Ironman Chattanooga 2014 Race Report – My Day On The Course

 Ironman Chattanooga 2014 is a race that will never be forgotten. The day was ideal, but better than that was the ability to spend the days leading up to the race and then on the course with friends I have been training with for years. I also got to see a lot of cyber friends out on the course and that made the day more magical. Later this week I will post about the course at Ironman Chattanooga but this post will be about how the day unfolded for me in terms of swim, bike and run

. Ironman Chattanooga – Swim

As everybody is aware by now the swim at Ironman Chattanooga is FAST. I am talking about ridiculously fast. The few days leading up to race day there was wonder about water temp. Would it be wetsuit legal or optional? As of Saturday evening the water temp was 77* but I had pretty much made up my mind but was hoping that I would not have to make a decision. When Sunday morning rolled around and I checked Facebook at 4:30am it said the water temp was still 77*. Time to make the final decision! As I sat at the kitchen table of our house I thought about my ranking in the M40-44 Age group and realized that I was not going to finish in a place where Kona was a choice so I went with the wetsuit. When asked why I was wearing one I responded with: I already proved my manhood by not wearing one at Ironman Texas in 2012 and 2013 and this time I am wearing one. At the race site we were bused to the swim start. Standing in line there were a lot of nervous faces but I did not feel nervous. As a matter of fact, my nerves sort of disappeared on Saturday afternoon after checking in my bike and the gear bags. It was as if a weight were lifted off my shoulders that day. Now, at the swim start I felt loose. I put on my wetsuit and walked with my training partners and once we hit the green carpet I started to dance. This was it, this was going to be the day I had trained for. As we got on the manmade 'dock' and I watched athletes prepare to jump in the water and seeming to not know what to do I just jumped in with both feet, literally. I popped up out of the water and started swimming. I could feel the current pushing me downstream and the buoys seemed to be coming up rather quickly. I picked my spot right on the buoys as there seemed to be no traffic there while left and right there were plenty of athletes. I was cruising and counting the numbers on the buoys. From the practice swim I remembered the number 9 so I figured that there were 9 total. As I quickly found out there are 9 yellow buoys (1.2 miles) and 9 orange buoys (1.2 miles) and then the turn to the finish. All along I think I was touched or did touch a total of 5 people. There was next to no contact and I had a very clean line the entire way. When I reached the turn buoy I had no clue what my time was but felt it was around the 1:20 mark which would have been a 10 minute swim PR. As I climbed the stairs to exit the river and looked down at my watch and saw 00:58:XX I could not believe my eyes. This put a spring in my step and I found the closest volunteer to strip my wetsuit off of me. What I did not realize is that the person taking my wetsuit off was not a wetsuit stripper. They were much further down the dock. I ran right past all the people laying down and up the steepest of ramps and into T1.

Transition From Swim To Bike – T1

After grabbing my bike bag I headed toward the changing tent where I stopped without ever going in. All I needed to do was put on my helmet, sunglasses and socks so there was no reason to enter the tent. As I was pulling my socks on a volunteer was walking by and asked if I were done with my swim gear. I told him yes and started to put it into the bag when he told me to not worry about it anymore and with that I took off with my cycling shoes in my hand. The run from the changing tent to my bike was long and I did not want to wear my cycling shoes because of the opportunity to fall down. It was the right move as I ran past a lot of people who were walking gingerly in their shoes. I grabbed my bike and ran toward the downhill slope where the mount line was and finally put on my shoes. A few short steps later and I was on the bike for the 116 mile journey. 

 

Ironman Chattanooga - Bike The Ironman Chattanooga bike course was all the discussion for months. First it was the elevation and then it turned into the extra 4 miles. None of these things we could control so I never put much into them. My worry was more about having a solid bike ride to set me up to break 4 hours at the Ironman marathon. Whatever the elevation or mileage I had to stay within myself. I approached the ride in the same manner as ultra trail running. I would go easy up the hills, recover on the downhills and then stay within myself on the flats. As we left town it felt as if I had a tailwind but I was not sure. What I was sure about was the road conditions. They were like glass except for a few areas. These roads were pristine and I could just feel the wheels rolling with little to no extra effort. I was stunned when I hit the mile 10, 20, 30,40 and so on markers and was faster than 20 mph. Could this be happening? What was my heart rate? What was my effort level? All these things were in check and so I just went with what felt right. On loop 1 what I did notice was a lot of athletes on the side of the road fixing flats. I could not figure out why there were so many, but later found out that there was some sabotage in terms of tacks and oil spills. It is unfortunate that these things happened because the bike course was challenging but fair and did not need to have this throw a monkey wrench into what was a perfect day. On the course I had the fortune of meeting a handful of people who I had met through social media. Having this type of support proved to be invaluable especially when I rode up on two people whom I admire greatly. First I caught up with Drum whom I have been training with for a while now and had the pleasure of racing Ironman Arizona with in 2012. Second, was catching up to KC and was able to seeing her smiling face and hearing that she was feeling awesome. Finishing loop 2 I knew I wanted to back it down a bit to save my legs for the run. I was told that the run was an 8 mile 'easy' loop and a 5 mile 'extremely hilly' loop and if I was going to run sub-4 I needed to back it down and get my legs under me which I did. There is no better feeling than seeing the Bike In sign and knowing that with just a short marathon you are going to cross the finish line. With my feet out of my shoes I handed my bike and helmet to a volunteer and took off for the run gear bag.

