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Ironman Chattanooga - Triathlon

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Chattanooga, Tennessee
United States
World Triathlon Corporation
72F / 22C
Total Time = 11h 43m 37s
Overall Rank = 454/2674
Age Group = W30-34
Age Group Rank = 17/94
Pre-race routine:

My first full Ironman race report! Where to begin?? Warning...this is going to be long...thankfully my race was under 12 hours...if it had been 17 hours, my RR would be 50% longer!

The challenge with vacation and races do you avoid eating too much while trying all the yummy food in the new city? To make matters worse, this was my first visit to the south. In our 4 days leading up to the race, I had shrimp and grits twice! It was so good! But all the creamy and fried food was also so bad...So on Saturday night I was happy to be having a home cooked meal. Chris made us a simple, yummy spaghetti dinner...and I had my customary pre race ice cream dessert.

Went to bed at 8. Slept surprisingly well considering the circumstances. Woke up two or three use the restroom and because my stupid 920 kept beeping with Facebook notifications. Why do I even bother having FB notifications on my watch??

Had my alarm set to 4, but heard some rustling outside our room just before the alarm went off. Turns out both moms woke up at 3:30 to get ready and leave the restroom available for me. I thought they were going to sleep in till 7 and get to the race in time to see me finish the swim, but they wanted to see me off at the start! I was so happily surprised. Chris also made me the sweetest Wonder Woman card. Made me cry...I was feeling so emotional!! Can't believe they were doing all this for me...

Off to the race at 4:40! Arrived at transition and I was relieved to hear it was wetsuit optional. Dropped off my special needs bags and headed for my bike. Had the bike service tech pump my tires....and the guy chipped my rear disc cover. He didn't say anything...nor did I. Oh well. Nothing a little electrical tape wouldn't fix. I went to Chris for the tape and he and the moms were with Karen and Tom. I asked for tape and before Chris could even reach into the bag, Tom whipped out a roll of tape for me. :) And unfortunately I still have that tape! Kept forgetting to return it!

Went back to the racks and started working on the bike. Nutrition, bottles, cleaning the chain, wiping down the bike from the rain, checking brakes...and trying to get my speed sensor working. Ugh. Stupid speed sensor. Not sure if we bumped it during the deconstruction and reconstruction of the bike, but it was being very finicky! If the sensor was too far away from the magnet, it would stop reading...and if it was in too close, it would rub against the disc cover. It didn't help that the roads in Chattanooga were very bumpy and jarring. My plan was to have GPS-based speed and distance on my 920 and use the Edge 500 for HR and power. It wasn't ideal, but it would work. And maybe it was a blessing in disguise because I would then focus on HR instead of speed.

Lastly, headed to my run and bike gear bags to drop off some final items before leaving transition.

I had a race plan from Ben that I knew by heart. Yet after all my preparation talks, my main takeaway from him was "be patient". Wise words that I continually went back to during the race. No real goal time to chase after...only real goal was to get to the finish line. Patience would get me there!

Pre-Race Nutrition -
bagel with peanut butter 4:30
banana @ 6:30
Gu @ 7:00
Event warmup:

  • 55m 41s
  • 4224 yards
  • 01m 19s / 100 yards

Chris rode the buses to the swim start with me while the moms stayed at the swim finish. I went to the porta potties first and ran into Karen. So great to see a familiar face! Already there was a huge long line of people sitting down in line for the swim start. Seriously? How early did these people get here?! Was I going to have to line up miles away from the dock? Walk a mile before the race even began? Chris and I walked to the start to check it out and there it was, my way towards the front of the line! I saw a picnic table off to the side of the line where people were sitting and waiting. It wasn't necessarily part of the line, but was more like a group cluster around it. I could "sneak in" and no one would really notice...and certainly no one would mind one extra person. I sat down and claimed my spot.

Waited a little while before getting ready. Defogged the goggles, got on the swim skin and had my gu. All the athletes could hear, but not see the pros go off. Then we lined up and started moving torward the dock. It was a bit of an anticlimactic start. We were ushered over and told to jump feet first into the water. No time to think or ready ourselves. It was so unexpected that I forgot to start my watch until it beeped at me 2 minutes into my swim that it was going to turn off into power save mode!

The water felt great! Perfect temperature. Goggles were nice and clear. Swim cap was covering my ears so I wasn't getting any annoying water in them. Sighting was good...I was feeling great! I was swimming past athletes pretty smoothly, though it was hard to tell how fast or slow I was moving. Had no idea until the end how strong the current was. Occasionally a swimmer would blast past me...and I would try to catch their feet, but they were gone before I could even catch sight of their bubbles.

