Wednesday, June 14, 2017

2017 Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 Race Report

Tennessee 70.3
I planned to head out on Friday morning. I slept in and got the car all packed up.  Then I went out for breakfast with my wife at the Waffle House.  I left there and hit the interstate a little after 9 am. Getting to Chattanooga is not difficult from where I live, as it is all intersate.  Unfortunately there is no real direct way to go.  It's about 350 miles going near Atlanta, around the bypass. I decided to go that way since I got an early start and it wasn't raining.
View from my hotel room
I believe I've mentioned before that I really liked this Chattanooga venue. There are very few races where you can park at the hotel and not drive all weekend if you don't want to. You can walk to transition, IM Village, Awards, all the restaurants right from your hotel. In fact, Kona is the only other race I've done where you can do that.
GL's spot in the room
I stopped outside of the Atlanta beltway for a bathroom break, lunch, and gas at a QT.  The Atlanta traffic was good to me.  Going the opposite way of me on I-285 not so much. Two lanes shut down for an accident, traffic backed up for 7 miles.

I made it nearly to Tennessee and it started to rain. I rained hard for a couple minutes, and then there was an accident.  Everyone was out of their cars walking around. Luckily I got through it early. Some friends hit it later and they sat for almost an hour.
Check In Tent

I checked into the Hilton Garden Inn (downtown on Chestnut) right at 3pm.  I brought a bunch of stuff up to my room. I decided I had enough time for athlete check, so I walked down to the athlete village and started the check in process.  I ran into fellow Sexies Jason and Erika Ball, as well as Jon Kolb and local sexy Ed Rusk.
Get your IM Crap Here!

I actually think this towel is kinda cool

You Get A Hat! You Get a Hat! YOU Get A Hat!
Standard Check in procedure. Dumps out out to the merchandise tent. I did check out what was new in the realm of IM stuff.  They had some neat kits, nothing that really moved my meter too far, though.  I still have not bought any Ironman stuff since Kona (although averaging that out over the last 18 months is still a lot).  Maybe in Boulder, definitely at Worlds.

Ooooooh, Stealth

After that it was time to head over to the Quintana Roo Headquarters for a little tour.  QR had posted this event on Facebook, and I was really looking forward to it.  I'm going to do a separate blog post just on the event.  But it was fun. We got a tour, then there was a nutrition presentation and free food.
Just the CEO of Quintana Roo and Lite Speed
After that I went back and parked at the hotel and then walked over to Luipi's Pizza.  I met some of my MSA Swim teammates there.  I had always wanted to try Luipi's and it was quite good. Then I went to bed.
Christa, Laura, Sarah, Kelly
Normal routine: sleep in, coffee, shave.  Put the new bike kit on and got ready to head out for some shakeout work.  It did a short ride and ended up at the QR booth in the athlete's village.  I talked with Peter and Bryanna for a bit and then headed back to the hotel.  Changed and went out for a real short run along the river.  I felt pretty good.

QR Booth
As I was coming back, the 11am athlete briefing was about to start.  I sat down and listened to most of it. I DON'T KNOW WHY!! Stop asking. I just do OK? Maybe in my heart of hearts, I think that someday I will actually glean some new or useful piece of knowledge.  It's a pipe dream, yes. But as they say "Don't Let the Flame Die Out!"

Athlete Briefing. YES!

I tried to keep the day as low key as possible.  I walked over to the Philly sub place, grabbed a sub and brought it back to the hotel.  I got all my gear ready, and my bike setup for checkin.  I made up my drink mix as well.  The weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow was absolutely nasty.

I ran into former Sexy 'Hammer Holiday'. He was convinced that the swim was going to be cancelled.  I brought about a dozen walmart plastic bags to use. I doubled bagged my bike and my run shoes. And brought extras just in case.

I went down to bike check around 3:30p.  There were a fair number of bikes in there already.  I put Green Lightning on the rack by the bars and not the seat again.  I wrapped my ICE Friction chain in plastic bags to try and keep it out of the rain.  I decided to not let the air out of my tires.

Everyone seemed to be deflating tires.  I've read differing opinions on whether your tires will blow out in transition due to the heat.  I ran into Brian Lowman and talked with him a while.  I wandered around a little by the art fair in front of the aquarium.  Then decided to roll on over to the Big Sexy team dinner at Chilis.

Many people were already there.  They again had chips and salsa and guac out for us (Thanks Wyman!). I met a ton of sexies for the first time.  Along with some that I have known for quite some time.  It was really a great evening to get to talk to everyone.  It was a pretty early night, as I got in bed probably around 8:30pm.

