Full Video Recap at This Link Below
Why I chose this race. I won’t get into detail to much about this since I covered it in a Vlog here….
Ironman Vlog #11 - Race Week - How I Got Here - Link Below
But to just recap quickly, I wasn’t planning on doing a full Ironman just yet, I was enjoying the process at the shorter course triathlons. But an opportunity arose to accompany Team Blueline to their team race in Chattanooga. Team Blueline raises money for police officers and their families in need, and one way is through their racing team. I’d be racing with 7 other members I never met in person but only knew of through our Facebook and chat groups. Unfortunately the charity’s head Chad Wallace was unable to race due to an injury this year but he promised to bring the biggest support he could for us! Out of the 8 racers, 4 of us were looking to become a first time Ironman!
We found somewhere south of race start, which was about a 15 minute drive or so. I wasn’t sure about the distance if it was to far or not, but we traveled multiple times back and forth to the Ironman village and it was the perfect distance to never be a burden.
We found this cabin on Chattanooga vacation rentals. “Deer Ridge Retreat” The price was excellent and 4 adults and 2 kids had more than enough room. The place was gorgeous.
The trip down.
We opted to do a 2 day road trip down, there’s nothing fun about driving 12 hours and 800+ miles let alone with 2 children. We stayed over in Virginia and broke it up halfway. Found a little Mexican place next to the hotel and had a nice meal in Virginia. The kids even went in the indoor pool at the hotel to get their sillies out.
Arrival in Tennessee
Run Course Preview
The run is 2 loops with 1,150 feet of elevation. A majority of the elevation comes from the north side of the river along Barton Ave. Many hail this as a tough run course! There’s nothing fun about 1,150 feet of elevation on a marathon after a swim and hilly 116 mile bike.
We arrived on Wednesday in Tennessee. My wife and Mother went to Publix to buy food for the rental and it just so happened it was near the north side of the run course, the hilly section by “Barton Ave” I have heard about this section since I signed up for this race, so instead of driving it I decided to do my shake out run over there. Got in about 6 miles, hit the north section lollipop which we would have to do twice on race day and also the pedestrian bridge that we would be running over twice.
Bike course Preview
The bike course is 11miles out to the lollipop loop which is 2 loops of 47 miles each and 11 back into the city. 116 miles, cause 112 wasn’t good enough for Chattanooga!
Thursday morning I went out for a bike ride on the southbound section of the course before the turnaround to head back on the other road north. This was the hillier section of the bike and I got 20 miles in and got picked up at the turnaround and we proceeded to drive the northbound side. The elevation chart is pretty deceiving for this bike course, there is plenty of elevation, about 4700 to be exact and it comes from relentless rolling hills and a few punchy climbs and false flats. Right away I was humbled by the course and knew it was going to be a deceivingly Tough bike!
Swim course preview
2.4 mile point to point swim down river. It had rained for a week straight prior to race day. And stopped when we arrived on Wednesday. The weather had become fairly cooler as well especially At night we had lows of 49 degrees! The flow was high on the river from the dam upstream but they do turn it down for race day. There was concern for E.coli levels in the water and not until Friday night did we know if the swim a go, as well the temperature came in at 74.8! Wetsuit legal for all age group athletes. I believe this was the first time the Full Ironman here was wetsuit legal and not just optional! I did not get any swim in before the race because of the E.coli concern and the strong current.
Atmosphere and Ironman Village
You can tell the atmosphere for a full Ironman vs a half Ironman was another level. They do it right here! The village was awesome, the volunteers were great! And the city itself is gorgeous! I am truly thankful for the city allowing this event and eternally grateful for the volunteers! Their enthusiasm was amazing. Seeing Sam Long was a treat also!!!!!
Most of us for Team Blueline checked
In together Friday and we also had our team lunch and meet and greet. Amazing meeting everyone! And we all shared a truly memorable weekend together!
The kids did their first iron kids fun run, and although they were a little relenting to want to sign up they did and had an awesome time! They definitely felt the energy Saturday morning!
I will say the days leading up this race started bringing on anxiety. It’s a new process for a full Ironman. Packing gear bags ahead of time since Ironman is a clean transition and utilizes a bag for your bike stuff, run stuff and the special needs bags, a bag you can get halfway through your bike course and run course. This was just something I wasn’t used to and my brain was on overload. I had packed these bags before I left home. Again twice at the rental and double and triple checked everything. My lists from prior races came in very handy for this! Nutrition was also a big part of this race. Planning and making sure you have a plan on how to fuel for 140 plus miles was something new to me as well and I was hoping this plan would come together well!
