Oh man, it only took me what, over a month to write about my experience at Chattanooga? I’ve never been so nervous for a race than I was for this… even after doing IM 140.6 Madison, this one sounded JUST as hard, I mean it’s also surrounded by mountains and I wasn’t sure I was trying hard enough workout-wise before this, but honestly I LOVED the whole experience. From renting an Airbnb high above the cutest city in the world, so we had space to buy our own food, spread out and calm down before the race, to shopping our hearts out and meeting the nicest person store after store, it was overall a HIGHLY-RECOMMENDED Ironman venue & triathlon/vacation destination.
I was super nervous as we drove the 10 hours down from Chicago, once we passed the flatlands of the midwest it got hilly. We made sure to carb load at every Waffle House possible, last year I lost a lot of weight during the race and knowing it was going to be a high of 90 after enjoying fall in Chicago, I didn’t want to risk anything.
Now, let’s get down to race details.
This is the BEST swim you’re ever going to experience in your life. Calmer waters since it’s a river that’s parted by an island that blocks waves, rolling start (it was wetsuit ILLEGAL this year, so yes I swan sans-suit, it happens more and more lately), and they let non-wetsuiters first so my husband, his brother and I all got to start together.
I doubt I’ll EVER beat my time again, but since it was a river, we were given advice to swim further from the coast to catch parts of the current, it also helped me steer clear of the crazies who swarmed all over me during Madison’s mass start – I MUCH prefer a rolling start where you can just jump in without all 2,000 + at the same time.
The bike was HARD. It’s a two loop course, so loop one was relatively uneventful, it was a great course – you see a ton of gorgeous scenery and it was a beautiful day… but remember earlier when I said it hit 90, well it hit on the bike, starting on loop two. I tried as hard as I could to eat when I had planned, drink as often as possible, drop water & gatorade bottles at EVERY aid station, but started feeling a tad crummy just because of the heat.
I did everything I could to stay cooler, I knew by loop two where the horrible climbs were going to be and planned for them, with ice stuffed anywhere I could hold it, cool water bottles used for squirting my face and staying cool, because it was getting HOT. I forced myself to stop and go to the bathroom in a portapotty (I am NEVER going to be the one to PEE while riding… you can take the time out, people, unless you actually win first place). I was fine, force-feeding myself and pressing on, and the last 10 or so miles, found my husband, which was AMAZING. He ended up pulling back on the last climb so then I got a little down when I had to lose him, AND of course I forgot that it was actually 116 miles not 112 down in Tennessee for some reason – so that last 4 miles (which can be like an extra 20 minutes) got really annoying. I could feel my legs chafing a bit so wasn’t looking forward to the run.
During T-2 I took my time because I told my husband I’d wait 10 minutes for him and lathered up on sunscreen and vaseline, went to the bathroom, had a leisurely old time. SOMEHOW, as I walked out of the changing area, I found my husband, and I’ve literally never been happier to see him in my life. We were thrilled, because the run started with a bit of a hill, and so we decided we’d walk together on the inclines and try to run on declines, but he wasn’t feeling great so we took turns walking & running, especially with the heat. I’m glad we walked most of the first 13.1 mile loop, because there were a ton of people on the side of the roads puking or sitting (TMI) and we just couldn’t keep our heart rates down or body temps, and we got to see the course. Towards mile 9 – 10, there was a MASSIVE, I mean MASSIVE like 2 mile hill. This thing was a bitch, there was really no one running, and we got a bit annoyed we’d have to do it twice – it says like 300 ft elevation online, this was not that. It was insane.
Loop two it got dark and we felt pretty good (my knees have begun to hurt while doing long distances… not good, need to do way more strength training) and so started running at about a 9:00 minute mile pace, because we realized we could beat our times (not last year’s run time for me but overall) and so wanted to pick up the pace. We ran most of the second loop, we decided until those crazy hills where we power walked as fast as we could. My ankle and knee really started bugging me, so I held us back a bit because I couldn’t maintain the run the whole time, but we did the best we could. Somehow all of a sudden, we rounded the last corner and stepped it up to run over that bridge and FINISH that baby.
SWIM: 1:05:21 hours
T1: 7:39 minutes
BIKE: 6:51 hours
T2: 14 minutes
Overall race time? 14:13:47… 19th in my division (not a lot of ladies) and super proud to have shaved about 30 minutes off last year’s time! Will I do it again? Yes. Have I finally started working out again? Yes… the post-ironman blues hit REALLY hard, so had to sign up for a January marathon to scare them away.