Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chattanooga Olympic Triathlon Race Report

   This past Sunday was the Chattanooga Waterfront Olympic Triathlon. Though I don't have the best history with this race (in 2011, I panicked in the water and I fell in 2012), I decided to do it as a preparation for IMCHOO.

Hello 'Nooga!  

   Dudley and I headed out Friday night for Chattanooga. The race wasn't until Sunday, however, Coach Andrew wanted everyone who was doing IMCHOO to do one lap of the bike course on Saturday morning. Yes, this would pretty much mean that we all would be sacrificing our races on Sunday, because who can race well after riding 60+ miles the day prior? But it's a sacrifice that was easily made since our larger goal is Ironman. This weekend would just be another stepping stone toward that goal.
   The ride started at 8:30AM, so I took my bike out for a little spin prior to test my race wheels and new brakes. I do most of my bike training on an indoor trainer, so I really haven't had the opportunity to ride on my awesome new wheels that much.

Is that a hot bike or what?

   Kicker is that 1) the gearing on the wheels is different and my chain was jumping around a lot and 2) carbon fiber wheels don't really want to stop. Seriously - you apply the brakes and it takes a while for them to kick in. Add some water to it (it had rained that morning), and you have brakes that REALLY don't work. So, right when we were supposed to be leaving to meet the group, Dudley was frantically changing my wheels and brake pads back to my previous set up. This meant I was going to be late for the group ride. Yes, I was going to be "that" girl - the one everyone has to wait on. I HATE being "that" girl.
   Fortunately, Dudley was able to put my bike back together quickly, and I was only a few minutes late meeting the group (who were kind enough to wait on me). Before we took off though, I made everyone pose for a photo with a poster I made in support of the two FTP athletes who were racing Ironman Coeur d'Alene that day, one of whom was my good friend Kathy (who did AWESOME).

Go FTP!  

   The day was a little overcast when we finally departed, which was nice. Chattanooga can get beastly hot in July. The ride was pretty uneventful. This was my second time on the IMCHAT bike course. It was hillier than I remembered, but it's still easier than the Trace, so I'll take that any day. Oh, and we saw cows.

I didn't Moo at them, though I wanted to.

      After the ride, Dudley and I got something to eat and headed downtown for packet pickup. The Waterfront Triathlon has a great setup in that everything is centrally located in downtown Chattanooga. If you have a hotel downtown, which we did, you can walk everywhere. It makes for a stress-free race experience. It's great.

Expo tents
Finish line!  

   One of the vendors at the Expo was this company called "Podium Legs," which is an air compression massager for your legs. There's a science behind all of what goes on with air compression massage, but long story short - your legs are supposed to recover faster if you use the product, and therefore you can train / race better the next day.  Since Podium Legs was giving away a free massage, Dudley and I headed over there to check it out.

Puffy, orange legs are so attractive.

Dudley kicking back in the Podium Legs.

   I've never used air compression prior to this, but let me tell you, these things are no joke. They have some serious compression. For the demonstration, the vendor only had XL leg sleeves, which is fine if you're tall. However, I have short legs. My toes were nowhere near the end of the sleeves and they were CRUNCHED by these things. I was a little scared they were going to break at firs - that's how tight these things got around your legs. Then the compression would move up and down your legs. Considering I only had a 15-minute demonstration, I have no idea if they actually work, however, I have a friend who bought a set. I'll check back with him in about a month to see if they help.
   We were pretty beat after the expo, so we headed back to the hotel for a quick nap before dinner.  I love traveling to places you've been before because napping in the middle of the day is OK. If this had been a city we'd never been to, we'd been all touristy and would have to sightsee a lot more. Chattanooga though? We'll just go take a nap. No big deal.  
   After dinner, we went on a quest for ice cream. We remembered that there was a little place across the river, Clumpies, so we headed over. Apparently, everyone in Chattanooga had the same idea, because this place was PACKED.  We probably waited 20 minutes to be served. It was good. I'm not sure it was 20 minutes in line good, but it was good.

Longest line for ice cream ever.

   The next morning was race day. I got up at 4:30, did some stretching and tried to wake up a little bit. I still needed to rack my bike and set up my transition area. The plan was to get down there around 5:30 and then get on the bus to the starting line around 6:00.  

Race Day!

   The actual race didn't start until 7:30, so I just hung out with a few other athletes and tried to remain calm. I had no idea how this race was going to go down, especially since I had no taper and a big ride the day before. Coach Andrew told me that my race was going to be hard, and to not expect a great result, but I still wanted to do well. It's hard to just turn off that competitive side and just cruise in a race. 

   Chattanooga is a downriver swim with the current. Probably one of the "easiest" swims (if open water swimming is ever easy) I've done. I purposefully tried to stick closer to the buoys this race, since the current is stronger out there. Honestly, I didn't feel a difference, and I actually went off course for a while. I veer right when I swim (something I'm working on), and one time I looked up and I didn't see a buoy - AT ALL. So, I kept swimming a bit more and still no buoy. I then looked over to the left, and there were all the buoys. Yes, I was pretty much swimming in the middle of the river, which is NOT where you're supposed to be since boats are out there. I'm assuming one of the support crew would have eventually caught me and directed me back over, but I didn't see anyone near me at the time. Unfortunately, my little diversion added about 150 meters to my swim. Oops. 

