Friday, January 25, 2019

Ironman Chattanooga 2018 Race Report

Flat out...I was in it to win it.  I was going into this race fit, confident, and hungry to claim a slot to the 2019 Ironman World Championship.  I was coming off of the excitement of winning Michigan Titanium as I went into my final build block for this race - patience paid off and my body came around in time to get a couple weeks of quality work in.  Andrew was on the road for work for the majority of September - which means less deliciously cooked for me meals, but no less support.  I can't even begin to explain how supportive this man has been from day one.  Early on while we were dating he asked me what my goals for the year were.  Without hesitation I told him "win Michigan Titanium and punch my ticket to Kona at IM Choo".  He never doubted me or even brought up 'what if I didn't achieve those  things' - he 100% devoted himself to supporting me to achieve them, whilst training for his first Ironman.   Anyways, back to IM Choo 2018.

We left Wednesday after work and drove about 4 hours before staying at a hotel for the night.  We woke up and hit the road on Thursday morning - arriving in time to get in some easy workouts, check-in and relax in the afternoon.  Unfortunately, after hearing murmers of a swim cancellation on Wednesday, I heard "officially" on Thursday that there would be no swim.  Yes, I was bummed since I was ready for a current assisted swim PR - but let's be honest, no one does Chatt to set themselves apart on the swim.  I shrugged it off and was thankful I did MiTi the month before in order to get in a full 140.6 swim, bike, run. 

On Friday we moved into the house we had rented with the DC Tri crew.  This was the first time I'd stay in a house with friends while racing an Ironman.  It was great, I'd do it again in a second.  It was laid back, supportive and exciting with friends racing their 1st, 2nd and returning to Ironman after a few year hiatus.  Not to mention our super sherpas in Ron and Andrew.  Some shake out work on Friday on the bike and run and then settled in and had a relaxing night starting to pack gear bags and prepare the bike for drop off on Saturday.

BIG BREAKFAST.  That's really all you need to know.  Aretha Frankenstein's is where it is at, and yes it is true, the blueberry pancake is at Aretha Frankenstein's is one reason I chose to go back to Chattanooga.   After big breakfast I did some final gear bag prep and then headed to drop off while Andrew headed out on his last long ride before IM Louisville.  We also got word that we would be starting the bike in TT format based on bib # - thank gosh for AWA and bib #250. 

I was lucky enough to be able to visit with my cousin's on Saturday afternoon for a bit and just chill out.  No worries, Sunday was going to be like every other training day.  Nail the heart rate, nail the power and be confident in my training and race plan.  Once Andrew was done with his ride we packed it up and headed back to the house for a nice evening with friends...and sorting out Garmin issues with Angela :)

Early morning wake-up - but not as early as most Ironman races! Due to the cancelled swim we got about an extra hour of sleep in the morning.  It was great.  The race day vibe was a little different as people were all about and in and out of transition getting ready for the day - which would still be great than 140.6 thanks to the lovely 116 mile bike course at Chattanooga.  After getting everything set up I found mom, Andrew, and Gary and we camped out near the port o potts.  As the time was nearing I realized I forgot my Turbine (nasal dilator) but thankfully had previously thought ahead and packed the non sport version in my transition bag for just this type of scenario. 

I headed into transition and soon the line started rolling.  2x2 athletes went off.  Since Ironman is 70-75% male dominated I was surrounded by mostly males, who were also AWA.  Now AWA can mean a couple things - either you did really/pretty well in 1-2 races or you race A LOT and just got points that way.  Either way the egos were out and big!

THE BIKE - 116 miles - 5:18:48
I was thankful that I had practice in this situation at Ironman Maryland in 2016.  I knew my HR might be crazy high at first from the adrenaline hit of starting on the bike.  And high it was!  I headed out holding goal power and let me HR start to settle down and settle into it.  It felt easy and there were packs forming - so I stepped on it a bit.  I knew there were some girls that I'd be competing with not far ahead based on their bib numbers.  Just over 10 miles in a passed a pack of 4 ladies, at least 2 of whom were in my age group.  I nicely looked over and said respect the rules as I passed by.  I was yo-yoing with a couple men who were absolutely horrible at riding their momentum on the rolling hills.  Before the 20 mile mark I came up on another very strong athlete from my age group.  There was a man in front of me that as he passed her slowed to exchange a couple words with her - as I passed she was looking over at him saying she didn't want to be doing this today.  It was a great confidence booster for me and I used that motivation to keep me going on the first loop.  As my first 28 mile split came in I knew my power was too high to sustain for the full 116 and I needed to keep my HR in check for the hilly run.   I rolled through special needs and unfortunately had to wait a bit longer and yell a bit more than ideal to get my bag brought to me.  As I got rolling again I rolled through Chikamauga and got a nice pick me up and some info from Ron and Andrew.  A small climb, descent and left hand turn to start loop 2.

