Sitting in the airport the day after the 2017 and wanted to share experience of another awesome IRONMAN event. This is my second year of participating in the Chattanooga IRONMAN after also participating last year (where there was record heat and DNFs (Did Not Finish)).
I arrived on Thursday and checked in then went off for some dinner. Friday morning I got up and checked in. Took about 5 minutes, show your ID, check some forms, get your backpack (like the style of this years), chip, bib numbers and swim cap and you’re off (after a quick exit through the store). I brought my Xbox with me for this IRONMAN so spent most of the day just playing that. For lunch I had a baked potato with chicken in it then dinner was spaghetti with meat sauce. Saturday is gear check day which is super simple for Chattanooga as everything is in the same place. Since I started using a Trisuit its actually a lot less to pack now but I lay alley gear out on the bed, I compare to the gear list in the athlete guide and also visualize putting everything on from feet to head to make sure I don’t forget anything. Shoes, socks, bike shirt, nutrition, bike helmet then for run running shoes, socks, knee supports, nutrition belt with bib, glasses and hat. Also put sunscreen in both bags. I took my two transition bags down (run and bike) and picked up my bike from TriBike Transport. The drop off is behind the athlete village so you drop off your bike then as you exit drop off your run and bike bags, that’s it. Quick tip, try and tie you bag as much as possible just incase it rains overnight to avoid your gear getting wet. Also don’t have your tires pumped up all the way to avoid them popping over night. Lunch was bread, paste with marinara and grilled chicken breast then dinner was spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic knots. Also had some candy 🙂 Early to bed.
I actually got about 6 hours sleep which is great for me before an IRONMAN. Got up at 3 am, ate some bagel and 20g of protein powder with water. Checked my morning bag again, wetsuit, timing chip, cap, goggles, bottle to put on bike, drink to put on bike and an extra drink for while waiting to actually start since you get to the start about 2 hours before it begins, extra bagel and a 5 hour energy. Transition opens at 4:30 so I left the hotel at 4:15 and walked down (was about .5 mile). I got there and there was already a big line but once it opened it moved fast. They numbered you up (they write your bib number on both arms then your age on your calf unless you do this yourself with something like TriTats) then I grabbed my bike and pumped the tires up to 100 (there are always plenty of pumps around or people willing to share, never had a problem). Put on my bike bottle with Gatorade and a bottle of water. Walked through the two transitions checking my bags were still there (always a panic point) and then off to jump on school bus that takes you to the swim start. At the swim start you line up along the path that leads to the point you jump in the water. You completely self seed. It was wetsuit optional and I choose to wear a wetsuit as I hadn’t done much swimming nor done open water swimming without the comfort blanket that is the wetsuit and so I decided to wear it. It’s sleeveless so I never get hot in it. There are toilets where you get off the bus but none down at the actual water entry point. The queues for the toilets near when it was about to start were insane and people just started going in the woods, even the girls! 🙂
You swim downstream in the river and last year I did 1:09 whereas my normal swim is about 1:30-1:35 so the current helps a LOT. As soon as I jumped in the water and started swimming it felt like I was moving FAST. I was very controlled, I consider the swim a warm up and want to save my strength for the bike/run. It’s a straight line course and I finished in 59 minutes! I couldn’t believe it but yay! I’m the one in the middle 🙂
A quick walk up the ramp, grab the bike transition bag, into the changing tent. I bought myself a new helmet for this event. It’s one where the visor is part of the helmet. While yes its supposed to be more aerodynamic I actually bought it as I always experienced discomfort having the glasses sitting under the helmet. It would rub over my ears. This fixed that feeling. I look like weird bug person 🙂
On to the bike, had a quick gel and was off. I felt fast. The course for the bike is two loops and its 116 miles instead of the standard 112. This is because of the nature of the possible routes available however since the swim is helped by the current I think this balances out (although my butt and neck were very unhappy with the extra 4 miles 🙂 ).