I was steadily passing the buoys. I checked my watch on occasion, just to make sure I wasn't imagining my progress. Soon enough, I was past the island and closing in on the the time I hit the last bridge before the finish, I was kind of shocked by how quickly it went by. There definitely must've been some help from the current! In the last 300 meters, I started seeing some baby blue swim caps...were these the pro women I was passing?!

Sighting the finish was pretty easy. It was hard to miss the crowd of people at Ross's Landing.

Out of all my race swims, this was probably my favorite. I loved how the fresh water felt...and it was so liberating without a wetsuit! Though, the only drawback can't really pee before the race without anyone knowing. You really have to be waist deep in water to pee in the swim skin...and this swim didn't offer any opportunity to do so.
Transition 1
  • 06m 52s

Out of the water, I kept it easy. Then I had one of my first "What Did Ben Say" moments...he said to walk, keep the heart rate low. And that I did...I quickly walked to transition. All the cheering and crowds was amazing. Chris said they announced my name, but I didn't hear it. As soon as I got into transition, there were volunteers everywhere ready to help me. I went to grab my bike gear bag and headed into the changing tent.

Sat down and was immediately swarmed by 3 or 4 volunteers. They dumped my bag and started going through everything as I pulled my swim skin off. They knew what to do...Did I want my nutrition in my pockets? Did I need help putting shoes on? I directed them around and did my thing. Some cream on my hooha, Castelli shirt on with the help of 2 trash bags, nutrition in my pockets, quickly tied my hair back, put my halo and helmet on, grabbed my shoes and headed out of the tent.

The porta potties were conveniently located right I went inside. Then ran to my bike...ran past my bike, realized I missed it and doubled back. Ran to the bike exit with my shoes in one hand and bike in the other. With the long distance out of transition (and Ben's recommendation), I opted to run barefoot and put my shoes on at the mount line. I think it ended up being a great decision.

Mounted my bike, and I was off!!
  • 6h 00m 56s
  • 116 miles
  • 19.28 mile/hr

Short climb out of transition...and onto the bumpy ride out of Chattanooga. In a city known for railroads and trains (choo choo!), I should've known there would be railroad tracks and bumps everywhere. Bottles were being launched left and right. And of course with one of these bumps, my speed sensor stopped working. Minor Hiccup #1. Oh well. I was expecting this. Thankfully about 15 miles later, another bump corrected the speed sensor and it started working again.

Ben said that people would pass me early on during the bike...and he was right. Tempted as I was, I let them pass. They were just plain faster and no reason to chase them down. I did my thing and stuck to my plan.

Once I got on the loop, I really started to enjoy the ride. It was beautiful, I was feeling good and I was racing my Ironman race! I made sure to give all the spectators and volunteers some positive sign. A smile and thumbs up were my MO. I tried to ride by heart rate. It was rolling terrain...was able to keep it in the big chain ring for the most part. Groups of riders would pass me here and there. I looked down at my bike computer. Looked at my heart rate...and thought of Ben. He said to cap my HR at 145. And that I did. Some people just weren't worth catching!

Notable moments on the bike (otherwise, it was all a blur!)...

At the top of the first hour, I went to grab a salt pill from my bike. I had used double-sided tape to tape 6 salt pills to my top tube. When I reached down, all I felt was mush. Great...all of the pills had disintegrated into a soft mush. Minor Hiccup #2. Thankfully it was I wouldn't be sweating *too* much.

At about mile 35, a guy rolled by me and told me to "be patient". He said the backside of the loop would be fast. Did he really just use the word "patient"? Was Ben somehow sending me messages?? Either way, the guy was right. The backside was and fast! Nothing like zipping through the Georgia countryside in aero!

Minor Hiccups #3 & #4...There were a few small climbs. I probably didn't need to get in the small chain ring, but I did. And when I went back to the big ring after cresting the hills, my chain dropped. This happened twice. Ugh. I pulled over, got off my bike, put the chain back on....and continued with my ride.

Hit the special needs bag at about mile 55. Stopped, unclipped and two volunteers helped me out. Took 2 salt pills and made my Perpetuem mix. Also filled my water bottle. As I was doing this, I heard people calling me from the crowd. There was Chris and the moms. They had made it to Chickamauga! I yelled a quick hello before heading back onto the course.

Stopped at 3 aid stations for water. I opted to stop for water rather than grab and go. Just didn't feel confident enough...and the risk felt greater than the rewards. This is probably something I should work on!!

