Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga (3:54:22, 4th)
BOOM!!! Sayonara to the demons who have been haunting me, I'm back! Couldn't be happier with a fourth place finish this last weekend at Ironman Chattanooga 70.3. Let’s start with the highlights: I finally shook off my demons, finished 4th against some solid competitors, and set a new personal best by three minutes on a challenging course. I think I am most happy with the fact I have broken my streak of horrible luck. This is the first official race result I have put up since Ironman Timberman 70.3 in 2013! Yes, almost two years ago! Between blowout flats, a stress fracture, broken collarbone, disqualification, and poor course marshals, I’ve had my fair share of shitty luck in the past two years.
My journey to Chattanooga, TN started with yet another work trip to NYC. I was in NYC from Wednesday until Friday and, while this isn’t “ideal”, the extra time on the East Coast did allow me to adapt to the time change a bit better so waking up at 4AM race morning wouldn’t be quite as shocking. On Friday, I went from the familiar colossal airports like SFO and JFK to Chattanooga, which literally had four gates. With a friendly 20 minute Uber, I was in downtown and settled in. I was joined in Chattanooga by my good Boston friend, Adam Kosmicki. I haven’t seen Adam since I moved, mostly because he is now the proud father of a little girl named Alex, and it was great to catch up.
A first for my racing, I picked up my bike from Tri-Bike-Transport. These guys are awesome! It is refreshing not to have to travel with a behemoth bike box and to have everything ready to go when you pick it up. What’s even better, TBT will be taking my bike directly from Chattanooga to Raleigh, where I’ll be racing in two weeks. To add to the convenience of TBT, my bike sponsor Quintana Roo, who is based in Chattanooga, also had a strong presence at the race and made sure my bike was dialed in!
To say I was excited and mentally ready to race this weekend would be a complete lie. While I am certainly fit and had some solid training coming into the weekend, my head was not in the right place. The night before the race, I barely slept. Not due to nerves or thinking about the race, but rather the other one thousand things I have going on. On race morning, the last thing I wanted to do was race. In the swim corral, I did everything I could to hold it together and suck it up. Fortunately, I had my friend Adam there along with me to keep me going and kept distracted by chatting with some fellow competitors.
For the first time ever, the swim actually became a distractor and got me excited to race! As soon as the gun went off, all my woes were gone. I formed the head of the “second” pack and took the pace out pretty well to the first turn buoy 350m out. I relinquished my position toward the head at this point and found an ideal position behind an athlete with a monster kick. I have never felt so effortless on a swim. A few surges were thrown in, but I made solid work of adjusting my pace and keeping a nice even keel. With about 400m to go, I decided to part with my comfort and made a hard push to take the front of the group and drive the pace hard toward the swim exit. I finished up with my fastest swim ever in 25:17. I’ll caveat that Chattanooga is known to have a bit of a current. While not nearly as strong as last year’s Ironman, the swim was likely a bit fast, especially given that it was non-wetsuit. That said, having raced stud swimmer Andy Potts in all three of my races this year, I have seen my time deficit to him shrink each and every swim.
Once onto the bike, it was game time! I exited transition with a few others, but quickly put my head down and was off. I biked solo from mile 0 to mile 56. Having seen my quick swim time, I figured the leaders couldn't be any more than 3-4 minutes ahead. With some long, straight roads, I decided to make a calculated risk and go out hard for the first 30 minutes of the ride. I eventually settled back into a more steady, sustainable rhythm. With some rain coming down to keep things cool, I kept the pressure high for most of the ride and made sure I charged the rollers to keep momentum. Overall, I put down one of the fastest bike split of the day (excluding the lead group) and only lost a minute to the lead group of six guys; a difficult task when group tactics can usually result in big time loss.
Onto the run, I felt awful! Like all things, that feeling eventually passed and I somehow pulled out a very solid run split on a demanding, hilly course. Back by "popular" demand (one person said they liked it), my thoughts as they played out on the run:
Exit transition: Uh oh! I have to poop ... and pee. This is going to be ugly. Just don't fart! [flashback to the image of a girl at Texas 70.3 who had shat herself, praying it wouldn't be me]
Mile 0.25 - 2: Ughhh! I feel so bad. Just finish the f#&king race. You need to finish the race. Walk, jog, run 6 minute pace, just finish the race! I'm in 7th ... 6th would be better ... someone will surely die on the run.
Mile 2.5: I've kept it together so far, maybe I can do this?
Mile 3: (finally got to see the competitors ahead) Top 3 are gone (Potts, Griffin, Terenzo are all stud runners). Next two(Bennett and Fleishmann), maybe. Jimmy Seear looks likes he's hurting. 3 minutes down? I can do that.
Mile 4: (See a sign that some made - "We know you pooped") ... REALLY?!?! Is this some kind of cruel punishment? (Next sign "High five for power") ... I wish!
Mile 5: Jimmy Seear in my sites. I got this!
Mile 6: Pass Jimmy and exchange some words of encouragement with eachother. (He's a great guy)
Mile 7: (finally snap out of my 'survival mode' funk and start racing) I can totally catch Fleishmann, he can't be too far ahead.
Mile 9: (catch Brian Fleishman and Greg Bennett) Decisive pass ... victory! [Kinda, 4th was a victory in my mind at the point].
Mile 9-13: Don't screw this up! Just stay even keel and finish.
Mile 13.1: OH HELL YEAH!!!! [insert bear roar]
Overall I finished with the second fastest run of the day ... Potts bested my split by 3 seconds. While I'm glad I was able to put together a great run, I wish I had run 4 seconds faster so I could have just one thing over Andy!
Overall, I am stoked to finish fourth! It is a great result for me and I was close behind some very strong competitors. Chattanooga was a fun, nice little city and was a great atmosphere to race in. I got an opportunity to hang our with a friend I haven't seen in a long time, threw back a beer or two with some great fellow pros, and got to hang out with my awesome sponsor Quintana Roo! Next race is Ironman Raleigh 70.3 in just two short weeks. But first, back to NYC to conclude some of my other business.