Man what a trip… I mean it took this long to put my thoughts down about the time out in Chattanooga and the race.
This was a combo trip of “work” and “play”. Work being at the IRONMAN Become One tent helping first timers navigate any issues they might be having and play being actually doing the race.
WORKING, do what I say, not what I do.
I always tell my athletes to take it easy the days before a race, stay out of the heat, stay off your feet and relax. Working the Become One tent was pretty much the opposite sitting in the 95+ heat, on my feet, talking a lot….
But, at least they had a tent to shield us form the sun and found a fan for us the second day. I knew what I was getting in for, but I had to hold down the fort at the BO tent since I was the Head Coach for the IRONMAN University Certified Coach Event Team for Chattanooga. Lead by example, being there for my shifts and helping first timers. It’s all good since this was IM 7 for me, I knew what I needed to do in order to stay hydrated and “rested”. Pretty much not when working the tent I was sitting on my rear in the AC and drinking lots of fluids.
ENJOY THE JOURNEY
Being the 3rd time for the full and doing the half once in Chattanooga, I’m a fan of the venue. What I’m also a fan of is Quintanaroo bikes. I have had my PR Six since 2007 and it’s been a great bike for the load I’ve put on it. What’s even more cool is the factory tour they give every year before the races so you can see where your QR was born. Aww…. like a bike nursery. And, you get to hear pros talk a bit about the race and sneak a peak at a photo shoot of the 2019 IM Chattanooga winner Angela Naeth’s killer QR.
Also a key point to acknowledge is the fact though parking spaces are ample, you can’t back your rental car into a space…
It was also awesome to be a part of the tri club breakfast and hearing some pros speak as well, and a free breakfast! Who doesn’t like free food?
Another great highlight for this venue the Coldstone right next to transition and IM village. I mean, who doesn’t need their traditional Gotta Have It of pumpkin pie ice cream the day before a big race?
So, the moral of the story is to soak it up. There was PLENTY of things to do, people to see, athletes to listen to. I even skipped the underwear because there just wasn’t enough time!
Unlike when i raced in 2018, THERE WAS A SWIM THIS YEAR! That’s a good start.
But, before I jump too far into the race, I want to call out the participant that placed cat food and cat toys in my transition bags. No, it wasn’t some random joke, but it was good for a laugh to break the race morning tension. As I usually do, I was checking my T1 and T2 bags, making sure I could locate them., everything was in them and add anything I needed when I realized they were tied different than I normally do. I was a bit panicked thinking someone had been in my bags or they spilled… or who knows what. I opened my T2 bag to see a can of what looked like tuna fish. A. What fool puts tuna in their transition bag. B. Whoever has this special diet put it in the wrong bag…. but when I looked closer, it had writing on the top. See the pic to the right. The back story is I found a kitten on a long training ride for Chattanooga. Long story short (I’m NOT a cat person) we have a cat. It’s actually a pretty good cat so far, but what irony that this sport brings a cat into my life and now my kids ask after every ride if I found another cat. No. And, the cat toys were in the T1 bag. Both hilarious and much appreciated! Hopefully you are reading this report.
BACK to the swim, wetsuit optional, so I stuck with my Ebay special Orca speedsuit and snuggled up to the front of the swim line. I knew I would have a decent swim and wanted on the bike course as soon as possible to get as far as I could before the heat fired up.
Unfortunately, at 1:02 this was slower than my 56 minutes in 2014. The consensus speaking with others was that the current was the slowest it had been for this race. At least there still was a current, but not as much as the advantage as people would have expected. At least they had the swim this year!
What threw me off the most was the feeling of being pushed to shore the entire swim. I’d swim a 4 or 5 count before sighting and the buoys would always be to the right and I had to adjust. So, after the first bridge and feeling like I was wasting too much effort trying to avoid sighting too much, I opted to sight every 6th stroke (which is a lot for me) and keep on target rather than trying to have good form without sighting. It seem to go better after that to the finish.
Before we jump right on the bike, lets focus on a revamped approach to T1, swim to bike transition.
I already had my cap, goggles and ear plugs in hand and my speed suit to my waist when I got to the bags and headed into the tent. So, all I needed to do was strip off the speed suit from waist down and I was already in my tri suit. Just needed socks, bike shoes and helmet. I did add a headband to help wick the sweat away from my face on the ride, knowing it was going to get hot on the second loop.
But what was significantly different was not flying through being in a huge frickin hurry. I took my time. Dumped all my stuff out of my bags not to miss anything. I had plenty of room. All my small loose gear was in baggies, so it wasn’t going all over the place. I systematically added gold bond in my socks, put my shoes on, head band, ate, took some hot shot, and all the other T1 things that I needed to do. Then put stuff in my bag as I used it or didn’t need it. In the past I was in such a rush I’d always forget something, but made a point this year not to get too caught up in the fever pitch to get changed and on the bike.
The biggest flop was hitting the lap button too many times on my Fenix 5X plus and going to T2…. so I quickly ended the multi function, restarted and lapped back to bike mode. Sure, two activities, but I captured 99% of the bike as I wanted to. And, Garmin Connect lied to me and said my vector 3 pedal batteries were good… they died at mile 50 so no power readings, which wasn’t a big deal. Just no historical data to look at. When in doubt, replace the batteries.