There are some big hills but it gives back, i.e. you go up but then you get nice long downhills where you can recover. One of the downhill parts is near the end of the loop and I got up to 36mph, super fun, I actually found myself saying out loud “wheeeeeeee”. It was a warm day however there were clouds that gave relief but on the second loop you started to feel the heat and things were getting tougher. I was drinking a bottle of the Gatorade every 45 minutes I think with a little bit of water sprinkled in between. On the hour I would have a Gu then at 20 minutes I had half a waffle and at 40 minutes the other half. That gets me about 430 calories an hour which seems to work for me. I did slow on the second loop but still pretty good. All-in-all I finished in 6:19:18. My guidance would be just take it easy on the bike. Remember, you have a marathon (26.2 miles) still to do. If you kill yourself on the bike you may gain 30 minutes but the run will easily take that back! On the course they have aid stations about every 15 miles where they have bottles of Gatorade, bottles of water and also bananas, Gus etc. I carry my own nutrition so don’t use that but if you train with the same nutrition they give out it can reduce what you have to carry. I just stick 6 waffles and 7 Gus in my bike shirt and I’m done.
With the bike done it was back to transition, grab the run bag and then get back out there. At this point as I started the run I was sitting at 7 hours and 40 minutes. My PR was 13 hours and 2 minutes. If I could run a 5 hour 20 marathon or less I could beat my PR and break 13 hours which has always been my goal. I set out steady and jogged at around 5.5 mph for the first 8 miles (slower for the odd incline) which you can see in the breakdown picture below but at mile 8, oh boy and I’d been dreading it as I remembered from last year, you hit hills, BIG hills. Once you get up the big hill, you run down it then have to run up again, then down again then back up the hill you ran down. It’s about 3 miles total that includes very hilly portions then its flat (ish) to 13 where you get to do it all again.
I got to 13 miles at 2 hours and 30 minutes. If I could do the second in 2 hours 50 I would meet my goal but I was feeling drained. I was struggling to run and kept walking plus I was getting the tingling in my lips which is never good. I kept doing math in my head of how fast I had to run as I got slower and slower until it was starting to look impossible but then something wonderful happened. Now I’m a huge Superman fan and Superman is powered by the sun but it seems to have the opposite effect on me. What wonderful thing happened? The sun started to go down. I got a second wind and just went for it. The math still seemed like I would fail as I’d need to be over 5 mph and I had all the hill section but I just wanted to do the best I could. I ran when it was flat or downhill but walked up the big hills (but at a fast pace). I was making time up, the math in my head started to look possible again until on the final incline I got mile 24 and I had 30 minutes left. 30 minutes to go 2.2 miles. I could do that almost walking and it was only a few more minutes up hill then it was down and flat. At the top of the hill I started to run and kept running. At mile 25 I had over 15 minutes left. I could walk but I didn’t, I sped up. The crowds were amazing, I could see the finish line and I crossed, 12 hours 54 minutes and 53 seconds. I PR’d and broke 13 hours. As I crossed the finish line my legs kept giving out but I didn’t care. I knew I had broken 13 hours. Got my picture taken grabbed pizza but was unable to eat it. Drank some water. The pictures below sum it up, pain but relief, joy and then just overall happy its done!
I headed to pick up my bike then as you exit the bike pickup they give you all 3 of your bags all tied together (which is awesome, run, bike and morning clothes bag). I dropped my bike off at TriBike then started the long walk back to hotel carrying all 3 bags. That was hard and slowwwww. I couldn’t eat anything still even back at the hotel. I forced about 40 g of protein powder with water in me but really couldn’t eat solids. I showered then got into bed but could not sleep. Same thing happened in Texas. Not sure if its because consumed so much sugar during the event or something else but all night I just laid there. I went back and looked at my times (below).
This shows the actual position out of totals (however I really don’t care about this part). My goal is to try and improve my time.
At 4 am I got up, packed, showered again, set off out the hotel at 5:30 to find breakfast then at 6:30 joined the queue for the IRONMAN store to buy my finisher polo, t-shirt and mini-jacket (the full jacket is great this year but I already have it from Texas and Santa Rosa so decided to get something else). Even though the queue is big it moves fast. And now at the airport going to Orlando to speak at Ignite (big Microsoft conference). UPDATE – my luggage went to the wrong airport so that was fun 🙂
Once again a great event. They all are. The volunteers are AMAZING and just never stop giving. THANK YOU!!!
This was number 6. Half way to my goal of 12 so I can apply for the Kona lottery.
Up next, Florida in 6 weeks!