Friday, October 2, 2015

2015 IRONMAN Chattanooga (144.6) Race Report

On The Road to Chickamauga
144.6? I thought an IRONMAN triathlon was 140.6 miles? 

It is, but evidently the race director of IRONMAN Chattanooga likes to provide athletes with a smidge of bonus suffering. 

The bike portion of this two year old but already popular race is 116 miles. Four miles longer than the standard 112. Athletes know these extra miles will add time to their bike splits.

If you're fast, not a problem.

But if you're a finisher like me, then you like to have all the time you can get.

Knowing this pre-race = stress level: medium.

My Garmin Data.

Not only is the 116 mile (4400+ ft. elevation gain) bike leg challenging, the marathon following it is less typical for IMs I've done having 1300 feet of elevation gain that must be conquered before hearing the coveted words:

"You. Are. An IRONMAN!" 

It's been even tougher for me to hear those words since the announcers of my two previous IMs said my name and my hometown (which I appreciated), but did not say those iconic words along with my name.

The third time was a charm.

I finally got to hear it. "You are an IRONMAN, Scott!" sounded great coming over the loud speaker.

Tennessee Riverwalk
But wait. There's more! 

Not only are the bike and run courses unusual, the start time of the entire race which is normally 7 a.m. local time was pushed back 30 minutes, because Chattanooga is in the Eastern (US) Time Zone where the sun rises later than in our Central Time Zone.

But wait. There's more! 

Not only does the race have 4 more miles on the bike, a hilly marathon, and a 30 minute delayed start time, it also separates the non-wet suit swimmers from the wet suit swimmers because the water temperature was above 76.1 degrees on race morning.

Since I chose to wear one, I got to stand to the side while everyone not wearing a wet suit entered the water. This additional factor meant that we wet suit swimmers would enter the water nearer to 8 a.m.

Well, I didn't actually have to stand aside because by the time I got into the swim line, I was at the end!

There were maybe five swimmers behind me.


So, there I am standing at the back of the swim line.

I have about 10 minutes to suit up before the line of 2500+ athletes compresses toward the dock we jump off. Okay, let's see what's in my morning swim bag... Wet suit, check. Goggles, check. Sunglasses, che... Sunglasses?! Oh, no... Not again...

1 of the 4,000+ helpful volunteers
I did this at IMFL 2 years ago, only then they were on my head, and I could run from the beach to transition and back in 5 minutes. This was a point to point swim. Transition was 2.4 miles away.

My mind is racing about how I will need these glasses to block sun and bugs for 8 hours on the bike and 2 hours on the run.

What are they doing in this bag?

In all the busyness, I had simply not placed them in my bike gear bag while in transition that morning. Note to self, get an extra pair of sunglasses and put my race pair in the bag the night before...

Luckily, I get my swim suit on before the line starts moving, since it won't stop for about 20 minutes once it starts. My TYR swim goggles come in a zip case. I put on my swim cap and my goggles and zip up my sunglasses in my swim goggles case.

I tuck it into my wet suit horizontally across my stomach and it did fine. It was what I was looking for in the swim exit pic above.

We scurry along the concrete Riverwalk toward the dock, stopping and starting again like Interstate traffic when a guy says to us:

Ross's Landing
"Oh, man. I thought we were going to be last."

I said, "You still can be if you want to..."

He declined.
Start of race stress level = High.

I had previously swum the 2.4 mile course twice without a wet suit.

I was hoping the suit would keep me level in the water since I tend to drop my legs creating excess drag.

I could tell immediately that it did. I swam 13 minutes faster than ever before in the river, and 28 minutes faster than the last time.

The Tennessee River provides plenty of room to spread out and the current was helpful.

I finished the swim in 1 hour 11 minutes and 54 seconds.

A personal record by 27 minutes.


Headed for Hog Jowl
So, I'm sitting in T1 feeling great.

A fast swim is just what I needed to maintain my confidence going into the most difficult leg for me which is the bike.

I'm cool as a cucumber in transition.

The 20 year old volunteer says to me, "Man, How are you so calm?" Then he notices my my secret... Pepto Bismol and laughs. One day you'll be 43, buddy.

The volunteers at IMCHOO were out of this world helpful.

It doesn't surprise me one bit that Chattanooga will host the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.

The people are great.