I tried...tried peeing on the bike. It wasn't happening. Stopped once at an aid station to pee.

Ben mentioned I would hit a dark place somewhere between miles 60 and 95. Once the odometer ticked past 60 I started waiting and anticipating...I was still feeling good (or at least okay). And once I got to mile 95, I was out of the woods! Thankfully it never came...or maybe it was multiplying and waiting to come get me on the run!

Exchanged a few words with a guy as we were coming back into Chattanooga. We were yo-yoing back and forth. He was launching things left and right...unintentionally, of course. His CO2 cartridge and water bottle were victim to Chattanooga's bumpy roads...

Bike Nutrition -
Honey Stinger at hour 1
Half a Clif Bar every hour
8 scoops Perpetuem, a good swig every 20 minutes
8 Shot Bloks during the last hour
2 salt pills during special needs
Transition 2
  • 04m 14s

As I came into transition, there was my mom, holding up her iPad, cheering and trying to grab a photo. :) I dismounted and happily handed my bike to a kind volunteer. As much as I love my bike, I was glad to turn it over. I made the short run in my bike shoes to my run gear bag, bent down and decided to take my bike shoes off. Grabbed my bag and headed inside the changing tents. I was running barefoot into the tent, I could feel the weakness my left ankle. Major Hiccup #5. It was not going to be a fun run!

More awesome volunteers greeted me in the changing tent. Took off my bike gear and threw on my run gear...grabbed a quick sip of water and left the tent. Decided to use the porta potties in transition....and then I was out!

Saw Chris and his mom as I was leaving T2. I waved to them like a mad woman! I was so excited yet apprehensive about the run!
  • 4h 35m 54s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 10m 32s  min/mile

Oh, my ankle started bothering me immediately. It had been bugging me for about a week and a half at this point. I'd skipped my last long run and skipped a few other runs. I wasn't sure if it was a stress fracture or tendinitis...Chris thinks it's the latter. For the most part, it was a pain I could deal with. Nothing debilitating, just an annoyance.

Was on pace and felt okay (not great, nor good...just okay) the first 8 miles or so. I was running between aid stations, walking the stations and on top of my nutrition. One of the runners mentioned the second half of the loop was hilly, but I had no idea what was in store. Turns out the north side of the river is VERY hilly...and the organizers of this race decided to have everyone run up and down these crazy hills, past expensive and beautiful homes.

As I crossed the bridge to the north side of the river, I saw Chris. He had a whole cheering section for me. There's something about a group of random strangers yelling out your name that really can get you going! And once I crossed the bridge, I tried running up the first hill. The running then became a shuffling...and then a fast walking. It was a tough hill...followed by another not-quite-as-tough-but-still-kind-of-hard hill. Then some more hills...and some more hills, before I started to finally head back down to cross the river at the pedestrian bridge.

You would think a downhill section would be a welcomed relief, but it wasn't. At this point, my annoying ankle had turned into two annoying ankles and two painful calves. They felt weak. And the downhill pounding wasn't helping!

Saw Chris on the pedestrian bridge and the two moms at the end of the bridge. There was also a huge crowd gathered there to cheer people on. It's really hard to walk in front of a huge I manned up and kept running.

Once I hit the halfway point and started my second loop, I was on a good pace. 2-ish hours (2:10??) for the first half. Not too bad. But could I hold it for the second half?? Nope! The second half was painful. I walked...quite a bit. It was long...and painful. It hurt to run, so I tried shuffling. It hurt to shuffle, but at least I was making better progress. I knew my pace was slowing...It was a lot of run, walk, run, walk...and I was struggling a bit.

At about mile 18, I started taking coke. The shot bloks were starting to taste disgusting to me, so I tried eating some potato chips. I was now in unchartered territory. I wasn't sure what I should've been doing nutritionally. At about mile 20, there was a tent with people handing out tubes of BASE electrolyte salt. The guy next to me swore by I thought, what the hell, might as well try something! The girl who gave me the tube explained how to take it...lick your thumb, put your thumb over the tube upside down and then lick the salt off your thumb. Do this twice every mile. I tried it. It basically tasted like pure salt. It was probably all mental, but it somehow made me feel better.

I saw Chris one final time as I crossed the bridge to the north side. He was cheering me on and ran with me a little. I told him how much pain I was in. Dig deep, he said...everyone online was cheering me on. I was so touched. I told myself I was going to push hard until the end. I'd allow myself to walk the hills, but I was going to shuffle and push through the rest of it. I somehow even managed to shuffle up parts of the hills. The end was getting closer and closer...that was also a huge motivator.

