Every race is a learning experience. Best performances and worst performances offer nuggets of truth if you take time to reflect. The race before Ironman Chattanooga (Toughman National Championship) was one of my best put together half distance triathlons. The way I approached that race from a taper standpoint was a little different than other races in the past. It seemed to be something worth trying again for Ironman Chattanooga just 2 weeks after Toughman Triathlon.
I felt great doing the newly discovered taper leading up to the race. Plenty of sleep, my legs felt fresh. My performance management chart was almost identical to the Toughman half the week prior to the race. I rode my computrainer for every ride the week before the race to try to get as close to the amount of TSS I wanted for each workout. Mentally, I was ready to race. Physically, I was fit and fresh.
Ironman morning in Chattanooga was incredibly beautiful. It was close the first time the sun had shined all weekend. And with the swim starting right at sunrise, it made for a great view in the water.
The race started out without warning. No countdown, no clock to know when 7:20 was arriving… just a loud cannon. The swim started out very chaotic. The down current swim kept swimmers together a bit more than normal. I got hit in the face and chest more in this race than I have in very long time. I decided to swim to the outside of the group for a bit to just get into a rhythm and wait for the group to settle down a bit. I worked my way back into the group and swam the rest of the way to Ross’s Landing where my Argon 18 bike awaited my arrival. I believe I was around 15th or so out of the water out a group of 50 pro men.
The bike course in Chattanooga is a challenging course. 4400 feet of climbing (about 1500 more than Ironman Louisville) and 116 miles as opposed to the standard 112 miles. When I arrived at my bike, I noticed that someone moved it a bit and one of the rubber bands holding my shoes in a position that would allow a fast transition had snapped. I managed to make it work without too much of a problem and then put my head down to catch the guys in front of me. I pushed just under half distance watts for the first 10 miles or so to get into a group and then settled into a nice rhythm with a few other guys. The group got pretty big, but I had a feeling it wouldn’t take long for it to break up. It eventually did. I was in a group of 4 (Trevor Desault, Ray Botelho, and Shearon). I was spot on for my goal wattage for bike course. My target was 295-300 watts and we were right at on that goal. Riding at this goal would put just slightly over 280 TSS for 112 miles. Since this was 116, maybe I should have lowered that goal wattage just a bit. We rolled up on special needs and volunteers were not even close to being ready for athletes. The group of three rolled through without stopping. I stopped to grab 3 bottles of my custom mix of Infinit (MAVERICK save 10%) with 150 calories of NAPLAM with caffeine mixed in. That combination gives me 430 calories per bottle. I waited for what seemed like an eternity to get my special needs (probably more like 30 seconds). I got back in the saddle and decided to take a gamble and try to catch the group of 3 ahead of me. I rode hard for 40 minutes. I averaged 315 watts and was slowly reeling in the group. I probably got within 75 meters of them before we mixed back in with the age group athletes to begin our second loop. I never caught them and toasted my legs in the process. I managed to salvage the rest of the bike leg for a respectable time, but about 10 minutes slower than what I was hoping for on this course. (The group that I lost at special needs road my goal time for this course to the minute.)
Once I got back to transition, I decided to try to the run to see what would happen. I was hoping my legs weren’t too cooked from the bike effort to try to catch the group earlier. I felt pretty good for the first 4 to 5 miles. I averaged about 6:30/mile and then I started slowing down… a lot. I think part of it was physical. But I think a big part of it was mental. I just lost the motivation to keep going. I was doing 6:30/miles and the guys I exited transition with were not getting any closer. At the 9th mile marker, I called it a day.
The biggest thing I pulled away from this race is stopping for special needs is NOT an option if I want to be toward the front of the pro field on the bike course. Before stopping for special needs, I was jockeying positions with other athletes for 10th to 12th place. After stopping to wait on my special needs, attempting to ride up to the group and then over exerting myself, I fell back to probably somewhere between 20 and 25th, and lost 10 minutes on the group I rode with for the first half of the bike course.
During an Ironman distance race, I need about 2000 calories on the bike. This is about 40% of my total calories burned during the bike. So I need to figure out a way to carry all those calories without stopping. The only option is super concentrating my bottles of Infinit with about 6 servings of NAPALM and 2.5 servings of my custom mix. It puts me at exactly 1000 calories per bottle. The other thing I’d have to do with following this plan is to drink more water since I’ll be taking in less volume in liquid calories. I think it is possible to do this with aid stations every 15 -ish miles.
Overall, I’m obviously disappointed on how it turned out, but I know I have a great result at the Iron distance inside me. However, it’s going to have to wait until 2016.
Thanks again to all my sponsors that make it possible:
Maverick Multisport, Duro-Last Roofing, Vibra Healthcare, Argon, Enve Composites, Jay Bird, BlueSeventy, Infinit Nutrition, Cobb Cycling, Rotor Bike Components, Sugoi Apparel, BSX Athletics, VO2 Multisport, Swiftwick, Primal Sport Mud, Occupational Kinetics, Lakeside Seahawks