Just finished running up the stairs after coming out of the water.
Yes, there are stairs on the course.

I look so happy when I'm racing.

   When I sign up for this race, I wish someone would remind me that this is one of the hardest Olympic bike courses out there. It's not that it's just hilly, but the hills go on FOREVER. And since the course is on a highway, you can see WAY up the course. You can look ahead and see people STILL CLIMBING. It kind of sucks the life out of you. But what are you going to do? Just gotta deal with it and ride. 
   It was up that first hill that I felt yesterday's ride come back to bite me. My legs really didn't feel all that tired at all until that first hill. And then it hit. I just didn't have any power to get up those hills. I was remembering back to when I last raced Waterfront (2012), and my bike experience then was so much better. Last time I was making up songs as I was riding along - just having a good old time. Sunday was just a survival slog to the finish. I didn't even really get to enjoy the big downhill back into town since there was construction going on. I just didn't feel like it was safe to bomb down the hill at 40+ mph with uneven pavement and cars flying by next to you. Granted, it didn't seem to bother other people, so I guess I'm just a wuss. 
   One part I haven't really discussed much is the mount and dismounting of the bike. Professionals and other really fast people do a thing called a "flying mount." This is when they put their shoes on their bikes before the race. Then, when their bike leg starts, they run barefoot with their bikes and jump on to their bikes while they are still running. It's really cool to watch and something that I'd like to learn, but that I'm pretty sure I'd break my neck if I ever attempted it. So instead, I do the following: Run awkwardly in cleats to the mount line (the guy holding the flag in the photos below is where the mount line is), stop and get on my bike, clip in and then ride away. 

Coming out of transition.

Why won't my foot clip in?!  

Away I go!

Dismounting is a similar action, but in reverse. 

Coming in for a landing.
Must stop soon...

Made it with two feet to spare.

Turning my Garmin off with my mouth.  

   It really would be a lot more efficient if I learned the flying mount and dismount. Not that it would make any difference at all with my Ironman, but I would just look so much cooler.

   I was really hoping to have a decent run. While I didn't know my exact times for the swim and bike, I felt they were pretty much on par with what I did in 2012. However, I thought I'd be able to make up some time on the run, since I've really been working on my run recently. Alas, this was not to be, as the curse of Chattanooga came to bite me again. I wasn't even one mile into the run when I got a side stitch that was so bad that it was hard for me to breathe. I actually felt like I might hyperventalite. I wish I had some video of this, because I was all sorts of jacked up, running like Quasimodo and stabbing my side with my fingers in a weak attempt to make the stitch go away. Finally, I just had to walk. That was the only thing that made my side stop hurting. 

At the start of the run. Life isn't so bad right now.

   I've only had a side stitch this bad once before, and that was when Dudley and I were in New York recently. That stitch went away when I got some water, so I struggled to the first water stop and got some fluids in me. That helped a little bit, at least to the point where I could jog. From then on, I just did what I could to get to the finish. My legs were tired, but the side stitch was the main issue. If I ran too fast, it would come back. This was particularly painful, both physically and mentally, when I turned the corner for the last quarter-mile. It's all downhill, and I wanted to speed down it to the finish, but the stitch came back with a vengeance. It was really, really bad. I must have looked like I was in pain because many spectators and racers asked if I was OK. I was so mad that I was having yet ANOTHER bad Chattanooga run, that I wanted to cry. I didn't, because there's no crying in triathlon...but I wanted to.

Just past the finish. I'm not very happy and in pain.

   It took a minute or two to gather myself at the finish. My side still hurt and it had gotten really hot. Fortunately, Team Magic had kiddie pools filled with ice water waiting for us at the finish. They were glorious.

So cold, but so good.

   When looking back at my race, I'm 99% sure that the stitches had to do with the humidity and dehydration (It was also very humid in NYC when I last got side stitches). I know I drank a lot on the bike, but I possibly didn't have enough fluid considering I was probably depleted from the ride from the day before. I'm also thinking that my sodium might have been low. Whatever happened, I need to figure it out before Ironman. I do NOT want to experience that again.
   The good news is that, even with the side stitches, I PR'ed on this course by three minutes. And all of that came from the run, as my swim and bike ended up being almost exactly what they were in 2012. Not bad considering I didn't taper and had ridden 60 miles the day before. Team Magic / Chattanooga Tri Club also puts on one heck of a race. They are extremely well-organized and the volunteers are amazing. I hope the city embraces Ironman in the same way.

This one was earned...

Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon:
Swim: 28:58 (with extra 150 meters)  
T1: 3:01 (includes run from river)
Bike: 1:28:23  
T2: 2:01
Run: 1:05:39
Total: 3:07:59
21st AG (out of 50)
152nd Female (out of 315)

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