Training leading into this race
Mostly open water. Not much has improved here efficiency wise, I’m a sub average swimmer that can put one arm in front of the other and just keep going. I was planning on wearing a wetsuit for this race, I made that decision 4 weeks prior as long as the temperature was below 80 in the water. Only thing is I would start in the back of field with wetsuit swimmers and don’t qualify for age group awards. Yeah no worries there! It was just 1 less thing to stress about. I swam 2 days a week by time with my Longest swim being about an hour 35 minutes.
My bike was getting strong going into Maine 70.3 4 weeks earlier and I feel it fell off a little as I had tired legs after that race and was doing a lot of solid run training. My engine was really made for 60-80 mile rides. Before this year my longest bike was a leisurely 75 miles ride with friends 2 years ago. This training brought on my longest rides to date leading into race day. My longer rides were on flat roads and had some above average length rides with elevation. But all in all I knew I’d get through it with smart pacing, nutrition and the only thing is what will I leave in the tank for the run.
This is where the money was made this year. I built a stronger strength foundation after 2020 and this year did multiple 20 mile trail runs, a 50k trail run to start the season. And got into specific 80/20 run training. More on 80/20 in my video here
5k Run Test - 80/20 Training Video Link
I knew the run course here cripples people with the elevation. As well I have NYC marathon upcoming in November which has some elevation. I made sure i added in plenty of hill intervals. Short runs on hills and long runs as well. I did a handful of my long runs on hilly routes simulating this course. As you will see this paid itself back in full!
First things first . Finish! Become an Ironman
Pacing plan and Reach goal- go under 12 hours
10 min T1
6 hour bike
10 min t2
Age group start was set for 730, and there was a pro field going shortly before. To know Sam long and Lionel sanders would be out on the course at the same time was epic. I even ran into Sam long before his pro athlete briefing! YoYoYo! Transition opened at 430am and then they will bus you to the swim start 2.4 miles upriver. I got to transition around 515 and to the swim start around 550. Talk about a long time to sit with your swim bag contemplating your life decisions among 2500 other people in the dark awaiting sunlight and a long day. I was pretty nervous and couldn’t relax and my heart rate wouldn’t settle down. I also had 2 crappy sleeps the 2 nights leading into race day. And my garmin that morning said my “body battery” was 25% lol , thanks for the encouragement.
Swim Start….. it’s time
As long as it seemed before swim start, it came quick, it was tough to seed by time since it was just a mob of people. But I got in what I feel was midway through the pack. You head out of the trees onto a temporary dock and next thing you know, your up! You jump in feet first and head on down River! You can go left or right of buoys just follow the yellow out, Orange are second half and 1 left turn red buoy to stairs leading out. First half Is pure open river. Second half you go left of the island, under 3 bridges and your home! Pretty uneventful. Second half was more crowded than the first half, I definitely felt some current and just kept moving forward. Swim exit was great and I wound up with 1:04:07 swim. The current was good! I left this out of the pacing plan because I didn’t want to rely on it. 13 minutes in the bank!
This is a new concept for me, full Ironman transition. You head in and grab your bike gear bag from a volunteer and head into a tent with a bunch of people ripping through bags getting ready to bike. I took my time and made sure I got ready properly and cleaned my feet off well. And did everything I needed to do. Headed to bike, grabbed it and off I went.
Time 7:52 …. 2 more mins in the bank… 15 total to spare for 12 hours.