I knew by this time I was very near the front of the female race.  I backed off a bit because I knew I wanted to finish the bike course strong.  The headwinds picked up and the majority of people I began passing were those still on loop 1.  I rode most of loop 2 alone with the occasional pass or passerbys of a group of drafting men.  I kept the nutrition in, the HR in check and let the power do what it needed to do to not blow up my HR.  It was getting warm, warmed than the weather predictions had stated.  I made one more pass of a woman as we rolled in during the final couple of miles and another final pass at the dismount line...boom!  haha.

T2 - 2:19
A quick run in to the change tent to put on my run shoes, visor, and race belt before hitting the run course. 

THE RUN - 26.2 Miles - 4:08:23
I felt good and I knew the run course would be lonely for the first lap.  Due to the flooding of the river more of the run course was diverted onto the wide open industrial highway - not may favorite part but it was ok.  As I was running in the concrete desert I heard my name and some yelling - I looked across the 5-6 lanes of road and there on the other side was Andrew, on a bike share bike - yelling "you've got a 20 minute lead on your AG.  Keep your pace and you got this!" Alright, I'm pretty darn good, I know this course and I've been running well.  A mile or so later I got passed my Matt Russel - who then stopped in a porto potty and I passed him - and then he passed me again.  I got to see the front of the male pro race play out as it passed by me.  Including Snapple and Virginia local Adam Otsot near the end of my first loop and near the end of his marathon.  During the small section where we overlapped on the concrete desert I was able to see both Paige and Courtney looking strong and solid.

Finishing my first loop and coming in to special needs I still felt pretty good.  I took my 5 hour energy and saved it for a few miles later as I headed back out onto the concrete desert.  Near mile 17 Andrew appeared on his bike share bike again - this time the news wasn't so good.  I was getting run down and my lead had widdled down close to 2 minutes and my pace was slowing.  The first round of hills had taken it out of me.  I held on, I found a running partner who was doing his first IM and I told him I had to get my ass to the finish line fast and punch this ticket to Kona.  Near mile 23, uphill, it happened.  She had bright green on and I couldn't miss her.  I knew she had started in front of me (bib #) so I tried to just keep her in sight, but she had a motor and got up that hill and out of sight so fast.  It was a great pass and I knew at this point I needed to finish strong and as fast as I could.    Up, down, Up, and down and across the bridge and into the finish line.  Oh that finish line felt good, the temps had gotten into the 90s and people were suffering out there.  It wasn't my best IM marathon, or even my 2nd best, but it was my best on the day.  I probably overbiked - and maybe backing off 5 minutes on the bike would have gotten me another 10-15 minutes back on the run.  You never know.  What we did know was that I was 2nd in my AG and that it was going to be a close call as to if F 30-34 would get 1 or 2 Kona slots. 

Best Finish Line Catcher in the Sport - My Momma!

Midnight Finish Line
After some chicken broth and massage I got cleaned up and headed back out to cheer in Angela and find Courtney and Paige.  We shared our crazy stories from the day and Angela and I headed to get her cleaned up and get a pizza before the midnight finish line.  I was happy with my overall race and I knew I just needed to cross my fingers and know that if my AG only had one slot we would be the first to get a re allocation.

Sunday morning - awards and Kona Slot allocation.  We did the usual pro awards and age group awards.  Took pictures with Courtney, Angela and Paige, took more pictures yada yada. Sat through the race video and the volunteer video - all the while just wanting to know if I was headed back to the Big Island.  After a 30 minute or so break before the official start time of slot allocation it was finally time.  And guess what...the very first announcement was that there was a re allocation from the oldest female and that slot would be going to F 30-34.  Yes I shrieked and I shed a tear or two.  I was so damn happy and excited.  I was going back to Kona!

We celebrated that night with tacos, margaritas, and ice cream as our time in Choo came to a close.  Tuesday morning everyone headed out and Andrew and I were in for one long drive from Chatt to Arlington.  Our road trip was great and every hour spent in the car getting to and from races with him in 2018 was great - at times we were both sad when the road trips came to an end, but not that sad as we were usually getting hangry.  Once home it was time for sherpa duties, cyclocross and planning for 2019 :) 

Special thanks to those who have supported me from the start and those who put their hearts into helping make my dreams a reality.  Thank you to Andrew, Mom, Gary, Rory and Kara - hopefully we can have a strong sherpa squad in Kona 2019!  Thank you to DC Tri Club and the DC Tri Elite Team and all of our sponsors - Louis Garneau, Osmo Nutrition, Honey Stinger, Rudy Project, xx2i Optics, District Taco, Rose Physical Therapy Group and also to UltraGrain, SBR Sports Inc, AltRed, and HaloSport.  Looking forward to building on the momentum of 2018 for 2019!