I'm walking my bike under the "Bike Out" inflatable and mounting it at 9:36 a.m. I'm heading west on Riverfront Parkway toward my home state of Georgia. About 95 miles of the bike will be on Georgia roads with the familiar sight of Georgia State Troopers at the intersections.

My dad was a State Trooper for about 30 years.

I felt at home.

The bike course is a two loop lollipop. Ride 11 miles out to a 47 mile loop, do it twice. Ride back 11 miles = 116. I went faster than normal at the start, and I wondered if I had burned too many matches that I would need on the run. Turns out the Georgia hills would relieve me of that concern. 

Scenic Georgia Ride
By the second loop they slowed me down handily.

First 11 miles + 47 mile loop = no problem.

Pedaling on adrenaline from the swim and chewing up miles.

There were some rough spots, but overall, a smooth ride out of town for about 30 miles before we make a sharp turn headed for Chickamauga.

Chickamauga has hills on the other side of it that get your attention going up and going down.

My top speed was 31.5 mph.

The race support on the bike was phenomenal.

I saw a bike tech truck about every 15 minutes it seems. They really did a good job of taking care of us out there. Last year, some vandals threw out tacks and oil on the road that flatted scores of cyclists. 

I had the feeling IM was ready for them this year. Way to go IM!

The first loop was great. The second loop... not so much. Really, it wasn't that bad, but I felt the course and wind more. It remained cloudy all day with the sun peeking out briefly.

Fast part of course
I'm proud to say that I never walked my bike (like I did at Louisville), but I was in Granny gear a lot.

I got a boost when I saw the 100 mile marker sign. I had some tough hills ahead, but I was counting down the last 16 miles now, and 11 of those were flat and fast.

I finished the bike in 7 hours 44 minutes and 53 seconds.

With such a fast swim, and with no mechanical problems on the bike, I felt like I was right where I needed to be coming into transition two from bike to run.

It was around 5:15 p.m. I knew that was plenty of time to finish the marathon.

Off the bike, on the Run
The marathon course of IRONMAN Chattanooga is divided by the Tennessee River.

We ran 4 miles out in the emergency lane of a four lane highway before turning left onto the scenic Tennessee Riverwalk.

We then cross Walnut Street Bridge, run the hills on the north side, and come back over the river on the pedestrian bridge.

The run is a two loop course with 1300 feet of elevation gain. My two previous IMs had around 300.

Thankfully, I ran enough trail marathons, 50Ks, and road marathons in 2015 with similar gains, so I felt ready.

Confidence level at start of marathon: High.

The support from the Chattanooga community was unbelievable, especially on the north side of the river on Barton Ave. and on the pedestrian bridge and Walnut Street Bridges.

The Huntsville crowd was on the scene. Great support, as usual, from familiar smiling faces!

The aid stations are one mile apart on the run and they were spectacular. I ate pretzels, GU gels, Gatorade, water, bananas, coke, and whatever else sounded tasty.

15 hour energy!
I drank two 5 hour energies.

One in T2, and another one at special needs (13.1 miles) on the run. I kept a consistent pace and everyone kept me strong by telling me how well I was running.

Shout out to my trail & road running buddies who kept me strong last winter and spring.

Night time fell but my spirits did not.

The crowds only get louder and the finish line only gets closer.

The run course passes through downtown four times and it is electric. The people at the aid stations keep you going.

I saw the Blood Moon rise, but it remained cloudy the rest of the time during the run for me.

I never saw the eclipse, but I finished during it around 10:40 p.m.

This is my third IM finish. I love doing them! I have finished IRONMANs Florida 2013, Louisville 2014, and Chattanooga 2015. They were all progressively closer to home.

This completes 'round one' of IRONMANs for me.

CHIP TIME: 14:34:43
IM 'round 2' will involve traveling farther distances to Texas, Arizona and beyond. Not certain that will be next year. I'm ready for a break from the logistics of triathlon.

I love doing IMs too much to think that I will not do another one, but regardless what the future holds, I am very satisfied at the present time.

Thanks to all my FACEBOOK friends for their support. It means the world to me before and after these big events. 

I hope that I am an inspiration and encouragement to you.

May God bless your dreams and desires as much as He has mine.

Thanks to my wife and kids and my Mom for their support that allows me to do what I love so much.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Scott
    I am so proud of you and the example you are setting for your family and others. May you always be blessed as you continue your I'M goals, but most of all as you serve the Lord.

    Love and Miss y'all