I actually didn't feel too nervous about the race. I was more nervous about the weather.  It had already started raining hard.  The forecast I saw said it wasn't going to stop raining until the next afternoon.

Sunday (Race Day)
I woke up at 4:05.  The first thing I did was look outside and see that it was not raining, and the ground was completely dry.  I packed all my gear up and all my stuff and took it to car.  I was checking out of the hotel, so I needed to get everything in the car.  I did take a room key with me. Just in case the race got somehow changed and maybe we did a bike/run but not starting until later in the morning.
Swim Start near the Girls Preparatory School
I got into transition and checked my tires.  They felt good.  That was a bit of a relief. I setup my spot. I put everything in plastic bags. One of the bags on my chain had come off so I put that back on.  I setup my garmin and my BTA bottle. I decided it was good and headed over to the shuttle buses.

Rode over to the other side of the river and they dropped us off near the port-o-lets.  I used it and then headed down the road.  I didn't see any of my fellow BSR 'mates so I just took a spot.  I sat for a little bit and tried to eat my bagel.
The Pier of the actual start
So then some volunteers come up and say that they are organizing the line by swim time.  They called out where you should be if you're gonna swim 30 min, or 40 min, or 50 min.  So everyone gets up and starts moving toward the front.  The problem is that the line is usually really long, and the divisions of where the different times are were all clustered toward the front.  They kept saying that there were going to have signs, but they never brought any out.  So instead of a line spread out taking up half the road, everyone was huddled up together.  Before we had room to sit and stretch out. Now we were all shoulder to shoulder.  These self-seeded starts never really work. No one wants to start near the back.

Anyways, I did see Kelly, one of my swim mates walking toward the front, so I went with her and hung out with my MSA teammates.  Then fellow BSR 'mate Matt joined us.  We all got our suits on as the pros went off.

After the women pros got around the first turn buoy 300 meters upstream, a boat went over there and started towing the buoy downstream. I'm like, Hell Yeah, baby! Everyone is just kinda looking around at each other wondering what is going on.  Then the announcement comes over the PA. He starts by saying that everyone will have their PR on the swim today.  They thought the upstream portion was too difficult to the pro women, so they decided to cut that section out.  We were now going to jump off the dock and swim diagonally to the far side of the river and then go straight from there.  Some people didn't like it, but most people (obviously) were happy.  I was like, well there are no excuses now.  So we finally got started about 7:20 am.

19:34 Officially, 78th of 253 (M45-49), 471st  of 1,370 Overall Male Non-Pro
Garmin had 1,416 yards (0.80 miles) so a 1:23 per hundred yard avg. Official water temp was 73.6 Deg F.

I jumped in feet first hanging onto my goggles.  Then I started at it.  It was my typical swim: arms got tired in the first five minutes. Just tried to maintain focus and go.  It wasn't too congested.

I Love You!!
I did run into some people a few times.  I swear I saw someone doing backstroke. BACKSTROKE! Oi. Anyways, you could tell it was fast. As you go by the buoys you feel the speed.

I got under the first couple of bridges pretty quickly and the last one seemed to lag.  Nevertheless, Ross's Landing did seem to come up pretty quickly.  I turned toward the exit ramp and it still wasn't too crowded.  I did have a little trouble getting on that first step of the ladder and grabbed the hand of a volunteer to get up.

4:10 Officially (Garmin 3:27)  1st was 3:37 (last year was 3:49)
I looked my watch and saw the 19.  I really didn't know what it meant, other than that I had more energy for the rest of the day.  Got up the ramp and started jogging, getting my suit unzipped.  Then I started going a little faster as I caught my breath.  I hit the strippers (or peelers as is more politically correct) and they got my wetsuit off without any issues.  Then it was up the hill and the long run around transition to my bike spot.

I ripped open my bike shoe bag, and got my helmet off. I took the bags off my ICE friction chain.  I had a little trouble getting my shoes on.  I was definitely slooooow in T1 (and it cost me dearly).  In hindsight I should have taken everything out of the bags, as it didn't rain hardly at all the whole day.

2:16:46 Officially, 1st in AG, 11th of 1,370 Overall Non-Pro
Garmin 820 had 2:16:35 for 56.64 miles for a 24.9 mph avg on 217 watts average (225 NP), and 1,965 feet of elevation gain and 91 cadence. Gear: Quintana Roo PRsix bike, Rotor chainrings and 3D crank, ICE Friction chain, Lake cycling shoes, Reynolds Disc Wheel, Ownway Apparel trisuit.

