IM Chattanooga: Ironman Debut!
Ironman #1 is done – and what an amazing experience! I’m just barely coming of the high I felt post-race. I now understand what everyone has been telling me, describing to me – the ups and downs, the wide range of emotions, and how tough those last 90 minutes were going to be!
The whole year was basically a build up to this race. Getting myself physically and mentally ready to tackle the 140.6 miles. Coach Tim was there every step of the way. We’ve been working together for two years now, and I can 100% say that I wouldn’t be where I am without him. As my friend Katie wrote in her Chattanooga race report, “I quickly realized how important it is to have a coach that believes in you. Tim and my QT2 teammates truly went above and beyond to get me to calm down and be ready for the race.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! Though we were in different places coming into the race, that support we get from our coach and team is so important.
What made this race even more special was being able to race with Matt. The beginning of the season, we didn’t race any of the same races (he focused on Ironman racing, while I was focused on 70.3s). But the second half of the season we chose most of the same races. Although we don’t see each other much once the gun goes off, having someone there to share the tough weeks of workouts, excitement and nervousness of race week, and finally the finish line, can’t be beat. This race was great because we both crossed the finish line happy with our performances (Matt with a big PR!), so we got to truly celebrate our successes together post-race.
For icing on the cake, my parents made the long drive down to Chattanooga from Cape Cod (though I know my Dad loved the excuse to visit all the Civil War sites along the way!) It was so great to be able to share this experience with them – with few local races on the schedule, they don’t have many opportunities to see me race. And they’d never watched an Ironman before, so now they understand a little better what we do out here!
Chattanooga did a phenomenal job in hosting this inaugural event. Everything was well-organized, and the city welcomed the athletes with open arms. This includes our amazing homestay, Peter and Kim Knoop – thank you for opening your home to us and providing great accommodations up on Signal Mountain! The RD and team did a great job with organization and dealing with last minute serious issues, like oil and tacks on the road! Scary stuff – but they did as much as they could to ensure the safety of all the athletes. And of course, the volunteers were amazing as always! Enthusiastic, and willing to help with whatever you needed. A huge THANK YOU to everyone that was out on the course, and for the city of Chattanooga making it an amazing experience.
So without further ado, here’s how the race went down….
More so than other races, I was really looking forward to the swim portion of this race. My swim had really come around in the past couple of months, and I was enjoying swimming some faster times I hadn’t seen in a long time. We had about 20 women starting the race, and I had my eye on a few of the girls to go with on the swim. I had some clear water right from the start, and got moving. Super swimmer Anna Cleaver took off, never to be seen again! I tried to stay on her feet, but lost her pretty quickly. For the next 500-1000 yards, I pushed the pace at the front pack. Eventually, I settled into a pace, and the group began to creep up, and took over. Perfect – I just needed to make sure I stayed in this group. All the open water swimming we did at camp definitely helped with hanging onto the group and swimming confidently. Our pack stayed together almost all the way to the end. I exited the water at 41:39. The fast moving current made for some super fast swim times all around.
Onto the bike. Oh, the bike. My bike split was not very fast, compared to the rest of the Pro women. But, I’m pretty happy with my effort out there. In past races, especially 70.3s, I have had trouble staying focused for the entirety of the bike portion of the race. I’m usually getting passed, and mentally struggle with the longer hard bike efforts. Doing an Ironman, where I’d be out on the roads for 5-6 hours, it certainly was an area I was concerned about. But, overall, I had a great ride. I hit my numbers (goal power and HR), hydrated and fueled well, and stayed focus throughout the entire ride. Sure, I got passed a lot, but I didn’t let it get to me like it normally does. It’s a long race…anything can happen! It was a good step for me, mentally. I know I still have a ton of work to do to get stronger on the bike, but let’s just call it a work-in-progress – improvements are happening all the time, and I am building up the strength I need to be competitive in this portion of the race.
The bike was long, about 116 miles, due to some permitting issues along the course. I rolled into T2, thrilled that I had felt good during the bike, was coming into the run feeling strong, no mechanicals or bike troubles (thanks QR for a smooth ride!). I knew I had lost a few places on the bike (going from 4th to 14th), so I had some work to do on the run.
Bike Time: 5:37:01 Strava Bike File
I think I was smiling for most of the first 13 miles of the race. I felt great, hitting my goal paces fairly easily. I was passing back a bunch of the AG guys that had passed me on the bike, and began to slowly pick off a few of the ladies ahead of me. It was so wonderful to see some familiar faces – my parents (and their friends Sue & Steve), Matt’s parents, Tim, Jesse, Chrissie, Mac from QR. The crowd support was great in the second half of each loop, which really helped during some of the steep hill climbs on the north side of the river.
The second half of the run, as expected, started to get tough. When I saw Tim at mile 13, he asked how I was feeling…I had just come through a huge crowd and had seen my Mom and Dad, so of course I replied back, “I feel great!”. He said to go for it, give it all I had. About 5 minutes later, the fatigue began to hit. The 1st 8 miles of the loop are pretty quiet. A lot more people had entered the course, on their first loop, which definitely helped to keep me going. I was holding a decent pace still, but it was becoming an increasingly harder effort as the miles ticked off. Passing a few more ladies and (unknowingly) moving into 7th kept me going on the long stretch along the highway (not hilly, but mentally tough part of the course). My pace had slowed slightly, but my HR was still high and I was closing in on the finish. After tackling the hills one more time, I crossed over the bridge and began the final mile. As I turned the corner onto the home stretch, I noticed another women right in front of me! I charged ahead, making up ground and catching up, but I ran out of space. I finished 7th female, 2 seconds off the podium and out of the money. But, I couldn’t really be upset – I had done everything I needed to do to have a good race, and I am an Ironman!!! I had a great race, and enjoyed every minute of it.
Run time: 3:09:17 (3rd fastest run) Strava Run File
IM Chattanooga marked the end of the 2014 season for both Matt and I. We are currently enjoying eating M&Ms, sleeping in past 6am, and going out with friends. It’s the time of the year where we let loose a little, recharge, and start to think about plans for next year. Next week will bring back some light workouts, and then we’ll be back to regularly scheduled training after that! I know I’ll be spending a ton of time on my bike this winter, plus hopefully do some fun 5k or 10k races to stay sharp. Races for 2015 are still being considered, but we’ll be planning 2-3 Ironman distance races and a number of 70.3s. Best of luck to everyone racing Kona this weekend! Though bummed we won’t be in Kona this year to watch, we’ll be cheering loud for everyone from Boston!