Emma and I decided to get into Chattanooga a few days early as we were road tripping there. We left on Wednesday morning to break up the drive over two days and arrived in Chattanooga on Thursday afternoon.
Emma and I both brought I trainers with in order to get the last key bike session in at the hotel on Wednesday night. No rest for the wicked!
For destination races in the future, I don't think we will be driving. I had a pretty stiff back and legs all week leading to race day. At any rate, I got checked in and we settled back in the hotel.
I was able to get a decent training block in leading up to this race culminating with an Olympic distance race at the end of August for a final tune up (see previous post for that race report). I was feeling pretty fit and confident with my bike and run, despite not being fully tapered for this race.
After getting registered and checked into the hotel, we had a delicious dinner and hit the hay early. I was up at about 7 am on Friday to get in the practice swim. They close the swim course as it is in the Tennessee River due to barges and the like, so Friday morning was the only designated time to get a swim in. I met up with my buddy Sean and a few of the other EMJ guys to get ready to hit the water. While getting ready, Emma and I ran into another MN athlete and great friend who was racing on Saturday, Erin Farrens.
It is so nice to see some familiar faces at destination races! After chatting with Erin and Sean a bit, we all headed down to the water to turn out some yards in the river. To my surprise, the water would be wetsuit legal and was actually pretty clean.
The swim on race day had you swimming against the current for about 860m before flipping and heading back downstream. During the practice swim, I made sure to do a couple laps to get a feel for how strong the current was. This proved to be the first uphill of an all uphill day, more on that later.
After the practice swim, Emma and I headed up to the village to look for some wetsuit cement before getting some breakfast. While we were walking through, we ran into Mark Allen and Dave Scott. In case you have been living under a rock your whole life, these are the two most decorated and successful Ironman athletes of all time. Meeting two legends and massive influences on me was pretty awesome to say the least.
After meeting the Queen K Ironwar legends, we continued on and did the typical world championship stuff like finding my name on the wall. Obligatory picture below.
After we made it through the Ironman village, Emma and I went back to the hotel room and hung out until dinner. We found an awesome restaurant with stellar burritos for dinner (carbo load!). If you are ever in Chattanooga, make sure you swing into Sluggo's cafe, it was truly top notch.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to hang out some more and rest. I really enjoy the days leading up to a race as it gives you time to relax and spend some quality time with family and friends.
We woke up 7 am on Saturday and I got my shake out workouts done early so we could catch some of the Women's race. I was really torn with what to do regarding spectating the women's race as there were pros and several MN women racing. We opted to catch the run finish and I am glad we did as I didn't want to add a ton of stress prior to Sunday. We were able to catch some of the pro women finish as well as Kortney Haag and Erin Farrens. These ladies absolutely killed that course! Minnesota really is a great state that produces top tier athletes! After catching Kort and Erin finish, I checked my gear in. Almost go time!
After checking, rechecking, and triple checking my gear, we headed back to the hotel to relax the rest of the day. I applied my numbers and sat in the Normatecs and hit the hay at 9 pm.
Pretty standard race morning here, up at 4 am to pound some calories and take care of business. Took down some white toast with almond butter, strawberry spread, a banana, and a honey stinger waffle. I got my race kit on and started down toward the transition area. I put all my nutrition on my bike and pumped up my tires to get everything dialed in.
This race start was pretty interesting, they had the pro men go at 7:30 am, then the start of the age groupers would be at 7:38 am. They chose to release age groups on opposite ends of the spectrum (e.g. 70 - 74 then 20 - 24 then 65 - 69 then 25 - 29 and so on). This meant 30 - 34 wouldn't start until 8:20 am or so.
With the staggered start, this meant I was able to see the pros start. Wow, those guys are fast. Seeing their times online is one thing, seeing it in the flesh is something else entirely!
At any rate, I hit the biffy after the pro start, kissed Emma and thanked her for always supporting me, and headed down to the water to get in line with the rest of the 30 - 34 guys.
The swim start was pretty awesome. They would funnel each AG down to some arches leading to a dock. There were 6 lanes to line up from and every 15 seconds or so, they would release the athletes at the front of each lane.
I tried to get myself as far up to the front as possible to minimize the chaos I knew would occur as this was the world championship, so dudes would be jockeying for position the entire time. I was able to get in the third wave of guys to be released and before I knew it, I was diving in!
The swim takes you across the river so you start by fighting the cross current. In addition to the cross current, over ambitious guys were slashing their way through the water trying to get to the front. Once I made it to the first turn to head upstream, the heard thinned out a bit and I was able to find some fast feet. Despite the draft, the swim upstream was pretty darn slow. The slow swim against the current couple with the sunrise made for an interesting first half!
