My final IRONMAN event of the year! Number 5 for 2018 and the magical number 12 that allows me to apply for a Kona Legacy spot. There is never a dull IRONMAN experience and this was not an exception! Also being the last of the year I also wanted to try and raise money for a good cause so asked for donations for Cure Childhood Cancer. With company matching we managed to raise over $2000 which was awesome and I appreciate everyone’s generosity!
I’m actually starting to write this Friday night and then will add to it over the next few days.
On Thursday I arrived at DFW airport around lunch time for my flight. I was wearing my Lake Placid 20th Anniversary IRONMAN T-Shirt and someone stopped me. “Are you doing Chattanooga?” The gentleman asked, I replied in the affirmative. “They have cancelled the swim!” He told me. Sure enough I jumped to facebook and there was a tiny post gaining lots of comments and reactions very quickly.
For those that may have seen one of my other reports, swimming for me is the worst. Although physically its the easiest it’s also the most stressful with hundreds of arms and legs seemingly having the single goal of smashing you in the face. An IRONMAN event without the swim, how do I feel about that (note it still counts officially as an IRONMAN and towards the Kona legacy program)? Of course I should be very disappointed it was no longer a “proper” IRONMAN however my brain was doing this (video credit The Simpsons – Bart the Fink):
I’m kidding obviously I was very disappointed (video credit Eddie Izzard – Dress to Kill):
As I spoke to some people apparently the swim was cancelled for two reasons:
- There had been a lot of rain and flooding so the river flow as 8 times that of last year. Note I normally swim a 90 minute IRONMAN whereas in Chattanooga I swim a 60 so that gives you some idea of the normal flow. 8 times that would have been impossible to get out at the finish line although it would have been cool do swim a 20 minute 2.4 mile 🙂
- There had been a lot of sewage and waste water released into the river so the e.coli were 20 times above the safe swimming limit
So yeah, cancelling the swim absolutely the right call. There were lots of people complaining about them cancelling the swim, how they should get refunds etc. Reality is the refund policy is very clear and its an outdoor sport. Things happen. I fully believe the race directors do everything they can. They don’t want to make last minute changes but it’s to protect the athletes. I also don’t want to swim in poo water 🙂
As the people round the airport were talking, many were lamenting how much swim training they had done, how much it sucked. I had done almost no swim training for the past few months as it aggravates my knee problems and so while I nodded and tried to make an effort to share their disappointment, well:
If it was any other IRONMAN it would bother me more however the Chattanooga swim is so easy anyway and you have 4 extra miles on the bike so you are still doing 140.6+ 🙂 (142.2 to be exact without the swim). When the plane landed some people were meeting people who had been to an athlete briefing and talked about the changes:
- Would be a bike – run event (no swim, we knew that but no run first for 2.4 miles just straight to bike)
- Transition would open at 6:30
- Pros would start at 8:00 (only male pros for this event)
- Age groupers would start at 8:30 and would be released 2 at a time every 5 seconds (like a time trial start). Athletes would be released based on bib number, lowest first (I’m 356 which is super early thanks to AWA so I would be heading out pretty early. I felt bad for people in the 2000’s who would not be starting till close till 10:00!)
- Everyone would still have the full time for the bike and run
Essentially skipping the swim and the first transition. You would just start on the bike. It was such a big change it totally messed with my whole thought process. The full statement was released to Facebook around the time of landing.
I got my taxi to the hotel (tried the Westin this year which is nice) then had a burger and fries from the room service menu which was awesome.
Friday I walked down and checked in. They still gave you a swim cap but didn’t write your number on it so I now have a pristine swim cap for Chattanooga. Everything else was the same and I was in and out in about 10 minutes including the store. I walked over the bridge to the Walgreens to buy water and sports drinks, walked back over the bridge, got my bike from TriBike and went back to the hotel for 30 minutes. I then went out to a few stores then lunch at Community Pies for spaghetti with meat sauce before heading back to the hotel room where I just relaxed and had room service burger and fries again. I laid out my gear on the bed as usual but its so strange without the swim gear and of course only one transition bag now (the run). I figured I’d wear my donut bike shirt this time instead of the pizza one 🙂 I also have a run shirt with my little IronBrit logo on it however even though I bought XL it’s tiny so may end up running the marathon in a crop top. We’ll see.
