Earlier today was the Chattanooga 70.3 which marks my third Half distance race of 2017. I’m writing this in the passenger seat while Rebekah drives us home from the race so everything is still fresh in my mind! Friday afternoon after getting off work and getting a bike ride done on the trainer, I packed my stuff in the car for an early wake-up for Rebekah and me to head to the race site for the Pro meeting at noon. The drive ended up being under 5 hours with traffic cooperating so we had plenty of time to make it to the meeting and check out the race site. Shortly after we headed to stay with Ken and Joan about 15 minutes north of downtown Chattanooga in their spectacular home. After ensuring that everything was ready for the next morning and a quick spin on the bike, we relaxed and even had time for a nap!
Race morning meant a 4 AM wake-up call which has become standard for me during the week recently. Forecasts had been calling for storms and rain for the morning and the rest of the day, but apparently Chattanooga hadn’t gotten the message as there was no sign of either on our way to the race site. Storms and rain would actually have played in my favor to cool off the water for a potential wetsuit legal swim or even cancelling it all together! Alas, the weather looked fine with the radar showing that the rain would skirt right around Chattanooga and barely touch it all day. While this was good to cool things off a bit, it also brought the humidity up to some of the highest that the Southeast could offer.
The male Pros were allowed in the water about 5 minutes before the start in order to warm-up and get lined up for an open water start. I lined up just left of center, a few meters off a large group that had formed on the right side. The canon went off, and I got to work! The beginning of the swim was up river (this portion was cancelled for the age-group athletes) with what I thought was a very weak current. I initially worked a bit with some of the athletes to my left before shooting over to the slightly larger group to my right. Athletes crawling over each other was a bit less of a problem today than at Oceanside, which was essentially a wrestling match. I was able to stay on somebody’s feet for most of the swim, with athletes seeming to be stretched out in a string around me.
Towards the end of the swim, I noticed that I was next to Tyler Jordan (identified by his mustache while swimming) who I had spent a considerable time of racing with at Oceanside. I knew that he is similar to me in cycling ability and that he wanted to hit the ride hard, so I was glad that we were in close proximity. One thing I wanted to improve upon at this race was having better transition times. So upon exiting the water, I picked up the pace and passed a couple guys on the long run to our bikes. After mounting the bike and quickly getting my feet in my shoes (much improved over previous attempts) I upped the pace to make quick work of the short climbs at the start of the bike. The first 5 miles have a lot of turns and bumps so I wasn’t able to settle in until the road straightened out a bit. At that point, Tyler had come up as well as one other athlete whose name I never learned.
After a few miles it became apparent that we were all wanting to ride at a similar pace so I was content to let them stay at the front until about halfway through the ride. I had noticed that the pace and my power was beginning to drop a bit. I was still feeling good and was within my range for my planned power at just over 290 watts. I decided to come to the front and put in a solid effort to see if I could inspire the group a bit. After a bit, I noticed that Tyler was the only one left behind me and that we had dropped the other rider. We continued on and at about mile 45 the view opened up of the road ahead of us and I was able to see at least half a dozen riders scattered up the road within striking distance. This was very relieving to know that the work that I had put in was actually getting me closer to the front of the race!
Over the last 10 miles I passed all of these riders and came into transition in what I’m told was 8th place. After a decent transition, I came out in 9th place just a couple steps behind Adam Otstot (I was so confused why nobody was cheering his name for awhile). I attempted to stay with him for the first half mile or so until I realized our pace was around 5:30 min/mile pace or quicker. I knew this pace was unsustainable for me in these conditions so I backed off a bit (he ended up finishing 2nd Overall with the fastest run split of the day). I knew that there were a number of athletes behind me wanting to reel me in since I had recently passed them on the bike. The first couple miles were okay and stayed a little under a 6 min/mile pace. Mile 3 got a little tougher, and I began to realize that my legs were getting fatigued very quickly. My hydration and nutrition were doing very well, but my legs simply did not have the endurance to go the distance. My pace continued to drop as I got passed by Tyler Jordan and another athlete. I was able to catch up to Sam Holmes (friend from Phoenix and stayed with us the night before) but wasn’t able to open up a gap as I was entering a world of hurt.
As I started the second lap (and making sure to stay on course this year), he began pulling away as I was attempting to rally and use the age-group athletes on the course as motivation. One of these athletes ended up being “Triathlon Joe” Wilson from Atlanta before he pulled away having a great race with a 7th in his age-group. The last 4+ miles of the run included a lot of pain, run/walking, and wanting to get to the finish. I pushed the last mile hard and came through the line at a respectable pace with an overall time of 4:10:30 and 13th Male Pro. This is my highest Pro race finish to date, despite the run being a bit disappointing to me. This is largely due to having a decent swim for me despite conditions not being very favorable for me and posting the 4th fastest Pro Male bike split of the day.
In 2 weeks I will be racing Raleigh 70.3 with Eagleman 70.3 only 1 week after that. Neither of these races play to my strengths, with them both being known for hot and humid runs. Racing at this level may be painful, but it has been a ton of fun to be pushing hard against athletes with similar abilities to mine! Tomorrow morning brings a return to training and heading to work to put pizza on the table until I can place a little bit higher at these races!
Congrats to all my friends at this race that I may or may not have gotten to see over the weekend! I didn’t have much time to hang out with such a rushed schedule, but knowing that my friends are out there racing with me makes the race more special to me. I look forward to hearing how everybody else’s races went and all the stories that go with them. This includes (but not limited to) Bill Wiseman, Jim Agostini, Joe and Jess Wilson, Stefanie Cain, Damon Little, George Smith, Jennifer Arends, Kristin Cattieu, and of course all the Pros who I have had the pleasure to meet and get to know recently.