With about 3 miles to go, I was all in. I looked at the runners around me who were also on their last lap and told them, let's push it to the finish. Well, I may have been a bit too eager. With about 1.5 miles to go, I was running down a ramp, looked at my watch and saw I was pushing an 8-min-mile pace. Wow...that's probably way too fast. I tried to reign it in...and my right calf started cramping up. I've never had my calves cramp up in training, so this was new to me. I stopped for a second to stretch it out against the curb. The guy who had been running near me for the second loop said I was probably pushing it too much...he was right. I got too excited and jumped the gun. I still had more than a mile to go. I eased up and kept moving...just not as fast.

Crossed the pedestrian bridge and ran down towards the long finishers chute. Immediately my right calf tensed up again. I did what I could to stretch it. I thought I was close, but the chute was endless. Where were the was too sparse to be the finish. I kept running. Finally, the crowd was growing and the cheering was getting louder. I saw Chris. My right calf was starting to tense up. There was the finish. I can't remember much, but I guess, based on the photos, I pumped my arm and came across the finish. I had enough clarity in my mind to at least stop my watch. :)

I bent over and felt like I was about to pass out. A kind volunteer gave me a hand. He took my arm over his neck to support me and started walking me to the med tent. Another volunteer grabbed my other arm to support the other side of me. Wow. I was an Ironman...and I was headed to the med tent! Two bags of IVs and two cups of chicken broth later, I was finally able to walk and celebrate with Chris and our moms. Yes...I had two cups of chicken broth. It was either that or gatorade...and after 12 hours of sweet, sugary drinks, gatorade was the last thing I wanted!

Run Nutrition -
Shot Bloks the first 2.5 hours
Coke starting at about mile 18
Lays potato chips starting about mile 18
BASE salt electrolyte starting at mile 20
Post race
Warm down:

Final Thoughts

It was an amazing experience. Growing up, I've always loved sports...watching and participating...and this is as close to "going to the Olympics" as I'll ever get. The Ironman experience is my version of the Olympics. The support, the crowds, the intensity, the emotion...

I had no doubt I could do it. I had put in the training, put in the time and effort and I knew my body and mind were up to the task. The only question was if something out of my control would prevent me from getting to the finish line. I could have an issue with my bike, I could crash, I could have stomach issues...lots of possibilities. So I never assumed becoming an Ironman was going to happen. It would still take a lot of hard work, mental fortitude and good karma. Thankfully everything fell into place. I wouldn't have changed a thing. While I had no idea what my time would be, I had secret goals of getting sub-12 and finishing before sunset...and I succeeded on both regards. I couldn't be happier.

Of course, one of things that makes the Ironman experience so memorable is the support. Through the experience, you truly feel the love and support of all those around you. I couldn't have done this without the love and support of my husband. He believed in me...and thus I believed in myself. He was my biggest cheerleader. And my two moms who were there through every minute. And my coach Ben, who laid down the groundwork to get me to the start line and provided the guidance to get me to the finish. And all the friends and family who were cheering me on.

Event comments:

Great race. Loved the city of Chattanooga. Race was well organized. Couldn't have asked for a better location for my first Ironman.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2015-09-30 12:00 AM
00:55:41 | 4224 yards | 01m 19s / 100yards
Age Group: 10/94
Overall: 240/2674
Performance: Good
Suit: Roka Viper Swim Skin
Course: Down current river swim
Start type: Dive Plus: Time Trial
Water temp: 77F / 25C Current: Low
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Time: 06:52
Performance: Good
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
06:00:56 | 116 miles | 19.28 mile/hr
Age Group: 14/94
Overall: 535/2674
Performance: Good
Wind: Little
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 04:14
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
04:35:54 | 26.2 miles | 10m 32s  min/mile
Age Group: 17/94
Overall: 454/2674
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2015-09-30 10:50 PM


Subject: Ironman Chattanooga

2015-10-01 10:39 AM
in reply to: #5144163


Subject: RE: Ironman Chattanooga
Man, what a great recap and race. It "almost" makes me want to sign up having just done Augusta the same day. Not quite there yet...

Good job, Ironman!
2015-10-03 6:51 PM
in reply to: mattbush1


Subject: RE: Ironman Chattanooga
Thanks Matt! You probably "almost" want to sign up, the same way I "almost" want to do another full! I loved the Chattanooga. If you don't do the full there, definitely do consider the half!!
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If a heart patient can do these things, then so can those of you who haven't been split open like a fish and sewn back together.