I wasn’t exactly out to set a bike PR, in fact of my 3 attempts at IM Chattanooga, this was the slowest, but I felt better coming into T2 than 2018. In retrospect my season was hampered with bad weather on schedule bike days, so many were spent indoors. While it provided quality leg work, it didn’t help my body be ready for 116 miles in aero. I held it better and longer than I thought I would, but there was still some pain and back issues requiring a few stretching out of he saddle.
Heat management was going to be the big factor on this ride. Rumor has it 400 people were done after the bike for the day. 400… that’s a lot. Thinking about it, I never really felt oppressive heat. Getting on the bike early got me to the start of loop two with manageable air temps. And while it did start getting warm, my plan worked pretty spot on. The goal was to drain a water or gatorade bottle between each aid station down my gullet to open a spot for a refill bottle. What water was left I would dump down my back to allow my tri suit to dissipate the water in the sun, and keep me cool. Ironically my mostly black Team Zoot tri suit was very cool despite being so dark. Technology has come a long way and the only coverage for sunscreen I needed was my neck. The suit cured all. Aid stations were great for my trip through and each time I had cold water or gatorade. Drank it as quick as I could while it was still cold… otherwise there’s nothing worse than hot booty sweat, I mean gatorade.
I also STOPPED at special needs and loaded back up. PB&J roll up. Peanut butter M&M’s. It was a buffet cause I hate trying to eat while riding. Just got what I needed, stuffed my face, drank, stretched my back out and headed out.
Coming back into town, surprisingly I was able to hold aero still and manage a decent effort despite passing athletes obviously ready to be off the bike. Don’t worry, i was that athlete last year. Ready to be done. Toast. Luckily I DID get the time in, jut not outdoors all the time. In this day of time crunched athletes, you take what you can get.
Again, before pressing on to the run, I took my time in T2. Changed socks, added aquaphor to the feet before putting socks on… because my plan was to be wet at every aid station like a t-shirt contest. I knew my feet were going to be wet all day… so lube and fresh socks were essential. Dumped EVERYTHING out, mined through for what I wanted/needed and the rest back in the bag. Did I mention I froze several mini water and gatorade bottles the night before and stuck them into my T1 and T2 bags in the morning? Well, I did and it worked great for my peanut butter M&M’s. They were not melted and my PB&J roll-up was tasty. I knew once on the run in the heat I would not want to eat anything, so T2 was my last chance.
Within 2 miles, groin cramp! DANG IT…. wait, back up.
Aid station #1.. if you raced, you know what I’m talking about. THE ICE SOCK. Tube sock filled with ice and a knot to keep it in. BRILLIANT. Even the pros used them. I wish I knew who came up with that idea, they would have gotten my red bracelet for sure. That sock saved the day and was with me mile 1 to 26… sadly I trashed it on the last bridge crossing, but wished I kept it. Meant a lot to me… serious quality time together.
back to mile 2… I stuffed the ice sock up my shorts directly on the cramp, walked it out, and was ready to go. That sock was a jack of all trades. You could stick it anywhere and not worry about ice cubes migrating into places they shouldn’t be in your tri suit. Great to contain the ice for specific applications, or just stuff in your collar to allow the ice to melt and water to drip down your back. I filled it up at EVERY aid station. It melted that fast.
Thinking back, I wouldn’t say I ever felt hot. I got to mile 10 and was light headed and had to start implementing backup plan Q and walk, but it wasn’t due to oppressive heat. From 10 to 26.2 it was a walk, run, stock up at aid stations and watch the med carts tote people away adventure. I was determined not to drive myself into a DNF, but do what I needed to in order to finish. Felt light headed, walked. Started cramping, walked. It worked. Wish I would have not had a DNF in IMTX in 2014 to have learned that lesson, but here it is.
So, while I would say I wasn’t crushed by the heat due to my management plan of ice socks, ice in baggies, chew on ice, dowse cold sponges in tri suit, cold gatorade, I did get to a low point with the light headedness. But why you ask? Nutrition. I got to the end of the bike in decent shape by eating my way through, more than I had in the past and it showed up in my energy level in T2. Problem was, I didn’t have enough to carry me through 26.2.
I had snacks at run special needs I thought would have been appealing, but when i got it, I DID NOT want to eat anything. I could barely stand cold water and cold gatorade. Once I broke into the coke and red bull, it was apparent that nutrition was the culprit. Sure, the heat factored in, but once I got some calories in, it was better and I was able to bust out some paces similar to the first 8ish miles. Key would be to fit more in when my system could have handled it on the bike.
It wasn’t the prettiest of finishes to a full IM. 13:21 compared to 2014 of 11:48. What a difference 20 degrees makes. Hard to compare when the avg in 2014 was 75 degrees on race day and a nice flow rate in the river. But, we didn’t have a 24% DNF rate in 2014, that’s for sure. Ironically I was 137 in AG in 2014 and 70 in 2019. So… everyone suffered.
Even after 15 years racing and coaching, I learn something new to bring into the next training cycle and racing.
WRAP IT UP
In the end I’m satisfied with racing and finishing IM Chattanooga 2019. It was great being a part of the Become One tent, helping beginners get it done, and especially racing with my own athletes. Do I wish I was faster? Of course… I’m human. Do I realize the obstacles of the day that was in no way shape or form setting any of use up for success on race day, you bet. But, you can be prepared by training properly and having a good game plan for race day, with several backup plans. PR’s are great, but a finish is much better than a DNF. You have to check your ego at the door and realize we are dealing with Mother Nature at these events and sometimes she’s just a b!tch.
Thanks to my wife, kids, family, friends and everyone else that endured with me in training and racing. Until next time!