Saturday I woke up early, packed my run back and headed out at 9:30 to drop my things of at the transition point. It’s interesting how much stress was removed by removing the swim and the first transition. I felt so much calmer however also I felt thrown off as the normal flow didn’t apply 🙂 Saturday I had pizza for lunch and then spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner. On my walk back from lunch a gentleman stopped me looking nervous. He was probably in his sixties and this was his first IRONMAN event. He said I looked like someone who had done these before and what should he put in his run bag. I went through what I put in and just gave the advice of visualizing what you will be wearing head to toes and don’t forget race belt, bib, nutrition etc. Wished him good luck. Hope he did OK! Went to bed about 8 and managed to sleep till about 3am which was good. My target time to get up was 4am
Once up I had a quick shower (helps wake me up), and put on my race tattoos. Normally I put them on the night before which I think is better as they seemed to come off easier during the IRONMAN so in future I’ll go back to the night before application. I got dressed into my bike gear (still felt so weird), drank a protein shake, ate an apple sauce and a bagel. I then just lay around the room until 6:15 when I walked down to transition (which opened at 6:30).
As usual there were plenty of people to help pump up the tires, I put on my drink bottles and then waited 🙂 There was nothing to do. I wandered around, no lines at the port-a-potties as I guess many people knew roughly what time they would start and were now close to their hotels rather than miles away at a remote swim start so relaxed there instead of at the start. Because there was no swim the bike was going to be a time trial start. The pros started at 8:00 with about a 30 second gap between them. The age groupers started at about 8:20 I think with 2 going every 5 seconds. They got us to line up in an odd and even line. About a hundred yards from the start you clipped in one foot and then they had the little beep machine. Beep beep beep beeeeeppppppp and you were off.
This was a bike experience and overall IRONMAN experience unlike any other for me because of my early number and time trial bike start. I’m not a good swimmer. I normally start near the back in the 1:30 group and finish in about 1:30 (except for Chattanooga where I normally do 1:00 because of the current). This means I’m normally finishing in the bottom. For example my previous IRONMAN (Wisconsin 2018) I finished number 1550 out of 2407 registered (although only 1912 actually finished so I can’t tell how many actually started) but let’s say bottom 1/3. I’m a stronger cyclist and so normally the first transition tent is packed and the bike course is super busy as I’m generally catching people up.
I was number 356. I started about 8:30. I’m guessing maybe 250 ish people started before me (they don’t fill up 0-100 etc). Out on the bike course it was empty! Very few people were catching me up and overtaking me, I caught a few people but especially as the course went on there were times I could not even see another cyclist. It was just me and was just very, very strange. Removing the swim and its effect on where I was made a huge difference. I guess bottom line is I should swim more to get it up to closer to my biking to have a more spacious bike experience!
This was my 3rd year doing Chattanooga. The course is hilly but as soon as you go up there is normally a downhill to give back. The first half of each loop (its two loops) is generally slightly up hill while the second half is more downhill. The course support was great (as always) with lots of people cheering you on. There were some pot holes on the roads but they were well marked.
Because I had not done the swim I decided to really just go for it on the bike (which is 116 miles instead of the normal 112 for an IRONMAN. I think to try and make up for the downstream swim 🙂 ). With my new power meter pedals I’ve been focusing more on trying to maintain power so my goal was 180 (which is typically what I do on the bike at Lifetime Fitness for my Saturday training). Well my numbers are below.
Basically I averaged 189 and if you look at power over time it didn’t really even dip towards the end however you’ll notice my speed did even though it was more downhill. Weird right? Well at about mile 90 I noticed that any bumps I went over were hard on my back wheel like there was no cushioning, i.e. low tire pressure. Every bump jolted through my man parts up through my teeth 🙂 Ouch. I didn’t want to stop though and was still able to ride forward but I had to put in more effort to try and maintain speed. When I finished the bike I pinched my bike back tire and it was super soft, basically had a slow leak however I’m grateful that still managed to get till the end but it did take more out of me putting in the extra effort because of greater resistance.