After the upstream portion, I made the turn to head across the river and down to the swim exit. This section was extremely fast and the swim exit came up fast! Before I knew it, I was on the steps getting out and heading to T1.
Pace: 1:23 per 100 yds
I grabbed my bike gear, ran up the ramp to T1, and got into a chair and through on my gear. On to the bike! I ran over to my bike, unracked it. and was off!
The bike course was no joke. The ride takes you about 5 miles out of town before heading up lookout mountain. With that being said, I hammered my way out of town only to hit the train track bump and lose my nutrition. Luckily, I packed some extra nutrition on my bike just in case!
After getting out of town in a hurry, you hit the climb up lookout mountain. Again, this climb is no joke. 1100 feet of gain at 7% grade for a little over 3 miles. I settled into a comfortable cadence and pushed about 300 watts for 20 minutes straight. I didn't want to push harder than that because I knew the run was going to be brutal too. I was passing a few people going up the mountain and getting passed by a few.
After the climb, there is a series of rollers at the top of the mountain prior to the descent. I took in some hydration and nutrition and settled into a comfortable aero position to get to work!
On the rolling section of the course, drafting was pretty prevalent. It is always sad to see this type of behavior, but all you can do is race as honest as you can and hope the course marshals to their jobs (which they seemed to do pretty well).
After the rolling section came the fun part, the descent down the mountain. This section had excellent pavement, fun curves, but slow vehicles. I had been chipping away competitors up to this point. While descending, a truck with an attached camper pulled in front of me and I was forced to slow way down from 40 mph to about 20. Kind of unfortunate to have to slow down, but thats racing!
Since the course isn't closed, traffic can get heavy going both up and down the mountain. That fact coupled with the winding turns made it hard to pass. While I was figuring out when to pass, Sean came flying up on me and we tried to determine the best path to pass. I overtook the truck in the oncoming lane while Sean took the shoulder route. It was kind of cool we passed him at the same time (reminded me of the rollerblade scene in the Mall of America from the Mighty Ducks, haha)
After I got around the truck, I resettled and hammered to try and make up some lost time. The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. I was passing several people who burned too many matches heading up the mountain earlier in the ride. I also saw several drafting penalties given out, justice!
I headed back into town (chasing Sean as has been the theme all season!) ready to get to work on the run! It was not the bike split I was hoping for or am capable of, but that is how it goes sometimes!
Speed: 23.1 MPH
You can check out the file here
After dismounting, I ran into T2 to get my bag and set out on the run. My legs were feeling alright considering the hell I just put them through with all the climbing. I got my run gear on and headed out.
Much like the bike course, the run course was hilly AF. It is a two loop course with a total of about 1000 feet of elevation gain, which is absolutely nutty for a half marathon. The plan was to hold 6:30's for the first loop and see how things felt for the last half.
The first loop actually felt pretty decent at 6:30 - 6:45 pace. I was running the uphills and downhills pretty well actually. I was ticking off the miles and taking in salt and nutrition. I hit the turnaround and gave some high fives to Emma and my in laws and let them know I was feeling pretty good.
I ran a bit with a guy from Denmark in the 40 - 44 age group. He kept me honest through about 8 miles and then turned up the pace. Still feeling good, I hit mile 9 and that is when things started to get rough. The heat and hills were taking their toll on me. My pace slowed down a bit after the hills at mile 9 and beyond. I did my best to hydrate and keep pace as best as I could.
I rounded the corner for the foot bridge that is just before the descent to the finish. I gritted my teeth and pushed as hard as I could. I saw Emma and my in laws as I came down the chute and continued to push. That finish hurt!
Pace: 6:53 per mile
Check out the file here
After finishing, I had to lay on the carpet for the first time ever. I was pretty wiped out from the race as well as the cumulative fatigue in my legs, ugh! After getting some water, I wandered over to Sean and congratulated him on a great race and chatted with a few more of the EMJ guys that I met. Those guys are really humble and a real class act.
AG Place: 40/368
OA Place: 174/2815
What an experience! The entire race was awesome even though it hurt like hell. To duke it out with the best in the world at this distance is such a privilege and honor. Chattanooga is an awesome host city and the organizers did a great job. I will definitely be going back in the future for the half or full.
After the race, Emma and I headed back to the hotel to relax a bit before packing everything up for the long drive back the next day in addition to the EMJ friends and family happy hour set for that evening.
We headed over to the HH to meet up with Sean for a beer and exchanged some war stories about the brutal course. Emma and I had the opportunity to meet some more of the EMJ guys and their families. What a great group of people!
After the HH, we headed back to the hotel to eat and crash! Back to Minnesota for some serious IMFL training!
A special thanks to all of those who enable me to beat myself up continuously in this nutty sport. Until next time, happy training and racing!