As we headed out along the parkway I just mostly stayed to the left passing people climbing up the incline.  I kept looking to make sure I wasn't blocking. But there were a lot of people.  The shortenend swim definitely congested the bike.  At one point on Market Street, we were basically just all packed in, from the shoulder of the road to the double yellow line.  I got up out of aero, and looked at the guy next to me and kinda just waved my hand like 'what are you supposed to do?'.  When we finally go onto highway 193, you could finally start to ride. That's more than 5 miles out.

Still, with the congestion I hit the 5M mark with a 24.5 mph avg.  At that point I just tried to keep cranking out the watts.  I was doing my best to slingshot around everyone that I passed. Over the next 15 miles I averaged 231 watts. My speed didn't pick up significantly through that section as I hit 20M with a 24.7 avg.
Power, Elevation

Over the next 15 miles I was kinda on cruise control as I averaged 218 watts. I had originally wanted to average 220 to 225 watts. So I felt good that at 35M I was at about a 224 watt avg and 24.9 avg speed.  It was through this section that I ran into a draft pack of 6 or 7 guys.  They were literally all sitting a foot off of one another's wheel. They didn't care, they didn't even try to hide their cheating. I ran up on my former BSR teammate Matt.  We passed one another a couple of times and then after the draft pack came by we then worked our way back up through them.
Cadence, Speed

I was kinda annoyed at this point, so I put a little surge in.  So over the next 5 mile stretch I cranked up the watts again to average 232 watts on that stretch through Chickamauga.  I averaged 25.9 on that segment. As we made the turn from Lee onto Chickamauga Road, I looked behind me to make sure I didn't cut anyone off. That's when I got kinda pissed. That whole draft pack was right on my butt. That's when I knew how much they were cheating horribly. I dropped a 26 mph watt bomb for 5 miles and they were all right there with me.

So we all jockey back and forth up the only real significant climb on the course.  It's so congested with all these guys that on the downhill I can't even pedal cause half of them are blocking. Literally for almost a mile I'm just coasting down this hill.

We make it back onto 193 for the stretch home. Matt and I are complaining that there are no officials out there.  I let the pack get ahead of me.  So now they were all drafting off of Matt in the front.  Then I finally hear it.  The sweet sound of the motorcycle and the race official.  I was back of the pack riding quite legal.  The moto pulls up just ahead of me and is riding like 10 feet in front of me on the left.  I see the official talking into their phone.  At this point I'm basically soft pedaling, not wanting to creep any closer to the guy ahead of me.

Then the moto pulls up further and nails 3 guys with a blue card.  Blue for Justice.  How sweet it is.  By this time we are almost back into town and back into the turns and a little congestion.  The moto had pulled further ahead, but a guy after the race said they busted 3 more people on the Tennessee St/40th Ave/Market St section.
Cheater Cheater, Pants on Fire!
I hit the 50M mark just under 2 hours.  On the last section there on Riverfront Parkway, it's basically downhill.  I did quite a bit of coasting and took a leak. As we came down the hill it started sprinkling some.  At that point I though, here comes the rainstorm.  Perfect timing. But that little sprinkle was all we got. I came down the end and I got my shoes out, ready for the dismount.  I came in off to the left with a perfect dismount and went flying by the guy next to me.

2:15 Officially (Garmin 2:10)  1st was 2:01 (Last year was 2:10)
Was glad to have a sweet transition spot.  But again I had to rip open the bags for my shoes and run gear. I got me socks on pretty quickly.  I took off and put my racebelt on as I went. I actually put it on correctly this time, so I was happy about that.

1:27:37 Officially, 2nd in AG, 25th of 1,370 Overall Male Non-Pro
Garmin had 13.03 miles so a 6:44 avg.
I knew on this course I didn't really have to worry about going out too fast.  This first mile is mostly uphill (and a u-turn).  So I just went with it. I came out of transition pretty fast, but felt good. With the uphill I split a 6:36.  I quickly fell into a rhythm down Amnicola Highway, and averaged 6:26 for the next two miles.

Then came the u-turns and the uphill on Battery Place. That hill just kills me.  I split over a 7 min mile and finally made it out onto Veterans Bridge for the first time.  There still were not a lot of people out on the run course. It was also still overcast, so it wasn't hot.  It was a little muggy.  I settled down a little bit after 5 miles and averaged 6:41's over the next 4 miles. That brought me through 9 miles with an overall average pace of 6:40.

Speed, Cadence
At that point I knew I really had to hold that average through the finish. But I just couldn't. With the turns and hills before Veteran's bridge I just kinda fell apart the next 2 miles. I mean, I knew I had to hit that hill at Battery Place hard, but I just didn't.  I've spoke before about how there is "the decision" in every race to push through the pain or not. I definitely did not push the pain here.

