Two Weeks Notice: Ironman Chattanooga Race Report

It’s only fitting for me to start this race report where it all started. One afternoon on September 7th, I was tracking many of my friends at Ironman Wisconsin and Ironman 70.3 Worlds. Some of which ended up qualifying for Kona 2015! Well, that is when my mind started to turn and think about how awesome it would be if I could qualify for Kona a year in advance! I was training to race Beach to Battleship Full at the end of October with the thought process of getting another “ironman” experience under my belt and maybe win some money. My first thought was, “I think Ironman Maryland is still open. I could maybe do that.” Then I thought, “Damn, I wish IM Chattanooga was open since that would give me one more week to “train”, have a race that friends would be at, Duran could Sherpa and the course favors my strengths much better.” I finally got the courage to ask Duran what he thought about me racing on very little training. Of course, he said, “DO IT!”

Fast forward to a week later, after asking around about Maryland and Chattanooga to figure out logistics, the stars aligned and I was able to race Ironman Chattanooga! Once it finally settled in, I realized I had one training weekend left where I could put in some serious miles to at least gain confidence going into the race. Saturday, I rode 120 rainy miles. Sunday was the FS Finish Strong Half Ironman which I did the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and half the run. My plan was to do the entire race but after some heavy legs on the bike and even though they felt good on the run, I just did not have the mental strength to push through it. I wanted to save all of my “digging deep” for the Ironman. Training DONE! The following weekend we were off to a wedding and then it was race weekend!

IM CHOO swim

Now that I have set the scene for you I am going to jump right into the race report. This race report is going to be brief and if you are looking for a detailed recap of the course you can find many more in-depth race reports for that on google. Just a FYI!

im choo number

Swim: 56:23

IM CHOO swim start

I knew it had the chance of being a fast swim because of the current but the talks on the crazy Facebook page said don’t expect much push on race morning. Well, as most of you know…it was fast! Duran found me right before we headed down to the dock and said to swim toward the middle of the river because the kayaks in the middle were having to do some serious paddling to stay in place where as the one closer to the buoys  were not having to work as hard. When I “jumped” in, (I was probably the only athlete to sit on my butt and slide in…I know Duran is shaking his head in shame right now!) I found the middle and just swam making sure I still could see the buoys far to my left and a buoy straight ahead of me that I was making a bee line for instead of following the curve of the river. Before I knew it, I was done and I was running up the ramp to T1!

Bike (116 miles): 5:30

IM CHOO bike

I thought I managed to have a fast T1 and was surprised how good my legs felt as I was getting on the bike. The IM CHOO bike course was awesome! It was very similar to riding around Cary and we had favorable winds for most of the day. I was staying on top of my nutrition and popping my salt tabs like candy knowing that would be the key to having a successful run. My power was definitely on the high side, like higher than 70.3 high, but I just went for it and knew I was here to take chances. I did hit a low point as I headed out for the second loop but once I was passed by a girl, who I had been leap frogging with all day, I found my groove again. It was pedal to the metal for the rest of the bike! I was so happy to be back racing on my old Felt B12 with my baby training wheels versus my fancy Trek Speed Concept that was literally a pain in my ass. I felt comfortably and pain-free the entire ride. Just goes to show you that it comes down to the engine running the machine!

Run: 3:51

IM CHOO run

As I was coming into T2, I remember thinking that I wished there was one more aid station out there in the last few miles. I felt a little deflated and like I needed something before I started to run. As soon as I sat down in T2, I took a Gel and drink of water to make sure I was ready for the run. T2 was uneventful and my legs felt good running out to the course. I decided not to preview any of the run course before the race. I felt that if I knew of hills coming up that I might “save” a little in other areas of the course. I came to Chattanooga for one reason and that was not to save anything out there that day. I am so glad I was naïve going into the run because you were hit with a hill right away! Duran was there to cheer me on and tell me I was first or second in my age group and it was time to do what I know I can do! I had to pull the same stunt that I did at IMCDA and go pee at mile one with my tri kit still on but after that I was one my way. I was clipping off the miles pretty good as I headed across the bridge to the “hilly” section of the run. I got a one of the best boosts from a volunteer saying I was the first age group female to run by. Even though I knew that it was just because of how early I started the swim, it was still fun to hear! Oh the hills…they were tough and relentless but I am proud to say I ran up and down every single one of them without walking! I hit a low point around miles 13-15, which I knew would probably happen given my lack or really any long runs before the race. I was able to take a GU and get a nice “you don’t need to walk that much” yelled at me during one of the aid stations to push me along for the rest of the run. There would be no more walking even if I was moving at a snail’s pace up those hills. Finally, I headed back across the foot bridge and to a new Ironman PR and a 2nd place age group finish! I only hoped it would be enough for Kona and sure enough it was!

Overall: 10:24 – 2nd Age-Group 25-29

IM CHOO KQ

This race report could have been summarized very quickly by saying: fast swim, fast bike, survived the run…I am going to Kona! Oh and I had a fun stint in the ER on Tuesday after still being dehydrated from the race!

IM CHOO hospital

The most important part of this race report though is to thank the people who helped me accomplish something I have been working towards all year.

IM CHOO Duran and I

First to Duran, the best Sherpa, training partner and boyfriend! You were all over that race course and giving me splits, encouragement and a kick in the ass when I needed you. You’ve always believed in me since the day we first talked 2 years ago when I said I wanted to qualify for Kona. You rode the entire run course, leap frogging me every 2 miles, telling me where I was against the competitors. You encouraged me and told me I looked strong, even though I never gave you any feedback on how I was feeling. Except the one time, when you said the golf course was really nice and I managed to let you know how pretty the houses were too. That’s all you got from me for 26.2 miles! Now it’s my turn to return the favor!

Second to Hillary Biscay, I know for a fact without you being my coach and having 7 months of training for CDA behind me I would have never signed up for this race. You gave me the confidence that I am capable of anything and you got me to that finish line!

Third to Lori and Ashley Ackerman for allowing us to crash the party! Lori, you reminded how special Ironman is and the joy and dedication that comes along with it. Ashley, thank you for cheering for me all day long. I can’t wait to share Lake Placid with both of you next year!

Lastly, to my family and all of my friends at home tracking me and making spreadsheet to give Duran updates on where I was placed in my age group. I wouldn’t be where I am or the person I am without you all!

I never like to talk or write about myself which is why writing a blog is pretty tough for me. In saying that though, I am really proud of myself for taking on this challenge even if everything may have been working against me the week of the race. I can’t wait to see what is in store for 2015!