously.  I tried hanging it from the back of the seat, but with the incline, it just kinda slid off.
Really Like the T-shirt

I put it back on the nose of the seat and decided to go back to my room and get a little bungee cord to wrap around the bike rack.  Be prepared.  So I did that and felt much better.  I checked out the flow of transition.  It was pretty much like the full was laid out.  I headed over to athlete briefing and ran into my buddy Brad.  Former BSR'er and Chatt 2014 Full finisher!  We talked for a bit before the meeting.

So the athlete briefing was pretty typical.  Not really any information you can't get by reading the athlete guide, looking at the course maps, or know WTC's rules.  I wish they would actually tell you something.  Like where is morning clothes drop, where do you pick it up.  I mean they are just so general with everything.  They don't go into enough details on things to actually be helpful.  And then they list it as 'mandatory'.  Anyways, I'll probably keep going to them because I'm a glutton for punishment.
The Hoss

Athlete Briefing
You're Welcome

After that I got all my gear specifically organized for each leg.  I got everything put into their bags.  Since I was checking out of the hotel race morning, I had to take everything to the car before I headed to the race.  Nathan was gonna let me shower in his room after the race, so  I got a bag packed that I would grab from the car for that.  I got my food packed and after triple checking everything I was ready to go.  Just me and my nerves.

I walked over to Penn Station sub place and got a sub.  I took it to go and had dinner in my room.  After that I just relaxed.  I laid in bed and watched the first half of the Cavs/Raptors game and then I finally nodded off to sleep.

Saturday Race Day
Wake time was 3:45 am.  I had to get everything out of my room and loaded in the car for later.  The plan was to get to transition when it opened, get done quickly and get on an early bus to get ahead in the swim line.  Pretty much the same plan as everyone else.

As I'm walking to transition, I run in to fellow BSR 'mate Cyndi.  She brought a pump with her (and a sherpa).  So my plan was to get setup and then get her pump.  So I'm setting up my transition and then another Sexy walks by.  So I borrow Matt's pump instead.  Having teammates is awesome.  So I finish up in transition quickly and walk out with Cyndi and we meet back up with her sherpa and Nathan.  We hop on the second bus headed to the swim.
Getting Ready
We get dropped off at swim start and then walk, and walk, and walk.  We finally get near the start and people start lining up.  We're pretty close, maybe 100 people in front of us initially.  More people came as people were saving spots.  I really didn't care about that at all.  I mean there were 3 of us sexies initially, but by the end we had 8 of us.  I didn't care if there were 200 people in front of me, I just didn't want 2,000 in front of me.

So we hung out for a while.  We had 2 hours to kill before we jumped in the water.  It was actually kinda relaxing.  Plenty of time to use the port-o-lets, eat some food, drink some electrolytes.  I also had some pickle juice just in case to stave off the swim cramping.
Blue Seventy
Eventually the pros went off and it was time to start the march.  They had morning clothes bag drop right before you went onto the runway (as it should be).  All of us sexies walked down together.  I yelled a big "Let's Go Big Sexy!" near the end of the ramp.   The timing mat is right there at the end of the ramp. At 7:02am I was in the water.

31:43 Officially, 68th of 280 AG, 387th of 1,350 Overall Male Non Pro
Garmin had 1.23 miles, so the course was either short or I swam really straight.  I could have swum straight since there is just one turn buoy. So we're looking at a 1:38 per hundred meter (1:30 yards) pace.  Wetsuit legal and there must be some push with the current.  Either way, my fastest half swim outside of Augusta.  Looking at the results from last year, I felt I needed to swim around 32 min to be within my 5 minute window of the leaders.

I jumped in just like Chattanooga full and held onto my goggles.  Last thing I wanted was for them to fall off.  I sank down some but then started going at it.  I could feel my body position being better with the wetsuit on.  Man, I love wetsuits.  So you had 350 meters upstream to the turn buoy.  It was a little crowded, much more than the full.  I didn't think it was too bad.  A lot of people afterwards were talking about how crazy it was.  They said there was so much congestion, it was a battle to the first turn buoy.

I didn't think it was any different than most races.  Although this may have to do with the fact that the last triathlon I did was the crazy packed, ultra aggressive swim that only happens when you start out of Dig Me beach.

Anyways we got the turn and I tried to just go with the flow.  There was some contact.  A couple people swam over me, I swam over a couple of people.  Nothing of note, luckily.  I just tried to focus on the bridges.  Although part way through, those same thoughts creep in.  Like, I really don't like swimming.  How can people enjoy this?  When can we start biking? Maybe that's why I'm so bad at swimming. IDK.