I struggled up that last hill on the north side to the turnaround. I made the turn and pushed off the curb kind of awkwardly and my left hamstring cramped.  I stopped for  second and stretched it out. Oddly in the same part of the course that I cramped up when I did the Chattanooga Full in 2014. This wasn't so bad, as after I stretched it out I was fine.

My mile 11 split was pathetic. Even with closing my last 2 miles with a 6:35 and 6:31, my average over the last 4 miles was 6:52's.  I finished hard, but when I saw the 1:27 on my watch I was disappointed.

4:10:22 Officially, 2nd in AG, 23rd Overall Male Non-Pro Age Group Results Here
I came through and did the little one step forward, and then one step back like I was gonna fall down. So they quickly handed me some water and a volunteer walked me to the end of the chute. He asked several times if I was OK. I assured him I was. I did not want to go to medical.

So I came out of the chute and shook hands with several EMJ guys who had finished ahead of me. I wandered over to get some food and drained a coke and ate some pizza. I'm typically not hungry but that pizza was good.

I walked back over near the finish and found BSR Shannon and Matt.  Her husband Jonathon was there as well.  He looked me up on the tracker and goes, you were second, but you had the fastest bike (true) and the fastest run (not true). I'm like how the h$%& can I be second then? Shannon's like, you need to get to the pool.  Thanks.
Shannon, Matt and Me

So I went and got a couple more cokes, and talked to several people that I knew. I hung out for a while, and ran into Liz Bauer. She's a Pro sponsored by Qunitana Roo that I had met on Friday.  She didn't have a great race as she was sick.  Eventually I grabbed my morning clothes bag and headed up to my car parked at the Hilton. I went into the lobby bathroom and cleaned up a bit and changed.

I headed back down to transition to get my bike. I ran into BSR Jamie. She said she had crashed and got a concussion.  She seemed ok and said she was waiting for her Dad to come get her. I stayed with her for a bit, but she assured my her dad as coming.  In transition I saw my swim peeps. They all had good races.  I ran into Pro Kim Schwabenbauer again and talked to her for a little bit. She is pretty gracious. I finally grabbed all my stuff and headed back up to my car and packed everything up, ready to head out.
I Like Beer
I walked over to Big River Grill for a couple of beers, as I wasn't really hungry.  I hung out there for a little bit and then headed back over to the Ironman Village. I ran back into BSR Matt and we hung out for a little bit until it was time for Awards.  We went and got a seat there and Matt was kind enough to get my Podium Pic.  I stayed and hung with them through rolldown and the tri club awards.  I talked with a couple of buddies who finally punched their ticket to Chatt in September.

After the ceremony, I walked over to Blue Plate to get something to eat. I just took a spot at the bar next to some old guy. I ordered a beer and he had his award up on the bar: 1st Place Male 75-79.  He asked me how I did, I was like, not as well as you.  So we got to talking. He basically just travels around doing races. Living the Dream. He's done 15 Ironmans. He's DNF'd 10 more due to not making the cutoffs.  He's qualified for Kona 3 times and raced it twice. He's angling for Kona again this year. Be on the lookout for Howard Glass. Originally from the UK, but now kicking ass in America.
Someone knows had to dress for the Podium
So after that I head out and hit the interstate. No traffic, which was nice. I stopped at Chilis after I got past Atlanta. If you haven't had the Loaded Boneless Wings with Jalapenos, you haven't lived. I eventually got home at half past midnight. Unloaded the car, hit the sack, slept in, skipped swim, and back and work early Monday morning. Yeah.

To say I was disappointed with my performance is an understatement. As I told my wife, this was win or go home for me. Anything less than an AG win would be a failure. Especially with the swim that was perfectly setup for me.  This race (as was Augusta) was served up to me on a silver platter. And I didn't take it.  34 seconds was my margin of failure.  My total swim bike run time was 13 sec faster than 1st place.  He beat me by by 47 seconds in the transitions. That's a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

I read somewhere (and this was referring to Olympic Medalist) that Bronze medalists, overall, were happier with their finish than the Silver medalists. Obviously no one is more happy than the Gold medalist. The reasoning was that the silver person is always thinking what could I have done to win gold? Whereas the bronze medalist didn't have a shot at gold but still got a medal. I've definitely been happier with my two 3rd place finishes (and my 4th at Muncie) than I have been with my three 2nd place finishes. You constantly second guess yourself.
Loaded Wings
So as they say, "Failure makes the heart grow fonder". No, that's not right. "Without struggle there is no triumph?" Not sure that applies. "You must lose before you win"? I've done enough losing.  Anyways, we'll still be on the lookout for that elusive W.  Maybe when I'm 75.