Transition From Bike To Swim – T2

Once again, I chose not to go into the tent to change. All I had to do was put on my running shoes (Hoka One One Rapa Nui) and a hat. I grabbed my race belt and as I was heading through the tent asked a volunteer if I could give him my bag and when he said yes I took off. Into T2 and out in just over 2 minutes. Time to FLY as the Hoka shoe says.

Ironman Chattanooga - Run

Nobody talked about the run leading up to race day but when I ran down the soaked mat that was the swim out hill I realized that this was going to be an up and down kind of run. You come down that steep hill and run along the river to a section that just seems to keep going up and up and up. Finally you are in the park where the swim starts and that is flat. This was a blessing but when the miles were ticking off at under 8:30/mi I knew I had to pull back. My goal was to run as far as I could until I needed to walk an aid station. At the same time I was fighting myself in regards to having the strength when miles 21 and 22 came up. It was a battle of the mind and body. Once you come through the park you make a right turn and run alongside a highway. This was a desolate area and it seemed like the aid stations grew further away from each other. This was not a part of the race course that I will recall fondly. It just seemed lonely and it was you, your legs, your mind and nothing else. Just keep moving was my mantra. After that stretch you cross over a bridge and into a community that is brutal. It is a pure beat down with no flat sections and only climbing or descending. At this point I decided I was going to walk the uphills so that I could save my legs for the downhills. At this same time I started to calculate finish times. Could I possibly finish in 11 hours? I had no idea what the marathon time was and I could not be bothered with playing with my watch. It was not worth it to spend energy calculating these things. I took an average of 10:00/mi, considering the hills, and calculated from that particular mile marker to the finish. I started out with 11:01, then 11:02 and then 11:04. It seemed as if the 11 hour Ironman was slipping away and then I met Steven with about 1.2 miles to go. Steven and I ran together the entire last portion of the race. We were in step with each other and chatting the entire time. He motivated me to keep moving. At one point he said to me: I am not going to sprint to the finish. My response: Dude, I AM sprinting right now. As we came down the final hill and into the finisher's chute I could not stop smiling and could not believe that the race was over. The 13 weeks of hard-core periodization training was culminating in a finish line that was as spectacular as any I have crossed. I fist bumped Steven and then crossed. I waited to look at my watch as I wanted the video and pictures to show my face and my smile. Finally, I looked down and pressed the Lap button on my Garmin and saw 11:00:XX. I nearly broke down into tears. I could not believe my eyes and had moments where I surely must have mis-hit my watch buttons and I was not seeing the full-time. I walked with the volunteer and picked up my hat and shirt when I asked her about getting my medal. She responded with: You are wearing it. Right then and there I knew that I left everything I had out on the course.

Ironman Chattanooga Racing- Conclusion

I will blog about my periodization training in a future blog post along with my review of the Ironman Chattanooga race course.  This blog post is about my experience on the course and the weekend and I would be wrong if I did not mention the following: * Thank you to my wife Karen for all that she has done for me.  She believed over a year ago that I could be an 11 hour Ironman and that belief came true on Sunday September 28th. * Thank you to the LTF Crew of The Sherriff, Goat, Dog Bait, Diaper Boy, Drum / PB, Wade, Stick, and Teri.  We trained together all summer long and had more laughs than miles and for that I am truly grateful. * Thank you to my buddies Jeff and Kevin for having followed a training plan that was sport specific two years ago that I could adapt to triathlon training. * Thank you to the friends I have made through social media, especially KC, who I got to meet before the race, on the course and then celebrate with after crossing the finish line. * Thank you to Ironman and the city of Chattanooga for hosting us.

ironman chattanooga - triathlon - race - endurance sports 

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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