I had thought we only went under 2 bridges. But we got past two and we still had another.  That was a downer.  I didn't look at my watch, I just looked ahead to the aquarium and see where we could get out.  Eventually I made it.  The mad rush to the ladder wasn't there, so that was nice. I finally reached the steps and a volunteer helped me up.  I finished right behind BSR Cyndi.  We actually figured we would be pretty close when we compared swim times while waiting in line.

3:49 Officially
Garmin had 0.34 miles
So you get on the pier and run a good ways.  I got my top of my wetsuit off easy enough.  The Helix makes it easy as you pull it up to get it off, opposite of most other suits.  I reached the hill and saw the strippers.  Or as they are PC called now, the wetsuit peelers.  I got them to help me get the suit off.  I had my land legs back at that point, so I started running faster and passing people as we got into the main transition area.  Found my spot easy enough.  My bike was still up. I had a little trouble getting my shoes on.  I had forgotten to loosen them, but I got them on and away I went.

2:19:44 Officially, 2nd AG, 6th Overall Non-Pro (In 3rd Place AG after the bike)
Garmin 510 had 56.67 miles, 222 watts, and a 24.3 mph average speed.
I hopped across the mount line, jumped on and I was off.  You basically go up hill to get out of town.  Less than a mile out, my front wheel got sucked into a cement expansion joint and pulled me over.  I almost went down, but I saved it.  Glad to not crash in my first race with my FLO 90 full carbon front wheel!  My goal was 225 watts.  I started out pretty well in the first 5 miles as I hit that in 226 watts.  That gave me a 24.5 mph average, which pretty much confirmed that we had a bit of a tailwind going out.

I worked my way out of town, over the railroad tracks, and the traffic and pretty quickly got to smooth sailing around 10 miles.  Starting early on the swim definitely made a difference.  I was able to stick to the plan and was at a 227 watt average through 15 miles.  It was a long slow climb to 20 miles and pushed 240 watts on all the hills.  I started to pass all my BSR mates who had dusted me in the swim.

After the 25 mile mark, you make a sharp left and then hit the steepest climb on the course.  100 feet in 1/4 mile.  No momentum after the turn, so it's a nice "Garmin Pausing" hill, as I heard several beeps around me going up the hill.

Through 30 miles I was averaging 230 watts for a 25.3 mph average.  I kinda wanted to take advantage of the wind at my back.  I knew the last 25 miles would mostly be against the wind.  After mile 40 my power started to fade a little bit, and I could feel the wind.  I was pretty alone at that point.  Every few minutes I would see someone and then eventually pass them.

My VI was quite high for me (1.06).  I definitely had to work to stay legal.  I mean when you are slowly catching someone, it would take longer than the legal amount of time if I didn't push it.  So when I came up on someone and felt I was getting close to the draft zone, I would push and pass them more quickly.

I had a gel every 15 miles.  I drank my malto mix whenever I thought about it.  I took 2 salt pills as well.  Over the last 10 miles I went back and forth with this one guy.  He kept repassing me. It was kinda annoying.  At one point I'm thinking, 'dude, you're not gonna run 6:30's off of this, so why don't you just back off?'.  But he didn't.

I only averaged 217 watts from mile 40 to 55.  Before I started coasting down the long hill into transition, I had a 224 watt average.  So I just about nailed my goal.  Got my feet out of my shoes, and I wasn't sure exactly where the dismount was.  Usually there is a guy 50 feet out or something.  This time they just had people right at the line. Anyways, my dismount was, once again, flawless.

2:10 Officially
Garmin only had 0.08 miles, but it was double that since I didn't hit lap until I got to my transition spot.  I ran 5 spots past mine, but just backed up and racked the bike.  Sat down, got my socks on. Put  my visor and sunglasses on (since I now have the visor on my helmet).  I grabbed my race belt and I took off.  I saw the guy who had been passing me at the end of the bike go into the port-o-let.  Really? All that slowing down and speeding up and you never peed? I sure did . . .

1:26:30 Officially, 2nd AG, 11th Overall Non-Pro
Garmin had 13.11 miles and a 6:36 average pace.
The goal here was 6:30's (and hold on).  I came out of T2 with my normal adrenaline rush from starting the run and seeing the crowd.  I felt great going back down Riverfront Parkway.  I sped out at a 6:18 first mile and averaged 6:22's through the first 3 miles.  I felt good, there weren't a lot of people on the course yet.
Who wears short shorts?

As I came across a bridge on Riverside Drive, at one point you can look down and see the Tennessee Riverwalk that we come back on.  I glanced down and saw the lead biker and Sebastian Kienle, the eventual winner.