The bike conditions were awesome. Very cloudy stopping the sun hitting you directly and around 70 degrees for most of it warming up to 75 towards the last couple of hours. It’s a nice scenic course and I enjoyed it. Bike support was every 10 miles with drinks and food as normal. It was very peaceful and the miles went by quickly except the last 16 which somehow seemed to imply there was a blackhole somewhere as time slowed to a near stop 🙂
Overall though I was happy with the bike. Sub 6 hours (exact time 5:54:17) on a 116 mile course with good power and felt OK getting off the bike. Into the transition tent (which was nearly empty so lots of support from the volunteers) and was in and out in less than 10 minutes (9:46).
The start of the run was on a little bit of grass but they put a mat on it. This was a change and I think required because of some flooding so not a big deal. The run was hilly. Hillier than I remember. It’s two loops with two very big hills you have to go up (and down) towards the end of each loop. Also the clouds had now gone and the sun was pretty strong. Temperature was only around 80 but it felt hot when there was no shade. The first hour I managed to maintain a pretty good pace but slowed after that. I would walk up the hills then try and run when it was flat/downhill however it seemed more and more to be just up hill (which is of course impossible 🙂 ). The physical effort was not the worst part though of the marathon. I have young children who when they like a movie will watch it over and over again. They have been watching the My Little Pony movie. There is a song in this movie “We Got This Together” (you can hear a part of it via https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075KPXXLG/ref=dm_ws_tlw_trk1). I’ve been hearing this song over and over the past couple of weeks. Well on the course are many signs saying “You’ve got this” and many people would shout out “You’ve got this”. That is the starting line of the chorus to the song. The horrible, horrible song. Every time I read the line or someone said it my brain would proceed to play the chorus for about 2 minutes. It would then stop at which point I would see the next sign or the next person would shout it out where the playback would proceed again. This would continue for the entire 5 hour and 25 minute marathon. The mental pain was worse than the physical pain I think 🙂
My total time for the marathon was 5:24:43 so average pace around 12:24 min/mile so a bit slower than I hoped but given my bike time I was OK with it.
With the single transition my times were:
- Bike – 5:53:53
- Transition 2 (well 1 really) – 9:56
- Run – 5:24:43
My total time was therefore 11:28:31.
Obviously this would be a PR but does not count since there was no swim or transition 1. If I took my average swim time and transition 1 time for the previous 2 years of Chattanooga would give 1:05 for swim and 11 minutes for transition so add a total of 1:16. That would be a total time of 12:44:31 and would be even less if I took just last years time (59 minute swim and 10 minute transition). 12:44:30 would be a new PR. I still can’t count it 🙂 The physical effort of the swim is missing and even though I never find the swim physically hard it still would impact my physically (including just not drinking liquids for an hour, burning calories, stress) but interesting data.
What is more interesting is my placing. The results site (www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/chattanooga/results.aspx
) shows 2,605 athletes (people registered). Out of that it seems like 1891 actually finished (those 700 delta would be a mix of people who didn’t even start (DNS) and those that started but didn’t finish (DNF)).
- Bike 518th overall
- Run 658th overall
- Total IRONMAN 658th overall
This put me in the top third (maybe even top quarter if I knew how many started) which is much better than normal. Normally I’m around mid point.
The swim, although a very small part has a massive hit on me. For this IRONMAN I got 2,708 points. I’ve never got more than 2000 for any other race! Looks like I really should work on my swimming which I NEED TO DO BECAUSE NOW I’VE HIT 12!!! I can apply for the Legacy Program and my Kona slot where it’s a non wetsuit ocean swim so I need to be better anyway. Time in the pool is in my future 🙂
My medals getting to 12 🙂
Overall this was a great IRONMAN and managed to raise some great money for an awesome cause. I understand those people who were disappointed that there was no swim but it was a tough day and if you finished it YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!