The 11 miles headed to the loops felt long. It was congested and the energy spent getting around people to pass took its toll early. It was very hard to get settled in. Once we hit the first loop by mile 20-25 I already felt my calf and leg being a bother. I made sure to continue the nutrition plan for the day. For the bike I made sure I had 3 bottles of infinit mix, and I had 3
packets waiting at the special needs for the second loop. This would be a bottle and hour. I had about 4 gels packed, salt and a granola bar for the first half and 1 to reload for second half. The weather for the bike would be starting in mid 60s hitting 80 by the end. It was sunny with a couple clouds. The bike was a mental battle. The course was relentless rolling hills and fighting through the congestion tired me out. Goal power was 160watt average and 19.8mph to get me about 5:52 time then adding my special needs stop halfway. Mentally I just wanted to get to special needs and have a mental and physical break. Once I got there I was down to a half bottle on the bike and refilled powder into my empty 2 bottles and dumped the 3rd amongst all 3 bottles making stronger mixes. Issue here was there no water to fill the bottles up!!!! I also just wanted to pee for 10 miles and knew I’d go here. Well ….. 2 porta potties. While waiting about 5 minutes here, the male pro leader flew through town, what a sight! Watching the motorcycles follow behind filming him etc! It pumped me up! I got back on bike and headed out. A minute later Lionel sanders pulls up next me!! Are you fucking kidding me?!?! This is so sick, just having him in my sights for those 2 minutes was so amazing! Onto the second loop we went and finally the course was spreading out, and you were able to get into a groove without shuffling back and forth, I met a few people out there and had some good conversations and encouraged some people. The pain goes away when you smile! I started seeing some Team Blueliners on the bike and this was a pick me up as well. When I found my 1 teammate and he told me of his 2 flats, etc. I immediately took gratitude in having a good ride so far. I never really got comfortable on the bike, a lot of in and out of aero bars and no flat areas. It got warm on the bike but not HOT. After the extended special needs stopped i started doing the math and wanted a sub 6 hour bike. This kept me on point and moving. The last 11 miles back into town were great. I was getting excited to see what was in store and how I would feel, my feet hurt from the bike, I just wanted to be standing on my 2 feet already…. 116 miles later we were there.
Bike time w/ special needs 5:58:38
Moving MPH 19.75mph
Average power 153
Another minute in the bank!
16 to spare
Coming in a volunteer takes your bike and you get your run bag. I started moving to get my bag with my bike shoes on, and that was silly so I took them off for the rest of the way, I was surprised at how decent my legs felt!
I headed to the changing tent, made sure I went through my bag and did what I had to do. Took a pee and off we go.
5 more minutes to the bank!
21 to spare!!! For sub 12 hours
At this point If I was going to go sub 12 hours I had about 4:41 to do so. Quick calculation meant I had to average 10:44 a mile. Once I got onto the run course it’s semi flat out for the first 5-6 miles. I settled in based off heart rate and kept it under control…. I felt pretty well and my goals were FUEL, keep cool and give an honest first half marathon and reassess from there. I carried a handheld bottle which proved great for cooling because I kept water in it and kept squirting my head and neck as needed. For fuel I hit every aid station (every mile
Or so) and walked through taking a cup of Gatorade, water and filling my bottle if needed. A few miles in I started with ice down my kit to keep cool. The first 13.1 went pretty good. 1 loop done! The run course support is outstanding! Seeing the family and the Blueline tent pumped me up!! The hilly north section had a great vibe!! I believe I averaged a low to mid 9 min pace through the first half. The second lap I knew would start hitting me physically and mentally. I made a deal, get this next 10k done, put some more time in the bank and even if the wheels fall off I might be able to shovel myself across sub 12. I got that 10k done and then I told myself 2 5ks to go….. I rewarded myself at this point and began to walk just shortly before the aid stop until just after and then got moving again. At this point I switched my watch to lap pace for each mile…. So I know where I was at for that specific mile with walking the aid stop and then watching the lap pace come down once I got moving again. My fueling turned to soda and water and a couple half bananas. I had salt on me as well, and was making sure to keep up with that right before the aid stops. The last section of the run course is the hilly part of the loop. I was starting to hit that mental wall with that last 5k, but I had that hill 1 more time headed back into city, I walked the first half and then said “I can see the top, let’s go!” After cresting the top it’s a 2 mile downhill stretch back into the city, across the pedestrian bridge, 2 lefts, passing the Blueline tent and downhill to the finish. For the first time all day with 2 miles to go The feeling hit, we are gonna do this! And we are gonna crush it! I pushed those 2 miles, carried the Blueline flag across the bridge to cheers, gave Chad a hug at the tent and sent it home with style!!!! Besides my first mile, mile 26 was my fastest mile of the day. The finish line came
Up quick, and I did slow down just enough to take it in. You Are An Ironman!!!
Run Time 4:18:33
Total Time 11:34:47
May 2017, I ran my first 5k. I had no idea that simple idea of going for a run would lead me here. But the last 4.5 years has proved certain principles apply
And anything is possible!
Where do we go from here? I’m not quite sure, I’m gonna sit on this one for a little bit…… it may sound selfish in saying this, but I earned this one……
20 relentless and specific weeks of training for this 1 day.
I also wanted to thank EVERYONE who played a part in this. People I trained with, people who believe in me, people who reached out, people who encourage me. There is no greater power than having a circle of people that can lift each other up and accomplish so much together!
Full Video Recap at This Link Below