I slowed over the next 3 miles as you hit the main section of U-Turn-a-palooza.  This course has a u-turn in the first mile and then 4 u-turns each lap for a total of 9 u-turns.  Seriously.  Plus you hit the biggest hill at the 4 mile mark.  Then the hill to the bridge for the north side.  That hill at mile 4 was rough.  I said a bad word when I turned the corner and saw it.

I had slowly caught and passed Peter Christensen, who had a 43 marked on his calf.  He hung with me and we ran together for a while.  He got ahead of me on the hills, but kept him in eye contact.  As I came over the bridge the first time I saw Sean Watkins, the Wattie Ink guy.  I asked him how Heather Jackson (his wife) was doing.  He said she was winning and I said Alright!

There was a lot more traffic and dodging of other people on the second loop.  However, I settled back in over miles 7, 8, and 9, and averaged 6:32 for those three miles.  I was actually feeling OK, and had an overall average of 6:31 through those 9 miles.  But then I hit the hills again.  That was rough.  I had seen fellow BSR mate Matt Triick coming strong on the run.  I had hoped to hold him off, but when I averaged 6:55's for the next 3 miles, he went flying by me.  He started the swim before me, so I still had a chance to beat him.

So I just tried to push to get to the top of the Walnut Bridge in that last mile.  I pushed and used the downhill to the finish to split a 6:32 in mile 13.  Peter was able to kick it in as well and finished just ahead of me.  However, seems he was sandbagging the run those first three miles as beat him on the run by almost 3 minutes and overall by 2 minutes.

4:23:56 officially, 2nd AG, 9th Overall Non-Pro, Full Results Here
I was pretty spent when I came across the line.  But I got some water and felt OK. I gave Peter a hug and told him he was great on the run.  I was able to hold off BSR Matt as well, by 26 seconds at the end.  So I was the fastest BSR person on the day.  Thanks Blue Seventy, Finis Swim, Quintana Roo, Cobb Cycling, Big Sexy Gear, Ashworth Awards, Inside Out Sports, Epoch Universal, Chili's Bar and Grill.

I walked around a bit, and grabbed some water.  I saw Sean again and asked him if Heather won.  He confirmed she did.  I wandered a bit and saw some more of my BSR teammates finish.  Then I saw Heather Jackson.  I walked up to her and said great job and gave her a high five, then she gave me a hug.  She was pretty pumped as well.  I saw Mirinda Carfrae too.  She finished third and I got a high five from her as well, although she looked at me like I was a stalker.

Anyways, I grabbed some food and talked some more with some of my mates.  Eventually I wandered back to the Hotel and got a shower in Nathan's room.  We went down to the Big River Grill and grabbed some beers and a little bit to eat.  I wasn't too hungry with the pizza, but the beer sure was good.

We headed back down to Ross's Landing for some team pics and the awards ceremony.  It was fun hanging out with everyone and enjoying the warm afternoon.  As we were waiting for awards, BSR Ed and his wife were there.  She asked if we wanted a beer from their friend's yacht there on the river.  I said sure! So she got us a couple Coors Lights. Did I mention how much I love having teammates?

We had a lot of award winners on the team.  Aside from my 2nd AG, we had a 3rd, a 4th, and a 5th, as well as 3 other guys in the top 10.  So this all led to to BSR winning the Division I Tri-Club Award!  That was pretty sweet.  We got recognized and a bunch of us went down to get the hardware.

I stayed for the awards and got mine when they announced it.  I think this is the first time I've stayed for awards at an Ironman race.  It was fun, with my sweet podium polo shirt and all.  So I got 2nd to Dan Stubleski.  No shame in that.  He was USAT ranked #1 in 35-39 last year and aged up this year. Although, he should be racing Pro.  Dude's broken 4 hours before in a half.  I told my wife before the race that he was gonna beat me by 15 minutes.  She's like is he really that fast? Well, he beat me by an hour at Kona, so you be the judge.  So he only beat me by 13 minutes, so I'm gonna call it a win.
The BSR Crew
Gettin the Hardware
I took my award and the tri-club award and went back to the car to head out.  I had to stop by Chattanooga Brewing as it was kinda on my way out.  Celebratory Beer. #drinklocal  All in all it was a great weekend.  I didn't drive my car at all until I headed out of town.  Nooga really is a great venue for a triathlon.  Huge area for transition and the Ironman Village right downtown with all the hotels and restaurants.  River swim, and good biking once you get 10 miles out of town.

Serious Hardware
So now the focus is to get back to Chattanooga.  For the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championships.  Next up is Muncie 70.3.  Let the Pain begin.